All posts by Andre Vltchek

China’s BRI Could Save Destroyed Southeast Asia

Most of the people in the West or in North Asia usually never think about it, but Southeast Asia is one of the most depressed and depressing parts of the world.

It has been through genocides, wars and atrocious military regimes.

Then, those monstrous income disparities.

Jakarta beggars at night

According to The Bangkok Post, in 2018, “the 10% poorest Thais had 0% wealth.

50% of the poorest Thais (25 million people) had 1.7% of the country’s wealth while 70% (35mn) controlled 5%.” In the same year, 1% of the richest Thais controlled 66.9% of the country’s fortune.

Indonesia is not doing much better. In fact, if it were to provide correct, unmassaged statistics, it would easily overtake Thailand as the most unequal country on earth. But Indonesia does not even declare the precise number of people, as I was informed by my colleagues, UN statisticians. It still claims that it has around 270 million inhabitants, while in reality, even ten years ago, there were more than 300 million people living on the archipelago.

Except in the Communist Vietnam, super-rich Singapore, and (still) relatively wealthy Malaysia, poor people matter very little. Or more precisely, they do not matter at all. They do not exist. And poor people form the great majority in this part of the world, although you would hardly read it from the pages of official government bulletins.

Jakarta – smog and huge slums between skyscrapers

It is enough to see Jakarta, Manila or Bangkok from the air, to understand that the Southeast Asian megapolises are totally fragmented, so they can serve the elites. Skyscrapers, malls and enormous hotels are surrounded by miserable houses and slums. Terribly inadequate public transportation (corrupt governments have been regurgitating every year, for decades, great numbers of cars and polluting scooters wishfully called ‘motorbikes’, instead of providing decent massive public transit systems) has made Jakarta and periodically Bangkok, some of the most polluted and depressing cities in the world.

Crime is out of control. Thailand has, per capita, according to Interpol, a higher murder rate than the United States. In the Philippines, before President Duterte came to power, cities such as Davao and Manila were suffering from some of the most horrid crime statistics in Asia. Indonesia, again, has escaped scrutiny, simply because of the absolutely amazing ability to hide the truth.  Most of the crimes committed there, particularly sexual ones, are never reported, and if reported, not registered.

The modern history of this part of the world is perhaps the most brutal on the planet. Brutal, but hushed up. The education system in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand is geared not to educate the children and young people about the monstrous genocides committed on the territory of Southeast Asia.

To mention just a few ‘occurrences’, the West murdered several million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, during the so-called ‘Vietnam War’ and ‘Secret War’. It carpet-bombed poor Laos and Cambodia, while supporting the most atrocious feudal regimes all over ‘Indochina’. It also displaced millions of peasants. As a result, multitudes died from hunger.

Indonesia perpetrated three genocides, killing millions. First, during the 1965-66 one, triggered by the U.S.A. and its allies, murdered 1 – 3 million intellectuals, artists, teachers, Communists and members of the Chinese minority. The second was the U.S.A, U.K. and Australia-backed occupation of East Timor, which took lives of 30%-40% of the islanders. The third genocide is the on-going, horrendous occupation and plunder of West Papua.

Burma, broke and divided by British colonialism, is yet another story. And so are the monstrous Malaysian massacres, which took place in 1969. And various massacres of the opposition as well as of immigrants in Thailand. The Thai bombing of Vietnam and Laos, to impress handlers in Washington, and the U.S. massacres in the Philippines, as well as the brutal civil war there in Mindanao.

The list goes on and on. It is a brutal horror show, the never-ending awfulness of Western neo-colonialism, as well as the sleazy servility of local rulers.

The results are omnipresent: the beaches of entire countries are devastated. Whole enormous islands like Borneo, Papua and Sumatra are finished, scarred and poisoned by local and multi-national corporations. It is smoke and filth, clogged rivers, collapsed cultures, entire civilizations. No mercy, no compassion, no future.

Jakarta – smog and huge slums between skyscrapers

But it is all hushed up. Crimes are denied. Outraged, confused nations are called ‘lands of smiles’, or ‘’friendly and tolerant archipelagos’.

It is insane, but tens of millions of foreign tourists descend on this ruined part of the world, annually. They see nothing. Some like it. They only nurture their complexes of superiority here. They do not want to understand anything. They choose to be blind. Cheap sex, shitty alcohol and beach food, as well as monumental sunburns. They continue the demolition work which has been triggered by their governments.

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The mood is terrible. In Indonesia, foreigners and even locals get insulted in the middle of the day, just for being ‘different’. Whites are. Chinese are. Indians are. Black people are, with terrible regularity and brutality.

In Thailand, foreigners get killed and raped, for almost no, or very little, reason. The terrible occurrences are reported almost weekly by the local and foreign press.

Privatized Malaysian boardwalk – now for a fee

Poor people feel that their beaches, their cities, have been stolen from them. In Indonesia, on the Bali and Lombok islands, everything has actually really been looted from the locals.

Societies have crumpled. The plunder of the resources, of nature, of everything, was already taking place for years and decades, even centuries.

No one knows the way out of this nightmare. Most of Southeast Asia knows nothing else than this subjugation. And it is not even called a nightmare. In Southeast Asia, or in the West which controlled these societies for as long as one can remember, the horror is being glorified.

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And yet, yet… On the same continent, not far away, an enormous country, governed by the Communist Party, and professing ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ has been building a totally new society, defining and implementing an ‘ecological civilization’, pulling hundreds of millions of citizens out of poverty, constructing a great scientific base, the fastest trains on earth, massive transit systems in each and every city, first rate schools and universities, and stunning concert halls, opera houses and museums.

And all this with only a fraction of the financial resources, calculated on a per capita basis, of those of the West.

China… A country with 6,000 years of history and culture, with about 1.4 billion inhabitants, and with an absolutely, diametrically opposite economic and social system from that which was force-fed, for decades, to the people of Southeast Asia by the West.

A country, which, by 2020, as promised by her President Xi Jinping, will have no one, be it in the cities or in the villages, living in extreme poverty.

China, a country which is growing in order to serve its people. A country which is using capitalist companies in order to fulfill Communist and socialist goals. A country with a centrally planned and greatly successful economy. Where all land belongs to the government, and the entire future – to the people.

Beijing Egg – the biggest opera house in the world

Imagine this country, near the decaying colossus of the mainly miserable, oppressed Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia, with mostly failed systems which has forced hundreds of millions of human beings to live in filthy, destitute cities and in the feudal countryside.

And now, China, with its culture based on communalism and internationalism, is extending its hand, and basically saying: “Let us grow together! Let us help our people, let’s struggle side-by-side for a much better world. Let us save, liberate, empower your hundreds of millions of men, women and children; let us protect them from hunger, illnesses, functional illiteracy and the lack of a decent future!”

All this, despite the fact that in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and elsewhere, Chinese people were often treated like animals, killed and raped in pogroms, and kept away from the governments.

This extension of the hand is called “BRI” – “The Belt and Road Initiative.”

And it is, most likely, the greatest global and internationalist initiative in the history of humankind.

It is the most optimistic, truly socialist, vision for our planet, based on sharing and the genuine commonwealth of nations.

An enormous belt of high-speed railroads, roads, super-fast communication corridors, ports and airports, but also schools and universities, high-quality hospitals for all, of film studios and publishing houses, theatres and museums.

As this essay goes to print, China just inaugurated amazing, 4.300 km long railroad, cutting across Africa, from Tanzania to Angola. This project alone will save dozens of millions of lives. I worked in Africa, for several years. I know.

I have worked in more than 160 countries on this planet. I have seen a lot. But I have never encountered any vision so confident, so positively revolutionary, and at the same time, so kind.

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The West will fight. It will do everything in its power to prevent the BRI from succeeding.

It will not let Southeast Asia go without a struggle. As it is not letting Central Asia go.

Recently, I analyzed the so-called “Uighur Issue”, in my detailed report compiled in Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan and Indonesia – “March of Uighurs” it is called. The West and its allies are radicalizing, arming and militarizing the Uighur ethnic minority, doing all they can to sabotage the BRI, by attempting to destroy its important center – Urumqi – in Northwest China. This may slow the projects aimed at inter-connecting China, entire Central Asia, Iran, and even Turkey and parts of Russia.

The same has been happening in Southeast Asia. The West has unleashed a tremendous propaganda force; it has employed countless NGO’s, as well as thousands of local ‘academics’ and ‘journalists’, trying to smear all China’s attempts to pull the region out from slumber and above all, from the toxic dependency on Western colonialist powers.

I have been monitoring this occurrence, in among other places, the Philippines, where the administration of President Duterte has moved the country much closer to Beijing, and away from Washington, improving greatly the lives of the great majority of the Filipino people. President Duterte enjoys the support of around 80% of his citizens, but is brutally attacked by Western media and NGO’s. He calls China “the kindest nation on earth”. This can never be forgiven in the West.

The same can be said about Laos, where China is basically revamping everything; pulling this poor and historically ruined country back to its feet, by building a high-speed rail system, modern energy sector, while constructing hospitals, schools, and even brand-new cities. And what did West do in Laos? It fought a ‘Secret War’ here, a side-kick of the Vietnam War, basically carpet-bombing with B-52s, a big part of the countryside, killing hundreds of thousands of people, just ‘preventively’, so they do not become Communists. Washington and Thailand never even apologized for these crimes against humanity.

Now when China is rescuing its neighbor, a fellow Communist nation, the West is blabbing nonsense about the ‘environment’ and ‘debt-trap’. Anyone who bothers to travel to the Plain of Jars or other ruined parts of Laos, will discover minefields left after the carpet-bombings. People are still dying there, and Western companies which produced these monstrous cluster bombs do not even share technical specifications with the de-mining agencies. Great concern about the environment! Here, U.S. bombs are used as village fences.

A similar situation in Cambodia.

And several other nations in the region, including Burma.

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Nobody is laughing out loud, at those Western NGOs and propaganda outlets, mainly because the West and its servile local regimes have managed to sweep their crimes, genocides and economical plunder, under the carpet.

The downfall, or call it the near collapse of Southeast Asia, is not being defined as a downfall. Far from it.

Nowhere has brainwashing been so intense and so successful as in this part of the world. The great majority of local people are nowhere near to even beginning to comprehend what had been done to them. People do not know that they are the true victims, or that a different world is actually possible.

The Brits, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spaniards, have all managed to get away with the plunder and murder, mainly because ‘education’ has been shaped by the local ‘elites’, read: shameless treasonous servants of the Western imperialism. Talk to ‘educated’ (pro-British) Malaysians; read the books of their contemporary writers (almost all funded ‘from abroad’). Then you will understand.

The United States is still admired in Indonesia, a country thoroughly impoverished and ruined by Washington’s greed and geopolitical ambitions.

But Indonesia with a quality of life equal to that of poor Sub-Saharan African countries, is not officially considered to be poor, or deprived, or fascist or even feudal. Nobody seems to be questioning its ridiculously perverted statistics. The Philippines, too, was not defined as poor and destitute, before the arrival of President Duterte, even as millions were fleeing to all corners of the world, attempting to make a living often under horrid conditions, in places such as the Gulf.

No one is laughing, because people were stripped off their ability to compare.

The glorification of capitalism and imperialism has been too powerful.

As has the smearing of Communism.

And as has been the professional and consistent attempts to discredit everything Chinese, first by the racist European colonialists, and later by Cold War warriors and propaganda gurus from Washington and London.

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China led by the Communist Party; socialist China with its own characteristics, is clearly misunderstood. The BRI is also, and absolutely, misunderstood. Not because it is not transparent – transparent it is. But because Western propaganda is, so to speak, constantly and professionally muddying the waters.

Everything about China’s success is turned upside-down. The biggest fear, total horror, of the West and its lackeys in the new type of colonies here, is that China is both Communist, and a tremendously successful nation.

I am not going to argue here whether China is Communist or not, and if it is, to what extent. To me, it clearly is. Both Communist and successful. As well as internationalist. That is why I am decisively on its side, and on the side of BRI.

What is indisputable is that the intentions of the West to discredit both the PRC and BRI have absolutely nothing to do with trying to find solutions to the horrid problems our world in general, and Southeast Asia in particular, are facing.

The West does not want to find solutions. It wants Southeast Asia to remain ignorant, divided and servile.

The intentions of the West are clearly self-serving. Their only goal is to keep control over this resources-rich part of the world. And to prevent China from gaining its rightful position in Asia.

For centuries, the West kept plundering, killing and enslaving Southeast Asian people. That simple. Full stop. The nightmare is continuing, to date. This time, local elites are fully involved, although, frankly, they were always involved, acting shamelessly as go-betweens for the colonialists and the enslaved people.

It is time to try a different approach, an approach which has already saved hundreds of millions of people from misery; by giving them new lives, education, health, culture and dignity. An approach which now puts ecology and the quality of life well above business and economic growth.

The people of Southeast Asia have to be informed about the choices they have.

It will not be easy, as there is no free, no alternative press there. The mass media and ‘education’ are controlled by the elites who, naturally, want to maintain the status quo.

But there are choices. For the first time in many years.

Once the people of Southeast Asia know the truth, colonialism will end. Rapidly, almost immediately.

China and its system are showing great example by their deeds, not just by words. Wherever China comes, new winds are blowing. New societies are beginning to grow. Rationality blossoms. Nihilism disappears.

Soon a new chapter of Asian history will begin. The continent will be united, by belt and by road, by solidarity, determination and a great revolutionary spirit which will lead to the unstoppable renewal of this part of the world.

• (First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Women We Are Fighting For

There are stories that are unrelated to the news, but can explain much better than many combat reports, why people like me are fighting against the Empire and imperialism, with such determination and vehemence. Not all stories are ‘big’ or ‘heroic’; not all include famous people or iconic struggles. Not all take place on battlefields.

But they ‘humanize’ the struggle.

Once in a while, I like to share such stories with my readers. As I will do right now.

Because without them, frankly, nothing really makes sense.

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It was a hot, humid night in Jakarta; a megapolis with the worst pollution on earth, and with some of the most monstrous contrasts on our planet. A literally sinking city, constructed against the people; fragmented, serving only the few hundred thousand extremely rich (most of them accumulating wealth through corruption and theft), while condemning millions of struggling individuals to a slow death.

For the ruthless Indonesian elites and their Western handlers, the poor of Jakarta (the great majority of city dwellers) simply do not exist. They live in crammed slums, called kampungs – literally translated as villages. Kampungs fill huge spaces between the skyscrapers, malls, and mostly empty five-star hotels. Individuals living there consume very little, and therefore matter close to nothing. Even their number is underplayed in the official statistics.

One night, my small film crew and I were driving though the Klender neighborhood in East Jakarta; a poor, religious and monotonous part of the city.

Re-editing my big film about Indonesia after the US-sponsored military coup of 1965, an event which I often describe as an “Intellectual Hiroshima”, I had to again spend a few days in Jakarta, collecting latest footage, filming contrasts between the people and feudal elites.

We were all tired. Traffic jams have brought the city to an almost permanent gridlock. The pollution is unbearable. Life has come to a standstill. As planned by the regime, no one seemed to be thinking. Nothing seemed to be working.

We were driving past Klender train station a few minutes after midnight.

There were two young women standing by the side of the road. One of them caught my eye. She was clearly a prostitute, or a ‘sex-worker’, as they would call her in the West. But in reality, no, she was not a ‘worker’; not her. Just an abused, tired women.

I liked her face. Hers was an honest, good face. And after all that nonsense I heard during the day, after all that ‘feel good’ crap, I needed to hear something real, honest.

“Stop!” I shouted at my driver. He stepped on the brakes, then backed up a few meters.

“I want to talk to her,” I explained. Then to her: “I want to talk to you.”

She did not find my request strange. She nodded. After years of moving all around the world, while documenting the state of our humanity, I have developed certain instincts. I can tell from the faces of people, whether they have a story to tell; and whether they have the desire to speak. She did, both.

