Once again, more than 7 million students in China graduated from university in May. If you add in the 300,000 overseas graduates and previous years’ graduates who are still looking for jobs, that means more than 15 million young people were reportedly seeking their fortunes at the same time this year.
As a newly rising economy power, China is considered to have a huge job market. Indeed, when you google “find a job in China”, millions of results pop up. But the reality is many graduates struggle to find work after finishing their studies. In fact, a popular saying that has arisen in recent years holds that “graduation equals unemployment.”
In 2013, the unemployment rate of graduates from colleges and universities two months after graduating was 17.6 percent, according to Times Higher Education; for those in rural areas, it was 30.5 percent. That's higher than the general unemployment rate (or at least what's thought to be the unemployment rate, since data out of China is unreliable). As China's economy has slowed down in the past two years, the graduate unemployment problem only has worsened.
The frustration of China's younger generations is reflected in a number of widely circulated social media and mobile text messages, such as the following:
When we were born, the infant formula was toxic; when our bodies were in development, we could only consume junk food; when we attended kindergarten, the school fee was out of control; when we graduated from university, we were unemployed; when we tried to earn our living via the stock market, it collapsed; when we tried hard to fall in love, we found out all handsome guys were gay; when we started chasing after the mainstream [culture and values], they were no longer mainstream.
What university means: management is like prison, the quality is for hooligans. [Students] learn how to kiss in public, consume like a white-collar worker, daydream in class. Skipping classes is common, dormitories are like internet cafes. Taking exams becomes a profession, only the aristocracy can afford school fees. Thesis looks like Baidu search results. Everyone gets short-sighted. The food in school canteens is for feeding animals. Having a job is like a dream. Graduation equals unemployment. Jobs [available] on the market are for rural-to-urban migrants.
Many believe that part of the problem of unemployment for recent university graduates is related to the policy of higher education expansion since 1999. Back then, only about 35 percent of high school graduates entered post-high school education including colleges, technical schools and universities. But in 2015, the percent was more than 80 percent, and about 40 percent became undergraduates at universities. For big cities like Beijing, the number of students entering university was more than 70 percent.
Some argue there aren't enough jobs for so many university-educated people. On popular social media site Weibo, Lydia commented on the over-supply of graduates:
Graduates are everywhere, and college students are not worth anything now. How could you tell the difference?
Another Weibo user, “Nomadic hero”, wrote that a side effect of expansion is a drop in the quality of graduates in general:
The fight for educational justice to make sure the majority of people have the chance to go to school is good. But it is true that the quality of students is getting worse. It is the university, rather than students, that lose value.
“Ling Yan San Chi” lamented:
Graduated for two years already, but I am still working on how to find a job!! Why is my life so miserable?
Though it is difficult to find job, many still consider entering university as the best path to obtain specialized skills and climb the social ladder — hence they do not feel regret for the choice. “HaiDe XiaTian” even chose to carry on his studies in postgraduate school:
I feel regret [about pursuing higher education], but there is no other way and I have to carry on down this path. Going to postgraduate school will be my last chance to enter an ideal university.
The graduation ceremony is called commencement, which should stand for a new beginning for graduates, but many see it like an individual struggle, such as Weibo user UsedToBe5:
Finding a job is a tough thing because you have to fall down and get up again and again. Of course, I have no one to blame since I choose it myself.
Not everyone is gloomy about the situation. A hashtag on Weibo called #graduation doesn’t mean unemployment# gives the topic a positive twist, and messages try to offer support, tips and personal experiences.
The latest status with the above hashtag was published on July 12 by Weibo user “WanAn Xin XinYu,” who was one of the 7 million newly graduated young people in 2016:
I am going to have another interview today, and I wish I could start working tomorrow. #graduation doesn’t mean unemployment# Add oil [a phrase of encouragement]! Although I have been unemployed for a month.
This week we take you to Indian-administered Kashmir, Nepal and China. We also speak with Global Voices contributor Angel Carrion about Puerto Rican opposition to a US fiscal control board, and we chat with Global Voices author Thant Sin about an outpouring of support for an official in Myanmar who dared to speak out against a radical Buddhist nationalist group.
This episode features stories by Kisholoy Mukherjee, Vishal Manve, Sanjib Choudhary, Oiwan Lam, Angel Carrion and Thant Sin. Many thanks to all our authors, translators and editors who helped make this possible.
In this episode of the Week that Was at Global Voices, we featured Creative Commons licensed music from the Free Music Archive, including Please Listen Carefully by Jahzzar; The Universal Fluff Theory by Krackatoa; Anamorphic Orchestra by Alan Singley; Origami 1726 by the Blue Dot Sessions; Driving me backwards by Phil Reavis; and Carcrashlander Instrumentals by Cory Gray.
Image used in the Soundcloud thumbnail is by Andres Musta. Uploaded on to Flickr. Taken on January 2, 2012. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The Pokemon Go game is taking the world by storm, and although it officially launched in Russia only today, July 18, Russian users have already joined in the fun. And Russian officials have already warned that the game could be used to “spark riots” and could “ruin us [Russians] spiritually.”
Other RuNet users have taken a more light-hearted approach to making Pokémon Go their own. A group of Russian artists and designers from the 2D Among Us community on VKontakte, Russia's largest social network, asked the question: What if the game was situated in the former Soviet Union and populated with characters from old Soviet cartoons? The resulting image manipulations are frankly adorable, bringing Cheburashka and other well-known cartoon figures to mobile screens, and placing monkeys, parrots and cute poltergeist Kuzya in recognizable post-Soviet landscapes, such as shabby garages, decaying playgrounds and industrial backgrounds.
