CANVAS Weekly Update – February 5th, 2021


February 5, 2021

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers a military coup in Myanmar, Isis regrouping in Northern Iraq and a decision by the ICC to hear Iran’s case against the US.

Conflict Update:

On Monday, Myanmar’s military seized control of the government, declared a one year state of emergency and detained the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with other members of her party. Across Myanmar there have been demonstrations, with the most outspoken groups being healthcare workers, teachers and students. Read our full report on the coup here. On Tuesday, a court jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for 3.5 years on the basis that he violated the terms of a suspended sentence. Hundreds of Navaly’s supporters took to the streets once the news was released and over 5,100 people were arrested by security forces. On Wednesday a report was released by the BBC which alleges that the women in the Chinese detention camps for Uighur muslims have been raped, sexually abused and tortured. Beijing denies the accusations. The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has worsened significantly, with rebel forces now controlling two thirds of the country. Since the start of the conflict last month, it has been estimated that 200,000 people have fled their homes. Key supply chains have been interrupted limiting the movement of relief aid like medical supplies and food. In Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the opposition party has released an estimate that more than 52,000 people have been killed since conflict began in the region in November.

Coronavirus Update:

On Monday the World Health Organization reported that COVID-19 cases have fallen globally for the third week in a row. Disparities in international vaccine distribution continue as the Red Cross reports that the world’s 50 poorest countries have received 0.1% of vaccine doses administered worldwide so far, while the 50 richest countries have received 70%. Vaccine distribution pressure could be relieved if the first one-dose coronavirus vaccine, made by Johnson & Johnson, is approved. Concerns over vaccine effectiveness against variants remain high as trials of the aforementioned Johnson & Johnson vaccine showed that it is almost 20% less effective against the South African variant. Amidst Europe’s continuing struggle with vaccine distribution, Germany has flown a team of doctors, ventilators, and beds to Portugal, where the national health service has been overwhelmed by the influx of cases.


The United States:

Vice President Kamala Harris cast her vote to decide a 50-50 vote to pass the Democrats Covid-19 relief budget. The relief package worth $1.9trillion is now scheduled to pass by Mid-March, and the plans include a $15 minimum wage, stirring oppositions from the Republicans. Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Green, has been stripped of her committee roles after she spouted conspiracy theories including from QAnon. Meanwhile, deportations to Haiti are being halted as President Biden wrestles judges to bring ICE under his control. Finally, Virginia is set to be the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty as the topic continues to remain present in public debate.



The BBC has published a report detailing “systemic rape” against detained Uighur women, as China continues to face international backlash over the extensive persecution of Uighurs though a network of internment camps, particularly in the Muslim populated Xinjiang region. Despite officials attempts to downplay what some are calling attempts at genocide, victims and satellite imagery continues to uncover crimes. The Chinese foreign ministry is attacking the BBC for the report, calling the witnesses actors. Pressure is building on governments to boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games as 180 organisations lobby in solidarity for the Uighur peoples. In other news, a US destroyer entered the disputed South China Sea for the first time since President Biden took office. China is protesting this move.

Hong Kong:

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau this week ordered schools in the Chinese-ruled city to adopt a more patriotic curriculum and advised teachers to report any violations of the new national security law. Students as young as six will be required to memorize offenses criminalized by the new law, including terrorism, secessionism, and collusion with foreign powers. The new regulations will also likely impact the fifty-two international schools operating in Hong Kong, which are primarily attended by the children of expatriates. In other news, twenty-four activists appeared in a court in Hong Kong Friday on charges pertaining to a June vigil which commemorated the anniversary of China’s crackdown on demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. Hong Kong traditionally holds the world’s largest vigil marking the 1989 crackdown, but the gathering was banned in 2020 because of Covid-19 restrictions. Regardless, thousands of Hong Kong citizens took to the streets to stage candlelight gatherings.



Zimbabwe is mobilizing USD 100 million in order to acquire Covid-19 vaccines. Following public backlash, the government U-turned on its previous announcements about personal costs for the vaccine. Mthuli Ncube, the finance minister, has now reassured that the vaccinations will be free, however, PCR tests are still subject to personal costs. The Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) has stated: “Our workers union which is pro-miners since obtaining the essential services status to monitor and enforce Covid-19 regulations within mining sites has noted that there are more unreported Covid-19 cases in mines and the cases seem to be very high,”. This comes after they found many cases going unreported on mining sites. In other news, the completion of the Kariba Dam refurbishment will be delayed by 2 years due to technical and Covid-19 related setbacks; the works are meant to improve safety standards.



A Cuban military helicopter has crashed on the east side of the island and killed all five on board. There has been an investigation launched into the crash and identities of those on board have not yet been released. In other news, Havana has enacted a total lockdown of persons and vehicles from 9pm to 5am each night that will continue until the Covid-19 situation is more favorable. The country also has 4 differentvaccine candidates currently in their human trials stage and they have the advantage of not requiring the refrigeration chambers that other vaccines do.


ISIS militants have begun re-grouping in northern Iraq, and have become heavily reliant on women to secure logistical support for their operations in the Hamrin Basin, a rugged area of northern Iraq between Salah al-Din, Diyala, and Kirkuk governorates. A significant increase in ISIS activity in the region has been recorded this month, with the group claiming responsibility for three major attacks in recent weeks. Iraqi field commanders report that ISIS has reactivated its dormant women cells, whereby women deliver money, food, and information between ISIS strongholds; women are often able to pass through security checkpoints without being inspected due to religious sensibilities. In other news, Iraq proceeded with plans Monday to close the Jeddah 5 displacement camp in Nineveh governorate. Jeddah 5 is one of the few remaining displacement camps which houses families displaced by the conflict with ISIS. The Iraqi government has pledged to solve the displacement crisis by closing camps and re-integrating the occupants back into Iraqi society, but humanitarian groups are alarmed at the pace of the closures, which often leave thousands of residents with mere days to vacate the camps.


On Monday, three former Interior Ministry (IM) employees were arrested over torture, absue of authority, unlawful arrest, and falsification of evidence. The prosecution process has also begun against two additional IM employees in absentia. The next day, parliament unanimously refused to vote for the suspension of status for 51 opposition MPs, citing fears of international condemnation. The 51 MPs, from various parties, requested the suspension of status because of their collective belief that the election results were falsified.


The International Criminal Court of Justice has ruled that it can hear the case brought by Iran against the United States to overturn the US sanctions reimposed by President Donald Trump. In 2018, Tehran brought the case to the highest court of the UN, the International Criminal Court of Justice, that the US has breached a 1955 friendship treaty. The Iranian government has expressed that the sanctions reimposed by Trump has caused “hardship and suffering” which has ruined “millions of lives”. While the United States has said that ICJ does not have jurisdiction and must throw out the case, the majority of a panel of 16 judges rejected objections raised by the US. Iran’s claim will now move on to a hearing; however, the final decision may take several years.



Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia have expressed their deep concern over the coup that took place last February 1st, 2021 in Myanmar. Leaders have expressed that this political unrest in Myanmar is a “step backwards in Myanmar’s democratic transition.” The two Muslim-majority countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, are particularly worried about the implications of the coup on the Rohingya situation. The leaders acknowledge that it is their due diligence to respect the ASEAN Charter that emphasizes rule of law, good governance, democracy, human rights, and constitutional government.


Activists gathered last February 2nd outside the Embassy of Myanmar in Bangkok. Individuals assembled and gave speeches expressing their condemnation of the military coup. The activists were immediately met by the police and were asked to disperse 30 minutes in, to which the protestors refused to follow. Riot police then were dispatched to the area two hours later as they attempted to clear the area. At least three activists were reported to have been arrested. In other news, there has been a resurgence of lese majeste cases in Thailand, mandating 15 years in prison for each instance of defaming the royal family. This includes supposed insults, threats, and any comment they consider as expressing opposition to the family. More lese majeste complaints have been filed since the Thai court sentenced Anchan 43-and-a-half years in prison for merely sharing clips on social media that allegedly defamed the monarchy. Among the ones charged include Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a former prime minister candidate. Thanathorn is known to be one of Thailand’s high-profile government critics who has been very vocal about pushing for reform of the monarchy. Student activists were also charged with the case. Tamara Loos, a Thai Studies professor at Cornell University, says the law “is a short-term solution for what is a long-term problem — and that is that people won’t be silenced.”  


On February 3, 2021, Ortega’s legislators approved the reform of the Law for the Defense of Protection of the Rights of Consumers and Users, which ultimately protects the bank accounts of sanctioned officials. Legislator Azucena Castillo expressed that the reform initiative “makes it clear that the objective is not congruent with a policy to strengthen the rights of users of financial services or customers of commercial businesses.” She adds that it is merely an attempt to use the consumer protection system for another purpose. The said objective of the regime is to legally pressure private banks to reopen the accounts of the officials sanctioned by the US, European Union, and other governments. The murder in November of Nacilio Macario, an indigenous Mayangna has made the news again as persecution concerns are raised. Macario was an activist against illegal environmental damage in his community, in particular, gold mining and logging and was killed by settlers. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights claims this murder occurred amidst deteriorating human rights conditions in the country. In other news, an Indigenous Miskito village has been destroyed by Hurricane Iota which has rifted the village with a football field-sized mass of the ocean. For the inhabitants, they face difficult decisions regarding staying or leaving the space.


Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda last weekend. Tsikhanouskaya, who has been living in Lithuania since fleeing Belarus following disputed elections in August 2020, has demanded that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko relinquish control of the government, release arrested protestors, and schedule free and fair elections. In other news, a Belarusian veterans group has claimed that the Belarusian Armed Forces plan to deploy two battalions of “peacekeepers” to Syria in September 2021. Neither Belarusian nor Russian officials have confirmed the move, but a Belarusian deployment to Syria could help Moscow secure lines of communication in central Syria, bolstering Russia’s influence there and across the broader Middle East region.


The tension between Sudan and Ethiopia has continued to increase and most recently Sudan has warned Ethiopia not to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)  without a deal. Sudan’s irrigation minister has said that the move would threaten the safety of Sudanese citizens who live on the banks of the river. There have been many rounds of talks between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt and the latter two fear the dam could lead to water shortages in their countries. Sudan is also continuing to work on their debt relief with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after they were taken off of the United States Terrorist watch list.


Bolivia will be receiving one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with the first 100,000 coming in February and the rest coming between March-May. The country will reviceve 93,430 Pfizer vaccines and 900,000 AstraZeneca vaccines, according to the Health Minister, and  will be destined for use in immunizing all health professionals. In other news, the Upper House met to discuss modifications that have been agreed to in the health sector. The Sanitary Emergency Law is expected to be passed by the executive after being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies. However, some fear about the unconstitutionality of the bill as it was not dealt with in the corresponding commission in the Chamber of Senators.