Asia

Women's Fightback: A new generation of Kyrgyz heroines

The kidnapping of brides has been banned for decades in Kyrgyzstan, an ex-USSR Central Asian Republic lying north of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The law was tightened in 2013, with sentences of up to 10 years in prison for those who kidnap a woman to force her into marriage. Previously it was a fine of 2,000 soms, about £20. Despite that, the medieval practise of ala kachuu (“take and run”) persists to this day. The Women Support Centre in Bishkek has estimated that 12,000 forced marriages take place every year and very few perpetrators are convicted. About 80% of the girls kidnapped accept...

Left politics in Singapore

Jamie Teo, a food courier and socialist activist in Singapore, spoke to Sara Lee, a Workers’ Liberty activist. When did you start being politically active? I came across Marx around the age of 16 or 17 and started to awaken politically. I didn’t start doing political activity until I went to Perth, Australia, for university and came across Socialist Alternative. I met them at an orientation event and was invited to attend their protest against Trump in the Central Business District. I went to their branch meetings and reading groups. I felt they were good politically, but what made me a little...

Environmentalists in Singapore mobilise on May Day

On May Day, SG Climate Rally, a youth-led environmentalist organisation, held an online public meeting entitled “Workers Rights = Climate Action”. The meeting commemorated Labour Day (1 May in Singapore) and marked the conclusion of SG Climate Rally’s petition for the rights of food couriers and ride-hailing app drivers. The petition was started in response to the government’s new petrol tax hike, announced in its Budget as an environmentalist policy. Ironically, the same Budget allocated $870 million to Singapore Airlines, an aviation firm that is not only incredibly pollutive, but which has...

Kyrgyzstan: One step forward, two steps back

The workers of Kyrgyzstan have had very little experience of trade unionism. Under tsarist rule, unions were generally not tolerated. The Bolshevik revolution allowed unions to exist — on paper. But they were quickly turned into a “transmission belt” to pass on orders from the ruling Communist Party to the working class. With the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan declared independence in August 1991. This should have ensured, finally, a measure of democracy. And this would have meant free and independent trade unions, as had been created in other post-Communist states, most...

Malaysia deports 1086 to Myanmar

On 23 February, the Malaysian government deported 1,086 people back to Myanmar. This was against the orders of the Malaysian High Court, which ruled on the same day that the Myanmar nationals should be allowed to stay temporarily. There are millions of exploited migrants in Malaysia, and over a hundred thousand Burmese refugees. The government announced plans to deport 1,200 people, including children. 114 people are unaccounted for by the government as they were not handed over to the Myanmar navy. Despite the Malaysian government’s claims that they would not deport any Rohingya or official...

Singapore Airlines and "just transition"

In its recent Budget, the Singapore government announced plans to give $870 million to the aviation industry in an attempt to rescue it. Yet, in the third quarter of last year alone, Singapore Airlines — the national carrier — reported a net loss of $142 million. So, a whopping $870 million is not likely to go very far, especially if travel takes time to pick up after the pandemic. Singapore Airlines laid off 4,300 workers last year while its CEO continued to draw an annual salary of around $5 million, causing outrage on social media. At the beginning of the pandemic, flight attendants had...

Fix schools, not students

Three people were arrested for protesting outside the Ministry of Education in Singapore on Tuesday 26 January. The Ministry has come under fire for telling a transgender student to reduce her hormone replacement therapy or face expulsion. Ashlee, the student, had previously been sent home for having long hair and not obeying the dress code. Gay sex is a crime in Singapore. An annual LGBTQ rights event, Pink Dot, has helped to educate people and exert mass pressure on the government. Students, teachers and school workers must join together to demand that schools be safe for LGBTQ students.

Belarus: crackdown and gestures

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, opposition candidate in Belarus’s rigged 9 August election, declared on Telegram on 13 October: “The regime has 13 days to fulfill three main requirements: 1. Lukashenko must leave. 2. Street violence must stop completely. 3. All political prisoners must be released. If our demands are not met by 25 October, the whole country will peacefully take to the streets with the People’s Ultimatum.” Evidently the opposition assesses that it is strong enough at least to have a chance of this “ultimatum” having at least some force. Sunday 11 October saw street protests again...

Singapore: birth of a new left

After three weekends of fantastic discussions on issues like climate change and migrant workers’ rights, Activism in Crisis (AIC) — a huge activism festival in Singapore, 3 to 23 August — has wrapped up triumphantly. The freedom to speak and to organise in Singapore is quite stifled. Yet, in many ways, AIC is a model for organising and hosting events online — a model not just for organising under repressive regimes but a model for organising in the time of Covid. The festival took place over Zoom with extensive measures to keep the conversation going and to grow a coalition of activists in the...

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