September 23, 2022
CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!
In this issue, we cover the historic protests in Iran erupting against the regime’s treatment of women and much more.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sparked international concern this week by repeating threats of nuclear confrontation in his war against Ukraine. Putin, who invaded Ukraine this February in what he termed a “special military operation,” has called for a partial mobilization of Russian citizens against Ukrainian forces. His government has also scheduled referendums Friday on Russian citizenship for regions of Ukraine annexed or occupied by Russian forces. “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened,” said the Russian president, “we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.” Referring to his intentions to deploy nuclear weapons, Putin added: “This is not a bluff.”
The death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini has sparked the biggest protests in Iran since water shortages last year. While visiting Tehran, she was arrested by morality police for improperly wearing her hijab. After her death in the morality police’s custody, people took to the streets to protest the strict hijab laws and crackdown on women. Protests also challenge the unaccountable morality police and government regime. Protests have intensified over the past few days, mostly in Tehran and the Kurdistan region. As of Tuesday, seven have died in clashes with security forces. Women have been at the forefront of these protests, waving or burning their hijabs and cutting their hair. Meanwhile, even some Ayatollahs have called the morality police “illegal and un-Islamic,” as their purpose should not be vigilante repression.
The UN called on the Taliban to reopen year 7-12 schools to girls after calling the current situation “tragic, shameful, and entirely avoidable.” Afghan girls have been excluded from education for over a year now, and the UN worries that these restrictions on freedoms will increase poverty, isolation, and insecurity. UN Chief António Guterres addressed the UN General Assembly, asking the Taliban to “lift all restrictions on girls’ access to secondary education immediately.”
Since August, a string of people in Lebanon have stormed banks to access their savings. Last week, a woman stormed a bank with a handgun and gasoline, demanding her own savings account balance in order to pay for her sister’s cancer treatments. Last Friday, eight banks were held up by people demanding their savings account deposits. This week, banks will close for three days as a precaution. Some of these despoistors are supported by the activist group Depositors’ Outcry. Protesters in Lebanon had a scuffle with security forces outside the Justice Ministry in Beirut demanding the release of two detainees who were involved in a bank heist last week.
This week the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a report outlining the dire situation in Sudan where humanitarian needs for refugees have not been met. For the immense amount of displaced people in Sudan, 1.1 million refugees – mostly from South Sudan – and 3.7 million internally displaced Sudanese, living costs have skyrocketed and the war in Ukraine has led to steep price increases and shortages. COVID-19 cases and extreme weather have only worsened the situation. The UNHCR reported it had received just one-third of the US$348.9 million needed this year to provide life-saving assistance and protection. This has led to the cancellation of around two-thirds of humanitarian response plans and existing vital programmes will need to be limited or cut. Therefore, the UNHCR is requesting additional emergency funding from the international community to provide these programs by humanitarian organizations in Sudan, to support refugees, internally displaced people, and their host communities.
Uganda has confirmed seven Ebola cases, including one death, while seven more deaths are being investigated as suspected cases as well. As this new wave of Ebola is the Sudan strain, it is unknown if the vaccines effective against the previous Zaire strain will work against this strain. The UN has dispatched supplies to support the care of the patients as well as a specialized tent for the isolation of patients.
A measles outbreak since April has killed 700 children in Zimbabwe due to a low vaccination rate. Vaccines are taboo among Zimbabweans, who are religiously skeptical of modern medicine. Vaccination can lead to exclusion from religious life due to perceived “unholiness.” In response to the outbreak, the Apostiolic Women’s Empowerment Trust has been encouraging mothers to get their children vaccinated in secret, such as at night.
Chinese investors have signed a deal to build a $2.8 billion battery metals industrial park, producing solar batteries from lithium, platinum, and nickel. President Mnangagwa hopes the project will help in Zimbabwe’s national industrialization agenda to benefit from minerals and add value in the production process beyond raw resources. This will revolutionize the mining and energy sector in Zimbabwe. However, projects like these rarely benefit ordinary Zimbabweans. The Centre for Natural Resource Governance worries that the project will only open Zimbabwe’s natural resources up for Chinese exploitation instead of involving Zimbabweans in the lucrative project. US sanctions on Zimbabwean individuals and entities have existed since 2003, specifically targeting corruption and human rights abusers. These sanctions are used as a scapegoat by the elite, who claim they are a general ban on investment and trade. As the 2023 elections approach, a decaying situation has imprisoned political opposition and allowed a small elite to continue to enrich themselves.
After spending 16 days besieged in the Episcopal See, Monseñor Rolando Álvarez was removed by the police for allegedly inciting hatred and violence to destabilize the Nicaraguan state. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights calls this a kidnapping, as Álvarez had become the visible face of the confrontation between the Catholic Church and Nicaraguan regime. Meanwhile, the National Police prevented the celebration of the Catholic feast of San Jerónimo in Masaya, where the largest and longest celebration is. Hundreds of riot police surrounded the parish. Clerics insist that they will respect the police orders, as 8 clerics have been imprisoned this year in Nicaragua.
The government is urging citizens to vote yes in this weekend’s vote that would legalize same-sex marriage and adoption and improve women’s rights. The state-run media has aggressively promoted a yes vote, but Cubans might use the vote as a way to punish the government due to extreme outrage about the economic situation. Some worry that the government’s media campaign has politicized the law. The new “family code” was discussed in highly-public grass-roots meetings involving more than 50% of the country’s residents. Many ordinary Cubans welcome the change while Christian groups have been the most organized opposition.
Continuing the saga of Donald Trump’s legal woes, the former U.S. president (and three of his adult children) have been sued by the State of New York for allegedly inflating wealth claims by millions of dollars and engaging in bank and wire fraud over the course of a decade. This lawsuit, which is set to include criminal referrals to the Internal Revenue Services, is separate from the ongoing Department of Justice probe into Trump’s storage of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Joe Biden used his first speech at the United Nations this week to chastise Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Twenty-seven people died when a bus travelling to a Covid-19 quarantine facility crashed on Sunday. The bus was carrying 47 people away from Guiyang, in Guizhou, to a facility 249 kilometres away. The crash trended on Chinese social media platforms before discussion was quickly suppressed, and the topic disappeared. Local officials find themselves under growing pressure to control Covid outbreaks ahead of the important Party Congress in October in spite of growing anger against Beijing’s zero-Covid policy.
After years of persecution in China and failure to receive asylum in South Korea, a group of 57 Chinese Christians arrived in Thailand to apply for refugee status through the UN’s Refugee Agency. The members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church have experienced harassment from their local authorities since its founding, especially as Beijing tightens its control over religious communities.
Ronson Chan, the chairman of Hong Kong’s leading journalist group, was charged with obstructing police officers. In a further degradation of media freedoms in the city, Chan was detained on September 7th as he requested plainclothes police officers to identify themselves before handing over his documents. Chan will appear in court on Thursday, but maintains he was within his rights by asking the officers to identify themselves. His Hong Kong Journalists Association is under pressure to disband from pro-Beijing media who accuse it of being anti-China and influenced by overseas actors. Advocacy group Reporters without Borders called on the government to drop all of Chan’s charges.
The UN’s human rights office told its member states they should do more to prevent the military junta in Myanmar from obtaining weapons. Since last year’s coup, the military has been fighting a pro-democracy resistance whilst arresting thousands of dissidents. The UN accuses the junta of crimes against humanity and mass killings, and its human rights office urgently recommended UN members to impose bans on arms sales and to financially isolate the regime. Recently, government helicopters struck a school killing at least thirteen people, including seven children.
Following last week’s report on protests against high energy prices in Indonesia, energy minister Arifin Tasrif said the Indonesian government was prepared to buy cheap Russian oil. He said there was high demand for Russian crude oil as it is sold significantly below international prices. However, any moves to purchase Russian oil would likely mean U.S. sanctions, which Arifin noted would be a concern. As of yet, none of this oil has been purchased as it is “not yet available”.
On Tuesday, the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee Delegation visited Georgia to discuss the bilateral cooperation agenda between Georgia and the EU and Georgia’s fulfilling of the European Commission’s recommendations. The Committee not only met with the incumbent Georgian Dream party, but with the opposition as well, to discover its involvement in fulfilling the recommendations. Members of Parliament have expressed their support in the political parties cooperating to fulfill the requirements, as they are bigger than any separate party.