August 9, 2020
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers ongoing protests in Russia, the United States, Zimbabwe and Bolivia, China’s reaction to US sanctions, recent reports on the Chinese detention system in Xinjiang, as well as many others!
The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in July, but the momentum of the recovery appears to be slowing. Africa has surpassed one million cases of the coronavirus, but the true toll may be much higher, hidden by extremely low testing rates. The global number of confirmed cases approach 20 million, and deaths approach 750,000; the top 3 centers of the virus remain the United States, Brazil, and India.
The United States
Oregon has experienced violent clashes this week between protesters and police, ratcheting up tensions in the city days after an agreement between state and federal officials appeared to bring calm. Demonstrators continued to rally in Portland on Thursday night, hours after the city’s mayor criticized the current unrest that has roiled Portland since George Floyd was killed. “You are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said on Thursday in a hastily called news conference alongside Portland police chief Chuck Lovell.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International released a report documenting widespread and egregious human rights violations by police officers against protesters, medics, journalists and legal observers who gathered to protest the unlawful killings of Black people by the police and to call for systemic reform in May and June of 2020.
Last week, a video surfaced showing a first-hand account of China’s highly secure and secretive detention system in Xinjiang. Over the past few years, estimates suggest more than one million Uighurs and other minorities have been forced into a network of highly secure camps in Xinjiang that China has insisted are voluntary schools for anti-extremism training.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials condemned and mocked a Friday move by the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and 10 other senior officials for their roles in a prolonged crackdown on political dissent in the city. Last week, the government arrested four activists who had posted pro-democracy sentiments online, and barred a dozen pro-democracy candidates from running in the upcoming legislative elections, before postponing the elections entirely.
A court in Myanmar has sentenced a Canadian pastor to three months in jail for holding church services in defiance of a ban on gatherings to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Myanmar’s military and 10 ethnic armed groups agreed to hold bilateral meetings during the state-level Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee meetings to discuss the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, amidst hopes of a renewed peace process between the groups.
The Zimbabwean government cracked down on peaceful anti-corruption protests on July 31, 2020. Zimbabwe authorities have arrested at least 60 people, including the novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and the opposition MDC Alliance spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, in connection with the protests. Sixteen people were injured and required medical attention. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s president Mnangagwa has vowed to “flush out” his opponents, as anger with his government grows over alleged corruption and economic mismanagement. Over the last few days, in response to this brutal clampdown by security forces, the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has gone viral, globally.
In southern Chile, a confrontation between Mapuche indigenous protesters and residents turned violent Sunday. Several government buildings in the Araucanía region were damaged as the violence erupted. Local media reported that residents tried to force the Mapuche protesters out of the municipality buildings, before burning and overturning vehicles belonging to them. Chilean police intervened to evict the protesters and prevent other violent acts.
This week the Iraq prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has called for early parliamentary elections for June 2021. The United Nations has praised the prime minister’s announcement stating that it would promote “greater stability and democracy.” The original election was scheduled for May 2022. On the 1st of August, 16-year-old Saeed was released from Iraqi custody following extensive police brutality. Prime Minister Mustafe al-Kadhimi stated in a press briefing that those responsible have been suspended pending investigation. Saeed was originally arrested in May 2020 while selling water and taking part in an anti-government protest on Baghdad’s Tahrir.
This week, the Trump administration backed UN calls for a cease-fire amid the many factions, and signaling again that the country’s oil fields are off limits to those seeking to profit on the war. The US initiative comes during an escalation of fighting between the Libyan Government of National Accord, which is recognized by the UN and backed by Turkey, and the insurgent forces of former general Khalifa Hifter, who has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France.
On Monday this week an Israeli aircraft attacked targets in Syria as a retaliation for an attempted bombing of the border fence by an enemy squad. The strike hit Syrian observation posts, intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft batteries and command-and-control bases. Meanwhile, opposition factions fired several rockets on the Russian positions in Kensaba frontlines in the northern countryside of Latakia. There is yet to be a full report on the number of casualties.
Thousands are left homeless following a massive explosion on Tuesday in Beirut. The explosion killed at least 157 people with 5000 injured. Lebanese authorities have taken into custody 16 individuals as part of an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion that shook the capital, state news agency NNA said on Thursday. Protesters in Beirut are calling however for the government’s resignation following the investigation probe. Following investigations it has become apparent that the explosion could not have happened without a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate. The exact details of the explosion are still under investigation.
Israeli forces have destroyed numerous irrigation ponds in the al-Jiftlik village in Jordan Valley. The three ponds that were destroyed were used to irrigate 70 dunums of village land. The further restricts Palestinians access to water in the area both for drinking and for farming irrigation. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council in a press statement condemned the arrest of human rights defender Mahmoud Nawajaa. Last Thursday, Nawajaa was arrested in his home by the Israeli occupying forces and relocated to the Al-Jalama interrogation centre. This was done in violation of International Humanitarian laws. Coronavirus cases have surged in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, reaching 13,457 last friday.
Thousands of demonstrators have gathered again for a fifth week in Russia’s southeastern city of Khabarovsk to denounce the arrest of the region’s governor a month ago. Sergei Furgal was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of involvement in murders and taken to jail in Moscow. Russia is about to become the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with mass vaccinations planned as early as October.
North Korea is quarantining thousands of people and shipping food and other aid to a southern city locked down over coronavirus worries, officials said, as the country’s response to a suspected case reinforces doubt about its longstanding claim to be virus-free.
An investigation over the weekend suggests that Iran’s actual coronavirus death toll is three times the official government numbers. An anonymous source leaked data which showed vastly more people had tested positive and further died from the virus suggesting the suppression of data by the Iranian government. Iran’s health ministry claimed that 279,000 people had been infected and only 14,000 have died; however, the BBC’s Persian service has reported more than 451,000 positive cases with more than 42,000 deaths. Meanwhile, The United Nations Security Council will vote next week on a US bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran.
Aljazeera reported this week about the pattern of incarceration of opposition-minded people in Nicaragua that human rights organisations have been documenting since the mass protests of 2018. There are more than 90 activists imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Daniel Ortega’s administration has been accused of using the judiciary to punish those who have criticised its policies and practices.
Local reporters warn against plans by the Sudanese army to file legal complaints against journalists for cyber libel and “insulting” the armed forces, saying that these actions echo the intimidation tactics used under the rule of ousted President Omar al-Bashir. In a statement last month, the armed forces said a cybercrime military commissioner had been appointed. The commissioner, working under the military prosecutor, will monitor and document “insults” against the army, and any violations will result in criminal complaints brought against journalists in Sudan or outside its borders.
The Venezuelan government is being accused of taking punishing measures against people who break quarantine rules imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Witnesses and rights groups say that security forces are punishing some Venezuelans who violate anti-coronavirus measures with physical exercise, sitting under the sun and even beating. A Venezuelan court has sentenced two former American soldiers to 20 years in jail for trying to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.
Anti-government protesters in Bolivia blockaded some of the country’s main roads this past week to challenge the delay of general elections and rebuke the government’s poor response to the coronavirus pandemic. The protesters, who support Bolivia’s former president, Evo Morales, say they have set up 70 roadblocks, marooning about six million residents of three highland regions, including Bolivia’s most important metropolis, La Paz. The government on Thursday said it would break up the blockades by force if it can’t reach an agreement with the protest organizers.