Displaying items by tag: protests
The recent demolition of two mosques has accentuated religious divisions as India prepares for elections in April / May, expected to secure prime minister Narendra Modi a third term. The demolitions, in Uttarakhand and Delhi, come weeks after the inauguration of the contentious Ram Mandir temple on the site of a historic mosque torn down by Hindu fundamentalists in the 1990s. That ceremony, marking a huge shift away from modern India’s secular founding principles, was hailed by Hindu nationalists as a crowning moment in their decades-long campaign to reshape the nation. Both demolitions were supposedly because of ‘illegal encroachment’. In Uttarakhand, violent confrontations followed, claiming six lives and prompting curfews. Many scared Muslims have said they just want to leave. Analysts fear escalating religious tensions as Modi's BJP advances its populist, divisive policies ahead of the elections. Despite Modi's aspiration to portray India as a vibrant modern superpower, many Muslims feel marginalised in the world’s largest democracy.
Dozens of farmers were arrested on 31 January after breaking into the huge Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris, during their ongoing protests. Emmanuel Macron’s government had warned farmers not to approach the market, which feeds twelve million people a day. But that failed to take into account the level of anger over what farmers view as unacceptably low pay, stifling red tape, unworkable European policies, and unfair competition from foreign rivals. 91 farmers managed to enter the Rungis site and were arrested for ‘damaging goods’, though they claim they caused no harm. While progress was reported in discussions with new prime minister Gabriel Attal, the protests reflect the deep-seated grievances of farmers against policies they view as detrimental to their livelihoods. At present 4,500 tractors are blocking eighty spots along major roads.
In Melbourne, early on 26 January (Australia Day), a century-old statue of Captain James Cook was cut down and a Queen Victoria monument vandalised with red paint. Australia Day commemorates the anniversary of Britain's first fleet landing in 1788, marking the start of the colonial era. The Cook statue, which commemorates his 1768-1771 voyage charting Australia's east coast, has a history of being targeted on or around Australia Day. The vandals left the message 'The colony will fall' on its base. Victoria premier Jacinta Allan condemned the vandalism, stating it had no place in the community, and efforts would be made to repair and reinstate the statue and clean the Queen Victoria memorial. While polls indicate that approximately 60% of people support celebrating Australia Day, many view it as inappropriate due to its association with the displacement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands and cultures. Protests against 'Invasion Day' have grown, and some people boycott the holiday.
During this week's Covid inquiry, former prime minister Boris Johnson faced intense scrutiny over his government's handling of the pandemic. Johnson expressed sorrow for the 'loss and suffering' caused by Covid, but bereaved families dismissed his apology, asserting that 'the dead won't hear your apologies’. Johnson acknowledged the government's mistakes and claimed personal responsibility for decisions made, while admitting they were 'oblivious' to the virus's severity early on. Key moments from the inquiry included Johnson's admission of government errors, his reliance on advisers over SAGE meeting notes, and his contemplation of sacking health secretary Matt Hancock. He also faced allegations of asking why the economy was being damaged for those 'who will die anyway soon' and overseeing a 'toxic' culture in Downing Street that hindered the pandemic response. The inquiry, chaired by Baroness Heather Hallet, was marked by protests and interruptions from Covid victims' representatives. Johnson's two-day testimony is part of a larger investigation into UK decision-making and governance during the pandemic, focusing on the government's delayed reaction and alleged mismanagement.
Tension is rising in Guatemala, where protests by supporters of president-elect Bernardo Arévalo have run into a second week. They are demanding the resignation of attorney-general Consuelo Porras, who they accuse of plotting to prevent Mr Arévalo from taking office. He won the presidential election by a landslide in August, but just hours later his party was suspended by the supreme electoral tribunal - a move widely viewed as an attempt to stop Mr Arévalo, a political outsider who has campaigned against corruption, from being sworn in as planned. Ms Porras argues that the party was not properly registered, but critics point out that she only launched her investigation after Mr Arévalo secured a spot in the run-off. The protests intensified last week as demonstrators blocked key roads across the country, causing fuel and food shortages and paralysing traffic. The outgoing president, Alejandro Giammattei, condemned the blockades, and asked Mr Arévalo to sit down with mediators sent by the Organisation of American States (OAS), to ensure a peaceful handover of power.
