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TOPIC: activism

In The News

Fuel Depot Blast Kills 20 In Karabakh, Seoul Weapons, T. Swift Buzz

👋 Goedemorgen!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where an explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh kills 20, South Korea flexed its military hardware, and Taylor Swift’s NFL rumored beau goes viral. Meanwhile, in independent Latin American journal Volcánicas, Sher Herrera considers the roots and ramifications of the “white savior syndrome” and how it lives on in modern times.


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Study: Rising Prices Force Organic Food Consumers To Switch To Cheaper Alternatives

A study shows that a rising tide of consumers are prioritizing their wallets over organic products, switching to more budget-friendly, non-organic options as the cost of living crisis continues.

BARCELONA — A recent study by the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) shows that the percentage is increasing of consumers who choose the cheapest products when shopping and look at price over brand. The findings are clear: 55% of "eco" food consumers are switching – or will soon switch – to more affordable non-organic brands.

In Spain, 66% of respondents "would like to do more for the environment and the planet, but the cost of living stops them doing so." As study points out, "the defection of the eco-active consumer is due to inflation."

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This Happened — August 1: China's Red August

On this day in 1966, a group of Red Guard factions clashed with the local authorities and army units in the city of Wuhan during China’s Cultural Revolution. The Red Guards, consisting primarily of students and young activists, had been encouraged by Mao Zedong to challenge and disrupt what he perceived as bourgeois and capitalist influences in society.

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A Dark Journey Into Hong Kong's World Of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

As advocates in Hong Kong work to spread the word that being LGBTQ+ is not an illness, conversion therapy centers like New Creation continue to harm and traumatize those who want to get "out of the gay life." Members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle to reconcile their faith and their orientation in a society that continues to be institutionally homophobic.

HONG KONG — Alvin Zhang has kept a diary for 18 years.

Flipping through the pages, he sees where he wrote, in large letters, "Weak emotion vs strong reason" at the top of the page. "There are two of me; one of me is actually so evil," he writes on one page. "I hate this 'me', I have to deal with this 'me'", "I am so hurt inside," he continues.

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This Happened

This Happened — July 12:  Malala Yousafzai Is Born

Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist and Nobel laureate known for her advocacy of girls' education and women's rights was born on this day in 1997 in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan. She gained international prominence after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012.

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Yusef Mosaddeqi

Iran's Protests Sealed The Bond Between Expats And Those Who Never Left — Now What?

Mass protests which lasted for months in Iran last year galvanized Iranians at home and abroad, in a way not seen since the 1979 revolution. That unity must be maintained as political capital for the next time Iranians challenge the Islamic Republic.


From the 1979 revolution that brought Iran's Shia clerics to power, to the mass protests of late 2022, Iranians came to accept the idea of an intrinsic divide between those living in post-revolutionary Iran, and those who fled or have simply left during the decades since.

The regime's own propaganda eagerly fueled visions of a hostile, if worthless, population living abroad: supposedly without roots or identity, 'Westoxicated,' to cite one of the regime's cherished terms, selfish, superficial and above all, oblivious to the realities of life in Iran.

Many inside Iran must have absorbed the negative narrative on expatriates, or kharejneshinan, given the regime's relentless hate-mongering, and judging by the resentful treatment Iranians visiting from abroad have sometimes received. Many will have been chided for abandoning their country or "knowing nothing" of the struggles of those who have lived out decades of their lives in a homeland that has become stifling. Others may have been accused of visiting Iran for cheaper medical treatments, or to relive the good old days for a few weeks, before returning to better lives abroad.

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Brendan Clift

Bounties On Hong Kong Activists Show Beijing Will Go Anywhere To Stifle Dissent

Hong Kong police have arrested five people accused of supporting eight pro-democracy activists living abroad, two days after the government put up bounties on them. As part of the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing, the move is yet another attempt by China to stifle oversea dissidence.


MELBOURNE — The Hong Kong government has extended its efforts to suppress political dissent overseas, issuing arrest warrants earlier this week for eight exiled pro-democracy figures and offering bounties of HK$1 million (around $128,000) each.

The targeted pro-democracy figures, who now live in Australia, the US and UK, were selected from a longer list of wanted dissidents. There is a curated feel to their profiles — three ex-legislators, three activists, a unionist and a lawyer — that suggests the list is symbolic, as well as pragmatic.

Then late Wednesday, Hong Kong police arrested five men based on the island accused of supporting people overseas who "endanger national security." According to local media, the four arrested include Ivan Lam, the former chair of disbanded political party Demosisto.

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This Happened

This Happened — July 6: Frida Kahlo Was Born

Frida Kahlo was a renowned Mexican artist known for her distinctive and vibrant self-portraits. She was born on this day in 1907. Kahlo is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

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Johan Sanabria

The Colombian Paramilitary's Other Dirty War — Against LGBTQ+ People

In several parts of Colombia over the past decades, right-wing paramilitaries and their successor gangs have targeted all those tagged as sexual "deviants" for execution, supposedly in a bid to restore traditional values.

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. This week, we also feature an article by Johan Sanabria for Bogota-based daily El Espectador that focuses on how Colombian right-wing paramilitaries and gangs targeting all those they deem to be sexual "deviants." But first, the latest news...

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

TW: This content may address topics and include references to violence that some may find distressing.

🌐 5 things to know right now

• Calls for Sunak to apologize, and an Oxford University first: The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been called on to apologize "on behalf of the nation" by activists from the LGBTQ+ veterans' group Fighting with Pride for historic anti-LGBTQ+ hatred in the military. Meanwhile, Oxford University has named the UK's first Professor of LGBTQ+ History at Mansfield College. The role will go to Matt Cook, a renowned cultural historian who has written extensively on queer urban life, the AIDS crisis and queer domesticity.

• Support pulled for Rome Pride: The right-wing government of Italy's Lazio region has pulled its support from the capital's annual LGBTQ+ parade after organizers publicly supported surrogate motherhood, which is still illegal in Italy. This comes as the subject remains particularly sensitive since Giorgia Meloni came to power and announced her intention to combat the "LGBTQ+ lobby".

• Major survey shows 9% of adults identify as LGTBQ+: The Ipsos LGBT+ Pride 2023 survey (conducted in February and March 2023 among more than 22,500 adults under 75) has found that an average of 9% of adults across 30 countries identify as LGBTQ+. The survey also shows increased LGBTQ+ visibility, as well as widespread support for same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. Respondents also spoke in favor of protecting transgender people from employment and housing discrimination, but views were divided on other pro-transgender measures. The survey was

• Taylor Swift’s voices support in Chicago: Taylor Swift delivered a strong message to her audience for Pride Month at a concert in Chicago. The pop superstar said she saw some incredible people in her audience who are “living authentically and beautifully”. She also tweeted in support of the LGBTQ+ community, denouncing all forms of discrimination. Meanwhile, a Gallup poll showed that support for same-sex marriage remains high at 71% of Americans.

• Virtual installation creates a stir in France: A video of the Parisian landmark, the Arc de Triomphe draped in a looping rainbow has caused quite a stir in France, with some criticizing the use of a monument that is dedicated to French soldiers. But the installation was only virtual: Ian Padgham, the artist behind the virtual work, reacted to the controversy by warning against society's unpreparedness for manipulation through images.

The Colombian Paramilitary's Other Dirty War — Against LGBTQ+ People

BARRANCABERMEJA — Sandra* spotted her name for the first time on a pamphlet left at her doorstep in 2008, in Barrancabermeja, her home town in northern Colombia. Local paramilitaries known as the Black Eagles (Águilas negras) dropped it there on Dec. 15 as a warning and, effectively, a deferred death sentence. It meant they knew where Sandra, a transgender woman, lived and that if she chose to stay, she could expect to die.

The pamphlet, copies of which were left in bars or premises frequented by gays, lesbians and transsexuals, stated, "Barrancabermeja is becoming full of fags, AIDS-spreaders and sodomites, and this must stop." Colombians do not take gang threats lightly, and know that paramilitaries are death squads: in many parts of the country, they have killed with utter impunity.

Sandra was born in August 1989 in the San Rafael hospital in Barrancabermeja. Her mother was a housewife and her father worked for the country's big oil firm, Ecopetrol. The youngest of three children, she had dark skin and dark eyes, thick lips and long, curvy hair. She is not very tall, speaks slowly and tends to prolong words, and seldom laughs.

Aged 14, she fled her home a first time, sickened by bullying at school — from classmates and teachers — and beatings at home for being transgender.

Left homeless, she was sent to the home of a woman to whom she refers as "mother." Some mother: while caring for Sandra and providing shelter, she would also give her "a smack" if need be, and pimp her out, even before she was an adult.

Sandra wasn't the only girl with "mom". Now, she says, "being with other trans-women made me feel a freedom I hadn't known, though [prostitution] also puts you in difficult situations I'd rather forget."

Sandra thus lived away from home from 2003 to 2008. In those years, the conservative government of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez was negotiating the disarmament of some 30,000 armed men of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas unidas de Colombia, AUC).

The country's Truth Commission (Comisión de la Verdad), a body with fact-finding and reparative functions, has observed that this was a "relief for most territories" in Colombia, though it adds the groups swiftly rearmed and "recycled" into plain, armed gangs.

In Barrancabermeja, it took a single night for the Bolívar Central Block, part of the AUC, to become the new paramilitaries. In February 2008, the new "paras" or Black Eagles, entered the Ciudadela Pipatón neighborhood, threatening 20 locals known for their sexual and gender diversity. Five fled immediately, being declared military objectives, while Sandra's turn came 10 months later.

The authorities say Black Eagles is a pseudonym used by common criminals to give themselves impunity, as nobody will dare report paramilitaries. Bodies such as Human Rights Watch have a list of complaints of violent crimes filed with authorities and attributed to gangs such as the Black Eagles.

In the course of 2008, Sandra renewed contact with her family. She wanted to tell them what she had suffered as a child, including the pain of being abused by a neighbor when left alone at home one day. She thought Christmas might be a good time to do this, but "it was the hardest, bitching conversation of my life," she recalls, saying she ended up crying with her mother. Early in 2009, she returned to live with her mother, in spite of talk of trans women being gunned down in the district. For Sandra, just being at home seemed to have put things right.

In its report "War Inscribed on the Body" (La guerra inscrita en el cuerpo), the state-backed National Center for Historical Memory observes that the paramilitaries "were keen to cleanse" their territories of all bodies deemed to be "pollution, deviation, immorality and illness". HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, came to be linked to promiscuity and sin, which justified forceful measures, especially against the various gay communities.

Diego Ruiz Thorrens, a philosopher and head of ConPazes, a sexual health and rights consultancy, says that in the Middle Magdalena Basin, a region including Barrancabermeja, armed groups came to target, as they still do, people suspected of being HIV positive. His views differ from those of healthcare authorities, who attribute a rise in HIV-positive diagnoses precisely to increased testing nationwide thanks to fewer prejudices. The country's National Health Institute duly noted a 51% rise in HIV-positive cases between 2020 and late 2022.

Ruiz and another activist, Oviedo Nieto, insist that anti-gay prejudices persist in the Santander department. Nieto says that many Colombians have yet to clearly distinguish between HIV and full-blown AIDS, and this clearly is not a distinction paramilitaries care to make.

The Black Eagles returned to Sandra's home months after the pamphlet. Her mother told them she wasn't there and begged them to leave her alone. They agreed — if she left town in the next 24 hours. That night, she fled to her sister's home in Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander. She had no time to bid farewell to a friend who was later killed. "The family always blamed me," she recalls, "as they saw us kissing. They killed him for a kiss."

At some point before leaving, Sandra and several transgender women were able to meet with paramilitary commanders to ask why they had been blacklisted. The militia told them "it had received complaints" — the women were "addicts, thieves and were harassing the children and menfolk" in town. And yet, she recalls, in spite of their supposed vileness, the paramilitaries were not beyond hiring their sex services, though "in order not to look bad with their group, they would (then) kill them."

