Amarante do Maranhao, Brazil – Davi Gaviao, an indigenous man with a mental illness was known to spend his days wandering the streets of Amarante do Maranhao, a poor and remote rural town on Brazil’s Amazon frontier.
By nightfall, he would usually return to the nearby 42,000 hectare Governador indigenous reserve where he lived with around 1,500 other Gaviao Pykopje tribespeople, in Maranhao state.
But in mid-October, days after the first round of Brazil’s presidential elections, Davi was killed, shot to death by two men on a motorbike as he lay asleep outside a local supermarket.
Sebastiao Wagner Bezerra, a local civil police chief, confirmed to Al Jazeera that an investigation of Davi’s murder was “advancing” but the motive was still unknown.
Rumours spread that Davi had somehow “offended” the matriarch of one of the powerful landowning families that dominate the region. Others speculate that he was killed for being indigenous.
Amarante’s economy, specialists say, is based in large part on illegal timber, much of which is plundered from indigenous reserves like Governador where Davi lived.
“Some locals here see indigenous people as a barrier to progress,” said Guaraci Mendes da Silva, a substitute regional coordinator in Maranhao state for Brazil’s National indigenous Foundation (Funai).
Davi’w murder comes amid rising violence against indigenous people and rural peasants in Brazil’s Amazon states, enabled by recent cuts to indigenous and environmental budgets.
And now, with the election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office on January 1, local indigenous activists fear even more violence due to the president’s history of anti-indigenous rhetoric and alliance with Brazil’s powerful farming lobby.
A sign marking an indigenous territory is riddled with bullet holes [Tommaso Protti/Al Jazeera]
Shortly after being elected at the end of October, Bolsonaro said in a TV interview, “As far as I am concerned, there is no more demarcation of indigenous land.”
Increased gun ownership for rural property owners and opening up indigenous lands for mining were also measures touted throughout his campaign.
Hours after assuming office on Tuesday, Bolsonaro issued an executive order transferring the responsibilities of regulating and creating new indigenous lands from the the indigenous affairs agency, Funai, under the Justice Ministry to the Agricultural Ministry. Funai will be moved to a new ministry for family, women and human rights.
Analysts fear that such a move and rhetoric empowers violent loggers and land grabbers in largely lawless and remote rural areas and towns like Amarante.
“It’s a discourse that legitimises violence against indigenous people,” said Cleber Buzatto, executive secretary of the indigenous Missionary Council, an advocacy group, said of Bolsonaro.
‘Sends a message’
In July, Bolsonaro visited Eldorado do Carajas, in the Amazon state of Par, which neighbours Maranhao, site of a 1996 massacre in which 19 rural workers protesting by blocking a highway were killed by military police. Two former police colonels are serving 228 years for the crime.
Brazil’s O Estado de S Paulo newspaper reported that Bolsonaro said, “Who needed to have been arrested were the MST, (Landless Worker’s Movement) who are scoundrels and shameless. The police reacted not to die.”
Luiz Antonio Nabhan Garcia, president of the Democratic Association of Ruralists (UDR), a group of right-wing farmers and activists opposed to land reform, now appointed as Bolsonaro’s secretary for land affairs, told Brazil’s O Globo in a recent interview that he would not “negotiate” with landless peasant movements.
“The tendency is for rural violence to increase even further, it’s very worrying,” said Paulo Cesar Moreira, a national coordinator for Brazil’s Pastoral Land Commission.
Brazil is already the world’s deadliest country in sheer numbers for indigenous, land and environmental activists with a record 57 killings in 2017 according NGO Global Witness.
Impunity is a huge driver of violence and Maranhao is one of the worst affected states. According to Brazil’s Pastoral Land Commission, a rural violence watchdog, of 157 land conflict killings in Maranhao between 1985 and 2017, just five ended up in court.
Amarante do Maranhao, a municipality of some 40,000 people is home to two large indigenous reserves; Governador and Arariboia. Together, a handful of indigenous lands and conservation units concentrate 70 percent of the remaining Amazon forest in Maranhao state.
According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, just 25 percent of Maranhao’s previous 110,000 square kilometre of Amazon forest remains, the majority of which was cleared for agriculture and cattle ranching.
Recent data showed that across Brazil’s Amazon states, deforestation increased by nearly 50 percent during the August to October election period.
“Bolsonaro’s discourse throughout the campaign, that he’ll end Ibama [Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources] or the environmental ministry, this sends a message to those that commit environmental crimes, that they will be tolerated,” said Marcio Astrini, public policy coordinator for Greenpeace Brazil. “It has an immediate effect.”
Government data pointed to an overall increase of nearly 14 percent in Amazon deforestation in 2018 compared with the previous year, the worst result in a decade, which the government blamed on illegal logging.