The artists also played with other game interface elements, replacing the pokeball device with a children's red rubber ball. The details look so familiar that one VKontakte user remarked they could “almost hear the sound of that ball.”
The 2D Among Us community shares images of cartoon or movie characters edited into images of mundane reality, providing a playful and often surprising look at the things we observe around us every day. See more Pokémon Go-inspired cartoon characters on the 2D Among Us VKontakte page.
With conflict and insecurity plaguing North and West Africa and civil war lingering in Syria, people continue to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea on makeshift boats to seek sanctuary in Europe.
The human cost of these passages has been dramatically high. In 2015, more than one million people were estimated to have entered European Union countries by sea, five times more than the year before. So far in 2016, the figure stands at more than 240,000. According to the UN Refugee Agency, about 3,500 people who tried to immigrate to Europe died or went missing in the Mediterranean Sea in 2014. In 2015, the number rose to 3,771. This year has already seen 2,944 people perish.
This is where SOS Méditerranée comes in. SOS Mediterranée is an organization aiming to provide assistance to any person in distress at sea, whether they are men, women or children, migrants or refugees, who find themselves in mortal danger while crossing the Mediterranean. The project is financed by private donations and public funding. The funds raised go toward renting the boat and the daily costs of maintenance and rescue.
The ship used for the operation is the Aquarius. SOS Mediterranée was started by German merchant marine captain Klaus Vogel and Sophie Beau of France, who has experience in humanitarian programs. The project was created after the end of the Italian navy's Operation Mare Nostrum, which also aimed to rescue migrants in distress at sea.
SOS Mediterranée‘s blog includes several accounts from those who have made the perilous journey. These are a few of their stories.
Kebba is a 22-year-old welder from Gambia. He fled his country because of the reigning dictator and lack of work:
La seule façon d’avancer est de devenir soldat, et je n’ai pas voulu faire ça. J’ai perdu mon père et il fallait que je soutienne ma mère et mes jeunes soeurs, alors je suis parti chercher du travail ailleurs. En Libye, j’ai été kidnappé. J’ai été détenu dans un camp pendant deux mois. Il n’y avait presque pas de nourriture, pas d’eau, pas d’endroit pour dormir. Ils ont tué six personnes que je connaissais dans les camps. Ils disent ‘donne-nous ton argent ou on te tue’, et ils tiennent parole. J’ai voulu rentrer chez nous mais je n’avais aucun moyen de m’y rendre. Alors j’ai décidé de prendre ce risque de partir en Europe. Les trafiquants nous ont gardé dans un autre camp, pendant deux ou trois semaines. Le jour venu, ils nous ont entassés dans le bateau en caoutchouc. Il n’y avait pas de capitaine, seulement la volonté de Dieu. J’ai deux rêves— de devenir soudeur en mer et d’écrire un livre sur ce voyage. Mais si la vie ne m’accorde rien d’autre, j’espère au moins pouvoir vivre en paix
The only way to get ahead is to become a soldier, and I didn't want to do that. I lost my father and had to support my mother and my young sisters, so I went looking for work elsewhere. In Libya, I was kidnapped. I was held in a camp for two months. There was virtually no food, no water, nowhere to sleep. They killed six people I know in the camps. They would say, “Give me your money or we'll kill you,” and they kept their word. I wanted to go back home, but I had no way of getting there. So I decided to take a risk and go to Europe. The smugglers kept us in another camp for two or three weeks. When the day came, they stuffed us onto the rubber boat. There was no captain, just the will of God. I have two dreams: to become an underwater welder and to write a book about this journey. But if life gives me nothing else, I hope to at least be able to live in peace.
Cyrill is a Cameroonian executive who fled the brutality of the militant group Boko Haram in the northern part of the country. He spoke of torture houses, robberies and violence he witnessed in Libya, a launching point for many of the boats headed to Europe:
La Libye est un pays hors du monde, qui a perdu tout sens moral. Un monde revenu à la condition de la chair animale. Ces enfants qui s’entraînent à tirer sur les noirs dans la rue, les rackettent en leur mettant une lame sur la gorge ou apprennent à torturer les migrants sous le regard de leurs parents. Ils parlent du viol systématique des femmes sur la route, de ces passeurs ou geôliers impitoyables qui les battent et leur crachent dessus en leur répétant qu’ils ne valent pas le pain qu’on leur donne.
Libya is in another world—it is a country that has lost all sense of morality. A world that has returned to an animalistic state. There are kids who are trained to shoot at black people in the streets, rob them by putting a blade to their throat, or learn to torture migrants as their parents watch. They talk about the systematic rape of women in the streets, the ruthless smugglers and guards who beat them and spit on them and tell them that they're not worth the bread they're giving them.
Gode Mosle is a 22-year-old Syrian who lived in Damascus. He is now in Sweden but remains traumatized by his memories of his escape:
J'ai dit à mes amis en Syrie de ne pas prendre ces bateaux. Il faut qu'ils viennent par la Turquie et la Grèce, même si c'est beaucoup plus cher. On était environ 700 dans le bateau mais il n'y avait en fait de la place que pour la moitié .Ces passeurs sont des animaux. Ils crient sur les gens, les volent et les frappent quand ils embarquent. C'était une sorte de torture psychologique qui a commencé avant même le bateau. Deux Africains sont morts dans la cale. Ils ont été asphyxiés, ils ne pouvaient pas respirer à cause des émanations du moteur. C'était bancal, on ne pouvait pas se mettre debout ou bouger. Dès que quelqu'un le faisait le bateau menaçait de chavirer .Il y avait beaucoup de hurlements. Je ne referais pas ce voyage. Je ne peux pas oublier ce que j'ai vu. Les gens veulent vivre, c'est pour ça qu'ils embarquent sur ces bateaux.
