December 3, 2021
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, the ongoing Iran nuclear deal, and the continued political turmoil in Sudan.
Women’s rights activists in Poland used red paint to symbolize blood as they protested Tuesday against a government plan to register every pregnancy in a national database and as parliament prepares to debate a new proposal to further restrict abortion. The activists fear the database will allow Poland’s right-wing authorities to track whether pregnancies end in a birth and a create a possible tool for prosecutions. The health minister denied that recently, saying there is “no pregnancy register,” and the government was just making a routine shift from paper to digital files.
As well as being in occupied territory, this mosque was the site of a brutal attack in 1994, in which an Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on Palestinians with a machine gun, killing 29 and wounding 100. This move was likely to bolster right-wing support for the continued expansion of the Kiryat Arba settlement in occupied Hebron. The settlers of Kiryat Arba have erected a shrine to the mass murderer, Baruch Goldstein, soldifiying the designation of occupied Hebron as one of the most volatile settler communities. Several buses full of left-wing Israelis, against settlements and occupation, attempted to protest the ceremony in Hebron and were stopped by the Israeli army. The group said “We came to say no to apartheid, no to fascism, no to violating Palestinian human rights in our name.” Residents of the old city of Hebron report instances of settlers throwing urine and acid from their windows onto Palestinians in the street, after a mesh net was installed to prevent rubbish and bottles being thrown at them. The UN mideast envoy has warned that without quick intervention, Israel and Palestine are soon likely to be plagued by violence – confirmed by the Palestinian Authority, which warned that the “presidential endorsement of the occupation could ignite tensions.”
The Ukrainian government has announced that Russia has built up nearly 115,000 troops on their shared border in recent weeks. Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is attempting to either gain control over the annexed Crimean territory. The President also reported that the nation’s richest oligarch was being dragged into an alleged coup attempt to overthrow the government. The Kremlin has stated that the speculation is hysteria pumped up to help the Ukrainian president’s approval ratings. However, Putin has strongly warned against Nato countries giving weapons or soldiers to the Ukraine, claiming they would be crossing a “red line.” If NATO countries did such things, Putin stated he would potentially deploy Russian missiles in Europe.
In Afghanistan this week, the Taliban government put forth a decree banning the forced marriage of women. Many allege that this move was made in order to fulfill the requirements the international community deem necessary to recognize the Taliban government, and continue to provide aid. Others point to evidence that the practice is unacceptable or forbidden in Islam. Previously, in 2020, the Yakawlang district banned the practice for this reason. The decree has also stated that widows will be allowed to freely choose to remarry 17 weeks after the death of the husband, in order to combat the practice of forced marriage to a family member of the deceased husband. Afghan courts have been ordered by the decree to treat women fairly, and allow widows to seek inheritance as next of kin.
This Thursday, the United Nations postponed deciding who would represent Afghanistan in the world body. The Taliban have criticized this decision, stating “This decision is not based on legal rules and justice because they have deprived the people of Afghanistan of their legitimate right.” Both the Taliban and Myanmar’s military junta have not been allowed to represent their countries in the United Nations. Such lack of representation has made receiving much needed humanitarian assistance nearly impossible.
The UN estimates 23 million Afghans suffer from acute hunger. 8.7 million live in near famine conditions. Children’s hospitals are plagued with malnourished children, and maternity wards filled with starving women often lose babies days after birth due to malnourishment. The takeover, drought, and economic troubles have resulted in major displacement within Afghanistan, worsening hunger and living conditions.
Iranian forces have engaged in fighting with Taliban soldiers on the shared border of Iran and Afghanistan. There are reportedly no casualties, and the event has been described as a “misunderstanding.” Videos released on Wednesday show the mobilization of Taliban troops, and Iranian forces firing artillery shells responding to Taliban gunfire. An Iranian news source has placed the battle in the village of Shaghalak. Reportedly, on the eastern border of Iran, there are walled areas before the end of Iranian soil in order to prevent smuggling. When Iranian farmers passed fences, they remained in Iran, but Taliban forces believed them to have crossed into Afghanistan, and opened fire. Iranian and Taliban authorities were in contact over the event and declared it a mistake.
