Archive | June 18th, 2020

China Delivers COVID-19 Aid to Sanctioned Syria

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Air China delivers aid to countries in need during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday’s shipment is the second batch of aid from China to help Syria’s fighting against the coronavirus.

Syrian Health Ministry received a new batch of Chinese medical equipment on Thursday as part of the cooperation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic between the two countries.

RELATED: The US Seeks to Set New Military Base in Syria Amid Pandemic

Masks, overalls, and disinfectants were among the new batch of aid provided by China and presented to the Syrian side by the Chinese embassy in Damascus.

At a handover ceremony held at the Health Ministry in Damascus, Ahmad Khleifawi, the assistant health minister, told reporters that the Syrian side appreciates the Chinese aid.

“We always appreciate what is being given by China to Syria and we all know that there are batches of aid that will be provided by China to Syria,” Khleifawi said.

He further voiced gratitude from the Syrian people and the government to China.

For his side, Feng Biao, Chinese ambassador to Syria, told reporters that China will continue to cooperate with the Syrian side to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that COVID-19 is a “mutual enemy” to humanity, adding that the Chinese side is committed to the concept of the mutual future of humankind.

“We will continue to enhance cooperation with the Syrian side to counter this pandemic and to continue to enhance cooperation in the health sector,” he added.

The ambassador stressed that China provides all medical help to the Syrian people to protect the general health of both countries.

Thursday’s shipment is the second batch of aid from China to help Syria’s fighting against the coronavirus.

On April 15, China donated 2,016 COVID-19 test kits to Syria to help its fight against the virus.

On April 23, a video-conference was held between Chinese and Syrian medical experts for sharing the experiences in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Syria has so far recorded 123 COVID-19 cases, including 53 recoveries and six deaths.

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How American Cities Were Reduced to Esper’s “Battlespace”: From Fallujah to Minneapolis

By: Prof. Juan Cole

The Bush administration’s war of aggression on and military occupation of Iraq that began in 2003 shifted the United States to a militaristic society. Some 2.7 million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, an astonishing number. The Bush administration began the practice of sending to civilian police departments military equipment no longer needed in Iraq– everything from Kevlar vests to armored vehicles. Community policing in some towns and cities gave way to the spectacle of militarized police, heavily armed and armored, and inevitably separated from the public they were supposed to serve and protect.

The Bush administration spent trillions on the unprovoked and worthless Iraq War, money that could have been used to train and finance minority university students and entrepreneurs. At the same time, it cut taxes on the wealthy, which is a way of saying that it cut government services for the middle and working classes.

I grew up in a military family, had uncles who fought in WW II, and have nothing but respect for Veterans and active duty service personnel. When I’ve been privileged to address US military audiences, I’ve felt honored to do so. So in this column I am not putting them down in any way. I am, however, putting down their civilian bosses.

The Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, was a civilian bureaucrat during those wars (though he had served with distinction as an infantry officer in the Gulf War). As a Bush administration official (deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy), he breathed in the atmosphere of illegality created by the 2003 war of aggression. On Monday, he told the nation’s governors that

“I think the sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was present on the call with the governors, during which Trump threatened to violate Posse Comitatus by sending in the US army to the states to do law enforcement over the heads of the governors. Milley has a duty to say that he will not obey such an illegal order. Actually in 1958 Congress specified a two-year prison term for anyone who acted as Trump said he would act.9/11: The Beginning of the End of the US Empire Project

Then Esper and Milley accompanied Trump on his Great March from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church after Bill Barr ordered military police illegally to attack peacefully assembled protesters from Lafayette Square.

Esper had no business being involved in the march on on St. John’s church, where Trump had had military police tear-gas clergymen.

James Miller, himself a former undersecretary of defense for policy, resigned from the Defense Advisory Board in protest over Esper’s involvement, which he called a violation of Esper’s oath of office.

But above all Gen. Milley should resign for having been present during an unconstitutional act of repression. Milley gives evidence of being what is called in the trade a “weasel,” of giving his superior whatever he wants. We may well have a constitutional crisis in the beginning of November, and citizens of the American Republic have a right to know that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is above the partisan fray and loyal to the Constitution. After Monday’s events, I don’t think we have that assurance.

Where did this way of thinking even come from?

In 2003 when Bush aggressively made war on Iraq and militarily occupied the city, initially a lot of Iraqis were on the fence. In the city of Fallujah, then about the population of Miami, Fl., people gradually turned against the Occupation. The US military took over a school as a base, and parents complained that it would ever after make their children a target. The US colonels wouldn’t listen. There were crowd protests. Someone used the demonstration as a pretext and opportunity to fire on US service personnel. They fired back. From that incident things spiraled out of control. People in Fallujah were Sunni Arabs and were religiously conservative. They sympathized with Palestinians and knew that US was backing Ariel Sharon in his efforts to repress them. People became increasingly radicalized. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Tawhid terrorist organization gained a foothold. In the spring of 2004, 4 contractors were killed, infuriating George W. Bush.

After his reelection, Bush was determined to make Fallujah safe for patrolling US soldiers. I am not sure it ever really was.

He launched a major invasion of the city. We are told that the US Air Force played an important role through “precision bombing.” Rebecca Grant writes, “For several weeks before the main assault, air strikes and artillery fire targeted key sites in the city as they were identified. The hunt for insurgents evolved into battlespace shaping.”

What isn’t said is that most of Fallujah’s residents ended up being displaced, many living in tents in the desert, and much of the city was reduced to rubble. That is “battlespace shaping” for you.

Esper clearly thinks of Cleveland and Oakland as “Fallujahs,” as “battlespaces” departing from the “right kind of normal.” People in Fallujah had resented being invaded and ruled by foreigners who reduced them to 65% unemployment. Some 40 million Americans just lost their jobs, in part because of the ineptitude of the administration of which Esper forms a part (South Korea is better governed and did not close down, using large scale testing, contact tracing, and mask-wearing instead).

