This year marks the 30th anniversary of the hunger strikes by Irish republican prisoners n the British-run Long Kesh concentration camp — an event that shook the world. The British government of Margaret Thatcher let ten men starve themselves to death rather than negotiate with them over their demand to be recognised as political prisoners. The first prisoner to begin the hunger strike was 27-year old Bobby Sands. He died on May 5, 1981 after 66 days of starvation.
In another important step towards winning Bolivia’s national sovereignty, the country’s Plurinational Assembly has announced the expulsion from Bolivia of USAID’s Environment and Economic Development (EED) program. USAID is funded by the US government and on its website says one of its aims is “furthering America’s foreign policy interests”. The agency has come under fire for its role in funding pro-US right-wing organisations in Bolivia and the region.
The sixth congress of the Communist Party of Cuba ended on April 19. Not by accident, the date chosen for the meeting coincided with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the victory of Playa Giron [Bay of Pigs — at which the Cuban people defeated a US-sponsored invasion in 1961].
Much of the hysteria surrounding the support of Sydney’s Marrickville Council for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has focused on the comparison made by the global BDS campaign with the former apartheid system in South Africa. Pro-Israel politicians and propagandists are quite aware of the power of the comparison. By describing a system where one part of the population has democracy and another doesn’t, it takes away Israel’s claim to legitimacy as a “Jewish democracy”.
The Moro people of the Philippines’ southern Mindanao Islands have never considered themselves Filipinos. The Spanish colonisers never succeeded in subjugating the Moro sultanates. However, when Spain ceded the Philippines to the US in 1898, the Moro homeland, Bangsamoro, was included. In the ensuing war, which lasted until 1913, 20,000 Moros — fighters and civilians — were killed.
The courageous participants in the June 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla turned the world's attention to the plight of the Palestinian people. Yet Israel continues to defy international law, and thus the campaign to end the blockade of Gaza continues. Responding to widespread international outrage at the attack on the freedom Flotilla, Israel announced an easing of its illegal blockade, intending to deflect criticism from its inhumane and illegal policies.
Western Sahara is the last country in Africa awaiting decolonisation. Invaded by Spain in the late 19th century, mass mobilisations in the early 1970s heralded the birth of the modern independence movement. In 1973, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) was established to wage an armed independence struggle. By 1975, Polisario had fought Spain to a standstill. Rather than grant independence, Spain made an agreement with neighbouring countries Morocco and Mauritania to occupy Western Sahara.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Munich Security Conference Plenary Session on February 5, said the US had always stood for the principle “free people govern themselves best”. This, she said, is “not simply a matter of idealism, it is a strategic necessity”. A cursory look at events — past and present — demonstrates the exact opposite to be true.
Thousands of West Papuans marched in the capital Jayapura on January 26, AFP said that day. Marchers rejected the area’s “special autonomy” status within Indonesia and demanded a referendum on independence from Indonesia. Protesters chanted: “Indonesia the coloniser, Indonesia the oppressor, Indonesia the robber.” The action included students from Cenderawasih University, the Indonesian Christian Students Movement and church members, Tempo Interactive said on January 26.
West Papuan refugees in Papua New Guinea have been terrorised and arrested by police, West Papua Media Alerts said on January 28. They were allegedly arrested on behalf of the Indonesian military and local logging interests. Police and soldiers rounded up 79 refugees living in camps around Vanimo, on PNG’s north coast near the border with West Papua, in the early hours of January 23. The soldiers burned down at least 30 refugee houses, destroyed crops and food, and assaulted people, WPMA said. Other refugees have reportedly fled to the jungle.