December 17, 2021
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
In this issue, we cover the latest updates on US-China relations, anti-coup protests in Myanmar, updates on the civil war in Ethiopia, and more.
In Ethiopia, while the civil war rages on, investigations have shown that the Amhara security forces committed multiple human rights violations. These include mass detentions, killings, and forced expulsions of Tigrayans in the Western Tigray region. Tigrayan Ethiopians have faced life-threatening torture and starvation at the government’s hands. The United Nations announced that 1.2 million have been displaced since the conflict began in Tigray in November of 2020. Between the 25th of November and the 1st of December this year, 10,000 Tigrayans were displaced. One witness paints a horrifying picture of the displacements, where “Tigrayans […] were taken to a school […] they separated the old from the young, took their money and other possessions. Older people, parents were loaded on big trucks east. They let them go with nothing, while the young remained behind.” Eyewitnesses have also reported 20 trucks of people being sent away in late November of this year.
In the area surrounding Lake Chad in Cameroon, droughts have caused severe water loss. The UN reports that the surface of the lake has reduced by 95%. Apparently, this water loss has caused conflicts between farmers and herders over how to use the scarce resources. One eyewitness reported that his property has been burnt down during a farmer-herder clash. Water scarcity in the Far northern Cameroon has been worsening. Reportedly, the Mousgoum community dug a reservoir to water farms and fish, but Arab herders wanted it destroyed, and called it a livestock deathtrap. Fighting has ensued, and seems to be continuing currently.
On Tuesday during the Riydh summit, Gulf Arab countries made an agreement to encourage international aid to Afghanistan and help improve their economy. In response to the ongoing economic crisis and spreading famine in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia has sent two aircraft carrying humanitarian aid. The shipments contained 65 tonnes of equipment and aid materials. A Saudi spokesman announced that they plan to send four more aid planes to deliver 197 tonnes of humanitarian aid in total to Afghanistan. This will be coupled with 200 aid trucks being sent in from Pakistan.
Following news from last week which barred the Taliban from representing Afghanistan in the United Nations Council, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UN has resigned. Ghulam Isaaczai was put in power by President Ghani, who lost power to the Taliban in August. Isaaczai has been quoted to say that “there [was] no government in Afghanistan for him to represent at the UN.”
Iran has reported that good progress is being made in the recent Nuclear talks. Western powers have warned that time is running out. The Israeli government has been pressuring the white house to be more aggressive towards Iranian nuclear capabilities. Naftali Bennett, leader of Israel, has launched a series of public speeches and statements to disparage Iran and highlight the fear of Iranian normalization among world powers. Bennett has sent envoys to Washington, including the defense minister and a Mossad intelligence chief, and discussed the matter directly with President Biden. Israel has a vested interest in the capping of Iran’s nuclear powers, and suggests that the 2015 deal was too light, and that nuclear capabilities should be dismantled.
Reportedly, they also want to target Iranian missile capability and support for proxy groups. Israeli diplomacy has been accompanied by the IDF chief’s announcement of “accelerating” plans to target Iran’s nuclear program, threatening operations that “haven’t been seen in the past.” The Israeli air force is also resuming practices for a strike on Iran’s nuclear program, and new attack methods have been drawn up. Funding for a significant portion of a concrete border wall has also been secured. In response, Iranian news Tehran Times published a map of Israel covered with markers stating “Just One Wrong Move!” The article also stated that “An intensification of the Israeli military threats against Iran seems to suggest that the Zionist regime has forgotten that Iran is more than capable of hitting them from anywhere.”
In Iraq, the central government and autonomous Kurdish zone have forged a security partnership to combat the Islamic State presence in the region. Although the central government announced that the Islamic State had been defeated in the region in 2017, the power vacuum between the Kurdish autonomous zone and the government left wide swaths of land disputed, with no presence of the Kurds or government forces. These provinces have been much more privy to IS attacks in recent weeks, targeting largely Kurdish residents. In December alone, three IS attacks occurred in one village in the disputed territory alone. Without any government or police presence, a town of 65 families is now reported by civilians to only have 12, with citizens leaving to avoid violence. In order to police against IS, the central government and the Kurdish autonomous peshmerga soldiers will set up joint coordination centers around these zones. Before this, Peshmerga and Iraqi soldiers were wary of entering the area even if IS attacks occured due to the nature of the disputed zone. Now, six joint-coordination zones will be established throughout the country.
