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Covert Surveillance ‘Project Speargun’ Fires Up New Zealand Election

ANNA MAJAVU of Pacific Media Watch reports for The Daily Blog on an extraordinary event in Auckland on 15 September 2014:

NEW ZEALAND Prime Minister John Key has been accused of allowing the secret installation of equipment that would enable spooks to tap into New Zealand’s undersea fibre optic cable as part of a covert mass surveillance system of citizens.

This was the word from globally acclaimed whistleblower Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (both speaking via video link), Kim Dotcom and US Pulitzer prize-winner Glenn Greenwald last night at a packed meeting of more than 2000 people in Auckland.

Building Sustainable Peace in The Central African Republic

As the UN launchs its peace keeping mission with the arrival of 1,500 troops in the Central African Republic (CAR), a few observers were wondering why it took so long given the extent of the casualties. Les Cercles nationaux de Réflexion sur la Jeunesse (CNRJ) is an NGO in Bangui, CAR that strives to build the foundation for sustainable peace in the country in partnership with the University of Bangui. Here is a video that illustrates the work in process :    

Investment Deal with China Leaves Jamaicans With More Questions Than Answers

I AM SO FLABBERGASTED: WHO gives a FOREIGN government the RIGHT to CHOOSE WHICH LAND IT WANTS?

As part of an investment exchange, the Jamaican government has agreed to give 1,200 acres of land to the Chinese government – wherever it wants. Cucumber Juice has critical questions that she feels the government must answer: What is the value of the land? How will it be used? What if it's already occupied? She concludes that “Jamaica is for sale, is being sold, and is not at all as independent as its citizens and residents like to think.”

Sri Lanka Plans to Deport 1,500 Pakistani and Afghan Refugees

A Christian man stands inside his destroyed house in Gojra town. Image by Muhammad Tahir. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2009)

A Christian man stands inside his destroyed house in Gojra, Pakistan. Image by Muhammad Tahir. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2009)

Facing persecution in Pakistan, many Ahmadiyya Muslims and Christians have taken refuge in Sri Lanka. These refugees are mostly held in Boossa and Mirihana detention centers and have to live on government-provided rations as they are not eligible for work.

According to the media, the Sri Lankan government is preparing to deport about 1,450 Pakistani and 50 Afghan refugees who have apparently fled to rural areas in Sri Lanka. More than 1,400 of the targeted refugees have been registered as asylum seekers at the UN refugee agency office in Colombo.

Human Rights Watch has requested the Sri Lankan government not to summarily deport these minorities. Meanwhile, Pakistan has disowned these refugees and an uncertain future awaits for them if they are deported.

W3Lanka English blog opines:

The practice of deporting them is very unethical. They can be economic migrants per se the claim of the Pakistan government. What if they are actually threatened people?

Four Kosovars Walk to Brussels for Visa-free Travel Privileges

On July 17, 2014, four men from Kosovo completed a 78-day walk from eastern Kosovo to Brussels, Belgium. The goal of their trek was to incite EU officials to grant Kosovo visa-free travel throughout the EU, a privilege that has been available to all other Western Balkan countries for some time.

The four men began their trip entirely independently and with their own financing, but say that they received both financial and moral support from others throughout the countries of the region as they made their way to the headquarters of the European Union. Radio Free Europe reported after the men reached Brussels, where they met with EU officials:

Calling themselves The “Free Travellers” group (“Shtegtarët e lire”), the men walked under the slogan “5 million steps for one step” in the hope that Brussels will grant citizens of Kosovo the possibility to travel to the European Union without visas.

Bamboo, Launch, Compound and Other English Words Borrowed from Malaysia

Writing for Coconuts KL, Lai Chee Seng listed 10 common English words which have Malaysian roots. For example, bamboo derived from the Malay word mambu or samambu, compound came from the Malay word kampung which means village or a group of buildings, and launch was borrowed from the Malay word lanchar.

