Conflicto social

Protesters hold a long banner which reads: “We are the ordinary people, not terrorists”, at the Republic Square in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty on Friday 7 Jan 2022 as unprecedented protests over a hike in energy prices spun out of control. EyePress News via AFP

What prompted the protest wave that swept through Kazakhstan over the past two weeks?

On 2 January, protesters came out into the streets of the petroleum-producing city of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan. They were angry because the government had removed a price cap, leading to doubled fuel prices. While the government’s stated reason for the move was “marketisation”, semi-nationalised monopolies in fact control both supplies and prices. The protests spread rapidly across the country, first to other oil- and mineral-producing regions and then to most districts of Kazakhstan, whose population of some nineteen million is dispersed across a territory the size of Western Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Russian peacekeeper in Kazakhstan as part of the (CSTO) Collective Security Council contingent sent in following unrest after protests in western Kazakhstan sparked by rising fuel prices. Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images.

In early January Kazakhstan was rocked by three cascading events: legitimate anti-government protest against three decades of corruption and ineffective governance under Kazakhstan’s long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbayev; an attempted palace coup; and an armed insurrection led by well-trained mercenaries on the streets of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial capital.

On 2 January, a small demonstration over fuel prices triggered a nationwide protest movement which raged against three decades of rule which did not serve the interests of the people, but rather the ruling elite and its allies. The calls of ‘old man out’ were conspicuously directed at President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s predecessor Nazarbayev, who still retains control of much of Kazakhstan’s political economy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Por qué aumentan las protestas y el descontento social

¿Está creciendo el descontento social? ¿Por qué la gente sale a la calle a protestar? ¿Qué piden exactamente? ¿Cómo se organizan estas protestas? ¿Contra quién? ¿Se pide lo mismo en Bogotá que en Kuala Lumpur, Canberra, Beirut, Johannesburgo o Madrid? ¿Cuáles son los resultados de las protestas? ¿Consiguen sus objetivos o solo represión? Estas preguntas, entre otras, son algunas de las que nos motivaron a estudiar protestas en todos los continentes, resultando en el libro World Protests: a study of key protest issues in the 21st Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) que se acaba de publicar con acceso abierto.

Los resultados son claros, y mandan un claro mensaje a toda la clase política.…  Seguir leyendo »

Personal médico en México protestó el año pasado después de de la muerte de un colega por la falta de equipo de protección y otros suministros para tratar a los pacientes con covid. Credit Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Septiembre fue turbulento: más de 200 australianos fueron detenidos durante protestas en toda la ciudad y se declaró una zona de exclusión aérea temporal sobre Melbourne. La policía antidisturbios tailandesa lanzó balas de goma y gas lacrimógeno contra una multitud enfurecida. Trabajadores sanitarios en Canadá fueron agredidos. Hubo concentraciones de hasta 150.000 personas en los Países Bajos.

La pandemia ha coincidido con un aumento de protestas en todo el mundo. En los últimos 18 meses, la gente ha salido a la calle en India, Yemen, Túnez, Esuatini, Cuba, Colombia, Brasil y Estados Unidos. El Proyecto de Datos de Ubicación y Eventos de Conflictos Armados informa que el número de manifestaciones a nivel mundial aumentó un siete por ciento de 2019 a 2020 a pesar de los confinamientos ordenados por el gobierno y otras medidas diseñadas para limitar las reuniones públicas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Medical personnel in Mexico last year, after the death of a colleague, protested the lack of personal protective equipment and other supplies to treat Covid-19 patients. Credit Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

September was turbulent: More than 200 Australians arrested during citywide protests and a temporary no-fly zone declared over Melbourne. Rubber bullets and tear gas unleashed by the Thai riot police into an angry crowd. Health care workers assaulted in Canada. Rallies of up to 150,000 people across the Netherlands.

The pandemic has coincided with an upsurge in protests across the globe. Over the past 18 months, people have taken to the streets in India, Yemen, Tunisia, Eswatini, Cuba, Colombia, Brazil and the United States. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project reports that the number of demonstrations globally increased by 7 percent from 2019 to 2020 despite government-mandated lockdowns and other measures designed to limit public gatherings.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protester runs near a burning building during a protest on 12 July 2021 against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Timothy Barnard / Sputnik via AFP

What happened?

Following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma on 7 July, mobs rampaged through shopping malls and industrial parks throughout South Africa’s two most populous provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, looting nearly a thousand shops and warehouses as an overwhelmed police force largely stood by. The riots also ravaged large parts of the port city of Durban, forcing the country’s largest refinery on the city’s outskirts to shut down temporarily, while roads to its harbour – sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest – also closed, disrupting fuel and food deliveries as well as key exports.

