CANVAS Weekly Update – November 19th, 2021


November 19, 2021

Dear Friends,


CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!


In this issue, we cover the latest updates on the Poland-Belarus migrant crisis, student boycotts in Myanmar, and conflict in the South China Sea.


Conflict Update:

In Palestine, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man in the city of Tubas in the West Bank. Palestinian news have reported that the incident took place after a confrontation broke out between residents and soldiers during an Israeli raid. During the raid, at least two men were arrested, and eight men detained from other areas in the occupied territory. This comes amongst a stark increase in settler attacks in occupied regions and the ongoing plans for the construction of 3,000 new settler homes on occupied Palestinian land. One family of olive farmers claim to have been attacked three times in less than ten days while working on their own land, picking olives. During the first attack, Israelis from the nearby settlement came and stole harvesting equipment, and $1,600 worth of olives. When the Israeli police were notified, they ignored the complaint, but confirmed that the settlers committed the theft. When the family again returned to another tract of land near the settlement with 50 olive trees, they discovered the harvest had already been picked by settlers. The family was soon kicked out by Israeli forces, despite the land being designated as “area B” by the Oslo Accords, meaning it is administered both to Israel and Palestines authority, and cannot contain any Israeli settlements. This example is one of many in the recent report detailing settler attacks damaging over 1,600 trees, and frequent instances of harvest theft. Anti-settlement activist Bashar Qaryouti has claimed that the Isreali Civil Administration has issued new plans that would confiscate more land in the region, preventing dozens of Palestinian families from reaching their lands. The plan is estimated to compromise thousands of dunams of land. He also stated “What we’ve faced this year has been the most dangerous wave of attacks in years.” In the second half of October alone, in the villages of southern Nablus 95 settler attacks have been recorded. Such harvest theft and destruction of property are perpetrated by settlers who are often accompanied with army escorts. Reportedly, dozens of families have been expelled from their lands by settlers, despite them holding the accurate permanents to be on the land. In the entirety of the last year, over 9,300 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers were famaged, cut, or uprooted by Israeli settlers.



This week, Luxembourg judicial authorities opened a criminal investigation into Lebanese Central Bank (LCB)  Governor Riad Salameh. Salameh is currently under investigation by at least two other European Union countries: Switzerland and France. The Swiss inquiry was launched this January over alleged “aggravated money laundering” at the LCB involving USD$300 million. The French inquiry was launched in late May, also on money laundering allegations. Over the past two years, Salameh has received increasing criticism over Lebanon’s severe economic crisis. According to a United Nations Special Report on extreme poverty and human rights, Lebanon’s banking practices have been unsustainable at best, with many likening said practices to a Ponzi scheme. Furthermore: “[n]ot only has the banking sector been blamed for plunging the country into an economic and financial crisis…but it has also been accused of obstructing government efforts to mount a credible financial reform blueprint”, states an Al Jazeera article.



The UN special representative to Afghanistan Debra Lyons, has urged foreign nations to provide financial support to Afghanistan, claiming it is “on the brink of catastrophe.” Lyons estimates that 60% of the population of 38 million are facing a hunger crisis which will likely worsen over the winter. She targets the main cause of this upcoming crisis as the financial sanctions placed on the Taliban. Lyons has stated that the UN would attempt to avoid any aid money falling into the hands of the Taliban. Since the august takeover, the country’s GDP has contracted by 40%. The IMF blocked the release of 450 million dollars to Afghanistan after the collapse, and the 9 billion dollars of reserves owned by the country have largely been frozen as they are held in US banks.  Lyon claims that the simple unfreezing of such money would open the doors for humanitarian aid to continue unfettered. China and Russia have joined Lyons in such calls, but the US have made no comments on such matters, instead criticizing the Taliban for ignoring calls from the UN security council. The US however, is still the largest humanitarian donor to Afghanistan – providing 474 million dollars in aid in 2021. The Taliban has still not been recognized by any nation or the UN, and the countries UN seat continues to be held by a representative of the previous government. While a new mechanism for the payment of health workers salaries has been successfully erected, workers in other key sectors like education have often failed to have been paid. Lyons claims that the “paralysis of the banking sector will push more of the financial system into unaccountable and unregulated informal money exchanges, [which] can only help facilitate terrorism, trafficking and further drug smuggling.” Lyons has also reported that the Talbian have been unsuccessful in stopping the growth of the ISIL group. ISIL is now claimed to be present in each province, and to have been increasingly active. UN estimates state that ISIL attacks have increased from 60 in 2020 to 334 in 2021.