Iran has resumed nuclear talks this week, and the chief negotiator has said that the third draft proposal submitted “cannot be rejected.” The third proposal is “mainly of the verification process and the guarantees Iran is requesting from the world powers in order to revive the nuclear deal.” The country has currently submitted two proposals, concerning the lifting of sanctions and “Iran’s nuclear actions” and is waiting for their approval in order to submit the third. The chief negotiator has also called on the US to remove all nuclear-related sanctions on the country, citing that the proposals are based on the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement. However, the Iranian Foreign Minister is quoted saying “we are not optimistic about the will and the intention of the United States and the three European Parties to the deal.” Similarly, the US Secretary of State is quoted saying “recent moves, recent rhetoric [of Iran during the nuclear talks], don’t give us a lot of cause for optimism.”
Even further muddling the nuclear talks goal of decreasing sanctions, on Thursday US senators announced legislation to impose sanctions on Iranian intelligence groups for the alleged kidnapping attempt of Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who is based in the US. The attempt was supposedly planned for US soil, and senators have said the legislation is necessary to hold Iran accountable and prevent kidnapping attempts on US soil through imposing mandatory sanctions on the assailants, and their banks.
In the Diyala province of Northern Iraq, Islamic State (known as ISIS/L or Daesh) fighters instigated an attack on a village that killed three civilians and seven Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters. Reportedly, the Kurdistan armed forces responded to the jihadist attack and were killed by an explosive device hidden by the IS fighters. The Islamic State group reportedly attacked several houses in the region before the Kurdish forces arrived. The president of the Kurdistan Regional government (KRG) has stated that there needs to be “more efficient cooperation” between the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga. Because the Diyala province lies between the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and the federal government of Iraq, who lack proper communication and coordination, a security vacuum in the region has arisen that is continuously exploited by the Islamic State, who previously held land in Iraq. Western Military officials claim that 10,000 Islamic State fighters are still active in Iraq and Syria.
After many losers of the October parliament election claimed it was rigged and demanded recounts, Iraq’s independent election commission announced on Tuesday that the previous vote count was correct. After recounting, the Shia bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr was confirmed as the winner, holding 73/329 seats in parliament. The Fatah alliance, affiliated with Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, were the loudest to call fraud after winning only 17 seats.
The leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) has accused Hezbollah and its allies of postponing next year’s parliamentary elections. According to Samir Geagea, the leader of LF and a friend of Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah and its ally, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), are delaying the elections out of fear that they would lose their parliamentary majority: the LF is widely expected to make gains in the upcoming elections. Geagea is referring to Aoun’s refusal earlier this month to hold elections on March 27, as Aoun thought the date was too early. Additionally, the Constitutional Council in Beirut received a request by a political alliance affiliated with Aoun, the Strong Lebanon bloc, to push back the elections to 8 May. The bloc is headed by Gebran Bassil, who also leads Aoun’s FPM.
In response, on November 30, Lebanese activists staged a sit-in outside of the Constitutional Council, with the aim of getting the council to reject Strong Lebanon’s request. The activists, who are from the “Revolutionary Platform of Mount Lebanon,” also presented a petition with 15,000 signatures to Constitutional Council judge Tannous Mechleb. However, even if the council refuses to push back the elections, President Aoun’s refusal to sign off on a March date hints at a possible clash between the parliament and the presidency.
Also this week, Bolivia’s Attorney General Office announced that it will seek a ten-year prison sentence for former president, Jeanine Añez Chávez. Lupe Zabala, the prosecutor in charge, has charged Anez with crimes of breach of duties and resolutions contrary to the Bolivian Constitution and the laws in the framework of the Golpe de Estado II case. The Public Prosecutor’s office has also claimed that they have at least 70 pieces of evidence proving that Anez’s conduct fell in line with these charges. Anez is currently being held preventively in a prison in La Paz.
Greece has become a European port of call for refugees from Africa and Asia. In recent months, authorities have found large numbers of Cubans seeking shelter in Greece citing a crumbling economy and repression as reasons for leaving Cuba.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the US Department of State will restrict nine Cuban officials’ visas that include members from the Ministries of the Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The Cuban officials allegedly targeted activists and journalists through government-sponsored mobs, detaining peaceful protestors and revoking journalists’ credentials and are accused of attempting “to silence the voices of the Cuban people through repression and unjust detentions”.
