‘We are jobless because of fish poisoning’: Vietnamese fishermen battle for justice

A year after Vietnams worst environmental disaster, lives remain ruined while the government cracks down on protesters seeking compensation

We used to eat the meat of the pig, but now all we have to eat is the skin the Vietnamese saying neatly encapsulates the predicament facing the countrys fishermen, says Nguyen Viet Thieu.

Before the marine disaster happened, I could earn up to 15m Vietnamese dongs [500], reflects Nguyen. But after, I didnt sell any fish at all. I was sick of my profession.

He moors and ties his small boat in the dock of Tan An village. Today, he has caught nothing.

This weekend, like every other, Nguyen and his neighbours will attend a protest vigil at the local church. It is their attempt to keep attention focused on the aftermath of the chemical spill that poisoned up to 125 miles of Vietnams central coastline last April. The disaster has damaged the regional economy of a country that earned $7bn (5.4bn) from seafood exports in 2016.

Led by Catholic priests, prayers and marches have been held ever since. Despite reports of demonstrators being arrested and beaten by the authorities in Nghe An province, rallies calling for justice and government accountability have been spreading across this central region.

Families from Nghe An say their livelihoods have been destroyed by the toxic discharge from a steel plant in neighbouring Ha Tinh province. But compensation has been awarded only to people in Ha Tinh and three other adjacent provinces Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

Anger has been growing over the governments handling of what is thought to be the countrys worst environmental disaster affecting 450 hectares (1,112 acres) of coral reefs, of which about half were totally destroyed.

Slow government response and denials of wrongdoing sparked angry protests not often seen in four decades of Communist party rule.

In April 2016, at least 70 tonnes of dead fish were washed ashore. In July, the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp, a subsidiary of Taiwans Formosa Plastics Group, admitted responsibility, blaming an accidental release of chemicals including cyanide in waste water during a test run of the plant.

Formosa Ha Tinhs chairman, Chen Yuan-Cheng, apologised, saying: Our company takes full responsibility and sincerely apologises to the Vietnamese people for causing the environmental disaster that seriously affected the livelihood, production and jobs of the people and the sea environment.

A government minister, Mai Tien Dung, told reporters Formosa Ha Tinh had pledged $500m for a cleanup and to pay compensation, which included helping fishermen find new jobs.

A woman collects fish on the beach of Dong Yen village next to the Formosa factory. Photograph: Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters

According to the ministry of labour, more than 40,000 workers in Vietnam who rely on fishing and tourism were directly affected and a quarter of a million people nationwide felt the repercussions of the toxic spill.

Activists and environmentalists questioned the agreement reached between the government and the company because there had been no independent evaluation of the true impact.

It is critical to publish a chemical blacklist to be acted upon immediately, says Hikmat Suriatanwijaya, of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. We urge factories to disclose chemical information to facilitate supply chain transparency and create a level playing field for the industry. The Formosa disaster has shown us exactly the impact of such irresponsible and unsustainable business practice.

The Vietnamese government did not respond to a request for comment.

In April, on the first anniversary of the spill, thousands of people occupied beaches, roads and public offices demanding justice, ocean decontamination and the shutdown of the steel plant.

Blogger Tran Minh Nhat says: At the beginning, the government neglected the disaster despite the evidence. Now, it uses all possible means to stop affected villagers from complaining. Five people have been arrested. They are stopping citizens from seeking justice.

Protesters in Hanoi hold a banner saying Vietnam people, save the sea at a rally against the governments response to the toxic spill from the Formosa Ha Tinh steel plant. Photograph: Luong Thai Linh/EPA

Tran is on probation from a prison sentence for conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the peoples administration. On his blog, he reported on Februarys police attack on 700 peaceful marchers in Nghe An who were on their way to submit legal complaints against Formosa, claiming $20m in damages.

Organised by clergy and lawyers, the legal struggle between fishermen and one of Vietnams largest investors began as soon as Nghe An province was excluded from the government restitution agreement.