I told my friends in Syria to not take these boats. They should go through Turkey and Greece, even though it costs a lot more. There were about 700 of us in the boat but there wasn't even room for half of us. Those smugglers are animals. They scream at people, steal from them and hit them when they get on board. It was a kind of psychological torture that started even before the boat. Two Africans died in the hold. They suffocated; they couldn't breathe because of the exhaust from the engine. It was so rickety, we couldn't stand or move. As soon as someone did, the boat threatened to capsize. There was a lot of screaming. I wouldn't make that voyage again. I can't forget what I saw. People are getting on those boats because they want to live.
For more on the subject, a French-language documentary by Jean Paul Mari shows the daily challenges faced by SOS Méditerranée over the course of a year of SOS Méditerranée:
Launched in the early 1990s, La Corriente has been described as “a type of Central American feminist network consisting of groups and individual activists alike.” Members dedicate themselves to education, publication, and the organization of conferences on the ways in which gender is lived within Central American societies and the ways women can collaborate together. Initially, and for a long time, La Corriente was a movement based in all of Central America, but it later shifted, focusing all its efforts on Nicaragua.
Based in Managua, this program has three areas of focus: education, research, and communication. Activists launch a new outreach campaign every year, aimed primarily at young men and women. They work mainly with issues such as sexual and reproductive rights and the secular state. They have further developed their activism with by staging events like “Las Reinas Chulas” (“The Pretty Queens”), a cabaret theater show and feminist movement that they and another organization created together. The theater has enjoyed great success, and allows La Corriente to reach out to many people at once and transmit values in a clear way. “Los Machos,” seen in the video below, is dedicated to viewing feminine and masculine conventions from a humorist perspective.
Another one of La Corriente's works is the radio show “Cuerpos Sin Vergüenzas” (“Shameless Bodies”), which is broadcast weekly on the Central American University radio network, where it addresses various topics related to sexual and reproductive rights, such as sexual diversity. The show’s objective is to influence the public opinion and create a space to exchange ideas with listeners. The shows are available as online podcasts through Ivoox. The last episode, titled “Celebramos Nuestro Orgullo” (“We Celebrate Our Pride”), was dedicated to LGBTIQ pride:
El 28 de junio celebramos en Nicaragua el día del orgullo lésbico-gay-bisexual-trans-intersex-queer con una marcha nacional que partió del Colegio Teresiano culminando en Metrocentro, en la que participamos diversos colectivos feministas y LGBTIQ así como personas que se sintieron convocadas a demandar respeto en una sociedad donde persiste la discriminación por motivos de orientación sexual e identidad de género.
On June 28, we celebrated the lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-intersex-queer Pride Day in Nicaragua with a national parade that started at the Colegio Teresiano [Saint Teresa High School] and ended at Metrocentro [downtown], in which various feminist and LGBTIQ groups participated as people who felt called to demand respect in a society where discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity persists.
As a part of its activism, La Corriente defends sexual diversity and has carried out initiatives like “Revivir La Foto” (“Relive the Photo”). This series is the result of a research group called “Transitar Por el Género” (“Transiting [or Crossing] Through Gender”) focused on the binary description of gender and the examination of the so-called “dissident bodies” that challenge the social and sexual order regulated by heterosexual norms. In the video, participants are asked to take a photo from years ago and explain why it was an important event:
In the episode above, Shandi shows a photo of her high school graduation and tells how her top goals were professional training and, even more so, the development of her true identity. In the video, Shandi says she was able to attend university, but the intolerant environment there prevented her from finishing her degree.
The initiatives and projects carried out by this group can be followed in more detail on its website and social-network channels. La Corriente's most-recent activity was a regional feminist meeting at the Central American Feminist Conferences in Managua in mid-June, which you can follow on different social networks. The challenge of women in Central America, the visibility of African women, and the restrictions on abortion in the region were just some of the topics emphasized by participants.
Looking for the ever-more-ancient roots of modern places is an important business in Tajikistan.
The government uses newly discovered historical anniversaries to justify lavish construction projects and massive festivities all over the country.
Historians acquire different perks for extending national history as far back in time as possible.
As for ordinary people, many of them are happy to learn that their towns and villages are older and more significant than they thought.
Yet often the announcements of new historical discoveries in the country draw ridicule.
For many people in the country, this rural location is a synonym for “backwater town”.
However, Danghara is important as a birthplace of the country's president as well as a number of other top government officials and MPs.“Older than mammoth feces”
The news instantly became a subject of ridicule.
Many people poked fun at scholars by proposing sarcastically that the town is even more ancient than they claim.
Zamira wrote, for example:
Ну зачем же так мелочиться? ученые немного ошиблись, нужно глубже капнуть и окажется, что самая древняя цивилизация на земле.
Why think so small? The scholars have made a minor mistake; if they dig deeper, they will establish that this is the oldest civilization on earth.
Дангара древнее Рима!
Danghara is more ancient than Rome!
Afzalshoh cited an ancient myth:
Дангара это древняя Атлантида
Danghara is the ancient Atlantis
Адам и Ева тоже были из Дангары )
Adam and Eve were also from Danghara )
Там была высшая цевилизацыя в эру динозавров еще
They had a high civilization there already in the dinosaur age
Да древнее фекалий мамонта)))
Yes, [the town] is older than mammoth feces )))
And Mubin proposed going even further back in time:
Жизнь зародилась в Дангаре.
Life as we know it emerged in Danghara.“Academy of Stupidity”
Some internet users have questioned the sanity and motivation of scholars responsible for the discovery.
Уважаемые академики, вам что нечем заняться? Мне кажется это не академия наук, а академия тупых!
Dear academicians, don't you have anything better to do? It seems like yours is an academy of stupidity rather than sciences.
