Archive | May 20, 2017

Bilderberg 2017 Meeting in U.S.*

Bilderberg 2017 Meeting in U.S.*

 

Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange covers the breaking news of the Bilderberg Group’s location and date of this year’s secretive meeting. We go over correlation of Trump’s impeachment with the location of this year’s meeting in D.C, the lies in the official Bilderberg group press release, its contradictions, and its history.

Source*

Related Topics:

Bilderberg meets to decide US presidential election

Bilderberg 2015: Global Command & Control System‏*

Bilderberg 2014: Aiming to do what they’ve been Doing Derail Global Political Awakening*

Bilderberg Founder a former Member of the Nazi Party*

The Bilderberg Factor

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Largest Group of Terrorists Exit Barzeh District in Damascus*

Largest Group of Terrorists Exit Barzeh District in Damascus*

By Leith Fadel

The third batch of Barzeh rebels and their families have exited this large district in Damascus, today, Al-Masdar’s Ibrahim Joudeh reported from the capital city today.

According to Joudeh, at least 30 buses consisting of 2,672 people, including 1,076 rebels, departed from the Barzeh District of Damascus for the Idlib Governorate.

Joudeh added that several rebels stayed in Barzeh to settle their cases with the government, as they seek amnesty in order to remain in this district.

Today’s departure of 1,076 rebels from Barzeh is the largest batch to leave this imperative district since the commencement of this agreement last week.

Source*

Related Topics:

Int’l Coalition’s Strike on Syrian Forces is Flagrant Violation of Syria’s Sovereignty*

Putin Foils the Rothschild Zionists in Syria*

Wikileaks Shows How Google Helped Al-Qaeda in Syria*

Russian and Syrian Forces Arrest 1,000 ISIS Militants – Media Blackout*

Eyewitness: Foreign Terrorists from Neighbouring Countries Armed, Trained and Financed by the U.S, and Co. in Syria*

Rights Group Sues Trump Admin for Legal Explanation of Syria Missile Strike*

Syrian Drones Spot Hundreds of U.S., Jordanian Armoured Vehicles at the Border*

U.S. Dismissive of International Agreement Banning Aircraft Over Syrian Safe Zones*

Russia, Iran, Turkey Reach Consensus on De-escalation Zones in Syria*

Syria, and Why Your Patriotism is Misguided*

German Soldier ‘posed as Syrian Asylum-seeker to Carry out Terror Attack and Blame it on Refugees’*

Trump Authorizes the Pentagon to Manage Troops on the Ground in Iraq and Syria*

Israeli Warplanes Missile Attack on Syrian Army in Quneitra*

Goldman Sachs Financial Tricks to Prop Up “The Economy is Great!” Claim, Fund Syrian War*

If NATO Wants Peace and Stability it Should Stay Home*

If NATO Wants Peace and Stability it Should Stay Home*

By Ulson Gunnar

A curious op-ed appeared in The National Interest, penned by Hans Binnendijk and David Gompert, adjunct senior fellows at the RAND Corporation. Titled, “NATO’s Role in post-Caliphate Stability Operations,” it attempts to make a case for NATO involvement everywhere from Libya to Syria and Iraq in fostering stability in the wake of a yet-to-be defeated Islamic State.

The authors propose that NATO step in to fill what it calls an impending “vacuum left as the caliphate collapses,” heading off alternatives including “chaos or Iran, backed by Russia, filling the void, with great harm to U.S. and allied interests in either case.” The op-ed never explains why Iran, neighbouring Syria and Iraq, is less qualified to influence the region than the United States which exists literally oceans away and shares nothing in terms of history, culture, language or shared interests in stability and peace.

The op-ed would literally claim:

NATO is the only security organization with the skills and breadth to take on this task. The U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition of 68 partners is ill equipped to engage in this complex task. A more cohesive organization such as NATO should lead, but in ways that allow continued Arab participation. A creative version of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition could provide the answer.”

It was an interesting choice by the authors to showcase one of NATO’s most stupendous and continuing failures in Afghanistan with mention of the ISAF, a force that not only has failed to bring stability to the Central Asia nation in over a decade and a half of occupation, but has presided over the emergence of the Islamic State there where previously it had no presence.

The reality of what NATO is versus what The National Interest op-ed attempts to pass it off as, resembles more of a sales pitch for a shoddy product than a genuine attempt at geopolitical analysis or problem solving. But the truth goes deeper still.