We emptied the front seat for her, next to the driver. She got in. Jakarta is a dangerous city, especially for women. But she did not seem to be frightened. She trusted me, as I trusted her.

“My name is Andre,” I said. “I am a filmmaker, and this is my team”.

“My name is Risna,” she answered and smiled.

“I want to hear your story,” I said.

“OK,” she said.

“Do you mind if I film?”

“Go ahead. I don’t mind.”

I put my GH5 over my knee, turned on the little light on the ceiling of the car, and pressed the “Record” button.

Just like that. No coaching, no preparation. And then it happened. She spoke. Clearly. Bitterly. Honestly.

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“It was four of us,” she began, softly:

Four children. Little ones. Two boys and two girls. Our father, a pious religious man, used to use all of us. He had sex with us, with males and females. By then our mother was gone. He wanted to get married for the second time. To a young woman. But he had no money. And so, he began pimping all of us, for cash, so he could save enough, to start his new family. All four of us… you know; we all failed in life. At seven, I often slept on the streets. My siblings are all dysfunctional. I got married, had children, but my husband left me. I’m thirty years old now. I do this to support my children, and my brothers and sister.

Trains kept passing-by. Loud express trains, rushing to far away cities: Yogyakarta, Solo, Surabaya.

“I couldn’t talk to anybody. Here, it is always woman’s fault. No matter what happens, it is woman’s fault.”

I was frozen in my seat.

“This is my story.”

“And now?” I could not think about anything else to ask.

“Now I am speaking to you.”

I stopped the car in the middle of the night. I wanted to hear a story of a woman who was working by the side of the road. And that is precisely what I got: she described to me, briefly, her life.

She did it in a simple, touchingly naïve, pure way. There was nothing unnatural in her voice.

She spoke for herself, and for millions of Indonesian women like her, too.

I cared about her, but did not know how to express it, what to say.

We spoke for a bit, about the terrible fate of women in Indonesia. About the hypocrisy of this society. But it was well after midnight, and she had to earn her living. I had to let her go.

“You will be in my film, together with your former President Gus Dur, and the greatest writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer.”

She nodded, in a matter of fact way.

“What do you dream about?”

And that’s when her eyes filled with tears:

“I want to raise my children as a good mother; from honest work.”

I looked at the monitor of my camera. 8 minutes and few seconds had passed since I began recording. One human life, in a summary. One complex, broken human life. I bowed to her. Shook her hand. Thanked her.

“Do you have hope?”

She looked at me, deep into my eyes. Then she nodded.

“Yes!”

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At night, I couldn’t sleep.

I knew all about what she was talking about. My friend who works for the UNDP once explained to me, that Indonesia has one of the highest child abandonment rates in the world. And also, one of the highest amounts of sexual child abuse cases, particularly inside families; committed by family members. All these topics are taboo, and no ‘official’ study can be produced, as most women are only willing to speak ‘off the record’.

In Indonesia, after 1965, everything collapsed; was destroyed. But this downfall, and almost nothing related to it, can be discussed openly. Here, the fear of truth is omnipresent, and I will soon address this shocking issue in one of my upcoming essays.

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In 1979, when the pro-US Somoza’s regime collapsed and the Sandinistas took over the devastated Nicaragua, my friend, an American poet and translator, happened to be in Managua.

He was very young and confused.

He understood, theoretically, the greatness of the revolution. But he was still lacking examples.

Then, one afternoon, he saw a bus. A beat-up public bus, slowly moving towards the center of the city, while sun was setting down, behind the hills.

He told me the story, a long time ago, in New York, as I was ready to depart for Peru, to cover the so-called Dirty War:

It was the end of the week. The bus was full of girls; young women from slums. Some were barefoot. But they were dressed in their best. They were travelling to the center of the capital, to dance!

The voice of my friend broke. He was overwhelmed by his memories.

Do you understand? Before, they only went to the rich parts of the city in order to serve, to be humiliated, used; to labor for the rich. Now, they were going to those clubs that only a week ago were frequented exclusively by ‘gringos’ and local elites. They were going to dance. It was their country, suddenly. It was their city. They were free. The country belonged to them.

“This is when I understood,” he concluded, “that the revolution was right. Not because I studied Marxism, not because of some theory. But because these girls from the poor neighborhoods of Managua had suddenly gained the right to dance. They gained their right to exist; to be alive!”

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In Cuba, they say: “Everyone dances, or no one dances!”

Covering the world, documenting wars, conflicts, but also revolutions, I often encounter women like Risna.

Whenever countries collapse, whenever they are destroyed by savage capitalism, by religious extremism, or by subservience to imperialist powers, women suffer the most. It is almost the rule.

Most of them suffer in silence, as even their voices are being muted.

The more oppressive, regressive society gets, the more subjugated are its women.

Their humiliation, repression, suffering gets glorified as virtue. While rape, molestation, and submission are hushed up, never discussed. In countries such as Indonesia, if a woman protests and speaks about her fate, she gets ridiculed, discredited, or even thrown into prison, as has happened recently, on several well-publicized occasions.

Western hypocrisy is obvious: while everyone there is obsessed with ‘political correctness’, London, Washington and Paris are glorifying, supporting and even producing regimes which treat women worse than animals.

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Risna deserves to be in one of those proverbial buses which are taking women to the once exclusive clubs, so they can dance. In a rough translation of the metaphor: ‘so they could become the owners of their own fate, of their cities, and their country’.

Women like her are the women we are fighting for.

Their stories are our stories. Be they in Managua, Jakarta, Kampala, or Mumbai.

They are as significant as those stories from the war zones near Syrian Idlib, or Afghanistan, or Libya.

Not to tell such stories would convert us, revolutionary writers, into liars.

Originally published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Why Should Iran be Cherished and Defended?

As I pen this short essay, Iran is standing against the mightiest nation on earth. It is facing tremendous danger; of annihilation even, if the world does not wake up fast, and rush to its rescue.

Stunning Iranian cities are in danger, but above all, its people: proud and beautiful, creative, formed by one of the oldest and deepest cultures on earth.

This is a reminder to the world: Iran may be bombed, devastated and injured terribly, for absolutely no reason. I repeat: there is zero rational reason for attacking Iran.

Iran has never attacked anyone. It has done nothing bad to the United States, to the United Kingdom, or even to those countries that want to destroy it immediately: Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Its only ‘crime’ is that it helped devastated Syria. And that it seriously stands by Palestine. And that it came to the rescue of many far away nations, like Cuba and Venezuela, when they were in awful need.

I am trying to choose the simplest words. No need for pirouettes and intellectual exercises.

Thousands, millions of Iranians may soon die, simply because a psychopath who is currently occupying the White House wants to humiliate his predecessor, who signed the nuclear deal. This information was leaked by his own staff. This is not about who is a bigger gangster. It is about the horrible fact that antagonizing Iran has absolutely nothing to do with Iran itself.

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Which brings the question to my mind: in what world are we really living? Could this be tolerable? Can the world just stand by, idly, and watch how one of the greatest countries on earth gets violated by aggressive, brutal forces, without any justification?

I love Iran! I love its cinema, poetry, food. I love Teheran. And I love the Iranian people with their polite, educated flair. I love their thinkers. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them.

You know, you were, of course, never told by the Western media, but Iran is a socialist country. It professes a system that could be defined as “socialism with Iranian characteristics”. Like China, Iran is one of the most ancient nations on earth, and it is perfectly capable of creating and developing its own economic and social system.

Iran is an extremely successful nation. Despite the embargos and terrible intimidation from the West, it still sits at the threshold of the “Very high human development”, defined by UNDP; well above such darlings of the West as Ukraine, Colombia or Thailand.

It clearly has an internationalist spirit: it shows great solidarity with the countries that are being battered by Western imperialism, including those in Latin America.

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I have no religion. In Iran, most of the people do. They are Shi’a Muslims. So what? I do not insist that everyone thinks like me. And my Iranian friends, comrades, brothers and sisters have never insisted that I feel or think the same way as they do. They are not fanatics, and they do not make people who are not like them, feel excluded. We are different and yet so similar. We fight for a better world. We are internationalists. We respect each other. We respect others.

Iran does not want to conquer anyone. But when its friends are attacked, it offers a helping hand. Like to Syria.

In the past, it was colonized by the West, and its democratic government was overthrown, in 1953, simply because it wanted to use its natural resources for improving the lives of its people. The morbid dictatorship of Shah Pahlavi was installed from abroad. And then, later, again, a terrible war unleashed against Iran by Iraq, with the full and candid support of the West.

I promised to make this essay short. There is no time for long litanies. And, in fact, this is not really an essay at all: it is an appeal.

As this goes to print, many people in Iran are anxious. They do not understand what they have done to deserve this; the sanctions, the US aircraft carriers sailing near their shores, and deadly B-52s deployed only dozens of miles away.

Iranians are brave, proud people. If confronted, if attacked, they will fight. And they will die with dignity, if there is no other alternative.

But why? Why should they fight and why should they die?

Those of you, my readers, living in the West: Study; study quickly. Then ask this question to your government: “What is the reason for this terrible scenario?”

Rent Iranian films; they are everywhere, winning all festivals. Read Iranian poets. Go eat Iranian food. Search for images of both historic and modern Iranian cities. Look at the faces of the people. Do not allow this to happen. Do not permit psychopathic reasoning to ruin millions of lives.

There was no real reason for the wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The West perpetrated the most terrible imperialist interventions, ruining entire nations.

But Iran – it all goes one step further. It’s a total lack of logic and accountability on the part of the West.

Here, I declare my full support to the people of Iran, and to the country that has been giving countless cultural treasures to the world, for millennia.

It is because I have doubts that if Iran is destroyed, the human race could survive.

First published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

March of the Uyghurs

Important note: The Uyghurs have managed to create a very old and deep culture. Most of them are good, law abiding citizens of the PRC. Also the great majority of followers of Sunni Islam are peaceful people. This work is addressing terrible problems related to extremism and terrorism, most of them crafted and then fueled by the West and its allies. The goal is to damage China. The victims live in various countries.

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Uyghurs man in Istanbul

They are everywhere, where their Western, Gulf states and Turkish handlers want them to be.

Their combat as well as political cells and units are based in Syria and Indonesia, in Turkey and occasionally in Egypt.

When they are told to kill, they murder with unimaginable brutality; decapitating, or cutting to pieces priests, infants, old women.

They are China’s worst nightmare. They are unleashing religious fundamentalism and foreign-sponsored militant nationalism and separatism. They are potentially the greatest obstacle and danger to President’s Xi Jinping’s marvelous BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).

Both the West and Turkey are glorifying them; the most extremist of Uyghurs. They are financing and arming them. They are labelling them as victims. Uyghurs are now a new ‘secret weapon’, to be used against Beijing’s determined march forward, towards socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The West and its allies are doing all they can to smear China (PRC), to derail its progressive course, and to arrest its increasingly positive and optimistic influence on all the corners of the world. They invent and then support/finance all imaginable and unimaginable adversaries of the Communist Party of China. Religious sects are the favorite ‘weapon’ used against China by both North America and Europe. That is true about the extremists who belong to Tibetan Buddhism, concentrated around an agent and darling of the Western intelligence agencies, the Dalai Lama. Or yet another radical Buddhist/Taoist extremist sect – Falun Gong.

The West does everything in its power to destroy China. It was clearly detectable 30 years ago during the so-called Tiananmen Square Incident (an event supported by the West, and later twisted by Western mass media), as it has been obvious during two recent ‘rebellions’ in Hong Kong, fully sponsored by Western organizations (NGOs) and governments.

The latest chapter of the anti-Chinese attacks, conducted by the West, is perhaps the most dangerous, and the ‘best crafted’ multi-national onslaught against the interests of both China (PRC) and the developing world, particularly the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

It is the so-called Uyghur issue.

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Muslim girls selling halal food in China

Uyghurs live predominantly in the northwest of China. They were recognized as ‘native’ in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. They belong to one of the 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities of China, and are predominantly of Muslim faith.

For decades, some Uyghurs fought for independence from China (before the Communist PRC was declared on October 1, 1949, there were at least two Uyghur independent states declared in the region, the one most known – the First East Turkestan Republic – with the help of the Soviet Union).

Since the formation of the PRC, China has offered equal rights and constantly improving standards of living to the Uyghur minority. However, several extremist Muslim factions have kept fighting, brutally, for a Turkic independent state. They have not been representing the majority of Uyghurs, but being against the PRC, have enjoyed moral and financial support from the West, its allies in Gulf states, and from Turkey.

Dr. Gaye Christofferson, wrote in September 2002, in her work “Constituting the Uyghur in U.S.-China Relations: The Geopolitics of Identity Formation in the War on Terrorism” how divisive the actions of the Uyghurs were on the territory of the PRC:

Uyghur separatists and independence movements claim that the region is not a part of China, but that the Second East Turkestan Republic was illegally incorporated by the PRC in 1949 and has since been under Chinese occupation. Uyghur identity remains fragmented, as some support a Pan-Islamic vision, exemplified by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, while others support a Pan-Turkic vision, such as the East Turkestan Liberation Organization. A third group would like a “Uyghurstan” state, such as the East Turkestan independence movement. As a result, “[n]o Uyghur or East Turkestan group speaks for all Uyghurs, although it might claim to”, and Uyghurs in each of these camps have committed violence against other Uyghurs who they think are too assimilated to Chinese or Russian society or are not religious enough.

This was before the big propaganda push from the West; during the years when even Western academia was still relatively free to assess the situation in Xinjiang.

But soon after, the North American and European policy changed and radicalized.

In the West, the Uyghur issue was designated as ‘central’ and ‘essential’ to achieve three main goals:

  • To smear and humiliate China, portraying it as a country that ‘violates human rights’, ‘religious rights’ and the rights of minorities.
  • Uyghurs were literally inserted by NATO countries, including Turkey, into several violent combat zones: in Syria, Afghanistan and Indonesia, to name just a few, with one sole purpose: to train and to harden its fighters, who could be later deployed as de-stabilizing factors in China, Russia and former Soviet Central Asian Republics.
  • To sabotage great infrastructural projects, particularly the BRI. BRI is the brainchild of China’s President Xi Jinping. High-speed rail links, highways and other infrastructural arteries would be going through Xingjian, towards east. If brutal terrorist attacks backed by the West and its Islamist allies, and perpetrated by the Uyghur terrorists, would shake the region, the entire project which has been created in order to help to improve life for the entire humanity, (by wrestling various poor and developing countries from deadly Western neo-colonialist embrace), could be jeopardized, even collapse.

But what is really happening?

For several years, I investigated this ‘issue’; in China and Syria, in Turkey, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Indonesia.

It is because I consider it to be one of the most important and one of the most dangerous issue our planet is now facing.

I was able to trace patterns, and to find roots. What I discovered is disturbing and threatening. For China and for the world.

The “March of Uyghurs” is backed by “useful idiots”, all over the Western world, but also in Turkey, and elsewhere. They want to “defend victims”, but in this case, the ‘victims’ are actually ‘victimizers’ and usurpers.

Here I am putting my findings (and the findings of other colleagues and comrades) on the record. I do it so no one who is searching for truth would be able to say now or in ten years: “I did not know”, or “The information has not been available.”

Before we begin, let me point out how enormous the hypocrisy of the West is: The TIP (Turkistan Islamic Party, which is the militant wing of the Uyghur’s separatist Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM)), has been designated as a terrorist organization by China. But not by China alone; also, by the European Union. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Pakistan! The terrorists supported by the West and at least by part of its public, is designated as a terrorist organization by London, Brussels and Washington.

Using Western logic, it is obviously quite acceptable to train terrorists in Syria or Indonesia, for the horrible mass killing of Chinese people, but it is not acceptable to have them operate on the territory of European Union, or the United States.

