How U.S. evangelicals helped homophobia flourish in Africa

March 29th, 2023


Members of the transgender and LGBTQ community light candles as they pay tribute to victims of hate crimes in Uganda and all over the world, in Kampala, Uganda, on Nov. 23, 2019. IMAGE/SUMY SADRUNI/AFP via Getty Images

Anti-gay sentiment had previously existed on the continent, but white American religious groups have given it a boost.

Uganda’s parliament is set to debate a new anti-gay bill next week, as the country’s president called for a “medical opinion” on the deviancy of homosexuals. The bill, besides criminalizing homosexuality, also criminalizes the “promotion” and “abetting” of homosexuality and follows a January parliamentary investigation into an alleged promotion of homosexuality in schools. It’s no surprise, given how rampant anti-gay sentiment is in the country.

In September, I came across a video that was going viral on Twitter in Uganda. In the video, 26-year-old Elisha Mukisa, who is reported to have been previously imprisoned on defilement charges, speaks for a little over eight minutes detailing how he was lured as a minor into acting in gay porn by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG)—a nongovernmental organization (NGO) based in Kampala working to support and defend LGBTQ+ persons in the country.

The video caught my attention for several reasons. The first was the anti-gay rhetoric it catalyzed in the following days and the corresponding moral panic. In the ensuing conversation on social media, SMUG was defined as a threat to children that parents had to watch out for. One Twitter user, @Ashernamanya, wrote: “Uganda must be for God Almighty not for Bum lickers the Gays. SMUG an NGO is recruiting young children into Homosexuality and acting the gay. They need to be arrested.”

The previous month, the Ugandan government had shut down the organization. The country’s NGO board released a statement after the announcement, claiming that SMUG’s registration was rejected for being “undesirable.” Mukisa alleged in this video that the shutdown was because of evidence he had provided to the NGO board.

The second reason the video kindled my interest was that it added to the growing list of instances of mass media being weaponized in Uganda to propagate the “ex-gay” narrative, in which a person claims to have been “lured” and “recruited” into homosexuality. It was also organized by the Family Life Network’s Stephen Langa, who in March 2009 put together a similar seminar called “Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda.” The language and presentation of luring and recruitment (as though it were a job listing) were not, in fact, novel to my ears, and it is a phenomenon I have seen across African news media.

It has deep links to white evangelical Christianity and is an export of a made-in-the-USA movement and ideology that is polarizing African countries and harming and endangering LGBTQ+ people.

While it looked innovative, it was not the first time such a press conference was creatively planned to spark panic and parade out a person claiming to be ex-gay. It was also not peculiar to Uganda; it is a method that was and continues to be used in both puritanical and evangelical Christianity in countries from Ghana to Kenya and Nigeria.

From the days of European colonialism, when sodomy warranted the death penalty, the church has been the face of the anti-LGBTQ+ movement and has deployed language and framing consistent with present-day ex-gay movements.

The rhetoric relies on a “prodigal son” framing that checks out with the Bible, in which gay people are only valid as long as they turn away from their sexuality. (In the Bible story, the prodigal son’s welcome was contingent on his return in the same way the evangelical church would only welcome gay people on account of their conversion.)

When the pro-conversion therapy Christian group Exodus International put Yvette Cantu Schneider and other ex-gay spokespeople on TV in the 2000s to talk about being formerly gay, it was because of such beliefs. Schneider herself wrote on Instagram that a straight white male leadership team handpicked her. (Exodus International ceased operating in 2013.)

The post reads in part: “They were looking for a spokesperson who had been gay. And I was told, ‘you’re gonna be great because you’re young, you have the Hispanic last name, and you don’t look gay.’”

Foreign Policy for more

Anti-colonial labour internationalisms: The Saharawi and Palestinian liberation struggles

March 29th, 2023


Based on an interview with Mustafa Mohamed Lamin al-Kattab, representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguía el Hamra and Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) for the Mashriq (Near East). Original publication in ENXERGAR, nº5, of Fundación Moncho Reboiras, Galicia in the Spanish State, March 2023.

“…We live in a world of hypocrisy. We need to think, imagine a new world.
…We need to build new concepts of struggle for the new generation. Class struggle. Liberation. Justice.
…We need to fight, we need to solidarize, we need to meet, we need to find the relations between our struggles and fight in the best way so that they don’t corner us.”

