Hundreds of Peoples exist and resist all over the world. The forms of resistance are very different. There are armed experiences with real armies or rudimentary organised militias, as well as forms of peaceful resistance or civil disobedience. Some are well known, come from far away and are in some way related to the right to self-determination. These include the Palestinians, the Sahrawis, the Kurds, but also the Uighurs and the Rohingyas.

Many indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania are also trying to resist discrimination, ghettoisation and, not least, the development model that constantly threatens their survival. Indigenous peoples’ struggles often intersect with the climate crisis’s consequences. This dossier examines some of the lesser-known examples of resistance that are more or less actively engaged in confronting economic and power systems.



The Uyghurs of Xinjiang and the Rohingya of Myanmar

The Uyghurs are the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority of Xinjiang, a region in northwest China extremely rich in natural resources and strategically important as the land gateway to the Belt and Road Initiative, the major infrastructure and trade project linking China to Europe. Uyghurs are a minority in Xinjiang, following massive immigration from other regions of China. They complain of discrimination and violence.

In September, the UN Human Rights Council issued a report  on ongoing atrocities in Xinjiang, confirming abundant evidence reported by Amnesty International and others of serious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities. According to various organisations, people living in Xinjiang or with relatives in the region risk arrest, detention, torture and enforced disappearance, and these risks extend to their families.

Between January and June 2002, Amnesty International visited Central Asia and Turkey, interviewing people who had recently fled Xinjiang and relatives of those who had been arbitrarily detained. They described a life of constant oppression as a result of the Chinese authorities’ policy of severely restricting the freedoms of the predominantly Muslim minorities, through violations of the rights to personal liberty and security, privacy, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, thought and belief, freedom to take part in cultural life, equality and non-discrimination, and freedom from forced labour.

Since 2017, it is estimated that at least one million (mainly) Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Uzbeks have been arbitrarily detained. Some estimates put the figure as high as 1.5 million. For the Chinese leadership, it’s part of a reintegration programme.


Another persecuted population of Muslim faith is the Rohingya in Myanmar. In fact, they can be considered one of the most oppressed populations in the world: they cannot move, they are extremely poor, they are constantly harassed and they are effectively stateless. Those living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state are a very small part of the vast majority now in the diaspora, stretching from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia, from India to Indonesia.

The situation of the Rohingya refugees has become increasingly desperate over the years. In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews of Yale Law School and the Asia Center at Harvard University, issued an urgent appeal to UN member states ‘to reverse the shameful and disastrous cuts in food rations for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’ that began on 1 March. According to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), $125 million is needed immediately to stop these disastrous cuts.

The Adivasis of India

Adivasis (tribal people) from across India launched a massive protest march in March 2023 to denounce the creation of protected areas in the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. The protected areas are open to foreign tourists, but the Adivasis are denied entry and prevented from accessing their forests. The NGO Survival writes, ‘In tiger reserves across India, tribal people have been evicted or threatened with eviction from their ancestral lands in the name of conservation. They also suffer persecution, violent attacks and killings”. In Nagarhole, the resistance continued with a prolonged protest outside the offices of the Tiger Reserve Forest Department, involving adivasis from 46 different villages. “The Nagarhole forest belongs to our ancestors. Animals and forests are part of us, they are our family” was one of the slogans chanted during the march.

The Alliance for the Development of the Environment and Culture of the Akas Pygmy People


The Pygmy peoples of Africa have often been described as the ‘guardians of the forest’. Because of their knowledge of the Central African rainforest, they are often used as guides by NGOs, and timber companies as well as for hunting activities. Because of these skills and their commitment to protecting the forest, they are threatened, harassed and even killed by those who destroy the forest. They face increasing challenges related to deforestation, discrimination and changes to their way of life.

This nomadic population has lived in the forest for centuries, but in recent decades many have moved to towns and villages, where they are often discriminated against and relegated to the outskirts of villages. Logging companies, both legal and illegal, have contributed to the destruction of the Aka Pygmies’ habitat. According to Global Forest Watch, the Central African Republic lost 193,000 hectares of primary rainforest between 2001 and 2021. The Alliance for the Development of the Environment and Culture of the Akas Pygmies was set up to promote forest conservation and support the Aka in their struggle to maintain their traditional way of life.

The Sioux of the Dakotas

The Lakota Sioux, a Native American tribe, have been fighting for survival since the so-called discovery of America. Today, their resistance is concentrated in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills are the subject of treaties between the state and the Oglala Sioux tribe, who have reserved rights to the land in the hills. The area was mined for uranium in the 1950s and again in the early 1970s. Activities that left 169 abandoned mines and contaminated land and water. It’s a fate that seems destined to be repeated. For many years, several companies have been trying to get state and federal permission to build a uranium mine. The Oglala Sioux Tribe has taken the lead in fighting the proposal, and all nine of South Dakota’s tribal governments have passed resolutions opposing it. Local non-profit groups have also joined the opposition. Opponents include the Rapid City City Council and the South Dakota State Medical Association, which has also passed a resolution opposing the mine. The Clean Water Alliance has targeted the mining projects of the Canadian-Chinese multinational Azarga/Powertech Uranium. Another target is Canadian United Lithium, which is mining lithium for the production of electric cars, a key component of the green economy.

Guajajara, the Guardians of the Amazon

Protecting part of the forest in the northeast Amazon is the aim of the Guajajara Guardians. The Guajajara live in the indigenous territory of Arariboia (in the Brazilian state of Maranhão) and patrol their land to keep out loggers, who often organise punitive expeditions to kill the Guardians of the Amazon.

Although Brazilian law strictly forbids outsiders from cutting down trees in indigenous territories, loggers operate here and in other parts of the Amazon with impunity. The Guardians are volunteers and receive only sporadic financial and logistical support from the Brazilian government, despite a formal obligation to protect the forest and the rights of indigenous peoples. The Guardians’ work is extremely dangerous: at least eight volunteers were murdered between 2019 and 2022. The Guardians of the Amazon work with the isolated Awá Guajá Indians to protect the forest.