Since the military announced the reopening of schools on November 1 following a nationwide closure in July due to COVID-19, many students have boycotted their attendance, both to protest against the generals who seized power in a coup on February 1 but also out of fear they could be subject to an attack. Many parents have refused to send their children to school as they see it as an act of supporting the military, believing that boycotting schools is a powerful way of protesting against the military while fighting to return to the civilian government that was elected in November 2020. Following the November 1 reopening, the perceived support for the leadership from teachers who have not participated in the boycott has made them targets for extreme, non-military groups, with some getting targeted and killed. A Chinese envoy has lobbied Southeast Asian nations to let Myanmar’s military ruler attend the ASEAN summit being hosted by China’s president on November 22 but has met stiff opposition, diplomatic sources said on Thursday. Myanmar’s standing as a member of ASEAN has been thrown into the spotlight following the February coup. Several ASEAN members, dismayed by the return of crisis and the suppression of democracy in Myanmar, have sought to press its generals by excluding them from ASEAN meetings. In an unprecedented decision last month, ASEAN leaders blocked Myanmar’s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, from an ASEAN summit after he failed to honor pledges to allow an ASEAN envoy to meet lawmakers overthrown in the coup. Instead, ASEAN leaders said a non-political figure from Myanmar should be asked to attend. In the end, Myanmar was not represented. Several of the countries wanted Min Aung Hlaing to be banned from the meeting. Yet, Myanmar’s junta chief could still make an appearance at the summit.


The United States:

On Thursday, White House said its social spending package, known as the “Build Back Better” Act, would reduce the deficit by $112 billion over the next decade according to a new analysis. But the vote on U.S. President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion social spending bill has been delayed until Friday which was originally scheduled for Thursday in the House of Representatives. This comes after Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave an hours-long, circuitous speech that cataloged a list of Republican grievances, some related to the bill and some not. “I’ve had enough. America has had enough,” McCarthy said in his speech. According to new data from US Customs and Border Protection, agents apprehended people from more than 160 countries and a record high +1.7 million migrants were detained along its border with Mexico in the past 12 months. On Thursday the Biden administration unveiled charges and sanctions against six Iranian individuals and one entity “for attempting to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election.” In a three and a half hours meeting of President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 15, global economic issues, tensions over Taiwan, strategic nuclear controls and talk about their positions in the resumption of negotiations with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal were some of the important points discussed.



As the government had earlier vowed not to allow the November 15 protests, Cuban authorities acted in advance to ban the demonstrations planned for Monday. They ran a media campaign arguing it was a US attempt at regime change and placed protest leaders under house arrest. People were scared too much to protest, Havana saw a heavy police presence, activists who dared to go out were driven away in police cars, videos of arrests flooded Facebook. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Cuban government’s move calling them “intimidation tactics” and said, “We call on the Cuban government to respect Cubans’ rights, by allowing them to peacefully assemble … and by keeping Internet and telecommunication lines open”. According to the Havana-based independent human rights organization Cubalex, Cuban police arrested 11 people, while 50 others were “besieged” inside their homes to forestall any public gathering. among the arrested on Monday were Cuban citizen Agustin Figueroa Galindo, who often writes for the opposition blog “Primavera Digital en Cuba,” and Berta Soler Fernández, leader of “Damas de Blanco,” an organization that advocates for the release of political prisoners on the island. Edel Pérez, 35, a television actor arrested in the July protests, was prevented from leaving his house by two plain-clothed state security agents. Activist Saily Gonzalez Velazquez said in a video broadcast live on Facebook that government supporters were blocking her house to prevent her from attending the protests. Cuban activist, journalist and Washington Post columnist Abraham Jimenez Enoa also tweeted saying he was “under siege by plainclothes police and agents.” Cuban protest leader Yunior Garcia sparked concerns among activists over his safety due to his silence on social media, putting end to uncertainty over his whereabouts Garcia said he has landed at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Wednesday afternoon.