As we enter the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut, Lebanon, the phantoms of the 1982 Israeli-backed Phalangist massacre greet the visitor in the “cemetery of martyrs.” Beyond, we notice the jumbled wires of stolen electricity, mangled, crisscrossing, and cutting the skyline. Below, human bodies, generations of family persevering in their hope to return, are also mangled, one on top of the other in jungles of concrete.

Tindouf’s Saharan desert topography in southwest Algeria could not be more different, even if to the naked eye, both the Saharawi and Palestinian refugee camps seem as worlds without horizons. The youth, precarious, jobless, hopeless, emigrating out of desperation, endure the suffocation of imperial powers that deny both peoples their right to self-determination. This makes it all the more tragic that the dominant factions of the Palestinian national movement are pitted against the “Palestinians of the Maghreb,” one of the most silenced liberation movements in the world, that of the Saharawi people.

Balfour and Madrid Once Again

As mediatic eyes center on Ukrainian refugees, the plight of the Saharawi and Palestinian refugees is obfuscated: the scandalous double standards of the Western powers on full display. Western Sahara is a key point for Western colonization and imperialism in the Maghreb and on the African continent, an important geopolitical pawn in the current conflicts promoted by the US and NATO. While decrying the illegality of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, European governments, including the Spanish one, are bowing down to their North American masters in Palestine and the Sahara.

The Spanish government’s 2022 decision to support Moroccan claims in the Sahara is “another 1975 Madrid Agreement” for the Saharawis. Equally, the US decision in 2020 to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for normalizing its relations with Israel is “another 1917 Balfour Declaration” and “a new 1975” for Palestinians and Saharawis. Just as other colonized territories achieved some nominal form of independence under the guise of the bourgeois nation-state, Palestinians and Saharawis continue to endure dispossession and colonization. The “right of return” is their central claim.

Anti-Colonial Internationalisms and Ideological Ruptures

The US decision highlights the similarity between the reactionary regional forces that both struggles continue to face, some 45 years after George Habash, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), visited the refugee camps in Tindouf in the 1980s. Habash told the youth of the Saharawi People’s Liberation Army, “when you fought the reactionary monarchy in Morocco, you also fought the enemies of the Palestinian Revolution”; he denounced King Hasan II’s betrayal in accepting the 1978 Camp David Accords that normalized the relationship between Egypt and Israel; he pointed to the close alliance of Morocco with the United States, which militarily supports the colonization of both peoples; he denounced the Moroccan monarchy as a key pillar in the Maghreb along with the Jordanian and Saudi monarchies, as crucial material and ideological drivers of Western imperialism and Zionist colonization. Identifying the common enemies that thwart the self-determination of their peoples was the basis of the solidarity built between the leaders of the POLISARIO and the PFLP, Al-Ouali Mustafa Sayed and G. Habash respectively.

While the POLISARIO and PFLP do not have the same ideological roots, both drew inspiration from pan-Arab liberation movements centered in Beirut and Damascus, promoting anti-imperialist conceptions of ‘national liberation’. Founded in 1973, after the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the POLISARIO sought to avoid the mistakes that led to the fragmentation of the Palestinian National Movement, by enshrining in its constitution in exile the principle of unity as the central maxim in the liberation struggle, not only internal unity but pan-Arab and African unity against colonial domination. The same principle that underpins the iconography of the PFLP flag, symbolizing the ‘liberation of Palestine, runs through the Arab world’. For Habash, breaking the yoke of colonial oppression requires the unity of the internationalist working class. When al-Ouali wanted to meet with Habash, Habash is said to have given him only 20 minutes. However, the meeting lasted four hours and since then an enduring friendship and commitment has been sustained between the two movements.

The Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara changed the terms of the struggle from one explicitly against European colonization into an inter-Arab conflict. From the era of the Egypt of Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who “despite his errors” was a central point of reference for pan-Arab unity, the Camp David Accords gave way to the Egypt of Anwar Sadat, who normalized the vision of a Greater Israel, just as the 1975 Agreements and the occupation sought to build a Greater Morocco. Both regimes, which share an expansionist vision (as stated in their constitution/basic law), seek to redraw the territorial limits of their nation-state through military occupations. The Arab world was divided between those who fell into the pro-imperialist Western camp and supported the Accords and those who opposed it. The contradictions and divisions necessary to sustain regional geopolitical instability and neocolonial domination were ensured by the outgoing European powers, materially fueled by Saudi petrodollars that managed to attract most Arab regimes into their sphere of influence, except the governments of Algeria, Libya, Syria, among others.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, American and Western ideological propaganda altered international politics by changing the venues and methods of political struggle. It changed the permissible forms of struggle, “peaceful not associated with violence,” for national liberation movements. The POLISARIO and the PLO, who upheld the right to armed struggle, were forced to adopt a defensive posture: “We are not terrorists, we are simply fighting for our liberation. We are building justice.”

Alternatives International for more

The “October surprise”: throwing history off course

March 29th, 2023


Former US presidents Ronald Reagan (left) and Jimmy Carter with Mrs. Reagan IMAGE/The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library – Public Domain

The “October surprise” worked its way into the political jargon in 1980 to describe the Carter administration’s efforts to obtain the release of 52 American hostages in Iran.  President Jimmy Carter didn’t know, however, that his opponent’s campaign was planning its own “October surprise”—to elect Ronald Reagan by ensuring that the hostages would be held until after the election.  

An earlier “October surprise” was designed by the Nixon campaign in 1968.  This was a clandestine effort to stymie the Paris peace talks to make sure that the Johnson administration could not secure a cease-fire in Vietnam to boost the campaign of Hubert H. Humphrey.  More recently, there was FBI director James Comey’s “October surprise” 10 days before the 2016 election, resurrecting Hillary Clinton’s email mess, which was probably the key nail in her electoral coffin.  

Over the years, the term “October surprise” has been applied to any unexpected event on the eve of an election that could have consequences for one campaign or another.  The indictment of former secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger only weeks before the 1992 election for his role in Iran-Contra revived the debate over President George H.W. Bush’s participation and knowledge of the scandal.  The full story of Bush’s involvement has never surfaced, primarily because his attorney general, William Barr, orchestrated pardons for key Iran-Contra players.  Bush lost his bid to be reelected, and the “October surprise” may have been a contributing factor.

Only days before the 2000 election, the news of George W. Bush’s previous arrest for drunk driving was referred to as an “October surprise,” but his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, ignored the issue and it faded away from the electoral debate and discussion.  In 2016, the videotape of Donald Trump’s modus operandi for sexually assaulting women was thought to be an “October surprise.”  It seemed to have little impact, however, as Trump has more methods of escape than Houdini.

The plans for an “October surprise” in 1968 and 1980 stand alone because they involved unwarranted interference in U.S. foreign policy—violations of the Logan Act of 1799.  This interference involved political manipulators who had no concern for the lives that would be lost if the Paris peace talks failed or for the lives of the 52 hostages who were being held.  As one of Nixon’s leading biographers, John Farrell, wrote, Nixon’s effort to undermine the peace process was “worse than anything he did in Watergate.”  (The United States was prepared to cease the bombing of North Vietnam, but on at the eve of the 1968 election, South Vietnam suddenly walked away from the peace talks in Paris.)

The chicanery of the Nixon and Reagan campaigns was both illegal and immoral.  No one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, but it remains on the statute books.  It calls for a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for one year, or both, for Americans who claim to represent the United States without the consent of the State Department.  H.R. Haldeman and William Casey were trying to change the course of history without concern for American lives that might be lost on the Vietnamese battlefield or in Iran’s prisons.  The tragedy regarding Iran is particularly compelling because Carter made so many attempts to free the hostages without regard for the domestic political consequences.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker has written authoritatively about both the Vietnam and Iran interventions, identifying H.R. Haldeman and John Connally as the key operatives in the covert actions.  Unfortunately, he downplays the role of William Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager, whose finger prints were all over the Iran-Contra operation as well as the 1980 “October surprise.”  Casey was the central figure in the effort to prevent any release of the hostages from their captivity in Tehran, and his reward was to be named director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Former Texas governor John Connally reported to Casey, and he became secretary of the treasury.  Casey actually wanted to be secretary of state, but Nancy Reagan  convinced her husband that Casey didn’t look or speak or dress like a secretary of state.