*****

Office of Uyghurs in Istanbul

The frontal Western attack against China and its actions in Xingjian began in 2018. Propaganda salvos were fired long before, but the ‘semi-official’ beginning of the ideological combat came in August 2018, when Reuters published a story with the title “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” It went like this:

GENEVA (Reuters) – A United Nations human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. 

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone’,” she told the start of a two-day regular review of China’s record, including Hong Kong and Macao. 

China has said that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority who call the region home and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

William Engdahl lashed at the Reuters report on pages of 21 Century Wire:

In August Reuters published an article under the headline, “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” A closer look at the article reveals no official UN policy statement, but rather a quote from one American member of an independent committee that does not speak for the UN, a member with no background in China. The source of the claim it turns out is a UN independent advisory NGO called Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The sole person making the charge, American committee member Gay McDougall, stated she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports.” McDougall cited no source for the dramatic charge.

Reuters in their article boosts its claim by citing a murky Washington DC based NGO, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). In an excellent background investigation, researchers at the Grayzone Project found that the CHRD gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from unnamed governments. The notorious US government NGO, National Endowment for Democracy, is high on the list of usual suspects. Notably, the CHRD official address is that of the Human Rights Watch which gets funds also from the Soros foundation.

This is how the new chapter of anti-Chinese ideological attacks (and attempts to stop them) began.

And soon, they intensified. The Western propaganda apparatus unleashed dozens of articles, which, while claiming that China has been building several detention centers for Uyghurs in Xingjiang, failed to provide any proof that extreme harsh measures were being applied against the religious and political extremists in Northwest China.

The most amateurish, speculation-based one, was printed on June 1, 2019, by The Telegraph (“China’s Uighur Muslims forced to eat and drink as Ramadan celebrations banned”):

Beijing has long sought to arrest control of this resource-rich region where decades of government-encouraged migration of the Han – China’s ethnic majority – have fuelled resentment among Uighurs. The biggest outburst erupted in 2009 in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, resulting in 200 deaths.

Now, the ruling Communist Party has launched a propaganda campaign about snuffing out “criminal” and “terrorist” activity. All across Xinjiang – meaning “new frontier” – are bright red banners reminding people to fight illegal, “cult” behaviour, listing hotlines to report suspicious activity.

“Love the Party, love the country,” hangs a streamer at one mosque, just above the metal detector. A highway billboard proclaims, “Secretary Xi is linked heart-to-heart with Xinjiang minorities,” referring to Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The government is working to present an image of a happy, peaceful Xinjiang, in efforts to boost tourism and attract investment; this is the linchpin for Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road initiative.”

Many thinkers, however, have been bravely putting this kind of ‘reporting’ into context. My close friend and co-author of our book “China and Ecological Civilization”, a leading U.S. philosopher and progressive theologian, John Cobb Jr., has many years of involvement in China. He wrote for this reportage:

A standard tactic of the U.S. government is to create situations in which another government has little choice but to use violence. Its use of violence is then treated as proof that “regime-change” is needed. Sometimes it even justifies war. The Iranians shooting down an American spy drone, for example, almost led to an overt American attack on Iran. China has been placed in such a situation with regard to one of its Islamic minorities. There is real danger that the Uighurs will use violence against China. China thus far has responded by an effort at massive, compulsory re-education which can be depicted as forcing citizens to spend much of their time in “concentration camps.” That the minority is Islamic is then used in American propaganda to imply that China persecutes religion. Propaganda can also create anti-Chinese feeling among religious people all over the world, and especially among Muslims both in China and elsewhere.  

If we think that anything that weakens those who refuse American domination is good, then we can admire the skill of the CIA. If we care for truth and justice, our task is to bring to light the cruelty and injustice of the subversion and the lies.

*****

Uyghurs in Turkey

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ‘fell in love’ with Uyghurs when he served as the mayor of the country’s largest city – Istanbul. He erected a monument to them, and declared that the Turkish nation had roots in “Turkestan”.

He allowed hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs to migrate to Turkey.

Immigration office in Izmir, Turkey which processes Uyghurs

Being a NATO-member country and at least in the past, one of the closest allies of the United States, Turkey readily helped the West with its colorful anti-Chinese campaign.

But that was not all. Far from it. NATO nations and their ultra-religious allies in the Gulf, decided to overthrow the Arab-socialist government in Damascus, Syria. Turkey readily participated in the ‘project’ from the very beginning, sacrificing its historic ties with the Assad family.

As early as in 2012, I investigated, with the help of the Turkish translator of my books, the so-called refugee camps in the border area of Hatay (with its ancient capital of Antakya). While several camps were truly serving as refugee centers, others like Apaydin, were training Syrian terrorists, as well as foreign jihadi fighters.

Apaydin camp in Hatay Turkey near Syria

In those days, Serkan Koc, a leading Turkish left-wing documentary filmmaker, who has produced several groundbreaking works on the subject of the “Syrian opposition”, explained to me in Istanbul:

Of course, you do realize that those people are not really ‘Syrian opposition.’ They are modern-day legionnaires collected from various Arab countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, paid by Western imperialist powers. Some are members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Most are militant Sunni Muslims. One could describe them as rogue elements hired to fight the Assad government.

With help of the Mr. Koc’s contacts in Hatay, I managed to establish, as early as in 2012 and 2013, that some of the ‘legionnaires’ were actually Uyghurs. I also received confirmation that they were being smuggled from the Hatay area ‘camps’ directly into Syria, fully armed and equipped.

Terrorists were also trained at the NATO air force facility ‘Incerlik’, near the city of Adana. Exactly how many Uyghurs went through that air base, has so far not been established.

On the Syrian war front, the toughest, the most brutal and the most dangerous assassins in the presently terrorist-controlled area of Idlib, are Uyghurs. But this fact will be addressed in the following chapter of this report.

*****

In Istanbul, I teamed-up with my colleague and comrade, Erkin Oncan, a leading Turkish journalist and thinker, who presently works for Sputnik. For years, he has been reporting on the movement of the Uyghurs.

Together, we visited the Zeitinburnu neighborhood on the outskirts of Istanbul, where we met Erkin’s colleagues, who took us on a ‘tour’ of significant Uyghur ‘landmarks’, including the office where Uyghurs have been recruited, allowed to work semi-legally, and then, many of them, sent to Syria and Iraq.

There are approximately 50,000 Uyghurs living in Turkey (10 million live in China and all over the world). Zeitinburnu, has the greatest concentration of Uyghurs in the country. Here they own businesses, restaurants. Old people enjoy a relaxed life, drinking tea and leading endless conversations in public places.

But this tranquil mood is only a façade. Here is where many Uyghurs arrive. From here, they get injected abroad, where they learn their deadly ‘trade’, how to become hardened and merciless fighters. They go to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or as far as Indonesia.

As early as on April 9, 2015, BGNNews.com in Istanbul, reported:

The network is based out of Zeytinburnu, a district on Istanbul’s European side which is home to a community of Uighurs who live in Turkey. It is headed by Nurali T, a businessman who has been facilitating the movement of Uighurs from China to Syria and Iraq via Turkey since 2011. He is known by his code name Abbas. An individual who works for him, AG, says that a total of 100,000 fake Turkish passports have been produced, 50,000 of which have been shipped to China to be handed to fighters recruited to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

According to the article Uighurs are joining the fight, traveling from China through Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Malaysia, which has no visa requirements with Turkey. A fee of USD 200 is taken from the recruits.

The fighters then spend a night in Istanbul in motels, hotels or safe-house apartments before heading to Turkey’s Southeast and East the next day to cross into Syria and Iraq.

The individuals carrying fake passports are often caught at the airport in Istanbul. As to why they have been able to enter Turkey and not get deported, AG says, “Turkey has secret dealings with the Uighurs. The authorities first confiscate the passports but then release the individuals.”

Erkin and his friend talk about the present situation in Turkey. And about what Uyghurs are expected to achieve:

Members of TIP – Turkistan Islamic Party – are repeatedly saying that ‘in Syria we are training for jihad, and we will go back to China, and fight.

The question is, how would Uyghur fighters be moved back to China; from both Turkey, but especially from Syria?

Erkin replied:

My theory is, that China is on high alert, and if the fighters would be sent first from Syria to Turkey, and then to China, it could be done only if the ID’s were changed and falsified. Because China has names, it has lists, and it has information. If Turkey decides to secretly change their ID’s, and sends them to China, it could be possible, but, as you said yourself earlier, the Afghan route is also possible. The IS fighters are also gathering there, the TIP is gathering there, in Afghanistan; some parts of the Western Afghanistan tip, which is not far from the border with China. I think that TIP will try to go directly to China, but most of the attempts will fail. They will attack from Afghanistan. As you know, Russia recently declared that the IS has formed a new caliphate in Afghanistan, which would fortify the jihadi climate in the country. Turkey will try to send a number of Uyghur fighters there, although I don’t know how many.

I also think that Turkey will try to divide Uyghurs into two groups. You know that Uyghurs always travel with their families. Sending them anywhere with the families is very hard. But sending fighters first, and then ‘deporting’ the families, is another thing. Deporting the families could be done under ‘humanitarian cover’. So, I think, the fighters will go first, secretly, and then, families will be deported.

But where would the families be ‘deported’ to? To China?

Yes, because in Izmir and Hatay, Uyghurs are taken care of by the Turkish government. There are always, exclusively, women and children, but no men.

On June 2019, I went back to both Hatay and Izmir, just to confirm what I was told in Zeitinburnu.

Hatay, Turkey

But before that, we traveled to Aksaray in Istanbul; to one of the notorious Uyghur restaurants, owned by an AKP member. Uyghurs are managing the place. It is the place where separatist leaders meet, regularly; every month, or at least every second month. The former boss of this place was arrested on charges of human trafficking. My colleagues explain: “We have no idea what charges, exactly, or what happened to him. If he was still in prison, we would definitely know.”

The Police HQ is very close to this eatery, which I do not want to identify by name, at least not for this report, not yet. Paradoxically, some members of the police force who are supposed to be tracking down human trafficking, regularly gather here. So too, naïve Chinese tourists in search of good spicy Chinese food from the Northwest of their country.

I am told:

According to my source here, police once spotted a human trafficking cell here, but did nothing… Police is actually controlling these cells, even giving new names to those who are supposed to be sent to Syria. Police is in charge, and the government officials actually know who is going to Syria, name by name. Some profits from this, and from other restaurants like this one, are going directly to the Uyghur separatist association.

Actually, there are many restaurants like this, but this one is the HQ for the Istanbul area. It tries to stay humble, not flashy, with hardly any signs in Arabic.”

I am also explained to:

All of our sources confirm the same: ‘Police and the state/government know everything, and they make sure to control the action.

Governing and mainly right-wing nationalist and pro-Western opposition parties in Turkey are all supporting the Uyghurs. The Opposition even more than the ruling AKP, so there is very little chance that the policy will get reversed anytime soon.

Most of the Turkish media outlets echo Western sources, and are openly hostile towards China.

However, the government does not want to antagonize China, openly. It has some cooperation, at least when it comes to the tracking of criminal activities.

One thing has changed, I was told by Abdulkadir Yapcan, who covers legal issues related to Uyghurs:

If China provides IDs and names, Turkey will investigate and press charges. If China fails to provide detailed information, Turkey will do absolutely nothing. This is at least some change, since 2016. Although, so far, there was only one case…

Uyghurs have gone violent, even in Turkey, on several occasions. The most documented ones were an attack against the Thai consulate in Istanbul in 2015, and an attack on a nightclub in Zeitinburnu, in which 39 people lost their lives, mainly Turkish and Saudi citizens.

*****

Uyghur Fighters in Afghanistan

On the outskirts of Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan, I regularly encounter people who are escaping from the increasing presence of ISIS in various parts of the country. Some are now forced to live in the camps for internally displaced people, like that in Bagrami, just on the outskirts of the capital.

My sources in the country are speaking clearly about the movement of the jihadi cadres (mostly ISIS) from Syria to Afghanistan. Among them are, as expected, Uyghurs.

These individuals arrive after being fully trained. They are battle-ready, indoctrinated and extremely brutal, even by the standards of Afghanistan; a country which has been battered by civil wars and invasions.

The proximity of Afghanistan to China, with which it has a short border in the east, but also to the former Soviet Central Asian Republics (Afghanistan has borders with Turkmenistan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), is making it an ideal group to be used for subversion against China, Russia and the Central Asian republics.

It is essential to understand, that China’s BRI is designed to connect China with the entire world, using several infrastructural corridors, some of which would be following the old Silk Roads, passing through Central Asia, cutting through Iran, Pakistan but also Afghanistan. The city of Urumqi, and Xingjian Province generally, will be some of the most important hubs. Those in the West who want to disrupt this, perhaps, the most important global project, are strategically using Uyghur separatists, terrorists and religious fanatics, to bring uncertainty, even chaos, to this part of the world.

Several top al-Qaeda members such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, and Mustafa Setmariam Nasar ─ who had met Uyghurs in Afghanistan where they trained as mujahidin ─ have expressed personal support to their cause’. The Uyghurs East Turkestan independence movement was also personally endorsed in the serial “Islamic Spring’s 9th release” by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the chief of Al-Qaeda.

It is also important to recall that during the Battle of Kunduz in Afghanistan (in 2015), foreign Islamist militants joined both Taliban and ISIS, in an assault on the city. Among them were Uyghur as well as Chechen, Rohingya, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek.

TIP is fighting in Syria and elsewhere, but the organization’s leadership is based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but with most of its members operating illegally on the territory of People’s Republic of China.

Uyghurs are encouraged to murder and they are trained and hardened in Syria

A lady, a mother of three, is sitting on the porch of her temporary home, in the Syrian city of As Suqaylabiyah. She slowly recounts the horrors she had to live through, before escaping from her village in the Idlib area:

The terrorists who committed mass murder in my town, are Uyghurs. My cousins and other relatives, were killed. By Uyghurs; yes, by them. In April, 2014. They were shot. We stood against them, trying to defend ourselves. Then they began killing us, first in the fight, then in revenge. After that, they cut off heads of those they murdered.

“Were they the most brutal of the terrorists,” I asked.

Yes. From north to south, from east to west of Idlib province. They are monstrous. They are under the command, under control of Nusra Front. They kidnap soldiers, and kill them brutally. They kill entire families and kill them in a way I cannot even describe. The easiest death is when they shoot and then behead you. They are like monsters.

She knows. She escaped them by a miracle:

I still remember; I fled with what was left of my family, at 4am. Uyghurs were killing, and so were Indonesians; totally brainwashed, mad. You know, my family consists of teachers; teachers of Arabic language. I have 3 children. They were not going to spare anyone…

I met Ms. Noora Al Khadour and 17 years old daughter, Naia, from the Kafer Nboudah village:

We are terribly scared of Uyghurs; of their crimes. I don’t even want to remember what has happened. Although I know that I have to speak to you; to people like you… in order to stop all that madness. You know, I had to flee with my four children, on a motorbike, like in some crazy movie…

She tries to find words, how to begin:

First: we had to switch off our brains, in order to survive. What was happening was far from ‘normal’. It was horror. It is almost impossible to describe… I am just a simple woman. They entered our town and began beheading. Shooting… Their faces; their expressions – your heart stops thinking about them. I am so lucky that during that night I did not lose any family members, because we escaped almost immediately.

I ask whether Uyghurs and their TIP are using narcotics, when they attack villages. My question triggers a huge discussion.

“Definitely,” Ms. Noora replied. “They could not act like this, if they were in a ‘normal’ state.”

My friend, Anas, who is accompanying me, chips in:

My friend from the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) told me that the pockets of the jackets of the terrorists are always full of drugs. Uyghurs are using captagon.

Soldiers standing by, confirm that whenever a terrorist is captured, his pockets are full of ‘combat drugs’.