On November 16th, the President of the United States, Joe Biden banned President Ortega and his wife Vice President Rosario Murillo from entering the United States. The ban was announced after Ortega rigged the election in favor of his own party. Before the November 7th election, around 40 opposition figures–including student activists, business leaders and seven presidential candidates– were detained. In the official White House Presidential Action, Biden wrote, “The Ortega government’s undemocratic, authoritarian actions have crippled the electoral process and stripped away the right of Nicaraguan citizens to choose their leaders in free and fair elections.” The United Kingdom and Canada announced new sanctions against prominent leaders in the Sandinista party. The sanctions by the United Kingdom impose travel bans and asset freezes for eight high-ranking Nicaraguan politicians, including the President and Vice President, on account of undermining Nicaragua’s democratic principles and institutions. In a statement the Minister for Europe and Americas, Wendy Morton, stated, “The Ortega regime is denying the Nicaraguan people their fundamental human rights. The recent Presidential election was rigged and opposition politicians and peaceful protestors have consistently been imprisoned for political purposes.”



After days of protest, on 16 November, the Bolivian government repealed Law 1386 against money laundering and the “financing of terrorism.” However, some opponents of the law, who have called it “anti-democratic” and “anti-constitutional,” are continuing to strike. The continuing of strikes comes despite the signs of some sectors beginning to lift “measures of pressure” against the government and an announcement of the end of the strike by Romulo Calvo, the president of the Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee, on the evening of 16 November. Those who continue to strike–like the Potosinian Civic Committee’s Roxana Gras and the Confederation of Guilds in Bolivia’s Francisco Figueroa–are demanding that the repeal of Law 1386 be made official through the Bolivian government’s Official Gazette. The Official Gazette is a periodical of recent public and legal notices. This week, a guest list released by the White House showed that Bolivia had been excluded by the United States from an upcoming democracy summit scheduled for December 9 and 10. The United States has also excluded eight other Latin American countries, in particular, those who endorsed the recently disputed elections in Nicaragua. Bolivia, through its Ministry to Foreign Affairs, had applauded the electoral process in Nicaragua, despite evidence that president Daniel Ortega had imprisoned his opponents.



According to state-run media and officials, Belarus has moved migrants and refugees away from the main camps into a heated warehouse not far from the border, emptying out a makeshift camp at the Polish border. The migrants have been taken most likely to the transport-logistics centre which is not far from the Bruzgi border crossing. It is reported that people attempting to cross the polish border were forced back with teargas and water cannon, and the place was cleared of people on Thursday morning. G7 foreign ministers accused Belarus of putting lives at risk over its treatment of migrants. Meanwhile, the first repatriation flight had departed Belarus on Thursday with 431 Iraqi immigrants on board. The European Commission placed new sanctions on Monday that would target “individuals and entities organizing or contributing to activities by the Lukashenko regime that facilitate illegal crossing of the E.U.’s external borders.” The European Commission and Germany also rejected a proposal by Belarus that said European Union countries take in thousands of the refugees and asylum seekers currently in its territory. On Thursday, the crisis claimed its 13th victim after the Polish Centre for International Aid reported that a one-year-old Syrian child had died after his family attempted the perilous journey through Belarus into the EU.