Baker’s article omits any discussion of Casey’s participation in an October 1968 meeting in Paris that included a shadowy expatriate Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar; several Israeli intermediaries; and a CIA officer, who discussed providing weapons and money for delaying release of the hostages.  Casey actually believed that Ghorbanifar was an Israeli Mossad agent.

The author of an authorized biography of Casey, Joseph Persico, wrote that Casey was the “commanding presence” at the meeting. Casey, who we referred to at CIA as the “great white case officer,” even had a contingency plan in case Carter got the early release of the hostages.  He was planning radio and television commercials that would portray any early release as a “cynical manipulation of human lives for political advantage.” Reagan’s campaign staff openly referred to this possible development as the “October surprise.”

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Women’s rights, human rights

March 28th, 2023

THE EDITORS (Against the Current)

Afghanistan. Iran. Poland. El Salvador and Nicaragua. Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi…

These are among the countries and states where ruling authorities take it upon themselves — in a variety of ways along a broad repressive spectrum — to curtail, suppress or outright nullify women’s rights if not their basic personhood. The ways and means of these attacks of course vary widely.

They range from legal and official discrimination, to gendered violence perpetrated with impunity, to rape as a weapon as in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Ethiopian state’s war in Tigray, and more. What’s common to each and every case is that degrading women’s rights — along with those of queer and non-binary people — is central to reactionary forces’ assaults on all human rights.

As for the United States itself, where the battles over abortion and gender are inextricably part of the swirling unresolved political crisis and potential Constitutional meltdown, we’ll also look briefly here at some too little-covered facts of how U.S. policies impact the rights and lives of women outside this country’s borders.

In Iran, the regime is in open warfare against the pop­ulation. The response to the murder of Mahsa (Jina) Amini has become an uprising against the entire apparatus of the “Islamic Republic.” Dictating what women choose to wear is basic to the drive for complete social control of what everyone, especially youth, are allowed to do or dream.

“Women. Life. Freedom!” is a women-led revolution that now engages the struggles of Iran’s youth, Kurdish people and strategic sectors of the working class. Will it triumph? Right now there’s no way to know. What we can say, even though the murderous brutality of the Iranian theocracy and Revolutionary Guards knows no limits, is that Iran will not return to society’s former half-voluntary compliance with the dictatorship.

In Afghanistan, the most vicious elements of the Taliban — who exercise decisive veto power over the regime —seek to nullify the very personhood of women. Deprived of access to university and even high school education, barred from employment in public service or by international aid organizations, they are left dependent or destitute. Among the results this winter are threatened deaths by starvation or freezing of hundreds of thousands of Afghans whom assistance can no longer reach.

This heartbreak and disaster are fairly well-covered in mainstream media. What’s too easily forgotten, so all the more important to recall here, is that “liberation” of Afghan women served as a pretext for the U.S. and allied invasion following the 9/11 2001 attacks — after imperialist interventions and rivalries from the 1980s on had already brought Afghanistan to the edge of catastrophe.

The delusion of liberating women — or anyone else — in Afghanistan from above and from outside played no small part in the development of the present tragedy.

In Ukraine, not only are rape as well as mass murders of civilians committed by Russian invading forces. Vladimir Putin himself calls Moscow’s war a defense of “traditional values” against such perversions as queer rights and the mythical “dozens of genders” supposedly recognized in the West. Putin’s ultra-reactionary ravings are the natural accom­paniment to the denial of Ukraine’s right to exist, with the genocidal implications of that doctrine. The invaders’ rape and massacre perpetrated against the people of Ukraine feed back into the savage escalation of the already intense repression of LGBT people within Russia.

Closer to Home

If the examples of Iran, Afghanistan and Russian atrocities in Ukraine are the most immediately visible cases of the extinction of women’s rights and the consequences, there are plenty of instances closer to our own situation. The point is not to identify the “worst” case — as such comparisons are essentially meaningless — but to examine some common features.

Take Poland, in the heart of Europe: Extreme restrictions on abortion access have been imposed by the rightwing “Law and Justice” party in alliance with the Catholic church. These measures are accompanied — not coincidentally — by severe weakening of the power of the judiciary to limit anti-democratic legislative extremism. That’s also occurred in Hungary’s self-declared “illiberal democracy” and is now well underway in the Israeli state.

Two-thirds of Polish citizens support abortion rights – very similar to the percentage in the United States. Women-led protests have taken to the streets in large numbers in Warsaw and other cities and towns, but so far failed to overturn the government’s measures.

The full toll in women’s deaths and permanent injuries remains unknown. Since 2021 at least two women in publicized cases, Anieszka T. and Izabela Sajbor, died after abortion care was denied even though the fetuses were either unviable or already dead.

In Ireland, popular revulsion over the 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied a medically essential abortion until it was too late, led to striking the anti-abortion provision from the country’s Constitution.

In Israel, tens of thousands are taking to the streets weekly against the ultra-racist governing coalition’s move to strip the powers of the Supreme Court. Women’s and queer rights are relatively well-entrenched in Israel — for Jewish citizens — and less likely to be immediately on the chopping block.

The first casualties in this case are the already-vanishing shreds of court protection for Palestinians in the occupied territories, and the (limited) civil rights of Arab citizens including their parties’ ability to run in IsraeIi elections (which the Supreme Court has reinstated by overruling bans imposed by parliamentary decrees). There are elements in the “religious Zionism” bloc, however, for whom gender and especially queer rights are blasphemy and ultimate targets for extinction under the “Jewish state.”

Central America is a particularly gruesome arena in the women’s health battleground. The new government of president Xiaomara Castro in Honduras promised to loosen the country’s deadly abortion ban, but hasn’t yet succeeded. The situations in Nicaragua and El Salvador are grim: When leftwing governments were in power (the Sandinistas in 1980s Nicaragua, the FMLN party elected in El Salvador in the ’90s after the civil war), they failed to take anti-abortion laws off the books.

Nicaragua today is ruled by the rightwing presidentialist dictatorship of Daniel Ortega (see “Repression Continues to Grow in Nicargua” by William I. Robinson, ATC 222) and El Salvador by the reactionary government of Nayib Bukele. Women in El Salvador who suffer miscarriages are subject to prosecution and up to 30-year prison terms, provoking widespread outrage. Not coincidentally, under this repressive regime, water protectors are also being prosecuted (see page 2 of this issue).

The Not-“100% American” Scene

In our own partially democratic country called the United States of America, a woman’s right to control her own body is constrained legally by the state she lives in, practically by her county of residence — where abortion care may be unavailable even if legal — and financially by her capacity to travel if she needs to gain access beyond state lines.

Against the Current for more

Congressional inaction preserves U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico

March 28th, 2023


“Puerto Rico deserves better” IMAGE/Shutterstock

The 118th [US] Congress has opted for colonialism over democracy in Puerto Rico.

Congressional leaders have sidelined one of the more promising efforts to end U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico.

Following months of progress on a landmark bill that would enable the people of Puerto Rico to vote on a post-territorial status for their nation, the newly seated Congress has dropped the issue. At a Senate committee hearing last month, U.S. senators paid little attention to repeated calls by Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi to move forward with the legislation and end Puerto Rico’s status as a territory of the United States.

“For far too long, the U.S. Senate has looked the other way to avoid righting the colonial nature of Puerto Rico’s status,” Pierluisi said in a written statement to the committee.

For nearly 125 years, Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States. Under the Insular Cases, a series of Supreme Court cases from the early twentieth century, Puerto Rico and other U.S. island territories are classified as “unincorporated” territories of the United States. The Supreme Court’s framework enables the United States to rule the territories as colonies and deprive their residents of equal rights.

The people of Puerto Rico, who were granted U.S. citizenship by Congress in the early twentieth century, lack many of the same rights as U.S. citizens living in the states. Islanders do not have full voting representation in Congress. They cannot vote in presidential elections, despite the fact that the president can send them into war. They pay taxes that fund social programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, but they receive fewer benefits. Essentially, the people of Puerto Rico are treated as second-class citizens.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress is not required to include Puerto Rico in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which provides benefits to poor elderly Americans and poor Americans with disabilities. Although Congress has extended the program to some U.S. territories, it has excluded Puerto Rico and other territories. Consequently, Puerto Ricans can receive SSI benefits while they are living in the states but not while they are living in Puerto Rico.