Weve given financial support to affected families and helped them file petitions, says Dang Huu Nam, a priest whose church has become a haven for activists. We managed to submit more than 600 individual lawsuits at the Qy Anh court in August 2016. But there are around 5,000 villagers harmed.

His prominent role has attracted the attention of the authorities and in August he was arrested while in Hanoi for a medical checkup. They interrogated me for four hours and told me to stop supporting demonstrators, he says.

To counter state-run media allegations of disagreements over anti-Formosa protests, 18 priests signed a joint statement of support. The church stands by the side of Formosas victims. Weve raised around 1bn Vietnamese dongs [34,000] for those in need, says Father Nguyen Nam Phong, a priest at Tai Ha church in Hanoi.

The courts have rejected all lawsuits against Formosa, citing lack of evidence. We are jobless, four people are dead because of fish poisoning and a whale was found dead on Cua Lo beach, only 50km from here. What other proof do they need? asks Nguyen So Menh, a fisherman from Tan An village.

The effects of the spill have been felt by restaurateurs like Mai Ngoc Ky on Cua Viet beach. Photograph: Nguyen Huy Kham/Reuters

Despite no official data being published and concerns that it may take decades to restore the marine ecosystem, Hanoi has declared the national seawaters clean and safe for swimming and fishing.

But a recent explosion at Formosas steel mill in Ha Tinh has again put pressure on the government to scrutinise the activities of foreign companies.

The Formosa conglomerate, with its $10.6bn steel complex in Ha Tinh, wants to make the mill the biggest in south-east Asia.

We dont earn enough to provide milk for our children and we had to borrow money from the church to pay their school fees, says Nguyen Tha Tran, a fish-sauce seller and mother of four, from Tan An.

The government should give compensation to all regions so that families can restore our living conditions. It should also clean up the ocean and close Formosa.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/aug/14/vietnamese-fishermen-jobless-fish-poisoning-battle-justice

How the homophobic Muslim became a populist bogeyman | Moustafa Bayoumi

US Muslims are now more tolerant than many Christian groups. If you listened to Trump, Le Pen and Anne Marie Waters, youd believe that was impossible, writes author and academic Moustafa Bayoumi

Heres something you may not have thought likely. A majority of American Muslims now believes that its fine to be gay. The latest Pew Research Centre survey, published on 26 July, tells us that most think homosexuality should be accepted by society. The poll further shows how dramatically acceptance has risen, nearly doubling from 27% to 52% since 2007 (among millennial Muslims, its 60%). Muslims may lag behind the general public, for whom the corresponding figure on this issue is 63%, but they poll at exactly the same percentage as Protestants and far above white evangelical Christians, a mere 34% of whom believe that homosexuality should be tolerated.

If you have actually spent some time with American Muslims you wont be surprised by these numbers. Im not. This is a multifaceted group of people, representing many different and sometimes conflicting tendencies and traditions. But the Pew data shows us that the overall tilt of the community, even while it is itself contending with high levels of discrimination, is progressive andoptimistic.

Youd never know it if you listened to populist leaders. Whether in the US, the UK, or on the European continent, the idea that Muslims represent a civilisational threat to the west because of an intrinsic ultra-conservatism, which includes a violent hatred of gay people, is so widespread that it is seen as a truism. Not only is this tidy titbit of political wisdom false, it also ends up obscuring the degree of homophobia in other parts of society, and in our politics.

Rightwing populism is especially devoted to this narrative. From DonaldTrump to the Netherlands Geert Wilders, Frances Marine Le Pen and Ukips Anne Marie Waters, todays demagogues seek to convince the public that they are the true defenders of freedom, courting LGBT votes by dangling the caricature of a dangerous, intolerant and homophobic Muslim in front of their eyes. But this apparent support for LGBT rights is often only skin-deep.

During the US presidential campaign, Trump frequently argued that he was the best candidate for LGBT voters because Hillary Clinton was soft on Muslim immigration. At the Republican convention, Trump stated: As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Now Trump is proposing to ban all transgender people from serving in the military.

