World Peace Update
The phrase, "be careful what you wish for" is playing on loop in my head this week, as I stare blankly at another video of unarmed protesters being shot in Egypt. Last week I was bemoaning the lack of high-quality civil disobedience to fill this blog with and it seems the gods listened to my cries and answered with a blood-soaked carnival of violence and chaos. Thanks, gods.
Egypt really stepped up to the plate in a series of clashes with police that killed close to a hundred people and led to the installation of a curfew in three regions – as if this going to quell the violence. But enough about the Egyptians, we substantially covered their fun weekend here.
This week, Belgian steelworkers, Venezuelan prisoners and Dominican politicians took centre stage.
When they're not busy being pretend French people who eat a lot of chocolate, Belgians know how to kick off about losing their jobs. This week, workers from the ArcelorMittal plant in Liege (which might be closing soon) fought the cops, set up barricades and forced their Prime Minister to cancel a foreign trip and put together a task force to find a solution. Direct action, it seems, can work.
The first wave of clashes took place on Friday when a mob of protesters tried to march to the Prime Minister's office in Brussels but were blocked by police, sparking a solid round of stone-throwing and a hosing down from the water cannon. Yesterday wasn't much better, 1,500 of the steelworkers marched through the city of Namur and immediately engaged in hostilities, attacking the cops with baseball bats and steel rods. Or at least this is how the police tried to validate their use of tear gas and water cannons.
With three steel plants set to close and no future arranged for the 1,500 jobless workers, the action is set to continue with protesters aiming to hit ArcelorMittal's headquarters in Luxembourg and the European Parliament in Strasbourg in the coming weeks.
What better way to shift the media's attention away from the ailing health of President Chavez than with a bloody prison riot that left 54 prisoners and soldiers dead and 150 injured. The festivities began when the national guard entered the Uribana prison to carry out a weapons confiscation and ended up comimg under fire from the weapons they were hoping to retrieve. Unsurprisingly, this led to a two-day gun-battle that heaped more pressure on the struggling government.
Riots are not uncommon in Venezuela's prisons, which are vastly overcrowded and rife with drugs and guns smuggled in from the outside. Uribana is notorious for its lack of guards inside the prison and its gladiator-style inmate fights, tapings of which often make their way online. According to the government the tragedy could have been avoided if a local TV station hadn't broadcasted that an attack by the national guard was imminent, arming the inmates not only with dead weapons but also foresight.
Say hello to the Dominican Republic World Peace Update debut, readers, as the country enters our violence-happy little group with a good, old-fashioned political brawl. Even better is that the fight was between members of the same party.
It all began innocently enough, with a few chairs and punches being thrown around, but the situation quickly escalated into a gun-fight, forcing the police to step in and disperse the crowd of rowdy MPs with tear gas. Apparently, the original culprit was former President Hipolito Mejia, who tried to take back the Dominican Revolutionary Party HQ from supporters of the current party leader, Miguel Vargas.
Earlier this month, Mejia was expelled from the party for insubordination and is now alleged to have hired a mob in order to take over their offices. Expect David Cameron to be doing the same in a few years' time when Nigel Farage is King Lizard at Conservative HQ.
Over the past few weeks, the conflict in Mali and the more recent civil unrest in Egypt have overshadowed the ongoing war in Syria. However on Tuesday, Syria made headlines once again with another massacre taking place in the key battleground of Aleppo. At the time of writing, over 100 bodies have been recovered from a canal near the frontline. Most of them have gun-shot wounds to the backs of their heads and their hands tied, which suggests that they were executed. Actually it doesn't suggest they were executed, let's face it, they were executed. Ever seen a man tie his own hands together and then shoot himself in the back of the head? Ever seen 100 men do that, all at the same time? They were executed, you're not pulling the wool over my eyes this time, guys.
Some of the dead have already been identified as people who hailed from opposition areas of the city who disappeared when they travelled to government-controlled areas. Uh oh – not looking good, regime.
So far the eastern coastal area of the country – which is dominated by Assad's Alawite community – has largely avoided the conflict. But in recent weeks, as the FSA and Islamist Jabhat Al Nusra look to cut Assad off from his homeland retreat, the once distant war has slowly moved east, engulfing small towns and villages. The cities of Latakia and Tartarus were once touted as possible escape routes for Assad and his inner-circle. It was even suggested that the region could become a safe-haven for the Alawite minority if Assad stepped down, but as the war creeps ever closer this is now an unlikely situation.
Although neither side can gain a military advantage at the moment, the rebels received a morale boost this week when it was announced that Assad's mother, Aniseh Makhlouf, has fled the country to the UAE. With his sister having already left his side after her husband (Assad's Deputy Defence Minister) was killed in an assassination, the suggestion that the regime might actually win this thing sounds more and more like a fantasy. I mean there's not much to hope for when even your own mother gives you the finger, is there?
Check back next week to see if Assad is manning the trenches all on his own.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston