Can you ‘see’ slavery? Black skins, brown skins, and the price of in/visibility in colonial India | openDemocracy

Can you ‘see’ slavery? Black skins, brown skins, and the price of in/visibility in colonial India | openDemocracy
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Human Traffickers on Instagram |BBC

Women sold online - a montage of anonymous photos

Source: BBC News

Recruited at home under false promises, sketchy contracts, and a special visa  that forces them to yield to the will of their employer, domestic workers end up as victims of trafficking and living in conditions of de facto servitude. A BBC News Arabic investigation found online slave markets Instagram where women were offered for sale as workers via hashtags such as “maids for transfer” or “maids for sale”.

BBC News Arabic published its undercover investigation which found domestic workers were being illegally bought and sold online in a booming black market promoted via algorithm-boosted hashtags, and sales negotiated via private messages.

“What they are doing is promoting an online slave market,” said Urmila Bhoola, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

The importation of domestic workers is nothing new, nine out of 10 Kuwaiti homes have a domestic worker – they come from some of the poorest parts of the world to the Gulf, aiming to make enough money to support their family at home. In Kuwait, as in the United States, sponsored visas open a gate to slavery like conditions and human trafficking, because a domestic worker cannot change or quit her job, nor leave the country without her sponsor’s permission.

Read BBC full report here

Houthi rebels offer ceasefire |BBC News

Houthi Supreme Political Council chair Mahdi al-Mashat said the group would end all strikes on Saudi Arabia, provided the kingdom and its allies did the same.

The offer comes a week after drone and missile strikes hit Saudi Arabian oil facilities and a day after the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, announced that President Trump approved the deployment of U.S. forces and equipment in response to Saudi Arabia’s request for defensive assistance.

Read the full note from the BBC here




Conflict in Yemen has reached its tipping point.

Yemen separatist militias, better known as Houthis, launched a drone attack last Sept. 14, against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities disrupting half of the country’s oil capacity and affecting global supply.

No matter how much the Houthis claimed responsibility, the international community thinks otherwise. Mike Pompeo accused Iran of being behind the attacks, the United Nations Panel of Experts on Yemen reported that the Houthis did acquire advanced drones, Saudi officials rushed to present evidence of the wreckage of what it looks like an Iranian made drones found at the site.


Evidence presented by Saudi officials Photo source: Amr Nabil/AP

Experts on Nonproliferation Studies mentioned three reasons why the Houthi rebels probably didn’t do it:

  1. Math never lies. There were 17 impacts vs. 10 drones the rebels claimed were launched.
  2. Distance matters. The attack was 500 miles off the border with Yemen, the rebels’ weapons didn’t have the range.
  3. Sophisticated strategy. Houthis could have the technical capability to fly one or two drones into Saudi Arabia, but such a sophisticated attack is less than likely according to Fabian Hinz

After days of going on and off with the assumption that Iran’s was somehow involved in the attack, today, Sept. 20 the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, announced that the Pentagon will deploy U.S. forces to the Middle East focusing on air and missile defense, adding that Saudi Arabia requested the support.

“The president has approved the deployment of U.S. forces which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense.”

The Secretary of Defense reiterated that the United States did not seek conflict and called on Tehran to return to diplomatic channels.

The current conflict makes me think about game theory, specifically the chicken-game on which two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a “chicken.”

The difference is that instead of a single-car crash, we are talking about countries with real nuclear capabilities on which neither of the leaders would like to be called a chicken.

If we get lucky enough, perhaps the U.S. and Iran decide to play a different game, like the stag game or coordination game: where each of them must choose to hunt either a stag or a hare, and each country must decide on the action without knowing the choice of the other. If an individual hunts a stag, they must have the cooperation of their partner to succeed. An individual can get a hare by himself, but a hare is worth less than a stag.

No matter what game the U.S and Iran decide to play, the fact is, the conflict in Yemen has reached its tipping point.