With climate conditions worsening, it is estimated that half of the Iraqi families living in drought-affected areas are in need of food assistance. Many have lost crops and livestock to drought and disease. In the seven governorates polled, the average monthly income has dropped below the survival threshold in six of them. In another climate catastrophe, flash floods in northern Iraq have been reported to have killed at least eight people. The floods were strongest in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region. Although such floods are common, rarely is there such a high death toll.
Three Palestinians were shot dead in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon. The shooting took place in the Burj al-Shemali camp, during a funeral for a member of Hamas, who was killed by an explosion— allegedly, caused by a short-circuit— in another Palestinian camp in the Lebanese port city of Tyre. A statement issued by Hamas claims that the shooting was carried out by the Palestinian Authority, with whom Hamas maintains a rivalry since 2007, after a civil war in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashrag Dabour, has rejected Hamas’ allegations. According to Dabour, investigations by the Lebanese authorities have yet to pinpoint a suspect.
The Lebanese Interior Minister has ordered the deportation of members of the Bahraini opposition group Al-Wefaq. Al-Wefaq, a Shia group, has been outlawed in Bahrain since 2016, with the Bahraini Justice Ministry accusing it of undermining the state, spreading sectarianism, and having connections with “terrorist activites.” The decision to deport Al-Wefaq came after the group hosted a news conference which was decried by Bahrain, who then accused Lebanon of hosting “hostile units” and “sponsoring terrorism.” Al-Wefaq’s deportation comes amidst Lebanon’s ongoing diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia and its allies: Bahrain, Kuwait, and the UAE.
The Sudanese army has been mobilized to sit along the border with Ethiopia. It was on December 1st the military told news sources that they took control of an Ethiopian settlement in the al-Fashaga area. This area is a disputed territory between Sudan and Ethiopia. Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan told reporters, (that Sudan) “would not cede an inch of territory to Ethiopia”.
Human Rights Watch has made a statement about their concern regarding the increase of violence in the Darfur region. An increase of attacks aimed specifically at civilians has been steadily increasing since mid-November. Human Rights Watch believes this shows why the UN needs to increase its scrutiny in the region.
The weekend, starting December 17th will be the third anniversary of the protests that removed dictator Omar al-Bashir. A protest planned for December 19th organized by neighborhood resistance committees, the main source of activism in the streets, will be one of the biggest protests yet. Since the initial protests following the military coup, activists have remained committed to voicing their discontent. Across the country, people have been insisting the reinstatement of the civilian lead government with no power-sharing agreement with the military.
Ugandan political opposition leader Bobi Wine is under house arrest. Ahead of a planned campaign rally, Wine took to Twitter to share that police and military officers had surrounded his home in Magere, a city north of the capital Kampala. He said, “The military has increased deployment around my home. No one is allowed to leave or enter.” The location of Wine’s planned campaign was located close to the district where current President Museveni is planning to hold a rally. Last January, Wine was runner up to Museveni in a tight election where the vote was held during an internet blackout. Uganda continues to have troops operating in the DRC. Starting this month, both countries launched a joint operation to target the ADF. The ADF is a branch of ISIS operating in the Eastern territories of the DRC and the border with Uganda. At least 1,700 Uganda soldiers have crossed into the DRC. Uganda’s Defense Ministry said that the soldiers will remain there as long as they are needed to defeat the ADF.
Zimbabwe will introduce a new $50 USD tax on imported smartphones. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube says that the tax will serve as an enforcement mechanism. Minister Ncube has previously slapped taxes on products such as energy drinks and dairy imports. The rationale behind the move is to broaden government revenues. Critics of the enforcement state that this tax will slow down technological development in Zimbabwe. Mobile internet has been the driving force to boosting Zimbabwe’s internet and has been especially helpful during the pandemic. Important sectors like banking and education were able to stabilize and not fully collapse during the pandemic due to internet banking. Many students are voicing this dissatisfaction with the new law since it will affect how many students choose to communicate. One student took to Twitter to write, “Zimbabwe just added another hindrance to access the internet on top of expensive data and poor network coverage.” Now with the new implementation state-owned mobile company NetOne has been designated as collection agents for the new tax.
