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Canada foreign minister says eyes wide open when it comes to normalizing China ties

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Canada‘s “eyes are wide open” when it comes to normalizing its relationship with China, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said on Sunday, two days after the release of a Huawei executive following almost three years of house arrest in Vancouver.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, flew back to China on Friday after reaching an agreement with U.S. prosecutors to end a bank fraud case against her. That resulted in the scrapping of her extradition battle in a Canadian court.

Soon after Meng flew to China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities just days after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant – were released by Beijing.

Garneau told CBC News the government is now following a fourfold approach to China: “coexist,” “compete,” “cooperate” and “challenge.”

He said Canada would compete with China on issues like trade and cooperate on climate change, while challenging it on its treatment of Uighurs, Tibetans and Hong Kong as Ottawa has done in the past.

“Let me say, our eyes are wide open. We have been saying that for some time. There was no path to a relationship with China as long as the two Michaels were being detained,” Garneau said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Garneau received the two Canadians on Saturday when they arrived in Calgary, Alberta, after spending more than 1,000 days in solitary confinement.

Spavor was accused of supplying photographs of military equipment to Kovrig and sentenced in August to 11 years in jail. Kovrig had been awaiting sentencing.

Trudeau, who won a third term last Monday after a tight election race, had vowed to improve ties with China after becoming prime minister in 2015, building on his father’s success in establishing diplomatic ties with China in 1970.

But even before Meng’s arrest, Canada‘s repeated questioning of China’s human rights positions had irked Beijing, and the two countries have failed to come closer.

China has always denied any link between Meng’s extradition case and the detention of the two Canadians, but Garneau said that “the immediate return of the two Michaels linked” it to Meng’s case in a “very direct manner.”

Garneau said he had heard about the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) several weeks ago, which opened the door to the return of the two men.

Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman denied Washington had made the release of Kovrig and Spavor a condition for the resolution of the charges against Meng.

“Absolutely not. The DPA and the resolution of the charges against Ms. Meng was a completely independent process, and it was proceeding as it did,” Hillman told Canadian broadcaster CTV.

Garneau also said he did not think the timing of the men’s return had anything to do with that of the federal election.

“I think it just worked out that way.”

(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)

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Leaders tackle Poland for challenging core of European integration

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 European Union Leaders will tackle their Polish counterpart on Thursday over a court ruling that questioned the primacy of European laws in a sharp escalation of battles that risk precipitating a new crisis for the bloc.

The French president and the Dutch premier are particularly keen to prevent their governments’ cash contributions to the EU from benefitting socially conservative politicians undercutting human rights fixed in the laws of western liberal democracies.

“EU states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds,” the head of the European Union parliament, David Sassoli, said before national leaders of the bloc’s 27 member countries convened in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

“The European Union is a community built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. If these are under threat in a member state, the EU must act to protect them.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is set to defend the Oct. 7 ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal stating that elements of EU law were incompatible with the country’s constitution.

“It’s a major problem and a challenge for the European project,” a French official said of the Polish ruling.

Morawiecki has already came under fire from EU lawmakers this week and the head of the Commission said the challenge to the unity of the European legal order would not go unanswered.

This, as well as other policies introduced by his ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party are set to cost Poland money.

“NOT TENABLE”

With the ruling, the PiS raised the stakes in years of increasingly bitter feuds with the EU over democratic principles from the freedom of courts and media to the rights of women, migrants and LGBT people.

A senior EU diplomat said such policies were “not tenable in the European Union.”

The Commission has for now barred Warsaw from tapping into 57 billion euros ($66 billion) of emergency funds to help its economy emerge from the COVID pandemic. Warsaw also risks losing other EU handouts, as well as penalties from the bloc’s top court.

Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg are also among those determined to bring Warsaw into line and have stepped up their criticism since PiS came to power in 2015.

The immediate consequences to Poland – with some 38 million people, the biggest ex-communist EU country – are financial.

But for the EU, the latest twist in feuds with the eurosceptic PiS also comes at a sensitive time as it grapples with the fallout from Brexit.

The bloc – without Britain – last year achieved a major leap in integration in agreeing joint debt guarantees to raise 750 billion euros for COVID economic recovery, overcoming stiff resistance from wealthy states like the Netherlands.

While most EU states share a currency, more fiscal coordination can only hold if the rich ones donating more than they recuperate from the bloc are sure their taxes do not end up financing politicians flouting their core liberal values.