During the French presidential election Marine Le Pen surrounded herself with gay advisers and claimed that she alone would protect LGBT people from the Muslim menace. France isnt burkinis on the beach. France is Brigitte Bardot, she said, and claimed during a televised debate that Emmanuel Macron was supported by a French Muslim organisation that sponsored speakers who hated Jews and homosexuals. (I think its terrific to see you speak words in defence of homosexuals and Jews, Macron cleverly responded.) But Le Pen also opposed gay marriage (and, just in case you wondered, not from a principled point of criticism of the bourgeois roots of marriage), legal in France only since 2013. The fact is, she isnot a true defender of LGBT rights, just an opportunist.

Geert Wilders animosity towards all things Muslim is so over the top that it appears to be turning his hair peroxide-blond. (It has been reported that he dyes his hair because his original dark curls drew racist jeers as a child.) Day after day, for years, we are experiencing the decay of our cherished values, he said in January. The equality of men and women, freedom of opinion and speech, tolerance of homosexuality all this is in retreat. Again, its hard not to conclude that the greatest threat to the Dutch tradition of tolerance isnt Islam but people such as Wilders. The good news is that neither he nor Le Pen succeeded in their campaigns.

Ukip leadership candidate Anne Marie Waters at an anti-Islam protest in London last year. Photograph: Vickie Flores/REX/Shutterstock

But now a bid for the leadership of Ukip is under way by none other than Waters, founder of Sharia Watch UK. Her manifesto demands the party publicly acknowledge that Islamic culture is simply not compatible with our own. Shes been quoted as saying that sharia law has terrible elements to it in terms of treatment of women, antisemitism and homophobia. And yet it was Roger Helmer, one of Ukips leading lights, who once asked: Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex-change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to turn a consenting homosexual? He is also said to believe there are that there are different degrees of culpability in rape cases.

Oh, the brave men and women of the right. Ever ready to proclaim the threat of Muslim homophobia, they cynically depend on incorporating LGBT concerns into their divisive narratives without in fact providing them full rights of inclusion.

Last month in Germany, for example, lawmakers voted to approve gay marriage (and adoption) in a historic vote. The anti-Muslim populist party Alternative for Germany opposed the measure on ideological grounds, while all six Muslim members of parliament voted in support of the bill. Incidentally, Chancellor Angela Merkel, now widely seen as the pre-eminent guardian of western liberal values, voted against the bill.

The underlying point here is not that Muslims arent homophobic. Some clearly are. Some undoubtedly arent. Rather, the crucial point borne out by the Pew data is that positions can change over time.

In the UK, Muslims are still dealing with fallout from a Channel 4 documentary What British Muslims Really Think that purported to show how different they were from other Britons. It included the statistic that 52% of UK Muslims believe homosexuality should be illegal, which is shocking in isolation. Its a different metric, but consider this: in 1985, only 9% of British Catholics believed that same-sex relationships were not wrong. By 2016, that had leapt to 62%. Catholic doctrine had not changed in the interim; attitudes had.

How such change happens is whatweshould pay attention to. Lastyear, Omar Mateen killed 49 people in a horrific attack on a gay nightclub he had previously been a patron of in Florida. Sincere discussions have sincebegun between LGBT and Muslimcommunities in the US, with spaces also opening up for LGBT Muslimsthemselves.

Imams and scholars issued a statement condemning the attack and, while falling short of full acceptance of gay Muslims, underlined the liberty to pursue happiness as each sees fit. Muslim LGBT groups, such as the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, have grown in prominence. Philanthropic organisations such as the Contigo Fund are backing initiatives thatunite LGBT, Latin and Muslim communities to battle homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination.

The health of any society is premised on its ability to face its fissures squarely, but that is not what anti-Muslim populists are doing. By arguing that Islam and the west are forever incompatible, they construct a Muslim bogeyman while denying both their own homophobia as well as the living, breathing Muslims in their midst.