“If you believe in equality, you cannot expect the American citizens in Puerto Rico to consent to discrimination and unequal treatment,” Pierluisi said.

Many Puerto Ricans view the island’s territorial status as a reason for their unequal treatment, but they disagree over what to do about it. Some islanders want Puerto Rico to declare its independence from the United States. Others hope that Puerto Rico will join the United States as the 51st state. Many desire some kind of middle ground that would preserve U.S. citizenship while establishing autonomy for a Puerto Rican nation.

The Puerto Rican government has held several non-binding plebiscites on the nation’s status, but each one has been mired in controversy, making the results open to interpretation. The last plebiscite, held in November 2020, resulted in 52 percent of voters opting for statehood, but only a slight majority of registered voters cast ballots.

Historically, Congress has shown little interest in decolonizing Puerto Rico. Some officials have strongly criticized U.S. colonial control of the island nation, but they have introduced opposing bills, with some geared toward independence and others focused on statehood.

Over the past year, a growing number of Democratic politicians have grown increasingly convinced of the need to change the colonial status quo. Starting from this common ground, they have created a compromise bill, the Puerto Rico Status Act, that would enable the people of Puerto Rico to choose among three options: independence, statehood, or a compact of free association with the United States.

Foreign Policy In Focus for more

The betrayers of Julian Assange John Pilger March 16, 2023

March 28th, 2023


Julian Assange

I have known Julian Assange since I first interviewed him in London in 2010. I immediately liked his dry, dark sense of humour, often dispensed with an infectious giggle. He is a proud outsider: sharp and thoughtful. We have become friends, and I have sat in many courtrooms listening to the tribunes of the state try to silence him and his moral revolution in journalism.

My own high point was when a judge in the Royal Courts of Justice leaned across his bench and growled at me: “You are just a peripatetic Australian like Assange”. My name was on a list of volunteers to stand bail for Julian, and this judge spotted me as the one who had reported his role in the notorious case of the expelled Chagos Islanders. Unintentionally, he delivered me a compliment.

I saw Julian in Belmarsh not long ago. We talked about books and the oppressive idiocy of the prison: the happy-clappy slogans on the walls, the petty punishments; they still won’t let him use the gym. He must exercise alone in a cage-like area where there is sign that warns about keeping off the grass. But there is no grass. We laughed; for a brief moment, some things didn’t seem too bad.

The laughter is a shield, of course. When the prison guards began to jangle their keys, as they like to do, indicating our time was up, he fell quiet. As I left the room he held his fist high and clenched as he always does. He is the embodiment of courage.

Those who are the antithesis of Julian: in whom courage is unheard of, along with principle and honour, stand between him and freedom. I am not referring to the Mafia regime in Washington whose pursuit of a good man is meant as a warning to us all, but rather to those who still claim to run a just democracy in Australia.

Anthony Albanese was mouthing his favourite platitude, “enough is enough” long before he was elected prime minister of Australia last year. He gave many of us precious hope, including Julian’s family. As prime minister he added weasel words about “not sympathising” with what Julian had done. Apparently we had to understand his need to cover his appropriated posteria in case Washington called him to order.

We knew it would take exceptional political if not moral courage for Albanese to stand up in the Australian Parliament — the same Parliament that will disport itself before Joe Biden in May — and say:

“As Prime Minister, it is my government’s responsibility to bring home an Australian citizen who is clearly the victim of a great, vindictive injustice: a man who has been persecuted for the kind of journalism that is a true public service, a man who has not lied, or deceived — like so many of his counterfeit in the media, but has told people the truth about how the world is run.

“I call on the United States,” a courageous and moral Prime Minister Albanese might say, “to withdraw its extradition application: to end the malign farce that has stained Britain’s once admired courts of justice and to allow the release of Julian Assange unconditionally to his family. For Julian to remain in his cell at Belmarsh is an act of torture, as the United Nations Rapporteur has called it. It is how a dictatorship behaves”.

Green Left for more

“No legal prescription”: How trans women in Cameroon are accessing hormones

March 27th, 2023


“Image description: An illustration of the Cameroonian flag with a stethoscope in the first column against a green background, the medical snake symbol atop of which is the trans equality sign in the second red column, and a syringe in the last yellow column.” IMAGE/Raldie Young for Minority Africa

Faced with transphobia in the country’s healthcare system, trans women in Cameroon looked across Africa for solutions to access Hormone Replacement Therapy. An informal network is adopting these interventions.

