Friday, November 04, 2011

Underreported Struggles #55, October 2011

By Ahni Nov 1, 2011 Intercontinental Cry

In this month's Underreported Struggles: Q'eqchi community destroyed by
police, security forces in Guatemala; Tanzania government grants land
title deed to the Hadzabe; Burma's president suspends work on the
controversial Myitsone dam; Elder Mamos express profound concern over
proposed 'eco-friendly' hotel on sacred lands.

Israel's adoption of the controversial "Prawer Plan" earlier this month
has set the stage for the seizure of more than two-thirds of the Bedouin's
total land base in the Negev desert; the destruction of 37 Bedouin
villages; and the forced relocation of the indigenous inhabitants to an
area beside a garbage dump. The first phase of the eviction is expected to
begin as early as January 2012.

On October 26, the entire Q'eqchi community of Paraná was destroyed by the
Guatemalan police and private security forces in Panzos, Alta Verapaz,
Guatemala. According to Guatemala Solidarity Project, the attack was
directly overseen by a wealthy biofuels investor: Carlos Widmann, brother
in law of ex-President Oscar Berger. All houses in the community were
destroyed in the attack.

In an historical event, the Tanzania government has offered a traditional
land certificate to the Hadzabe, an Indigenous People that even now, some
believe to be extinct. The move, hailed by the villagers and supporting
organizations, will ensure land tenure for the nomadic tribe. This is the
first time in Tanzania's history the government has provided a land
certificate to a "minority tribe".

A United Nations expert has urged Norway to reject the proposal by one of
its parties to repeal key laws and policies designed to protect indigenous
groups, saying its approval would represent an "enormous setback for the
recognition and protection of human rights in the country." The proposal
would take away many of the land ownership, self-determination and
protection rights of the Sami people, Norway’s largest indigenous group,
which also inhabits parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Hondeklipbaai, a small community located on the northwest coast of South
Africa, is trying to stop the world's largest diamond mining company from
getting out of its promise to rehabilitate the land it has exploited for
almost 80 years. De Beers is trying to sell the mine to a consortium led
by Trans Hex Diamonds. However, the community of Hondeklipbaai says Trans
Hex simply doesn't have the financial clout to carry out a rehabilitation
programme of this magnitude.

The Elder "Mamos" or Spiritual leaders of the Sierra Nevada de Santa
Marta, have expressed profound concern over plans to build a new
seven-star hotel on their ancestral land within the Tayrona National Park
in northern Colombia. The Mamos warn that the site for the proposed hotel
is located on sacred lands that are supposed to be held inviolate.

Indonesian forces opened fire on the Third Papuan People's Congress,
dispersing the peaceful gathering that had attracted thousands of Papuans
to Jayapura city, the capital of West Papua. Thankfully, the "tough
response" seems to have backfired. As noted by New Matilda, the
indiscriminate repression has served well to strengthen the Papuan voice
and attract much needed support from around the world.

Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), a massive iron ore mining company based in
Australia, is trying to get out of a state order that forces the company
to protect any burial sites they encounter on Yindjibarndi lands in
Western Australia's Pilbara region. The company also wants to avoid its
legal obligation to consult the Yindjibarndi. "There are 250 [sites] or
more in this country, some very important places for our religious
ceremonies," says Michael Woodley, chief executive of the Yindjibarndi
Aboriginal Corporation (YAC). Any number of those sites could be at risk.

Indigenous Peoples and supporting NGOs are calling on Philippines
President Aquino to take back his decision to let mining companies fund
and organize their own private militias to secure their operations. In no
uncertain terms, It is the indigenous peoples and rural communities that
are in dire need of protection from violence and attacks, not mining

In the last 6 weeks, Moroccan police forces have brutally assaulted
peacefully-protesting Saharawis on two separate occasions, injuring men,
women, and children. For the past 36 years, the Saharawis, Western
Sahara’s indigenous population, have been forced to endure illegal
colonization, resource theft, abuse and discrimination by Morocco, as well
as nearly twenty years of waiting for a referendum on the status of
Western Sahara as promised by the UN. The ongoing conflict gets little
international exposure, since Morocco maintains a virtual media blackout
in the occupied region and has banned NGOs from operating there.

For the first time in 300 years, a sacred place near the Mohawk River is
back in the hands of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Cohoes Falls
property, as it's commonly known, is a key site in the story of the Great
Peacemaker, Deganawida, the visionary who formulated the Great Law of
Peace or Kaiienerekowa.

The recently-elected government of Papua New Guinea has promised to get
rid of all draconian amendments to the Environment Act and restore the
rights of the country's indigenous landowners. The controversial
amendments were a not-so-subtle attempt by the previous administration to
stop a lawsuit against the equally-controversial plan to dump mine waste
off the Rai coast.

Armed with bows and arrows, the Ache community of Chupa Pou has
successfully removed a large group of Brazilian farmers from their
ancestral lands in eastern Paraguay, near the border with Brazil.
Fortunately, there are no reports of bloodshed and the farmers left
without any resistance; however, the farmers have said they will return to
the Ache's land.

The expansion of coal mining operations in Jharkhand's Northern Karanpura
Valley poses a major threat to the region's Indigenous population, their
local environment and a precious cultural heritage that dates back more
than 8,000 years. According to FIAN International, more than twenty new
coal mines have been slated for the valley.

Two Saami communities have said they will do everything in their power to
stop a mining company from exploiting their internationally-protected
lands in Northern Sweden. The Saami communities of Girjas and Laevas
recently found out that Kiruna Iron AB, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the
Australian company Scandinavian Resources Ltd., wants to develop two iron
mines in the Kalix River Valley. Both of the proposed mine sites are
located within the Saami's nationally-recognized reindeer herding grounds
and the European Union's Natura 2000 ecological network of protected

Hundreds of Namibians welcomed the return of 20 skulls that were taken to
Germany during the Herero and Namaqua Genocide more than a century ago.
Sadly, the return did not include any kind of apology or reparations from
the German government, even though it was more than called for: The
skulls, uncovered from German medical archives in 2008, were used to
investigate the rather absurd theory of white supremacy by Eugen Fischer,
teacher of the infamous Nazi physician Josef Mengele.

Burma's president unexpectedly suspended construction of the controversial
Myitsone dam project "to respect the will of the people". The dam, located
in one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots, would have displace
12,000 people and irreversibly affect Burma’s central river system and
rice-growing area.
Featured Article

!!!This land is ours!!! A tale of land theft through violence and laws -
In this guest article, Frauke Decoodt examines the ever-growing land
rights struggle of the Maya-Ixil Peoples in Guatemala. The Ixil's
ancestral land was usurped by the State government in 1984 during the
genocide in Guatemala; however, it was not until May 2011, when a
government representative told them they were living on 'state property',
that the Ixil understood the scope of the historical theft. Now, the Ixil
are doing everything in their power to right the historical wrong and
restore their land rights.
Videos of the Month

We struggle but we eat fruit - a loving portrait of the Ashaninka Peoples
and their efforts to protect their threatened forest lands and preserve
their way of life.

Cycles of the Element - an upcoming documentary film about the effects of
colonization on indigenous nations, and how to spark change from within to
rise above it.

Strategies of Struggle from Below - an experimental documentary exploring
diverse forms of social organization throughout the beautiful, unique but
complex country of Colombia.

Blood in the Mobile - a 2010 documentary film that exposes the connection
between mobile phones and Democratic Republic of Congo's bloody civil war.

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