In Bucaramanga she could not find work as a transgender woman with a resumé in prostitution, and says she had to keep "going back to hairdressing or prostitution." In 2015, she began to feel poorly and soon tested positive for HIV. About that time, her mother was found to have a stomach tumor, which prompted her to decide to return, against all advice.

Up to the pandemic of 2020, complaints persisted in Barrancabermeja of gunmen threatening anyone suspected of being HIV positive. ConPazes records the case of a man who died of an AIDS-related illness, with his widow telling everyone he had died of cancer. When her own infection became evident, says Ruiz, she and her sons were themselves "almost" shot dead several times. This is the home district to which Sandra returned to be near her mother, and where she now lives "invisibly," as she says. Her mother died in 2016.

Younger members of the gay and trans communities in Barrancabermeja will not live this way, and while death threats persist, they have tended to target their most prominent members. The head of the municipality's sexual and gender rights office, Karina López, says these younger members of the gay communities are unfamiliar with the terror of the 1990s to 2010 period, when violence peaked.

Today, she adds, the 1,200 or so who attend the district's Pride march are of a generation "that demands to live without fear."

* Name changed to protect her identity.

This article was compiled with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross as part of its 2022 online course, Conflict, Violence and Human Rights in Colombia: Tools for Journalists (Conflicto, violencia and DIH en Colombia: herramientas para periodistas). The views expressed are not those of the Red Cross and its editorial board.

Johan Sanabria

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Yusef Mosaddeqi

Iran: Time To Ask What The Protest Movement Did And Didn't Achieve

Impatient to be rid of a 40-year dictatorship, many Iranians have sunk into despair at the failure of protests last year to topple the Islamic Republic. They must be patient and sober in their immediate expectations, before a longer, ongoing process of change turns Iran into a free nation with the rule of law.


Transformation is, by nature, both visible and essential. The mutation of living beings is reflected in changing appearances that herald a new being and life cycle, emerging with the demise of a prior form.

Like creatures, societies also change, even if a longstanding, complex society may find it tougher to evolve. Indeed, the more deep-seated its cultural moorings, the greater the pain of its mutation. Yet transformation is essential to a nation's endurance.

Iran is today in the middle of such a mutation, a phase of which included the months-long protests of 2022. The difference between those protests and previous movements against the clerical regime was, firstly, their duration, and secondly, their collective impact on the consciousness of Iranians.

In other words, a large mass of Iranians with differing perspectives came to see them as a reflection of the state of the country and its direction, which makes the protests a historic landmark.

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Samuel Chu

Pillar Of Shame, Symbol Of Freedom: Tiananmen To Hong Kong To Berlin

The “Pillar of Shame” in Hong Kong, a memorial to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was a symbol of freedom and democracy. Beijing has taken it down, but a replica is being built in Berlin. Activist Samuel Chu explains why that means so much to him.


HONG KONG — On Dec. 22, 2021, shortly before midnight, masked workers removed the original “Pillar of Shame” statue from the campus of the University of Hong Kong, where it had stood for more than 24 years. The sculpture was dismantled into three pieces and wrapped in white sheets that were reminiscent of the shrouds used to wrap dead bodies.

The pillar has a very personal meaning for me. Its arrival in Hong Kong in 1997 marked the start of a friendship between the artist Jens Galschiøt and my father, the minister Chu Yiu-ming, a founding member of the Hong Kong Alliance.

The Alliance was founded to support the protest movement in Tiananmen Square in Beijing (Tiananmen meaning the Gate of Heavenly Peace). After the protests were brutally suppressed, the Alliance became the most important voice working to ensure that the victims were not forgotten, and for 30 years it organized annual candlelight vigils on June 4 in Hong Kong.

When the pillar was removed from Hong Kong in 2021, I traveled to Jens’s workshop in Odense, Denmark to start work on our new plan. We wanted to ensure that the pillar, as a memorial to the murdered of Tiananmen Square, as well as to those who kept these forbidden memories alive in Hong Kong, did not disappear. To understand how it came to this, you need to understand the history and the idea behind the pillar in Hong Kong.

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This Happened

This Happened — May 10: Mandela Sworn In

Nelson Mandela was sworn into the presidency at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa on this day in 1994.

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