As I return home, the world is in a state of turmoil in many places. I like to think that these uprisings against authoritarian regimes will continue and spread, but we know of course that such uprisings often get suppressed and the people who engage in them may end up dead or in prison. Which only highlights the incredible courage of those people who have taken to the streets this week in Russia and Iran.
In many ways it’s easy for me to be an activist, though I’ve had moments in my life where I felt quite scared to speak out, to protest, to potentially be arrested. But as a white woman, fairly good with language and with many friends and legal connections even when I was young, I’ve been in a more-or-less safe situation while protesting. Now, as an old white woman with a decent supply of resources, I am even more secure.
But we have to remember that many, many people in this world — people I consider allies in the broadest sense — put their lives on the line any time they march in the street or hold up a sign. Even as I write this, people around the world are dying for their rights, for freedom to live as they wish, or freedom to live at all.
As Putin refuses to admit that his war against Ukraine is a failure, he begins to escalate. He has now conscripted hundreds of thousands of Russian men and forced them into combat. He has threatened the world with nuclear war if his more conventional efforts fail. The people of Russia, at least in Moscow and St. Petersburg, have taken to the streets in protest.
From the BBC, this report:
Ukraine conflict: Russia arrests hundreds at anti-war protests
Russian police are reported to have arrested hundreds of protesters rallying against the Kremlin’s decision to call up thousands of extra troops to fight in Ukraine….
Flights out of Russia sold out fast after Vladimir Putin’s announcement.
Russia’s president ordered a partial mobilisation, meaning some 300,000 military reservists – but not conscripts – will be drafted to bolster Russia’s forces who have suffered recent battlefield reverses in Ukraine.
The move came a day after occupied areas of Ukraine announced snap referendums on joining Russia.
And in remarks condemned by Ukraine and its allies, Mr Putin stressed that he would use “all available means” to protect Russian territory – implying this could involve nuclear weapons.
And from Al Jazeera, a report that Putin may force those arrested into combat as well. I’m not sure this is his smartest strategic move.
Anti-war protesters in Russia reportedly handed draft papers
More than 1,000 people have been arrested across Russia, according to a local monitoring group, following protests against Moscow’s partial mobilisation order on Wednesday.
Independent news outlets said some of those arrested were served a summons to report to military enlistment offices on Thursday, the first full day of conscription.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about reports that men detained were being given draft papers, said it was not against the law.
Film clips from Moscow and St. Petersburg:
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) September 21, 2022
And of course we have reports of deaths.
It seems a protestor, a young woman, in Moscow has been killed by police who clubbed her in the head. https://t.co/Y7uqmOJXX9
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) September 21, 2022
There are also large protests happening in Iran, in response to what seems to be the murder by police of Mehsa Amini, a young woman detained on morality charges — they claimed she had not covered herself well enough to be on the streets. Currently the nation is under an internet shutdown and it’s hard to get reliable information, but there are reports that police have been shooting protesters here as well. I’ll have more as I find out what’s happening. The courage of the citizens in these totalitarian states is awe-inspiring.
ETA: Here is an update on the Russian protests and other reactions to the mobilization, (WashPost gift link, gets you past the paywall for a while).