I am wondering, in horror, what would a well-trained platoon of TIP terrorists do if it were to overrun a village in China. In the two last decades, Uyghur separatists carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks in China, killing countless people. But they never held an entire village anywhere in the PRC.

*****

Syria, Idlib front line – Commander Nabel

In As Suqaylabiyah I sit across a table from the commander of NDF (National Defense Force), Nabel Al-Abdallah. We speak Russian. He takes me; drives me, to the frontline, all the way to the edge, where Al Nusra positions are clearly visible. Then he invites me back, to this beautiful part of Syria, when “all this madness is over”.

Back at his command center, he explains:

We are not afraid of Uyghurs, but we are taking their threat very seriously. Look, inside the Idlib area which is controlled by them, terrorism ‘grows’. If, after improving his combat skills here, a fighter returns to China, it would represent a tremendous danger. Uyghurs are the worst fighters; the toughest fighters. And right in front of us – Idlib – is the world capital of terror. It is a laboratory of terrorism. There are terrorists from all over the world. There, Uyghurs are learning the deadliest trades.

He pauses, offers me aromatic Syrian tea. Then continues with his thoughts:

Uyghur terrorists are targeting our people. They are brutalizing them. If we do not have solutions, soon, terrorists will damage the entire world. Our problem is not just Uyghurs and ISIS, not only TIP or Nusra. Our problem is the ideology which they represent. They use Islam, they commit barbarity in the name of Islam, but all this is backed by the United States and the West. The Syrian Army and National Defense Forces are sacrificing their soldiers for the world, not just for this country.

There are conflicting reports, as for how many Uyghurs fighters are still inside Syria. The generally accepted number is around 2,000, but that includes families.

Syrian tank near Idlib facing Uyghurs and other terrorists

Commander Nabel clarified:

400 to 500 fighters are now in Idlib area. And all international terrorists based in Idlib are under Al-Nusra Front command. They are supported by Qatar, United States, Saudis, and Turkey. Officers of the U.S. intelligence are there – inside my country. There are Turkish observation points, Turkish military forces.

Again, I am being driven along the front line. I visited several Syrian positions and towns, including As Suqaylabiyah. It is still war here, around Idlib – real, tough war. Mortars are exploding not far from us, and landmines are being discovered and defused in the vicinity. People are dying; they still are.

Near Muhradah, at the Mahardah Power Station which was recently liberated by the SAA, soldiers discovered several charred bodies. I was told, they were most likely “Asian” terrorists. But were they Indonesians or Uyghurs, nobody could tell.

Turkey-Syria border

The leader of the National Syrian Defense in Muhradah, clarified:

Uyghurs are tough fighters. They are under Al-Nusra front. They are very evasive, operating under different names. They are all there – inside – in Idlib. When Idlib falls, they will fall together with it.

I am shown maps.

Most likely, when all this is over, the Uyghurs will be “moved” elsewhere. Back to Turkey, to Afghanistan, or, if nothing is done to stop them, back to China.

A Syrian analyst who does not want to be identified, wrote for this essay:

Danger of Uyghurs operating in Syria is multi-faceted:

First of all, they can form no part of any integral solution, because they do not belong to Syria. One way or the other, their presence is harmful; dividing the country. The latest information about their deployment here is clearly showing that they are intentionally being used by Turkey, in order to prevent the SAA from regaining control over Idlib. Back in 2016, the SAA tried to infiltrate the territory all the way to Jisr ash-Shugur, in Idlib, from Latakia countryside. But all military actions failed, due to the might of the TIP (Turkistan Islamic Party) which is operating in the area. It is good to mention here that the TIP spearheaded the attacks on all SAA posts in Jisr ash-Shugur and committed massacres there.

The second issue is: a direct threat to the Chinese interests in the region. with intimidations being spread online and posted via the accounts linked to “Malhama Tactical” (The group, founded by a pseudonymous Uzbek jihadist called Abu Rofiq, operating in Syria, supporting anti-government terrorist forces* note of the author). There is also great danger of the Uyghurs returning back to China and recruiting hundreds of youth extremist, separatist fighters, who could then decide to initiate attacks against the PRC.

For the reasons mentioned above, China has to be involved in all the efforts to neutralize such threats. And the world has to understand its defensive actions.

*****

 Uyghurs in Indonesia and Rest of Southeast Asia

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, has been, since the 1965 US and UK backed right-wing military coup, a staunch ally of the West. Communism and atheism are banned there, and the most extreme and grotesque forms of capitalism are practiced all over the archipelago. Racism in Indonesia is fabled; the country has committed three genocides since 1965, including the on-going one in the occupied West Papua.

The Chinese minority was always the target of countless pogroms and discrimination. This began in the era of Dutch colonialism, and continues until now.

On top of it, most of the Indonesian Muslims are practicing the increasingly intolerant, radical Sunni Wahhabi Islam, with roots in Saudi Arabia (Wahhabism was developed with the substantial help of the British imperialists).

Right-wing, religious, pro-business Indonesia has generally seen China (PRC) as an enemy. Right after the 1965 coup, tens of thousands of Chinese people were murdered in cold blood, hundreds of thousands were enslaved, countless women gang-raped, millions forced to change names, abandon their native language, character and culture. Many elements in the Indonesian regime and apparatus have enthusiastically joined the West in its new crusade to destabilize Beijing and its internationalist vision for the world.

The Uyghurs have become the perfect tool for the anti-Beijing combat. According to Pak Wawan from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (not his real name), some Uyghurs began commuting from China to Turkey and eventually Syria with the fake Turkish passports, as early as one decade ago. This bewildered some Indonesian immigration officers, at the main international airport in Jakarta. But the ‘confusion’ was soon clarified, and the Uyghurs were allowed to proceed; to continue on their deadly march.

Pak Wawan told me more, during our encounter in the West Javanese city of Bandung:

There were ‘friendships’ forged between the Uyghurs and local, Indonesian, Islamist radicals. Some Indonesian people even travelled to Urumqi. Connections have been forged, and eventually many travelled to Indonesia, for ideological work, fundraising and combat training. These contacts and links go way back to the times when both sides were based in Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. The visa regime between the two countries (Indonesia and China) is relatively lax, and so, people from TIP have been able to enter Indonesia hassle free. Once here, most of them became imams, but others went on to join camps and get training as jihadi fighters, particularly in the middle of the Island of Sulawesi.

Pak Wawan continues:

These people have a huge network. They also have networks in Thailand and Malaysia. Recently, they deported them from Pattaya, Thailand. Most of their cadres had studied at various religious universities, mostly in the Saudi Arabia, or at least somewhere in the Middle East.

When they come to Indonesia, they carry with them a book of propaganda, as well as videos, with the aim of boiling mistrust and hate towards China. Among other things, the book says that the Chinese people are: kafir (“ingratitude” (toward God)), and that they are najis (dirty). The book is calling for the banning (again) of all symbols of Chinese culture.

It is a tremendously racist, violent book. Similar texts have been distributed in Indonesia against Shi’a Muslims, with the predictable help of Saudi Arabia.

According to Pak Wawan:

In Indonesia, it is estimated that there are some 200 Uyghur students, with the main purpose, to work as ustads/imams (religious clerics), and to infiltrate the system. Some are simply trapped here. Some of them are involved in subversive activities, together with the members of the Indonesian jihadists. Their goal is to go back to Syria, and eventually to China.

In the restive island of Sulawesi, there are expected to be several Uyghur fighters, still on the loose, although four of them were caught, tried and sentenced to lengthy terms in prison (in 2015), for joining the radical terrorist group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT or East Indonesia Mujahedeen) with its leader Santoso aka Pakde aka Abu Wardah. The Santoso group has already pledged allegiance to ISIS under the leadership of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The imprisonment of 4 Uyghurs in Indonesia in 2015, could be interpreted as a change of course by Jokowi’s administration. The same as Turkey, Indonesia has been the victim of deadly terrorist attacks, and begins to see the Wahhabi jihadi cadres as a danger. Also, the attitude towards China is starting to change, as least in the recent years. China is seen as a partner, mainly when it comes to investment into the collapsing Indonesian infrastructure.

But it is still a confusing situation.

Some Uyghurs are arriving, lately via the International airport in Manado, Sulawesi. Others are travelling by boat, from the Muslim part of the Philippines.

What is significant is that the delegations from two major Indonesian Muslim organizations – NU (Nahdlatul Ulama – the largest independent Muslim organization in the world) and Muhammadiyah – were invited to Urumqi in China, shown around, and at the end declared publicly, that there is no oppression of the Muslims in China.

It became clear that those who were continuing to spread anti-Chinese rumors in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia, were financed and supported from abroad.

Rossie Indira, an Indonesian writer and publisher, who has been helping with this report, visited several radical groups in Java, as well as the leading politicians, who flatly refused to smear China on behalf of the West.

Of course, the hardened Islamist organizations never changed their tune. Mr. Atip Latiful Hayat, Chairman of the Expert Council of ANNAS Indonesia (Anti-Shia National Alliance), spoke to Ms. Rossie Indira about ‘human rights’ and the oppression of Muslims by the PRC. ANNAS Indonesia openly declared that “Balikpapan Muslims will support both morally and materially any strive for the liberation of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province of China.”

Mr. Okta, from the program department of ACT, an NGO from West Java, which used to be heavily involved in collecting money and goods for the Uyghurs, declared that the issue is not their priority, anymore.

Poster %22Free Uighur to Practice Islam at ACT West Java office in Bandung

Dina Suleiman, a legendary Indonesian academic and writer, who regularly defends both Syria and Iran, stated for this report:

ACT published its yearly report, but we could not find details on where all the money went. They only published that a certain amount was donated to countries outside Indonesia, but no details. An accountant friend of mine looked into their published reports and said that they (ACT) used all kinds of terminology to validate using the percentage of donations for their own needs. He told me that it could be that up to 60% of the donations were used for their own needs.

A typical case of endemic Indonesian corruption? In this case: good. Better if money gets stolen, than if it was to reach Uyghur extremists!

Mr. Inas N. Zubir, the Chairman of the Hanura Faction in the House of Representatives is part of the faction in the Indonesian political system, that is openly questioning what is behind the smearing of the Chinese government in connection with the Uyghur ‘issue’. He spoke to Ms. Rossie Indira, recently, for this report:

Indonesian people have to be careful when they hear about the problems related to Uyghur Muslims, because the news about the alleged discriminatory treatment by the Chinese government that has been lately circulating, only came from the international media and a number of western NGOs. Meanwhile, a number of western countries were later found to have less harmonious relations with China.

The Central Committee of Muhammadiyah (by its Chairman, Haedar Nasir) met with the Chinese Muslim Association (Vice President of the association: Abdullah Amin Jin Rubin) in September 2018. Abdullah Amin Jin Rubin had denied the above allegations. He stated that Muslims in China as a whole, including Uighurs, had the same freedom and received good treatment from the government. The proof is: in Xinjiang, where the Uighurs are located, there are 28,000 mosques and more than 30,000 imams to lead prayers. Even in Xinjiang, the government participates in supporting the establishment of Islamic College. So, the religious life of Muslims is good.

I suspected that the issue of discriminatory treatment of Uighur Muslims was deliberately raised by certain parties in the country to discredit Joko Widodo’s government. I think the opposition intentionally portrays Joko Widodo’s government as a government that does not care about the suffering of Uighur Muslims.

*****

Several Jihadi cells in the Philippines and Malaysia are also pledging support to the Uyghur extremists.

During the year 2017, the jihadi cadres (mainly ISIS) attacked and overran the city of Marawi, on Mindanao Island, Philippines. What followed was a prolonged battle between the military and the terrorists. I was told by the army commanders that among the dead militants, there were several “foreign fighters”. Some were Indonesians, others came from Malaysia. It was indicated to me that there were ‘others’, particularly from China, although there was no concrete confirmation about the Uyghurs.

March of Uyghurs has to be Stopped

And what is it that the Chinese media, and the Chinese people have to say on the subject? Naturally, it is not easy to find much of non-Western voices, in the propagandist anti-Chinese cacophony carried by outlets such as Yahoo News or Google.

As early as in 2013, China Daily published an article by Li Xiaoshuang named “Western media’s coverage on Xinjiang worthless”. It passionately expressed what the North American and European mass media has been trying to silence, for over a decade:

The Western media has become the propaganda machine for the Uyghur separatists.

As a Xinjiang native, I am outraged by the false reports in Western press about what has happened in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region during the month of Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims all over the world…

Citing just a Uyghur activist as the only news source, the reports accuse Chinese authorities of banning Muslims from fasting and praying in mosques, coupled with biased commentary that the Chinese government is suppressing Uyghur ethnic groups and transferring huge numbers of Han Chinese into Xinjiang to dilute the Uyghur culture.

Without first-hand accounts, not mentioning repeated clarifications from the Xinjiang government, how dare these media outlets be so irresponsible? How can the world learn the whole truth?

It reminds me of the riot in the region on June 26, leaving 27 people dead. It was definitely a massacre, but some Western media, as they have done so before, described the attacks as part of an ethnic conflict. They portray terrorists who betray their religion by killing innocent people as “heroes”, seeking religious or political freedom…

On March 20, 2019, Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi of Global Times reported with much more urgency:

Misleading headlines, groundless accusations, obscure interviewees, double standards are not hard to spot in many articles covering China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Western media outlets.

Recent months have seen an intensive outburst of such reports which have tainted China’s anti-terrorism efforts in the region by adopting tactics including using words with a negative connotation, providing incomplete information and stirring readers’ emotions.”

It is not often mentioned in the West, but there are some 20 million Muslims living in China. According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), there are more than 21 million Muslims in the country. According to SARA there are approximately 36,000 Islamic places of worship, more than 45,000 imams, and 10 Islamic schools in the country. In China, Islam has some interesting nuances: for instance, there are mosques led by female imams, there. All over China, halal food is available, and actually very popular. Many people show great interest in Muslim culture, at least theoretically.

During my 2018 visit to the Chinese city of Xian, I was impressed by the great effort the Chinese government has been making to support Muslim culture in this historical center of multi-culturalism from which, centuries ago, the legendary Silk Road had been initiating. Islamic civilization, its music, food, centers of worship and architecture are now the greatest magnet, bringing tens of millions of visitors from all over China.

I clearly saw that there was no discrimination in Xiang. My conclusions were the same as those of the emissaries of two Muslim mass movements of Indonesia, who were allowed to visit Xinjiang. We found no brutal treatment of the Muslim and their religion in China.

*****

It often appears to me, and to other experts on China, that the Chinese people and even the Chinese government, do not know how to defend themselves against the vicious and totally unfair attacks against their country; attacks which are coming from abroad.

China “wants peace”. It is offering friendship. But it is insulted, constantly attacked and humiliated in return.

The truth is obvious: The West does not desire peace. It does not care about justice. It never did. It only wants to control. For as long as China is doing well; better than the West; for as long as its political and social system are becoming more and more popular, all over the world, and particularly in developing countries, Washington, Paris, London, Berlin, but also Tokyo, will never stop, attacking and provoking Beijing.

In order to prosper, and even in order to survive, the Chinese Dragon will have to fight. Only a defeated, humiliated and conquered China would be ‘accepted’ by the West. A China which respects itself and helps others will be attacked and brutalized by the West.

The great Chinese poet, Su Shi (1037-1101) once wrote: “The scenery varies when people watch from close or far, or from different sides.” What he meant was that Mount Lushan will not show its true features just because we are right in the mountains.

The same could be written about politics. Just because one lives in China, it does not guarantee that he or she would be able to fully understand the viciousness and determination of the anti-Chinese attacks, which are conducted by the foreign adversaries. Also he or she would not necessarily realize why they are being conducted.

The attacks against China are not only of an economic or military nature. Religions are some of the mightiest weapons of the China’s foes. Be it radical Buddhism, evangelical Protestant Christianity, or, as now, radical Islam.