The Potosi Civic Committee (Comcipo) held a large demonstration this Friday to protest the imprisonment of former civic leader Marco Pumari. The main demonstration, led by Comcipo leader Roxana Graz, took place in the Villa Imperial de Potosi. Protestors’ demands include an end to political persecution, the renewal of judicial, fiscal, and electoral authorities, and a new Electoral Register. Senior government members like former president Carlos Mesa and the governor of Santa Cruz Luis Fernando Camacho have denounced the protests, complaining that they were prevented from attending meetings in Potosi because protestors had blockaded the Sucre-Potosi highway in Betanzos.
A letter was signed by 114 Democratic House members on Thursday urging President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that make it more difficult to send remittances and goods to Cuba, including food and medicine.
In an incident, Cuban Journalist Mabel Páez was attacked on Tuesday, to what she believes to be a deliberate assault in retaliation for reporting on protests against Cuba’s communist government. She explains the attack as brief but violent, showing cuts and bruising to her face, arms and body after the attack by two masked men, who broke into her home Tuesday.
Taiwan has given Nicaragua until December 23rd to withdraw their diplomats from their embassy. Nicaragua announced it would be ending its relationship with Taiwan on December 9th and instead following China’s, “One China” policy. Based on the theory of reciprocity the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered the Nicaraguan embassy that they needed to leave the country. Beijing welcomed the news that Nicaragua would be cutting its ties with Taiwan. Nicaragua’s relationship with Taiwan goes back to their collective push to resist communism during the Cold War. Taiwan was a major trade partner with Nicaragua but now Nicaragua will open its market to collaborate with China. As an effort to show their budding diplomatic friendship, Beijing delivered one million COVID vaccines to Nicaragua. Nicaraguan media captured images of Air China landing and subsequently delivering 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.
On Friday, more than 240 pro-migrant organizations urged President Joe Biden to terminate two border policies that block or reduce access to asylum in the United States, called the policies “illegal” saying how they violate U.S. law and international treaty obligations. Biden had promised to roll back the hardline immigration legacy of his Republican predecessor former President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, the United States Congress approved a $777.7bn defence budget in an 89-10 vote in the Senate, a five percent increase from last year. progressive legislators and advocacy groups are questioning the budget’s enormous price tag and its relation to the US-China tensions. The Biden administration also insured trade sanctions on several Chinese companies and institutions, citing national security and China’s oppression of its largely Muslim Uighur minority population. on Thursday the US Commerce Department said that it was blacklisting a number of Chinese technology companies, accusing the government in Beijing of advancing high-tech surveillance on the Uighurs.
Yet another incident shows how China’s #MeToo victims face abuse. A former employee of Alibaba said the Human resources and upper management wouldn’t deal with her accusation of sexual assault and so she went public with her plight. Now she’s facing online harassment, was fired from the company, accusations of lying from the wives of the two men she accused and a defamation lawsuit from a Alibaba vice president who was forced to resign.
The United States imposed sweeping human rights-related sanctions on Friday against Chinese individuals and entities, adding individuals and entities tied to Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh. China in response has warned the United States it would “strike back” to any “reckless” actions, urging Washington to withdraw its recent passing of sanctions targeting people and entities tied to human rights abuses committed by Beijing.
Authorities in Hong Kong on Thursday charged two people for inciting others to cast blank votes in an election that critics call unfair, given that only candidates approved by a Beijing-backed committee may stand. The city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption charged the pair under the Elections Corrupt and Illegal Conduct Ordinance in Hong Kong’s recently amended electoral law. “[The law] stipulates that ‘activity in public’ includes any form of communication to the public and the distribution or dissemination of any matter to the public,” the ICAC said in a statement. Arrest warrants are also out for the arrest of former pro-democracy district councillor Yau Man-chun and former opposition lawmaker Ted Hui, both of whom have fled the city, also for inciting others to boycott Sunday’s elections to the Legislative Council.
