- Massive protests have spread all over India after a controversial citizenship bill became law.
- The law gives citizenship to religious minorities who illegally immigrated to India from specific countries but does not include Muslims.
- On Sunday, a peaceful protest at a primarily Muslim university became violent when police forcefully entered the campus, beating students with wooden sticks and firing tear gas.
- Protests continued across India Monday, with large demonstrations being held in solidarity with university students who were attacked by police the day before.
Controversial Citizenship Bill Prompts Protests
Huge protests have continued to spread all over India after the country’s government approved a controversial citizenship bill last week.
The legislation, known as Citizenship Amendment Bill, provides a path to citizenship for religious minorities who illegally immigrated to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
The legislation names six religions that would be eligible for citizenship but does not include Muslims.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other supporters of the bill have said it will protect persecuted religious minorities who migrate to India from predominantly Muslim countries.
Opponents of the bill have said that it is just a very targeted plan by Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, to discriminate against the nearly 200 million Muslims in India who compose about 15% of the country’s population.
Many have argued that it would make it easier for the government to jail and deport Muslim residents in India.
This could include those whose families have lived in the country for years or even generations but might not have proof of citizenship, which in turn could leave millions of Muslims in India stateless.
Other critics of the legislation, including legal scholars, have said that it would violate India’s constitution because India is a secular country, and its constitution says that all religions must be treated equally.
Last Monday, India’s lower house of Parliament passed the bill, prompting a number of small, but largely peaceful, protests.
Those protests, however, have grown dramatically in the last week after the upper house of Parliament passed the bill Wednesday. The next day, India’s president approved the bill, officially making it a law.
Following the approval of the legislation, demonstrations erupted in several northeastern cities where the law could potentially have the biggest impact on immigration.
The Indian government responded by shutting down the internet and deploying troops in several areas in the region. Since then, the protests have continued, growing and spreading to major cities and other areas all over India.
At the same time, police significantly ratcheting up the use of violence against the protestors.
According to reports, police said Sunday that at least six people were killed and more than a hundred were injured in protests in the northeastern state of Assam.
Police Attack Student Protestors at Muslim-Majority University
Also on Sunday, hundreds were injured when a protest turned violent at Jamia Millia Islamia, a primarily Muslim university in New Delhi.
According to reports, students organized a large demonstration that many witnesses said started out peacefully.
The protest escalated when police stormed the campus after nearby busses and vehicles were set on fire. University authorities said the students did not burn the vehicles.
Videos circulated on social media showing officers beating students with wooden sticks and firing tear gas at them. Police also could be seen chasing students into the library and bathrooms, where they reportedly continued to beat them.
The police allegedly fired tear gas into the library and other enclosed areas like classrooms and reportedly attacked a mosque where some students were praying
One widely circulated video showed a man who tried to escape police by running into a women’s hostel being dragged out and beat by the police forces.
In the video, a group of female students can be seen trying to fight off the police who continue to hit the man and poke at the women with wooden poles, even after the man had been beaten to the ground.
Officials at nearby hospitals said that more than 100 people were brought in after the violence, and it has been reported that nearly 100 students were detained.
University officials condemned police, saying that they had entered the campus by force and without permission. The university’s vice-chancellor also told reporters that they would be filing a court case against the police.
But Delhi police have defended their actions, claiming they responded to violence started by the students.
Police also reportedly used similar tactics on Sunday at Aligarh Muslim University, another primarily Muslim college, where dozens of officers forcefully entered the campus and attacked students with batons and tear gas.
Despite the violence the day before, protests continued in India Monday, with large demonstrations being held in a number of major cities in solidarity with the university students who were attacked by the police.
As the protests continued, Modi took to Twitter to call for calm.
“Violent protests on the Citizenship Amendment Act are unfortunate and deeply distressing,” he wrote. “Debate, discussion and dissent are essential parts of democracy but, never has damage to public property and disturbance of normal life been a part of our ethos.”
