October 10, 2020
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! We have added a new “current events” section to the top of our report that will cover any notable protests or conflicts from the past week. This week, we cover the recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan and Indonesia, a new independence movement in Sudan, and new sanctions on Iran and Belarus.
In what local news sources are calling “The Rural Surge,” India has witnessed an increase of coronavirus cases in remote areas of the country. Refusing to wear masks and social distance, rural villagers believe the government has been overstating the effect of the virus and is unsympathetic to the economic hardship they face. On Friday, China committed itself to joining the global effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine by joining Covax, an international agreement aims to facilitate an equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to both wealthy and poor countries under the World Health Organization.
Armenia and Azerbaijan opened up cease-fire talks on Friday, following an armed conflict over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The region belongs to Azerbaijan, though most of its people are ethnically Armenian.
Opposition protestors in Kyrgyzstan stormed government buildings in the capital of Bishkek after authorities annulled election results.
Tens of thousands of Indonesians are currently protesting an omnibus bill that significantly decreases worker and environmental protections. A ten-minute interview with one of the main activists can be found on CANVAS’ Instagram here.
Protests broke out across Nigeria demanding an end to harsh police brutality carried out by the country’s Special Anti Robbery Squad.
The United States
The US Commission on Presidential Debates cancelled the second virtual debate between presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party and incumbent Donald Trump on Friday evening following concerns of Trump’s recent coronavirus diagnosis. This cancellation has prompted calls for the US Debate Commission to be abolished by the far right. The Federal Bureau of Investigations has uncovered and spoiled an alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of the state of Michigan by a right-wing white supremacist group. Whitmer was targeted for her strict coronavirus lockdown measures, prompting a heavily-armed storming of the Michigan statehouse back in May.
This week, thirty nine countries criticized China for its treatment of minorities in a joint statement read at a meeting of the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee. The countries, mostly Western, called for China to allow independent observers “unfettered access” to Xingjian, refrain from detaining Uighurs and other Muslims, and respect the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary. Unrelatedly, the United States has blocked members of China’s Communist Party from obtaining temporary or permanent residence in the country, exacerbating the mounting ideological hostility between the two nations. The opposition party of Taiwan has pressured Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to re-establish ties with the United States, in what some view as an impractical step to garner amore favorable public perception. However, the president aims to deepen ties with the Washington despite its sole recognition of Beijing.
A primary school teacher was deregistered for “promoting Hong Kong independence” after screening a documentary for her students that featured a pro-independence activist. Although the Hong Kong government defends the decision as a necessary step to “bring [the education sector] back to order,” over 20,000 residents have joined an email campaign opposing the move. In the foreign policy sphere, the United States has condemned last week’s directive requiring all Hong Kong officials to receive permission from Beijing before speaking with American diplomats. Furthermore, the U.S. has proposed giving Hong Kongers priority for refugee status, a move “welcomed” by opposition members and criticized by Hong Kong officials.
An estimated 98% of Zimbabwe’s teachers did not show up to work last week, despite the start of classes, as part of a nationwide strike. The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe argues that the government has not taken the proper precautions to keep teachers safe or adequately compensate them for the new health risks associated with their job: teachers are currently paid just US$50 per month, and hand sanitizer is a rarity at these schools. Meanwhile, the government proposed a law called “The Patriot Bill” that would make it illegal for civilians to meet with representatives of foreign governments without the explicit state approval.
After the USA threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad following a series of attacks on its officials, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry has taken a “number of security, political, and diplomatic measures to stop the attacks on the Green Zone and the Baghdad airport” in an effort to protect foreign diplomats in the country. The government also announced this week that a substantial proportion of the 270 unfinished government projects across the country have been hindered by “corruption and mismanagement,” signaling that they remain large problems in the country even after mass anti-corruption protests last year.
This past week, the EU and USA both sanctioned Belarus within hours of each other. The EU sanctioned “more than three dozen Belarusian individuals deemed responsible for suppressing protests and for election fraud,” whereas the USA “blacklisted eight senior figures in longtime President Alexander Lukashenko’s government.” Around the same time, four more European nations recalled their ambassadors from Belarus. In response, Belarus announced that it would sanction the EU; Russia expressed desires to do the same. Overall, protests continue across the country: over 300 people were arrested at a demonstration of over 120,000 people on Sunday, and many others marched in protest of the imprisonment of Olympian Yelena Leuchanka for her political activity.
On October 10th, North Korea plans to hold a massive military parade through the streets of Pyongyang to celebrate the founding of the country’s ruling party, where leader Kim Jong-un has promised to unveil the country’s “new strategic weapon.” Experts speculate this unveiling is an attempt to prove the country’s nuclear missiles program is expanding and threaten antagonistic countries. Chinese president Xi Jinping, in a congratulatory message about the event, relayed an intent to defend and deepen ties with the small country.
On Thursday, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran by blacklisting 18 of its banks, claiming that its funding of “malign” activities has led to sanctions that will not be dropped until “Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear programs.” Though US president Donald Trump has claimed this blacklisting will not interfere with the flow of humanitarian goods, the possible toppling of country’s already weak economy in the midst of the worst COVID-19 crisis in the Middle East prompts concerns about the humanitarian implications of the sanctions.
In response to the controversial “fake news” and “foreign agent” bills proposed by President Ortega’s regime last week, the European Parliament met to discuss a resolution including an official condemnation of the policies and potential sanctions. Separately, local sources report that 53 of Ortega’s political prisoners have begun a hunger strike to demand “[their] freedom and also the end of the besiegement and threats against [their] relatives.” Three of the prisoners went so far as to sew their mouths shut; they were subsequently moved into maximum security cells. Guards in the prison have allegedly threatened to transfer the remaining prisoners to maximum security as well or imprison their families if they continue the strike.
Last weekend saw the formalization of a long-awaited peace deal between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Many protesters in Eastern Sudan, however, have opposed the deal on the grounds that key political forces from the region were not involved in the creation or signing of the deal. Demonstrators have blocked major roads and ports, including Port Sudan, and threatened to “seize oil pipelines and ports.” All of these actions pose major economic threats to the nation. Some demonstrators have even begun unprecedented calls for the region’s independence, chanting slogans such as “goodbye Khartoum” and “Beja is a state.
As Bolivia’s October 18 presidential election grows closer, an opinion poll released on Friday shows the margin of possible votes between the two main candidates is tightening, with the candidate of ousted president Evo Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism party (MAS), Luis Arce, leading centrist former president Carlos Mesa by six percent. On Saturday October 3, the country’s presidential candidates participated in an all-party debate for the first time since 2002. This week, Bolivia declared a national state of disaster after more than 50 wildfires and widespread smoke hazards have engulfed the small country.