After a long eight-month investigation, environmentalists have found Nicaragua is losing forests faster than any other country in the world. In a new report, investigators found that deep corruption with Nicaragua’s forestry ministry has added to the destruction of the biodiversity in Nicaragua’s ecosystem. Cristopher Mendoza the head researcher talked to different indigenous groups to gather their point of view over the state of environmental destruction. A group of Miskito residents described the encroachment by outsiders on indigenous land and the culture of impunity within Ortega’s government. For the past year, environmentalists have been targeted by Ortega’s government as seen by an increased number of environmental activists. According to Mendoza, almost all independent reporting on the environment in Nicaragua takes place outside of country but he is hopeful one day journalists will be able to safely return. He said, “All the Nicaraguan journalists I know have their backpacks ready to return.”
On Thursday, President Joe Biden laid out his strategy to fight the Omicron and Delta coronavirus variants which includes free and insurer-funded at-home COVID-19 testing where insurers to reimburse their 150 million customers for the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, and 50 million tests available free through rural clinics and health centers for the uninsured according to administration officials. The United States also plans to require inbound international passengers to be tested for COVID-19 within one day of departure, regardless of vaccination status. Measures also include making sure nearly 100 million eligible Americans received their booster shot or do so as soon as possible.
On Friday, a bill to fund the US government through mid-February gained the support of enough members of the Senate to win passage and prevent a partial shutdown of federal agencies at the end of this week. Two Georgia election workers, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and Ruby Freeman, targeted by former U.S. President Donald Trump in a vote-rigging conspiracy theory have sued a far-right website The Gateway Pundit that trumpeted the false story, alleging it incited months of death threats and harassment against them. In other news, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating sexual harassment claims made against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The Chinese province of Henan is building a surveillance system with face-scanning technology that can detect journalists and other “people of concern” (including foreign students and migrant women) and classify them into a “traffic-light” system – green, amber and red where journalists in the “red” category would be “dealt with accordingly”.
A newly published cache of documents include speeches, which analysts say, prove top government leaders including President Xi Jinping called for measures that led to mass internment, forced labour and the state’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims. These new reports were passed to the Uyghur Tribunal (an independent people’s tribunal in the UK) in September, they have not previously been published in full before the tribunal asked three academics who specialize in the field to authenticate the documents.
Facebook owner Meta Platforms uncovered more than 500 accounts linked to an online disinformation network primarily based in China. These accounts targeted English-speaking audiences in the United States and Britain and Chinese-speaking audiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet and have been removed by the platform. Didi Global, the Chinese ride-hailing giant, has announced plans to take its shares off the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and move its listing to Hong Kong after coming under intense pressure since its US debut in July. Within days of the initial public offering (IPO) Beijing announced a crackdown on technology companies listing overseas.
A man was jailed for seven months on Thursday for inciting others to harm police officers during the 2019 demonstrations in Hong Kong. District Judge Clement Lee Hing-nin said online platforms made it convenient to disseminate information but also increased the risk of spreading fake news and hate speech. The design of such platforms, which often funneled information to users that confirmed beliefs they already held, also limited people’s access to diverse viewpoints, further polarizing groups with different stances, he continued. “Though most people are rational, there are radicals who would make use of social media to conduct unlawful or inciteful acts,” Lee said. “Therefore, social media users should reflect.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic leaving hundreds of Hong Kongers homeless, NGO ImpactHK has launched a fundraising campaign on crowdfunding platform SparkRaise with a target of reaching HK$1 million by December 24. Each week ImpactHK serves 3,000 meals at 11 locations, supporting 475 street sleepers. These services are crucial, says founder Jeff Rotmeyer, but it is jobs that get people off the streets.
Hong Kong has banned non-residents from entering the city from four African countries and plans to expand that to travelers who have been to Australia, Canada, Israel, and six European countries in the past 21 days due to fears over Omicron. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday the Omicron coronavirus variant carried a very high risk of infection surges, and countries around the world have tightened travel restrictions.
In an unexpected win, Indonesian labor unions’ protests against The Omnibus Law, which corrodes workers’ rights, have been trounced by the Mahkamah Konstitusi (MK) Constitutional Court. The ruling threatens the government’s hopes to make the republic a safe place for venture capital. President Joko Widodo is scrambling to reassure that the court’s unappealable decision doesn’t impact international lenders’ investments in Indonesia. The Omnibus Law, named because it puts many laws in the same carriage, passed last year through the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (People’s Representative Council, DPR) in eight months, making no stops to pick up workers and greenies waving placards and fists on kerbsides across the nation. A series of demonstrations against the law shook the country throughout 2020.
On Thursday, December 2, thousands of people across the world raised the Morning Star flag–banned by Indonesian authorities–in solidarity with the West Papuans. Supporters hailed from a range of locations, including: Tāmaki Makaura (Auckland), Aotearoa (New Zealand), Paris (France), Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington), Jayapura, etc. The event commemorates the day 60 years ago, on 1 December 1961, when the Morning Star was raised for the first time by West Papuans struggling for independence. One of the flag-raising events in Wellington took the form of a virtual online ceremony hosted by Victoria University Pacific studies lecturer Dr Elmani Case, together with Peace Movement Aotearoa and Youngsolwara Pōneke. Among the flag-raisers were also two Green MPs–Teanau Tuiono and Eugenie Sage.
A U.N. committee on Wednesday deferred a decision on who will represent Afghanistan and Myanmar at the United Nations, said the panel’s chair, meaning the Afghan Taliban and Myanmar junta will not be allowed into the world body for now. Rival claims were made for the seats of both countries with the Taliban and Myanmar’s junta pitted against ambassadors appointed by the governments they ousted this year. U.N. acceptance of the Taliban or Myanmar’s junta would be a step toward the international recognition sought by both. Several diplomats had told Reuters that the committee was likely to defer its decisions on the representation of Afghanistan and Myanmar on the understanding that the current ambassadors for both countries remain in those seats.
The killing of at least 65 protesters on March 14 in Yangon, Myanmar, was planned and premeditated, a rights watchdog has found. Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday released a report accusing security forces of deliberately encircling and using lethal force against crowds calling for the reinstatement of Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government. “Soldiers and police armed with military assault rifles fired on trapped protesters and on those trying to assist the wounded, killing at least 65 protesters and bystanders” in Yangon’s working-class neighborhood of Hlaing Tharyar, HRW found. Findings were based on interviews with six witnesses and analyses of 13 videos and 31 photographs of the violence posted on social media. Footage reviewed by HRW includes a TikTok video posted by a police officer in which security officials discuss the weapons they would use. One of them is heard saying: “I will show no mercy for these people.”
Thailand is investigating whether Amnesty International has broken any laws, its prime minister said on Friday, after ultra-royalists called for the human rights group to be expelled for its support of activists facing prosecution. An ultra-royalist group sent a letter to the government on Thursday saying Amnesty’s campaigns to bring an end to criminal charges against protesters calling for reforms of the monarchy had undermined national security. Asked about the royalists’ request at a news conference, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, said: “We are checking whether there are any violations to the law and this involves the police and the interior ministry.”
“If there are wrongdoings, then it (Amnesty’s license) will be revoked,” he added.
Amnesty said in a statement that it has been in Thailand for several decades and will continue to work on preventing, monitoring, and holding states, corporations, and others accountable for human rights abuses under international law. “We will continue to do this independently and impartially on the basis of facts,” said Amnesty, which is among several human rights groups that have been vocal about the Thai government’s prosecution of political activists.
The estimated number of migrants and refugees stranded at the Belarus-Poland border goes up to 2,000 migrants. Considering the worsening winter weather, which is leading to rising deaths due to hypothermia among asylum seekers, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) scaled up aids noting safety concerns. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said on November 26, it has already brought home nearly a thousand migrants and is sending more planes to repatriate about 800 more migrants stranded on the Belarus-Poland border.
The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada have imposed sanctions on Belarus in a joint statement on Thursday. “We remain committed to supporting the democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and stand together to impose costs on the regime – and those who support it – for its efforts to silence the voices of independent civil society, media and all Belarusians seeking to speak the truth about what is happening in their country,” the statement said.