China has to defend itself, by all means. Extremist Uyghurs are marching. Many of them are brutal, and extremely dangerous. They have already murdered thousands of innocent people, in various countries. Their goal is to break the integrity of China and its great internationalist projects. They are determined, well-funded, and thoroughly selfish. Their desire for ‘independence’ has been ignited and financed by foreign powers.

The plan of the extremist Uyghurs is simple: to perfect terrorist and extremist tactics, and combat skills abroad, then return to China and begin spreading the nightmare at home.

The West is readily “helping” to fuel their deadly march. China’s Ecological Civilization, the end of poverty in the most populous country on earth, and BRI, are seen as a danger to Western supremacy, at least in places such as Washington, London and Brussels.

China has all the right to defend itself. It has a full obligation to do so.

It is the duty of thinkers from all over the world to tell the truth. If they stay silent, or if they sell their dignity for money and privileges, as so many in the West are doing right now, they will be condemned by future generations.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Why the West is Determined to Ignore China’s Success

It used to be comical, but suddenly it is not, anymore. In the past, blind hatred towards China could had been attributed to ignorance, or at least to indoctrination by the Western propaganda and mass media outlets.

But now? China’s tremendous leap forward, its excellent, humane social policies and determined people-oriented scientific research, as well as its march towards a so-called “ecological civilization” are well-documented, to the point that if anyone really wants to know, he or she has plenty of opportunities to learn the truth.

But it appears that very few want to learn. At least very few in the West.

China is seen negatively in almost all Western countries and their satellites. While surveys in places like Africa, where China intensively interacts with the people, helping them to break the chains of dependency on their neo-colonialist masters from Europe and North America, clearly indicate that it is admired and liked.

Last year (2018), a survey by the influential Pew Research Center (“Five Charts on Global Views of China”) established that China is viewed mostly positively in non-Western countries: 67% in Kenya where China is involved in substantial infrastructural and social projects, 61% in the most populous African nation – Nigeria, 70% in the Arab country of Tunisia, 53% in the Philippines, despite the fact that there, the West has been fueling a dispute over the islands in the South China Sea, and 65% in Russia, which is now the closest Chinese ally.

In the U.K., 49% of citizens see China positively, 48% in Australia, but only 39% in Germany and 38% in the United States.

But what is truly shocking, is the attitude of the West towards the leadership of China’s President – Xi Jinping – a determined thinker who is leading China towards true socialism with Chinese characteristics; almost eliminating extreme poverty (by the year 2020, there should be no pockets of misery left, anywhere on the territory of the PRC), and who is putting culture, a high quality of life, ecology and the general wellbeing of the Chinese people above economic indicators.

Conservative, anti-Communist Poland leads the pack: only 9% of Poles “have confidence” in the leadership of President Xi, 11% of Greeks, 14% of Italians and 15% of Spaniards. That says something about Europe, as even in Canada, the number is 42%, and in the United States – 39%.

Is it truly just ignorance?

When interviewed by various Chinese media outlets, I am often asked the same question: “Why are we constantly criticized in the West, while we try to play by the rules, and doing our best to improve the planet?”

The answer is obvious: “Precisely for that reason.”

*****

Some 20 years ago, China and its socialist project, were still in the ‘unfinished stage’. There were big differences in standards of living, between the urban areas in the east, and the countryside. Transportation was inadequate. Pollution in the industrial cities was very, very bad. Tens of millions of people were trying to migrate from the countryside to the cities, in search of jobs and a better living, putting great strains on the social system of the nation.

Those who did not like China had plenty of ‘ammunition’ when criticizing it then. The country was moving forward, but the task to make it prosperous, clean, and healthy appeared to by Sisyphean.

What followed was an absolute miracle, unprecedented in human history. Only the Soviet Union before the WWII registered greater growth and improvement of the standards of living of its people, than China did in the two last decades.

Everything in China changed. Its cities became clean, green, ecological, full of public parks, exercise machines for adults and children. Urban centers are now overflowing with a first class public transportation (all ecological), with impressive museums, concert halls, excellent universities and medical centers. Subsidized super-high speed trains are connecting all major cities of the country. In Communist China, everything is planned by the government and by the Communist Party, and the private sector is there to serve the nation, not vice versa. It works. It works remarkably well. Citizens have much more say about how their country is governed, than those in the West.

Cities are clean, efficient, built for the people. No beggars and no slums. No misery. Things are getting better and better.

Foreigners who come to China for the first time are shocked: China looks much wealthier than the US or UK. Its streets, its airports, its metro systems, high-speed trains, theatres, sidewalks, parks, easily put those in New York of Paris to shame.

But, it is not rich. Far from it! China’s GDP per capita is still relatively low, but that is precisely what makes “socialism with Chinese characteristics” so impressive and superior to the Western capitalism fueled by imperialism. China does not need to have average incomes of some $50,000+ per capita to prosper, to give its people an increasingly great life, to protect the environment, and to promote great culture.

Could it be, that this is precisely why the West is shaking in fear?

The West, where economic growth is everything, where people live in constant fear, instead of optimistic hope for the future. The West, where trillions of dollars and euros are wasted annually, so the elites can live in bizarre luxury and preside over irrational, unnecessary over-production and arms accumulation, which bring no well-being to the majority.

China and its central planning are offering a much better and logical system, for its citizens and for the world.

Most of its science is geared to the improvement of life on this planet, not for cold profits.

President Xi’s brainchild – BRI – is designed to lift up billions of people world-wide out of poverty, and to connect the world, instead of fragmenting it.

So why is President Xi so much disliked in Europe?

Could it be that it is precisely because of the gigantic success of China?

*****

Back to the previous point: 20 years ago, China had enormous social and environmental problems. The Westerners who did not like Communist Party of any type, would come and point fingers at things: “You see, Shanghai and Shenzhen are now prosperous, but look at other cities on the coast: see the contrast?”

Then the cities on the coast all began improving, planting parks, universities, metros, beautiful streets.

Criticism from the West continued: “Now leave the coast, go west, and you will see how unequal China is!”

Eventually, the west of China improved so much, that there was virtually no difference between the quality of life in the cities there, and on the coast.

“It is all so cynical,” the rant went on: “the difference between the cities and the countryside is so huge that peasants are forced to abandon their villages and seek jobs in the big cities.”

Under the leadership of President Xi, the entire countryside received an enormous overhaul. Transportation, medical services, educational facilities and job availability improved so much, that in 2018, for the first time in modern history, people began migrating back from the cities to the countryside.

Now what? What next? “Human rights?” Not much to trash, anymore, if one sees with eyes open.

But the better China becomes, the more it cares about its people, as well as people all over the world, the harder it gets attacked.

Not one “Wow!” from Western regime and its mainstream media. Not one “China is now leader of the world in ecology, social policies, science, and virtually everything public.”

Why?

The answer is obvious and unfortunately depressing: It is because the West does not want China and its president to succeed. Or if they succeed, it has to be hushed. The two systems are so different, that if China’s one is correct, the Western one is wrong.

And the West is not searching for a concept that is good for the world. It only wants its own concept to survive and dominate the planet. Full stop.

That is why China is so popular in the countries which want to save their people from misery, and to build new, better societies. That is why China is smeared and disliked, even hated, in the West and in a handful of countries outside the West, where Westerners and their descendants are both ruling and controlling the mass media (Argentina).

On a positive note, despite the determined and vicious propaganda being spread by Western and West-controlled mass media outlets, many more people have confidence in President Xi, than in the U.S. President Donald Trump, who inspires only 27% of the people all over the world.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook.

Why are Anti-Migrant Arguments in the E.U., U.S. Pure Hypocrisy?

Almost every day we read about the latest outbursts in Europe, targeting pro-immigration policies. There are protests, even riots. Right-wing governments get voted in, allegedly, because the Europeans “have had enough of relaxed immigration regulations”.

That is what we are told. That’s what we are supposed to understand, and even sympathize with. Anti-immigration sentiments are even pitched to the world as something synonymous with the desire of Europeans “to gain independence from Brussels and the elites”. The right-wing, often racist, spoiled and selfish proletariat is portrayed by many as a long-suffering, hard-working group of people, with progressive aspirations.

If seen from a distance, such arguments are outrageous and even insulting; at least to the billions of those who have already lost their lives, throughout history; victims of the European and North American expansionist genocides. And to those individuals who have, until this day, had their motherlands ruined, livelihoods destroyed, political will violated, and in the end, free and unconditional entry denied; entry into those very countries that keep violating all international laws, while spreading terror and devastation to virtually all corners of the world.

*****

In this essay, let us be as concrete as possible. Let us be brief.

I declare from the start, that every African person, every Asian, every citizen of the Middle East and every Latin American (how perverse this very name “Latin” and “America” is, anyway) should be able to freely enter both Europe and North America. Furthermore, he or she should be then allowed to stay for as long as desired, enjoying the free benefits and all those goodies that are being relished by Westerners.

To back this statement, here are several (but not all) basic moral and logical arguments:

First of all, Europe and North America do not belong to their people. They belong to the people from all corners of the globe. In order to build the so-called West, close to one billion (cumulatively, according to my friends, the UN statisticians) had to die, throughout modern and the not so modern history. Virtually everything, from theatres, schools, hospitals, parks, railroads, factories and museums, have been built, literally, on the bones and blood of the conquered peoples. And nothing much has really changed to these days. Europe and later North America invaded almost the entire planet; they looted, killed, enslaved and tortured. They robbed the world of everything, and gave back nothing, except religion and a servile and toxic bunch of ‘elites’, who are continuously plundering their countries, on behalf of the West. Therefore, Europe and North America were built on credit, and now this credit is due.

Secondly, the Western culture, without any competition, is the most violent civilization on earth. I repeat, without any competition. It cannot be defeated militarily, without further losses; losses which could be easily counted in billions of human lives. Therefore, the only possibility of how to reduce the scale of further global tragedies is to ‘dilute’ the West and its fundamentalist culture of racial and cultural superiority. The fact that Westerners are now in minority in such cities like London or New York, has not fully stopped the U.K. and U.S.A. from committing monstrous crimes, attacking and pillaging foreign countries. But were Europe and North America still homogeneous, there would hardly be any free, independent country left anywhere in the world. Migration to the West is helping, at least to some extent, to save the world. Migrants, from the first and oldest generations, demand that the voices of non-westerners, would be listened to, at least some extent.

Furthermore, and this is, of course, a well-known argument: the only reason why people from previously wealthy countries like Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Iran or Syria are forced to emigrate, is because their nations were either bombed back to the Stone Age, or destroyed through sadistic sanctions. Why? So, there would be change of the government, and instead of local citizens, the profits from natural resources would benefit Western corporations. Also, of course, in order to prevent the “Domino Effect”. The West hates the idea of the “Domino Effect”: read, the regional or global influence of Communist, socialist or progressive governments which would be determined to improve the lives of their people. West needs obedient, frightened slaves, not great heroes and bright thinkers! To stop the “Domino Effect”, millions had to die in the 1965 coup in Indonesia, in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, to name just a few unfortunate nations. If you come to a rich, socially-balanced nation, rob it of everything, overthrow its government, and reduce it to a ‘failed state’, in order for your own nation and people to prosper, would you be shocked if some of its people were to decide to try to follow the resources that you have stolen; meaning, moving to your own country?

The reason why people in the West do not follow this train of logic is simply because they are thoroughly ignorant; trying extremely hard, for decades and centuries, to remain blind. If they claim ignorance, they don’t have to act. They can just enjoy the loot, without paying the price. It is simple, isn’t it?

*****

Are those right-wing voters in the U.K., in Hungary, in Greece, France and Italy, as well as in other EU countries, really so blind, or so morally corrupt, that they do not see the reality?

Do they expect to have a ‘free ride’ for another century or two?

Do they teach history in European schools? I wonder. And if they do, what kind of history? I was shocked to realize that even some of my Spanish friends who are working for the United Nations, have absolutely no clue about the barbarity their country had committed in Central and South America. Or Portugal, in what is now Brazil or Cape Verde.

Now, the Italians with their Northern League (oh yes, “anti-establishment”, they love to say) firmly in government, are criminalizing people who are helping the ‘boat people’ sailing from Libya and other devastated African countries (mainly ruined by France and other EU nations) to reach Italian shores. Good ‘working people’ would rather if the refugees sank in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, as hundreds and thousands already have. And this anti-immigration rhetoric is actually being glorified as ‘brave’ and ‘anti-establishment’. How beastly, how low, the European culture continues to be. It was always ultra-violent and aggressive, but now it is also shallow, illogical and fanatic. It is not racist anymore. It is far beyond that. It is turbo-racist, monstrously selfish. I often describe it as ‘fundamentalist’, not unlike what one encounters in the so-called ‘logic’ of movements such as ISIS and al Nusra.

In the U.S.A., the situation is not much better. Wall on the Mexican border? Study your history! The United States robbed half of Mexico, through expansionist wars. Most of migrants who are crossing the border illegally, are actually not Mexicans (Mexico is, with all its social problems, an OECD country), but from impoverished Central American nations. And why are these nations impoverished? Every time they democratically elect their progressive governments which would be ready to work on behalf of the people, the U.S. immediately applies its fascist dictatorial “Monroe Doctrine”, overthrows the government, injects right-wing death-squads, forces privatization, and strips the country of everything, like a locust. Don’t the people from Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras or Dominican Republic, have the full right to follow the loot, too, and settle near it, in the United States?

*****

The Western doctrine is simple and at the same time, absolutely irrational. It is not defined, but if it were, it would read like this: “We can attack, rob, migrate wherever we choose to. Because we are white, Christian people with a superior culture and much better weapons than everyone else. No other reason, but this should suffice. Other people have to stay away, far away. Or else! If they disobey, they will be sunk by the Italians, beaten with rubber hoses on the open seas by the Greeks. Walls will be built, and people concentrated in repulsive camps, like what is being done if refugees try to cross from the south to North America.”

Oh, North America, where predominately first but also second and other generations of Europeans hunted down local native people like animals. Where the great majority of the First Nation died horrible deaths. Where the native people, in the U.S.A. and Canada, are often forced to live, to this day, in total destitution. North America, but also Australia – the same culture, same pattern, same ‘logic’.

And after murdering native people, what came next? Millions of Africans, in chains, brought as slaves by the Europeans, to build “the new world”. Men tortured and robbed of their dignity. Women tied in the fields and raped, day after day, by white plantation owners. Democracy. Freedom. Western-style.

Does such a ‘nation’, like the United States, have any moral right to decide who should cross its borders, and who to settle on its territory?

I don’t think so. Do you?

*****

Things can be very different. Look at Russia during the Soviet Union. It never occupied the Central Asian republics. They joined voluntarily, and if you talk to people in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, a great majority would happily join Russia, again; almost all feel nostalgic about the Soviet Union.

During the USSR, Moscow made sure that the standards of living in Tajikistan or Kirgizstan were almost the same as in Russia.  Instead of plundering, Russia provided great subsidies and internationalist support.

And then, after the Soviet Union was destroyed by external forces, (the arms race with the West and by Western propaganda), the country broke into several independent states. And the flow of migrants began.

Russia never closed its borders. Travel from Central Asia (destabilized by Washington) to now rich Russia is easy. Millions of people from the former Soviet republics are happily working all over the Russian Federation. And there is no ‘moral obligation’ that the Russian state has towards them. All this is actually just common sense, respect for shared history and values, and normal human kindness.

*****

Some will say, what the West did, it all happened long time ago. But no, it did not. It is still happening now, right now.

Of course, if you are frying your brains in some pub or club in London, or if you are sitting in a posh café in Paris, you would never think so. All you want is to be left alone, and to live your suave European life. A life built on the bones and blood of hundreds of millions of victims.