The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Georgia to ensure the safety of its jailed former President Mikheil Saakashvili as concerns mount for his health after almost seven weeks on a hunger strike. Georgia must take steps “to inform the Court about the applicant’s current state of health, to ensure his safety in prison, and to provide him with appropriate medical care for the post-hunger-strike recovery period,” the ECHR said on Tuesday in response to a complaint brought by Saakashvili about his conditions. It said doctors have confirmed he is taking only liquids and vitamins and that he has lost 10 percent of his body mass. The former president’s son, Eduard Saakashvili, has said that his father’s life was under threat and appealed for his transfer to a civilian hospital. Last week, Saakashvili was forcibly moved to a prison hospital that supporters say fails to meet his medical needs. Georgia, Moldova, and Serbia have officially joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate on November 15, after the three countries met all the requirements to become part of the system used for travel in Europe.



Beijing continues to stake its controversial claim on the disputed waters of  South China Sea, as many as 300 vessels composed of purpose-built militia vessels and commercial fishing fleets from China’s maritime militia can be seen patrolling the Spratly Islands in the at any one time according to new research from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in the United States. The South China Sea is also claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan. Three ships from the Chinese coastguard blocked and fired water cannons on two Philippines supply boats within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the disputed South China Sea, to this move Philippines Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said China must  “back off”. In other news, China has constructed a second enclave or cluster of at least 60 buildings approximately 6 kilometres within India in the region between the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the International Boundary, which was confirmed by Pentagon. This enclave did not exist in 2019 according to the satellite images. Taiwan has opened a de facto embassy in Lithuania in a diplomatic breakthrough, to which China responded angrily, calling the move as “egregious” and threatened unspecified consequences. After the highly-anticipated talks between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden, both countries have agreed to ease travel and visa restrictions on each others’ journalists.


Hong Kong:

Twenty people were found guilty on Saturday of taking part in a 2019 Hong Kong riot. Prosecutors had accused all 23 defendants of taking part in a riot between Western Street and Queen Street in the city’s Sheung Wan neighborhood on July 28 of that year. Protesters marched towards Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong and used a variety of objects to block the area outside Western Police Station. After postponing the verdict to take the top court’s ruling into account, District Court Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng found 20 defendants guilty with a “participatory intent”. Some burst into tears upon hearing the verdict, which could result in jail sentences of up to seven years. The judge adjourned mitigation arguments to December 4. The protest in Sheung Wan began as an authorized assembly and later escalated into a riot later that evening, the judge said, with protesters hurling objects at officers, passing bricks among themselves, and kicking canisters of tear gas back towards police lines. Those found guilty had various degrees of involvement, Chan ruled, with some only standing among the demonstrators during the stand-off with police. Only one of the 154 would-be candidates for Hong Kong’s legislature has been disqualified by a government-led panel, a new vetting mechanism designed to screen election hopefuls for national security risks as part of Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system. Registered nurse Lau Tsz-chun, vying for a seat in the medical and health service sector, was the only hopeful who had his candidacy invalidated, according to Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, who said it was due to Lau being a government employee. Announcing the results of the process on Friday, Lee, who chairs the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee, said the mix of candidates from different classes and backgrounds proved the election had achieved balanced representation. About a dozen centrist or moderate aspirants have signed up for the December 19 poll, which is being boycotted by the city’s traditional opposition parties, who have said new hurdles in the nomination process were designed to stifle dissent. The vetting committee was established as part of a radical overhaul of Hong Kong elections approved in March aimed at screening out candidates deemed “unpatriotic” or a threat to national security.



Indonesia’s long-awaited cybersecurity bill is facing renewed calls for its speedy passage. Originally proposed in 2014, one of the key aims of the bill is to provide guidelines for personal data protection amid the surge of personal data leaks in recent years. For example, the data breach of the government-owned national health insurance (JKN) in late May, which saw the personal data of over 279 million Indonesia put on sale in an online hacking forum. Now, the bill is part of the 33 priority legislation in the 2021 House National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) and, according to House Deputy Speaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, the bill is expected to pass within the current legislative period. Besides which, among the government, there is disagreement about a provision in the bill establishing a data protection agency. Whereas the Communications and Information Ministry wants the agency to come under its jurisdiction, other lawmakers have pushed for the agency to become an independent body that reports directly to the president.