On November 30, Poland’s president signed into law legislation giving the power to the interior minister, who can then limit access to the border zone after consulting with the head of the Border Guard. However, journalists and NGOs may be able to enter at the discretion of local Border Guard heads.
Following his highly publicized hunger strike in a detention center and hospitalization, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili has been in court this week, on trial on charges of abuse of office, which he has denounced as politically motivated. Georgian police have arrested dozens of opposition supporters who rallied outside the court and blockaded streets in support of Saakashvili, who were waving Georgian and European Union flags and chanting his name.
The European Council has adopted a set of decisions establishing four assistance measures under the European Peace Facility (EPF) in support of Georgia and several other countries. This assistance measure will help strengthen the capacities of the Georgian Defence Forces, including their ability to provide their services to civilians in crises or emergency situations. In particular, it will provide non-lethal medical and engineering equipment and civilian-type mobility assets. This measure is worth €12.75 million over a period of 36 months.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said that he will quit his position if the political agreement he signed with the military last week is not implemented or fails to receive backing from political factions. On Wednesday, the PM issued a decree to replace the caretaker deputy ministers that were installed by the military however the decision did not include the finance, federal rule and information ministries. Opponents are still not satisfied with the agreement. Activists say that post-coup agreement favors the military by leaving the army chief in charge of the Sovereign Council. The Sovereign Council was responsible for passing control to the complete civilian control. They say that During the latest protests on Tuesday, thousands of people gathered in the city of Khartoum to protest. People held signs with slogans like, “No partnership, no negotiation, no compromise.” More protests are planned for the month of December on key dates such as the start of the 2018 protests against Bashir. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on Wednesday that 98 people were injured from tear gas and stun grenades during the protests. The doctors said that the tear gas was especially potent with many cases of choking. Police report that 44 people have been arrested for being associated with the protests.
According to the Senior General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the United States and Europe will face an increase of refugees if they do not support the military-led government. Dagalo said that he wanted to send a message to Western countries that they should put aside their suspicions and regard General Burhan and himself as a source of stability in the country.
Hundreds of Ugandan soldiers in armored vehicles crossed the border into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday, witnesses said, as part of a joint operation with Kinshasa. Congo has said special forces from both countries are being deployed to secure bases used by the Islamist-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia. The Ugandan military started its deployments into Congo on Tuesday, having already launched air and artillery strikes against ADF targets from Ugandan territory.
The ADF, an extremist group that operates as a branch of ISIS, has been blamed for the attacks in the Ugandan capital of Kampala last week. The ADF has a long history of opposing current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The DRC has approved Uganda’s offer to investigate and track down ADF affiliates. Working with Congolese troops the military is targeting the areas of North and South Kivu. Journalists in the region state that the Ugandan military has been stepping up its efforts by deploying more men and more ammunition. An aid worker on the border stated that, “This morning, the UPDF (Ugandan armed forces) has been reinforcing its troops with men, ammunition and military trucks”.The heavy mobilization came two days after a Congolese news outlet reported that President Felix Tshisekedi gave Uganda the green light to pursue the ADF on DRC land. Only two days later on Tuesday, the army bombarded the territory with artillery and air raids. Not everyone in the DRC approves of the decision but the ADF is deeply feared in the eastern territories of the country. One civilian told journalists that, “(the)ADF is a vicious organization that killed thousands of people in eastern DRC, after it was properly pushed out of Uganda.”
Due to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Zimbabwe announced that travelers arriving in the country will have a nine-hour curfew and a compulsory 14-day quarantine. Zimbabwe will be the first country to implement such restrictions. Many Zimbabweans living abroad are concerned about the new rules as they plan to travel back to the country for the upcoming holidays. In a televised address on Tuesday, President Mnangagwa said that the government is monitoring the situation and will enhance its COVID-19 measures to protect the country. Health care officials are applauding the President’s decision. Dr. Norman Matara, the head of the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights said that the government has been proactive in keeping the new variant from crossing the border. With the announcement of the new variant, Zimbabweans vaccination numbers are increasing. Over 3.7 million Zimbabweans have received their first dose and 2.7 million are fully vaccinated. Many nations have suspended flights to Southern African countries which the World Health Organization has been quick to criticize.