Huge and super-rich Europe cannot accommodate even one million of people flowing from the ruined Middle East? Seriously? Tiny Lebanon managed to survive an influx of 2 million refugees at the height of so-called “Syrian crises”. Crime rate did not skyrocket, country did not collapse. You know why? Because Lebanese people have heart and decency. While the West has nothing of that nature.

If your family became rich because it was robbing and murdering, would you want to return the booty? Would you open the doors to those whom your parents and brothers tortured and pillaged? Some would. After opening their eyes, they would. But not the West. It only takes. It never gives. It hates those who give. It smears, even attacks all decent nations.

The horrors are still happening right now, in devastated Afghanistan, a country reduced to ashes, after being designated as a training base for the fundamentalists ready to infiltrate and damage China, Russia, former Soviet Central Asia republics, Iran and Pakistan. I work there, I know. Or Syria. I work there too. Or Venezuela, one of my favorite countries on earth. And the list goes on and on.

I cannot anymore read those self-righteous, hypocritical outbursts, coming from the British, French, Italian, North American and Greek voters who only want benefits, while choosing to remain blind to the global genocides their regime is committing all over the world.

These people could not care less about who pays for their welfare, or how many millions die supplying them with their privileges.

They want more. They always complain “how poor and exploited they are”. They do not want to stop neo-colonialism. They only desire more money and better living conditions for themselves. “We are all humans”, they say. “We are all victims”. And then they vote in the extreme right-wing, and demand that the “refugees” be kept out.

They have blood on their hands. And most of them are not victims, but victimizers. They are not internationalists. Just mini-imperialists, selfish products of their culture of colonialism.

The West has to open the doors to the world which has been devastated during the long centuries.

Some people ‘outside’ have been literally turned into beggars, so the West could thrive.

‘Political correctness’ in London or New York lies, saying how wonderful the world outside is. No! It is not. Much of it is poor, gangrenous, horrid! Disgusting. Because it was made like that. Because it was beaten, violated, and robbed for centuries.

These people, the true victims, are demanding only two things: to be left alone and to be allowed to build their own nations, without Western military interventions, without self-serving NGO’s and Western-controlled U.N. agencies. That’s one.

Two, to go when they want to go, where their stolen riches are!

Either they will be let in, compensated and asked for forgiveness, or they will do what is their right: break the gates!

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

If you provoke the entire world, something may happen

The United States believes that it is so invincible, exceptional and so frightening that no one would ever dare to protest, let alone defend its people against constant humiliation, economic embargos and military threats.

It used to be like this for quite some time. In the past, the West used to bully the world before and after each well-planned assault. Also, well-crafted propaganda used to be applied.

It was declared that things are done ‘legally’ and rationally. There were certain stages to colonialist and imperialist attacks: “define your goals”, “identify your victim”, “plan”, “brainwash your own citizens and people all over the world”, and then, only then, “bomb some unfortunate country back to the stone ages”.

Now, things are slightly different. “The leader of the free world” wakes up in the middle of the night, and he tweets. What comes from his computer, tablet or phone, (or whatever he uses), is spontaneous, unpolished and incredibly dangerous. Similar in substance to what made him wake up in the middle of the night, in a first place.

He does not seem to plan; he shoots off from the hip. Today, as I am writing this essay, he has declared that he has “five strategies for Venezuela”. Go figure. Bravo!

Earlier, as he was about to land outside London, he embarked on insulting the Mayor of the British capital, calling him names. A bit like we used to do to each other, when we were five years old, in the neighborhood playground.

He has been regularly offending Mexico, and, of course, Iran, China and Russia.

He basically tells the leader of the most populous nation on earth – China – to “be there”, at the G20 Summit, or else.

Whenever he and his lieutenants are in the mood, they get busy antagonizing everyone: Cuba and Nicaragua, DPRK and Venezuela, Bolivia and Syria.

Of course, the main “culprits” are always the ‘biggest bad boys’, Russia and China.

Anyone, at any time, could easily land on the proverbial hit list of President Trump, and hawks of his United States of A. It could be India (which, during ‘good submissive times’ is called by the West the “biggest democracy”, or perhaps Turkey (militarily the second mightiest NATO country).  The world had been converted into an entity which appears to be run by a bloodthirsty and unpredictable dictatorship. The world is an entity where everyone is terrified of being purged, imprisoned, starved to death, or directly attacked, even liquidated.

It was always like this, at least in the modern history of the planet. Colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism: they have many different faces but one common root. Root that has been often hidden deep under the surface.

But this time it is all in the open, raw and brutally honest.

*****

Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump have one thing in common: they are honest.

Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama were both ‘suave’ presidents. They were loved in Europe, as they knew how to speak politely, how to dine elegantly, and how to commit mass murder in a ‘rational, righteous way’; ‘old-fashioned, European-style’.

The brutal, vulgar ways of W. Bush and Donald Trump, have been consistently shocking all those individuals who are pleased when things are done ‘stylishly’ and ‘politically correctly’; be it a coup or the starvation to death of millions through embargos. Or be it invasions or ‘smart’ bombing (practically, ‘smart’ meaning very far from the inquisitive eyes).

But it is not only the ‘offended sensibilities’ of predominantly European population, that matter.

The danger is that someone might take Donald Trump seriously, and respond accordingly.

In the past, verbal insults similar to those unleashed now by the US President, could easily have led to a war, or at least to the breaking up of diplomatic relationships.

And now?

In case Westerners have not realized it, yet – people all over the world are indignant. I talk to Libyans, Afghans, Iraqis, Venezuelans, Cubans, Iranians: they hate what comes from Washington; hate it with passion. They know that what is being done to them is terrorism, thuggery. But for now, they do not know how to defend themselves. Not yet, but they are thinking.

The entire world now resembles a brutal ghetto, or a slum, where a heavily armed gang controls the streets, and, in fact, every corner and alley.

At least in the past, subjugated people were able to hide behind decorative words and ideological pirouettes. They were able to ‘save their face’. They were sodomized in the name of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’. Now, a horrible reality is flying directly into all directions: “You will do as you are told!” “It is us who will decide.” “Obey, because we said so”. Entire proud nations are being reduced into states of slaves or even worse – lap dogs.

*****

As everyone is well aware of, even lackeys and slaves often hold grudges. And abused dogs can bite.

Throughout history, slaves rebelled. True heroes came from rebellious and enslaved nations.

This, what we have now on our planet, is not good, not a healthy situation.

The more countries that are being intimidated, the higher the chances are that somewhere, soon, things will let go; collapse.

Only terrible fear, so far, assures that if a Syrian or a Libyan or an Afghan city is leveled to the ground, there is no real retaliation: urban areas in the USA stay intact.

Only incredible patience of the Russian or Chinese leaders guarantees that, so far, even as their economies are being battered by ridiculous sanctions, the two powerful nations do not retaliate and ruin the US financial system (which is only a paper tiger).

Trump dares. He tortures and humiliates more than half of the world, then looks straight ahead and laughs: “So what are you going to do now?”

So far, the world is doing nothing.

Even the proud and mighty Iran is not ‘crossing the line’. As millions of its people are suffering because of insane sanctions, the Iranian navy is not yet engaging the US battleships that are sailing very near its shores.

Even as more and more US bases are being built right next to both Russia and China’s borders, so far there are no substantial military bases being erected by Moscow or Beijing in places such as Nicaragua, Cuba or Venezuela.

*****

All this may change, soon.

And the so much dreaded (by Washington) “domino effect” may actually take place.

Non-Western leaders have also their ‘bad days’ and terrible nights. They also wake up in the middle of the night, and think, want to communicate and to act.

Imagine an Iranian leader, waking up at 2AM, and suddenly feeling overwhelmed by wrath, because Iranian men, women and children are suffering, for no reason, as a result of the perverse sadism being regurgitated by the West. What if he Tweets an insult, too? What if he just orders, on a spur of the moment, to have all those obsolete US aircraft carriers and destroyers that are floating in the vicinity, be sunk? Iran can do it: everyone knows that it can! Technically, militarily, it is easy: those ships are just sitting ducks.

Then what? Will Washington nuke Iran?

Someone may say: The West is killing millions every year, anyway. Better to fight it, in order to stop it, once and for all. Others may join. And then, then what? Will Trump give orders to kill tens of millions, just to maintain control over the world?

What if the US navy vessels bump into a Russian or a Chinese ship, as they almost did in the South China Sea, recently? What if a Russian or Chinese ship sinks, dozens of sailors die. And there is a retaliation? Then what?

What if Syria has enough and begins shooting down Israeli military jets that are bombing it, and attacking North American and European ‘special forces’ that are still located, illegally, on its territory?

The US is engaged all over the world. France and the UK, too. And if you talk to the people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, you very soon realize what the real feelings towards Washington are!

If you provoke the entire world, something very terrible may happen!

Now, there is an entire coalition of powerful nations, ready to defend themselves, and also defend each other. Militarily, economically, and ideologically.

The world is not a slave of the West, or the United States. It is not a latrine.

This is the new world. Considering the horrors that were spread by the West, for many long years and centuries, Asia, Africa, “Latin America”, the Middle East and Oceania, are unbelievably patient and forgiving. But the USA and Europe should not take this tolerance for granted. They should not provoke its former and present victims.

Now, we (the people from the previously ruined part of the world) are beginning to speak up: about what is being done to us – to China and Russia, to South America and Africa, and the Middle East. With awareness comes courage. With courage comes pride.

Do not misinterpret our kindness. It is not a weakness. Not anymore. Think twice before you speak (or Tweet). Think a thousand times, before you act!

* First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Tribute to Beirut Madness

Iconic rocks of Beirut

Beirut is mad! It is thoroughly insane. And that is not an insult. The inhabitants of this Middle Eastern metropolis are proud of their own lunacy. They wear it as a coat-of-arms, as their identity.

“Do you like Beirut?”

“Yes. But it is mad,” you reply.

“Yes!!!” They grin at you with delight. It means, you understand, and you are part of them.

My life has been connected to this city for exactly five years. I don’t live here always, but at least for a substantial amount of time. Like everyone who resides here, I love Beirut, and I hate it, too. Passionately, how else? I feel intrigued by it, insulted and outraged by it, sometimes enamored, often disgusted.

Of course, Beirut does not give a damn what I feel, what we feel, what anyone feels. It is above all us all, selfish, capricious, outrageous. It suffers from a maddening complex of superiority. It is convinced that it is “Paris of the Middle East” (or perhaps that Paris is the “Beirut of Europe”) and the only city in the region which at least has some brain, style and talent.

It had been invaded, bombed to the ground, battered by wars and conflicts; it had been divided by religions, overwhelmed by immigrants; it collapsed economically and socially, got into unserviceable debt, periodically covered itself with garbage as if it was a duvet, screwed its people by electricity and water shortages, paralyzed its streets with traffic jams, and yet, yet it is still standing here, confident and some would say arrogant, but standing with confidence and beauty, never defeated and always proud. Yes, even when on its knees – proud.

Beirut is like no other city in the Middle East. Like no other city in the world. This is no criticism and no compliment; it is simply a fact.

So, let me try to define this incredible place. Let me pay a tribute to its madness.

*****

Apart from the Gulf countries and Indonesia, I don’t know of any other place on earth which is so religiously capitalist, selfish, obsessed with profits and wealth-flashing.

The pretentiousness of Beirut is so extreme that it can even somehow not be taken seriously: it appears grotesque and surreal. Here, some miserable slums can be found rubbing shoulders with Achrafieh or Verdun, neighborhoods so affluent that they put many centers of the European capitals to shame.

In Beirut, a dinner that would cost 14 euros in Paris sells for 50 dollars, while a Lacoste polo can easily set you back $220.

Money does not matter. Those who have it, are hardly working for the salary. Lebanon’s rich thrive on the banking sector, on plundering the natural resources of West Africa, on the production of narcotics in Beqaa Valley, and on remittances. The Lebanese diaspora is tremendous: many more Lebanese people live abroad (in South and North America, Europe, Australia, Gulf and elsewhere) than in Lebanon itself. Just in Brazil alone, 5-7 million Lebanese have made it their new home.

Those who do not have money matter nothing. They simply don’t exist. Nobody talks about them, the media does not write about them, there is hardly any public transportation to move them around the city. They form an invisible minority, or perhaps majority. Nobody knows their precise numbers, as Lebanon does not use censuses (in order not to ‘upset the peace’ between Christians and Muslims).

Only around 60% of the citizens of Lebanon send their children to public schools, and public education is terrible, in terms of infrastructure as well as the quality of teachers.

Driving home my Beetle, I am terrified, trying not to hit Lotuses, Lamborghinis and Porsches, leisurely parked near the curb. The citizens of Beirut would do anything to show off: it is a well-known fact that young people often continue living in their parent’s homes, and save every cent, just in order to buy luxury, and often badly maintained cars. Then, in order to be noticed, they frequently take off mufflers and attach weird stickers on the bumpers, such as: “Louder than your mother last night!”

The Zaitunai Bay luxury marina in the Downtown Beirut has some ultra-luxury vessels. One of them has a telling name painted at the rear: “Thank You Daddy III”. Clearly, there must be “Thank You Daddy I and II” somewhere.

‘Reverse snobbism’ is unknown here. Even the waiters and attendants of valet parking places are dressed in the latest Armani and Hugo Boss outfits. Dressing up is yet another obsession, here.

Beit Beirut Art Centre

Every detail matters in Beirut: from where one lives, to where he or she comes from. From nail polish to university degrees, from the car one drives to where one spends summer holidays.

‘Domestic help’ matters a lot, too. Asian and African maids are status symbols. They are being exhibited as jewelry, cars or expensive watches; in malls, restaurants and elegant cafes. No rich person could do without flashing his or her Ethiopian, Philippine, or Kenyan maid. The more of them, the better. Maids do everything for the upper middle class and elites: they take care of their children, walk their dogs, clean, shop, cook and provide other, better not to mention unsavory services. Physical abuse of foreign workers is common, while the regressive kafala system so common in the Gulf is still in place here, too.

The treatment of Palestinian refugees is horrific. For decades, they have been living in monstrous camps; ghettos, with limited rights and very limited numbers of professions legally available to them.

*****

So far, sounds like a hell on earth? But it actually is not. And the fact that it is not is actually a mystery, and not only to this writer, but also to many citizens of Lebanon.

What saves Lebanon is its people’s passion for life. Here, individuals from all social classes, from all religions (as well as those who despise religions), are living full throttle, enjoying every moment and every opportunity that comes their way. Life is often lived in a manic way, but it is lived to the fullest.

It is also the city’s humor that helps to get-by: dark, irreverent humor; politically incorrect, self-depreciative and at the same time, extremely sophisticated.

Brilliant Arab Jazz Performed in Public

While suffering from countless social ailments, this is easily the classiest, the most educated city in the entire Arab world. The best films are made here, and the best books published. The left-wing Al-Mayadeen television channel which is closely related to the Venezuelan Telesur broadcasts to the entire Arab world from here. The daring, Pan-Arab Al-Akhbar newspaper comes from Beirut, too.

The most celebrated Pan-Arab singer, Fairuz, is from here.

The best university in the Arab region – the American University of Beirut (AUB), where, for instance, one of the greatest modern architects, Iraqi Ms. Zaha Hadid, studied – is right here – near the Corniche. Despite its name, it is now only loosely related to the United States.

Lebanese art is playing a huge role in keeping this country together and afloat.

Local filmmakers and artists are not sitting on their backsides: the creative vibes in Beirut are somehow similar to those great intellectual outbursts in Europe and Japan in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in Latin America in 1970’s and in China and Iran now.

Everything bad, everything controversial that is happening in the city is never swept under the carpet. On the contrary, it is exposed, shouted out from the film screens and pages of books.

Protecting public events from terrorist attacks

Almost all the negative issues that I mentioned above are described and filmed, candidly and determinedly.