Moustafa Bayoumi is an author and a professor of English at City University, New York

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/07/homophobic-muslim-populist-bogeyman-trump-le-pen

Gaza electricity crisis: ‘It is the worst I can remember but we expect it to get worse’

Move by Mahmoud Abbas to cut electricity to 2-4 hours a day in escalation of row with Hamas is affecting quality of life for Gazans

In Imad Shlayls electronics shop in Gaza City, the customers crowding his store are interested in only two products: LED lights and the batteries to power them.

In the already impoverished Gaza Strip, residents have learned to adapt to the fact that electricity is only available for between two and four hours a day.

But fresh anger was sparked when availability was cut further last month, at the request of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in an escalation of his conflict with Hamas, the Islamist group that wrested control of the Gaza strip from forces loyal to Abbas 10 years ago.

The shortages have defined how people live their lives: getting up in the middle of the night, if there is power, to run washing machines or turn on water pumps.

Only the wealthy few have frequent, long-lasting access to electricity to power lights and fans and fridges, televisions and wifi routers, in Gazas stifling summer heat.

We used to sell all sorts of things, says Shlayl. But its different these days. All we sell is batteries and chargers. Because the crisis is so deep we are selling 100 batteries a day when normally we would sell 20.

Gaza electricity crisis explainer

Gaza requires 430 megawatts of power to meet daily demand, but receives only half that. Sixty megawatts are supplied by its solitary power station, now short on fuel, while the rest is supplied by Israel and funded by Abbass West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA).

Abbass move to cut supplies to Gaza, which is already under a joint Israeli and Egyptian blockade now in its 11th year has quickly made him a hate figure among many Gazans, who question why he is punishing 2 million fellow Palestinians in what appears to be an attempt to force Hamas to relinquish control of the territory.

Though business is good for Shlayl, he is angry at the fresh shortages faced by Gazans that affect all areas of life, from hospital emergency wards to clean water supplies.

Ive not done anything to be punished by anyone. It is the worst I can remember but we are expecting it to get worse and worse, he said. Not just electricity, but other things as well. We are in a very deep descent.

As well as cutting electricity, the PA has cut salaries for its employees in Gaza by upwards of 30% , prompting thousands to protest on the streets of Gaza city.

Residents also blame Abbas for a backlog in processing the medical referral process for those needing to travel out of Gaza for treatment, although who is at fault in that issue is less clear cut.

The problems facing Gaza where high levels of unemployment are endemic is most obvious in the poorest areas.

In Gaza Citys al-Shati refugee camp, home to the head of Hamass political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, whole housing blocks were dark, while in others only a handful of windows were weakly illuminated.

In the one-room kiosk selling pigeons and chickens that he manages, just off the camps main market, Ayman Nasser, 32, is sitting on the street with his friends in search of a sea breeze.

His face is illuminated by the light of his mobile phone. He has one battery-powered light burning in his shop.

Part of the problem is that we dont have any news. Who should we blame for this? Hamas, Israelis, Abbas? he said.

A Palestinian girl reads by candlelight due to a power cut at the Jabalia camp in Gaza City. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

His friend, Ashraf Kashqin, interrupts: It is all connected to politics, but it is us who is getting played by the two sides.

If there is a question that all the Palestinians in Gaza are asking, it is what the ageing and remote Abbas hopes to achieve, not least whether he hopes the cuts will lead to an insurrection against Hamas following demonstrations linked to the power supply in January.

While a senior official in the Fatah-led government on the West Bank said last month that the aim behind the move by the PA which has been paying $12m (9m) a month for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza was to dry up Hamass financial resources, others are dubious about the timing, the motive and the real impact.

Among them are human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, who have warned it could turn Gazas long-running crisis into a major disaster already hitting hospitals and waste treatment plants.