A significant part of the American elite was shaped by Bush’s wars to think about dissidence as the equivalent of insurgency and to see challenges to the status quo as illegitimate.

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg concluded,

“War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Bush’s war of aggression contained within itself the accumulated evil of the whole, and now that evil is spreading out to turn us all into Fallujans.

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Russian Surface-to-Air Missile Systems in Syria Shoot Down Militants’ Drones

By: South Front

Tor short-range surface-to-air missile systems have downed more than 45 unmanned aerial vehicles launched by Syrian militants, according to the chief of the Russian Air Defense Forces Lieutenant General Alexander Leonov.

“Since the start of combat duty, the calculations of the Tor combat vehicles targeted over 45 UAVs crafted by militants”, Leonov said in an interview with the National Defense magazine.

Tor missile systems, alongside with short range Pantisr-S and long rage S-400 systems are the core of the air defense capabilities of the Russian military group deployed in Syria. In 2019 alone, Russian forces intercepted 53 UAVs and 27 rockets fired towards the Hmeimim airbase.

In 2020, the intensity of UAV and rocket attacks on Russian military facilities in western Syria decreased. The main reason is the successful counter-terrorism operations in the southern part of the Idlib de-escalation zones in previous years that allowed for the destruction of infrastructure used by militants for such attacks.

Meanwhile, the militant-held part of Greater Idlib remains in a state of constant chaos even without any large-scale clashes involving the Syrian Army.Video Player00:0003:26

On June 15, the head of Jaish al-Suqour, Abu Husain, was assassinated south of the village of Ariha. Another militant commander, Abu Usama, was injured in the incident. Usama is a member of Liwa al-Hansa. Both Jaish al-Suqour and Liwa al-Hansa are a part of the coalition of Turkish-backed militant groups known as the National Front for Liberation. Pro-government sources say that the assassination indicates the ongoing undercover conflict between militant groups directly controlled by Turkey and their more independent counterparts.

Turkey and its proxies seek to expand their influence and gain additional leverage to put pressure on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Horas al-Din and other militarally capable organizations. On the other hand, these groups resisting Turkish attempts to do so are simultaneously continuing to receive financial and military support from Ankara.

On June 16, the Syrian Army sent reinforcements to the contact line with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other militants south of the M4 highway in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Damascus is deeply concerned by the growing Turkish military presence in the area and reasonably expects that radical militants may use it as a cover for attacks on the government-controlled territory.

On June 15, locals from the villages of Jamalu and Merikiz in the Syrian province of al-Hasakah blocked a Turkish military patrol and prevented it from passing the area. Such protests in northeastern Syria are a rare development. Turkish forces do not shy away from using force against Kurdish protesters if they pose even the slightest threat to their interests. The Turkish military regularly claims that Kurdish armed groups, which it considers to be terrorist organizations, prepare attacks on Turkish positions in the area of Operation Peace Spring. By such claims, Ankara justifies the use of force there.

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Bipartisan Deadlock: Working People and Youth Must Call for President Trump’s Resignation Now!

Bipartisan Deadlock: Working People and Youth Must Call for President Trump’s Resignation Now! Joe Biden is Not An Alternative

Reject Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis capitulation to the Democratic Party

By: Massoud Nayeri

The deep and insolvable differences among the wealthy elite indicate that the next U.S. President will be in the office by use of force, not through election and votes. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are preparing the American people in advance that the result of the presidential election will be controversial. “

This president is going to steal this election” said Mr. Biden during an interview on “The Daily Show.” On the other hand, President Trump for many years had been undermining the legitimacy of elections in general by emphasizing “voter fraud”; and recently claiming that the “vote-by-mail” due to the pandemic is a Democrats’ scheme to “steal” the election. The fact is both Democrats and Republicans are fearful of a genuine people’s uprising which is angry and demands change.

Both parties believe during this charged political atmosphere a “normal” presidential election is not feasible and a clear victory will not be certain. Mr. Trump as the self proclaimed “Law and Order” President, has already tried to convince the military to carry a soft coup to establish his position as the Authoritarian President, but failed. However, the Trump Administration saw this first attempt as a rehearsal that needed some corrections and adjustments. The Administration has concluded that more provocation is needed to divide the nation into two clear camps, that of pro-Trump and anti-Trump.

Considering these alarming facts, the question remains should working people and youth direct their energy and hope toward a Biden victory in the presidential election for fundamental changes? The answer is NO. As a matter of fact, the massive and spontaneous demonstrations in the U.S. suggest that the illusion of having a “democratic” election is fading. However, the current movement is not clear on how to move forward due to lack of a conscious leadership. The ambiguous “Defund the Police” demand which has been introduced by some leaders of the “Black Lives Matter” and the middle class reformists in the Democratic Party raises more questions than solutions.

The reality is that the massive and spontaneous demonstrations in the U.S. and around the world are shaking the foundation of the 1%. The powerful and colorful people’s marches for justice in honor of George Floyd who was murder by coldblooded police has already surpassed the question of race and police brutality. Today, the old and new problems are being discussed among all layers of society. People around the world have already witnessed that the immediate response by the authorities in the U.S. and different countries in Europe has been more police brutality! The senseless killing of Rayshard Brooks, a young Black father, after 19 days of daily demonstrations against police brutality once again proved that the role of the police is not to protect and serve ordinary people but to maintain order in the interest of the wealthy elite in power; through intimidations, threats and shoot to kill – as if they are soldiers in the territory of a hostile enemy.

The use of teargas, pepper spray, shootings, beatings and arrests (by all types of Police in riot gears, unidentified policing forces, use of active-duty troops and National Guard to confront the peaceful demonstrations); not only did not demoralize the determined youth, but on the contrary, these measures energized more people with diverse backgrounds to join the movement. Now the parents of the young people who have been marching day after day are supporting their children. At the same time, the working people – who had to endure the mismanaged and chaotic lockdown for weeks due to the coronavirus are fighting in their own workplaces along with the demonstrators in the movement for justice. The cry of the meatpacking workers, the strike by Amazon workers and the workers of many other factories are demanding safe workplaces that can only be heard through those independent journalists and organizations that are loyal to the voiceless people.