NATO is a Global Wrecking Ball, It Cannot Create Stability 

The op-ed focuses primarily on proposing NATO roles for a post-Islamic State Libya, Iraq and Syria.

Libya is perhaps the most tragic of the three, with NATO having used direct military force in 2011 to topple the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in support of known extremists passed off at the time by both NATO spokespeople and the US-European media as “moderate rebels.”

The predictable fallout from this military campaign was the collapse of Libya as a relatively stable and unified nation-state into warring factions. The instability became fertile grounds for extremism, with many of the groups backed by NATO evolving into what is now the “Islamic State.”

The National Interest op-ed also makes mention of “Arab participation.” It should be remembered that the most extreme factions fighting in Libya were not only aided by direct NATO military intervention, but were armed and funded by Persian Gulf dictatorships as well, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

A similar pattern of sowing instability has unfolded in Syria, leading to, not averting the rise of the Islamic State.

And Iraq’s instability is a direct and lasting consequence of the US military invasion and occupation of 2003.

If nothing else, this exposes NATO and its members as a collective, global wrecking ball. Just as a wrecking ball cannot be used to construct a building on a vacant lot, NATO cannot be used to construct the conditions for stability across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Really Stopping the Islamic State Means Really Stopping Support for It

Ultimately, what the op-ed calls for is the permanent occupation of the three nations by NATO forces ranging from special forces in Libya to the formal occupation of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

Interestingly, the op-ed suggests that the NATO occupation force in Syria should not only be used to combat the Islamic State, but to also deter “Syrian military thrusts,” referring to the armed forces of the actual and only legitimate government in Syria.

This last point exposes fully what NATO is really interested in, and what this sales pitch is really advertising. NATO is not in MENA to defeat the Islamic State, it is merely using the Islamic State as a pretext to project Western hegemony across the region.

The closing paragraph states:

This NATO strategy cannot, and should not be expected to, settle the Syrian civil war, bring ethnic and sectarian harmony to Iraq, or create an effective Libyan state. What it could do is create conditions of stability in which lasting solutions at least have a chance. It can do so only if the U.S. is ready to call upon NATO to join it in filling the post-ISIS void and for the European allies to answer that call.

Certainly, NATO’s presence in Syria, Iraq or Libya will not bring any sort of stability. NATO has proven its absolute inability to achieve this in its 16 year occupation of Afghanistan. Claiming NATO occupation will “create conditions of stability in which lasting solutions at least have a chance” is merely NATO’s way of ensuring no matter how the chaos it itself has created across MENA, it will hold a stake in the outcome if for no other reason because it has literally taken and occupies territory within the post-war region.

U.S. Army Sgt.Mark Phiffer stands guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah Oi Fields in Southern Iraq

It is interesting that the Islamic State rose in the wake of US-led, NATO-backed violence stretching from North Africa to Central Asia and only began to suffer setbacks upon greater and more direct Russian and Iranian intervention.

The bombing of Islamic State and Jabhat Al Nusra logistical lines emanating from NATO-member Turkey’s borders by Russian warplanes, for example, inevitably led to huge gains by the Syrian Arab Army including the eventual liberation of Aleppo, the containment of Idlib and a significant retraction of Islamic State-held territory in eastern Syria.

The torrent of supplies feeding Islamic State and other fronts of extremist militancy flowing from Turkey is the admitted result of Persian Gulf sponsorship, which in turn, serves as an intermediary for US and NATO support for what the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency called in 2012 (.pdf) a “Salafist principality.”

The specific purpose of this “Salafist principality,” admittedly backed by Persian Gulf dictatorships, Turkey and what the US DIA refers to as “the West,” was to “isolate the Syrian regime.”  Clearly then, were NATO genuinely interested in defeating the Islamic State and undoing the damage it has done, it would begin by withdrawing it and its allies’ own support of the terrorist organization in the first place.

In short, if NATO truly wants to create stability across MENA, it merely needs to stop intentionally sowing instability.

Of course, a unilateral military bloc intentionally sowing chaos across an entire region of the planet is doing so for a very specific purpose. It is the same purpose all hegemons throughout human history have sought to divide and destroy regions they cannot outright conquer. A destroyed competitor may not be as favorable as a conquered, controlled and exploited competitor, but is certainly preferable to a free and independent competitor contributing to a greater multipolar world order. NATO, by embedding itself amid the chaos it itself has created, as it has proven in Afghanistan, only ensures further chaos.