For 10 years the siege has unlawfully deprived Palestinians in Gaza of their most basic rights and necessities. Under the burden of the illegal blockade and three armed conflicts, the economy has sharply declined and humanitarian conditions have deteriorated severely. The latest power cuts risk turning an already dire situation into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe, said Magdalena Mughrabi, of the group.

Then there is the question of timing. Abbas is probably the only one who knows why he is doing this to Gaza, adds Mohameir Abu Sada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University and analyst.

I honestly dont buy what he has been saying for the last three months: that he will take exceptional measures against Hamas to put pressure on it to give up control of the Gaza Strip.

Staff in Imad Shlayls electronics shop in Gaza City test a battery storage system, a popular product in the midst of Gazas worst electricity crisis in recent memory. Photograph: Peter Beaumont for the Guardian

I dont buy it because it does not explain why he waited 10 years to put pressure like this on Hamas?

Honestly speaking, if he had done it in the first few months, the split would have been resolved. And now Abbas is not punishing Hamas he is punishing 2 million Palestinians. I mean, Hamas leaders have giant generators. It is the poor people who are suffering.

Another thing that does not make sense is, how do you explain cutting salaries to the people who are supposed to be most loyal to the Palestinian Authority and Abbas. The same people who have been arrested and tortured by Hamas?

Sada is also dubious whether Abbass extreme measure against Gaza can work, pointing to the fact that Hamas has survived a decade of blockade and three wars with Israel.

Gazas solitary power plant for its 2 million residents, which has been running at a fraction of its capacity. Photograph: Peter Beaumont for the Guardian

Every time Hamas is under pressure they are able to invent new ways to go around the siege, he said. This is not a productive way against Hamas. If he thinks Palestinians in Gaza will revolt against Hamas, then Abbas is mistaken.

Taher al-Nounou, an adviser to Haniyeh, suggested the electricity crisis had been engineered largely to distract attention from Abbass own failures.

Abbas wants to create a hostile environment against Hamas in Gaza, but he has failed in this. [His first motive] is the failure of his political path during the last 11 years because no one is asking him what he has achieved in 11 years for the Palestinian people.

He believes Abbass latest moves will only bring further woes for his fellow Palestinians.

If, in the past, you asked ordinary people here who was responsible for the difficulties in Gaza, people would have said Israel or Hamas or maybe Abbas. Now if you ask theyll say Abbas.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/10/gaza-electricity-crisis-it-is-the-worst-i-can-remember-mahmoud-abbas

‘Alt-right’ Portland rally sees skirmishes with counter-protesters

Far-right and anti-fascist groups face off with each other and law enforcement, a little over a week after two men died in a racially charged stabbing

A much-anticipated alt-right rally in Portland, Oregon has ended in police using stun grenades and tear gas against the most militant segment of a counter-protest.

At 3.30pm, police began pushing antifascist or antifa activists out of Chapman Square, just across from the rally in Terry Schrunk Plaza, in downtown Portland. Officers discharged grenades and gas as missiles were thrown. Portland police said on Twitter that they had closed the park due to criminal behavior including the use of bricks, mortar and other projectiles.

As the antifascists were pushed out, alt-right activists interrupted their schedule of speakers to rush to the edge of Schrunk Plaza and taunt them. Police said they had confiscated makeshift weapons and shields from protesters in Chapman Square, and said that at around 2pm protesters there launched marbles and other projectiles towards Schrunk Plaza.

Hours before, as the opposing activists gathered, tensions in the city were high, a little over a week after two men were killed and one wounded in a stabbing on city transportation.

Jeremy Christian, 35, was charged in the attack, in which Rick Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, were killed after they intervened to help two young women who were the target of racial abuse. Christian was found to have expressed far-right views and to have attended a similar free speech rally in the city in April.

Pro-Trump demonstrators in Portland, Oregon. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Portland mayor Ted Wheeler sought to block Sundays event, while on Saturday the leader of the Oath Keepers militia organisation told the Guardian members of his group were on their way to the city, to support and if necessary defend the rightwing protesters.