Modi also argued that the citizenship law “illustrates India’s centuries old culture of acceptance, harmony, compassion and brotherhood,” and described the protestors as “vested interest groups” who were trying “to divide us and create disturbance.”
On the other side, Amnesty International India issued a statement urging the Indian government to “respect the right to dissent” by the students, and also investigate the allegations of police brutality.
“Students have the right to protest. Violence against peacefully protesting students cannot under any circumstance be justified,” the statement said. “Allegations that the police brutally beat up and sexually harassed students in Jamia Millia Islamia University must be investigated.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (BBC)
Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Fired Over Speech Reminiscent of Nazi Rhetoric
- Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Roberto Alvim was fired on Friday after he appeared to paraphrase Nazi propaganda in his announcement of a national arts initiative.
- Several of Alvim’s sentences were strikingly similar to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany.
- Additionally, the music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was from an opera that Adolf Hitler found imperative in his life.
- After much backlash and call for the culture secretary’s termination, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he dismissed Alvim from his position.
Brazil’s Secretary of Culture was terminated from his role on Friday after an official video was released of him seeming to paraphrase Nazi propaganda remarks.
Roberto Alvim, who was appointed to his position by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, announced a new initiative for increased funds dedicated to national art awards. In the 6-minute video, which has now been deleted from all Brazilian government official pages, Alvim was seen sitting at a desk beneath a portrait of Bolsonaro, a wooden cross to his side.
“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and national,” he said to the camera in Portuguese. “It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement, and it will also be imperative since it will be profoundly connected to the urgent aspirations of our people — or it will be nothing.”
Parts of Alvim’s phrasing was almost identical to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany. The similarities can be seen in a speech of Goebbels’, quoted in a biography by historian Peter Longerich.
“German art of the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality,” Goebbels said in 1933. “It will be nationalistic, with great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist.”
The music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was also noteworthy. It came from Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin,” which Adolf Hitler described in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, as being decisive in his life.
Reactions to Alvim’s Speech
It wasn’t long before people began to notice the likeness of Alvim’s rhetoric with the Nazi propaganda, and individuals across the political spectrum expressed outrage. Some — including prominent Brazillian politicians — publicly called for Alvim’s immediate professional termination.
Alvim first defended his speech in a Facebook post, saying, “what the left is doing is a remote association fallacy.” He called his controversial sentences a “rhetorical coincidence.”
But a few hours later, Alvim softened his defensive stance with an apology to the Jewish community. In another post, he claimed that the speech was brought to him by advisors who pulled various ideas tied to national art and that he had no idea of the fascist origin of those few lines. Alvim called the criticized phrases an “involuntary mistake” and said he was sorry from the bottom of his heart.
President Jair Bolsonaro announced on his official Twitter page that he had dismissed Alvim from his position on Friday. Bolsonaro wrote that despite Alvim’s apology, his remarks made his tenure “unsustainable.”
The Brazilian leader emphasized his “rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies” and expressed full support for the Jewish community.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (BBC) (Washington Post)
Pope Francis Names First Woman to Senior Vatican Diplomatic Role
- Pope Francis appointed a woman to a management role in the Vatican’s most powerful department for the first time on Wednesday.
- Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, a Vatican official of 27 years, will now serve as the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State.
- Among other duties, Di Giovanni will oversee the coordination of the Vatican’s relationships with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations.
- While several other women hold high-ranking positions in the city-state, Di Giovanni’s leadership role in the Vatican’s most powerful branch is unparalleled.
Appointment of Di Giovanni
Pope Francis made an unprecedented move on Wednesday by appointing a woman for the first time to a managerial position in the Secretariat of State, the most powerful department of the Vatican.
Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, an Italian lawyer and Vatican official of 27 years, was named the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. Among other responsibilities, Di Giovanni will oversee a division that coordinates the Vatican’s relations with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations.
“The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women,” Di Giovanni told the Vatican’s in-house media.
