April 15, 2022
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
In this issue, we cover the latest updates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the removal of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, and protests in Sri Lanka.
As the war in Ukraine has continued, violence against civilians has escalated. As of April 12, the UNHCR was able to confirm 4,450 civilian casualties in Ukraine, including 1,892 killed and 2,558 injured. This is considered to be a substantial underestimate. Russia has been blamed for a missile attack on a Ukrainian train station that killed at least 52 people. On Wednesday, the OSCE released a report documenting evidence that Russia has violated international human rights law.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed in a no-confidence vote on Sunday. That night, Khan supporters, mostly youth, took to the streets in Karachi, Islamabad, and other cities to protest the prime minister’s removal. Khan’s removal came after days of the united opposition force trying to depose him. The opposition accuses Khan’s government of economic mismanagement as Pakistan struggled with high inflation and a plummeting Pakistani rupee. Khan’s relations with the powerful Pakistani military had also been tense. On Wednesday night, Khan announced a plan to continue organizing protests until new elections are held.
Tunisians took to the streets on Sunday, joined by members of parliament to protest “a failed dictatorship that is leading the country to an economic disaster,” according to activist Chaima Issa. Tunisia’s political crisis was heightened last month when President Kais Saied dissolved parliament. At Sunday’s protests, people chanted, “the people want to overthrow the coup.” They were met with a heavy presence of anti-riot police.
In Sri Lanka, protesters occupied the entrance and surroundings of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office on Thursday and celebrated their traditional new year with milk rice and oil cakes. Thursday marked the sixth day that Sri Lankans have been camped out to demand the resignation of the president during the country’s worst economic crisis in memory. In recent months Sri Lankans have experienced fuel and food shortages, as well as daily power outages. Several Cabinet members have quit, but President Rajapaksa and his family members continue to hold power.
Extinction Rebellion’s Just Stop Oil activists in the UK have promised that they will not stop blockading oil terminals until they are jailed. The movement has reported that around 400 people have been arrested a total of 900 times. Government leaders have condemned the protests, citing disturbances and “irresponsible scaremongering.” Scientists have expressed support for the demands of a hunger striker calling for a climate change briefing for all MP’s from the government’s chief scientist, Sir Patrick Vallance. On Wednesday, protesters surrounded the buildings that house the UK headquarters of Shell and glued themselves and several XR flyers to the reception desk and to the floor.
Iran has summoned Afghanistan’s diplomatic envoy after there were attacks on Iran’s diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. Clips have started circulating on social media allegedly showing Afghan refugees being beaten and harassed by Iranian border guards and mobs. Protestors in Afghanistan attacked the Iranian consulate with rocks and broke security cameras in the building. Protestors were also chanting “death to Iran” outside the consulate until dispersed by the Taliban security forces. Iran’s foreign ministry has dismissed these videos as fake and aimed at hurting ties between the two countries.
Hundreds of women working in Iranian cinema have denounced violence against women and called to make perpetrators accountable. In a strongly worded statement, over 200 women working in Iranian cinema condemned sexual violence which they say has become endemic to the country. These women also denounced the financial disparity between men and women and urged the industry to mobilize through bodies like Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds and create committees that would help women who have faced sexual harassment and violence.
The UN atomic watchdog, the IAEA, has attached new cameras at Iran’s centrifuge workshop in Natanz after a request from Tehran. After sabotage at a workshop in Karaj, which the country blames on Israel, Iran decided to move work to a plant at the Natanz site. However, Iran says that all footage will be held by them and not given to the IAEA until Iran is able to revive its nuclear deal with the West.
According to regional intelligence services and Iraqi militias, Russia is receiving military hardware smuggled from Iraq. Anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers, and RPGs have been dispatched to Russia over the past month. A source in one of the most powerful Shia militias, Hashd al-Shaabi, said that they don’t care where these weapons go as long as they end up in anti-US hands. These smuggled weapons could provide a significant amount of aid on the ground to Russia.
There have been recent improvements in relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. After critical comments were made by Lebanese politicians last October about the handling of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen, relations between the two countries have been cold. However, recently, Saudi Arabia has returned their ambassadors to Beirut. In addition, Saudi Arabia has said that they will be providing humanitarian assistance for Lebanon which is currently going through a financial crisis. The kingdom once invested billions of dollars in Lebanon but has now banned Lebanese exports all together. Now, they are slowly lifting measures, and developments look positive according to senior officials.
Lebanon’s cabinet approved the demolition of grain silos damaged in the 2020 port blast, based on a report that concluded that the silos would be liable to collapse soon. Families of victims want these silos to stay in place as a memorial until a probe into the explosion can conclude. The Lebanese government says that a separate memorial has been planned.
April 6th marked three years since the fall of dictator al-Bashir. Civilians commemorated the day by taking to the streets in massive numbers to protest the October 2021 military coup. The ongoing protests have received criticism for not compromising with the government however the resistance responds largely the way 22 year old medical student Sajida al-Mubarak did: say “no” to the military: “No to partnership and no to recognition of the army.” She says “We will tell the army that they should go back to their barracks and leave politics to civilians.”
The Cuban government has not been accepting deportations of Cuban nationals from the US for more than 6 months. According to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at least 46,000 Cubans have arrived to the US asking for asylum since October 1st, 2021, numbers similar to the 80s Mariel crisis. The Cuban government has argued that the US is to blame for the migrant surge since they “encourage illegal and irregular” migration, not fulfilling the promise to issue 20,000 annual immigrant visas to Cubans and suspending consular services in Havana since 2017.
Pacific Gas and Electric has agreed to pay a $55 million settlement over two massive wildfires in California that were sparked by the company’s faulty utility equipment. The 2019 Kincade Fire burned more than 77,000 acres in Sonoma County and destroyed nearly 400 homes. The 2021 Dixie Fire charred close to a million acres, making it California’s second-largest wildfire in history. That fire burned for more than three months, claimed one life and destroyed more than 1,300 homes. On Tuesday, a man set off smoke grenades and fired a handgun on a crowded New York City subway train, wounding passengers and setting off a panic during the morning rush hour. Overall, 29 people were hospitalized in connection with the shooting with injuries that included gunshot wounds, smoke inhalation or from falling while trying to escape. Frank James was arrested on suspicion of being the gunman and was charged in federal court with violating a law that prohibits terrorist and other violent attacks against a mass transportation system. If convicted, he could spend life in prison.
Anonymous twitter users, using the hashtag #thegreattranslationmovement, are exposing extreme nationalism and pro-Russian feelings in China. Scores of screen-grabbed posts from China’s most popular social media platforms have been translated and shared to twitter, attracting thousands of followers and criticism from China’s state-run media.
On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated that China would reject “any pressure or coercion” over its relationship with Russia, in response to a call from U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for Beijing to use its “special relationship with Russia” to persuade Moscow to end the war in Ukraine. On Wednesday, Secretary Yellen stated that “the world’s attitude towards China and its willingness to embrace further economic integration may well be affected by China’s reaction to our call for resolute action on Russia.” Zhao also stated “We oppose unfounded accusations and suspicions against China, nor will we accept any pressure or coercion.”
John Lee is set to be appointed as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive following a rubber-stamped election next month. Lee is Beijing’s top choice, having spent decades in the police force before joining politics. Under Lee, Hong Kong’s police force became despised in 2019 after protests in Hong Kong led to police using violent tactics against protestors. With Lee’s track record, the backing of China is a clear indication of how Hong Kong will be governed going forward.
On Monday, Indonesian students took to the streets in South Sulawesi, West Java, and Jakarta to protest rising food and fuel prices, as well as a possible shift in elections that could prolong President Joko Widodo’s term in office. Though President Widodo has denied that there are plans to prolong his second term, many remain unconvinced and accuse him of not taking a stronger stance against the idea. Indonesian police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters, and there are reports that rocks were thrown after nonstudent demonstrators joined the protests.
On Tuesday, Indonesia’s parliament passed a sexual violence bill that has been in the works for a decade. The bill combats sex crimes and provides a legal framework for victims of sex crimes, including marital rape. Women’s rights activists have been advocating for this bill for ten years, but progress has been hampered by some Islamic groups and conservative lawmakers who worried that it would promote promiscuity or wanted it to criminalize extramarital sex and LGBT relationships.
Myanmar’s military junta carried out air strikes on Sunday against ethnic rebels in Karen state in an effort to take control of the town Lay Kay Kaw near the Thai border. Many of the town’s residents had already fled fighting from areas around the town in December. Lay Kay Kaw has been under the control of the Karen National Union (KNU), which is Myanmar’s oldest ethnic rebel group.
The military junta have been burning villages in the formerly peaceful central heartland of Myanmar in an effort to suppress opposition to the February 2021 coup. Since the start of this year, more than 5,500 civilian buildings have been burned down by troops. Arson by the military has led to large-scale displacements, as well as disrupting sowing and harvesting. Satellite images are strong evidence that the junta is using arson to curb resistance in the central Sagaing region, where there is reportedly armed opposition to the junta.
The house of Angkhana Neelapaijit, a prominent human rights defender, was attacked in Bangkok on Tuesday. A pair of 9-inch-long scissors was thrown through Angkhana’s door by an unidentified assailant. Angkhana felt vulnerable after the Justice Ministry canceled her protection under the witness protection program following the completion of the investigation into her husband’s enforced disappearance. The acting Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Elaine Peasrson, urged the Thai government to undertake a serious investigation and noted that the attack sends “a spine-chilling message to the entire Thai human rights community.”
The U.S. commerce department has identified seven Boeing 737 planes that are violating U.S. export controls. The planes operated by Belarus’ national carrier have reportedly flown into Russia or Belarus which violated the Export Administration Regulations. The export controls stops any company from providing any refueling, maintenance, repair, spare parts, or other services to identified planes. Deputy Commerce Secretary said “by rejecting the international rule of law, Russia and Belarus have made it clear that they do not deserve the benefits of participating in the global economy, and that includes international travel.”
After a meeting with Georgian foreign minister Ilia Darchiashvili, Czechia has publicly expressed support for Georgia’s bid to join the European Union. The foreign minister of Czechia went so far as to say that during his nation’s presidency of the EU they would take steps to “help Georgia.”