August 2018 — CANVAS

Weekly Report: 24 August 2018

Venezuelans walking along the Pan-American Highway in hopes of reaching Peru, fleeing the crisis at home. (Luis Robayo / AFP / Getty)  Syria This week, the northwestern region of Syria called Idlib is fearfully awaiting an offensive from Assad’s government. While Assad has won back most of Syria from previous rebel-held areas, the town of Idlib accordingly holds the “last pockets of resistance.” While the region is rebel-held, there are also upwards of 3 million people living there, most of whom reside there after fleeing their hometowns throughout the Syrian civil war. Last Friday night, a small town outside of Idlib was attacked by warplanes, killing forty people under thirty minutes time. The head of the UN task force for Syria is fearful of further attacks from Assad, labeling the future humanitarian crisis a possible “bloodbath.” This past weekend, the US announced a plan to cut funding worth $230 million, originally intended to support humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Syria. While Washington intends to allocate those resources elsewhere, they are going to continue their fight against ISIS until ISIS is defeated in Syria. While the US is cutting financing, they are still Syria’s largest humanitarian aid supplier.   This week, the UK decided to stop its funding to the Syrian opposition. The plan to end financial support to the free Syrian police force will take effect this September. The UK government claims that their Access to Justice and Community Service (Ajacs) operation had been too difficult to deliver due to the upcoming and forceful attacks from Bashar Al-Assad. While Britain has backed the Syrian opposition since the start of...

Weekly Report: 17 August 2018

A Congolese health worker tends to patients prior to the launch of the vaccination campaign in the DRC this week. (Reuters) Syria This Monday, an explosion in the rebel-held town of Sarmada close to the Turkish border killed at least 36 people, including twelve children. According to the White Helmets rescue group, at least ten people were rescued from the rubble. The building was suspected to be storing weapons and ammunition, but also was home to many civilians that had fled the initial conflict of the war. On Tuesday, the Russian military pledged its forces to help UN peacekeepers to restore patrols along the Syrian frontier with the Golan Heights, which are currently under Israeli occupation. This reflects a growing trend of Russian trying to exert influence in the region, as the Russians have fairly good relationships with both the Israelis and the Assad regime in Syria. This week, details are beginning to emerge about the disappearance of Razan Zaitouneh, one of Syria’s most prominent human rights activists. Zaitouneh went missing at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in December of 2013, after she was seen being abducted by unidentified gunmen at the Violation Documentation Center in Douma, a rebel-held town in the Eastern region. The most recent clue as to what happened to Zaitouneh was the appearance of graffiti in the recently reclaimed Tawbeh Prison, dated 2016 and signed by Zaitouneh. As the conflict in Syria seems to be drawing to a close, Israeli leaders are looking to seek a truce in Gaza for the time being – particularly as the Israeli government is concerned about Iranian...

Weekly Report 10 August 2018

Students protest in the streets of the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, in response to a lack of government enforcement for traffic regulations. (MediaOne, India) Syria On Sunday, the scientist suspected to be the head of Syria’s chemical weapons program was killed in a car bombing. Pro-government outlets described the attack as an assassination. On Wednesday, the New York Times corroborated this to an extent, describing his death as the result of a targeted assassination by the Israeli spy agency Mossad. At least one Druze hostage abducted from the Sweida province in Syria last week has been confirmed to be executed. Videos of the victim were sent to his family in Sweida. The Druze, a religious minority, practice a secretive faith that is seen as an offshoot of Islam. They make up approximately 3% of the Syrian population. They have been targeted by the Islamic State, which views them as heretics. The wife of Junpei Yasuda, a Japanese journalist who was recently discovered to be in the captivity of the Islamic State, made a broad appeal for the return of her husband, safe and sound. Yasuda is only one of the latest of many journalists targeted in Syria by the Islamic State; various journalists of many different nationalities have been kidnapped and even killed by the Islamic State. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 122 journalists have been killed in Syria since the start of the conflict. Bolivia On Monday, over 25 opposition groups took to the streets of Potosi, a colonial city with historical importance to Bolivia, in order to protest the government’s continued practice of ignoring the...

Weekly Report: 3 August 2018

Riot police in Harare use water cannons to disrupt opposition protesters on August 1st, 2018. (EPA) Syria This past Sunday, Iranian and French officials to review efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict in Syria, focusing on a political solution to the protracted war. On Monday, the Syrian government revealed the deaths of an estimated 13,000 deaths among activists who disappeared and were detained by the Syrian government early on during the civil war. Thus far, 400 death certificates have been issues, listing natural causes such as heart attacks or strokes. However, this is widely disputed by groups such as Amnesty International, which claims that those imprisoned in the Saydnaya facility were likely tortured to death by the Syrian regime. Last Tuesday, pieces of footage were released depicting a Japanese journalist and Italian man respectively. It is believed that they have been held in Syria, one of whom was thought to have been abducted by the Al-Nusra front (a former Al-Qaeda affiliate) in 2015. A report from Human Rights Watch released this Wednesday revealed that the movement of internally displaced persons as a result of fighting near major city centers has been greatly restricted. In addition, HRW revealed that authorities at the camps for displaced persons have been taking the documentation of residents without returning it, something that makes it impossible for individuals to so much as leave the camps. Also on Wednesday, Russia implored the United States to back its efforts to repatriate Syrian refugees following the Trump-Putin summit, something that the United States had yet to comment on. Were the US to comment positively on this, it would...