Thailand’s Constitutional Court has rejected a plea for marriage equality. The court ruled Wednesday that Section 1448 of the nation’s Civil and Commercial Code, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, does not violate the Thai constitution. The ruling, which had been postponed several times, came in response to a lawsuit by the Foundation for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights and Justice on behalf of a female couple who sought to have their marriage recognized by Bangkok civil authorities and were turned down. The court did, however, write that Thai legislators “should draft laws that guarantee the rights for gender diverse people”. Thailand’s Parliament has debated a civil unions bill in recent years, with some opposition coming from the LGBTQ+ community because civil unions fall short of equal marriage rights. Member of Parliament Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat has introduced a marriage equality bill. LGBTQ+ activists were outraged by the court’s ruling. LGBTQ+ rights group Free Gender Thailand and other organizations are planning a protest for November 28. A key court ruling in Thailand has raised concern that activists could face charges of treason after nearly 18 months of anti-government protests that have also called for a new constitution and royal reform. Thailand’s constitutional court made the ruling in a case brought against three protest leaders who are facing charges under strict royal defamation laws. A panel of judges ruled on Wednesday that the activists’ calls for reform were more than just rhetorical blasphemy. The court said their speeches aimed “to overthrow the constitutional monarchy” with Judge Wiroon Sangtian saying that any reform of royal laws would “bring the monarchy to an unrespected status and could bring disobedience among the people.” The ruling follows months of demonstrations that began in July 2020, with protesters calling not only for the government to step down but for the reform of the country’s powerful and wealthy monarchy. The unprecedented demands have increased public debate around the palace, shattering a longstanding taboo about openly criticizing the royal institution.



Claims this week from various agencies in the US and Uk state that Iran is responsible for ongoing ransomware campaigns. They allege the country has been sponsoring hackers to target US infrastructure, likely in response to recent cyberattacks in Iran targeting subsidized oil cards. The FBI and UK and Australian cyber security centers claimed that such government sponsored hackers have been “actively targeting a broad range of victims across multiple US critical infrastructure sectors, including the transportation sector and the healthcare and public health sector”. They claim hackers have been exploiting existing bugs within a security service Fortinet, and a flaw in the Microsoft email software to use such ransomware and steal data. The statement also included that a successful hacking attempt was made at a US municipal government, and a US childrens hospital, but information regarding ransoms were not included. Microsoft has also released a statement concluded that Iranian actors have been “increasingly utilising ransomware to either collect funds or disrupt their targets.” They also included that six Iranian threat groups using such tactics. Some tactics used were fishing scams, and catfishing attempts. The US has been reported to have floated an interim Nuclear deal with Iran in order to buy more time for negotiations. While the idea has not yet come to fruition, President Biden has repeatedly claimed that the Iran Deal established in 2015 will be restored. Currently, nuclear talks are set to resume on November 29th.



In Iraq this week, water crises have had extreme effects on agricultural output. In wheat alone, a deficit of two million tons has been found this year. Water scarcity coupled with negligent funds to repair have reduced the country’s agricultural plan by 50%. One town, Diyaa, has had it’s agriculture scaled down by 90%, signaling a fast approaching migration from the area once reliant on it’s crops. Iran-backed militias in the region are being blamed for the attempted assasination on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. However, some sources suggest that the assination attempt and revolutionary prospects of some Iran-supporters after the loss of power in government following the vote have splintered the once unified pro-Iran groups in the region. The Country of Iran itself condemned the attack, even sending the elite Quds force to Baghdad to help resolve escalating tensions between Iraq and the pro-Iran militias. Some point to this action as proof that the attack was at least not carried out with full permission by the Iranian state. Both countries hold a strong Shia minority, and reports have claimed that Iranian militias within the state acted as lone wolves. This escalated the Iranian worry of losing power over militias in the region.