This unique political situation has drawn people with different backgrounds to a live discussion to change the current dysfunctional system. Some young activists based on the occupy movement experience have, as an experiment declared a few blocks of the city of Seattle as a “Free Cop Zone”. Although the atmosphere is festive and participants are peaceful, they have not presented a clear short or long term plan. The working people, in general, are watching these events sympathetically from the sideline. The Trump Administration is calling these young people “ugly domestic terrorists” while Democrats are buying time to intervene forcefully at a later time and end this saga as they did with the occupy movement.

It is evident that the Democratic Party leadership is in disarray.

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have embarrassed themselves and endured a painful kneeling for a photo-op to show that they are sympathetic to the cause of “Black Lives Matter”; at the same time, Ambassador Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, a Black woman claims that “Foreign Actors” and Russians are stirring up the recent demonstrations!

The intellectuals, community leaders/organizers, old-timer activists and well-known Liberal figures are doing their best to analyze these situations and suggest the next steps.

However, some of these suggestions which are not based on the revolutionary heritage of working people actually are misguided and are potentially harmful to a young movement.

Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis are propagating an unsubstantiated narrative that if Joe Biden became the next occupant of the White House, people would have a better chance to fight for their demands. The so-called Progressives and Liberals have lost their confidence in the power of the actual producers in the U.S., and have capitulated to a section of capitalists in order to defeat Trump.

They are asking everyone that vote for Joe Biden is the “only alternative” against President Trump. These intellectuals have closed their eyes to the undeniable reality that today both Democratic and Republican corrupt parties have no credibility among the majority of people. Mr. Biden’s record as a senator and as Vice-President is as reactionary as any GOP leader. The truth is that he became the nominee of the Democratic Party through disgraceful and undemocratic DNC manipulation against the will of the Democratic Party membership. Also, it must be noted that Democrats might disapprove and criticize President Trump’s behavior in front of the TV cameras; but since 2016 in the House of Representatives, they have had no problem giving President Trump everything he asked for and sometimes even more!

Working people and youth must lead the mass movement to force Trump out of office now! President Trump has shown in many ways that he does not believe in the will of people or even the Constitution of the United States. He does not need an election to stay in power. He already has consolidated a group of loyal wealthy elite, politicians, military figures and functionaries in the police departments and different security agencies as well as servants in the judicial system to stay in power.

Meanwhile, through his rallies and deceitful tweets and provocative executive orders and inciting messages, President Trump has gathered the most rightwing elements, anti-immigrants and immoral evangelists among people throughout the country as his admiring followers (following the footsteps of Benito Mussolini in Italy). He is also dangerously moving this country toward a military confrontation with China. HE MUST RESIGN! This should be a rallying demand that challenges President Trump today before he actually succeeds in becoming the first U.S. Authoritarian President.

A call for President Trump’s resignation does not mean to replace Donald Trump with Mike Pence or Joe Biden. In a charged political situation, the dynamic of mass movement and uprising does not follow the constitutional laws. Having a liberal exception that the November Election will stop the fascistic minded President Trump is a utopian idea.

A call for his resignation with uncompromising stand against Democratic nominee, Joe Biden is a unifying demand. This demand allows the revolutionary-minded youth in the movement for justice to focus on the immediate danger that President Trump is posing rather get distracted by ambiguous demands like “Defund the Police”. The current movement for justice must unite with the hard-working people, independent of the billionaires’ political influence and their intellectual apologists.

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Towards a Baghdad-Moscow Axis? Russia’s Massive Oil Projects in Iraq

By: South Front

In Iraq, a seldom mentioned and noteworthy oil cooperation is carried out between Baghdad and Moscow. Russian companies, namely Rosneft and Lukoil have developed new oil fields in Iraq.

A notable project is Lukoil’s West Qurna-2.

West Qurna-2 field is located in the southern part of Iraq, 65 kilometers north-west of Basra, a major seaport city, and is one of the world’s largest fields. The field’s initial recoverable reserves come to around 14 billion barrels. Its total geological reserves sit at 35 billion barrels of oil.

On December 12, 2009 the consortium of PJSC LUKOIL and Statoil, a Norwegian company, was awarded a contract for the development of West Qurna-2 field, one of the world’s largest fields. On January 31, 2010, a services contract was signed for the development and production at West Qurna-2. The contract was ratified by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Iraq.

A supplement agreement to the contract was signed in January 2013 that outlined the target contractual production (1.2 million barrels of oil per day) for the target production period of 19.5 years, and a 25-year extension of the contract term.

It has been producing oil since March 29th, 2014.

This was a result of short-term and large-scale field development. This included mine clearance, drilling of 48 production wells, preparation of 5 well sites and construction of large production facilities: oil treatment plants with a capacity of more than 400 thousand barrels per day, a gas turbine power plant with a capacity of 126 MW , water intake on the Euphrates River, an export pipeline of 102 km in length, additional reservoirs at the oil terminal with a total volume of about 200 thousand cubic meters, as well as numerous infrastructure facilities, including a shift camp for 1000 people, access roads, infield pipelines, a security perimeter and more.

Russia's Massive Oil Projects In Iraq

In total for 2014-2020. More than 120 million tons of oil were produced. 120 production wells and 48 injection wells were drilled. The current production level is 400 thousand barrels per day from the Mishrif reservoir.

The current level of production is 400 thousand barrels per day from the Mishrif formation, which is almost 10% of Iraqi oil exports.

Since the start of the Service contract, LUKOIL has invested about $ 9 billion in the project.