Ibama destroyed several irregular sawmills in Amarante and the surrounding municipalities last year [Tommaso Protti/Al Jazeera]
Experts warn that unless deforestation slows, the Amazon will reach a point of no return and eventually begin to turn into shrubland.
“If the deforestation continues and passes 20 – 25 percent, there is the risk of the beginning of the process of the Amazon turning into Savannah,” said Carlos Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists.
Nobre said that 16 percent was already gone and could be accelerated through climate change, global warming and forest fires.
Ricardo Salles, Bolsonaro’s environmental minister, has called climate change a “secondary issue” and environmental fines “”ideological.”
‘We have no resources, no support’
In poor rural Amazon towns like Amarante do Maranhao, many locals who depend on the timber trade for their income agree with Salles, leading to conflicts with authorities and indigenous groups.
Last year, Ibama destroyed several irregular sawmills in Amarante and the surrounding municipalities.
“The objective of destroying these sawmills was to protect the biodiversity inside of indigenous lands and conservation units,” said Roberto Cabral, surveillance operations coordinator of Ibama, who was once shot and injured by loggers in the region.
Rosinan Alves dos Santos, 43, said that he had worked at a sawmill that was destroyed by Ibama last year and that afterwards was unemployed for nearly eight months. Now working at another irregular sawmill, he said he could earn 50 Brazilian real (about $13) a day, more than Brazil’s minimum wage.
“They come here and destroy our jobs,” he said of Ibama. “For us, this is the only work we have.”
Roberto Cabral of Ibama said, “There is a false impression that the jobs that sawmills provide are providing prosperity,”
Cabral added that “if you look as cities where clandestine sawmills are present, the city doesn’t develop, because there are no taxes paid.”
Forest guards say that they receive regular threats [Tommaso Protti/Al Jazeera]
Al Jazeera visited the Governador indigenous reserve earlier this year. For decades, the Governador reserve has been plundered by illegal loggers and in 2013, tribesmen set up an indigenous forest patrol guard initiative to keep the loggers out.
“Before, illegal logging in our territory was basically liberated,” said Marcelo Gaviao, 37, the leader of the forest guard. Marcelo Gaviao said he and other leaders receive regular threats.
But it’s far from stopped. It was here, last year, that Sonia Vicente Cacau Gaviao and José Caneta Gaviao, were killed when they were hit by a speeding truck local leaders say belonged to loggers.
Marcelo Gaviao also said that some indigenous on Governador are “co-opted”: that they pass information to loggers in exchange for payment.
“Even during our monitoring group we have people who pass information about missions,” he said.
Al Jazeera recently accompanied the forest guard on a night patrol of the territory. At one point, Marcelo Gaviao and four other forest guards dressed in camouflage and armed with shotguns in a pickup, sped after a truck laden with timber they suspected was taken from their reserve but gave up after a brief chase, fearful of a violent confrontation.
Now, with the murder of Davi Gaviao and the new Bolsonaro government, Marcelo Gaviao, his forest guard and the community fear escalating violence and increased invasions of their territory.
“We are really scared after what happened to Davi,” Jonas Polino Sançao, a local indigenous teacher and activist said. “We have no resources, no support.”
Sign language: Connecting people and cultures
The Deaf Friends team – KUNA photosSign language is a full-fledged means of communication for deaf people, depending on facial and body gestures that enable them to interact. The UN General Assembly set Sept 23 as the International Day for Sign Languages to highlight their importance, and how it was a major right for deaf…
The Deaf Friends team – KUNA photosSign language is a full-fledged means of communication for deaf people, depending on facial and body gestures that enable them to interact. The UN General Assembly set Sept 23 as the International Day for Sign Languages to highlight their importance, and how it was a major right for deaf people to have their own languages. The international day coincides with the establishment of the World Federation of the Deaf, founded in 1951.
“Sign language is multicultural and derived from the culture of every country,” said Hamad Al-Marri, President of Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf. Marri, also member of the higher council for the disabled, told KUNA deaf people will be using their hands and other body gestures to express themselves. Every country has a unique sign language depending on its culture, he explained. “There is an international sign language, an Arab sign language and a unique local sign language.”
Arabic days of the week in sign languageMarri said many deaf people have occupied senior positions because they excelled in the use of sign language. He added he proposed to the Civil Service Commission for the appointment of people with sign language expertise in government departments to help the deaf. Marri said HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah instructed Kuwait National Guards personnel, when he was deputy chief of KNG, to learn sign language to communicate with the deaf.
Arabic alphabets in sign languageDr Mohammad Al-Ramzi, a sign language instructor, said sign language “is rich, expressive and complicated just like the spoken language, and it has a grammar framework similar to all human languages”. Speaking to KUNA, Ramzi said Arab countries unified their sign languages in 1999 and a dictionary was published with more than 3,000 signs. Kuwait was the first country in the world to interpret three TV news bulletins. The bulletins were raised to eight per day in 2020, he added.
Ismail Karam, Technical Director at Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf, said he learned sign language at Al-Amal (Hope) School for people with special needs, which he joined in 1960. After spending 12 years at the school, Karam graduated with the ability to write and sign. He then worked at the finance ministry’s printing press where he spent 30 years, during which he joined former classmates to establish the Kuwait Society for Deaf and Dumb in 1975. The society later changed its name to Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf.
Al-Zahraa Al-Tamimi, member of the Deaf Friends team, said team members are teaching hearing-impaired people how to use sign language. The team, she told KUNA, sought to spread the use of sign language on social media, TV channels and public places. Kuwait is the second Arab country to introduce education of the deaf – the ministry of education issued a law in 1965 making it mandatory for people with special needs to get an education. – KUNA
Kuwaiti army chief, Australian commander discuss military issues
KUWAIT: Lieutenant General Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah receives Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison. – KUNAKUWAIT: Chief of the General Staff of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sheikh Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah discussed with the Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison important matters and topics of…
KUWAIT: Lieutenant General Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah receives Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison. – KUNAKUWAIT: Chief of the General Staff of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sheikh Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah discussed with the Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison important matters and topics of common interest, especially those related to the military. The general staff said in a press statement yesterday that Sheikh Khaled received Paddison along with his accompanying delegation during his official visit to the country.
During the meeting, the important matters and topics of common interest were discussed, where the chief of staff commended the depth of bilateral ties between both sides. The meeting was attended by Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Army Lt Gen Fahad Al-Nasser, Australian Ambassador to Kuwait Jonathan Gilbert and several senior army commanding officers. – KUNA
Myanmar will not address world leaders at UN General Assembly
Russia and China have reportedly agreed to allow Kyaw Moe Tun to keep Myanmar’s UN seat as long as he does not speak during high-level meeting.No representative from Myanmar is scheduled to address the annual high-level United Nations General Assembly next week, a UN spokesman said, amid rival claims for the country’s UN seat in…
Russia and China have reportedly agreed to allow Kyaw Moe Tun to keep Myanmar’s UN seat as long as he does not speak during high-level meeting.No representative from Myanmar is scheduled to address the annual high-level United Nations General Assembly next week, a UN spokesman said, amid rival claims for the country’s UN seat in New York after a military coup deposed the elected government.
“At this point, Myanmar is not speaking,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.
Myanmar’s current UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun – appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government – had initially been expected to address the 193-member General Assembly on Monday, the final day of the gathering.
But diplomats said China, Russia and the United States had reached an understanding, where Moscow and Beijing will not object to Kyaw Moe Tun remaining in Myanmar’s UN seat for the moment as long as he does not speak during the high-level meeting.
“I withdrew from the speaker list, and will not speak at this general debate,” Kyaw Moe Tun told Reuters the news agency, adding that he was aware of the understanding between some members of the UN credentials committee, which includes Russia, China and the US.
Myanmar’s military government has put forward military veteran Aung Thurein to be its UN envoy, while Kyaw Moe Tun has asked to renew his UN accreditation, despite being the target of a plot to kill or injure him for his opposition to the February coup.
UN accreditation issues are dealt with by a nine-member committee, whose members include the US, China and Russia. It traditionally meets in October or November.
Until a decision is made by the credentials committee, Kyaw Moe Tun will remain in the seats, according to the General Assembly rules. The same rule also applies to the representative of Afghanistan.
News of Kyaw Moe Tun’s absence on Monday comes as violence linked to the February 1 coup continues to displace thousands of civilians at home.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was overthrown by the military in February, sparking a nationwide uprising that the military has tried to crush.
Attacks on the military have increased after lawmakers deposed by the generals called for a “people’s defensive war” earlier this month.
News of Kyaw Moe Tun’s absence on Monday comes as violence linked to the February 1 coup continues to displace thousands of civilians at home [File: Osamu Honda/AP]The latest violence was reported in Chin state and Sagaing region in the country’s northwest, with soldiers engaging in battles with armed local defence groups.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and nearly 8,000 arrested since the coup, according to local observers.
Coup leaders have defended its power grab by alleging massive fraud during elections in late 2020 which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won by a landslide.
On Thursday, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned of a human rights catastrophe under military rule in Myanmar and urged the international community to do more to prevent the conflict in the country from getting worse.
“The national consequences are terrible and tragic – the regional consequences could also be profound,” she said in a statement.
“The international community must redouble its efforts to restore democracy and prevent wider conflict before it is too late.”