Eight Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have now officially been sentenced to up to 14 months in prison for organizing, taking part in, and inciting participation in a banned vigil last year commemorating the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
This week, the Coalition of Students Against Corruption (Kampak) held a demonstration in front of the Indonesian Constitutional Court. They demanded an investigation into the construction of an airport in North Sumatra and the revitalization of a harbor in Riau. The coordinator of the protest, Putra Nainggolan, stated that the projects were not being carried out according to the law. For example, the owner of the company hired for the airport project had been imprisoned for corruption at the end of 2017, and the company outsourced for the harbor project is possibly on a black list.
Victims of the Mount Semeru eruption earlier this month are currently seeking relocation. Rescuers are still searching for casualties of the eruption, which left 34 dead and dozens injured. Current conditions around the mountain are highly dangerous due to the polluted air and recent smaller eruptions. Yet, many locals are going back to their homes to salvage their belongings and livestock. According to the National Research and Innovation Agency, about 2,400 hectares of land was damaged by the eruption, and 2,000 houses were destroyed. There are currently 6,000 evacuees who are seeking shelter in village halls, schools, and other venues.
It’s been reported that at least 5 people were killed and many others wounded after Myanmar security forces rammed a car into an anti-coup protest in Yangon, witnesses and local media reported. The protest last Sunday was one of at least three held in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, and similar rallies were reported in other parts of the country. They come a day ahead of an expected verdict in the first of several criminal cases against the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained during the coup. Photos and videos circulating on social media appeared to show a military vehicle that accelerated down the street, crashing through the protesters and sending people scattering.
The United Nations in Myanmar has condemned the incident, issuing a statement slamming the “attack on a number of unarmed civilians in Kyimyindaing Township, Yangon, in which a vehicle belonging to security forces rammed into protesters who were then fired upon with live ammunition leading to deaths and injuries to numerous people.” The US Embassy also reacted, saying it was “horrified by reports that security forces opened fire against, ran over, and killed several peaceful protesters this morning in Yangon. We support the right of the people of Burma to protest peacefully”.
The Human Rights Watch and the Thai Transgender Alliance have released a report detailing how transgender people in Thailand have no route to legal recognition of their gender identity, making them vulnerable to various forms of discrimination. The 60-page report, “‘People Can’t Be Fit Into Boxes’: Thailand’s Need for Legal Gender Recognition,” found that the absence of legal gender recognition, coupled with insufficient legal protections and pervasive social stigma, limits transgender people’s access to vital services, and exposes them to daily indignities like lack of access to education, health care, and employment.
Chana Rak Thin group protesters, who had been camping near the Government House in a 10-day protest against the Chana industrial park project in Songkhla, have ended their protest after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government agreed to halt the project and conduct a strategic environment assessment (SEA). Prime Minister’s Office Minister Anucha Nakasai said Gen Prayut had appointed Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow to head the committee inspecting the project and ordered agencies to conduct the SEA study transparently and with the participation of academics, experts, and local people.
A Belarusian opposition leader Sergei Tikhanovsky who rallied mass protests against disputed leader Alexander Lukashenko has been jailed for 18 years. Tikhanovsky had planned to challenge Mr Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election but was detained before the vote. Now he is convicted of organising riots among other charges following a trial. His wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, questioned the validity of the court, the trial is being condemned as a sham.
The EBU called for all journalists detained in Belarus, which includes three journalists who work for Belsat, the Belarusian station owned by Polish broadcaster TVP, to be released. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, 31 journalists are currently in prison or police detention in Belarus. Many are being subjected to excessive pre-trial detentions on charges they strongly deny. Others have received long jail sentences.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili needs specialist treatment abroad, a doctor said last Sunday, following the former leader’s 50-day hunger strike in prison, Russian TASS news agency reported. Saakashvili agreed to end the hunger strike on Nov. 20, finishing a powerful political protest against his imprisonment. “He now mostly needs a special rehabilitation, which we call neurorehabilitation and psycho-neurorehabilitation, which we could not find in Georgia”. Georgia’s human rights commissioner in November said Saakashvili needed to be moved to intensive care to avoid the risk of heart failure, internal bleeding, and a coma.