In 2019, LUKOIL commenced drilling of new production wells as part of the second development phase. The Сompany concluded contracts to drill 57 production wells, including 54 wells at Mishrif formation and 3 wells at Yamama formation. The drilling campaign will ramp up production at West Qurna-2 from the current level of 400 thousand barrels per day to 480 thousand barrels per day in 2020.

75% of the project is under Lukoil’s ownership. The other 25% are owned by the North Oil Company (NOC), a state-owned company being a part of the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Notably, NOC does not incur any costs receiving only its share (25%) in the remuneration.

Another notable oil field developed and discovered by Russia is the Salman oilfield in Block 12 in Iraq.

Russia's Massive Oil Projects In Iraq

This happened in May 2018.

Bashneft International B.V., a Rosneft subsidiary, has discovered a new oil field named Salman, following the drilling of the first exploration well in Block 12 in the Republic of Iraq.

The exploration well was successfully drilled to the depth of 4,277 meters resulting in an oil flow that allows counting on discovering commercial reserves.

The Company considers this discovery an important landmark in upstream projects abroad.

Block 12 is located in the southwest Iraq, in an unexplored area of the Arabian Plate, approximately 80 km to the south of the city of As-Samawah and 130 km to the west of the city of Nasiriyah. It has an area of 7,680 sq km. Bashneft International B.V. is an operator of the project.

Bashneft International B.V.  owns 70% of the project. Premier Oil (30%) and South Oil Company also participate in the project.

A contract for exploration, development and production at Block 12 was signed in November 2012.

The compulsory geological exploration program at Block 12 included 2D seismic surveys in the amount of 2,000 km and drilling 1 exploration well.

Upon confirmation of commercial stocks, the contract will be valid for 20 years. The premium for produced oil will be $5 per barrel.

Russia's Massive Oil Projects In Iraq
Russia's Massive Oil Projects In Iraq

The interest Russian companies have in working in Iraq dates even before the Saddam Hussein era.

The first company to return to post-Saddam Iraq was LUKOIL, which did not lose interest in projects in this country both during the Iraqi sanction period (1990-2003) and after the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The biggest project it involved itself in was the above-described West Qurna-2.

Obviously, despite the risks remaining in Iraq, LUKOIL’s strategy was designed for the long term. This is due to the expansion of LUKOIL’s activities when, in 2012, the company, together with the Japanese INPEX CORPORATION, acquired the right to exploration and subsequent development of Block 10.

In 2017, LUKOIL and INPEX successfully completed the tests of the first exploratory well, Erisu 1 at Block 10.

The company is now striving to increase production at West Qurna-2 from the current 400,000 to 480,000 barrels per day in 2020. The contractual framework for LUKOIL’s work in Iraq is being updated on a mutually beneficial basis between the government and the company. So, in 2013, the contract was extended until 2035.

In January 2010, the Russian company Gazprom Neft received the status of the operator of a large Badra field, winning a tender in a consortium with Kogas (Korea), Petronas (Malaysia), and TRAO (Turkey).

However, in addition to this, Gazprom Neft has fields and in Iraqi Kurdistan the company acts as the operator of two projects in Iraqi Kurdistan – Jackal and Garmian. The Garmian block also includes the development of the Sarkal field, in which Gazprom Neft plans to increase oil production.

As described above, Bashneft developed Block 12 in the provinces of Musanna and Najaf. Nevertheless, with the growing political interest of Russia in the region, the positions of Russian energy companies, including Rosneft, were strengthened. In this context, in 2017, within the framework of the 21st St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Rosneft entered into an Investment Agreement with the Government of Iraqi Kurdistan (according to open sources, the deal amounted to $4 billion).

In addition to the fields in the oil-bearing Kirkuk, which at that time were controlled by the Kurds, Rosneft also switched over the significant oil infrastructure of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The key was the acquisition by Rosneft of the status of operator and ownership of 60% of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which had already been modernized and increased throughput from 700 thousand to 950 thousand barrels per day.

In 2018, exploration was announced and Rosneft began operations in Iraqi Kurdistan at the Batil, Zawita, Qasrok, Harir-Bejil and Darato fields, each of which is 80% owned by a Russian company.

Russia's Massive Oil Projects In Iraq

The visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in October 2019 to Iraq was the first in 5 years. Together with Lavrov, the head of Soyuzneftegaz Yuri Shafranik, the director of Gazprom Neft Alexander Dyukov, representatives of Rosneft and Technopromexport went to Baghdad and Erbil.

However, no major transactions were announced.

This appeared as a slowdown in Russia-Iraqi relations. Despite this, during Sergey Lavrov’s visit, a number of memorandums of cooperation were signed, which could become the basis for further building up the Russian presence in Iraq.

Reportedly, according to Russian officials, Russian companies could potentially invest up to $45 billion in Iraq by 2035.

The key Russian private companies and state corporations, whose leaders are members of the Russian ruling elite, are represented in Iraq.

These same elites determine the importance of projects in this country for the Russian decision makers.

At the same time, in Iraq itself, Russia interacts with both Erbil and Baghdad. In the event of a conflict, Russian companies demonstrate flexibility and manage to maintain their position.

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The US’ Planned Imposition of Draconian “Secondary Sanctions” on Syria. Targets Any Entity Doing Business with Syria

By: Andrew Korybko

The US hopes that making Syrians even more desperate than they already are could catalyze another Color Revolution at one of the country’s most critical moments in its history, which could then be exploited for regime change purposes.

Reuters reported on Monday that the US plans to impose secondary sanctions on Syria later this week under the so-called “Caesar Act“. In the article titled “What do new U.S. sanctions mean for Syria?“, the outlet informed its audience that “U.S. congressional aides said they expect an announcement as soon as Wednesday.” The planned sanctions will target any entity across the world that does business in a wide array of industries in Syria, as well as “those dealing with Russian and Iranian entities in Syria”.

