World Peace Update
We're not quite there yet, folks.
Maybe you hadn't noticed, but the world isn't a very peaceful place right now. It's pretty hard to keep up with all the revolutions, protests and social conflicts going on. This column will aim to round up each week's chaos so at the very least I get to say "I told you so" when your society collapses and you find yourself fighting it out for the last can of baked beans at Walgreens.
It's been a pretty busy week for those who like to hurt others in public. Let's start with Georgia's Gay Pride march. In the manner of any march in Eastern Europe, it quickly stopped being a march and turned into a brawl. But at least they got the chance to march a little, whereas many Gay Pride marches in the former USSR don't even make it that far. (Take, for instance, the one in Kiev, Ukraine where police weren't willing to put themselves in danger to protect LGBT activists from 500 angry football hooligans who just happened to be in the area.) In Tbilisi last Thursday, it was the Orthodox Christians who wanted to break up the party, blocking the path of the Pride marchers and engaging them in a fistfight. Police ended up arresting people from both sides.
For the past three months, we have been reluctantly updating you on the depressing violence in Syria. But, as the conflict reaches a stalemate and the international community refuses to do anything but sit back and gas at each other, we felt we should pull back and focus on the other fuck ups in the world, too. Not that we're ignoring Syria; this column will be keeping you posted on the ongoing revolution/violent restating of Assad's total and oppressive dominion.
Last week, the UN monitor mission was thrown into chaos as one of their vehicles was hit by an explosion in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. In the wake of the explosion, the monitors had to take refuge with local rebels of the Free Syrian Army until the next day. Syrian civilians now risk arrest and possible torture if they're seen talking to monitors, who BTW now openly admit to witnessing atrocities committed by the regime.
The town of Rastan, an FSA stronghold, is currently under siege—much like Homs was at the beginning of the year. The regime shells the city and then sends troops in, but so far the FSA have beaten them back. The fighting in Rastan is part of a wider FSA offensive funded by the Gulf states. All the new cash and ammunition has managed to score the FSA some impressive victories. We'll keep you updated on their fight.
Another recent Syria-related development is that the violence in the country is threatening to spill across the border into its volatile neighbor, Lebanon. Over last weekend, Lebanon saw sporadic clashes between pro and anti-Syrian groups. These clashes, which killed two and wounded more than 20, followed the shooting and deaths of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, a Sunni Muslim cleric, and Muhammed Hussein Miraib in their car at a checkpoint. Both men were members of an anti-Syrian group and there were accusations that their deaths were assassinations carried out by Shia groups linked to the Assad regime. A week ago, violence broke out in the northern city of Tripoli between Sunni (anti-Syria) and Alawite (pro-Syrian) militias, making this week's violence even more troubling and possibly a signifier that Lebanon can no longer stay out of the conflict in Syria without experiencing repercussions on its own turf.
While David Cameron was celebrating Chelsea's Champions League final win in Chicago at the Nato summit this weekend, thousands of protesters gathered outside in opposition to the alliance and the wars it is involved in. Just before the summit started, three men were accused of making petrol bombs and planning to attack Obama's re-election headquarters. They were subsequently arrested for alleged terrorist offences. The group's attorneys and supporters claimed it was a set-up and that the police had confused beer-making equipment with bomb-making equipment. Not sure why these guys would go hundreds of miles just to make beer, but who am I to judge; I'd travel hundreds of miles just to drink it.
This past weekend, there were also brief clashes between police and protesters made up of Occupiers, black bloc, and Iraq War veterans as the crowd tried to make its way to the summit before police blocked their path. There were 45 arrests and over 20 injuries and before the march started, hackers took down the city council and Chicago police department websites, the latter of whom had been criticized for spending over $1 million on riot gear in preparation for the summit (at one point, they even threatened to use their brand new LRAD to disperse protesters). Thankfully, the police pussied out and nobody's eardrums exploded.
In Melbourne, Australia a group of Islamic extremists protested outside the annual Global Atheist Convention, calling on Christopher Hitchens to burn in Hell. Which I guess could easily be exactly the place he'd want to be. Kicking Hitler in the nuts, repeatedly.
Punching above their weight, the extremists were confronted with several thousand atheists who drowned them out pretty quick. Then, a few gay atheists made out in front of them. The Islamic extremists found this hilarious.
We round off the week's chaos with a report by B'tselem of an incident in the West Bank. Apparently, on Saturday an Israeli settler and his tooled-up pals opened fire on a group of Palestinian teenagers, who were throwing stones—sort of an unfair fight, don't you think? Unfortunately this isn't unusual in the West Bank; paranoid settlers regularly harass and attack Palestinians, but this time they did so in full view of Israeli soldiers who stood there and didn't intervene.
This incident follows weeks of tension after the hunger strikers crisis and the Tuesday outbreak of violence all across the West Bank for Nakba day. There were warnings that if any of the hunger strikers were to die, then a third intifada would've broken out. Luckily a compromise was found, but this incident could be a potential spark for a summer of violence.
Check in next week to see whether the world swallowed itself or a beauty queen's dream of world peace finally got realised.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston