CANVAS Weekly Update – February 24th, 2023


February 24, 2023

Dear Friends,

CANVAS is delighted to bring you another issue of our weekly report!

Conflict Update:

This Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainians paid tribute to their fallen loved ones and President Zelenskyy proclaimed, “we endured, we were not defeated.” Russia said its forces are making gains in battle in the east as its invasion entered a second year with no end in sight. The international community responded when the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly adopted a resolution marking the war’s first anniversary, demanding that Moscow stop the fighting and withdraw its troops.

This week, President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Biden said the United States would stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and praised their “heroic” fighting. In a speech, Biden unveiled a new package of additional US weapons supplies worth $500 million. The trip represents the West’s continued commitment and solidarity with Ukraine.

Nearly 100,000 Israelis continued to protest against a controversial judicial reform bill ahead of the legislation’s first reading in the Knesset, blocking major roads across the country and preventing some politicians from leaving their homes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the protestors of “trampling democracy” and accused the movement’s leadership of “threatening us with civil war and blood in the streets.”

Palestinian health officials say Israeli troops have killed at least 11 Palestinians and wounded dozens more during a raid in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military confirmed the operation in Nablus, saying troops shot back after coming under fire while trying to detain militants suspected of planning imminent attacks. The Israeli military said Palestinian militants fired six rockets from the Gaza Strip toward the country’s south early Thursday.



Earlier this week the Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the main point of transit for travelers and goods, was closed on Sunday. Taliban officials claimed that the border was closed after Pakistan refused to allow Afghan patients and their caretakers to enter Pakistan for medical care without travel documents. Despite heightened tensions between the neighboring countries, border closures, and cross-border shootouts are common. On Wednesday, Pakistan’s defense minister met with Taliban officials to discuss the border issue. After the meeting, the border reopened briefly Thursday morning. However, hours later the border was closed again by Pakistan due to “administrative issues.”



Iran International, a Farsi-language satellite news channel often critical of Iran’s theocratic regime said it will be moving its broadcasts to Washington, “to protect the safety of its journalists” after being targeted by Tehran. Threats against Farsi-language news broadcasters have grown as they cover the nationwide protests, providing information otherwise unheard by Iran’s state-controlled media. In response, Britain’s government summoned Iran’s top diplomat in the U.K. to, “make clear the U.K. will not tolerate threats to life and media freedom.”

Authorities said Tuesday that a top member of an Iranian opposition group who was being jailed by Iran on charges related to the deadly 2008 mosque bombing had been given the death penalty. Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German citizen and resident of the United States, is allegedly the head of a group that calls for the restoration of the monarchy that was toppled during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Iran. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires in Berlin and informed him that “we will not accept this massive breach of a German citizen’s rights” and expelled two Iranian diplomats over the death sentence.



Over the weekend Iraq held a round of legal and technical talks with Kuwait in Munich. They discussed ending the maritime border issue, as the solution to this matter will bring about economic development between Iraq and Kuwait, and build a foundation for even closer cooperation.

Iraq’s central bank said on Wednesday it planned to allow trade from China to be settled directly in yuan for the first time, in an attempt to improve access to foreign currency. The central bank has been taking urgent steps to compensate for a dollar shortage in local markets, which prompted the cabinet to approve a currency revaluation earlier this month.



After months of delay, Lebanon’s authorities charged longstanding central bank governor Riad Salameh, his brother Raja, and one of his employees with money laundering, embezzlement, and unlawful enrichment on Thursday. The incident has raised concerns that authorities in Lebanon, where Salameh has high-level political support, may limit cooperation with European investigators looking into the governor on the same charges. In response, Lebanon’s prime minister has blocked security forces from acting on the charges, in an alleged attempt to politically meddle in the prose.

Meanwhile, according to Lebanon’s Beirut Bar Association, a British court has declared that a London-based corporation that shipped the explosive ammonium nitrate to Beirut’s port is accountable to the victims of a fatal blast in 2020. This is the first judgment on the explosion from a reputable court since the years-long investigation stall in Lebanon.



The Ugandan government has started to set up a national mining company that will aim to take equity stakes of up to 15% of all medium and large-scale mining operations in the country, the minister for energy and minerals said on Tuesday. Ugandan geologists say the country has large deposits of a range of minerals including gold, cobalt, copper, iron ore, rare earth, vermiculite, and phosphates. The country is also aiming to start pumping crude oil in 2025 from fields in its west.



Sudanese General Mohamed Dagalo, the deputy leader of Sudan’s ruling council, called the military’s 2021 coup a mistake, arguing that it politically benefitted the supporters of former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir. Dagalo, also the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces organization accused of multiple human rights abuses since 2019, said that he was committed to integrating the RSF into the armed forces. The statement carried significance seeing as a tense relationship has formed between the RSF and the Sudanese military, and that the integration is a major obstacle to a democratic transition for Sudanese leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.



Farmers across Zimbabwe are trying to raise awareness of the slave-like colonial-era conditions they are subject to, including unlivable wages and housing provisions that barely support their basic needs. The history of agricultural labor exploitation stems from British colonialism. After the war for independence, white settlers remained in control of most of the arable land and benefited from a land rights reconciliation policy. As a part of this, the Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube said money from the treasury would be used to compensate white former farmers over a 10-year period instead of 20.

President Mnangagwa is seeking to implement a new Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment bill that would restrict NGOs and the right to freedom of association despite Human Rights Watch and UN protests. Experts expressed deep concern that the oversight regime in the PVO Amendment Bill for civil society organizations provides for disproportionate and discretionary powers to the newly established Office of the Registrar of PVOs, without independence from the executive branch.