These plans are sadistic since they’re occurring against the backdrop of almost a decade of warfare and in the current context of both the country’s ongoing currency collapse and its efforts to contain COVID-19. Reuters even acknowledges that ordinary people might be further harmed by this planned move, writing that “Some Western non-governmental organisations, while saying Assad’s government deserves to be punished, are wary of any impact on civilians.”

Nevertheless, it’s clear that the intention is purely political, as noted when the outlet predicted that “As economic conditions worsen further, there is also the possibility of a new wave of unrest”. In other words, the US hopes that making Syrians even more desperate than they already are could catalyze another Color Revolution at one of the country’s most critical moments in its history, which could then be exploited for regime change purposes.

The armed groups (some of which Russian, Iranian, and Syrian officials regard as terrorists) that the US and its allies have consistently supported during the entire course of the country’s interconnected civil-international war failed to oust its democratically elected and legitimate leader, hence why America is forced to return back to square one in seeking to orchestrate another “Arab Spring”-like crisis such as the one that initially started this whole conflict back in 2011.

What’s especially unsettling about all of this is that the planned sanctions will make Syria’s reconstruction by the international community practically impossible to pull off unless its government capitulates to the US’ list of demands for ending the war on its political terms. The Syrian people are innocent yet are forced to suffer as punishment for the simple fact that their government isn’t an American puppet and actually embarrassed the US by surviving the kinetic phase of the Pentagon’s conflict against it (foreign armed groups).

These nefarious intentions also expose the US as hypocritical. Its officials have falsely claimed that China is exploiting the global pandemic in order to advance its strategic ends, yet it’s actually the US that’s doing this, and it’s planned secondary sanctions against Syria are the indisputable proof. The Syrian people are already struggling to survive, but everything is about to become much more harder for them considering that the Lebanese lifeline for many of their goods and financial needs “will be hit hard”, according to Reuters.

Arguably, the consequences of these planned sanctions amount to a war crime considering just how many millions of innocent people are bound to suffer once they enter into effect. In the 21st century, the US military doesn’t need to kill countless people to carry out crimes against humanity since the American government can simply weaponize the country’s leading international economic and financial roles to manipulate the international situation in such a way that countless people needlessly suffer to the point of literal death.

The US must be condemned in the strongest terms possible for what it’s doing. Not only is about to indirectly but deliberately contribute to the unnecessary deaths of an unknown but presumably large number of people, it’s also putting the Syrian government’s hitherto very effective COVID-19 containment efforts at risk. The country’s complete collapse could lead to it becoming a dangerous hotspot for this virus’ spread throughout the region, which puts many other people at risk, including those whose governments are American allies.

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“I Can’t Breathe, Please, Please!”

“I Can’t Breathe, Please, Please!” The Martyrdom of George Floyd, Tortured and Murdered by US Police in 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds, May 5, 2020

George Floyd’s Family and Legal Team ask United Nations to Intervene in His Case; Video exposes Brazen Systemic Racism and Contempt for Human Rights by Police State USA

By: Carla Stea

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical.” – Fredrick Douglass

“A single spark can start a prarie fire”

“Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun:”  Mao Tse Tung

In August, 1997, Abner Louima, an unarmed, defenseless Haitian security guard, with no criminal record whatsoever,  was falsely arrested by Brooklyn police officers, who tortured and horiffically raped him, forced him into a bathroom stall where the police officers sodomized him, forcing a broom handle up Louima’s rectum, near- fatally rupturing his bladder and colon, among other near-fatal injuries necessitating three major surgeries and a three month hospitalization.  The officer who committed this atrocity is currently free, and holding a government job.  One would have expected sustained massive civil protest against this police barbarism.  This sustained protest did not occur.  In November, 1999, Amidou Diallo, an unarmed and defenseless black man was shot to death just outside his home with 21 gun bullets fired at him by police officers.

The police murderers received a slap on the wrist, despite significant public outrage.  Subsequently a seemingly endless series of murders in following years ensued, during which police tortured and murdered the unarmed and defensless Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Botham Jean, Pamela Turner, Ahmaud Arbery, Derrick Scott, and innumerable others.  The police guilty of these atrocities acted with impunity, and were never held accountable for their murderous conduct.  Though there were sporadic protests, and outrage against these murders was expressed, as well as outrage against the impunity with which the police committed these murders, nothing significant happened, nothing improved, and, though the brutal police beating of unarmed and defenseless Rodney King in 1962 sparked riots in California, nothing changed since that time, quite the opposite.  Recently, on the evening before his wedding, the unarmed and innocent Sean Bell was shot and killed by the police with 50 bullets.    The innocent and defenseless Freddy Gray died after his spine was crushed and severed in a police van.  On the night of March 13, 2020, three police officers battered open the door of the home of Breanna Taylor, an emergency medical technican.  Police fraudulently claimed a drug investigation.  Ms. Taylor was in her bed, unarmed and defenseless. The police shot at her at least eight times, killing her.  The police officers who murdered Ms. Taylor have not been charged.

This time it is revealing that outrage against the torture-murder of George Floyd is shared by people of all  races and nationalities: African-American, Asian, European, Latin American – a multi-racial identification with Floyd’s crucifixion, and a global outrage expressed against the gargantuan hypocrisy of the United States’ claim to defend human rights and press freedom, as on camera, working members of even CNN, covering peaceful protests in Minnesota,  are arrested and their work destroyed.  According to The New York Times, June 5, 2020, “A police officer near the White House slams a riot shield into a cameraman’s chest.  The authorities in Minneapolis fire projectiles at a TV crew, prompting a reporter to cry, ‘stop shooting at us.’  A black journalist is encircled by riot police and arrested live on the air.  Attacks against journalists covering demonstrations against racial injustice have prompted foreign governments to call on American authorities to respect press freedom and protect reporters, both local and foreign.”