In the event, the alt-right rally was surrounded on three sides by separate counter-protests. Antifa activists occupied Chapman Square, to the south of the plaza. Portland United Against Hate, organized by 70 community and political groups, occupied the forecourt and sidewalk outside City Hall to the west. To the east, a protest organized by labor groups occupied the street outside a federal building.

At the City Hall rally, Seemab Hussein of the Oregon Council on Islamic Relations, a rally sponsor, said he wasnt surprised to see an alt-right gathering in the city.

Its part of Portland, he said, its part of Oregon, its part of society. He added that he didnt take seriously disavowals of the racist politics of older far-right movements.

These guys are mostly not interested in free speech, theyre interested in fighting us, said an antifa activist. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian

I dont think they actually moved away from that, he said. Its the same ball of yarn the hate, the prejudice, the violence. It just finds a new victim. If its not Muslims, its immigrants. He was heartened, he said, to see so many Portlanders show up to oppose the rally.

All told, there were some 3,000 counter-protesters and only a few hundred at the free speech rally, where Kyle Based Stickman Chapman, who became a movement hero after physically attacking antifascists in Berkeley, California addressed the crowd. So did Joey Gibson, the organizer of the event. On the fringes, Pat Based Spartan Washington, a so-called alt-right celebrity, held an impromptu press conference.

I believe in freedom of speech, he said. Our speakers have a right to say what they want, and not be exposed to this shit across the street. I am definitely willing to use violence to make sure my family is safe and my patriot family is safe. But do I want it? Not necessarily. Until antifa learns not to use violence God, I hate them. I look over there and I just want to smash.

Pat Washington, an alt-right supporter, in Portland. Photograph: Jason Wilson/the Guardian

Members of the Oath Keepers and another patriot militia group, the Three Percenters, were present, identifiable by their insignia. Also present were members of the Proud Boys, associated with Vice founder Gavin McInnes and identifiable by their uniform Fred Perry T-shirts, and members of Warriors for Freedom, a group led by Gibson.

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes gave a late afternoon speech, referring to growing links between established rightwing groups and internet subcultures.

We just went to Boston not too long ago, Rhodes said, and it was run by 4chan kids who put the rally on. They were standing there with pale skin, cos they dont go outside too much, but they had homemade shields in their hands and they were there. Its my job as a paratrooper veteran to teach those kids everything I know.

Tusitala Tiny Toese, a member of Warriors for Freedom, told the Guardian he was present to stand for free speech.

If you look all around America, he said, theyre trying to take away free speech silently. He also said that the group had ejected Jeremy Christian from the 29 April Portland rally. We heard what he was doing, he said, we heard he was doing [Nazi] salutes, and we said we dont like that, so we told him, you gotta leave.

Earlier in the day, as protesters gathered, two members of the Rose City Antifa group, wearing masks, spoke to the Guardian. Weve got hopes for what we want to happen and were preparing for the worst, one said, adding that their goals were being here, being a visible opposition.

These guys are mostly not interested in free speech, theyre interested in fighting us, the activist said. If they come over here, were going to respond in self-defense, but our plan is not to take that path. Our main goal is the defense of the community, and to reveal their actions for what they are: fascist street violence.

An activist makes a far-right hand signal. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian

At one point Brian Fife, an alt-right protester, walked up to Chapman Square in an attempt to speak. He was surrounded and drowned out with air horns. Earlier, on the grass at Schrunk Plaza, Fife, who said he ran a small business in Salem, Oregon, said Jeremy Christian did everything right up until the point he started killing people.

I do not support killing people, he said, I dont think anyone does. But calling out the changing elements of our culture, I think thats something I wish more of us would do.

As police and DHS officers dressed in riot gear kept the groups apart, the rally passed without full-blooded confrontation between protesters. Police also announced that any movement between Chapman Square and Schrunk Plaza would be considered a criminal act. The plaza was cordoned off with yellow tape and police SUVs partially blocked traffic. Before the decision to clear Chapman Square, a small number of arrests were made.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/04/portland-oregon-alt-right-rally-antifa

Paris mayor demands black feminist festival that ‘prohibits’ white people be banned

Anne Hidalgo says organisers of the Nyansapo Festival in the capital could be prosecuted because most of the event space would for black women only

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has called for a black feminist festival in the French capital to be banned, saying it was prohibited to white people.

The first edition of the Nyansapo Festival, due to run from July 28 to 30 at a cultural centre in Paris, bills itself as an event rooted in black feminism, activism, and on (a) European scale.

Four-fifths of the festival area will be set aside as a non-mixed space for black women, according to its website in French.

Another space will be a non-mixed area for black people regardless of gender. Another space would be open to all.

The English version of the site does not use the word non-mixed, but reserved.

Hidalgo said on Twitter that she firmly condemned the organisation of this event, prohibited to white people.

I am asking for this festival to be banned, Hidalgo said, adding she also reserved the right to prosecute the organisers for discrimination.

Police prefect Michel Delpuech said in a statement that police had not been advised about the event by Sunday evening.

But, Delpuech added, the police would ensure the rigorous compliance of the laws, values, and principles of the republic.

French anti-racist and anti-semitism organisations strongly condemned the festival.

SOS Racisme described the event as a mistake, even an abomination, because it wallows in ethnic separation, whereas anti-racism is a movement which seeks to go beyond race.

The International League against Racism and Antisemitism said Rosa Parks would be turning in her grave, a reference to the American civil rights icon.

Wallerand de Saint-Just, the regional head of Marine Le Pens National Front party, had challenged Hidalgo on Friday to explain how the city was putting on an event promoting a concept that is blatantly racist and anti-republican.

The cultural centre La Generale, where the event was to be hosted, and the collective Mwasi, which organised the event, said Sunday they were the target of a disinformation campaign and of fake news orchestrated by the foulest far right.

We are saddened to see certain antiracist associations letting themselves be manipulaed like this, according to a statement posted on the Generale website.

A decolonisation summer camp in the northeastern French city of Reims elicited similar outrage last year, as it billed itself as a training seminar on antiracism reserved for victims of institutional racism or racialised minorities excluding by default white people.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/29/paris-mayor-demands-black-feminist-festival-prohibits-white-people-banned-nyansapo

Taiwan’s same-sex marriage ruling could cement its place as Asia’s liberal beacon

Landmark court case this week is likely to determine the success or failure of draft laws currently before parliament

Chi Chia-wei will find out on Wednesday if his decades long fight to make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage has been a success.

Chi, 59, a pioneering Taiwanese gay rights activist, is the celebrated face behind one of the most controversial legal cases the island democracy has seen in recent years, where 14 judges must rule if the civil code, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional.

The constitutional courts landmark ruling will not only determine the success or failure of draft new parliamentary laws to introduce marriage equality, but could cement Taiwans reputation as a beacon of liberalism in a region where the LGBT community faces increasing persecution.

Chi, an equal rights campaigner since he first came out as a gay teenager in 1975, remains pragmatic about making civil rights history. If it doesnt work out this time, Ill keep on fighting for the people, and for human rights, he said in an interview with The Guardian.

But he is determined that one day, the fight will be won.

Somebody has to do it. I dont want to see any more people commit suicide because they dont have marriage equality, he said.

Last October the suspected suicide of French professor, Jacques Picoux, who was unable to marry his Taiwanese partner of 35 years, Tseng Ching-chao, became a rallying call for Chi and other LGBT activists.

His struggle is also personal. Chis lawsuit, launched two years ago and supported by the municipal government in the capital, Taipei, is the latest of several attempts to get legal recognition for his 30 year relationship with his partner, who wishes to remain anonymous.

In 1986, when the nation was still under martial law, Chi was imprisoned for five months after submitting his first petition asking for gay marriage to be recognised.

As a flag bearer for equality, he hopes to inspire other LGBT activists fighting a crackdown across Asia.