Within this chaos, NATO can ensure if its own membership cannot derive benefit from the region, no one else will. A call like that featured in The National Interest for NATO to bring “stability” to the MENA region stands in stark contrast to the reality that everywhere NATO goes, chaos not only follows, it stays indefinitely until NATO leaves.

The best thing NATO can do for stability across MENA is to leave.

Source*

Related Topics:

No Force on Earth can Compete with NATO and U.S.’ Drug Trafficking Business in Afghanistan*

Blacklisted, Smeared and Silenced for Exposing NATO Destabilization of Syria*

SAA Seizes 2 Shipments of NATO Weapons to Al Qaeda Near Damascus*

Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border*

NATO Auditor Who Discovered U.S. Funds ISIS Found Murdered*

1,000s March for Peace, against NATO in Berlin*

NATO the Formless Entity of the Cabal and the U.S*

U.S., NATO Deploy Troops to Russia in WWIII Build-up*

World Leaders Agree to Merge NATO and E.U.*

Hacked emails Confirms NATO tried to Start War between U.S. and Russia*

NATO Violates Pledge to ‘Not Station Permanent Combat Troops’ in E. Europe*

The West Remains Silent as NATO Member Supports Terrorists in Syria*

Europeans Launch New Anti- NATO War Campaign*

NATO Just Attempted to Invade Moldova, but were Thwarted by People’s Resistance*

Israel Accepts Invitation to Hold Permanent Mission at NATO’s HQ*

NATO Amassing Hostile Forces on Russia Borders not Seen Since the Invasion in 1941*

U.S./NATO Atrocities Against Libya

Iran State TV Declares Rouhani Winner for 2nd Term*

Iran State TV Declares Rouhani Winner for 2nd Term*

Iran’s president casts his ballot during the presidential elections in Tehran, Iran May 19th – Reuters

 

Iran’s state television declared incumbent President Hassan Rouhani the winner of the country’s presidential election on Saturday, giving the 68-year-old cleric a second four-year term to see out his agenda calling for greater freedoms and outreach to the wider world.

State TV offered its congratulations in a brief statement Saturday, based on vote tallies. The latest election tallies released by the Interior Ministry showed Rouhani with a commanding lead of 59 percent, with 38.9 million votes counted.

Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asghar Ahmadi told journalists in a televised news conference earlier in the day that more than 40 million Iranians voted in Friday’s election. That puts turnout above 70%. In 2013, Rouhani won the presidential election with nearly 51% of the vote. Turnout for that vote was 73%.

As Rouhani appeared close to victory, some female drivers held out the V for victory sign and flashed their car lights on highways in Tehran’s affluent north.

Iran’s president is the second-most powerful figure within Iran’s political system. He is subordinate to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has the ultimate say over all matters of state.

Election officials repeatedly extended voting hours until midnight to accommodate long lines of voters, some of whom said they waited hours to cast their ballots. Analysts have said a higher turnout would likely benefit Rouhani.

Friday’s vote was largely a referendum on Rouhani’s more moderate political policies, which paved the way for the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that won Iran relief from some sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Women cast their ballots for the presidential election at a polling station in Lorzadeh mosque, Tehran

 

Rouhani has come to embody more liberal and reform-minded Iranians’ hopes for greater freedoms and openness at home, and better relations with the outside world.

His nearest challenger was hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, with 15.5 million votes. He is close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who stopped short of endorsing anyone in the election. Raisi ran a populist campaign, vowing to fight corruption and fix the economy while boosting welfare payments to the poor.

Many of Raisi’s critics pointed to his alleged role condemning inmates to death during Iran’s 1988 mass execution of thousands of political prisoners, and feared a victory for the hard-liner could worsen human rights in Iran and put the country on a more confrontational path with the West.

The two other candidates left in the race, Mostafa Mirsalim, a former culture minister, and Mostafa Hashemitaba, a pro-reform figure who previously ran for president in 2001, respectively have 455,000 and 210,000 votes each.

Hashemitaba was among the first to predict an outright win for Rouhani as he offered his congratulations Saturday morning.

