World in revolt: People rise up

Issue 

Across the globe, people are rising.

People's power movements are toppling dictators and forcing governments to resign. These movements are demanding democratic rights and economic justice, opposing corruption, oppression and occupation.

Mass student-led mobilisations for serious action on climate change are shifting domestic and international politics, putting the climate emergency on the agenda like never before.

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Demonstration in Haiti's capital Port au Prince on October 17.

1. HAITI

For more than 8 weeks, protesters have been mobilising to call on the corrupt President Jovenel Moise to resign.

The revolt stems from nearly 30 years of corruption, oppression and authoritarian rule and, before that, centuries of colonial exploitation.

Protests in September marked 28 years since the bloody 1991 United States-backed military coup d’état against Haiti’s first democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Every democratic gain has been undermined by a US-backed regime change or by electoral fraud.

Moise’s government cannot pay its fuel bills, which means shortages across the country. Meanwhile, politicians plunder development aid for their personal benefit, including US$2 billion in development funds from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe fund.

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Protesters fill Plaza Italia in Chile's capital Santiago.

2. CHILE

On October 17, a mass revolt erupted, ignited by a campaign of civil disobedience led by high school and university students opposed to subway fare increases.

Billionaire president Sebastian Piñera scrapped the fare increases, but the uprising continued as a result of police violence against the students and decades of neoliberalism and austerity.

More than 5000 people have been arrested or detained, thousands have been injured and at least 18 people have died as a result of the authorities’ violent response.

Up to 2 million people mobilised in the capital, Santiago, on October 25 in the largest demonstration in Chile’s history. Hundreds of thousands more gathered in all major cities, villages and towns, many of whom were first-time protesters.

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Protests have continued in Algeria since April.

3. ALGERIA

A youthful, peaceful and vibrant protest movement erupted in February in response to 82-year-old former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announcing he would stand for a fifth term.

In April, the huge protest movement forced Bouteflika to resign and the interim government to promise to hold new elections which are scheduled for December 12.

People are increasingly angry with the lack of jobs, restrictions on political expression and rampant corruption. They want the ruling elites to step down and democratic institutions to be set up before elections are held.

Thousands took to the streets in a general strike on October 28 and November 1, the anniversary of the Algerian Revolution. The movement has adopted the slogan from the days of the independence struggle: “Only one hero, the people”.

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Lebanon's people's movement stems from spontaneous grassroots involvement.

4. LEBANON

What started as a modest protest against regressive taxes in mid-October, including a tax on WhatsApp calls, has rapidly grown into a mass spontaneous protest movement.

After two weeks of sustained mobilisations across Lebanon the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri was forced to resign. At its peak, the protest movement formed a 170 kilometre-long human chain from Tripoli to Tyre.

Hariri’s resignation met one of the movement’s demands, however demonstrations are continuing for basic amenities, including 24-hour electricity and access to drinking water, as well as political and legal rights.

The arrival of more than 1 million refugees from Syria has exacerbated the political and economic situation.

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16 years of rampant corruption, unemployment and the lack of basic services and security have pushed the Iraqi people to breaking point.

5. IRAQ

Tens of thousands of people, united across religious divides, are turning out daily for huge anti-government protests demanding the regime step down.

Despite Iraq having the world’s fourth largest oil reserves, youth unemployment is 25% and many people live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education.

The devastating US-led invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003, which led to the oil sector being privatised, combined with brutal economic sanctions in between, have contributed to the current economic disaster.

Iraqis also blame the political elites and a corrupt system that monopolises power among sectarian parties.

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The protests in Hong Kong are now in their sixth month.

6. HONG KONG

Students have been organising mass protests every week since June, when Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam introduced a bill to allow the extradition of “criminal suspects” to mainland China.

The movement has now grown far beyond concerns about the extradition bill to become a generalised revolt against China’s takeover of the former British colony. The protests have mobilised millions of people.

The protests are united around several demands including: for the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill (which was officially scrapped in October); universal suffrage (Hong Kong residents are unable to directly select their leader as well as the bulk of MPs); and accountability for police (who have violently suppressed the protests and shot a teenager with live ammunition in October).

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Supporters of West Papua demonstrate in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

7. WEST PAPUA

A new wave of protests in West Papua was sparked by racist attacks on Papuan students in the Indonesian city of Surabaya in August.

West Papuans have been struggling for more than 60 years against Indonesian occupation, human rights violations and for the right to self-determination.

Since August, untold numbers of protesters, including many students, have been killed, arrested or disappeared. The internet is still shut down and journalists are not allowed to report from inside West Papua.

A number of human rights activists are still in custody and Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, currently hiding in Australia, is wanted by the Indonesian authorities for her work in defending the rights of West Papuans.

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Extinction Rebellion's Spring Rebellion protest in Melbourne on October 7.

8. CLIMATE EMERGENCY

The climate emergency has sparked a new wave of mass protest across the globe. Led by high school students, it is drawing in many generations.

In August 2018, climate activist Greta Thunberg began her solo school strike for climate outside the Swedish Parliament.

Last November, Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists blocked five bridges over the Thames River in London.

In March, more than 2000 youth-led climate strikes were organised in 125 countries and involved 1.6 million people. In April, XR protesters shut down large parts of central London, and later the same month blockaded the London Stock Exchange.

On September 20, 4 million people joined the global school strike climate, in the more than 2500 events in 150 countries.

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