April 2018 — CANVAS

People Power Rages in Armenia as Opposition Declares Revolution

Photo: Opposition protesters demonstrate in Yerevan on April 17. RFE/RL. Fueled by fear, hope, and anger, more than ten thousand Armenians have come out in protest to oppose the appointment of Serzh Sarkisian as prime minister. The leader of the demonstration has called for nonviolence, but past instances of excessive force by police against peaceful protesters bode poorly for those out on the streets. As the situation rapidly develops, and democracy slips from the people’s hands, their measured responses will be critical for charting the course of this conflict. Sarkisian has been in power for the past decade in Armenia, serving two terms as president, the maximum limit, and having finally stepped down on April 9 at the inauguration of his successor. At the time he was elected, and throughout his terms, the presidency was the most powerful single position of leadership in Armenia. In 2015, however, a change to the structure of the government was approved. This made the president into more of a national figurehead, transferring most of his legislative authority to the parliament and prime minister. In 2014, with the campaign for these policy changes underway, Sarkisian had announced that he would “not aspire” to become prime minister if they took effect. Now, this comment is infuriating and driving many members of the opposition who accuse him of breaking that pledge. Protest leader Nikol Pashinian has been rallying protesters since April 13. A few days before, opposition lawmakers set of smoke bombs in parliament to call for demonstrations. So now for days, people have gathered in Yerevan, blocking government buildings, bringing transportation to a standstill, confronting significant government-linked...

Srdja Popovic Installed as St Andrews’ 53rd Rector

On Friday, April 13, Srdja Popovic officially became the 53rd Rector of the Scotland’s first university. (via St Andrews) Since 1858, the Rector has been elected by the students. Srdja follows in the footsteps of a long list of illustrious former Rectors, including authors J M Barrie and Rudyard Kipling, Monty Python founding member John Cleese and Catherine Stihler MEP. In addition to being President of the University Court, the highest governing body of the University, the Rector also plays an informal, pastoral role for students. The official installation ceremony followed the traditional student ‘drag’ (Wednesday 11 April), which saw students lead the new Rector on an epic six-hour tour of student halls and local hostelries in a day of celebration, which included a procession through the town. “I am proud and honoured to serve as a Rector – a voice and empowerment of students of St Andrews. I am ready to commit my term to listening to the students and turning their initiatives into concrete action. The position of the Rector belongs to the students, and it will be my goal to empower students to use it in their best interest!” Lewis Wood, President of the St Andrews Students’ Association said: “The Rector’s Installation is a day of celebration to welcome Srdja to the University community. Srdja’s campaign and vision for St Andrews inspired a lot of students last October and we look forward to inducting him into our traditions and culture. Both myself and the student body wish him all the best for the three years ahead, and look forward to working closely with...

Weekly Report: April 13 2018

Photo: Women at the memorial of Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The Guardian. Syria Russia reports that Syrian forces have retaken Eastern Ghouta, the heavily besieged suburb of Damascus. This means that now, Assad’s power is the most secure it has been since the start of the Syrian civil war. Furthermore, while this is a victory against extreme rebel groups that have held the territory for years, it comes at an immensely high cost. The UN refugee agency reported this week that more than 133,000 have fled Eastern Ghouta since the escalation of this siege. Moreover, the Assad government is again accused of using chemical weapons in its attempts to retake this area. While the use is thus far unconfirmed officially, it is strongly substantiated. 500 people in Eastern Ghouta have demonstrated symptoms consistent with chemical attacks; residents reported hearing things falling from the sky, leaving strange smells; videos coming out show people sprawled on the floors of their homes, killed by apparent suffocation; of 70 killed while taking shelter in basements, 43 showed signs of “highly toxic chemicals” according to the World Health Organization. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international watchdog, is on its way to Syria to investigate and uncover whether chemical weapons were used, and if so, to find out what was the nature of the attack. Many governments in the West have expressed abhorrence over the chemical attacks, generally agreeing on the need for action, and in some cases threatening a military response. Assad has, however, both denied the use of chemical weapons and warned these governments against intervention of any kind. “Any...

Bead Portrait Raises Awareness of Violence Against Indigenous Women

Photo: Community bead-making workshop for the portrait project. Luger’s Instagram. Communities across the US are hand-rolling beads and sending them to Native American artist Cannupa Hanska Luger. He will assemble these beads into a large scale portrait, titled ‘Every One’. This portrait project aims to raise awareness of the disproportionately high violence against indigenous women, girls, and LGTBQ community. Luger was born on the Standing Rock reservation, and his work focuses on critical analysis of culture to inspire diverse communities to “engage with Indigenous peoples and values apart from the lens of colonial social structuring.” The artist explores this topic through the mediums of ceramics, fiber, steel, video and sound, and social collaboration. Among his notable works are the Mirror Shields used in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which also invited the public to participate in the project by creating their own mirror shields. After a Canadian minister suggested that around 4,000 women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada alone, an estimate more than 3 times that of the police, Luger latched onto that number. The portrait will be made out of 4,000 beads, each one meant to represent a victim. These 4,000 cases are part of a greater pattern of violence towards indigenous women. A study from 2016 showed that greater than four out of five American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime, and the results showed that over 730,000 American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced violence in that year. Still other activists, those working for the ‘Walk 4 Justice’ initiative, collected the names of indigenous women...

Thousands of Pashtuns Rally for the Right to Live Without Fear

Photo: Pashtun women from a tribal region of Pakistan hold pictures of missing family members at a rally in Peshawar. AP. Tens of thousands of Pashtun and Pakistani activists rallied recently in the city of Peshawar, demanding an end to decades of political mistreatment, the removal of military checkpoints in tribal areas, and the release of their friends and relatives who they assert have been taken as political prisoners by the Pakistani government. Radio Mashaal, a branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reported approximately 60,000 in attendance, despite a near-complete blackout of reporting by most Pakistani media. The movement’s leader, Manzoor Pashteen, has affirmed that the demonstrations are both nonviolent and constitutional. “Pashtuns who have raised their voices against atrocities are being labelled as foreign agents … But we are simple people talking about peace and harmony. Our agenda is peace, and if their agenda is that atrocities should continue, this is wrong.” In February, the movement staged its first mass demonstration as a response to the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring Pashtun model, in an allegedly staged encounter. The government stated that Mehsud was a member of the Pakistani Taliban, but this remains entirely unsubstantiated. What the killing did prove, however, was that this young generation of ethnic Pashtuns would continue to be assaulted by the government, as in this extrajudicial killing, but that they were not prepared to so easily accept this systematic abuse. Although education rates remain lowest in Pashtun territories, this generation of the ethnic group is more politically aware than ever. Mistreatment by the Pakistani government is extreme, long-enduring, and thoroughly systematic. Critically, the...