Ebola Scare: Trapped on the Cameroon/Nigeria Border for Over 40 Hours

On August 19, 2014, the Republic of Cameroon closed its borders with Nigeria in a bid to halt the spread of the Ebola virus. However, the government made this decision without giving enough thought to the thousands of travelers – mostly Cameroonian citizens and Nigerians resident in Cameroon – caught on the wrong side of the border. Consequently, many of these travelers ended being trapped on the Cameroon/Nigeria border for days, in appalling conditions, while waiting to be screened for the Ebola virus before being allowed back into Cameroon.

Batuo's Blog published the first-person narrative of Patricia Temeching, one of the travelers who was trapped on the Cameroon/Nigeria border for over 40 hours:

I go through Nigerian security checks and my passport is grudgingly returned to me. I walk across the bridge. The Cameroonian side of the bridge is crowded, as is the police/customs post that is perched three meters away from the end of the bridge… When I inquire why there are so many people on the bridge a miserable-looking woman replies, “We are waiting for the medical team to screen us for Ebola before we can go into Cameroon…”
‘How long have you been waiting?’ I ask.
“Fifteen hours. I came yesterday just after the medical team had left.”
I join the throng of people on the bridge and we wait and wait. Hunger and anger consume me. All I have in my travelling bag are a few clothes and my academic papers. By evening more and more people have joined us and we are all crowded on the bridge and in the small police post building, where we spend the night on our feet. The stench of urine and faeces emanating from the back of the building combines with the unhealthy sweat from two hundred unwashed bodies and leaves a nauseating sickening feeling in the air.
In the morning we receive information that the medical team will arrive soon. We are all looking forward to it. By noon nothing has happened…
This afternoon, after I have spent 24 hours at the border post, we are allowed to trek to Ekok town. It is a trek an Ebola patient will certainly not survive. We pay boys to carry our bags. When we reach Ekok town we are bundled into an empty building with no lights, no toilet facilities and no beds. This it to be our accommodation until the medical team arrives. Finally the “medical team” arrives. It is the doctor from Eyumojock. We go through the “screening”. This is how it happens: Eau de Javel [bleach] is poured into water. We file in and wash our hands. We also wash our mouths. Then you are cleared.
Once I am cleared (at 10 p.m.), I leave the ‘quarantine’ building and go to look for a hotel. I find a run-down inn and finally crawl into a sorry-looking bed with tired sheets. After spending forty hours on my feet this bed feels like a king’s bed. I sleep the sleep of the dead.
This is my greatest worry: What if one person among us (two hundred travellers) actually came with Ebola from Nigeria? The chances are we might all have become contaminated in the past fifty hours from being held promiscuously together, and we would now be taking the virus to two hundred different Cameroonian families.

“Very Difficult to Care about Madagascar”

Thomas Friedman recently traveled to Madagascar and posits that Americans need to pay more attention to the economic and ecological disaster that threatens the island. Some of his readers did not quite agree, like Deosinon in Philadelphia, who argues that Madagascar is too far removed from his needs :

I apologize, but it is very difficult to care about Madagascar. What really concerns me is the valuable space given to this issue by the Times. We are here and need a paper that helps us [..] Today's paper talks of The Met and Madagascar. Please use your space and your writers considerable pool of intellect to speak to us here, and help us with our lives, and tell us things that will improve life here. Maybe I'll read more, I know I'll be happier.

To which Robert counters :

I see your point; after all, this is only a 226-thousand square mile island with over 22 million people living on it, the 47th-largest country in the world, with any number of absolutely-unique species living on it and on its way to becoming Haiti. [..] Beyond the moral considerations, the fact is that we're part of the world and can't wall ourselves off, whether we like it or not. As they say, you can manage the issues or the issues will most assuredly manage you.

In somewhat related news, a few citizens in Madagascar also are in favor of less attention from the West, especially the IMF.

Bangladesh's Elite Paramiltary Unit Is Under Fire for Human Rights Violations. This Blogger Asks: What About Israel's IDF?

An activist is picked up by an RAB agent in Dhaka, Bangladesh, during a nationwide strike called by the main opposition party in June 2011. Photo by   Rahat Khan. Copyright Demotix.

An activist is picked up by an RAB agent in Dhaka, Bangladesh, during a nationwide strike called by the main opposition party in June 2011. Photo by Rahat Khan. Copyright Demotix.