“Rouhani will apply his ever-increasing efforts for the dignity of Iran” in his next term, the reformist said.

Although considered a moderate by Iranian standards, Rouhani was nonetheless the favorite pick for those seeking more liberal reforms in the conservative Islamic Republic.

He appeared to embrace a more reform-minded role during the campaign as he openly criticized hard-liners and Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force involved in the war in Syria and the fight against Islamic State militants in neighboring Iraq.

That gave hope to his supporters, who during recent campaign rallies called for the release of two reformist leaders of the 2009 Green Movement who remain under house arrest. The two figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, both endorsed Raisi, as did Mohammad Khatami, another reformist who served as Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005.

Iran has no credible political polling to serve as harder metrics for the street buzz around candidates, who need more than 50 percent of the vote to seal victory and avoid a runoff. But what scant data that was available before the vote showed Rouhani in the lead.

The position of president is a powerful post. He oversees a vast state bureaucracy employing more than 2 million people, is charged with naming Cabinet members and other officials to key posts, and plays a significant role in shaping both domestic and foreign policy.

All candidates for elected office must be vetted, a process that excludes anyone calling for radical change, along with most reformists. No woman has ever been approved to run for president.

Ahmadi said the Interior Ministry expects to announce final results later Saturday.

Source*

Related Topics:

Russia, Iran, Turkey Reach Consensus on De-escalation Zones in Syria*

U.N. Praises Iran’s Exemplary Leadership in Hosting Refugees*

Iran Sticks to Nuclear Deal in Spite of Threats from Warmongers*

Iran Finally Ditched the Dollar: Here’s Why It Matters*

Macron an American Trojan horse in the Elysee Palace*

One Corrupt President Ousted*

A Sufi, a Sikh and Their Message of Love — A Journey from Lahore to Amritsar*

A Sufi, a Sikh and Their Message of Love — A Journey from Lahore to Amritsar*

By Taimur Shamil

Sufi music and architecture has always fascinated me. Consequently, I have taken it upon myself to explore the tribal areas of North Pakistan and the remote areas of Sindh to learn as much as I can about the Sufi culture.

During recent travels, I happened upon the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir of the Qadariyyah Sufi order in Lahore.

Pigeons are attracted to the serenity of shrine. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

The mosque area attached with the shrine. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

The shrine is situated in what T.S Eliot calls, “streets that follow like a tedious argument”.

The saint’s life history, however, contains clear messages of peace. His times were soon to be followed by cultural degradation and “insidious intents”.

Surrounded by a populated area, the shrine is home to many poor people to whom it provides free shelter, and food on Thursdays.

“Thursday evening is considered to be a Mubarak day for Sufis,” explained Ghulam Fareed, a Qawwal vocalist.

Him, along with other Qawwals, have been regular visitors at this shrine. He sings here because he feels the act gives him a sense of belonging.

“This shrine has given us an identity.”

Devotees at the shrine. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

Singing qawwalis here also helps them make a living. After interacting with a few Qawwals, I realised that it’s not just mere appreciation and money; these Qawwals spoke with a sense of purpose as well.

To them, Sufi singing is a way to spread the message of unity and harmony, and they take immense pride in it.

Here, every Thursday, Qawwals sing in the courtyard of the shrine, while men and women clap and sway to the rhythm. Some men dance in ecstasy, some sing along, while others pay their tributes to the saint by bowing in front of his grave.

The air is filled with the mixed scent of roses and locally-made incense. Salvers of sweets and other food items are distributed among the crowd, both inside and outside of the shrine.

There are certain food items that are specific to the Sufi shrines in Lahore and can be found around Mian Mir; for instance, Qatlaammay (desi pizza) and Doodh Badam (milk with nuts).

Vendors selling food. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

On the outskirts of the shrine, vendors swarm the place. They sell dahi baray, chaat, sharbat and samosas to the visitors.

One of the samosa vendors, Akbar Shakir feels he doesn’t belong in the posh areas of Lahore, only here in the street next to the shrine.

“Quality is not ensured at these rairrhis but is it ensured at the hotels?” questioned Aleem Khan, a visitor to the darbar.

“After seeing what’s going on in expensive food chains that people dine in, I think we are better off over here,” he added, pointing to the samosa carts close by.

A woman lighting up a chiraagh — a ritual mostly seen at Sufi shrines in the sub-continent. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

Women constitute a huge number of devotees here.