Image on the right is by Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States/Wikimedia Commons

Simultaneously with these state terrorist murders of innocent, unarmed black people, the economic inequality within the USA and globally has worsened exponentially with the spread of neoliberal capitalism. Homelessness and starvation is shamelessly evident in the most public areas of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and every major city within the United States;  throughout Western Europe, the majority of citizens’ lives have been devalued and destroyed by “austerity measures” which, according to Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, has resulted in twenty percent of the British population living below the poverty line.   Since 2010 large riots erupted, driven by dispossessed students and large sections of society in Spain, Italy, Greece, the UK, and last year the mass protest of the “Yellow Vests” began in France.

And simultaneously a massive increase of terrorism has been resorted to by destitute, desperate victims of the colossal global economic inequality which has now reached the obscene proportion at which the 0.01 percent, and eight men control more wealth than more than half the citizens of this planet:  even a casual student of history could have recognized that these economic and social conditions are identical with the conditions preceding and sparking the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Cuban Revolution.  It does not require rocket science to expect that this grossly unjust world verges on a volcanic eruption, culminating in a bloody civil war, or a global burst of rage capable of shattering the neoliberal economic order which has led to such despair, frustration, humiliation and dehumanization that the majority of humanity has nothing to lose and everything to gain in a global revolt to restructure the present criminally unjust social and economic architecture which dominates huge areas of the world.

However, in classic Marxist theory, the highest stage of monopoly capitalism is fascism.  And the question now is, who will ultimately prevail, the majority of dispossessed citizens of this planet, or the police state imposed to crush the majority of humanity and protect the property of that one percent who control more wealth than most citizens on this earth.  Although we cited conditions in the “North,” the USA and Western Europe, the so-called “developed world,” people of color are starving and homeless throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.  This is a powderkeg which can suddenly explode.

This may explain how, with one horrific video of the bestial, perverted murder of George Floyd, the powderkeg may be finally exploding as the truth of the smashing of democracy and human rights in the United States is finally enraging people throughout the world.

The reality of totalitarianism in the United States, concealed, but covertly pervasive until now,  has been finally exposed overtly with the graphic video revealing the sadistic murder of George Perry Floyd, an unarmed man who threatened no one. This is finally leading to the revulsion and revolt of massive peaceful demonstrators in Tokyo, Germany, Australia, Belgium, France, and elsewhere throughout the world.  The militarized police in the United States operate as a death squad, and the ultimate questions will be whether this finally massive eruption of rage at the gruesome injustice which defines capitalist society can be sustained against the holocaust of police and military force unleashed against civilian resistance, so sudden, so spontaneous, so global.

On June 13, The New York Times headline read: “It’s ‘Nonlethal,’ But It Maims And Also Kills.” “As protesters filled the streets of downtown San Jose, California, recently, the police fired munitions known as rubber bullets into the crowd….. Breanna Contrera’s head jerked back from the impact as a black projectile ‘roughly the size of an extra-jumbo marshmallow’ struck her temple, near her eye.  ‘I instantly felt my head just starting to throb, blood poured down my face,’ Ms. Contreras, a 21 year old student said.  A bystander who used her face mask to help stop the bleeding was also struck.  ‘There were so many rubber bullets being fired, I wanted to think how to protect my eyes,’ said Peter di Donato, 75, a veteran of anti-Vietnam War protests, who was hit in the leg.  Derrick Sanderlin, 29, a community organizer, approached a line of police officers to ask them to stop.  But he got hit too – in the groin – and had to have emergency surgery.

He said his doctors have told him he may not be able to have children as a result of the injury.  Eleven people were taken to the hospital over a four day period after being struck with police-fired beanbag rounds – small fabric pillows filled with lead and fired from shotguns – including Justin Howell, 20 a college student who sustained a skull fracture and brain damage.  Brad Levi Ayala 16, a student who stopped to watch a peaceful protest as he was headed home from his job at a sandwich shop, was shot in the forehead with a beanbag round, an incident that was captured on video and spread widely online.  He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent seven hours of surgery…Doctors told the family the lead filled bag had dented the skull into the brain, damaging the pre-frontal cortex, according to Edwin Sanchez, his brother….  Adam Keup said an officer, without warning, shot him in the eye with a paintball gun loaded with a ball of pepper spray at a protest in Omaha in late May.  Mr. Keup, 23, said doctors told him he would have permanent eye damage and might never be able to see again…In recent years, police have stocked up on more than just paintball guns:  They have added more firepower and military gear, especially in larger cities, where they use federal grant money to buy armored cars and other tactical gear.”

On June 7, the Sunday Review of The New York Times published a major article written by Jamelle Bouie: “Rioting police officers have driven vehicles into crowds, reproducing the assault that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottsville, Va., in 2017.  They have surrounded a car, smashed the windows, tazed the occupants and dragged them out onto the ground.  Clad in paramilitary gear, they have attacked elderly bystanders, pepper-sprayed cooperative protesters and shot ‘nonlethal’ rounds directly at reporters, causing serious injuries.  In Austin, Texas a 20 year old man is in critical condition after being shot in the head with a ‘less-lethal’ round.  Across the country, rioting police officers are using tear gas in quantities that threaten the health and safety of demonstrators, especially in the midst of a respiratory disease pandemic.  None of this quells disorder.  Everything from the militaristic posture to the attacks themselves does more to inflame and agitate protesters than it does to calm the situation and bring order to the streets.  In effect, rioting police officers have done as much to stoke unrest and destabilize the situation as those responsible for damaged buildings and burning cars.  But where rioting protesters can be held to account for destruction and violence, rioting officers have the imprimatur of the state.  What we’ve seen from rioting police officers, in other words is an assertion of power and impunity.  In the face of mass anger over police brutality, they’ve effectively said ‘So What?’”

