CANVAS Weekly Update – March 17th, 2023


March 17, 2023

Dear Friends,

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

Conflict Update:

The grinding fight for control of Bakhmut continues as Ukraine and Russia report heavy casualties. Each has devoted significant resources to the battle and shows little sign of surrendering. As the war drags on the International Criminal Court will issue its first arrest warrants linked to the conflict, opening two war crimes cases over the abduction of Ukrainian children and targeting of civilian infrastructure.

Protests in Israel have pressed on for the tenth consecutive week as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposed compromise on the power of the Israeli Supreme Court. In another “a day of resistance,” demonstrators blocked a major highway in Tel Aviv, drew a large red streak throughout Jerusalem leading to the Supreme Court, and a flotilla of boats was blocking the shipping lane off the coast of the northern port city of Haifa.

Thousands of supporters of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko gathered in Dakar for a three-day protest to support the hopeful presidential candidate, who faces a libel casethis week. Police and protesters clashed on Thursday with authorities firing tear gas and protestors burning tires and hurling stones at police. The demonstrations express growing tensions in Senegal as the 2024 election could see President Macky Sall run for a controversial third term, which the opposition says is unconstitutional.



An explosion at a cultural center during an award ceremony to honor journalists killed one person and injured eight others in northern Afghanistan. The Islamic State affiliate in Khorasan Province took credit for the attack. Journalists and children were wounded in the explosion and the bomb killed one security guard. IS-K has increased its attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over, as this bombing comes days after a suicide bomber killed the Balkh Province’s governor.



Last Friday, Iranian officials met with Saudi Arabia in Beijing where, with China’s mediation, they agreed to resume their diplomatic ties, re-open their embassies, and affirmed to “respect the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states”. This news was welcomed in Iran as they signal regional stability and the end of Iran’s isolation, undermining U.S. pressure on Iran. Some experts had concerns about the deal shifting the climate and security in the region.

On Monday, Iran welcomed Belarus’ president to celebrate 30 years of diplomatic ties and signed eight agreements on trade, mining, and transportation. On the same day, the Iranian supreme leader announced he pardoned more than 22,000 people that had been arrested during the anti-government protests following Mahsa Amini’s death, however, there is not yet confirmation that the mass release has begun.



This week, Iraq marked twenty years since the U.S. invasion where people admitted they are still haunted by the disappearances of their loved ones. People also remembered the sense of freedom they got when Hussain was gone as they hoped to enter a peaceful era, instead the period after his fall has been consistent with chaos and conflict. With regard to this anniversary, the U.S. Senate voted 68-27 to move forward on legislation repealing the measures that give authorization for military action in Iraq.

Several people, including militants belonging to an outlawed Kurdish insurgency group, were killed in a mysterious helicopter crash in northern Iraq. Iraq’s government, the U.S.-led coalition, and Turkey were contacted by the Iraqi Kurdish regional government investigating the crash, but no party has claimed ownership of the chopper.



Lebanese currency reached an unprecedented low against the U.S. dollar in the country’s black market. Although the official rate is set at 15,000 pounds to the dollar, the black market rate dipped to 100,000 pounds to the dollar on Tuesday. The black market rate has now been used for almost all transactions. In response, banks have resumed a strike against Lebanon’s judiciary actions that would force them to distribute savings to depositors.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Central Bank chief was charged with corruption again after failing to show up for questioning by a European legal team in a money-laundering investigation. The European case is separate from Lebanon’s legal proceedings against the bank governor. Chief Riad Salamh refused to attend the meeting, arguing that the European investigators’ presence was, “in conflict with [Lebanon’s] national sovereignty”.



The son of Uganda’s aging leader, Yoweri Museveni, has said he intends to run for president in 2026, replacing his father who has ruled the country for 37 years. Uganda’s opposition has long accused Museveni of seeking to impose a monarchy on Uganda and grooming his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to take over from him. Museveni has denied the accusations.



Zimbabwe authorities cracked down on freedom of expression and assembly this week. Police shut down a performance by popular musician  Wallace Chirumiko, known as “Winky D.” His music contains lyrics against social and political injustice, corruption, and economic strife. This increased censorship adds to concerns about the upcoming elections being free and fair.



Protesters in Potosi are blockading a key processing plant, urging legislation to guarantee better benefits for local communities and larger royalties from the extraction of lithium. Led by the Civic Committee of Potosi (Comcipo), the protesters have threatened the government with an indefinite strike if demonstrators do not receive their demands.



Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has proposed closing both the Nicaraguan Embassy to the Vatican and the Vatican Embassy in Managua, suspending relations between the two countries. Relations between the church and the Nicaraguan goverment have been strained since the persecution of a Catholic leader after 2018 anti-government protests. Pope Francis had largely been silent on the issue until he issued a statement days before Ortega’s proposal, calling the Nicaraguan government a “rude dictatorship.”


The United States:

Global markets have fallen after two of the largest bank failures occurred at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank since the 2008 financial crisis. The U.S. government and regulators acted quickly to prevent a potential crisis, ensuring that all deposits at the banks will be made whole. A combination of interest rates, slumps in the technology industry, and economic anxieties caused the failures, and their ripple effects are still felt.

The Biden administration approved a controversial $8 billion oil-drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope, going against Biden’s campaign promise to stop new oil drilling on federal lands. The decision has drawn fierce opposition from some Alaska Native communities and environmentalists, who filed a lawsuit to halt the project.



China named its new premier, Li Qiang, and appointed a new defense minister, Li Shangfu, that is known as the US-sanctioned general. Qiang announced institutional and economic development as a priority, while Xi addressed the necessity to make the Chinese military capable of protecting the country’s interests abroad and securing stability at home. Meanwhile, China has successfully brokered talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as the two resumed diplomatic times after six years. The Chinese role in these negotiations shifted dynamics in the Middle East, as it interfered as the mediator, historically the U.S.’s role.

China’s defense ministry announced joint naval exercises with Russia and Iran in the Gulf of Oman as part of “Marine Security Belt” exercises that contribute to deepening practical cooperation among the navies of three countries. The day after, China continued its effort to bring about the, “political resolution of the Ukraine Crisis” as President Xi plans to visit Vladimir Putin next week and to have a virtual meeting with Zelensky.


Hong Kong:

Three former members of a Hong Kong organization that organized annual vigils to commemorate China’s tragedy in Tiananmen Square in 1989 have been sentenced to four-and-a-half-months in prison for refusing to provide information in accordance with national security law regulations. Co-defendants Tang Ngok-kwan, Tsui Hon-kwong, and Chow Hang-tung were accused by the prosecutor of being “foreign agents” for an unidentified organization after allegedly receiving a large sum of funding.



An Indonesian court has acquitted two policemen charged over the Kanjuruhan stadium crush last year, angering relatives of victims in the tragedy. Police had been blamed for triggering the crush after firing tear gas at spectators on the field, which led to a stampede that killed 135 people.

The Indonesian parliament’s deputy speaker said they will ensure there is no power vacuumdespite a controversial court ruling to delay the 2024 presidential and general elections. The decision by a Jakarta district court, which law experts say it had no authority to make, reignited a lingering debate on whether President Joko Widodo should be allowed to stay in power, despite him reaching the two-term limit next year.



A report by the UN called Myanmar a “failed state,” as violence from the military government continues. The junta has been receiving weapons from Russia and China as human rights abuses are rampant and peace efforts minimal. Activists called on the UN Security Council to refer the abuses to the International Criminal Court. Additionally, Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews urged media companies to stand up to the junta saying, “Telegram, in particular, had become a hotbed of pro-military activity.” He calls on platforms to moderate violent, discriminatory, and misogynistic content.

The bodies of 28 people were found in a Buddhist monastery, including monks and women. Myanmar’s military government and armed resistance groups have blamed each other for the fatalities. No independent witnesses have emerged, and the junta’s restrictions on travel and information make it impossible to verify details of such incidents.

With nearly one million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, a Myanmar delegation visited this week proposing a pilot repatriation project. While the conflict has not stabilized, living conditions in refugee camps are dangerous as well. As Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization said, “the international community is playing ping pong with the Rohingya.” It is uncertain if the project will move forward.



Rights advocates in Belarus spoke out about a new crackdown on dissent by the government that saw more than 100 people detained in a week. The rights group Viasna said mass arrests took place in the capital Minsk, targeting opposition activists, journalists, medical workers, members of shooting sports clubs, and people working with drones.



After a week of mass protests against the “foreign agent” bill that would have restricted the freedom of the press and civil society, the Georgian parliament dropped the bill. A majority of members abstained from voting in its second reading, and concerns remain about its reintroduction in the future. The three days of protests effectively pressured the parliament despite authorities pushing them back.