The conflict in Yemen is one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster, according to the UNHCR, here are “22.2 million Yemenis now in need of humanitarian assistance.” Of those killed in the conflict in the last four years, OHCHR has attributed “4,585 deaths to actions by the Saudi-led international coalition, 1,448 to the Houthi opposition militia and their allies, and 367 to extremists Al Qaeda and ISIL” you can read the full note on the UN News webpage.

Approximately 2 million displaced people now languish in desperate conditions, away from home and deprived of basic needs, they arrived into neighboring countries seeking refuge while their homeland battles for survival.

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Yemen situation 2017

 yemeni crisis 2015Key Actors

  • Ansar Allah, better known as the Houthi Movement a Yemeni Zaidi Shia group who ousted Saleh in 2011 and who has strong ties to Iran.
  • Gulf Cooperation Council, an anti-Houthi coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, who support Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi government.

When did all this disaster begin in the first place?

Starting point

When the last Imam Ahmad bin Yahya died in 1962, Yemen entered a civil war that ended with the creation of two independent states: the Yemen Arab Republic and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDYR)  or South Yemen. One backed up by Saudi Arabia, Britain and Jordan, and the later by the Eastern bloc.

Both regions entangled in intermittent conflicts from 1972 until 1990 when the two governments finally reached an agreement and Ali Abdullah Saleh (YAR) became president of the new Republic of Yemen, and Ali Salim al-Beidth (PDYR) became the vice-president.

While progress was made in forming a unified government and constitution, relations were still strained between the north and south. Conflicts within the ruling coalition led to the 1993 self-imposed exile of Vice President Ali Salim Al-Bidh as political rivals settled scores on their own, leading to a deterioration in the security situation. Despite continuous negotiations between northern and southern leaders, clashes intensified and secessionists from the south conceded in 1994 and consolidated Ali Abdullah Saleh as president of Yemen.

Ali Abdullah Saleh served from 1978 until 1990 president of the Yemen Arab Republic and from 1990 to 2012 as president of Yemen when he resigned after the Yemeni Revolution, and died on December 2017 at the hands of the Houthi movement.

lightbulbDid you know? South Yemen separatists had the support of Saudi Arabia against Saleh, but Ali Abdullah Saleh used Islamic militants to repress the separatists, decades after Saudi Arabia leads an anti-Houthis coalition. Strangely enough, the Houthi accepted Ali Abdullah Saleh help to combat Saudi forces back in 2014, but when they find out about Saleh’s conspiracy to go back to power, they allegedly killed him.

Recommended readings: Johnsen, Gregory D. “The last refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s war in Arabia” and Gelvin, James L. “The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know.”


Who are the Houthis?

Ansar Allah (“Supporters of Allah”) better known as the Houthi Movement. The group has its origins in the 1990s under the leadership of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi (ergo the Houthis) who sought to oust Ali Abdullah Saleh due to his ties with Saudi Arabia and the United States, the group is predominantly Shi’a.

By the 2000s, the movement evolved into a military insurgency seeking greater autonomy for Houthi-majority regions, the group pledged to fight Saleh’s corruption, a politically driven move that gained support during the Arab Spring and ultimately helped to oust Saleh in 2012.

What is the Gulf Cooperation Council?

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf except Iraq, namely: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The purpose of the GCC is to create a “Gulf Union” and counterbalance Iran’s influence in the region.

Led by Saudi Arabia, the GCC seeks to consolidate a common market (created on 2008), a monetary union (designed on 2014 but not yet implemented), and strengthen the Penninsula Shield Force a joint military venture intended to deter, and respond to, military aggression against any of the GCC member countries.


Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain News Agency via AP)


Forced Migration

Causes of Displacement

Forced Migration Is the general term for a group of persons who have been displaced from their homes due to a man-made catastrophe or natural disaster.