Although even some among the peaceful protesters deplored the “looting and burning” that sometimes followed the massive peaceful protests, it is probable that without that emphatic expression of rage which culminated in the firebombing of the empty police station in Minneapolis which employed the police murderer of George Floyd, no real impact would be made on the established order and vested interests it represents, and the point may have been reached where people recognize that peaceful protest cannot change the violence of PoliceState USA, and that an actual state of war exists, or is inescapably imminent.  It is also possible that some of the “looting and burning” may have been incited by “agents provocateurs,” intent on discrediting the protesters, and alarming the “establishment.”  Finally, it may have been precisely those chaotic expressions of rage driven to violence that alerted the “established order” that its interests might be threatened, and possibly, ultimately, even their lives.  The more intelligent of the one percent may have recognized the actual threat of revolution.

The savage murder of George Floyd exposes the United States’ brazen violation of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every Resolution defending human dignity that has been adopted by the United Nations throughout its 75 years of existence, the United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights.  On Sunday, June 7, The New York Times,  page 21 headlined:  “In Turmoil at Home, U.S. Loses Moral Authority Overseas”:  “Chinese officials are using the crises in the United States as ammunition in their rhetorical battles against American diplomats.  After Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman, expressed concern over Hong Kong, writing on Twitter that “freedom loving people must stand with the rule of law and hold to account the Chinese Communist Party,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing taunted her with Mr. Floyd’s final words:  ‘I can’t breathe’”

As the heinous murder of George Floyd violates everything the United Nations theoretically represents and defends, and the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has condemned the monstrous cruelty of Floyd’s death, it will be interesting and instructive to see how the United Nations responds to Floyd’s family and legal team’s urgent request for its intervention.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on “I Can’t Breathe, Please, Please!”

Facebook Surrounds Africa

By Manlio Dinucci

Many industries and service companies are failing or shrinking due to the lockdown and subsequent crisis. Instead, there are those who have gained from all this. Facebook, Google (YouTube owner), Microsoft, Apple and Amazon – writes The New York Times – “are aggressively placing new bets, as the coronavirus pandemic has made them nearessential services.” All these “Tech Giants” are from the United States.

Facebook – no longer called social network but “ecosystem”, which also includes WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger – has exceeded 3 billion monthly users. It is therefore no wonder that, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Facebook launches the project of one of the largest submarine cable networks, 2Africa: 37,000 km long (almost the maximum circumference of the Earth), it will surround the entire African continent, linking it north to Europe and east to the Middle East.

There will initially be 23 interconnected countries. Starting from Great Britain, the network will connect Portugal before starting its circle around Africa through Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan, Egypt. In the latter section, the network will be connected to Oman and Saudi Arabia. Then, across the Mediterranean, it will arrive in Italy and from here to France and Spain.

Source: the author

This large-capacity network – explains Facebook – will be “the pillar of a huge expansion of the Internet in Africa: eco-nomies flourish when there is an Internet widely accessible for businesses. The network will allow hundreds of millions of people to access broadband up to 5G. ” This, in summary, the official motivation of the project. One fact is enough to cast doubt on it: in sub-Saharan Africa about 600 million people, equivalent to more than half the population, do not have access to electricity.

What will the broadband network be used for? African elites, who represent the interests of multinationals in the continent, will be more closely connected to their parent companies.

The network will also serve other purposes. Two years ago, in May 2018, Facebook established a partnership with the Atlantic Council, an influential Washington-based “non-partisan organization” that “galvanizes US leadership and engagement in the world. together with allies”. The specific purpose of the partnership is to guarantee “the correct use of Facebook in elections around the world, monitoring disinformation and foreign interference, helping to educate citizens and civil society”.

What is the reliability of the Atlantic Council, particularly active in Africa, can be deduced from the official list of donors that finance it: the Pentagon and NATO, Lockheed Martin and other war industries (including the Italian Leonardo), ExxonMobil and other multinationals, the Bank of America and other financial groups, the Rockefeller and Soros foundations.

The network, which will connect 16 African countries to 5 European NATO allies under US command and to 2 US allies in the Middle East, can play a role not only in economic terms, but also in political and strategic ones. The “Digital Forensic Research Lab” of the Atlantic Council will be able to communicate every day to African media and politicians which news is “fake” and which “true”. Facebook’s personal information and tracking systems can be used to control and target opposition movements. Broadband, even in 5G, can be used by US and other special forces in their operations in Africa.

In announcing the project, Facebook stresses that Africa is “the least connected continent” and that the problem will be solved by its 37,000 km of cables. They can be used, however, as a modern version of the old colonial chains.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Facebook Surrounds Africa

We should never underestimate the emotive importance of statues

The Paul Kruger statue in Pretoria has joined the list of defaced statues around the world. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

By: Shannon Ebrahim

  We should never underestimate the emotive importance of statues and what they mean in our society.

They are a reminder of the people our society considered great, people worthy of respect and looking up to. That is why we put them on pedestals and honour them in central places in our towns and cities, so future generations will pay tribute to them.

The problem is that in the US, the UK and South Africa there are numerous statues of men who were the opposite of great – they were the personification of evil. There are statues of men in the southern US who spent their lives fighting to keep African-Americans enslaved.

There are statues of men in the UK, like slave trader Edward Colston, who captured more than 100 000 African men, women and children, hoarded them in chains onto boats like cattle and sent them to the Americas to be slaves. One in four died on the way. Many of those who made it were either worked to death or at a minimum, were subjected to routine brutal whippings by their masters. Colston’s statue has now been pushed into the river.

There are statues of men in South Africa whose sole purpose was to entrench and uphold white supremacy and confine the majority black population to servitude. The statue of General Louis Botha, South Africa’s first colonial prime minister, towers over the entrance of Parliament. In addition to his legacy as the man who presided over the Union of South Africa, Botha’s legacy is also one of brute force that divided South Africa along racial lines and resulted in the dominance of one over another.

Paul Kruger, whose statue stands in Church Square in Pretoria, was the president of the Transvaal before the Boer War, and is remembered for many things, not least of which was that, as commandant-general, he led raids to procure slaves and he owned slaves.

