February 26, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Georgia’s escalating political crisis, and the current situation in Myanmar.
In Myanmar, protestors ordered a strike that shut businesses across the country to demonstrate dissatisfaction with the February 1st coup. Demonstrators have continued to gather nationwide despite the military’s threats of violence. More than 1,200 citizens of Myanmar were deported from Malaysia on Wednesday despite the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision to grant them a stay of deportation without explanation from the government. In Algeria on Monday, thousands of protestors commemorated the second anniversary of the country’s mass protest movement which was ended by the COVID-19 pandemic. The protestors marched again on Friday, possibly signaling the resumption of the protests. In Iraq, 5 protestors were killed and 175 were injured during clashes with security forces. The demonstrators are calling for justice for protesters killed since 2019 and for the removal of the governor. The conflict in Yemen saw its deadliest clash in three years with hundreds of fighters killed during a weeks-long Houthi offensive.
The WHO has announced that COVID deaths have dropped 20% in the past week and that their global vaccine-sharing initiative, COVAX, delivered its first shipment on Wednesday. The delivery marks a shift towards improved vaccine equality but preferential vaccinations for government officials have become a problem in multiplecountries. This week the EU was told to expect less than half the number of AstraZeneca vaccines it had been initially promised and the Philippines has announced that it will relax its ban on healthcare staff working in Germany and Britain if the two countries donate vaccines. In Greece, frustrations over the “suffocating” conditions in hospitals led to doctors engaging in a day-long strike. Vaccinations have begun in the following countries: Hungary, Senegal, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea.
For the first time under the Biden administration, military force was used as President Biden ordered airstrikes over Eastern Syria, killing at least 22 people. The Pentagon claimed that the buildings targeted in Syria were connected to Iranian-backed militias and the rocket attack on U.S. personnel in Iraq; the attacks are thought to signal to Iran the tone of the administration. In domestic politics, the minimum wage hike to $15 an hour has been removed from the Covid-19 relief package as parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled its inclusion fell beyond the scope of budget reconciliation. President Biden has claimed he would work on a “standalone $15 minimum wage proposal”, although there is resistance to the motion, even from within the Democrat Party. In other news, the new Voting Rights Act of Virginia which hopes to ensure better voter protections and more accessible election processes has been approved. Meanwhile, the House has passed comprehensive legislation which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The LGBTQ+ rights protections are a success, however, the harassing comments of Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene towards Democrat Marie Newman and her transgender daughter caused controversy and rifts within the Republicans.
The Netherlands becomes the first EU state to accuse China of committing genocidein its treatment of Uighur peoples, the Chinese embassy has retorted that the motion was a smear campaign and an “outright lie”. The decision came shortly after the Canadian government voted to accuse China of genocide with an overwhelming majority. In other news, Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is currently verifying whether China is building potentially two missile bases near the border, one as close as 20km from the border. The information came to light as NGO South China Sea News published satellite images. In the South China Sea, China has responded to the US navy’s presence by completing a military exercise with 10 bombers; the drills are rising concerns over stability of the conflict regarding the disputed waters. Meanwhile, China’s economy is believed to double in size by 2035 meaning it could become the largest economy in the world and bypass the United States.
Hong Kong began administering the Chinese-ruled city’s first COVID-19 vaccinations this week; the program will eventually offer free vaccines to the entire population of 7.5 million. Residents will receive the vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, a million doses of which were delivered to Hong Kong last week. A panel of Hong Kong experts found the Sinovac vaccine to have an efficacy rate of 62.3% after two doses, compared to the 92% efficacy of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In other news, China plans to impose restrictionson Hong Kong’s electoral system in an attempt to disqualify candidates the Communist Party views as disloyal. The move could block democracy advocates from running for any elected office in Hong Kong. Xia Baolong, China’s director of Hong Kong and Macau affairs, said the central government wants Hong Kong to be governed only by “patriots” loyal to the Communist Party and that Beijing will not allow the Hong Kong government to rewrite the territory’s laws, as previously expected.
In response to reports of human rights violations and attacks on democracy in Zimbabwe, the European Union has reimposed an arms embargo and frozen the assets to state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries. The EU is concerned with the “proliferation of arrests and prosecutions of journalists, opposition actors and individuals expressing dissenting views, and the use by high-level officials of speech that could be interpreted as incitement to violence.”, and is hoping the sanctions will pressure the government to commit to human rights and the “recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry are implemented”. Weeks prior on February 1., the UK sanctioned senior members of the security apparatus, Owen Ncube, Isaac Moyo, Godwin Matanga, and former Brig. Gen. Anselem Sanyatwe, with travel bans and asset freezes. Meanwhile, the “The Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe” published by the Daily Maverick newspaper is continuing to make headlines. According to the report, billions of dollars are being illegally handled particularly in gold and diamonds. In other news, the director of epidemiology and disease control Portia Manangazira is standing trial this week for embezzling funds reserved for Covid-19.
United States President, Joe Biden, has said his goal is to shut down Guantanamo Bay within his presidency. His team has made clear that this is simply a goal, but shutting down the prison will be a long difficult task, something that former President Obama attempted in his term. Many in Cuba are reverting to new ways of making money amidst the continued Covid-19 crisis. Hotel owners are turning to farming as restaurants and hotels continue to remain empty. Musicians and film-makers are cooking and baking and selling as they have more time to work and earn money in other ways. The country is continuing to struggle as they are still unable to have tourists but remain helpful for their vaccines.