While the nation has since settled into an uneasy calm, it will take some time to repair the damage caused by its deadliest period of unrest since the end of white minority rule in 1994.…  Seguir leyendo »

A worker sits in a looted shop in Soweto, Johannesburg. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

‘It feels qualitatively different this time.” There are few people I know in South Africa who don’t think this about the carnage now engulfing the nation. Violence was institutionalised during the years of apartheid. In the post-apartheid years, it has rarely been far from the surface – police violence, gangster violence, the violence of protest. What is being exposed now, however, is just how far the social contract that has held the nation together since the end of apartheid has eroded.

Many aspects of the disorder are peculiar to South Africa. There are also themes with wider resonance. Events in the country demonstrate in a particularly acute fashion a phenomenon we are witnessing in different ways and in degrees of severity across the globe: the old order breaking down, with little to fill the void but sectarian movements or identity politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Colombia no puede darse el lujo de permitir que los enfrentamientos en sus calles se sigan intensificando. Credit Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

Las noticias provenientes de Colombia son desalentadoras. Dos semanas después del inicio de protestas generalizadas, al menos 42 personas, incluyendo un agente de la policía, han perdido la vida, y el número de víctimas sigue en aumento. Más de 1100 policías y manifestantes han resultado heridos y se cree que al menos 400 personas están desaparecidas, según un grupo local de derechos humanos.

Las protestas empezaron el 28 de abril debido a una reforma tributaria impopular. Liderados por sindicalistas, estudiantes, pequeños agricultores y defensores de derechos de la mujer, comunidades afrocolombianas e indígenas y personas LGBT, los manifestantes ahora están expresando muchos otros reclamos relacionados con la profunda desigualdad económica, el fracaso del gobierno para establecer un acuerdo de paz en 2016 con el grupo guerrillero más grande del país y la violencia contra los líderes sociales.…  Seguir leyendo »

Revolutions can take decades to show their full transformative impact, but in the case of the Middle East and North Africa, the popular uprisings that coursed through the region beginning in late 2010 have failed to fulfil any of their early promises ten years on.

Instead, with the possible exception of Tunisia, they have only made things worse: several countries descended into chaos and civil war; in others, sitting regimes strengthened their hold on power or, suffering an initial defeat, returned with a vengeance, a brutal Tweedledum making way for a vicious Tweedledee.

In 2011, protesters flooded into the streets and squares calling for social justice, jobs, and an end to nepotism, state-sponsored bribery, and the daily indignities inflicted by a highly intrusive security apparatus.…  Seguir leyendo »

Manifestantes protestan contra la pobreza y violencia policial en Bogotá el 6 de mayo. Credit Reuters

Un país que sale a protestar en medio de una pandemia es un país desesperado. En Colombia hay amenazas más grandes que la COVID-19: el hambre, el desempleo y la violencia. Y fueron esas amenazas las que llevaron a miles de colombianos a tomar las calles en manifestaciones donde se han mezclado gremios de taxistas y camioneros, grupos indígenas, afrodescendientes, profesionales de la salud y estudiantes, con ciudadanos de a pie.

Hasta el viernes 7 de mayo se contabilizaron 37 muertos, 275 heridos, 936 detenciones arbitrarias, según cifras reportadas por la oenegé Temblores, y al menos 379 desaparecidos, de acuerdo con 26 organizaciones sociales.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators shout towards riot police officers during clashes following a protest against a tax reform bill launched by President Ivan Duque, in Cali, Colombia, on 30 April 30, 2021. A tax reform project in Colombia added fuel to the discontent. Luis ROBAYO / AFP

¿Qué hay detrás de las protestas que han ocurrido en Colombia durante la última semana?

Colombia inició el 2021 con algunas malas premoniciones. En los últimos dos años se han vuelto evidentes las señales que advierten sobre un profundo descontento social. El gobierno, tratando de tapar los huecos fiscales que preocupaban a los inversionistas y de dar una respuesta a la pandemia, no prestó suficiente atención a la creciente insatisfacción por la enorme desigualdad, violencia política e inseguridad. Cuando el presidente Iván Duque presentó en abril una reforma tributaria que habría aumentado la carga sobre las familias de clase media, los manifestantes salieron a las calles para airear su descontento.…  Seguir leyendo »

A New Arab Revival: Not to Be – For Now

Standing in a Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi, Sanaa or Manama square in early 2011, one could be forgiven for believing that these joyful, family-friendly mass gatherings were an augury of dramatic peaceful change in a region that badly needed it, yet had very rarely seen it. That was a time before the reigning autocrats turned their guns on the protesters; before Russia and Arab counter-revolutionary forces rushed in to uphold a senescent order that could no longer stand on its own legs, and Western powers coughed politely while looking the other way; and before Iran jumped in to exploit the political vacuum left by Arab state collapse.…  Seguir leyendo »

A mural in Cairo in 2012 depicted President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and former ministers after he was deposed in the Arab Spring. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Ten years ago, as masses of demonstrators filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, I made a modest bet with a friend that Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s dictator of nearly 30 years, would hold on to power. My thinking was that Mubarak controlled the army, and the army could see that the choice Egypt faced wasn’t between democracy and dictatorship. It was the choice among Islamism, chaos — and him.