кажется президент академии наук метит на более высокую должность
It looks like the president of the Academy of Sciences has his eyes on a higher post
Muhiddin chipped in:
Экономически мотивированные ученые, на любую глупость могут пойти
With an appropriate monetary incentive, scholars would do anything and everything
It was not clear from the news report whether local scholars had reliable evidence to support their claim.
One Internet user reacted to the report by posting a funny image.
The image depicts the president of the Academy of Sciences as saying that Danghara is 4,000 years old. When asked whether he has evidence to back up the announcement, the scholar responds, “I swear on my mother [that is is so]”.
Farhat sarcastically explains why the ancient Danghara did not survive.
In doing so, he draws an analogy with present-day Tajikistan where the natives of the town fill a disproportionate number of middle-level and senior government posts:
Причина почему древнее население покинуло ясно. Так как история циклична одним из правителей Саразмской цивилизации 4000 лет назад стал житель Дангары и остальные поехали с семьями в центральные города что бы получить должности.
It is clear why the ancient population left [Danghara]. History is cyclical; one of the natives of Danghara became a ruler of the Sarazm civilization 4,000 years ago. The remaining inhabitants of the town moved to the cities in order to get [government] posts.
The abundance of such jokes does not mean that everyone in the country distrusts the official historical narrative.
Many people in the country, perhaps the majority, believe it.
It is also important to note that the Facebook page of Asia-Plus, the news agency that first shared the news of the discovery, is a place that is particularly prone to humorous reflections.
Over the last several months, the agency accompanied many of its news reports shared on the page with caustic comments that drew public attention and set the tone for subsequent discussion.
As an Azerbaijani woman it has been fascinating to follow the story of #яНебоюсьСказать (#IAmNotAfraidToSpeak) started by Ukrainian activist Anastasiya Melnychenko in order to discuss incidents of sexual, physical and psychological violence against women.
Whether in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Belarus or Russia, women are not only constantly subject to sexual, physical and psychological harassment, but also seen as the instigators of these attacks on themselves.
A pervasive mentality argues that “she brought it upon herself” and/or “it is her fault”.
This is because rape, violence and harassment are so stigmatised in our cultures, victims often remain silent, attempting to forget their experience, never to discuss it again.
This perhaps applies to conservative Azerbaijan more than most of the other countries in the former Soviet Union.
The persistent “it's women’s fault” mentality explains the behaviour of Azerbaijani female netizens on Facebook, who have largely remained silent about their stories in contrast to the sudden outpour of reactions on the part of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian users.
Like any Azerbaijani woman, this author has been harassed on many occasions.
Many of us have experienced harassment on Baku's busy metros and buses while commuting to work.
It is one of the few places men can find “the space” and the “right opportunity” to touch an ass or rub up against a female body, nearly always from the back, because harassment is an act of cowardice.
Digging through this trove of memories is painful and the silence of #demeyeqorxmuram — what #IAmNotAfraidToSpeak would be in Azeri — tells its own story.
The last time Azerbaijani netizens responded en masse to violence against a woman was the case of Aytac Babayeva (#AytacBabayeva), a recent high school graduate who was stabbed eight times by her former boyfriend in a fit of jealousy.
— Mehmet TAYLI (@TurkishClup) March 7, 2016
— BBC Trending (@BBCtrending) May 4, 2015
Just a few months before Aytac’s murder, 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan was raped and then brutally murdered in Turkey.
But in the event of Aytac’s murder, her case was shared by more Turkish users than Azerbaijani users.
According to a BBC Azeri service story of the time, the number of women killed as a result of domestic violence in 2014 in Azerbaijan reached 721.
Real numbers may be even higher.
Discussion of #IAmNotAfraidToSpeak in Azeri language never really got off the ground, although, ironically, the few posts that did address the topic were widely shared:
I always want to ask those who say, “it is her fault, what the hell was she doing at that hour on her own on a street” about women who have been victims of violence, “what the hell are you doing being the animal you are, among human beings?” But I never ask this question. Because I don’t want to belittle animals.
There are stories written in Azerbaijani […] It is just there are not many. There would be stories if someone starts a hashtag in Azerbaijani language. I do not believe there is one woman who has not faced harassment or violence. Not just verbal or physical but there are those who rape you with their gaze. It is a very heavy topic. Many of the men who put themselves in women’s shoes won’t understand this.
One day, perhaps, Azerbaijani women will join in regional calls for mutual respect and freedom from harassment. In the meantime, rides on Baku public transport will still be hell.
For many Puerto Ricans, the national flag is a symbol of cultural pride and identity, especially in light of the island's colonial status under the United States’ government. Now, with an artistic tweak, the flag also represents the state of mourning that the island has been experiencing since the US government imposed a federal control board with power over the commonwealth's jurisdiction.
A group of artists have altered a famous door painted with the Puerto Rican flag by changing its original colors from blue, red, and white to black and white to mark the approval of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, also known as PROMESA. Passed by the US Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama, the act was promoted as a way to manage Puerto Rico's more than $70 billion of debt.
But PROMESA severely undermines the island's political autonomy. Its measures, which include a decrease of the hourly minimum wage to US $4.24 (about $3 less than the US federal minimum wage), have galvanized people to organize daily civil disobedience events and camps.
The flag mural is located on the facade of an abandoned building on San José Street in Old San Juan, and before its makeover locals and tourists alike often took photos of it as a memory of their visit. The door is surrounded by litographs of famous Puerto Rican artists made by the collective Grabadores por Grabadores.
Some people online quickly expressed their disappointment at the color change and described it as an act of vandalism. One comment stated, “They painted the flag on San Jose Street. Any volunteers? To paint the flag back to its original colors.”
