This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 5 January 2015 contains four articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– Morocco: students battle police, regime
– Film: The Messengers
– Mexico: government’s political crisis persists
– Thinking about Trayvon Martin, an Egyptian artist looks at the world
Morocco: students battle police, regime
5 January 2015. A World to Win News Service. Law students at Mohammed I University in the north-eastern city of Oujda in Morocco beat back police and occupied the campus on 22 December. Morocco’s campuses have repeatedly been a battleground, especially since last April when radical students battled Islamists at the highly politicized and polarized university in Fes. At that time the Islamist government serving under the authority of king Mohammed VI declared the student movement a problem of “public safety”, authorized the police to enter university facilities (previously off-limits to them) and restricted campus demonstrations.
The Oudja students had gone on strike, set up literature tables and blocked access to a law school building in a protest against entrance exams and procedures that admit only 240 students to a masters programme out of the 900 who have completed the undergraduate courses. The police entered in force, charging in on numerous vehicles and trying to surround the open area occupied by the students, but appear to have been forced to retreat by youth who stood their ground. Despite encirclement of the campus by security forces the protests spilled over to several neighbourhoods in Oujda. (For footage of this pitched battle, see Dalil-rif.com)
This university has been known for radical anti-government opposition, and Education Minister Lahcen Daoudi denounced the students harshly. He claimed that their real political target was the regime, and that having armed themselves “with stones and onions to make tear gas bombs”, they had injured a hundred police. Students followed up with a sit-in at the university.
The authorities have singled out the organization Voie Democratique Basiste (Democratic Path – the Base) for attack in connection with these student protests. Many students allegedly associated with it have been arrested over recent years. Imprisoned student leaders, both those long awaiting trial and those already convicted, have launched repeated hunger strikes – often subsisting on sugar and water and sometimes not – for recognition of their rights as political prisoners and against prison abuses, and demanding accelerated trials and authorization to pursue their studies in jail.
One of them was Mustapa Meziani, who died last 15 October after a 72-day hunger strike in Fes. Abelhak Atalhaoui, in Essaouira prison, waged a long hunger strike in October. More recently, Aziz Elkhalfaoui, a leader of the 20 February Student Movement, arrested on 4 September 2014 and still awaiting trial in Marrakesh, went on hunger strike on 3 December. He was reportedly in a coma and hospitalized on 15 December. Redouane el Aaimi, arrested at the same time and also on hunger strike since 3 December in Marrakesh, is reportedly very ill.
A week later these two young men were joined in their action by two other prisoners, Aziz Elbour and Mohamed Elmouden, serving three-year sentences in the southern Morocco city of Tiznit.
The authorities have blacked out news of these prison protests in the media, and we have learned nothing more since late December.
Film: The Messengers
5 January 2015. A World to Win News Service. “Who are these people who left and never arrived” – who left their homes and families in Africa and disappeared trying to cross into Europe? Whether murdered by the Moroccan police and buried in the sand, swallowed by the sea after their inner tubes are punctured by bullets or their canoes rammed by patrol boats, or beaten to death by the Spanish Guardia Civil as they scramble up the wire fence that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, they have been devoured by the terrifying abyss that divides the world into the lands of plenty and the lands where much of that plenty comes from. For the makers of this documentary, Helen Crouzillat and Laetita Tura, these people are not so much migrants as messengers.
The number of those who died trying to cross that abyss is uncountable, but it is not acceptable that they be uncounted, that they remain without a name, buried in bulldozed pits in the sand or the dark, dark sea. No one, not even their closest family, knows what became of them. The filmmakers sought out their identities and their message in the now-empty shelters they built to survive in the sun, from fishermen and others who witnessed their death, and above all from survivors, who explain how they gathered and mourned – and still mourn – for fellow refugees with whom they had no language in common, whom they knew only as they ran for a train in the night and never saw clearly except for in the flash of a spotlight, whom they buried if they could, doing their best to put a name over the grave, or carried them carefully in memory.
One thing that makes the survivors’ testimony so powerful is that they know and we know that they are speaking for the disappeared. “We are people who have been turned into things,” one tells us. When human beings impose this kind of reign of terror on other human beings instead of allowing their talents to flourish, “this is not a world of construction – we are destroying each other.” “We exist, we are young and we want to work,” says another, a simple fact made piercing because many people want to ignore their existence and others are employed to bring their existence to an end.