After twelve days of closure, the border crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel was reopened at dawn on 28 September, causing thousands of Gazans to sleep overnight as they awaited the chance to resume the work for which they are authorised. It was the news which Amjad Hassan, a builder who is the sole breadwinner for 13 relatives had been praying for. ‘We work on a daily wage; if we don't work, we don't feed our families’, he explained. The border closure followed renewed demonstrations as young Palestinians have confronted Israeli soldiers, with the approval or even encouragement of Hamas, which controls the enclave. Protesters have burnt tyres, thrown stones and explosive devices, and released incendiary balloons and kites into southern Israel, There is a perception that Hamas is trying to distract attention from its own economic woes and also to gain leverage in indirect talks with Israel, being led by Egypt, Qatar, and the UN.
As thousands of protesters around the world took to the streets in a show of solidarity, a year after the killing of hijab protester Mahsa Zhina Amini, there are reports that Christians are coming under pressure from the authorities to boycott the protests. Those who participate have been arrested and face sexual assault in prison, according to a new report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Since the freedom protests began in Iran, the country has detained some 20,000 protesters and killed at least 530, by conservative estimates. It is claimed that seven protesters have been executed after ‘sham trials’ and dozens more have been sentenced to death. The women’s rights protests in Iran have turned into a movement pressing for greater freedom of religion or belief. For more information about the pressure on Christians in Iran, including many being jailed for their involvement with house churches, see 'More'.
Tens of thousands of Israelis continue with weekly protests over the justice system and as many as one in three are considering leaving Israel. A leading radiologist, Professor Hoffmann, is in the process of moving to a UK hospital and is trying to persuade other members of his family, who all have European passports, to consider leaving too. He is going to London for a sabbatical, to see if he can live outside Israel, where the situation is worsening daily. Protesters believe that government changes endanger democracy, while Israel's coalition argues that it fixes a judicial system where elected politicians are too easily overruled. Demonstrators hope to overturn new laws, but many admit that emigrating is something they, or those close to them, have considered. One demonstrator said, ‘It would be heart-breaking but I will not raise my children in a country which is not democratic. If I’m not sure that my daughter's rights as a young woman are guaranteed, we will not stay here.’
Since January weekly protests have filled the streets opposing the government's ‘reasonableness bill’ which removes the Supreme Court's power to cancel government decisions that it views as unfair. On 24 July thousands filled Jerusalem and Tel Aviv streets when Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul bill was passed; the next day doctors struck and protested. Hundreds from both sides of the political divide had prayed at Jerusalem’s Western Wall ahead of the vote. Intercessions were led by Zionist rabbis supporting Netanyahu and opposition politicians including Benny Gantz who said, ‘There is a rift in the nation that must be treated. Netanyahu must stop the legislation.’ Without far-right ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet his government would collapse. Those ministers insist that the reforms go forward, not watered down. On 27 July activists marched again after the end of Tisha B’Av fast day. ‘You don’t negotiate with dictatorial governments. You fight them’, said one protest group.
Iran recently hanged two men for blasphemy, saying they had insulted the prophet Muhammad and promoted atheism. They were arrested in 2021 and spent months in solitary confinement without family contact. Iran has executed over 203 prisoners this year, but executions for blasphemy remain rare. The recent spate of executions, including members of ethnic minority groups, comes amid continuing protests over the arrest of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s morality police and her death in their custody. Over 500 people were killed and 19,000 arrested in the protests, which have been one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since 1979’s Islamic Revolution. Today public frustration extends beyond repressive dress codes. The economy is in poor shape due to sanctions and Iran’s policy incompetence. Inflation is above 40%, currency is a record low, and unemployment tops 10%. Many believe that these anxieties mean further unrest is unavoidable.