Morawiecki has dismissed the idea of leaving the EU in a “Polexit”. Support for membership remains very high in Poland, which has benefitted enormously from funding coming from the bloc it joined in 2004.

Speaking on Wednesday, a senior Polish diplomat struck a conciliatory tone, saying the Polish tribunal did not challenge EU laws but particular interpretations of some of them.

Warsaw – backed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – wants to return powers to national capitals and has lashed out at what it says are excessive powers held by the Commission.

While many have grown increasingly frustrated at failed attempts to convince Warsaw to change tack, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has long warned against isolating Poland.

Her sway, however, is weakened as she visits Brussels for her last scheduled summit before she is due to hand over to a new German chancellor after 16 years.

Beyond putting pressure on Poland, the leaders will also lock horns over how to respond to a sharp spike in energy prices, discuss migration, their fraught relationship with Belarus and the COVID-19 pandemic.

($1 = 0.8584 euros)

 

(Additional reporting by Michel Rose, Andreas Rinke, Sabine Siebold; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Richard Pullin)

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U.S. coronavirus vaccine donations reach 200 million doses

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The United States, under pressure to share its  coronavirus vaccine supply with the rest of the world, has now donated 200 million doses to more than 100 countries, the White House announced on Thursday.

President Joe Biden has faced some criticism from other world leaders for offering vaccine booster shots in the United States at a time when many people around the world have not received their first shot.

In recent weeks, the United States has stepped up its donations. Biden told Kenya PresidentUhuru Kenyatta last week https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/us-donates-17-million-jj-doses-african-union-2021-10-14 that the United States will make a one-time donation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.

“As of today, the United States has successfully donated and delivered 200 million COVID-19 vaccines to more than 100 countries around the world,” the White House said in a statement to mark the milestone.

The statement said the United States and the international COVAX vaccine-sharing programme would follow through over the next year on commitments to donate more than 1 billion doses to needy countries.

“These vaccines will help save lives, protect livelihoods, and heal economies currently battered by this pandemic,” the White House said.

 

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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The Rojava Revolution Has Lessons for Western Feminism

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There’s no one size fits all feminism.

Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Naomi Klein, and Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement back in 2006, et al. have done a condemnable job analyzing and criticizing the effects the remains of Western patriarchal society have on women not having equal participation and more importantly access to, opportunities men take for granted. Even Simone de Beauvoir, credited with paving the way for modern feminism, book “The Second Sex” (1949) was finger-pointing without offering solutions. Western feminism has never had a solid mandate and therefore continues to be rudderless.

Then there’s Kurdish feminism which I first encountered when I met Halime Aktürk, a former Turkish journalist. I know several self-proclaiming “feminists.” However, I’ve never known, nor do I believe I ever will, a self-identifying feminist who has the conviction Halime has. Halime knows her terms and projects a strong sense of “self,” which earned my utmost respect.

My truth: Most of my ‘life guidance’ and ‘life lessons’ have been from women. This is likely why I have a romantic view of the human condition.

Having read western feminists’ writings, and Norman Mailer for the “other side” perspective, I know feminist activists have clarified many questions for women. However, as Halime pointed out to me, simply asking questions isn’t enough for Kurdish women—they’re in a crisis.

 

The Ottoman Empire collapse created a crisis for Kurdish women.

History, like all stories handed down, is a complicated bargain.

The crises Kurdish women are experiencing today began with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922. The downfall divided the Kurds’ territory among three newly established countries: Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Since then, each country has been attempting to impose its dominant ethnic identity as the respective country’s “national identity” and, therefore, eliminate any Kurdish identity. This has resulted in a Kurdish narrative that challenges Iraq, Syria and Turkey’s respective assimilation policy of imposing one identity over their territories’ ethnically and culturally different inhabitants.

On July 24, 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. The treaty led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the new Republic of Turkey as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire and gave Kurdistan back to Turkey while failing to recognize Kurds existed. That same year some 65 laws aimed at destroying Kurdish identity by renaming them “Mountain Turks,” outlawing the use of the Kurdish language, making Kurdish celebrations illegal, changing Kurdish names of streets, villages, businesses, etc. to “proper Turkish names,” confiscating huge tracts of Kurdish communal lands and eliminating all Kurdish or Kurd-sympathetic organizations or political parties.

Holistically the entire epic of the Kurdish people is their struggle to liberate themselves to create their own society. Kurds, especially those who live in Kurdistan (“Land of the Kurds”), a loosely defined area bordering Iran, Syria and Turkey, carry the hope of one day becoming emancipated slaves.