The Guardia Civil hang up containers of water for birds as if mocking the thirsty people waiting in the desert scrub brush for their chance to leap into the abyss, the live or die moment that brought them here. The head of the Guardia explains, “No wall can stop a man who has come a thousand kilometres” – but if some are killed, that, too, is “a wall” – it tells everyone who might want to climb that wall, or swim around it, or venture across the sea that encloses Europe: this is what can happen to you. The Spanish police save some swimmers, drown some and leave many to fend for themselves after their little boats capsize. The Moroccan police who kill these migrants inland and at the shore work for Spanish interests just as the king of Morocco himself is a vassal of the French and Spanish former colonialists and European capital. These killings are rational from the point of view of the interests of the European capitalist classes: they regulate the number of migrants and eliminate the weakest to feed the grinding global system. The unacceptability of this system and its division of the world is the message these migrants are bearing.
Les Messagers, a 70-minute film in French, Arabic, English, Pulaar and Spanish (subtitled in French or English) won the best documentary award at the Verona (Italy) African Film Festival and played at 14 film festivals in Argentina, Belgium, France, Italy and Uganda in 2014. Extracts are available on Vimeo.com. It can be ordered for public screenings large and small from the distributor, primaluce.com.
Also see the project “Je suis pas mort, je suis la” on the Website of the film’s cinematographer, the photographer Laetita Tura (laetitatura.fr).
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Mexico: government’s political crisis persists
5 January 2015. A World to Win News Service. In his first state visit to the state of Oaxaca and his first public appearance in the new year, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto received an unexpected “welcome” from local schoolteachers calling for him to be driven from office. What was supposed to be a reboot for Pena’s authority turned out to be another disaster.
Pena’s visit was unannounced, to avoid protests, but was to be highly publicized afterwards. His speech was to promote a strategic plan to transform the country’s economy by further opening its oil and gas industry and other sectors to foreign capital, along with an education “reform” whose content is symbolized by the attack on and disappearance of 43 teachers’ college students, rural youth whom the authorities believe should be beaten down, not educated.
The Oaxaca teachers climbed the barriers surrounding the industrial facility where he was to speak and clashed with police in an effort to prevent his entrance, which took place only amid tear gas and stones.
About 150 family members and fellow students of the disappeared Ayotzinapa youth travelled from the southern state of Guerrero to the federal capital on 24 December, Christmas Eve, declaring that they would not celebrate the holidays or allow Pena to do so with his family until the government produced their sons alive. A long line of riot police and barricades prevented them from entering the presidential residence, Los Pinos. Standing outside in a heavy, cold rain, they warned that the holidays and the new year would not see them stop struggle for justice. They returned to Los Pinos on 26 December and then again 31 December.
These protests followed a growing wave since the students disappeared on 26 September, including marches of tens of thousands of people in the capital and several cities in Guerrero on 8 November. A ceremonial door of the presidential palace, originally built for the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortez, was set on fire. There was an angry mass assault on local government buildings in the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo on 14 December.
In December more evidence emerged linking the police detention and subsequent disappearance of the students to the highest levels of the federal government. These facts go against the official narrative, repeated by much of the world media, that the mayor of the city of Iquala sent his police to attack a caravan of students on their way home to Ayotzinapa after a protest because he was afraid that they would spoil an event hosted by his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda. The two were arrested some months ago and now she has been indicted as the “mastermind” behind the disappearance, in connection with her brothers, allegedly leaders of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, to whom the police are said to have turned over the students for execution.
Leaked government documents from an initial investigation (later abandoned) and a scientific investigation revealed three key points:
1) Federal police and authorities were following the students’ movements that day in real time through a local command post and coordinated with the police in the operation against them. Sixteen federal police were on the scene. According to the report in the magazine Proceso, federal authorities “orchestrated” the attack.
2) The students, preparing for a trip to the capital for a national protest, arrived in Iquala more than an hour after the mayoral event was over. It has also come out that the students were not entering but leaving town when their buses were stopped. So the official fable about the motives behind the attack don’t hold up.
3) A team of scientists looking into the affair contested the federal attorney general’s claim that it is impossible to identify bodies said to be those of the students, even by DNA traces, because of a massive fire. Their report concluded that there is no evidence of a fire capable of such destruction at the rubbish site where they were supposedly dumped. This means the question of what happened to the students is still open, and the authorities are hiding the truth. (See “Iguala: la historia no oficial” in Proceso nos. 1989 and 1990, excerpts posted online on 13 December 2014, and, in English, the UK Guardian summary of the leaked documents and scientific report, 16 December.)