Soon, the “flag in mourning” inspired the sarcastic hashtag “Pero que no me pinten la bandera” (“But don't paint the flag”) among Puerto Ricans who reflected on the triviality of lamenting the altered colors. Many social media users proclaimed their support for the new mural, and the flag in mourning has become a symbol of resistance and civil disobedience.
Artistas Solidarixs y en Resistencia (Artists in Solidarity and Resistance), the art group responsible for re-painting the flag, released an open letter on online magazine 80grados explaining their motives:
El arte es un vehículo de expresión que se ha utilizado a lo largo de la historia para transmitir ideas, provocar reflexiones, transformar y (re)crear la realidad. Los símbolos patrios ayudan a reforzar la identidad y valores del pueblo. Desde su origen la bandera de Puerto Rico ha sido símbolo de lucha ante la condición colonial y, durante años fue un delito izarla. Más tarde bajo la ley colonial de 1952 (ELA) se adopta la bandera oficialmente. En la actualidad el triángulo representa las tres ramas del Gobierno: ejecutivo, legislativo y judicial. Las tres franjas rojas simbolizan la sangre que da vida a estos poderes.
Las leyes, los gobernantes y los tribunales, hasta este momento, no han servido a los intereses del pueblo. Reemplazar con color negro (que es la ausencia de LUZ) crea nuevas lecturas. La nuestra es una propuesta de RESISTENCIA, no es pesimista, al contrario, habla sobre la muerte de estos poderes tal cual los conocemos, pero la esperanza sigue ahí representadas en las franjas blancas que simbolizan la libertad del individuo y su capacidad para reclamar y hacer valer sus derechos.
Sirva este acto como una invitación a reflexionar y tomar acción ante el colapso del sistema de educación y salud, la privatización y destrucción de nuestros recursos naturales, el status colonial, el atropello contra la futura fuerza laboral, el pago de una deuda impagable, la imposición de un gobierno anti democrático, el estrangulamiento de las gestiones culturales entre otras. Este acto es una muestra de que hay una comunidad artística que no está de brazos cruzados, que está dispuesta a luchar contra todos los atropellos, contra la imposición de un gobierno absolutista y sus políticas de austeridad, la más reciente: la Junta de Control Fiscal (PROMESA). Puerto Rico está en pie de lucha, fortalezcamos el amor entre nosotros y por el espacio que habitamos promoviendo el respeto, la solidaridad, la tolerancia, la unión, la comunicación y el trabajo en comunidad.
Art as a form of expression has been used throughout history to transmit ideas, provoke reflection, and transform and recreate reality. National symbols help reinforce a country's identity and values. Since its origins, the Puerto Rican flag has been a symbol of struggle against our colonial status, and during several years, hoisting it was considered a felony. Under the colonial act that created the 1952 ELA [Associated Free State of Puerto Rico/Commonwealth], the flag becomes an official symbol. Today, the triangle represents the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The three red stripes symbolize the blood that gives these branches power.
Our laws, our politicians, and courts have not represented the interests of the Puerto Rican people. Replacing the colors with black (which is the result of the absence of LIGHT) creates a new discussion. Ours is a proposal for RESISTANCE; it is not pessimistic, it discusses the death of these powers, but hope is still present in the three white stripes that symbolize the individual's rights and their capacity to reclaim and create their rights.
This act is an invitation to reflect and take action against the collapse of our education and health system, privatization and destruction of our natural resources, the colonial status, abuses committed against our working force, the payment of an exorbitant debt, the imposition of an anti-democratic government, cuts made to cultural affairs, among other conflicts. This act demonstrates that there exists an artistic community that will not remain with arms crossed, that is willing to fight against any exploitation, against the imposition of an absolutist government and its austerity policies, the most recent: Federal Control Board (PROMESA). Puerto Rico is fighting, lets strengthen the love between us and the space we inhabit by promoting respect, solidarity, tolerance, union, communication, and community cooperation.
The “black flag” has been reproduced by many other artists and activists as a form of protest against the imposed federal control board. Campamento Contra la Junta (Camp Against the Board), a grassroots movement of students and activists, has utilized social media to promote their permanent camp outside the US Federal Courthouse in San Juan. A group of people have established a camp outside the federal courthouse as an act of defiance and civil disobedience.
Street art has become one of the most common forms of dissent for the movement and other political activists, with several new murals produced every week since Obama signed the PROMESA bill:
Currently, the Campamento Contra la Junta is also organizing several demonstrations against the spraying of Naled, an insecticide with adverse health effects used to combat Zika. The movement has also inspired diaspora communities to join the struggle, with organizations like the Comité Boricua en la Diáspora holding a public meeting to discuss Puerto Rico's struggle for independence in East Harlem, New York. While it is still uncertain when the control board will be established, activists are finding creative and artistic forms of expressions to convey their opposition and resistance.
During the annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival in July, people can hear music coming from street corners, open-air plazas, and iconic jazz clubs across Denmark’s capital. On one Sunday afternoon during the recent festival, I saw a little Danish café turn into a meeting place for global cultures.
Inside Café Blå Time, which means “Blue Hour café” (or “Blue Time café”) in Danish, a crowd gathered to watch a line-up of international musicians: a drummer/singer from Mozambique, Swedish brothers who play the saxophone and piano, a singer adopted from Swaziland who now lives in Denmark, a Finnish bass player, and a guitarist from Namibia.
I caught up with Mozambique-born musician Deodato Siquir before the jam session at the café. I’d seen him perform in front of a packed house at another venue in Copenhagen the previous night, and wanted to find out more about his music.
Siquir moved to Sweden when he was in his mid-20s. “It was a rebirth for me. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know any musicians. I had to start from zero.”