When she was 21 years old, Chanelle Kouankep, a Cameroonian trans woman, was sent away from home by her father. Kouankep was forced to move in with a friend in an uncompleted wooden house, but she describes the experience as the price she had to pay for her liberty. 

Today, after over ten failed suicide attempts, Kouankep, now 26, serves as president of an independent network Réseau Indépendant TransAfricain (RITA), and heads TRANSAMICAL in Yaoundé, where she fights for the rights of trans people in Cameroon, battling for access to adequate health care and safe Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). 

“I receive complaints from members of the trans community every single day,” Kouankep tells Minority Africa. “What they go through makes them even question their existence on earth.” 

Kouankep, like many other trans people in Cameroon, has created an informal network and is now adopting approaches to Hormone Replacement Therapy which they have pulled from other countries across Western Africa, such as Benin and Ivory Coast.   

This involves them identifying select pharmacies which can provide hormones to trans people across Cameroon and equally communicating these networks to each other via social media. 

The problem? This is done clandestinely without any regulations or specific medical prescriptions. 

In recent years, there has been a growing clampdown on the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Cameroon, which continues to create an unfavorable environment for HRT, establishing the need for community-driven solutions such as Kouankep’s. 

Last year, Cameroon sentenced two transgender women to prison on charges of ‘attempted homosexuality,’ in a country where same-sex activities are illegal. 

“Hormone replacement therapy in Cameroon is not recognized,” says Kouankep. “We find hormones in pharmacies, but these are meant for women in menopause. It is [these] hormones that trans people take because this medication is similar to theirs.”

Miss Porshia, a 35-year-old trans woman in Cameroon and transgender human rights activist, admits that “having access to treatment as a trans person is not easy.”

She adds, “I have many times been [a] victim of stigmatization and discrimination based on my gender identity.”

Porshia is one of many trans people in Cameroon who are now getting their hormones through specific secret channels, whether through registered pharmacies or street drug vendors. In her case, she gets them from a friend who works in a pharmacy.

Minority Africa for more

Calls for a ‘green’ Ramadan revive Islam’s long tradition of sustainability and care for the planet

March 27th, 2023


Pilgrims at the Holy Shrine in Karbala, Iraq. Jasmin Merdan via Getty Images

For many Muslims breaking fast in mosques around the world this Ramadan, something will be missing: plastics.

The communal experience of iftars – the after-sunset meal that brings people of the faith together during the holy month starting on March 22, 2023 – often necessitates the use of utensils designed for mass events, such as plastic knives and forks, along with bottles of water.

But to encourage Muslims to be more mindful of the impact of Ramadan on the environment, mosques are increasingly dispensing of single-use items, with some banning the use of plastics altogether.

As a historian of Islam, I see this “greening” of Ramadan as entirely in keeping with the traditions of the faith, and in particular the observance of Ramadan.

The month – during which observant Muslims must abstain from even a sip of water or food from sun up to sun down – is a time for members of the faith to focus on purifying themselves as individuals against excess and materialism.

But in recent years, Muslim communities around the world have used the period to rally around themes of social awareness. And this includes understanding the perils of wastefulness and embracing the link between Ramadan and environmental consciousness.

The ban on plastics – a move encouraged by the Muslim Council of Britain as a way for Muslims “to be mindful of [God’s] creation and care for the environment” – is just one example.

Many other mosques and centers are discouraging large or extravagant evening meals altogether. The fear is such communal events generate food waste and overconsumption and often rely on nonbiodegradable materials for cutlery, plates and serving platters.

Quranic environmentalism

While the move toward environmental consciousness has gained traction in Muslim communities in recent years, the links between Islam and sustainability can be found in the faith’s foundational texts.

Scholars have long emphasized principles outlined in the Quran that highlight conservation, reverence for living creatures and the diversity of living things as a reminder of God’s creation.

The Quran repeatedly emphasizes the idea of “mizan,” a kind of cosmic and natural balance, and the role of humans as stewards and khalifa, or “viceregents,” on Earth – terms that also carry an environmental interpretation.

Recently, Islamic environmental activists have highlighted the numerous hadith – sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that provide guidance to followers of the faith – that emphasize that Muslims should avoid excess, respect resources and living things, and consume in moderation.

Although present from the outset of the faith, Islam’s ties to environmentalism received major visibility with the works of Iranian philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and a series of lectures he delivered at the University of Chicago in 1966. The lectures and a subsequent book, “Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man,” warned that humans had broken their relationship with nature and thus placed themselves in grave ecological danger.

Nasr blamed modern and Western science for being materialistic, utilitarian and inhuman, claiming it had destroyed traditional views of nature. Nasr argued that Islamic philosophy, metaphysics, scientific tradition, arts and literature emphasize the spiritual significance of nature. But he noted that numerous contemporary factors, such as mass rural-to-urban migration and poor and autocratic leadership, had prevented the Muslim world from realizing and implementing the Islamic view of the natural environment.

The Conversation for more

The cover-up

March 27th, 2023


President Joe Biden (right) meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Oval Office, March 3, 2023. PHOTO/Official White House photo by Adam Schultz

It’s been six weeks since I published a report, based on anonymous sourcing, naming President Joe Biden as the official who ordered the mysterious destruction last September of Nord Stream 2, a new $11-billion pipeline that was scheduled to double the volume of natural gas delivered from Russia to Germany. The story gained traction in Germany and Western Europe, but was subject to a near media blackout in the US. Two weeks ago, after a visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Washington, US and German intelligence agencies attempted to add to the blackout by feeding the New York Times and the German weekly Die Zeit false cover stories to counter the report that Biden and US operatives were responsible for the pipelines’ destruction.

Press aides for the White House and Central Intelligence Agency have consistently denied that America was responsible for exploding the pipelines, and those pro forma denials were more than enough for the White House press corps. There is no evidence that any reporter assigned there has yet to ask the White House press secretary whether Biden had done what any serious leader would do: formally “task” the American intelligence community to conduct a deep investigation, with all of its assets, and find out just who had done the deed in the Baltic Sea. According to a source within the intelligence community, the president has not done so, nor will he. Why not? Because he knows the answer.

Sarah Miller—an energy expert and an editor at Energy Intelligence, which publishes leading trade journals—explained to me in an interview why the pipeline story has been big news in Germany and Western Europe. “The destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines in September led to a further surge of natural gas prices that were already six or more times pre-crisis levels,” she said. “Nord Stream was blown up in late September. German gas imports peaked a month later, in October, at 10 times pre-crisis levels. Electricity prices across Europe were pulled up, and governments spent as much as 800 billion euros, by some estimates, shielding households and businesses from the impact. Gas prices, reflecting the mild winter in Europe, have now fallen back to roughly a quarter of the October peak, but they are still between two and three times pre-crisis levels and are more than three times current US rates. Over the last year, German and other European manufacturers closed their most energy-intensive operations, such as fertilizer and glass production, and it’s unclear when, if ever, those plants will reopen. Europe is scrambling to get solar and wind capacity in place, but it may not come soon enough to save large chunks of German industry.” (Miller writes a blog on Medium.)

In early March, President Biden hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington. The trip included only two public events—a brief pro forma exchange of compliments between Biden and Scholz before the White House press corps, with no questions allowed; and a CNN interview with Scholz by Fareed Zakaria, who did not touch on the pipeline allegations. The chancellor had flown to Washington with no members of the German press on board, no formal dinner scheduled, and the two world leaders were not slated to conduct a press conference, as routinely happens at such high-profile meetings. Instead, it was later reported that Biden and Scholz had an 80-minute meeting, with no aides present for much of the time. There have been no statements or written understandings made public since then by either government, but I was told by someone with access to diplomatic intelligence that there was a discussion of the pipeline exposé and, as a result, certain elements in the Central Intelligence Agency were asked to prepare a cover story in collaboration with German intelligence that would provide the American and German press with an alternative version for the destruction of Nord Stream 2. In the words of the intelligence community, the agency was “to pulse the system” in an effort to discount the claim that Biden had ordered the pipelines’ destruction.

Seymour Hersh for more

Weekend Edition

March 24th, 2023