These and other facts have not been totally unknown before; the point is that a political situation is developing in which a broad section of Mexican society is taking note of information previously thought almost unbelievable because of the radical implication that the whole state structure and its institutions from top to bottom have blood on their hands.
Aurora Roja, the publication and website of the Revolutionary Communist Organisation (OCR) of Mexico, has put this event in the context of previous federally-led or federally-covered up attacks on the Ayotzinapa students; the concerted cover-up of responsibility for the attack by the three major political parties and state institutions, including the judiciary and army as well as the presidency; and above all, the “war against the people” being waged by the government, through its armed forces and security forces and the various drug gangs associated with different state entities. This effort to prevent rebellion has now sparked the most powerful rebellion Mexico has seen in decades and a golden opportunity to build a movement for making a revolution.
As Aurora Roja has demonstrated, drawing on many investigations by journalists, human rights researchers and studies by oppositional organizations, this “war against the people” has been waged in coordination with the U.S. government and armed forces. The U.S. government has threatened sanctions against Mexico because of its failure to protect endangered sea turtles, but continues to aid, arm and coordinate with the Mexican government after about 100,000 people have been massacred since the previous president launched a “war on drugs” in 2007.
The White House denied news reports that U.S. President Barack Obama planned to discuss these massacres at their scheduled meeting in Washington 6 January. Although a spokesperson acknowledged receiving a letter from Human Rights Watch about “generalized torture” and widespread “extrajudicial executions by security forces” under Pena’s government, documenting 149 cases of forced disappearances, he said that any discussion of “human rights” between the two presidents would be in the context of security cooperation, according to Proceso (5 January). The U.S. has provided more than two billion dollars for Mexico’s “war on drugs”.
The International Crisis Group (icg.org), a think tank set up to advise the U.S. and European governments, warns, “Mexico is facing a crisis of legitimacy.” It cites polls showing that most people now have little respect for the army, police, governing parties and judiciary (in descending order of disrespect) – and “democracy in Mexico.” That is a system, says Aurora Roja, in which elections are the adornment of “a criminal and illegitimate state” that just happens to be both a vassal and a weak link for the rulers of the U.S.
Thinking about Trayvon Martin, an Egyptian artist looks at the world
5 January 2015. A World to Win News Service. A Cairo art gallery recently held a show of work by Egyptian artist Mona Marzouk called Trayvon, named after the African-American high school student Trayvon Martin murdered in Florida (U.S.) in 2012. In a newspaper interview, she says she obsessively followed the case and trial of the vigilante George Zimmerman, who stalked and shot the 17-year-old. “The first thing Zimmerman said to police,” Marzouk says, “was ‘he’s Black.’… I thought it was important to express what happened to this young man for no reason.”
Marzouk explains that the surreal trial, in which facts were uncontested and yet the only result was to ratify the “right” to kill Black youth in America, reminded her of the way that Egyptian courts similarly turn right and wrong upside down. All over the world, she says, “people are looking for justice and they [are] in jail.” She might have been thinking of the last months in her own country, where the American-favoured former president, general Hosni Mubarak, was acquitted of murder, even though he ordered the killing of many hundreds of demonstrators, while youth prominent in the movement that led to his overthrow were sentenced to prison for holding public protests against his successors.
The work in this show, however, is not about any particular case or indeed any particular injustice. A bright yellow wall swarms with black, sharply outlined silhouettes that recall real objects, but rather than representational, they are suggestive, working on many layers of reference and emotion at once. Helicopters, a recurring theme and a symbol of ubiquitous state violence throughout the world, bring to mind birds of prey or malefic insects. Guillotines, electric chairs and nooses combine with grand pianos and clawed creatures. Versions of the American flag replace the stars with terrifying but indeterminate beasts and objects that suggest empires and executions throughout the ages. Grim castles meld minarets and cathedrals, hinting at Pharaohs, Romans, Ottoman and European potentates. A turreted tower gulps down the setting sun as if it were an egg yolk. These architectural structures, like her innumerable helmets, project political dominance and male authority – and hurt. In “Curse Carriers”, a giant shark-jawed monster with an airplane body on a tripod confronts a crab-like creature that could be a tank with minarets. The images are razor-edged, frightening and painful to the viewer’s very soul.
Born in 1968, Marzouk lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt. She is a painter, muralist and sculptor. Her work has appeared in international biennials, and in solo shows in London and New York.