Perhaps the two most ‘iconic’ Lebanese contemporary films – “The Insult” (2017, Director: Ziad Doueiri) and “Capernaum’’ (2018, Director: Nadine Labaki) –deal with issues that could never be frankly addressed almost anywhere else in the world.

The Insult”, with almost unimaginable power, revisits the horrible modern history of Lebanon, massacres during the civil war, hate between religious communities, the on-going “Palestinian issue”, discrimination, as well as the fragility of the present-day ‘peace’. People fight, shout, insult: all in the open; all as it happens in reality. A film like this could never be allowed to be made in France or the United States – countries obsessed with ‘political correctness’ and censorship.

Capernaum” is about a young boy who is, from prison, trying to sue his parents for bringing him into this world. It is about poverty, religious hypocrisy, selfish procreation, child abuse, but also about a horrible lot of Ethiopian domestic servants in this country. Ms. Labaki is a brilliant film director, but in her latest film she also demonstrated that she is a wonderful, caring and courageous human being.

Yes, Beirut is full of corrupt, arrogant individuals. But it is also a city where people have heart. Go figure it out! Contradictions are everywhere: it is a city where you could be easily hit by a car while crossing the street, simply because the driver was in a rush, or banging into his or her mobile phone. At the same time, it is a city where people would always rush to help you if you fall.

The same could be said about Beirut’s intellectuals and artists. Many are full of themselves, stuck up and pretentious. But many are tremendously compassionate, passionately obsessed with defending justice; brave.

*****

Every summer, and summer here is long, millions of families from the Lebanese diaspora, ‘return home’. They fly in from Brazil and Australia, from the United States and the United Arab Emirates. The famous Corniche – the several kilometers long seafront in downtown Beirut – resonates with dozens of languages. It is because Lebanese people live everywhere, all over the world. At the same time, most of them cannot live without Lebanon. Wherever they are, they come back to the country of their origin, in order to touch their beloved cedar trees, eat fatoush, listen to music and interact with relatives.

The lines at security checks at Rafik Hariri Airport are sometimes an hour long. Families get reunited. Heart rending scenes can be observed at both arrivals and departures.

Locarno Film Festival, also at Sursik Museum in Beirut

The city thrives during those months. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent here, in just a short period of time. Wealth is flashed. Gifts exchanged. Overall, Lebanon is a very talented nation. Most of the Lebanese people who live abroad are doing extremely well. In Brazil, there are several prominent Lebanese-origin political families, on both the right (former President Temer) and the left (recently the PT presidential candidate Hadat). Lebanese-born and Lebanese-origin individuals excel in many arenas – design (Elie Saab), music (Shakira), architecture, film (Salma Hayek), business (CIO of Telmex Carlos Slim) to mention just a few. Unfortunately, some have also gained notoriety as drug lords and unsavory business mavericks, particularly those who are plundering the natural resources of West Africa.

But whatever the origin of the returnees, whatever their social status, they all want to have fun; extreme fun, insane fun. And their local relatives do all they can to arrange tremendous parties.

Summertime is, therefore, when some of the greatest international art festivals in the world take place, all over the country. Most of them are outside the capital, in such breathtaking settings like the world heritage sites of Baalbek (in Beqaa Valley) and at one of the oldest cities on earth – Byblos. Some of the most celebrated singers, musicians and other performers, descend on Lebanon. Everything from classical Western and Arabic music, to Latin American ballads, are being performed here.

Entire public squares of Beirut turned to concert hall

Beirut closes entire squares to the regular traffic, and throws huge music events, free of charge, for the public. Near the ancient Roman baths, people sit on the stairs, listening to live jazz performances. On Saint Nicolas Stairs, countless screens beam, also for free, showing short art films from all over the world.

There are constant celebrations going on, somewhere, all over the city: fireworks, as well as (banned, but who cares!) celebratory shooting into the air.

During the summers, the chic crowd fills countless clubs – swimming pools – on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. People smoke, drink Martinis and flirt in the water. The smoke of water-pipes – shishas – is everywhere. Trendy bars in Hamra and Mar Michael are packed; crowd overflowing to sidewalks.

Even on Ramadan, life does not stop. Nothing is off limits. Ramadan is taking place already at the ‘beginning of Beirut’s high season’. Smartly dressed men, and women in above-knees skirts are drinking cocktails and dancing into the crazy rhythms, right at the Zaitunai Bay, in full view of pious Muslim families that are having their evening stroll. Who cares? People co-exist. Those who believe and those who believe in nothing, have to learn how to tolerate and respect each other. They don’t always, but mostly they do.

It is one thorough madness, yes. It is bit like Istanbul, but also different.

Super wealthy Zaithunai Bay and its yacht club

In reality, Beirut is like no other city on earth. Its madness can never be replicated. It is a city that has survived wars, occupations and terrible pain. It is city which is attracting people from all over this damaged, long-suffering region. Instead of crying, it waves its hand, sticks its finger into the air. It wants to live. To celebrate life. While it can. Before another monstrous conflict takes thousands of lives again and shatters all dreams.

*****

Most of the educated citizens of Beirut are tri-lingual: they mix Arabic, French and English. In one single sentence, three idioms mix neatly: “Please help with my bag, habibi, s’il vous plait”.

It is not only the language that is confusing here. The entire identity of Beirut dwellers is bewildering. I heard people speaking nostalgically about French colonial rule. I regularly detect hate speech against Palestinians. A true inhabitant of Beirut hates at least one group of people, religion or one nation; but mostly much more than one. There are many ‘favorite’ candidates for hate, here, but most often they include: The United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Palestinians, and, don’t be shocked – Lebanon and Beirut itself!

When the citizens of Beirut hate, they really hate, and they have guts! Lebanon remains the only country that has openly called for economic sanctions against the US upon its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And, the Lebanese Foreign Minister stated that Lebanon will boycott attending the US-sponsored ‘economic conference’ taking place in late June 2019, where the US is scheduled to unveil its notorious Middle East ‘Peace Plan’.

Where do the people of Beirut belong, then?

Everywhere and nowhere. It is ‘Universe Beirut’; a planet.

Is their city progressive or fascist? Both.

There are as many ideas and opinions, as there are residents of Beirut. People here can never agree on anything. And, it appears to me, they like it that way.

Here, it is just constant chaos and quarreling. Often, there is no government. Almost everyone in power is corrupt. Money is made from everything: from banks, from Syrian refugees, from drugs, from the departure of Syrian refugees, from licking the boots of the West, from resisting the West. Nothing works here. Yet, the city somehow survives. Construction is everywhere. Music is everywhere. Celebratory shooting never stops.

There is hardly anything ‘public’ in Beirut. No public transportation, terrible garbage collection. Turks bring huge barges – floating powerplants – to help with the notorious electricity shortages.

Garbage crises never goes away

Yet, vast public seafronts are open for all and they are free. Enormous cultural events are mostly free of charge, too. One of the greatest museums in the Middle East – Sursok – does not even bother to charge entrance fees, same as most of the other art institutions. Public medical care is improving, thanks to the new Minister who is a member of Hezbollah.

Many intellectuals of Beirut are actually either atheists or fully secular, and countless could be defined as left-wing.

It is a rollercoaster. Up and down; sharp up, dizzying down.

*****

Israeli jet fighters fly illegally over Lebanon, on their way to bomb Syria, but down here, life goes on. Lebanon has no air force to speak of, and its air defenses are simply pathetic. Israeli jets roar over Beirut, yet people keep going to movies, to dance, to countless book stores.

It is an astonishingly safe city. There is hardly any violent crime here. Political violence is always a threat, but compared to the crime rates in London or Paris, Beirut is a totally tranquil and secure city.

Here, everything is waved away as irrelevant. You complain? Halas! Enough!

As long as the Israelis fly somewhere up there, life continues. When they cross the border, the nation unites, and resumes the heroic fight for its survival.

In Beirut, life itself is never taken for granted. Too much has already been lost. More can be taken away, at any moment. Syria is next door, in flames. Israel is right there, always threatening to invade.

Millions of Syrian refugees have been a reminder to tiny Lebanon about war and suffering. Beirut is still flooded with Syrian people, escaping from the foreign-triggered, horrid war.

Beirut has helped many Syrians. It has made money while helping. It lost something, too. Nothing is ever black or white here. Big wave of the hand: to hell with it all! Life goes on.

“To hell with everything!” This could easily be the motto of the Lebanese capital.

Here, it is always shouting, and laughing through tears. Never stop, never look back, or you will howl, you will seek vengeance, or simply double up from pain.

One of great cultural institutions of the city is an old villa on the “Green Line” (Beit Beirut), full of bullet holes and broken walls, now filled with concrete, glass and steel – an architecturally stunning, chilling monument to the past, when Christians and Muslims faced each other, weapons in hands.

Yes, life goes on! But for how long? No one knows. No one wants to know. At least for now, one of the most exciting and insane cities on earth is throwing its colors and sounds into the air, defiantly, and with great style! That’s all that matters.

It could be called madness, and it also could be called life – Beirut style!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Morsi Died, or was Murdered, while Reciting a Patriotic Poem in a Cage

Former President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, had finished his 15-minute discourse in a courtroom, while being locked inside a sound-proofed cage. He read a poem about his love for Egypt, and then collapsed, and died.

His demise sent shock-waves all over Egypt, the region and the Muslim world.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to accept the official story, claiming that the former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi “did not die, he was murdered”.

More came from different corners of the world. According to Reuters:

A British member of Parliament, Crispin Blunt, who had led a delegation of UK lawmakers and lawyers last year in putting out a report on Mursi’s detention, slammed the conditions of Mursi’s incarceration.

We want to understand whether there was any change in his conditions since we reported in March 2018, and if he continued to be held in the conditions we found, then I’m afraid the Egyptian government are likely to be responsible for his premature death,” he said in remarks to the BBC.

Human rights organizations, heads of state, as well as the common citizens of Egypt, were outraged by the demise of Mohamed Morsi (also spelt as Mursi), a former Egyptian leader who governed the nation after winning the first democratic elections in the modern history of the country in 2012, just a year after the brutal pro-Western dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was deposed in 2011.

Mr. Morsi was overthrown in 2013, in a violent military coup just one year after he was sworn into the highest office.

*****

Let’s be clear: Mohamed Morsi was not a ‘good president’. In fact, he was not supposed to be a president at all: the original candidate from his party was disqualified from the elections on a technicality, and Mr. Morsi was asked to take his place. And he won, by a small margin.

He made some serious errors, politically, economically and socially.

He flooded tunnels between Gaza and Sinai.

And under his leadership, more than 40 people died during the violence in Port Said.

Frightening streets of Port Said at night

When he felt threatened, he used to give orders to fire poisonous gasses at the protesters.

But he was not a murderer. And in ‘modern’ Egypt, that was quite an achievement.

He tried to improve the dire situation in his country, but he kept failing.

On the other hand, he separated his government from the gangrenous military embrace. The western-sponsored Egyptian military has been managing to infiltrate everything (under Mubarak’s rule as well as now), fully controlling all aspects of the Egyptian state.

Mr. Morsi tried to please everyone in the terribly divided Egyptian society. But in the end, nobody was satisfied.

Hard-liners in his Muslim Brotherhood hated him for not being radical enough. The anti-religious Left despised him for not pushing harder for social reforms, and for a secular state. He was both obeying the US and the IMF, while at the same time alienating them.

In the end, he appeared like an uncertain, confused and weak man.

*****

In 2012 and 2013, my friends, my left-wing comrades, were battling police in front of the Presidential Palace in Cairo. I was there, with them, filming, face covered with water-soaked rags in order to at least somehow protect myself from the highly poisonous teargas.

In those days, no one seemed to like Morsi.

The rallying cry during the anti-Morsi protests was:

We sing to those who deserve to die;
Morsi-Morsi-Morsi!

Protesters could not have known that 7 years later, their prophecy would come through.

After the military overthrew the democratically elected government (on 3 July 2013), massacres began. Officially hundreds, but most likely thousands of people lost their lives. Tens of thousands were arrested, disappeared, tortured, raped, and exiled.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were liquidated (soon after the coup it became a banned organization), but also various left-wing organizations and individuals, as well as all those people who were against the corrupt right-wing military and its dictatorship.

Protesting disappearance of activist in 2013

Several of my friends had to leave the country. Others are still in prison. Or in hiding.

Former dictator, Western puppet and assassin Hosni Mubarak, is now a free man again. He is 91 years old.

67-year-old Mohamed Morsi is dead.

*****

During the Morsi era, as well as during and after the 2013 coup, I was working in Egypt, making a documentary film for the Venezuelan television channel Telesur (“Egipto – El Fin de Una Revolucion” – “Egypt, End of the Revolution”).

First, I investigated and wrote about the crimes committed during the reign of President Morsi in the city of Port Said: “Notes from a Besieged City

And then, I was right there, in the middle of the battles, when the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi’s government and began liquidating both the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Egyptian left wing. I described the events in my essays “Egypt End of Hope” and “Egypt in the Eye of the Storm“. Many more essays from Egypt were then compiled in my book Exposing Lies of The Empire.

Once, while filming after the coup, I found myself facing 5 talks, all pointing their cannons at me. How I survived, I am not sure. Others did not. By the time I finished collecting footage for my film, my body was covered by scars and bruises.

From among those individuals who used to work with me on the film, and from those who used to protest against then President Morsi, there is hardly anyone now who would support the current rule of pro-Western military junta.

Rallies in 2012 and 2013 were all about improving Egypt; about forcing Morsi to deliver what millions of mostly young Egyptians hoped would be a just, secular and socialist society. Morsi was expected to deliver, or to resign, giving way to a better, more ‘progressive’ leader.

Adore your military

What came instead was a coup, a return of the fascist clique of Mubarak, supported by the US, Europe and Israel.

Looking back, I believe that Mohamed Morsi was a decent human being, but at the same time a bad, untalented, naive and confused ruler. That was still much, much better than what was before and after him.

*****

In her opinion piece for the New York Times, the Egyptian author Mona Eltahawy wrote about the demise of Mohamad Morsi:

…He always looked like a man caught up in something much bigger than him. That he died in an Egyptian courtroom inside a soundproof cage designed to silence him, almost exactly six years to the day he took office and almost completely forgotten by all but his family and human rights activists, is a reminder of the bathos that surrounded him.

Then, Ms. Eltahawy put his death into the context of the present-day Egypt:

Decimated as it is, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to be able to pull off mass protests in Egypt, where protests became all but impossible under a draconian law passed soon after Mr. el-Sisi came to power. This, too, is what Mr. el-Sisi has achieved: From July 2013, when Mr. Morsi was overthrown, and January 2016, when the Egyptian parliament reconvened, between 16,000 and 41,000 people, most supporters of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, were reportedly arrested or detained (Some were liberal or secular activists). Since then, a spike in death sentences and executions, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and a determined effort to wipe out any form of dissent have all but crushed the Brotherhood, as well as most other forms of opposition. Muslim Brotherhood supporters are insisting that Mr. Morsi be eulogized as a martyr at the same time that many state-owned media are reporting on his death without even mentioning that he was once president.

Frankly speaking, the era of Morsi feels like the only period in modern Egyptian history, when ‘everything was possible’, and when one was at least allowed to dream and to fight for a much better future. Yes, of course, the fight was taking place through teargas, and people got injured, some even killed. But they dared, they were not broken and humiliated like now.

After the coup in Alexandria they wanted Morsi back

The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ was manipulated, and most likely ‘created’ by the West. But in 2011 to 2013, there was also a parallel, independent, left-wing upsurge of anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and anti-military movements. There was a struggle, and Egypt could have gone in any direction.

I will never forget that year; “the year of Morsi”. We were risking our lives, often suffering direct physical assaults. Different political factions were at each other throats. Steam was out. Passions were boiling. Nothing was certain, everything possible.