On the eve of Taiwans court ruling, two gay men face a public caning in Indonesia. In South Korea, the military has been accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against gay recruits. In Bangladesh, 27 men were arrested last week on suspicion of being gay, a criminal offence.

Back in Taiwan, the political stakes of Wednesdays decision are also high.

When President Tsai Ing-wens ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) passed the first draft of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in December, it prompted a fierce conservative backlash.

The issue has split Taiwanese society and vocal protests from a coalition of religious and right-wing family groups have caused many legislators to have second thoughts.

The fate of the legislation, soon to face a second reading, now lies in the hands of the court, believes Yu Mei-nu, the DPP parliamentarian who drafted it.

If the court ruled clearly in support of same-sex marriage and President Tsai offered her unequivocal support, it would embolden wavering legislators to vote in favour of the new laws, she argued.

If the grand justices make a decision that is not very clear, and it depends on a legislative yuan [parliament] vote, then it will be difficult. I think most legislators will abstain, she said.

We want her (Tsai) to be braver. If she can come out and say yes I support it then it will be passed.

Ahead of her election last year, Tsai voiced her support for marriage equality in a Facebook video. In the face of love, everyone is equal, she said.

But as she marked the first anniversary of her inauguration this weekend with low public approval ratings, Tsai faced criticism from all sides over her handling of gay marriage.

Its a little bit depressing for us. Before the election, she was really pro-gay rights. But now she has kind of disappeared, said student Vic Chiang, 23, at a Taipei rally last week on the International Day Against Homophobia.

Meanwhile, Robin Chen, a spokesman for the Coalition For Happiness of Our Next Generation, which links support for gay marriage with increased HIV infections, criticised the government for rushing the laws through.

The majority of the population does not know whats happening, he said. We need to discuss things on different levels because family is the foundation of society.

His fears were shared by Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference, who believes the court will likely back gay marriage. There is no debate, he said. Its a one-sided game.

Nerves are frayed ahead of the ruling, with both sides intending to demonstrate outside the court.

But for

Chi, the choice is simple.

To legalise marriage would mean that Taiwans civil code and constitution will say that gay people are people, he said. If the law can be changed, Taiwans gay community will have human rights.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/22/taiwans-same-sex-marriage-court-ruling-asias-liberal-beacon

The Salesman wins best foreign language Oscar

Protest vote against Donald Trumps travel ban suspected to be partly behind Iranian director Asghar Farhadis surprise victory

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has won the best foreign language Oscar in Los Angeles, for a second time, for domestic drama The Salesman. Farhadi, 44, did not attend the ceremony because he said that the conditions that would be attached to a potential entry visa were unacceptable.

The director had originally planned to travel to Hollywood for the prize-giving to highlight the unjust circumstances that have arisen for the immigrants and travellers of several countries to the United States.

The surge in votes for his film was thought by some to be a registration by Oscar voters of a protest against Donald Trumps travel ban, which aimed to prevent people coming to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries. On Sunday evening in London, a free screening of The Salesman was introduced by London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Until the ramifications of the ban for film-makers such as Farhadi became clear, Germanys Toni Erdmann had been the strong favourite to take the prize. The other nominees were Land of Mine (Denmark), Tanna (Australia) and A Man Called Ove (Sweden).

The Salesman premiered at Cannes last May, where it won best actor for Shahab Hosseini and best screenplay for Farhadi despite moderate notices from critics. The film follows a couple in Tehran involved in an amateur dramatic production of Arthur Millers The Salesman, who are forced to move apartments following an earthquake. But the flat into which they move has an unhappy history, compounded by an unwelcome intruder.

Farhadi won Irans first Oscar for his film A Separation in 2012. This second award puts him in an elite category of double-winners in the category, including Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.

Irans first person in space, Anousheh Ansari, read out a statement from Farhadi at the podium: My absence is out of respect for the people of my country, and those of the other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/feb/27/the-salesman-wins-best-foreign-language-oscar-asghar-farhadi