SAJT, Author at CANVAS

Weekly Report: 20 July 2018

A woman holds a banner reading “Free Courts” at a protest outside the Parliament building in Warsaw, Poland on July 18, 2018. Reuters, Kacper Pempel.   Syria Last week, rebel forces in the Deraa province agreed to surrender the region to the government in return for their safe evacuation to northern Syria. Just a few days after this evacuation agreement, Assad’s forces moved into the nearby Quneitra province and continued attacking rebels. On the 19th, rebel forces surrendered and agreed to leave Quneitra. On the other hand, negotiations between the government and rebel forces in Nawa (the largest urban center in Deraa province) faltered when opposition leaders refused to capitulate their control in the region. The government proceeded to conduct an intense overnight bombing campaign between Tuesday and Wednesday, which included at least 350 launched missiles. Nawa’s only hospital was bombed, many (including doctors) were killed, and at least 150 were wounded. The government’s attacks in Deraa and Quneitra sparked a peaceful protest on Tuesday near the frontier of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Protestors waved white flags at Israeli soldiers, requesting protection from the government’s offenses. However, the protestors were quickly dispersed by Israeli soldiers who claimed they used loudspeakers to request the Syrians to turn back. On Thursday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (an al-Qaida linked rebel group) exchanged the release of 1,5000 prisoners held by the government and Hezbollah for the safe passage of Fua and Kefraya residents to Aleppo. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham had imposed a siege on the two towns Fua and Kefraya for three years, making the civilians suffer from food and medicine shortages. The two towns...

Weekly Report: 13 July 2018

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone speaks to the media while leaving Insein court in Yangon, Myanmar July 9, 2018. Reuters, Ann Wang   Syria Forced by weeks of Assad’s brutal offensives and Russian military involvement, opposition fighters in the Deraa province have agreed to hand over their heavy weaponry. The Assad government has also seized control of the strategic Nasib crossing, which will allow for the reestablishment of a key trade route between Syria and Jordan. In return, the government has agreed to leave four villages—Kahil, al-Sahwa, al-Jiza, and al-Misaifra—undisturbed. Furthermore, rebels who do not wish to live under government rule will be granted safe passage to the northern province of Idlib. However, the details of this passage have not yet been discussed. Perhaps the raising of the government’s flag in Deraa, home to the graffiti that sparked the Syrian war in 2011, could signify the end to seven years of displacement, death, and devastation. More than 320,000 displaced Syrians from the Deraa province have sought refuge from the brutal fighting for years, unable to return to their home region despite its being a “de-escalation zone.” Currently, an estimated 189,000 are seeking shelter along the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, although Israel has announced that it would not let Syrians through its borders. Others have been struggling to financially afford living in Jordan or to live under the appalling refugee camp conditions along the Jordanian border. Despite international pressures, the Jordanian government has refused to take in more refugees, citing security concerns linked to ISIL and Jordan’s limited capacity to accommodate more people. However, Jordan has continued to provide aid and...

Weekly Report: 6 July 2018

Supporters of President-Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gathered in Mexico City after the Sunday election. Reuters, Goran Tomasevic. Syria The Assad government’s offensives in Deraa province have intensified, and the regime now controls most of the region just two weeks after initial attacks. Jordan has diplomatically intervened, sparking a new round of negotiations between Russia and the rebels in the southwestern region. However, these efforts have been unsuccessful in bringing safety to Deraa province’s 800,000 civilians. In response, Jordanians have been working to supply aid to the Deraa refugees. Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon are continuing their return, with uncertainty and cautious hope. The US’s stance on Syria took a sharp turn this week. US National Security Adviser John Bolton stated that President Trump is not opposed to the reinstatement of Assad’s regime. In return, the US hopes to have Russia’s help in removing Iran from Syria. Trump and Russian Premier Vladimir Putin are scheduled to discuss this issue on July 16th. Similarly, Israel, also sensing that Assad’s complete takeover is imminent, has demanded Iranian withdrawal from the country. Furthermore, Israel has ramped up its military presence in the Golan Heights frontier, and occupation near its border with Syria. These actions raise questions about the legitimacy of Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, its role in providing humanitarian aid, as well as its alleged neutrality in the conflict despite the numerous airstrikes it has carried out. Iraq, on the other hand, has started constructing a fence along the Iraq-Syria border to keep ISIL members out.   Nicaragua This week, new reports place the death toll in Nicaragua...

In Celebration and In Protest—Queer People’s Power in Turkey

An activist waves a rainbow flag in Istanbul, Sunday, July 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) Despite Governor Vasip Sahin’s recent ban of the Istanbul Pride March, approximately 1000 people chose to participate in a rally on Sunday, both in celebration of their identities and in protest of the government ban. Police, dogs, and armored vehicles confronted the protestors, blocking off avenues and side streets, shooting rubber bullets, and attacking them with tear gas. However, protesters continued to march. Eleven people were detained and have yet to be released. Prior to Sunday’s march, the organizers of Istanbul Pride rightfully identified the government’s ban of the event as discriminatory and illegitimate. In fact, the ban violated fundamental human rights and freedoms of expression and assembly. It also marks the fourth consecutive year of a ban of the Istanbul Pride March. This time, the government cited security reasons and public “sensitivities” as its justification. Such violent government and police responses to the event may seem like a jarring regression from 2014, when the march had notable popularity, participation, and even some political support. However, starting in 2014, intolerance and oppression reemerged in the political foreground. Recently re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began repressing Pride marches in 2015 when he rose to national political power. In November of 2017, Ankara’s government banned all LGBTI-related activities, including the 2017 German gay film festival, “to ensure peace and security.” Furthermore, the 8th Trans Pride March was banned in 2017, although it did not deter activists from coming onto the streets. Pride is a mechanism for visibility, and in Turkey—a country with very few spaces for...

Weekly Report: 29 June 2018

Nelson Gabriel Lorio Sandoval kisses the hand of his late baby son, Teiler, who was shot during clashes, in Managua, Nicaragua, June 24, 2018. Reuters, Andres Martinez Casares. Cambodia Cambodia’s National Electoral Council announced that over 50,000 international observers will monitor the election next month, including some from China, Singapore, and Myanmar. The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), who declined to participate in the election process, urged international actors to rethink their involvement in an election where the opposition party was dissolved and barred from running. The US and the EU have reiterated their threats to impose sanctions and cancel tariff-free deals on Cambodian imports if the country does not reinstate the dissolved opposition party CNRP before the election. Five former lawmakers of CNRP were denied access to visit 15 political prisoners despite having filed the appropriate paperwork. According to Head Human Rights Investigator Am Sam Ath of the rights group LICADHO, there are no clauses in the Cambodian Prison Law that permit denying visits for political reasons. This dispute comes as Prime Minister Hun Sen cracks down on media and opposition leading up to the general election. A report over 200 pages long from Human Rights Watch highlights the “Dirty Dozen,” 12 of Hun Sen’s generals who are deeply involved in rights denial and “form the backbone of an abusive and authoritarian political regime.” The report emphasizes Hun Sen’s need for loyal personnel who will support his power grabs, and that the international community must hold them all accountable for their actions. Cambodian officials dismissed the report for lack of evidence.   Mexico As...