Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'dictatorship'

Muzzled in Fiji

February 21st, 2013 · No Comments

Approximately two years ago, the Fiji Times reprinted a story from New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times in which a soccer official questioned the ethical soundness of Fiji’s judiciary. The military dictator who runs Fiji as his personal fiefdom did not take kindly to such an insinuation, even though even a casual observer of the island […]

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Upside-Down World

January 29th, 2013 · 2 Comments

There is a certain breed of non-fiction story that I call the bridge burner—a tale so damning that it ensures that the writer will never again enjoy access to a vast swath of trusted sources. A prime example would be Jon Lee Anderson’s recent “Slumlord,” in which he paints a vivid portrait of the chaos […]

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Someone Take Him Up on This

January 15th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who we prefer to think of as The Armed Clown, has a famously high opinion of his own athletic prowess. Today that hubris led him to make a proposition that I hope he will live to regret, as he wrote a check with his mouth that his body surely cannot cash. […]

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The Weight of a Prank

July 23rd, 2012 · 2 Comments

Nineteen days ago, a Swedish advertising agency made waves by airdropping a thousand teddy bears over Belarus—a minor protest against the nation’s repression of free speech. A student in Minsk posted several photos of the bears on his site, and was subsequently arrested by Belarusian authorities for undisclosed reasons. That arrest caused the Swede behind […]

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Good Luck, Mr. Atayev

July 10th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Turkmenistan’s National Space Agency has a new chairman, who will be expected to oversee the monumental task of launching the country’s first satellite. I’m still not entirely clear on why Turkmen dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is making this such a huge priority, for the official explanation is gobbledygook: the satellite, the nation’s state news agency tells […]

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Punished for Cleverness

May 17th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Your daily reminder of why Belarus shouldn’t be hosting the 2014 World Hockey Championship: A Belarusian opposition activist has been sentenced to 15 days in jail for using a sign to mock a plainclothes security officer. In the April incident, Ivan Amelchanka was photographed standing next to a man who was using a hand-held camera […]

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Black is White, Night is Day

May 8th, 2012 · No Comments

There is, of course, no reason to expect anything but prevarication from the government of Azerbaijan, an authoritarian kleptocracy with no compunctions about employing dirty tricks. Still, the regime’s insistence on spouting obvious falsehoods is a dark wonder to behold. With its turn as Eurovision host fast approaching, Azerbaijan is going to great lengths to […]

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That’s All I Can Stands

May 7th, 2012 · No Comments

Will future historians look back upon Angela “LaGija” Dlamini as the great tea-leaf reader of Swazi politics? In recent days, her husband, the absolute monarch King Mswati III, has come under an unusual amount of fire for his profligacy—it is still tough to imagine, for example, why he merited a new $46 million jet, or […]

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Dirty Tricks in the Land of Fire

March 20th, 2012 · No Comments

You’re gonna be hearing a lot more than usual ’bout Azerbaijan in the coming days, since the nation will be playing host to that wretched entertainment ritual known as Eurovision 2012. The event is supposed to be a coming-out party of sorts for the so-called Land of Fire, which would very much like to attract […]

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This is Your Wake-Up Call

December 19th, 2011 · No Comments

The realist in me is resigned to the fact that little will change for North Korea’s long-suffering citizens in the wake of Dear Leader’s demise. But upon learning the news late last night, I immediately thought of a strangely optimistc scene from Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, one set in the immediate aftermath of Kim […]

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Despots of a Feather

November 9th, 2011 · No Comments

Strange YouTube journey this morning as I sought some quickie material for a reporting day. Inspired by Dr. Swerve-On’s latest installment of Fresh Produce, I started off looking for George Benson’s version of “California Dreaming.” Yet I somehow ended up fixated on the video above, in which Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu pays a visit to […]

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Sedition Was the Case That They Gave Me

November 7th, 2011 · 2 Comments

In most corners of the world, graffiti artists operate in fear of being nabbed for vandalism. In totalitarian Fiji, they face far more serious charges, at least if their scrawled messages carry the whiff of the political: A New Zealand businessman is in custody in Fiji along with four others who have been arrested over […]

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For Research Purposes Only, Of Course

September 27th, 2011 · 2 Comments

When President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, his hosts treated him to a performance of The Red Detachment of Women, a “revolutionary ballet” in which girls with guns dance en pointe to music about the evil of landlords. When Nixon expressed his admiration for the production to Madame Mao, she replied with a ready-made […]

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With Friends Like These

September 8th, 2011 · 4 Comments

As Muammar Qaddafi continues to rage, rage, rage against the inevitable dying of the light, the time has come to assess just how much damage he wrought during his absurdly long rule. I never cease to be amazed by the man’s longevity; just recently, in fact, his name came up in my book research, as […]

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Messing with the Bull

March 24th, 2011 · No Comments

I have mixed feelings about Ross Dunkley, the Australian who co-founded the Myanmar Times in 2000. It’s impossible not to admire his moxie; rare is the publishing soul brave enough to open a new information venture in a totalitarian state. But Dunkley obviously had to make some bargains to earn that opportunity, and that meant […]

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Are You Reeling in the Years?

March 23rd, 2011 · 5 Comments

Those commendable souls who frequent this space may have noticed Microkhan’s recent obsession with Papua New Guinea. This is by accident more than design, I assure you; the endlessly fascinating linchpin of Oceania simply has a lot going on these days, to the point that it has become a topic of much conversation in America’s […]

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Blaming the Better Half

January 14th, 2011 · 3 Comments

I’ve spent a fair chunk of the morning immersed in the goings-on in Tunisia, where embattled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is rapidly losing his grip on power. What strikes me most about the protests is the fact that so much rage has been directed at Ben Ali’s wife, the former Leila Trabelsi, a […]

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Signifying Nothing

November 29th, 2010 · 3 Comments

The human rays of sunshine above are academics devoted to the study of juche, the nonsensical North Korean ideology that stresses self-reliance above all else. You would think that men and women in possession of advanced degrees would recognize the flaws in an economic theory that denies the basic sociability of our species—or, at the […]

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Tone Deaf

November 22nd, 2010 · 3 Comments

I spent much of the weekend zipping through The Reluctant Communist, former Army sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins‘ memoir of the 39 years he spent living in North Korea after walking across the demilitarized zone in 1965. It’s a harrowing read, primarily because it reveals the North Korean establishment to be even more deluded than I’d […]

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Fortune’s Supposed Favorites

August 23rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

The morning grog is heavy today, on account of the fact that I stayed up late watching Crossing the Line, a documentary about Virginia native James Joseph Dresnok‘s 1962 defection to North Korea. Despite some clunky Christian Slater narration, it’s a stellar flick—a deeply researched portrait of a man whose tragic background made him yearn […]

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The Lowdown on Brown-Brown

April 12th, 2010 · 22 Comments

If you haven’t read it already, Jon Lee Anderson’s latest dispatch from Guinea is well worth your time. The piece does an excellent job of conveying the chaos of Moussa Dadis Camara‘s brief reign, which was marred by one of the great atrocities of recent vintage. Suffice to say that Dadis and his cronies come […]

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Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

March 18th, 2010 · 12 Comments

Yesterday’s New York Times featured a piece on the lavish lifestyles of South African president Jacob Zuma and his fellow African National Congress bigwigs. The article was accompanied by a photograph of Zuma sitting on a gilded banquet chair, which bears a striking resemblance to a throne. (Note to Zuma’s handlers: If your boss is […]

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Funk Amidst the Food Riots

February 3rd, 2010 · 4 Comments

The mid-1970s were a gloomy time in Polish history, even by that long-accursed nation’s standards. Government-mandated price increases on essential goods led to a series of violent protests, which were quelled in typically brutal fashion. To paraphrase a certain Shogun Assassin quote made famous on GZA’s Liquid Swords, it was a bad time for Warsaw. […]

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Let There Be Hydroelectricity

December 16th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Explicitly Communist architecture gets a unfairly bad rap from critics. Sure, builders behind the Iron Curtain were overly fond of dismal panelaks and other multi-dwelling units that reeked of dingy misery. But when the last true believers in the dictatorship of the proletariat decided to go the triumphalist route, man, did they ever pull it […]

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Words to Flail By

December 7th, 2009 · 6 Comments

A Thursday comment thread led us to unearth a true Web gem: an English translation of the Ruhnama, the textbook authored by the late Saparmurat Niyazov, better known to the world as the megalomaniacal dictator Turkmenbashi. The tome was infamously the only source of history and philosophy instruction for pupils during Turkmenbashi’s ruinous reign, a […]

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Doing Away With the Veneer

December 3rd, 2009 · 8 Comments

Most authoritarians these days know better than to go the Papa Doc Duvalier route and declare themselves president-for-life. The occasional sham election does wonders in terms of keeping off the international heat, especially if your country is an important source of gas or bauxite. But Nursultan Nazarbayev seems to be seriously considering bucking the trend, […]

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