- Celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, and Aria Grande have called for a boycott of hotels owned by Brunei following the implementation of the new law that punishes gay sex by stoning people to death publicly.
- The law goes into effect April 3 and has garnered massive backlash from the international community and human rights organizations.
- Some have criticized the boycott as “tokenism” and “tantamount to Islamophobia,” while the Trump administration has refused to condemn Brunei, only expressing “concern.”
Brunei’s New Law
Numerous celebrities have called for boycotts of nine international hotels owned by Brunei in protest of a new law that punishes gay sex and adultery with death by public stonings.
The law, which is part of the country’s new Sharia Penal Code, is set to go into effect on April 3. The law also has a provision that punishes theft with amputation. The law applies to Brunei’s Muslim majority, as well as non-Muslims, foreigners visiting the country, and even children.
Brunei’s leader Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has full executive power, has been gradually implementing the Penal Code since 2014. When Bolkiah first started enacting the Code, he was met with a wide array of international backlash.
In addition to criticism from international human rights organizations, there was also boycotts and calls for divestment from some of Brunei’s sovereign wealth fund investments. This included the upscale Beverly Hills Hotel, which attracted protests and celebrity boycotts.
The backlash actually did delay the sultan from carrying out some of the most extreme measures for a while, but once the outrage died down and people started forgetting about it, the sultan quietly continued to push ahead with these provisions.
The sultan enacted the measures so quietly that barely anyone noticed when Brunei’s attorney general released an announcement back in December, saying the law allowing death by stoning will go into effect on April 3.
Nearly four months later, the international community had just started to pick up on the story. Since then, it has spread and spread.
Celebrities Call for #BoycottBrunei
Leading up to April 3, there was a massive response from celebrities and others criticizing Brunei, and calling for people to boycott all the hotels owned by the sultan.
On Thursday, George Clooney published an op-ed in Deadline, asking people to boycott the nine hotels owned by the sultan all over the world, writing:
“Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”
“Brunei is a Monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws. But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations?” Continued Clooney, “Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?”
Following the publication of the op-ed, Elton John commended Clooney in a series of tweets.
On the eve of the law taking effect, Ellen DeGeneres also called for boycotts in a tweet, writing, “We need to do something now.”
Ellen also made the same post on her Instagram, which was picked up and shared by others, including Ariana Grande, who posted the list of hotels to boycott on her Instagram story.
Unfortunately, the boycott has not stopped Brunei.
On Saturday, Brunei released a statement defending the Penal Code, saying the purpose of sharia law is for “criminalizing and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam,” Continuing, “it also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.”
Additionally, not everyone is on board with the boycott.
“The people of Brunei are not backwards,” said Mustafa Izzuddin, a fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a think tank in Singapore, “They would see these boycotts [by Clooney and others] as tantamount to Islamophobia. If you polled right now, Clooney wouldn’t be very popular in Brunei. They might boycott his movies.”
Bill Maher also criticized Clooney on Real Time on Friday night, describing the boycott as “chickenshit tokenism.”
“What about Saudi Arabia? If you really want to get back at them, stop driving. Don’t use oil.” Said Maher, “It’s Sharia Law, which is some version of the law in most Muslim-majority countries. And if you want to be against that, you know, speak openly and honestly about standing up for liberal principles.”
Clooney indirectly responded to Maher’s comments and others who have been critical of the boycott in a second op-ed published on Monday.
“For those that want to play ‘what-about-isms,’ what about Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Somalia? There’s a long list. Well then, get to it. We all do what we can.” Wrote Clooney, “And we do it by chasing their finances and confronting the establishments that they’re laundering money through.”
Clooney also made the argument that speaking out against Brunei sends an important message to other countries.
“The most dangerous issue is Brunei’s neighbors.” He wrote, “And if Brunei isn’t met with loud, forceful resistance that shakes their business establishments, then anything is possible.”
LA City Officials Call for Boycotts
To Clooney’s credit, the push from celebrities has already made an impact on the outside world.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles City leaders called for a boycott of both the hotels located in LA. City Councilman Paul Koretz, LA Controller Ron Galperin, and the head of Equality California Rick Zbur said in a news conference on Tuesday that they will discourage residents and tourists from staying at the hotels through formal measures.
Councilman Koretz also said he would introduce a resolution at an upcoming LA City Council meeting.
The three leaders added that they would look for other ways to combat Brunei’s Penal Code, like discouraging people from holding meetings and events at the hotels, passing further legislation, and asking the Trump administration to take action to stop Brunei.
Regarding their last point, many are waiting to see what the Trump administration will do.