In the 15 years he’s lived in Scandinavia — including seven in Copenhagen — he has built up a large network of friends and supporters.
“I had to learn the language, I had to learn the codes, and all the habits [of Scandinavians],” he says, and at the same time “not break the connection with my roots.” He sings in his first language, Ronga, and writes songs about Mozambican life. One of his most poignant songs, “Para Mutema,” is about his late mother.
In his shows, he brings together what he calls “an all-star” band of musicians who gel on stage despite disparate backgrounds.
“A Swedish guy, and a Mozambican guy, and a Danish guy, they’re speaking one language, which is the music language,” Siquir says. “That’s what we want to reflect to the society, that it’s possible.”
He’s joined on stage by two brothers — a pianist and a saxophone player — from Gothenburg, Sweden. The piano player, David Bäck, is Siquir's good friend and part of his trio.
“When we play the music, people in the audience feel like this is like my kitchen at home with the family, and we talk in a sweet way together,” Bäck says.
He enjoys playing with people of different musical styles, and says, “African music is so rhythmical and ecstatic, so it’s good for me when it takes some breaks and relaxes, and then you go with the energy again.”
While I’m waiting for the jam session to begin, I strike up a conversation with Maria Thandie Stensgaard, who I spotted in the crowd at Siquir’s concert the previous night. I find out she’s a singer who performed 16 gigs at last year’s jazz festival.
“My dad is a Zulu and my mom is from Swaziland,” she says. She was adopted by Danish parents who lived in South Africa during apartheid, and now live in Denmark.
“They’ve been quite a beautiful guidance for me, because they were the Caucasian people in the black world during apartheid and now it’s me, a little black girl in a white world,” Stensgaard says.
Stensgaard grew up with gospel and blues, and says she mixed her African inspirations into that music. “I’m really a storyteller,” she says, adding, “I’m a live person. I never wanted to record. That’s my thing. I need the crowd. Whatever they bring, I’ll have that conversation by singing, that’s what I love.”
Today, she takes the stage to sing the jazz classic, “Summertime,” a lovely melody that captures the entire café’s attention.
“We do what we do best on stage, and it’s like we’re having this conversation with our instruments and getting to know each other by what we love the most,” Stensgaard says. “And, for me, that’s magic, yeah. I love it.”
A little later, singer and guitarist Jackson Wahengo adds some more lively flavor to the jam session with his rhythmic blend of African folk and pop. He grew up in the refugee camps of Angola singing freedom songs for his country Namibia, which became an independent nation in 1990.
Today, as Wahengo sings a song in his mother tongue of Oshiwambo with a Swedish band in his new hometown of Copenhagen, it truly feels like a place where cultures mix.
Placing illegitimate representatives in the university senate, having them vote, falsifying elections, violating the right to secret ballot, and excessive use of police force against students.
These are just some of the events that have stirred up a toxic political atmosphere connected to the student parliament of crisis-torn Macedonia's oldest public university in recent weeks.
The student parliament is a very influential institution in Macedonia.
Like elsewhere in the Balkans, it is an ‘heir’ to the former Communist “Student Union,” and has close ties with the ruling party.
By law it formally represents the students in official bodies and collects obligatory membership fees.
The lack of actual democratic accountability on the part of the Student Parliament of the University Ss. Cyril and Methodius (SPUCM), is well-known, however.Pocket parliament
At the beginning of June, eleven student and youth organizations announced an initiative questioning its legitimacy, warning that it would compromise the process of electing a new rector at the university.
The initiative demanded a meeting with the university management to resolve the issue of the expired mandates of the SPUCM president and nine other student representatives within the senate.
The university leadership ignored the initiative, despite the fact elections within the SPUCM have been overdue for almost three years.
On June 27, the day of the election of the new rector, members of the initiative blocked the entrance to the rectorate building where the elections were to be held.
Most visible among them were the members of the grassroots Student Plenum, that organized massive protests and occupied public universities in 2014 and 2015, succeeding in averting government attempts to push through legislation that would reduce the autonomy of universities.
Journalists and activists on the ground provided live streaming of the development which helped spread news about what was happening.
After negotiations, the outgoing Rector Velimir Stojkovski allowed four Student Plenum members to attend the session of the university senate, and students lifted the human shield.
During the session, these students warned the Senate that SPUCM members are illegitimate, submitting ample documentation in support of their argument.
The rector cut the discussion short, dismissed the evidence without examining it, and concluded that all relevant documentation had already been submitted.
Maja Stevanovikj, professor at the Faculty for Drama Arts, warned everyone of the dangers of going ahead with the elections.
If these people vote today, with illegitimate mandates, their vote will be disputed times and times over. In a year, or 6 months, when new information surfaces, the election will be disputed and it will have legal implications […] all of the decisions made by this University will have to be nullified.
Regardless of this warning, the verification commission verified the mandates of the 10 representatives of SPUCM.
With their votes, Nikola Jankulovski was elected as the new rector of the university.Stolen election
On June 30, three days after the new Rector had been elected, SPUCM organised its long overdue student elections, which were plagued with violations and irregularities.
Firstly, there were no voting booths set up, thus the right to secret ballot was violated.
Secondly, there was no electoral commission and voters and ballots were not properly marked. Also, the elections were organised after the semester had finished and most students had gone home.
The most shocking moment occurred towards the end of the day, when several well-built individuals, whom social media users later identified as ruling party members employed in public administration, entered the university space and forcefully removed ballot boxes.
This was a clear violation of the procedure, which stipulates counting votes on site. The stolen boxes were given to Student Parliament members who ran away to their office.
After the ballot boxes were removed, activists and members of Student Plenum and other organizations arrived at the SPUCM offices and decided to wait for its president, Kiril Spirovski, to return.