“I was sick for the last two years,” said Sakeena, 32.

“I went to many doctors and hakeems but no one knew what my problem was. I took medicines but nothing worked. Then one day, my mother asked me to go to the shrine and pray for myself. I am much better since then. I believe that Awlia (friends of God) have the power to make things work for you,” she added thoughtfully.

Women at the shrine. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

People reciting the Qur’an inside the shrine. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

Historically, I learned, Mughal royals and nobility would frequent the Shrine of Mian Mir religiously.

According to local and British historians, Dara Shikoh had given orders to build the mausoleum of Mian Mir Shikoh. He was a Mughal prince with Sufi and mystical inclinations. He strongly believed in social harmony and a peaceful co-existence.

Shikoh authored several books on Sufism, and wrote a treatise on Bhagavad Gita (a sacred book on Hinduism). His book Sakinatul Aulia is dedicated to the life and works of Mian Mir.

Shikoh’s intellectual pursuits made him strive for a heterogeneous culture and harmony in the subcontinent — an important ingredient that was much needed in the 17th century as much as it is required now.

Students of history, who are proponents of a pluralistic society, mourn the execution of this philosopher prince who was killed by his puritan brother Aurangzeb Alamgir. Many modern-day historians are of the view that Shikoh was the bearer of the legacy of King Akbar whose stance was Sulh-e-Kul (Peace with all) — a stance that Sufis, too, have taken.

On my most recent visit to the shrine, I met many Sikh yatris who had come to pay homage to this great saint. Many of them were from Pakistan, while some had come from India. Mostly Sikh Yatris come here during the birthday celebration of Guru Nanak.

What makes the Sikhs visit the Shrine of Mian Mir? I was curious to know. I met a group of Sikhs and asked them.

Mian Mir’s grave covered with flowers while people recite the Quran. —Photo by Abdullah Khan

 

“To us, Mian Mir Sahab is as divine as the saints of Sikhism,” replied Diljeet, who came to visit the shrine from Ferozepur, India.

Sufis and Gurus, and their message, transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. “They are the beacons of light,” added Gursavek, another devotee.

The Golden Temple. —Photo by Fatema Imani

 

Mian Mir was an icon of unity, tolerance and love during and after the Mughal era. According to Sufi as well as Sikh traditions, Mian Mir laid the foundation of, what is now known as, the Golden Temple Amritsar, also known as Harminder Sahib.

Mian Mir is said to have travelled from Lahore to Amritsar on the invitation of Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth Guru of Sikhs, who asked Mian Mir for his blessings.

The story goes that Mian Mir was revered by Guru Arjun Dev. Both were divine figures of their respective religions, had mutual respect for each other and also had a similar notion: respect for humanity.

The goal of human life, according to Sufis, is to realise the divinity within; irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Harminder Sahib, in this sense, is more of a cultural hub for the people of Punjab; it is a place where self-actualisation is promoted. It is also marked as a Gurdawar — literally meaning Lord’s door or the door of the Guru.

On these grounds. Mian Mir laid the foundation of a worship place of a nascent religion.

It is noteworthy that Garanth Sahab, the holy book of the Sikh faith, includes the kalaam (poetry/works) of renowned Sufis like Baba Fareed of the Chishtiyyah Sufi order.

And hence, aptly, the kalaam of popular Sikh poet Ravidas jee resounds at the Shrine of Mian Mir in Lahore today as a reminder of humanity and tolerance, echoed by this shrine’s existence.

In today’s era of chaos and war, such places of religious and ethnic harmony always manage to leave the heart at peace, if only for a little while.

Source*

Related Topics:

My Experience as a non-Muslim going Undercover with Britain’s Sufi Muslims*

Sufism Healing the Soul in Gaza*

The Love of Spring Equinox, Nowruz and the First Male Convert, Sufi Style*

The Symbols of the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlevi Order*

China Increases DNA Testing of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Region*

Prophet Muhammed (SAW) on Ramadhan

Living in the Moment and Our Duty to Serve Creation

pThe Centre of Consciousness is One’s Heart*

Flint City Council Votes for Moratorium on Property Liens for Unpaid Water Bills*

Flint City Council Votes for Moratorium on Property Liens for Unpaid Water Bills*

Council president Kerry Nelson: “Enough is enough. I’ve made up my mind tonight to do what I need to do for the people who elected me.”

By Kenrya Rankin

A trash bag filled with empty water bottles and water filters outside of a house on March 17, 2016, in Flint, Michigan. Flint continues to work through the effects of water contamination. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

 

Last month, Flint, Michigan, officials informed more than 8,000 households that if they do not pay outstanding water bills, a lien will be placed on their property, setting them on a path that could lead to foreclosure. But on Wednesday (May 17), Flint City Council passed a resolution that, if approved by Mayor Karen Weaver, will institute a yearlong moratorium on the policy of issuing liens.

Many residents stopped paying their water bills when it was revealed that the water being delivered to their homes via the tap contained dangerous levels of lead. The state subsidized the city’s water costs from April 2014 through February of this year, but stopped after announcing that the water’s lead levels were within federal guidelines.

Michigan Radio reports that council members were moved to act after receiving calls from constituents. “Enough is enough. I’ve made up my mind tonight to do what I need to do for the people who elected me,” council president Kerry Nelson said.

The resolution says that properties with delinquent balances going back to April 2014—when the city began drawing its water from the Flint River—will not have liens placed on them. Eight council members voted for it, and one abstained, citing unanswered legal questions.

“The ordinance can’t go back retroactively, and pull liens off of houses that have already been lost. That was the main reason,” council member Eric Mays told Michigan Radio.

Nelson said that both the city attorney and chief financial officer asked him not to pass the moratorium for the sake of the city’s finances.

“It’s time out for that,” Nelson said.

“The people of this city are suffering. They’re troubled, they’re at their wits’ end…. We’ve got to do what we can do. I’ve done what I can do.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund also lobbied for the moratorium, prompting a May 16 statement from Weaver. From that statement:

I welcome the support and input of the ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund as this difficult and unfortunate situation has brought another dark cloud over the city and the progress being made to recover from the water crisis. The City of Flint is legally obligated to comply with some city and state statutes that are not suitable or appropriate when you consider the extenuating circumstances we are still facing.

Source*

Related Topics:

Flint Threatens to Kick 8,000 Families Out of Their Homes if They Don’t Pay for Poison Water*

Flint to get New Pipes after $87mn Settlement*

A Water Crisis Like Flint’s Is Unfolding In East Chicago*

City Threatens to Turn Off Flint Residents’ Water*

In Flint, Level of lead in Children’s Blood Leads to a State of Emergency*

We Don’t Believe in Words Anymore*

We Don’t Believe in Words Anymore*

Indigenous Peoples stand against Brazil’s Temer government

By Sue Branford, Maurício Torres

A Munduruku woman at the Transamazonian highway blockade talks with truck drivers. Despite the inconvenience of the roadblock, many truckers are expressing sympathy for the indigenous protest, citing their own disgruntlement with the policies of the Temer government. Photo by Mauricio Torres

 

Indigenous groups are making a defiant stand against the current wave of fiercely anti-Indian policies being rapidly implemented by Brazil’s Temer administration and Congress.

Protests blossomed last week in Brasilia where a four-day demonstration — the largest in the nation’s history — brought together over 4,000 indigenous leaders from more than 200 tribes seeking government redress of grievances. The protesters were met with teargas.

Likewise, a peaceful land occupation by members of the Gamela tribe in Maranhão state ended in violence when their camp was raided by ranchers and hired gunmen who beat the Indians brutally, even hacking off hands with machetes.

In the Amazon, members of the Munduruku tribe, armed with bows and arrows, set up a roadblock on the Transamazonian highway, creating a 40 kilometre (25 mile) backup of trucks loaded with this year’s soy harvest.

The blockade came in protest of the government’s refusal to demarcate the Indians’ lands as assured under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The commodities roadblock also sent a clear signal to the bancada ruralista, Brazil’s agribusiness lobby, which dominates Congress and the administration, and which pushed for the dramatic upsurge in federal initiatives rolling back indigenous land rights and protections.

A glimpse of the traffic backup at the Munduruku blockade. Video by Mauricio Torres

Violence in Maranhão

On 30 April gunmen and ranchers attacked an indigenous camp in Maranhão, an impoverished state in northeast Brazil, long dominated by powerful landowners led by the Sarney family (one of whom is Pres. Temer’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho).