Back in February, the Trump administration announced it was launching a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality. Many people criticized the announcement as empty, citing Trump’s record on LGBTQ issues.
Trump himself seemed to not even know about the announcement when he was asked about it in a press conference.
Since the Brunei story started gaining traction in recent weeks, the Trump administration has been largely silent.
On Friday, the Daily Beast published an article saying that the State Department declined to clarify its position on Brunei for nearly 24 hours after the Daily Beast had sent them an inquiry. Then, “minutes after” the Daily Beast published a story noting the Department’s silence, they were finally sent a statement “saying the U.S. was ‘concerned’ about the new law.”\
However, according to the article, “When asked by The Daily Beast, Pompeo and the Department of State declined to directly condemn, or state an objection to, the stoning to death of LGBT people.”
Since then, the State Department has not made any new statements on the matter, and only published the same statement they gave the Daily Beast.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Fox News) (NPR)
Thousands Flee Syria as Turkey Launches Military Offensive
- Turkey formally started a military offensive in Syria Wednesday, launching airstrikes, bombs, and sending in ground troops.
- Numerous civilian and military deaths have been reported, and an estimated 60,000 Syrians have fled the region.
- The move comes after the Trump administration announced it would step aside to let Turkey launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.
- Many world leaders and U.S. lawmakers, including Republicans who have been staunch supporters of President Trump, condemned the move, with some arguing that Trump will be responsible for the fallout.
Turkey Launches Offensive
Turkish military forces have entered the second day of an offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.
The assault started on Wednesday with Turkish forces launching airstrikes, bombing and shelling the territory. Several hours later, Turkish troops crossed the border into Northern Syria, officially starting a ground offensive.
The move comes just days after the White House announced that the U.S. would be stepping aside to allow Turkey to go forward with the long-planned operation while also removing U.S. troops from the region.
The announcement appeared to follow a call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan has said that this military operation is necessary to secure Turkey’s border with Syria and clear groups Turkey believes are terrorists. The operation targets the Kurdish groups that largely control that region of Northern Syria.
Specifically, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) which makes up most of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Turkey claims that those groups are allied with a separatist movement called the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been responsible for violent attacks in Turkey.
While Turkey considers the SDF a terrorist group, the U.S. does not. U.S. forces in Syria have recruited and trained the SDF for years to fight alongside them, and the SDF has done the majority of fighting on the ground against ISIS fighters in the region.
For a while, the U.S. has discouraged Turkey from launching a military operation against the Kurdish forces who have been fighting ISIS with them. But now, many have argued that the U.S. has basically given Turkey the green light to launch a military offensive against their own key allies.
The Numbers So far
Shortly after the operation began, pictures and videos began circulating showing civilians fleeing amid smoke from the sites of the bombings.
The New York Times reported that the airstrikes on the first day alone hit in or near at least five towns along more than 150 miles of the border, while Turkey’s Defense Ministry claimed on Thursday that it has hit 181 of its “terrorist” targets.
The Defense Ministry also said Thursday that 174 militants have already been killed, but that has not been independently verified.
Others have reported lower numbers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 23 SDF fighters were killed though dozens more were injured
As for civilians, the Kurdish Red Crescent reported that at least 11 civilians have been killed so far, including two children.
The Syrian Observatory also said that more than 60,000 Syrians have already fled the immediate region.
The fact that so many are already fleeing is likely to worsen the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria.
It also appears to complicate Erdogan’s plan to carve out a so-called safe zone at the border where he would return Syrian refugees. Now, many are saying that the military operation will just create more refugees.
World Leaders Respond
Concern over refugees and other humanitarian issues have been raised by numerous world leaders who have condemned Turkey’s actions.
European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the EU “calls upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action,” continuing that the operation will “undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements.”
A spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also emphasized the need for civilian protections in a statement.
“Civilians and civilian infrastructure should be protected. The secretary-general believes that there’s no military solution to the Syrian conflict,” the spokesperson said.
A number of Middle Eastern leaders have also publicly criticized the move. In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry condemned “the aggression launched by the #Turkish army.”
“The seriousness of this aggression on northeastern Syria has negative repercussions on the security and stability of the region, especially undermining the [international] efforts in combating ISIS organization,” the statement continued.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took to Twitter, where he said that Israel “strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies.”
U.S. Leaders Criticize Trump
After Turkey officially launched the military operation, President Trump was swiftly met with outrage by U.S. lawmakers, including notable Republicans who have been staunch supporters of the president.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) directly blamed Trump for the violence in a tweet on Wednesday.
“News from Syria is sickening,” she wrote. “Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has also been very vocal in his opposition to the Trump administration’s decision.
“Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration,” he said in a tweet. “This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke out on the issue as well, and added that Congress could take action against Trump’s decision,
“[The Kurds] actually fought on the ground. They had people dying. To just abandon them like that so the Turks can come in and slaughter them is not just immoral, it taints our reputation all over the world,” he said.
“It’s a terrible mistake. We’ll have to think of what options there are. I’m sure the Senate will, potentially, take some vote to disagree with that decision.”
Trump Defends Decision
But Trump, for his part, has continued to defend his decision.
In a statement to the media, Trump said that the U.S. “does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” and added that Turkey is “committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Trump also reiterated that he would crack down on Turkey economically if they did something he did not like in Syria.
However, several of his later remarks received some backlash.
When asked about the U.S. alliance with the Kurds, Trump said: “As somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy as an example. They mentioned names of different battles. But they’re there to help us with their land and that’s a different thing.”
He was also asked by reporters whether he was concerned about ISIS fighters breaking free from Kurdish custody, to which he responded, “Well they’re going to be escaping to Europe. That’s where they want to go, they want to go back to their homes.”
Mexican Mayor Dragged Through Streets After Failing to Fulfill Campaign Promise
- Angry residents of a small town in Southern Mexico stormed a local mayors office, pulled him out of the building, tied him to a pickup truck, and dragged him through the streets.
- The mob was upset with the mayor for failing to build a road into the community, which was a major promise made during his election campaign.
- Eleven people were arrested and charged with abduction and attempted murder.
Mob Storms Mayors Office
Eleven people were arrested in Chiapas, Mexico on Tuesday after pulling the mayor of Las Margaritas out of his office, tying him the back of a pickup truck, and dragging him through the streets.
During his election campaign, Mayor Jorge Luis Escandón Hernández promised to build a road to the indigenous Tojolabal community of Santa Rita Invernadero, which is located in the municipality of Las Margaritas.
However, locals are outraged that he has failed to follow through on that promise and have made their frustrations clear.
The angry mob stormed his office to complain about the road issue. According to the Mexican news outlet Excélsior, some municipal employees tried to stop the group who were armed with sticks and tubes, but they eventually made their way into the building.
Video taken by bystanders showed several people pulling the mayor out of his office and forcing him into a truck.
Another clip from a local surveillance camera showed the mayor being dragged from the back of the truck through the streets.
The mayor was dragged for several blocks before he was eventually rescued by state police. The incident also sparked a brawl between police and locals which ultimately resulted in 20 injuries and the 11 arrests, local reports say.
Mayor Escandón is “safe and sound,” according to a news release by the State Attorney General’s office. He was reviewed by medical experts but suffered no major injuries.
During a press conference a few hours after the attack, the mayor said those arrested would be charged with abduction and attempted murder, according to BBC.
Similar Attacks Against Politicians
This was the second attack directed at Mayor Escandón this year by an angry mob of locals fighting for the construction of the road. Four months ago, a group of men trashed his office when they were unable to find him inside.
Attacks on political figures are not uncommon in Mexico. According to The Washington Post, politicians are often targetted by criminal organizations for not complying with gang demands.
In more recent cases, however, locals have been lashing out against political figures for their empty promises. In April 2018, 200 Las Margaritas residents kidnapped 24 municipal, state and federal government employees to demand that a road be built by then-Mayor José Domingo Vázquez López, according to Mexico News Daily.
The employees were held hostage when the mob went to request a meeting with the mayor. After seeing that he was not in the office, the angry group took the employees and destroyed the building.
Months before that incident, Vázquez was held captive for days because he failed to follow through on an agreement to build a road, according to Vanguardia.
Are You At Risk? Why the “Revenge Porn” Problem Is Only Getting Worse…
For years now Revenge Porn has been in the spotlight, popping up whenever a celebrity has their nude images leaked by an ex-partner or hacked from their phone’s cloud service. But the term “Revenge Porn” has been met with criticism, facing pushback because the term “revenge” implies the victim deserved it. Instead, researchers and activists have moved towards using the term Nonconsensual Pornography (NCP).
NCP doesn’t just include revenge porn, but also things like hacks, child pornography, and even casually sharing and showing a nude someone sent you to another third-party. Research shows that a large percentage of everyday people take part in NCP, often without realizing that what they’re doing is wrong.
Groups like the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative have pushed for new laws to be put in place to punish the spread of NCP, and it’s having effects. In the U.S., 46 states, DC, and a territory have enacted some kind of law banning NCP, or it’s various forms. Although there’s yet to be a federal law banning it specifically.