Causes of Displacement

  1. Conflict-Induced occurs when people are forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict including civil war, generalized violence, and persecution on the grounds of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or social group.
  2. Development-Induced occurs when people are compelled to move as a result of policies and projects implemented to advance ‘development’ efforts. Examples of this include large-scale infrastructure projects such as dams, roads, ports, airports; urban clearance initiatives; mining and deforestation; and the introduction of conservation parks/reserves and biosphere projects.
  3. Disaster-Induced occurs when people are displaced as a result of natural disasters (floods, volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes), environmental change (deforestation, desertification, land degradation, global warming) and human-made disasters (industrial accidents, radioactivity).

Displaced people fall into one of the following categories:

  • Refugees – A person residing outside his or her country of nationality, who is unable or unwilling to return because of a ‘well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a political social group, or political opinion’.
  • Asylum seekers – People who have moved across international borders in search of protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.
  • Trafficked people -Those who are moved by deception or coercion for the purposes of exploitation.
  • Environmental refugees – Population displaced by environmental factors such as floods, volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes or deforestation, desertification, land degradation, man-made disasters, and they do not leave the borders of their homeland.
  • Smuggled migrants – these group of persons deserve special attention because although they initially left their homeland in search of a better life, some end up moved illegally for-profit and into bondage labor or worst.

International Law on Refugees and Forced Displacement

“The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom”.

The 1951 Refugee Convention

Initially focused on protecting mainly European refugees in the aftermath of World War II the 1951 Refugee Convention (plus the 1967 Protocol) helped to pave the road to other regional instruments such as the OAU Refugee Convention in Africa, the Cartagena Declaration in Latin America, and the development of an asylum system in the European Union, which together serve as the legal body for the protection of refugees

The Convention clearly spells out who is a refugee and the kind of legal protection, social rights and other assistance they should receive from states in the document.

The Convention defines a refugee as: “A person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.”

The 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement

Completed in 1998, the Guiding Principles (GPs) represent the first international standards for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The GPs comprise 30 principles, which define the rights of IDPs and the obligation of both governments and rebel groups to protect them.

The GPs “address all phases of displacement—providing protection against arbitrary displacement, offering a basis for protection and assistance during displacement, and setting forth guarantees for safe return, resettlement, and reintegration.“


Homeland Security visits Guatemala



August 23, 2019


Guatemala Minister of the Interior, Enrique Antonio Degenhart, and U.S. Deputy Director of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan visited the immigration center at La Peñita, where thousands of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East arrive seeking asylum. Degenhart and McAleenan signed a joint memorandum to improve cooperation on preventing and combating crime and other threats to national security between Guatemala and the United States, furthermore, they confirmed that once the Congress of Guatemala approves the “third safe country” agreement, Guatemala’s immigration centers will receive Hondurans and Salvadorians refugees and asylum seekers.

Although the newly elected president, Alejandro Giammattei, has declared that the agreement needs some modifications for its approval, McAleenan assured that the current U.S. Administration is always open to dialogue.

Guatemala lacks infrastructure, resources, and staff to properly process refugees, asylum seekers and detainees at the immigration centers, it is hard to believe that the third safe country agreement would improve the conditions of the deportees.

Yemen risks fragmentation if Conflict continues, warns UN envoy – The Irish Times

Chaos in Yemen could enable re-emergence of extremist groups – Martin Griffiths UN Special Envoy to Yemen

Micheal Jansen from The Irish Times, reports that UN envoy Martin Griffiths has warned that Yemen risks fragmentation due to warfare in the south.

Secessionist figures have repeatedly stated their aim is to recreate the independent state of South Yemen, which merged with North Yemen in 1990 to form the Yemen Arab Republic. The Yemeni government refuses to hold talks with the separatists unless they withdraw from Aden, hand over weapons and permit the return of government forces. The Yemeni government accuses the Emirates and secessionists of plotting to fragment the country despite Saudi calls for de-escalation in the south and a return to the battle against Houthi rebels in the north.

Full Story