“But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman,” she added.
Milestone for Women in Catholic Church
Several women hold leadership positions in other Vatican offices, but the Secretariat of State is the most powerful branch, making Di Giovanni’s career shift extra significant.
Pope Francis’ appointment of Di Giovanni is the latest development in his ongoing open support of women having more say in the Roman Catholic Church. Currently, women cannot be ordained as priests and the Church’s leadership is almost entirely male-dominated.
On New Year’s Day, the pope expressed praise for womankind.
“Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes,” Pope Francis said. “Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”
Di Giovanni referenced these words in her interview with the Vatican News calling them the pope’s “tribute” to the role of women.
“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” Di Giovanni said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well.”
See what others are saying: (Vatican News) (NPR) (BBC)
Protests Erupt in Iran After Military Admits to Shooting Down Plane
- Protests broke out across Iran over the weekend after the military admitted that it shot down a Ukrainian airline’s passenger jet, killing 176 people when mistaking it for a hostile aircraft.
- Officials originally said there was no evidence of the plane being struck down by one of their missiles but ultimately admitted fault three days later.
- Protesters are demanding leaders be held accountable.
- There are reports of tear gas and gunfire being used against demonstrators, but Tehran’s head of police has denied claims of shots being fired.
Backlash from the Plane Strike
Monday marked the third straight day of Iranian protests since Iran’s military admitted it shot down a passenger jet last week, mistaking it for a threat and killing all 176 people on board.
Videos emerged on Sunday of protesters running from tear gas and in others, which could not be immediately verified, gunfire could be heard.
It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Iranians—last week, hundreds of thousands were rallying in the streets to publicly mourn Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Quds Force commander who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.
During those rallies, cries of hate against the United States and Donald Trump—who ordered the strike— were heard. This week there is a sharp contrast, as protesters seem to be targeting the Iranian government and military.
According to The Washington Post, demonstrators were filmed late on Sunday in at least two locations ripping down posters of Soleimani. In Iran’s capital, Tehran, a billboard mourning the victims of the plane crash replaced one of the deceased military leader.
In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, Iran fired missiles at an Iraqi military base that houses American troops on Wednesday. The plane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps just hours later after taking off from Tehran.
After maintaining for days that there was no evidence the aircraft was struck down by one of their missiles, Iran admitted that its military had shot down the jet by mistake.
The military initially claimed in a statement that the plane took an unexpected turn that brought it close to a sensitive military base, but an Iranian official later backtracked on that notion.
“The plane was flying in its normal direction without any error and everybody was doing their job correctly,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace unit, said on Saturday. “If there was a mistake, it was made by one of our members.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident an “unforgivable mistake” and said that investigations are continuing to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy.”
A mix of individuals from multiple countries was onboard the aircraft, including dozens of Canadians. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “a national tragedy” and publicly called for further investigation.
“I want to assure all families and all Canadians: We will not rest until there are answers,” he said at a memorial event on Sunday.
Protesters are demanding that leaders be held responsible for the fatal mistake. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that up to 1,000 people were protesting at various points in the capital city. Some videos posted to social media show crowds demanding the resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.
One of the scenes of protest was the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which said that 13 of its students and alumni were killed in the plane crash. Iranian security forces stepped in and escalated the demonstration.
They “started dragging people away. They took a number of people and put them in cages in police vans,” said 35-year-old Soudabeh told The Washington Post, keeping her full name anonymous.
“At one point, the protesters freed one of the men who was detained. I saw his face and it was covered in blood — his family carried him away,” she told the news outlet.
Iran’s security forces have a history of taking extreme action to contain protesters. In November, after protests broke out in response to the spike in Iran’s gas prices, about 1,500 demonstrators were killed by security forces, according to the Trump administration.
Iranian media quoted Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying “Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” according to reports by the Associated Press.
Rahimi denied claims that police were shooting at protesters and said that tear gas was only being used in certain areas.