The violence was triggered by events two days earlier, when several dozen Gamela Indians occupied disputed land near the town of Viana, 214 kilometers (133 miles) from the state capital of São Luis.

This land was traditionally occupied by the Gamela, but the military dictatorship (1964-1985) illegally ejected them from it. Ranchers then occupied the area, clearing the forest, planting pasture and raising cattle. As years passed, the ranchers began to see themselves as the legitimate owners.

About 300 Gamela families remained in the region, however, determined to regain their land despite the slight odds of doing so. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claim, the Indians received little help from authorities, with the federal Indian agency FUNAI, under pressure from the ranchers, refusing to begin the process of marking out the boundaries of the Gamela territory.

Three years ago the Indians went to court to force the ranchers to relinquish the land, but the case was stalled by bureaucratic delays. With their living conditions worsening year-by-year, the Gamela became convinced that they would only survive as a people if they took action. So they began a series of retomadas or re-occupations of their traditional land.

They timed the latest reoccupation to coincide with both the indigenous protest in Brasilia and a national one-day general strike, the first in 21 years, organized by Brazil’s trade unions in protest over the Temer government’s severe austerity measures.

It was a risky strategy, particularly in view of the strong anti-indigenous sentiment in Brasilia, and the local ranchers responded rapidly. According to one report, they sent out a WhatsApp message, calling on ranchers and their gunmen to gather near the indigenous camp.

Messages supporting the ranchers flooded the media. Federal deputy, Aluisio Guimarães Mendes Filho, (the state’s Public Security Secretary during the government of Roseana Sarney, another member of the Sarney clan), spoke out in a local radio interview, accusing the Gamela of being “troublemakers” and encouraging violence against them.

“He fanned the flames,” said one Indian later.

The ranchers had a barbecue, drank a lot of alcohol, and became increasingly abusive in their talk about the Indians. It was clear that an attack was being planned, but when it happened, the military police (who had arrived on site earlier) didn’t intervene.

The Indians were vastly out-numbered and could do little but flee into the forest when attacked by men wielding rifles and machetes.

According to Cimi (the Catholic Missionary Council), 13 Indians were injured. Two had both hands lopped off. Others were severely beaten; one had a fractured skull. One of the injured is Kum ‘Tum Gamela, a former priest, who has received numerous death threats in the past.

The Ministry of Justice issued a press statement in which it promised to investigate “the incident that involved small farmers and supposed Indians in the hamlet of Bahias.” The term “supposed” generated a wave of indigenous anger and was quickly deleted from the statement. Later the term “small farmers” was also removed, as it was widely criticized as being a euphemism for the gunmen employed by the ranchers. In the end, the statement merely said that that the ministry would investigate a “rural conflict.”

The Human Rights Commission of the prestigious Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) is to request help from the human rights body, Amnesty International, to resolve the dispute.

Munduruku roadblock

Another serious conflict is still underway, though it has not, as yet, resulted in violence. On 28 April, 130 Munduruku Indians and members of the Tapajós riverside communities of Montanha and Mongabal blockaded the Transamazonian highway, occupying a bridge about 25 kilometres (15 miles) east of the new port of Miritituba, a key transhipment point for the soy industry, where international trading giants, such as Bunge and ADM, have large terminals.

With the soy harvest in full swing, the road soon became highly congested, with at least a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of large trucks, carrying soybeans to Miritituba. The blockade was lifted during the night from 28 April forward, but was then re-imposed as a 24-hour blockade on the morning of 3 May.

A Mongabay contributor was accidentally caught up in the traffic, and on arriving at the road block he stayed to cover the showdown.

The Munduruku blocked the Transamazonian highway this week in protest of the failure of the Brazilian government to demarcate their traditional lands. The blockade is ongoing. Photo by Mauricio Torres.

 

Antonio Munduruku, a young Indian, offered two reasons why the blockade was imposed:

“We want the FUNAI employees who were working with us to be reinstated. We need them. They are our greatest tool in getting our lands marked out. And we won’t leave with empty hands. The FUNAI president told us on Friday that he’d sorted it out. But we don’t believe in words any more. We want their reinstatement published in the official gazette.”

He went on: “The second reason is to get the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory properly marked out. It’s our land but nothing is happening. Loggers are carrying on extracting timber.”

Vicente Saw, an old cacique, leader, said that stopping traffic on highways was effective: “The heart of the government is here on the road,” he said.

