World Peace Update
Now that we are officially counting down the 103 days till Christmas and riot season is in full swing, I've been having a little trouble compiling this column. There's just too much going on. So, I guess congratulations are in order for Bolivia, Egypt, Germany and Nigeria for narrowly missing the cut and not being quite as fucked up as those countries that did.
Let's see who made it!
Palestinians probably rank among the world's most patient people after living under occupation for 60-odd years, but this past Monday was another of those occasions when it seems their patience just ran out. Discontent over the rising cost of living and booming fuel prices boiled over into altercations between demonstrators and police across the West Bank, with the heaviest taking place in the city of Hebron. Thousands of people set up blockades of burning tyres in the streets and attacked government offices, before eventually engaging with the Palestinian Authority police, who'd been hesistant at first in fear of making things worse.
However, the protests seemed to have the desired effect, as on Tuesday the Palestinian Authority announced it would make cuts to fuel prices and the salaries of top officials in a bid to placate the protesters. Fuel recently hit £1.33 a litre which is as expensive as it is in the UK. There's a budget deficit of $500million and the salaries of some 153,000 civil servants remain unpaid, making for a volatile situation that the government are desperate to stop from spiralling out of control.
Greece's far-right party, the Golden Dawn – now the country's third most popular
criminal organisation political party – took to the streets last week to meet their adoring public. But, instead of working towards improving their toxic PR image, the Golden Dawn did what it does best, and attacked defenceless immigrants with impunity. Members of the group gathered in Rafina, a suburb in the North-East of Athens, to make vigilante spot-checks on street vendors' ID papers, as if they had the authority to do so. (Imagine the EDL trying to do the same at Wembley Sunday Market for the sake of comparison.)
After growing angry with their findings, they ruthlessly destroyed the vendors' stalls and beat them up with enormous wooden sticks. Presumably this happened because the immigrants ID papers didn't check out, but I've been to Rafina, so my bet is on the GD just really hating dream-catchers and XXL Bob Marley T-shirts. The police didn't intervene immediately, but later the attacks were discussed in parliament and the Public Order Ministry called for all involved – including three Golden Dawn MPs – to be formally charged, signalling a possible crackdown on their raids. About fucking time.
Since the post-tsunami Fukushima disaster in 2011, anti-nuclear protests have been taking place across the globe, causing governments to speed up their withdrawal from nuclear energy. India however, whose economy is exploding, is bucking the trend and sees nuclear power as a way of averting their energy crisis. Nuclear power plants may have existed in India since the 1970s, but the recent construction of a new plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu has pissed the locals off big time.
The new plant sits right next to pristine beaches where thousands of local villagers gathered in protest on Monday and ended up fighting with police. This forced the plant to halt the process of loading the fuel into the reactor. The police initially used tear gas to keep the crowds at bay and, when that didn't work, they resorted to using live ammunition. One protester was killed.
The plant was meant to be in operation since last December, but a group of local fishermen were able to block access to it. Speaking to the Financial Times, A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, said that the plant will remain closed for as long as there are people protesting against it: "You should never have a disturbed, dissatisfied distraught crowd around a nuclear plant." No shit. But still, it's not like shooting them is going to calm them down and convince them to go home, is it A. Gopalakrishnan?
Every week I write about Syria, and every week I think, "Well, at least that situation can't get much worse." And yet, things always do get worse. This week, many of the 250,000 refugees who have managed to flee the country to camps in Jordan are now suffering from dust storms which are battering the thin tents they're currently living in, sparking riots over the appalling conditions and subsequent deportation charges.
Back on Syrian turf, Aleppo is getting pretty fucking hairy.
Finally, rumours of foreign intervention increased this week when General Manaf Tlas – who defected from the regime to the opposition to much fanfare back in July – publicly stated that French "services" helped him in his escape from Syria. The intimation that French intelligence services are working in Syria makes sense, as France has been the most vocal among those Western powers calling for foreign intervention. With Tlas being touted as a potential leader of the opposition, France may well be preparing to lead Syria into the future.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston