September 2, 2022
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
In this issue, we cover the continued fight in Ukraine, nuclear negotiations in Iran, strikes in Lebanon, and the arrest of prominent religious figures in Nicaragua.
United Nations nuclear inspectors visited Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station on Thursday after continued shelling near the Russian-occupied plant generated global anxiety about a possible radiological disaster. Rafael Grossi, who leads the International Atomic Energy Agency, remarked that the “physical integrity” of Europe’s largest nuclear plant had been severely compromised, despite no current evidence of an increase of radiation in surrounding areas. But the prospect of a nuclear meltdown has prompted the European Union to distribute “more than five million anti-radiation tablets” to communities near Zaporizhzhia as a precautionary measure. According to the New York Times, five U.N. inspectors will remain at the power plant until Saturday for continued observation.
The Aid Chief of the United Nations Martin Griffiths has told the UN Security Council to restart some support for Afghanistan due to the dire humanitarian situation there. According to Griffiths, half of the 39 million people could experience famine, with fatal malnutrition affecting more than one million children. Meanwhile, the UN has been trying to start a new aid programme to bypass Taliban leaders.
As nuclear negotiations continue, diplomat Hossein Amirabdollahian says that Tehran needs stronger guarantees from Washington that future presidential administrations will not abandon the deal. Meanwhile, Iran has introduced upgrades to its uranium enrichment programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on 28 August that Iran had started using advanced machinery to enrich uranium beyond the 3.67% purity cap that the deal would enforce.
According to a Tweet by Muqtada as-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist movement, he will retire from political life. He also asked all parties, including his own, to give up their government positions in order to start resolving the ongoing political crisis. Last week he requested that his followers disperse from occupying government buildings, but after announcing his retirement, 23 of his followers were killed in violent clashes with security forces and Iran-backed militias on 29 and 30 August. In addition to the deaths, 700 people were wounded.
As the public sector in Lebanon continues to fall victim to strikes due to the economic situation, employees at Lebanon’s state telecom company Ogero have gone on strike. This has resulted in internet shutdowns across the country, which is exacerbating electricity shutdowns due to the lack of fuel.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council renewed the presence of UN peacekeepers in Lebanon for another year. The 10 000 soldiers are deployed as a southern buffer between Israel and Lebanon. The UN hopes that these forces can help the Lebanese forces while the public sector grinds to a halt.
More than a quarter-million people have been affected by destructive floods that have wrecked homes and killed over 100 civilians throughout Sudan. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the floods, initiated by extreme rainfall, have reached over 80% of Sudanese provinces. Al Jazeera reports that some 15,000 homes nationwide have been levelled by the floodwaters.
The Cuban government has quietly released from prison a Cuban-American teacher who was convicted of espionage in 2017, accused of passing Cuba’s secrets to the FBI and the CIA in exchange for helping to get her husband out of the country. While she cannot leave the country until 2030, a military court released Alina López Miyares on the basis of good conduct, her chronic high blood pressure, and the “elemental principles of humanism.” Some believe this unusual gesture is a sign of willingness to remove diplomatic barriers that are halting the country’s relationship with the USA.
With the continuation of arrests of prominent religious figures in Nicaragua, the nation faces economic alienation on account of Daniel Ortega’s power grabs. Senior US Officials in the Biden administration have expressed that the White House is considering halting Nicaraguan Imports to the US. With bipartisan support for these proposals, the ultimate decision to enact such an idea would be swift with damning effects on the Ortega regime, which oppressively rules over the impoverished nation.
The Biden administration has requested that Congress authorize a $1.1 billion sale of weapons and defense systems to Taiwan. The White House has asked for at least $90 million to deliver guided missiles previously sold by the U.S. to the embattled East Asian islands. On Tuesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official called on the United States to abandon its arming of Taiwan, as American support for its sovereignty and the recent diplomatic visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the region have exacerbated international tensions. The appearance last Sunday of American naval warships in the Taiwan Strait, which the U.S. Navy called a “routine” event, led China to announce its preparedness to “thwart any provocation.”
A long-awaited UN report into allegations of abuse in China’s Xinjiang province was released on Wednesday. It assesses claims of abuse towards the Uyghur Muslim minority among others in Xinjiang. The UN report found evidence of torture, ill-treatment and incidents of sexual and gender-based violence since 2017. The Chinese state immediately rejected the findings, with the Foreign Ministry saying the “so-called suggestions were pieced together based on disinformation to serve political objectives”. Beijing called it a “farce” arranged by Western countries. The World Uyghur Congress welcomed the report and urged a swift international response.
Hong Kong’s leader John Lee cancelled a visit to mainland China. Due to rising COVID-19 cases, both in Hong Kong and mainland China, Lee will instead discuss the planned subject of border crossings online instead of in person. The financial hub is struggling to come out of its nearly three years of economically devastating isolation, going from a global hub for connectivity to a recession for the second time in three years. Lee took office after a Beijing-managed “patriots-only” election in May following recent protests advocating for democracy. Hong Kong is struggling to keep its position as a hub for business and travel whilst rebuilding relations with mainland China.
A former UK ambassador to Myanmar and her dissident husband were arrested on Wednesday by Myanmar’s military regime. Vicky Bowman was ambassador between 2002 and 2006, and her husband Htein Lin is an artist and former political prisoner. Both were charged with violating the Immigration Act and could face prison sentences between six months and five years. Bowman is the director of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, an NGO that advises on anti-corruption among other practices. The UK unveiled sanctions against military-linked companies after last year’s coup and its current ambassador to Myanmar, Pete Vowles, was expelled from the country last month.
The recruitment practices for Indonesian migrant workers in the UK is being scrutinised by an Indonesian presidential task force. Indonesian fruit pickers on farms that supply large UK supermarket chains have stated that they took on debts of up to £5,000 to work in the UK. Unlicensed brokers in Bali have taken these illegal recruitment fees from workers to secure work for a single season in the UK. One worker spoke to The Guardian in its investigation, and said he staked his family home in Bali as surety on the debt and “feared losing it”. Experts on migrant rights said the potential for debt bondage put workers at risk of forced labour.
While Belarus does not have any nuclear weapons, President Alexander Lukashenko said that his country’s SU-24 warplanes had been modified, with Russia’s assistance, to carry nuclear weapons and that Minsk would react immediately should the West cause it any problems.