That year, while making my film, I was with a group of socialist doctors; true Marxists. They did not doubt that Egypt could go socialist, if they fought harder. I also worked with Wassim Wagdy, one of the leaders of Revolutionary Socialist Organization.

And then, everything collapsed, literally overnight. 3 July 2013.

Egyptian-upper-class-family

When did I realize that everything was over? It happened in Heliopolis – in a affluent suburb of Cairo – in a park. Hundreds of rich families went to celebrate the coup, wearing T-shirts depicting el-Sisi and his cronies. It looked like some historic photos from 9-11-1973 – from the days when the coup perpetrated by General Pinochet against President Allende in Chile. It was different, of course, it was; but it looked the same. US-sponsored coups always look the same. And so do the faces of the elites that support them!

I read about the demise of Morsi onboard MEA, from Istanbul to Beirut. I felt immense sadness. I did not know why, precisely. Certainly, it was not for Mr. Morsi’s reign. But most likely it was for that time, for that hope that was now totally choked and abandoned. For the days when ‘everything was possible’; when people were ready and willing to fight for their country.

Battles after the coup

Egypt is a ‘failed’ state now. Scared, frustrated, poor and totally corrupt. A state that is devouring its own people.

When I go to one of countless slums of Cairo these days, people look at me with open hate. They see me as a foreigner, as someone who helped to throw them back to hopelessness and misery. Of course, they don’t know that several years ago I fought for them, at least as a filmmaker, side-by-side with their nation’s socialist vanguard.

I also feel sadness for Morsi the man, if not Morsi the president. I somehow sense that the patriotic poem that he read before collapsing and dying, came straight from his heart.

In one single year when he governed, he did his best. His best was not good enough. He failed.

But he did not deserve to die like this, muzzled and humiliated, in a cage!

He deserved better. And his country, Egypt, deserves much, much better, damn it!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

In Indonesian Borneo: Humiliate Native People, then loot their land

You will never read about it, but Dayak people, the “First Nation” of the enormous island of Borneo, are broken, robbed and brainwashed.

“Unity in diversity” it says; the motto of Indonesia. But it could be argued that the opposite is true. There is very little unity, and less and less diversity, as the country is controlled from Jakarta, an enormous, overpopulated stinky and sinking megapolis which is located on the island of Java.

Jakarta does not want to allow any dissent. For half a century it has made sure that everyone on this huge and unfortunate archipelago thinks the same, while desiring no improvement. Here, everyone is religious, everyone anti-Communist and fanatically pro-capitalist. The result is: the country collapsed, a long time ago, but ‘no one noticed’. While the Western media is paid ‘not to notice’.

“It is a modern-time colonialism”, I heard thousands of times. Java is perceived by many who are living on those proverbial thousands of islands (the Indonesian archipelago has over 17 thousand isles which are spread over a great area), as a colonialist, aggressive and morally corrupt entity. No wonder: after independence from Netherlands, the country was formed, generally, along the old colonial boundaries.

During the era of the progressive anti-imperialist President Ahmed Sukarno, Indonesia was at least a co-founder of the Non-aligned Movement. It nationalized its natural resources, while building an enlightened socialist motherland.

That did not last very long. Following the West-sponsored brutal military coup of 1965, socialism was destroyed, Communists and atheists murdered, and the US-style neo-colonialist rule managed to smash all hopes for a better future.

Ever since, most of the islands have been run as colonies: pillaged, and oppressed. The ‘transmigration’ policy has been turning local people into a minority, at least in the various ‘strategic’ areas. Those have literally been flooded with state-sponsored immigrants from Java, Southern Sumatra, and other densely-populated Sunni Muslim parts of the country.

Modern-day Indonesia has lived through three cruel genocides in its modern history: one triggered during and after the fascist coup (1965/66), then one that was perpetrated in (formerly) occupied East Timor, and the one, on-going one, in the conquered West Papua. But that is not all: terrible inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts have been shaking Indonesia for decades: from Aceh to Sulawesi, Ambon, Kalimantan (Borneo), to name just a few. Anti-Chinese pogroms have been common for centuries.

If there were to be a referendum, most of the islands, including the tourist island of Bali, would opt for independence. But that is a hushed fact, as it would never be allowed. The unproductive and depressingly over-populated island of Java virtually lives off the plundering of the riches of the entire archipelago. Indonesia’s ‘wealth’ mainly comes from commodities; from unbridled plundering of the outer islands.

Polluted waterways of Kalimantan

That, of course, is true about one of the biggest booty – the enormous Kalimantan.

Many of the filthy rich Javanese families are connected to the plunder. Their wealth comes directly from destruction of the archipelago. The five-star hotels surrounded by Jakarta’s slums, malls with overpriced European brand names, and tasteless villas in gated communities, are built on blood and robbery.

*****

The island of Borneo is the third largest island on earth, after Greenland and Papua. It is shared by Indonesia (where it is known as Kalimantan), and also by Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. And it has, or more precisely, it used to count on all kinds of imaginable treasures, from oil to coal, gold, uranium and timber.

 

 

Entering Indonesian Kalimantan from Malaysia

It also used to be one of the most pristine and stunning parts of the world, covered by plush native forests, which grew all along the mighty and clean tropical waterways.

Borneo’s native people, the Dayaks, used to live in true symbiosis with nature. Whatever their internal problems were, they never tried to conquer other islands.

But this self-contained paradise had been brutally penetrated and eventually destroyed; first by the Dutch colonialists, and later by the legendary Javanese greed united with Western multi-national companies.

Today, Borneo, or at least its Indonesian part, is almost entirely ruined. Most of its forests have been cut down, giving way to the endless and toxic oil palm plantations. Rivers where gold is being mined both legally and illegally, are poisoned by mercury, while entire mountains are levelled by local and foreign mining companies. Coal mines are of tremendous proportions, and expanding.

Horrid palm oil

The wisdom of the local people is still alive, but only deep in what is left of the native forests. Most of the ‘modern-day’ Dayak people have been cannily incorporated by the regime into the system which thrives on plundering of the land and of all that nature holds above and below the surface.

*****

Mr. Krisusandi, the chief of “Dayakology Institute” located in the city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, does not hide his frustration, when he sits across the table from us, in his office:

West Kalimantan has more than 150 ethnic groups of Dayaks. Each has its own language and culture… and that’s only in the area of West Kalimantan! To call them all by the same name – Dayak – is derogatory, inaccurate.

Local people used to inhabit some of the richest lands on earth, in terms of natural resources,” I suggest. Mr. Krisusandi agrees:

Precisely. And this is precisely the curse; the key to understanding why, compared to other indigenous societies, the oppression of Dayaks is the worst.

During Suharto’s ‘New Order’, the regime developed stigmas and stereotypes, belittling and humiliating Dayaks; like that they are ‘backward’, ‘primitive’ and ‘uncivilized’. The military, the fascists, got used to judging Dayaks as forest dwellers and destroyers. The result: Dayak society got discriminated against, losing its culture, independence, and even began feeling shame for being what it is.

Because of that shame, Dayaks have been lulled into converting to Islam, or to Christianity. And after that, they were not Dayaks, anymore! Consequently, they were forced to accept the centralized education system, which has been totally ignoring the local knowledge.

That was, of course, not all. The so-called ‘New Order’ of Suharto’s pro-Western cronies and collaborators, was determined to liquidate all left-wing beliefs. That’s what it was ordered to do by Washington. And Indonesian culture before 1965 was at least ‘communitarian’, if not out rightly Communist. The cultures of Dayak people were no exception.

Mr. Krisusandi confirmed, readily:

’New Order’ believed that it had hegemony on ‘modernization’. And they saw even traditional ‘longhouses’ as something ‘Communist’. They used to call them ‘filthy’, or even ‘fire hazards’. The regime was totally anti-Communist, and it branded all Dayaks as ‘Communists’. Actually, it went to such an absurd extreme that each and every person who refused to abandon his or her longhouse and traditional way of living, was branded as a Communist.

To be a ‘Communist’ was, for decades, synonymous with the highest crime, punishable by death.

It was terrible suffering to be a Dayak then, and in many ways, it still is now. On top of it, all this was accompanied by the theft of land.

As I mentioned before, most of the Dayaks were forcibly converted to Islam, or Christianized. For some, it was the only way how to get ahead. Those who accepted Islam were registered as ‘Malays’, and as a ‘reward’, some were even allowed to became government officials.

*****

Julia, a female activist and researcher from West Kalimantan, now a PhD student at Bonn University in Germany, gave a similar testimony as Mr. Krisusandi’s:

The marginalization and stigmatization of Dayak people in West Kalimantan during the New Order era occurred in a structured and in a systematic way. For example, at the beginning of the New Order period, there was a massive demolition of longhouses, Dayak traditional settlements, in West Kalimantan. Only few survived, and those that remained were only in the inland areas, such as Kapuas Hulu. Infrastructure facilities (mainly roads) to access Dayak settlements in remote areas were also very far behind, with the consequences such as the lack of access to education, health services, etc. The social stigma was created: Dayaks were perceived as backward, stupid, and primitive. Most of Dayak people have been feeling embarrassed to be associated with their Dayak identity. There were even attempts made to rename “Dayaks”, calling them “Daya”.

Ms. Fidelia, a retired schoolteacher, who lives in Singkawang, West Kalimantan:

Based on my experience as a primary school teacher during the 1980s, I felt that compared to the other students, my Dayak pupils found it relatively more difficult to grasp knowledge. Most of the Dayaks live in the interior of Borneo. For more than three decades, Suharto’s government made the conditions of the rural Kalimantan very tough; the interior of the island remained underdeveloped and very hard to access. Because of this isolation, people have been experiencing lack of basic services and facilities, such as education.

Misery in rural Kalimantan is widespread. Enormous palm oil plantations turned huge areas into monocultures. Local people who stayed, are now forced to basically import everything from outside. Life has become extremely expensive. Thousands of villages are literally surrounded, choking by commercial entities. The traditional, natural way of life is totally ruined.

*****

To obtain any substantial information in the cities and villages of Kalimantan, is almost impossible. That is why the tragedy of this plundered island is almost ‘undocumented’.

People are scared to talk, or they do not comprehend their own conditions and their position in the Indonesian and global context.

In Banjarmasin, Palangkaraya, Pontianak and in other urban and rural areas of Kalimantan, people who live in absolute destitution, are refusing to even admit that they are poor. The inhabitants of filthy and hopeless slums lacking almost all basic services, consider their life ‘normal’, and most of them describe their state as ‘pasrah’, which means ‘abandoning, surrendering their lives to fate and God’.

Just as in the rest of Indonesia, oppressive forms of religion (mainly Saudi-style Wahhabi Sunni Islam) have already managed to take full control over the population. Under such conditions, no rebellion is possible. This is, of course, a brilliant arrangement for savage capitalism and for the bunch of corrupt captains of the Indonesian regime.

Since 1965, the logic of pro-Western rulers was simple and effective: ‘Do not allow the arts, philosophy and creativity to ‘pollute’ people’s minds. Kill everything socialist and communist. Make Indonesian citizens simple, pious, uniformed, and uninformed. Smash everyone who is different.

Native people in the resource-rich parts of the archipelago (such as Kalimantan) were the most affected. They have been treated precisely as the South Americans were treated by their Spanish or Portuguese colonialist masters and tormentors: all the resources have been stolen, while local beliefs and languages smashed. Simultaneously, totally foreign religious concepts have been pushed down their throats. Those who were willing to collaborate, were given important government and academic positions, ridiculous titles, and at least some cut from the loot.

Monstrous mines in Borneo

The price was terrible: the destruction of both land and the original population. The ‘primitive people of the forest’ were actually much more advanced than their conquerors. They knew how to live with their nature, their environment. Before colonialism, rivers and forests, mountains and villages were intact and thriving. The destruction of local culture led to the collapse of the environment, and in the case of Borneo, of the entire island.

*****

I am making a long documentary film here: about this damaged culture, and about the whole island that used to be much closer to ‘paradise’, than any other place on Earth. As I film, in all the corners of Borneo, I feel terrified. What I see is indescribable. I have to use visuals, images, to prove the point. Words are not enough. It often feels that the destruction is unreal; that all this is just a nightmare, that I will wake up, that the horror will go away. But it is real; nothing goes away. People, their greed, are capable of ruining anything, even the most stunning places on our planet.

Mr. Krisusandi speaks about his Institute of Dayakology with pride:

We established it, in order to return dignity to our people.

Then he recalls the terrible on-going struggle:

In the beginning, when the destruction of the longhouses began, there was a fight. But the government was canny; it introduced so-called logging concessions. It also accelerated trans-migration from several over-populated parts of Indonesia, predominantly from Java. In the name of ‘development’, government took over all land, and sold it to companies that began planting palm oil, or introducing indiscriminate mining. Dayaks could do nothing. They became powerless; coolies on their own land.

During the so-called ‘reform period’, after Suharto stepped down, the situation marginally improved; but by then, the Dayaks had almost no intellectuals. And those who were ‘educated’ during ‘New Order’, had typical ‘developmentalist’ mindsets. They sold out; they even began oppressing their own people.

A prominent educator from West Kalimantan, who did not want to be identified out of fear of losing his job, clarified:

On my island, being so-called educated could lead to something negative. A Dayak person who goes through the formal Indonesian education system, could and usually would end up following only his or her own mercantile interests, and consequently do harm to both community and nature.

What he meant is that the person often chooses to work for the companies or the government, that are intensively ruining the Borneo island, while further indoctrinating and disempowering local population.

%22Communist%22 – the-longest longhouse in the world deep-in-rainforest

While deep in Borneo, one year ago, we visited a longhouse, where we were told by Mr. Paulus, the elder in a traditional Bali Gundi longhouse in the Putusibau area:

People who go to school; they get smarter and cannier and then they work for the government and companies, they forget to help their villages and hometowns. As long as they get money they do not care anymore.

Recently, President Jokowi decided to at least give some land back to the Dayak people. It was a symbolic gesture, but practically, nothing changed, and almost nothing was returned to the native people.

As confirmed by Mr. Krisusandi:

It is now actually almost impossible to give anything back to the people. West Kalimantan consists of roughly 12 million hectares of land. Concessions, those for palm oil, mining and other commercial activities, were already given 13 million hectares. With national parks, a total of 16 million hectares is already committed. So, just calculate: it is 4 million hectares more than total area of West Kalimantan!

I think about those once mighty and pure rivers, endless tropical forests, deep and ancient cultures of local people. I close my eyes, trying to imagine hundreds of already vanished species of fauna and flora. Then, I imagine the huge, repulsive, kitschy dwellings of local ‘elites’, in Jakarta and Surabaya. I imagine European and North American cities built from the loot of places such as Kalimantan.

Kalimantan Devastation

“Will Dayak people fight for their rights?” I asked.

“Maybe the next generation will,” comes the hesitant reply. “But not this one. Definitely not this one.”

In Palangkaraya city, we spoke to one of the most prominent Dayaks, an author J.J.  Kusni, a man who spent long years in France, but finally returned to his native land.

I filmed his long, passionate testimony, in which he expressed sadness, even outrage over the state into which the Dayak people were reduced.

“Philosophically, a Dayak is a fighter,” he said.

But the spirit of Dayak people was obviously smashed. Most of them have become victims, while others were convinced to convert themselves into collaborators. The entire Indonesian part of the Island of Borneo is now burned down, poisoned and logged out. There are few ‘protected parks’, but even in the middle of them, commercial activities are now detectable. Entire original cultures here are humiliated. People are confused. Most of them gave up, accepted, resigned.

Destruction and thorough ruin are being propagated as ‘progress’, by the Indonesian regime. Brainwashing is passed as ‘education’.

“Through the national and even village government structures established by Suharto, everything in Kalimantan became “Javanized”,” explained J.J. Kusni.

“So, what are the Dayak people doing?” I asked.

“They are crying,” he replied curtly.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek