Weekly Report: 09 February 2018

Photo: “Thousands of citizens took to the streets of Afrin [Syria] to denounce the Turkish aggression on their city.” (Syrian Arab News Agency) Democratic Republic of Congo This week, the Congolese government has ordered former colonizer Belgium to close its consulate and cut off flights from Brussels. This came as a result of worsening relations between the two nations since the Belgian government terminated all cooperation on projects in the former Central African colony over human rights and security concerns. However, “the Belgian government has redirected €25m allocated for such projects to non-government organizations working on humanitarian aid in the country.” Ethnic violence between the Hema and Lendu has erupted in northeastern DRC, taking the lives of more than 24 people and leaving hundreds of homes burned to the ground. Meanwhile, the US has slapped sanctions on Congolese General Muhindo Akili Mundos and rebel leaders Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga, Guidon Shimiray Mwissa, and Lucien Nzabamwita for “contributing to widespread poverty, chronic food insecurity, and population displacement”. These are the same four men that the UN Security Council sanctioned last week for human rights violations. As conflicts persist in the DRC, rampant militia groups “have recruited at least 585 children for use as fighters or human shields in the war afflicting in Kasai regions.” In addition to the recruitment, humanitarian organizations disclosed that at least 120 children have been abducted and abused and another 350 have lost track of their families, classifying them as unaccompanied. Consequently, over 8,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring countries Burundi and Tanzania over the past week, following military operations to rid eastern DRC of the various militia...

#RiceBunny – The Resilient #MeToo Movement in China

Photo: This image circulating on Chinese social media explains the origin of the movement’s adapted hashtag. #MeToo has been one of the most profound developments in the modern feminist movement. Far more than a hashtag, it has been a conduit for unity among women, enabling many for the first time to openly share the abuses committed against them without fear of being silenced or of retribution from the powers that be. It has realized overdue consequences to a tremendous number of men in high positions – men who have so long abused their power over female colleagues in completely unacceptable ways. #MeToo is powerful. Celebration of its victories, however, should not completely overshadow the movement’s ongoing struggles. China is a male-dominated, highly censored culture. Needless to say, it is absolutely not conducive to social media campaigns, especially those that challenge men in positions of power. When the Weinstein story first broke in the US, launching the #MeToo movement, Chinese state-run media ran articles affirming that, “Chinese traditional values and conservative attitudes tend to safeguard women against inappropriate behavior from members of the opposite gender.” Statements like these met immediate backlash, however, from women whose personal experiences told a very different story. Nevertheless, the Chinese government’s longstanding policy of writing off feminist groups as ‘Agents of Western Interference’ seemed to again stifle any effectual change from taking off at that time. The #MeToo movement first breached Chinese media when Luo Qianqian, a citizen of China living in the US, decided to share her story. Luo had been sexually assaulted by a professor at her university. She recalls that he pounced on...

Weekly Report: 02 February 2018

Photo: Maldivian opposition protesters demand the release of political prisoners in Male, Maldives (AP Photo/Mohamed Sharuhaan, via US News) Venezuela United States officials claim that their economic sanctions are “absolutely working” and plan to continue them in a push on the South American country towards democratic change. One official explained that the sanctions have begun to force Venezuela to default on its debts. He goes on to blame Venezuela’s total economic collapse on “the bad choices of the Maduro regime.” “Our strategy on Venezuela is extremely effective,” said the same official. Amid these international sanctions and the country’s economic collapse, Maduro has continued to consolidate his power. Venezuela has “long accused Washington of trying to topple the government” and places responsibility for hyperinflation, and for food and medicine shortages, squarely on foreign interference. Inside Venezuela, Venezuelans have been looting food delivery trucks in desperate attempts to find food, as well as organizing food riots and protests. While Venezuela is no stranger to unrest, the looting is less a resistance to the political regime than it is a near necessity for the lower classes, whose livelihoods have been wrecked by the economic collapse and rampant inflation. David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America who has spent decades researching Venezuela, commented, “They want relief, not necessarily to force Maduro from power.” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has embarked on a tour around Latin American countries. Along the way, he has mused aloud that Venezuela may soon be subject to a military coup. He states that he has no intelligence to support the claim, but is basing this...