On February 23, it was reported that Bolivia, alongside Colombia, will make a joint inquiry to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs to remove coca leaves from its list of prohibited substances. According to the Colombian officials, their and the Bolivian state are planning to address this matter at the Commission’s session in Vienna during March with the purpose to accept the plant’s traditional uses. The reason why these two are making asking for this as the coca leaves are widely used over Latin America and indigenous groups there to treat stomach aches and altitude sickness. For Bolivia, this removal would be an opportunity to commercialize coca leaves.



At the beginning of the week, Cuba was hit by a major wildfire that was spreading near a national park and faced a major blackout for a third time within a week, leaving more than half of Cuba’s population without power. So far blackouts occurred in Matanzas – east Havana, Guantanamo, and in the province of Cienfuegos. People are deeply concerned about the mass electrical outrages that began to occur frequently and are especially worried that such issues would continue over the summer season as it is energy-intensive. The Ministry of Energy and Mines of Cuba claimed that blackout issues are going to continue until May.

U.S. officials returned two Pakistani brothers to their home country Thursday after holding them for two decades without charges at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Abdul and Mohammed Rabbani were the latest detainees to be released from U.S. custody as the U.S. moves toward emptying and shutting down the prison. U.S. officials accused the two of helping al-Qaida members with housing and other lower-level logistical support.


The United States:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for the cleanup of East Palestine, Ohio, a train derailment and chemical release. The EPA commanded Norfolk Southern to take all available measures to clean up contaminated air and water. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also urged major railroads and Congress to boost train safety and said he would pursue new regulations after a toxic derailment in Ohio.

The US might prevent tens of thousands of migrants who arrive at the US-Mexico border from requesting asylum. This would be the Biden administration’s most comprehensive effort yet to prevent unauthorized crossings. Under the new rules, the US would generally deny asylum to migrants who show up at the US southern border without first seeking protection in a country they passed through. Critics from human rights groups likened the plan to Trump-era policies.

This week, Seattle became the first U.S. city to outlaw discrimination based on caste. The origins of the caste system in India can be traced back 3,000 years as a social hierarchy based on one’s occupation and birth. Calls to outlaw discrimination based on caste have grown louder among South Asian diaspora communities in the United States. Advocates of the ban say that it is needed to prevent caste bias from becoming more prevalent in the US.



Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary of State Blinken met in Munich at the global security conference on Sunday and held “direct and candid talks” during which they touched upon the matters such as the spy balloon, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. China has been warned not to provide lethal support to Russia as it deeply harm US-Chinese relations. By reiterating a call for dialogue to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine,Beijing strongly denied US’ claims that China was considering arming Russia in its war against Ukraine.

On Wednesday an open pit mine collapsed in the northern inner Mongolia region, immediately killing at least two people, leaving some buried under the debris of the mine, while others are injured or missing. Meanwhile, Wang Yi met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, which signals a deepening of the ties between China and Russia. Both parties emphasized the importance of their cooperation in the global arena for stabilizing the international situation.

The day after authorities in China claim that COVID-19 ended despite the fact they count several cases left but are optimistic to announce the “major decisive victory” China made over the virus, and thus set an example for other nations.


Hong Kong:

China’s senior diplomat in Hong Kong recently met the US consul general to denounce his “inappropriate” remarks and warn him against jeopardizing national security. The Chinese Foreign Affairs inistry’s Hong Kong commissioner, Liu Guangyuan, met with US Consul General Gregory May to establish “three red lines” that the US consulate should not cross including, endangering “China’s national security, not to engage in political infiltration in Hong Kong, and not to slander or damage Hong Kong’s development prospect.” The US responded that they will not hesitate to express public concern over the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.



Ten people were killed and more than 20 others wounded in a riot in Indonesia’s Papua province. The riot had started after locals, angered by rumors about a child kidnapping, started throwing rocks at the Wamena police station where a man accused of abducting a six-year-old was detained. More than 200 security personnel, including police and the military, have been deployed to contain the situation in the restive Indonesian province.



The EU imposed new sanctions on top officials and companies due to escalating violence and continuous human rights abuses. Since the military coup occurred 93 individuals and 18 entities have been targeted by sanctions. Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK, Anna Roberts, responded positively but said, “the delay in cutting off sources of revenue, arms, and equipment is costing lives.” As evidence, although banned by the UN, landmines are increasingly part of civilian casualties through both accidental killings and forcing civilians to act as human shields because of this displacement and the vital inability to access healthcare are terrifying.

Monday, Human Rights Watch released a statement against the trial of Rev. Hkalam Samson, a prominent Christian Kachin religious leader. The US Department of State joined Human Rights Watch in calling for the immediate dismissal and release of Samson from the “politically motivated charges of meeting members of an ethnic armed group and incitement.” This follows the junta’s history of cracking down on peaceful activists since they took power in 2021, which includes more than 19,000 arbitrary detainments.



The death of Uyghur asylum seeker Aziz Abdullah in an Immigration Detention Centre renewed discussion about the IDC conditions and the reparation of Uyghurs to China. International groups have spoken out regarding the Thai detainment of Uyghur asylum seekers since 2015. Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said that he will dissolve Parliament in March. He is pursuing reelection in May.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Tuesday said he would dissolve parliament next month ahead of an election that would likely take place on May 7, a potential date previously outlined by the country’s poll body. The former army chief, who has been in power since he led a coup in 2014, said the election commission needed until the end of this month to agree on a timeframe.



Belarus’s government said that there was a significant grouping of Ukrainian troops massed near its border and warned that this posed a threat to its security. In reponse, President Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus will form a new volunteer territorial defense forceamid fighting in neighboring Ukraine. The President has allowed Russia to use Belarus send troops into Ukraine, and has maintained that his army would fight only if Belarus was attacked.