Today, roughly 32 million Kurds are spread across Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Kurds, caught up in bad faith geopolitics that has oppressed them for generations, constitute the world’s largest stateless nation. Using intersectional lens clarifies that Kurdish women are subjected to a “dual oppression” based on ethnicity and gender; thus, being the ideology architect for Kurdish feminism. Halime’s strong feminist convictions (Only the hard and strong can call themselves a Kurdish feminist.) are the by-product of her experiences being Kurdish in Turkey, where along with Kurdish cultural oppression, patriarchal cultural hands are constantly present to keep women in their place.

 

Something extraordinary is happening in Rojava.

There’s a revolution in northern Syria, led by Kurdish feminism (aka. Jineology), that challenges everything the West has bought into about economics, government, society, and above all freedom.

The revolution is a fight to experiment with unconditional democracy—to create a way of life that values feminism, direct democracy, ecological stewardship, ethnic, linguistic, and religious pluralism. The structures of oppression, rooted in the state, nationalism, capitalism, cultural conventions, and patriarchy—disguised as “assimilation policies”—are what the “Rojava Revolution,” which began on July 19, 2012, is seeking to surmount.

Rojava, the Kurdish name for western Kurdistan, is an autonomous region in northeastern Syria that has exercised autonomy since the breakout of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. Cradled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Rojava is considered the breadbasket of Syria. It’s a little-known story that defies the usual depictions that find their way to the west regarding Syria or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Rojava, home to approximately 2.5 million people, is divided into three districts (Afrin, Jazira, and Kobanî). It’s governed by a coalition of six political parties called the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), headed by the Democratic Union Party (PYD). They practice a governance model called Democratic Confederalism (democracy without a state), a kind of libertarian socialism theorized by imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. This “governance model” began an extraordinary project of self-government and equality for all races, religions, women, and men. This project has led to the Rojava Revolution, which by default challenges domination by Western colonial powers and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

In 2011 the civil uprising in Syria, known as the Arab Spring, escalated into the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian state withdrew from northeastern Syria, and the Kurdish liberation movement saw their window of opportunity. Less than three years later, the Kurdish movement had transformed their revolutionary vision into a revolutionary society by liberating Rojava’s three districts: Cizîre, Kobanî, and Afrîn. In January 2014, the regions united to issue a declaration of democratic autonomy manifesting their unique political ideology, grounded in Öcalan’s writings and ideas.

People fighting to experiment with their own path to all-inclusive democracy makes the Rojava Revolution an interesting Middle East phenomenon—the political character doesn’t fit familiar pigeonholes. The revolution isn’t a nationalist Kurdish initiative for an independent state, doesn’t evangelize socialism, nor is fueled by religious or ethnic motives. Instead, it attempts to establish an autonomous society based on democratic autonomy, environmentalism, feminism, and gender equality principles. In 2021 attempting, at the feet of oppressors, to create a democratic society, which incorporates all differences and gives women an equal place, is seen by many as naive.

Here in the west, we’ve become cynical to the idea that anything can really change. So, conducting an experiment in unconditional freedom in one of the most dangerous parts of the world against enemies who are absurdly repressive and violent would appear to be a Hollywood invention.

Besides aiming to create a genuinely all-inclusive democracy, the Rojava Revolution is unique because women and feminist teachings have a crucial role in the territorial, political, cultural, and ideological liberation of Rojava. Women often lead the fight on the front lines, sacrificing their lives against the most archaic and anti-woman enemy: ISIS. This display of female martyrdom makes, in my opinion, the Rojava Revolution the most defining feminist activism the world has ever witnessed. Unfortunately, other than occasionally portraying Kurdish women as fierce fighters combating ISIS oppression, the revolution is hardly ever brought to light in the west.

An important aspect of women’s liberation in Rojava has been the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), founded on April 3, 2013, as an all-women brigade of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). When they shoot at ISIS fighters YPJ fighters often make a high-pitched hollering sound to make them aware they’re being attacked by women. In Islam, it’s believed if you’re killed by a woman, you’ll not get into paradise.

Since the nineteenth century, and before that, in the broader Middle East, the female body has been one of the most crucial symbolic battlegrounds between modernizers and reactionaries.

On a side note, much of the Middle East’s hatred against Israel stems from the freedom it gives women to be equal to men, recognizing the LGBQT community, and allowing gay marriage. (Israel is the only country in the Middle East to do so.)