I lost the bet, but I wasn’t entirely wrong.

Mubarak himself, of course, soon fell, raising broad hopes that decent, stable, representative democracy might yet establish itself not just in Egypt but throughout the Arabic-speaking world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Security forces push anti-government protesters away from al-Nour square in the centre of Lebanon's impoverished northern port city of Tripoli on 31 January 2021 amid clashes. Fathi AL-MASRI / AFP

Starting on 25 January, residents of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli took to the streets over four consecutive days. Many protested peacefully, but some attacked government buildings and clashed with security personnel, who fired upon them with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Rioters torched the historic municipality headquarters, vandalised the Sunni religious court and government administration building, and hurled Molotov cocktails and, according to authorities, hand grenades at the security forces. By 31 January, the toll was one protester dead and more than 400 injured, along with at least 40 soldiers and police. Lebanese army and military intelligence units detained at least 25 men for their roles in the events.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters in Moscow on Sunday. This impressive display of dissent has been met, increasingly, with force. Credit Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

For the first time in close to a decade, the rule of President Vladimir Putin of Russia may be facing a sustained challenge.

Over the past two weekends, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of cities and towns across the country to voice their disapproval of the arrest of the anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny. This impressive display of dissent has been met, increasingly, with force. On Sunday, over 5,000 people were detained — the most ever on a single day in Russia — including 1,600 in Moscow alone.

This strategy of suppression was successful before. In the winter of 2011 and ’12, thousands of people demonstrated against electoral fraud by the ruling United Russia party and Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man waits by a graffiti depicting silhouettes of a man metamorphosing into a bird symbolising freedom, in Mohamed Bouazizi Square in the town of Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia on 27 October 2020. Photo by FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images.

When reflecting on the past 10 years, it’s clear to see that the Arab Spring is far from over. The popular uprisings in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon over the last couple of years, coupled with ongoing political and socio-economic tensions across the region, show that no political equilibrium has been found. However, waiting for another 2011 moment, as if nothing has changed, would be a mistake.

The political upheavals of 10 years ago have brought about far-reaching transformations to both the political landscape, as well as to the determinants of popular mobilization. Calls for political reform will have to take these transformations into consideration if they are to achieve real change.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters on Saturday in Moscow with banners reading “Freedom to Alexsei Navalny! Freedom to Russia!” in support of the jailed opposition leader. After years of relative calm, the country is restive. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

It’s hard to pin down the exact moment when it became clear the protests on Saturday in Russia — where tens of thousands of people, stretching across the country, called for the release of the jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny — were something special.

It definitely wasn’t the violence doled out to protesters and even bystanders — like a woman in St. Petersburg being casually kicked in the gut by a police officer in riot gear — or the deliberate targeting of reporters. Such occurrences are sadly commonplace. It wasn’t even the people coming out to protest in the unlikeliest corners of Russia, like Yakutsk, where the temperatures dipped to minus-60 Fahrenheit.…  Seguir leyendo »

Farmers protest against new legislation in Delhi, December 2020. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

In Argentina, huge crowds take to the streets to celebrate the legalisation of abortion. In India, hundreds of thousands of farmers protest against new legislation, while millions take action in support. 2020 might have been a terrible, virus-ravaged year, but it ended with glimmers of new possibilities.

Argentina has become only the third South American nation, after Uruguay and Guyana, to permit elective abortion, a victory founded on decades of activism by women. In 2005, a number of groups came together to create the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion. A decade later came mass mobilisation against violence against women, a campaign that expanded to demand abortion rights, too.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un manifestante estrecha la mano de un miembro de la Guardia Nacional de Estados Unidos en Los Ángeles el 31 de mayo de 2020. Credit Bryan Denton para The New York Times

Punto de inflexión: La muerte de George Floyd, un hombre negro que en el mes de mayo fue esposado e inmovilizado bocabajo por un policía blanco en Minneapolis, dio lugar a manifestaciones en todo el mundo.

En 2020 no solo nos golpeó una pandemia global, también nos golpearon las macanas de la policía.

Vimos cómo manifestantes de todo el mundo respiraron el aire cargado del gas lacrimógeno, perdieron la vista por balas de goma, padecieron tortura y, en algunos casos, murieron. Con desesperación, tratamos de encontrar a nuestros seres queridos entre aquellos que fueron detenidos y encarcelados por participar en manifestaciones pacíficas.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the end of 2010, I was en route to Sudan for Christmas, scouring Arabic social media in search of scraps of information about a story unfolding in Tunisia; a story the Arab media was censoring and the western media was still ignoring. A street trader, Mohammed Bouazizi, had set himself on fire in protest at the government in the city of Sidi Bouzid, sparking demonstrations that spread across the country.

Weeks before the protests toppled Tunisia’s president-for-life, you could see that something about this uprising was different. There was something about the way the protests resonated in households around the Arab world, the intensity of the moral outrage and the force of the momentum that felt new and exciting.…  Seguir leyendo »