People Power – Women’s Marches Around the World

Picture – Chicago Tribune. “Weekend of women’s marches promises continued momentum” As CANVAS aims to spread the word of “people power” to the world, nonviolent struggle proves a powerful tool for achieving freedom, democracy, and human rights. In line with CANVAS’s mission, this weekend bore witness to a global Women’s March. January 21st, 2018 marked the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March in Washington DC last year. Over the weekend, “thousands of women, femmes, and allies” came together around the world in commemoration and advancement of their cause. Their mission, to “Look Back, March Forward and launch [their] collective 2018 Women’s March agenda: #PowerToThePolls”. The goal is to empower women and their allies, first by having their voices heard through their votes, and then further through their inclusion in positions of influence and power, especially in government. Moreover, the marches also highlighted the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against sexual assault and harassment. Marching in Solidarity Women, men, and children around the world marched in solidarity this weekend at over 500 events across six continents including in: France, New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia, Spain, Ecuador, Italy, the United Kingdom, the US, and more. USA – Dozens of Women’s Marches filled cities across the United States, at which attendees supported and advocated women’s rights and equality. This year’s main focus was on making people’s voices heard by urging supporters and allies to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. The rally held in Las Vegas, Nevada marked the official anniversary rally of last year’s Women’s March held in Washington DC. The main focus was “using activism to generate concrete action at the...

Weekly Report: 19 January 2018

Photo: “Renegade helicopter pilot Oscar Pérez was killed in a nine-hour long siege near the capital, Caracas, on Monday, the Venezuelan government has confirmed.” Though on the run, he attended at least one opposition march. (via BBC News) Democratic Republic of Congo After the UN human rights office called on the DRC to not use force against protests, Congolese police have completely ignored this request. On Friday the 12th of January in the capital Kinshasa, they fired teargas at dozens of churchgoers, who were mourning the deaths of seven people killed in the protests that took place two weeks ago against President Joseph Kabila. This was done supposedly to prevent the gathering from evolving into a political demonstration. As a result of Kabila’s refusal to step down, there have been several protests and consequent deaths and militia violence in the past two years. There is deep fear that the DRC will relapse into civil wars. The persistence of Kabila to remain in power with no mandate and to keep his opposition weak and fragmented is fueling resistance amongst several institutions and groups. For instance, the Catholic church, with broad credibility in the DRC, “has emerged as a lightning rod for opposition” against Kabila. Moreover, as announced by a senior UN official on Wednesday at a news conference in Geneva, militias in eastern DRC are uniting in opposition to Kabila. They, along with additional militia groups in the country, are in agreement with regards to the political agenda and the transition of the DRC without President Kabila. The IOM has furthermore stressed the gravity of the situation in the DRC and that...

Ethiopian Opposition Leader Merera Gudina Freed from Prison

Picture: Al Jazeera. The Omoro people protest their discrimination and disenfranchisement by the Ethiopian government. The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, the opposition party representing Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, has been released after spending more than a year in prison. Gudina, a fixture in Ethiopian politics since the 1960s, has spent his career building bridges and fighting for democracy. Along with Gudina, the government has also annulled or pardoned the cases of 115 other politicians. In December 2016, after returning to Ethiopia from Brussels, Gudina was arrested for charges including “association with terrorist groups” that violated the state of emergency in place at the time. Gudina and his supporters claim that the charges were simply an excuse for the government to lock away the opposition, although Ethiopia has always insisted that it holds no political prisoners. Their claim proves extremely difficult to substantiate in this case, as the arrest of Gudina was made upon his return from the European Parliament, where he had criticized the state of emergency in a public address. The state of emergency in question had been implemented as a response to protests in the region of Oromo, where the people demanded that the government open up political space, allow dissent, and tolerate different perspectives. These protests left more than 1000 dead and led to countless arrests without charge. Gudina, among the most prominent of those arrested without clear or justified reason, has long had the Oromo public calling for his release. He has, from his arrest, been a clear ‘political prisoner’ in the eyes of the people. Even though the government has accused him...

Small Farmers Resist Palm Oil Ban in Malaysia

Picture: Channel News Asia. Farmers take to the street in demonstration at Kuala Lumpur Indigenous farmers and activists in Malaysia have launched a campaign to combat the European Union’s proposed ban on palm oil in biofuels from 2021. This is an attempt to reduce the demand causing human rights abuses and environmental destruction that comes hand-in-hand with mono-production of palm oil. The European Union looked to introduce this ban as palm oil production in massive quantities causes “socio-environmental disasters without exception.” Groups of small farmers have united in their approach: a photo campaign accompanied by press release statements, a petition, and a street protest in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. They call for a more nuanced take on the ban, an examination of how palm oil farming appears from an indigenous farmer’s perspective. Yesterday Jan 16, over 1,700 farmers collected in the center of the Kuala Lumpur and marched to the diplomatic offices of European representatives to deliver a petition. The petition had garnered over 103,078 signatures from around the country. The next step is possible retaliation from Malaysia “by banning all EU imports if the ban was to go ahead”. The organizers of this campaign, Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association of Sarawak (DOPPA), released a statement in which they thank the efforts of NGOs attempting to protect indigenous communities from exploitation, but insist it is time for indigenous peoples themselves to be heard. The group points out that if the heart of the ban on palm oil is to reduce deforestation, and then Malaysia should be an exception to the rule as large swaths of forest are already...

See No Evil, Hear No Evil – Censorship in Lebanon

Since its inception, the film industry has always stirred up controversy within countries. Whether for political reasons or moral ones, film censorship or review organizations uphold standards for the banning of controversial content. More specifically, censorship is a widespread phenomenon in Lebanon. Some films, especially within the last few years, have been explicitly prohibited from public screening, causing great controversy amongst the Lebanese population. January 2018 – Steven Spielberg BANNED AGAIN Days before its release, it has come to the attention of the Lebanese citizens that “The Post”, yet another of acclaimed Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s movies, has been banned. Initially passing the government’s usual screening procedures, the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon (CBSIL) has influenced the government to block the film due to Spielberg’s ties to Israel. The Arab League’s Central Boycott Office blacklisted Spielberg due to his $1 million donation to Israel at the time of the 2006 conflict with Lebanon. Due to Lebanon’s official status of war with Israel and laws dating back to the early 1930s, any affiliation with Israel is explicitly prohibited and banned. As a result, a six-member committee from the Ministry of Economy relayed their concern to the General Security Agency, a mechanism of the Ministry of Interior. The message was consequently elevated within the Ministry of Interior, which makes the final decision. Criteria for Censorship Criteria for censorship in Lebanon are depicted in numerous laws, some of which date back to 1934. At times, these laws are vague to an extent that they are paradoxical: “they permit the censoring institution to censor something, while at the same time allowing it”. Mainly, the categories under...