They issued a call on social media for people to come and join them in front of SPUCM offices, and also called the police, reporting a robbery.
Some time after 11 pm, the Rapid Response Unit arrived in full riot gear with armored vehicles and escorted the SPUCM president and additional ballot boxes to the building.
By this time Student Plenum members were peacefully sitting in the entrance hallway.
After the attempt to bring the ballot boxes to the SPUCM offices, which plenum members protested, the Rapid Response Unit entered the building and started manhandling and even beating students, who were sitting still on the floor.
Disturbing videos of students screaming were immediately uploaded online causing public outrage.
ЕБР тепа студенти пред канцелариите на СПУКМ. Видео наскоро.
— Ѓаволот (@Gjavolot) June 30, 2016
Rapid Response Unit is beating up students in front of the Student Parliament offices. Video coming soon.
Video: Rapid Response Unit officers in full riot gear confronting and pushing students out of SPUCM offices.
Aleksandra Zivkovic, a member of the Student Plenum, gave the following testimony soon after the incident:
I can't talk, I'm crying and I keep thinking about how they could do something like this to us. All of us, with high GPAs, knowledge, scientific articles and debates in our CVs, honest freedom activists, we were stomped on by a police unit whose job is to deal with terrorists!
Later that same evening, SPUCM announced that they had elected their new president, Davor Popovski, with 3,851 votes, while the second candidate Stefan Vasilevski received 1,275 votes.
They also reported that 138 ballots were invalid, while a total of 5,264 students had voted.
The following day, there were different reactions to the event.
The police claimed there was no excessive use of force and that their engagement was purely “preventative”, as there was a danger of students violating the Law on Public Order and Peace.
As a response to this and the incident itself, human rights expert and activist Mirjana Najchevska, PhD, wrote a facebook post, which was picked up by media outlets, where she stated:
Having someone put on a uniform does not make them a policeman. There has not been such an abuse from the side of the Ministry of Interior since Macedonia's establishment as a country, in the last century.
In addition to these statements, several other organisations, such as the National Youth Council of Macedonia, Highschool Students’ Plenum, Professors’ Plenum, the Youth Educational Forum and the Liberal Democratic Party of Macedonia criticized the excessive use of police force, demanding an investigation into the irregularities and nullification of the election results.
In his reaction, Velimir Stojkovski, still UCM rector at that point, expressed concern over the allegations of SPUCM and police involvement and asked for all students, whether SPUCM or Student Plenum, to refrain from any form of association “not to worsen the situation.”
Despite this, Student Plenum organised a protest on July 1, and demanded the elections be nullified, sending out official statements to the rectorate and all of the deans the University Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
The protest started in front of SPUCM offices, which were once again guarded by police, and ended on the grounds of the University.
— Jofemk (@jofemk) July 1, 2016
I protest in front of SPUCM
— Dona Коsturanova (@malaovca) July 1, 2016
The University must show courage and listen to the students’ demands.
As a response to the events of June 30, UCM Rector Velimir Stojkovski called for an emergency meeting.
During the meeting the Student Plenum submitted 2,000 pages of documentation once more underscoring the illegitimacy of SPUCM's mandate.
The Rector declared that a commission should be formed to review the evidence but refused to nullify the election, emphasizing the fact that the University has no jurisdiction over SPUCM.
Activist and student Vladimir Delov, in a July 7 post on Medium, explained why students need to boycott SPUCM and why these elections were so important.
He explained that the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE has spread its influence through SPUCM to university circles.
By doing this, during the past several years, SPUCM, with their votes, have helped elect professors according to the preferences of the party.
Партиската војска во редовите на универзитетот. Од своето постоење тие го оневозможуваат гласот на студентот и решавањето на нивните проблеми. Но овде, врзувањето на партискиот подмладок со студентското претставување ќе го поврзам со една друга, многу пострашна и позагрижувачка асоцијација.
Видовме дека фалсификувањето на изборите не им беше мака, ниту срам. Фалсификувањето е веќе апсолвирано во нивниот светокруг како нормално, дури и како “кул” .Гордо и достоинствено. Со мускули и златни ланци, по рамбовки на факултет. Замислете како ќе биде кога оваа генерација ќе ги спроведува изборите?
They are the ruling party's army in the university ranks. They prohibit students from voicing and solving their problems. Here, intermingling the party youth with student representation has very ominous implications.
We saw that falsifying elections was no trouble to them. Without shame, they do it as something normal, even something “cool.” They do it with pride. With muscle and golden chains, Rambo-vests within the faculties. Now try to imagine how this generation will organize parliamentary elections?
The University Sts. Cyril and Methodius consists of 23 faculties, 5 institutes, and 17 other bodies.
So far, only two of them, the Scientific Teaching Councils of the Faculty of Drama Arts and the Faculty of Dentistry, have stated officially that they do not accept the outcomes of the student elections or recognize the new SPUCM president as a legitimate representative.
One of Pakistan's most famous social media celebrities, known for her bold, sensual and daring posts, was suffocated to death on July 16 — by her brothers — in what the police are calling an “honor killing” in her native city of Multan, Punjab province.
Baloch was killed in her family home while she was visiting her parents.
Her father registered a police report accusing his two sons of the murder of his daughter.
According to the police report, Baloch's father alleges that his sons murdered his daughter because they believed she brought “shame to the family.” He further said that his sons killed Baloch for her money.
Despite the initial police report, the investigation is still ongoing and the police suspect that the motive may have been a financial dispute, as one of Baloch's brothers, Waseem, was allegedly a drug addict.
Late on July 17, the police announced the arrest of Waseem, who confessed to the murder.
Despite Waseem's claims that his brother wasn't involved, Baloch's father insists that his other son Aslam, still at large, was the instigator of the murder.
Speaking to media he vowed: “My daughter was brave and I will not forget or forgive her brutal murder.”
While Baloch frequently shared videos and photos of herself, there was very little that was known about her private life.
She amassed vicious haters and dedicated followers during the brief period in which she shot to fame, but no-one could dispute Baloch's status as an internet sensation.
An honor killing is most commonly understood as “the murder of a family member by another, due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family.”
In 2015, Pakistan's Federal Ministry of Law released statistics noting some 933 honor killings over the past two years.‘I'm a fighter, I will bounce back’
The slain model attracted controversy as one of the strongest voices speaking out against patriarchal norms and traditional gender roles.
A self-professed ‘one woman army’, the model had posted on her Facebook page of her determination to ‘bounce back’ the day before her death.
Baloch had recently made headlines after she posted photographs and videos posing alongside religious cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi, revealing what she felt was a double standard.
According to Baloch, Qavi had invited her over to meet, claiming to be an ardent fan, despite the fact that his fellow clergy frequently criticised her.
The photos caused quite a stir, resulting in Qavi being suspended from the country's moon-sighting committee which decides when the ongoing holy month of Ramzan begins and ends.
To many Baloch was a complete enigma until recent media reports disclosed her real name, her passport, photographs of her ex-husband and her son who is a minor.
Qandeel Baloch, a girl in her twenties, a survivor of an abusive marriage, a mother of a child – and a woman who was taking charge of sexuality has been murdered. It doesn’t matter who killed her, because let’s be honest – we as a nation killed her. Yes! Me and you, us – we killed her and many others who die every single day in Pakistan. The approximately one thousand girls who die every year in the name of honor. And now while every news media outlet tries to capitalize on her death, while members of this society raise her son to hate her mother’s memory – we as citizens won’t be held accountable. We killed her.
Social media reactions that justify her murder are being shamed by others who believe that the killing should be condemned without qualification:
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) July 16, 2016
Pls stop using caveats while condemning #QandeelBaloch‘s murder: “I didnt approve of her, but…” You sound like a misogyny apologist.
— Neha Ansari (@NhaAnsari) July 16, 2016Mainstream media's role under the spotlight
In the wake of her death, many are criticising the way in which the media reported her story, especially the fact that they chose to disclose her real name and identity, ignoring the fact that she used a pseudonym precisely for reasons of self-protection.
Maham Ali expressed her grief and frustration in a Facebook post:
To our “free” media who only care about ratings – you are equally responsible for her death. Qandeel came in the limelight as Qandeel Baloch, not as “Fauzia Azeem” which was her real name. But our media really doesn't care about the lives of people. They revealed her name, they revealed her address and other personal details and once they did, her family came in the spotlight as well. When she was not using her real name and identity her life choices weren't being connected to the family. Their “izzat” (respect) wasn't being questioned. But when dangerous anchors like Mubashar Lucman constantly called her on his show along with misogynists like Mullah Qavi, that's when maybe the family also started feeling threatened. The neighborhood in Multan where Qandeel's family lived started taunting the family and her brother when they found out. Even now, media is allowing people like Qavi and Haroon Rasheed to spew hatred against a dead woman.
Journalist Issam Ahmed expressed his shock by sharing the details of his last conversation with Baloch, who was deeply concerned for her security.
So shocked by Qandeel Baloch's murder, literally shaking. We had been on friendly terms since I spoke to her for a couple of pieces in recent months. Yesterday she called to ask me to edit her Wikipedia page because she wanted references to her ex-husband and child removed, I agreed because the child is under 18 and exposed to a high degree of risk. I did it but the Wikipedia editor did not accept the edits despite my comments explaining why. The risks here are all too real.
Reporters from other publications have also come forward sharing how Baloch had expressed fear and concern when her real name and personal details were reported:
I spoke to Qandeel Baloch a couple of days ago to take her comment on her marriage story. She was crying. Said “they'll kill me”.
— Hassan Choudary (@hassanchoudary) July 16, 2016:
An online petition is currently making rounds on social media, demanding that those responsible in media and political circles be sent to trial along with her brothers.
Today, we hold the Pakistani media complicit in her death. We hold those journalists, editors, directors and owners responsible who leaked private details of her life. They publicized her marriage, her child, knowing the dangerously sexist conditions in this country. They berated her and thereby prepared the way for her to be killed.‘No country for bold women’
Condemnations online are now being followed up by demonstrations and protests offline.
Rights activist Nighat Daad posted the following photo from a demonstration at Lahore's Liberty Market:
— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) July 16, 2016
Civil society in Peshawar also denounced the murder as “inhumane” in a snap protest:
Mirroring the skewed media coverage that plagued her during her time as an online superstar, several Western media outlets have described her as the “Kim Kardashian” of Pakistan in the wake of her death.
Pakistani feminists feel that this couldn't be further from the truth as Baloch was a working class woman who in recent interviews had spoken openly about how she had worked hard to pay for her sister's wedding and bought a home for her parents — the same home she was subsequently murdered in.
As a tribute to her memory, political activist Ammar Rashid penned an ode to Baloch and Pakistani women:
We thrive upon the exploitation of women’s unrecognized labor our entire life, then cite scripture to tell them why they should be happy in their blessed bondage, their divinely-ordained lot in this world and the next.
We are murderously violent because we have nothing to stand on, because our fictions no longer sustain us, because the stories we tell ourselves to maintain our privileges no longer seem to fit with a reality in which women are somehow audaciously beginning to see themselves as fully human. Better, always, to eliminate such impudent threats rather than question the stories we've told ourselves all our lives.
Rest in peace Qandeel. Thank you for showing us the filth we are wallowing in.