The deadliest day for protests in Sudan following the coup happened this Wednesday. The cities of Bahri, Omdurman and the capital city of Khartoum have been the biggest anti-coup protests have been gathering. There have been a diverse demographic of protesters as citizens young and old, female and male gather on the streets. On Wednesday, security forces shot and killed 15 civilian protesters during demonstrations. The official number of people was confirmed by Sudan Doctors Committee, an independent group of medical professionals. Sudan Doctors Committee reports that since the coup on October 25 at least 39 people have been killed and hundreds have been wounded. Security forces have been cracking down violently on protests. Eyewitness report watching police tear down makeshift barricades, arrested participants, and fired tear gas at protesters. Despite the violent confrontations between police and demonstrators, people continue to stay on the streets to show their discontent for the military regime by protesters returning to rebuild broken barricades. Even with an almost complete shutdown of internet services demonstrators were able to mobilize on the streets on Wednesday.  A majority of the resistance stems from neighborhood resistance committees coordinating with each other despite the lack on internet service. Many of the resistance groups have now stated they will amp up their pressure on the streets. In response to when the reports of civilian deaths, police report they have only recorded one civilian death and deny the use of live ammunition against civilians. During a news conference on Thursday, Chief of Police Lieutenant General Khalid Mahdi Ibrahim, in response to a question about civilian causalities, said police were protecting citizens and they only used tear gas to contain violence. He also accused demonstrators of attacking security forces saying that one officer has been killed and 80 have been injured.



ISIS has claimed responsibility for the three suicide bombers in the capital city of Uganda. Authorities have stated that 36 people have been hospitalized and five civilians have been killed as a result.  The attacks took place in front of parliament and near a police station around thirty minutes from each other. Parliament was canceled and the police cordoned off the building to detect any further suspicious activity and to understand what happened. On Tuesday, President Museveni stated that three attackers died as they detonated cars packed with explosives. Seven people affiliated with the attack were killed while resisting arrest and 81 suspects have been detained. Among the five people accused of having ties to the extremist group responsible for Tuesday’s suicide bombing in the capital was a Muslim cleric. The cleric Muhammad Kirevu was killed as forces raided his home outside Kampala. Another cleric is the subject of a fugitive hunt as he has been accused by authorities of radicalizing young men to join the underground terrorist cells to carry out attacks. Security officers say that the attacks were reminiscent of attacks by the African ISIS affiliate group the ADF.Security officers are under much public scrutiny that they have the situation under control as many suspects have been killed during raids. Human rights groups are concerned that innocent people may become victims. Human Rights Watch has documented that Ugandan security forces have used torture and held suspected members of ADF for extended periods of time. Activists say that terrorism has been seen to capture the attention of political opponents, civic actors and refugees to radicalize people in support of non-state actors.



As Zimbabwe struggles with inflation, the country’s central bank appears to undermine its own currency. In 2019, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube reintroduced the local currency of the Zimbabwe dollar. He said that it was important to break the bond that U.S currency had over the economy, but as neighboring countries economies collapsed Zimbabwe’s industry became uncompetitive and the economy collapsed. It seems that the government is worried about a potential economic collapse as Ncube announced that government workers will receive annual bonuses in U.S. dollars for the first time since 2018. Zimbabwe risks a ban by its participation in FIFA after its own football association (ZIFA) was suspended the country’s Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC). FIFA, football’s world governing body disapproves of the government’s interference and may enforce a ban on the association as it has done with other countries in the past. A chair for the SRC stated that due many incidents demonstrating ZIFA’ incompetence acting on the contrary of national interest this is why the ban was enforced. SRC gave examples as allegations of fraud within ZIFA and sexual harassment of a female referees by technical staff of ZIFA.