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Arab Spring uprisings get all the ink, but there are others you should know about.
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LONDON, U.K. — As the Arab Spring moves into summer, uprisings are continuing to redefine North Africa and the Middle East. And with eyes focused on Libya, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain, other lesser-known revolts are in danger of being lost in their shadow.
Despite brutal government retaliation in some countries, the Mideast’s pro-democracy movement has been so swift, tumultuous and unpredictable as to capture the media’s imagination, garnering a giddy, internet-age narrative about people power triumphing over oppression.
But away from dramatic TV coverage of war in Libya, away from the YouTube videos showing firefights in Syria, a myriad of forgotten, under-covered uprisings paint a different, less hopeful picture of popular struggle.
Some are smoldering civil wars. Others are protests that, year-after-year, fail to reach the critical mass, instead triggering violent backlash that typically generates outrage abroad but little else.
A sift beneath the main headlines uncovers political rumblings stretching from Europe's fringes to Southeast Asia's mountainous jungles — places that perhaps lack the strategic significance of Arab flashpoints yet are no strangers to calls for change.
Asked by GlobalPost to compile a list of lesser-known revolts that it is concerned about, Amnesty International nominated half a dozen struggles that, despite sparking scenes reminiscent of those witnessed in the Arab Spring, considerably fewer people will be aware of.
Other groups such as Human Rights Watch have their own lists. Georgia crops up because of recent political violence. But some struggles — such as a recent post-election flare-up in Albania — barely get a mention anywhere.
It isn’t immediately clear why certain uprisings capture the global imagination even as others are left to run their course in obscurity. A glance at the Amnesty chart suggests that a tricky political terrain and an obscure culture or cast of characters result in fewer headlines.
Chechnya, first on the list, is a textbook case. Both sides in this long-running conflict are seemingly guilty of violent excesses, albeit to differing degrees. Russia has fought two bloody wars with Chechen separatists beginning in the mid-1990s, ending its "counterterrorism" operations in 2009. But it still faces a sporadically violent Islamist insurgency with rights groups accusing authorities of serious abuses.
China’s treatment of ethnic Tibetans — familiar through the West’s affinity for the Himalayas, Buddhism and the charismatic Dalai Lama — receives considerable coverage. But Amnesty notes a forgotten conflict elsewhere within China’s borders. This involves the Uighurs, in the far west, who have been subjected to crackdowns since a major protest in 2009; China blames "mobsters" for fomenting Uighur uprisings against dominant ethnic Han Chinese. Another undercovered revolt is in Inner Mongolia. Beijing is currently stepping up action nationwide against dissent that it fears may develop into a "Jasmine revolution" echoing the Arab Spring.
Other Amnesty examples include Papua, one of several provinces where Indonesian authorities have sought to suppress separatist uprisings; Burma (also known as Myanmar), where the military regime has been waging war on ethnic groups including the Karen; Uganda, beset by political violence; and Swaziland, where calls for democratization are growing.