The Rojava model is based on two main pillars. The first pillar is direct democracy as the basis of a communalist system—citizens actively participate in decision-making and manage their neighbourhood and city, and government. (READ: self-government) The second pillar is the denial of the nation-state structure and viewpoint. In Rojava, many different religious and ethnic groups—Arabs, Armenians, Chechens, Christians, Turkmens, Yezidis—live together with the Kurdish majority. By officially and insistently denying the nation-state and creating administrative structures that incorporate these different citizens, the Rojava model gives minorities a participatory role unprecedented in the Middle East—a role as equals in managing their community.

Could this attempt to effectively integrate the different ethnic groups and religions in one participative democratic system that respects people and the environment ever succeed in reality?

History has shown that many such attempts either faded ingloriously or ended in carnage. The Spanish Civil War would be equivalent to Rojava’s current situation (July 17, 1936 – April 1, 1939), when the Democrats tried to set up something different. While many disagree, there are many parallels between the Kurdish women fighters today and those who were ‘Mujeres Libres.’ (Spanish women fighters)

Unfortunately, the Spanish revolution bathed Spain in blood, and the country entered a dark period that lasted almost forty years. Many other examples throughout history would suggest that sooner or later, all this goodwill and this willingness of the people in Rojava will fail. Reasons range from human nature, leftist dogmatism being unpalatable to the pointlessness of war and the number of fatalities becoming overwhelming.

 

Jineology fuels the Rojava Revolution.

Everything in Rojava seems to be in a grey area, somewhere between the old Syria and something new that has yet to take shape. The dichotomies created are between tradition and modernity, gradual change and revolutionary overthrow, and war and peace. Rojava is comparable to a living laboratory where everything is on a long road towards being violently created.

As mentioned earlier, the Rojava Revolution isn’t defending a political ideology or seeking to create a nation-state. It’s a struggle for gender equality and bringing to fruition a just society. The fuel for this ongoing struggle is jineology, a women’s science created by the Kurdish Women’s Freedom Movement. Jineology, developed in 2008, places women at the center of a battle against patriarchy, cultural legacies, capitalism, and the state.

For those of you hearing about jineology for the first time, jineology, composed of two words: jin, the Kurdish word for “woman,” and logos, Greek for “word” or “reason,” is both an outcome and a beginning. It is the outcome of the dialectical progress of the Kurdish women’s movement and a start to respond to the contradictions and problems of modern society, economics, health, education, ecology, ethics, and aesthetics. Arguably jineology is a form of feminism suited to the region it was developed in and may not easily transition to the west, even as an appendage to Western feminism.

While Western feminism has questioned the issues jineology is trying to address, they remain influenced by the reigning social arching conventions heavily influenced by the many agendas western capitalism requires. As a result, Western feminists have distorted the problems at hand, particularly the relationship between men and women. Jineology proposes a new analysis of these fields, starting with women not being viewed as isolated beings, that socialization begins with women.

In staying true to jineology, the Kurdish movement has set up 40% women quotas in their organizations. In addition, they’ve created women-only organizations parallel to mixed-gender ones and women’s neighbourhood assemblies, academies, and cooperatives and introduced a co-leadership system with one woman and one man at the head of any administrative body including in municipalities under the control of pro-Kurdish parties.

The dilemma with other women’s movements.

When a different paradigm, or to think from a different perspective, is proposed, Western feminists feel their feminism is being replaced. This isn’t the case. Differing perspectives and divisive opinions are seen in Western feminism, like when black feminists criticize white feminists for taking only one—middle-class white—perspective and trying to solve all the problems women face worldwide with the same methodology. One method of advocacy won’t apply to many of the issues women face within their respective region. A queer feminist theory may be listened to or even adopted in Europe but forbidden in Egypt, Iraq, or Nigeria.

The women risking their lives in Rojava are fighting to create a stateless society based on ideals of freedom and equality as they resist fanatic butchers seeking to kill every one of them. For the YPJ/YPG women fighters, the Rojava Revolution is a zero-sum game. Western feminists question the gender inequality of our social norms and is slowly eroding them, which is to be applauded. However, they’re not fighting a diehard enemy and therefore never had to approach their “activism” as a zero-sum game, which makes me wonder if they shouldn’t.

Halime showed me a different way of thinking, and everything in my life began to change. Maybe if Western feminists adopted a different way of thinking (I’m not saying jineology is the answer.), the equality that Western feminists have been seeking for well over 100 years would be our social norms today.

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Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan.

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