Brad Adams, the executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, has recently written a letter to Bangladesh's prime minister suggesting that the Bangladesh government should disband the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Quoting news sources, he accused the RAB of being responsible for more than 800 extrajudicial killings in the past 10 years.

Human rights organizations have long accused the elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit, which was created in 2004, of human rights violations. A number of its members are under investigation in Bangladesh in connection to the abduction and killing of seven men (see Global Voices report).

Some netizens were Irked by the tone of Adam's letter to a sovereign country. Blogger Himu wrote for Bangla blog Sachalayatan a response to Adams, suggesting he be consistent and write to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

ব্র্যাড অ্যাডামস লিখেছেন, “র‌্যাবকে এখন আর সংস্কার করে চালানো সম্ভব বলে আমরা বিশ্বাস করি না। আইনের ঊর্ধ্বে থেকে কোনো ধরনের জবাবদিহিতার তোয়াক্কা না করে র‌্যাব পরিচালনার একটি সংস্কৃতি তৈরি হয়ে গেছে। এই অবস্থায় এ বাহিনীকে অবশ্যই বিলুপ্ত করতে হবে, যাতে হত্যাকাণ্ড বন্ধ করা হয়।”

মানবাধিকারবারি ব্র্যাড অ্যাডামসের উদ্বেগের প্রতি শ্রদ্ধা জানিয়ে এবার একটা ছোটো আবদার করি। প্যাড থেকে আরেকটা কাগজ ছিঁড়ুন। কলমদানি থেকে কলমটা বের করে খাপ খুলুন। তারপর লিখুন ইসরায়েলের প্রধানমন্ত্রীকে। তাকে বলুন, ইসরায়েল ডিফেন্স ফোর্সেস প্রতিষ্ঠানটিকেও বিলুপ্ত করে দিতে। ২০০০ সাল থেকে ২০১২ সাল পর্যন্ত ইসরায়েল ডিফেন্স ফোর্সেসের হাতে নিহত ফিলিস্তিনিদের একটি পরিসংখ্যান পাবেন এখানে। এদের মাঝে একটি বড় অংশ নিরীহ বেসামরিক মানুষ, তাদের একটা বড় অংশ শিশু, এবং সংখ্যাটাও ৮০০ থেকে বেশি।

আমি নিশ্চিত, আপনি বিশ্বাস করেন না যে ইসরায়েল ডিফেন্স ফোর্সেসকে সংস্কার করে চালানো সম্ভব। কাজেই ফিলিস্তিনে নির্বিচার হত্যাকাণ্ড বন্ধ করার জন্য যে এই বাহিনীকে বিলুপ্ত করার অনুরোধ আপনি ইসরায়েলি প্রধানমন্ত্রীকে করবেন, সেরকম তো আমরা ধরে নিতেই পারি। নাকি?

কবে আপনি ঐ চিঠিটি লিখবেন, দেখার জন্যে সাগ্রহে অপেক্ষা করছি।

Brad Adams wrote, “We do not believe that RAB can be reformed. It has developed a culture of operating above the law without civilian accountability. It must be disbanded so that the killings come to an end.”

With respect to human rights activist Mr. Brad Adams, I would request him to tear another page from his pad, take a pen and to write a similar letter to the Israeli prime minister urging him to disband the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). You will have the accounts of killings by IDF available here. A lot of these victims are innocent civilians and a large portion of them are children, and the number is a lot more than 800.

I am sure you will agree with me that the IDF cannot be reformed. So can we hope that you will also suggest the Israeli prime minister that IDF should be disbanded?

We are eagerly waiting to see when you will write this letter.

One commenter wondered cynically:

মানবধিকারের সংজ্ঞা বোধহয় অঞ্চল ভেদে ভিন্ন হয়।

Perhaps human rights is defined differently in regions of the world.

US and China's Strategic and Economic Dialogue

China File invited economist William Adams and Political Economy Professor from Peking University, Zha Daojiong, to comment on the upcoming high-level bilateral diplomatic exchange known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the U.S. and China.

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