The will to resist

The Munduruku were shocked but not surprised by what happened to the Gamela:

“They’re a different ethnic group but they are our brothers, with the same blood,” said Jairo Saw Munduruku.

“We mustn’t let what’s happened to them happen to us. The government must mark out our land. If not, big loggers, big mining companies, will come in. And they will start conflicts, attacking us, assassinating leaders. That’s what the government wants but we must stop it happening. We don’t have anyone speaking for us in Congress. We have to defend ourselves.”

Attempts to reach the Brazilian government for comment in recent weeks have been met with no response.

The Munduruku feel no hostility toward the truck drivers. An old indigenous leader, Tomas Munduruku, said:

“We’re in favour of the truck drivers. They need our support too. It’s not right that the government is cutting their pensions.”

More surprisingly perhaps, many of the truck drivers are supportive of the Indians too. Trucker Mario de Nascimento said:

“This road is essential for Brazil and the protest must stop. But the Indians’ rights aren’t being respected, just like ours aren’t being respected. But we are carrying Brazil on our backs. We can’t stop. We need the government to sort it out. None of us deserves the way we’re being treated.”

Another trucker, who didn’t want to give his name, said:

“They [the Indians] are right. You can’t deny that. And if some of the people here want to lynch me for saying that, then let them lynch me.”

David and Goliath: One truck driver threatened to drive over the Indians, but other truckers found common ground with the Munduruku in their grievances against the repression and austerity measures of the current government. Photo by Mauricio Torres.

 

Time and again, the truckers, like the Indians, blamed the government for failing to listen, declaring flatly: “The biggest problem is the government.”

The concern is that the Amazonian heat, hunger and thirst will affect both Indians and truck drivers, and that tempers may begin to fray. One truck driver, who also didn’t give his name, threatened:

 “We’re going to drive our trucks over the Indians, pushing them all over, Indian after Indian. If our dreadful federal government doesn’t manage to get the blockade lifted soon, that’s what we’ll do.”

Another trucker said, in exasperated jest:

“It’s getting terrible for all of us. I haven’t had a shower for more than 24 hours, in this heat. I feel like throwing my underpants into the river. They’d kill the fish. So the Indians wouldn’t have fish to eat, nor any of us have fish either.”

With the drivers stretched over many miles, it’s difficult to assess the truckers’ overall mood, but there was a surprising development Wednesday afternoon. A substantial group of truckers and Indians held a meeting beside the highway, during which both sides expressed support for the other’s struggle, saying that their chief complaint is against the current government.

Although not all truckers share this opinion, a significant number do. That is an extraordinary new development because, in the past, Indian actions of this type caused huge resentment among affected parties, particularly truck drivers. It is indicative of the very high level of rejection in Brazil of the ruling government by voters of all kinds, with Pres. Temer’s support now standing at an unprecedented low of 9%.

The Munduruku possess a fierce warrior heritage and are standing up against the anti-indigenous policies of the administration and Congress. Photo by Mauricio Torres.

 

Growing dissent

Protests in Maranhão and Pará are not isolated cases. All over Brazil Indians are expressing grave fears about the future. Paulo Marubo, an Indian from the Javari Valley in the state of Amazonas, not far from the border with Peru, says that FUNAI, decimated by budget cuts, will have to close many of its offices for ethno-environmental protection (Bapes), which play a key role in monitoring the territory occupied by uncontacted tribes.

Marubo told Survival International: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”

Instead, the federal government seems to be turning its back on indigenous demands. During his first 55 days in office, justice minister Osmar Serraglio didn’t have a single meeting with an Indian but found time to sit down behind closed doors with a 100 landowners plus businessmen accused of corruption in the Car-Wash scandal.

During the large protest in Brasilia, Serraglio and Eliseu Padilha, Temer’s chief-of-staff, belatedly offered to meet the Indians, but that offer was turned down. The two officials are known to have drawn up the government’s anti-indigenous strategy and, with no offer of compromise on the table, the indigenous leaders saw little point in meeting with them.

The current assault on indigenous rights is the most severe since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. The NGO ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute) says there has been an “exponential increase in rural violence” since Temer took over. It comments:

“The fact that the ministry of justice is occupied by [Osmar Serraglio], an advocate of injustice reinforces the sinister omens of what lies ahead.”

Source*

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