The men may have been considered great by their constituencies in the past, but they do not reflect the values of our society today, and one has to ask whether they should be exalted as heroes, or perhaps their busts should rather be relegated to museums where students can learn from history. We should never try to erase the past or rewrite history, as it is from history that we learn the important lessons that prevent us from repeating the mistakes of the past.

For some, the statues of men who lived their lives perpetuating white supremacy may be abhorrent, but not something they consider worth tearing down a statue for. But what is more important to consider is how it makes the descendants of those victimised feel, who have had to live with the consequences of those legacies. How does a black man or woman feel walking past such a statue every day on their way to work, knowing that this particular figure played an instrumental role in the oppression and servitude of their people? Statues are supposed to fill us with inspiration and admiration, not disgust and anger.

Most Americans are only a few generations away from slavery, which was abolished in the US in 1865. Slavery is the elephant that sits at the centre of our collective history, and today we are living with its consequences. We need to acknowledge its significance to American and African history, and not continue to glorify those who were responsible for its perpetuation, and who fought for its continuation.

The fact that the US is haunted by systemic racism makes the reminders of the infamous former slave traders and Confederate generals even harder to bear. The fact that today black men are 5.8 times more likely than their white counterparts to be incarcerated, and most African-American men live in fear of dying at the hands of a white police officer, makes the emotive symbols of such statues intolerable.

When we see people spray painting “Black Lives Matter” on these symbols of the past, it is not because they are anarchists or terrorists as US President Donald Trump has made them out to be. They are reacting to the discrimination they experience in their communities as a result of the racism such men fought to uphold throughout their lifetimes. Why should such symbols be tolerated when the fight to overcome such racism is still on, when there is a long way to go to ensure that a white cop no longer thinks it is acceptable to kill a black man by kneeling on his neck?

Who are the dark figures of American history who are being dumped at the bottom of rivers, or hacked off their pedestals? One of the most prominent is Robert E Lee, who would have been a fine contemporary of Paul Kruger. He was the commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He fought the war to keep African-Americans enslaved, and he opposed racial equality for African-Americans up until his death in 1870. Lee was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defence of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they were black.

Historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor wrote a portrait of Lee, and recounted that when two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “lay it on well”. Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, General Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done”.

Pryor said: “Lee’s cruelty as a slave master was not confined to physical punishment. By 1860 he had broken up every family but one on his estate by hiring them off to other plantations. The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery.”

This is the man that white supremacists and others in the US want to remain displayed in statues across Virginia and elsewhere. But the new fight to push back against systemic racism in the US is seeing America’s youth protest against such statues.

Protesters removed a statue of Lee from the Robert E Lee high school in Montgomery. The city played a major role in the civil rights movement, and is a majority black city which had a school named after Lee up until a week ago.

An 18m statue of Lee on a horse stands in Richmond, Virginia – the old Confederate capital. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is trying to put it in storage, but a judge issued a temporary injunction blocking its removal. Northam is confident he will succeed. The statue is the largest of five Confederate monuments on Monument Ave. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said last week that he would introduce ordinances to remove the statues next month.

America is finally waking up, and many are no longer prepared to look the other way. This is a moment where momentum is building to change direction, and this necessitates refusing to glorify those who were an affront to humanity.

Posted in Campaigns, Politics, UKComments Off on We should never underestimate the emotive importance of statues

Fighting Afrophobia, patriarchy and racism in South Africa

Demonstrators take part in a protest outside Parliament in Cape Town against the killing of George Floyd in the United States and Collins Khosa, pictured on the poster, in Alexandra Township near Johannesburg. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/AP

By: Precious Banda  

The killing of George Floyd in the US by the American racist police touched every corner of the world.

Media reports and social media shared the rage we all felt; we all united behind the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Black people from different countries demonstrated their anger.

Social media in Africa and South Africa was not left behind; political organisations spoke out and condemned the killing of Floyd in that brutal manner.

Coincidentally, South Africa had just lost Collins Khosa, who had died at the hands of soldiers.

Black people elsewhere have a similar past of oppression and subjugation. I wondered why here in South Africa there was so much outrage and protests for Floyd and so little for Khosa.

This was an indictment on us as black people with our inherited prejudiced classism also perpetuated by ourselves.

If black lives matter, Floyd matters as much as Khosa matters.

South Africa has successfully built a bad name for itself in Africa for being known to look down on other African nationalities. This perception is cemented by the continuous xenophobic attacks that are usually spin doctored and called all sorts of names to justify them. It is in fact not only xenophobia but also racist and Afrophobic.

With the past xenophobic attacks and the stigmatisation and criminalisation of African foreign nationals, my conscience revolts when I attempt to proudly say #BlackLivesMatter. If black lives really matter, Afrophobia has to fall.

Again this year, we learnt of how racism manifests in our ally China. Black people who are in China receive the harshest conditions.

If black lives matter, we must be able to tell the Chinese the truth and to freely condemn their communist capitalism which is hidden in the name of a progressive nation whom we share trenches with in the struggle against the historical imperialist states.

While we were busy with lectures and programmes on black lives matter and our fight against racism, we received the news of the killing of Naledi Pangindawo from Mossel Bay.

My observation is that whenever there is an outrage for the killing of women and children, we stand alone as women especially young women.

Lastly, black lives will really matter the day we give the displaced majority back their land. It will matter the day we change the structure of the economy as it concerns the poor majority. It will matter the day we develop the skills of the majority and decolonise education.

Black lives will matter when we change the social position of the poor majority.

Black lives matter when we commit to fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment. Black lives matter when people are treated with dignity.

And when hunger and homelessness are fought against, black lives matter when we fight corruption and we don’t steal from the people. Indeed, black lives should matter!

* Banda is the national convenor of the ANCWL YWD and a member of the YCLSA national committee.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Fighting Afrophobia, patriarchy and racism in South Africa

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