CANVAS Weekly Update – March 24th, 2023


March 24, 2023

Dear Friends,

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

Conflict Update:

In a series of Russian drone strikes, at least eight people were killed and seven were injuredwhen two dormitories and a college were hit. One person was rescued from the site and four people were believed trapped under rubble. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded, saying his country will “respond to every blow”.

In Nairobi, thousands have protested against President William Ruto and his government over high costs of living, leading to more than 200 arrests and the death of one student by police. Protestors, led by the opposition leader Raila Odinga, have lit forest in the streets and thrown rocks at police who have responded with tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds.



A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck a mountainous region near the Afghanistan and Pakistan border, killing at least 19 people. The quake triggered landslides that injured over 200 people, damaged buildings, and blocked roads in the region. The rugged terrain and isolated area will likely make relief aid and rescue missions difficult. The quake’s tremors were felt over 621 miles (1000 km) from the epicenter in neighboring countries as far as New Delhi.



Iran signed a border security deal with Iraq meant to protect borders between the countries and consolidate security cooperation. Media in Iran view this deal as a way to end the actions of Kurdish groups in Iran, which the state labels as “terrorists”. Biden marked the Persian New Year in the White House and paid a tribute to Iranian women and girls who are protesting in Iran.

The European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution as well as officials related to the “security crackdown on protesters”. While the Iranian supreme leader accused the United States of starting the war in Ukraine to expand NATO in the east, the US imposed a new round of sanctions on the Iranian companies involved in procuring equipment used for Iranian drones.

Iranian cooperation with Saudi Arabia seems to grow fruitful, as the ministers of foreign affairs from both states marked the beginning of Ramadan via phone call and agreed that the two will meet soon to further their bilateral relations.



Iran signed a security deal aimed at “tightening the frontier with Iraq’s Kurdish region” according to officials. Under this deal, Iraq promised it will prevent armed groups from performing any border-crossing attacks on Iran. Further, in the domain of its bilateral relations, Iraq approved a contract that allows the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation to buy a total of 4 million barrels of Iraqi crude oil in June and August.

This week marked the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war and was filled with retrospectives on the most memorable quotes and photos that depict the atmosphere from the war and its aftermath. Furthermore, about 100 Iraqis are still waiting for their special, protective US visas for their cooperation with the US forces and Shia and Sunni leaders during the war. Even though there is a considerable effort to repeal the authorization to the 2001 measure, the US Senate voted to continue the use of military force to support the global fight against terror.



Lebanon will sell unlimited US dollars at a rate of 90,000 pounds to one US dollar to stop further Lebanese currency devaluation after black market rates spiraled to about 140,000 pounds to one dollar. Hundreds of people rallied outside government buildings in Beirut to protest the country’s worsening economic crisis. Public sector workers, former soldiers, and depositors expressed outrage at the diminished state pensions paid out in the devalued Lebanese currency. Protesters were met with tear gas fired by security forces guarding government buildings.



Uganda’s parliament passed a law this week making it a crime to identify as LGBTQpunishable by life in prison and in certain cases, death, and the bill becomes one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation in Africa. Human rights groups, the United Nations, and the White House have urged President Yoweri Museveni to block the bill with the U.S. threatening sanctions if it is enacted.



Sunday, “military leaders and pro-democracy forces vowed to begin establishing a new civilian-led transitional government on April 11.” The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who took power in a coup over a year ago face an increasing division between them and the military forces. Analysts warn that both groups’ attempts to consolidate power may spark long-term and violent conflict. Yet, both have agreed to transitional documents including participation in drafting a new constitution. The UN Security Council spotlighted ongoing political transition workshops, with the Sudanese representative proclaiming, “today, we are the closest we have been to a solution, although challenges remain.”



As elections approach, Zimbabwe’s government is discouraging confidence. According to an independent report, Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (ZEC), which over half the population does not trust, is blatantly politicized and sowing mistrust with its preparations. Oppression of freedom of expression and opposition continues. Journalists have accused the pastor and high-level diplomat, Uebert Angel, has been involved in extensive gold smuggling schemes. Investigations have also compromised the president’s niece and Kamlesh Pattni who are operating in Zimbabwe to skirt restricting sanctions. Pattni was also implicated in the Goldenberg Kenya gold smuggling scandal.



Police used pepper spray to disburse teachers on their third week of protest demanding more teachers for public schools, a higher education budget, and in rejection of a new curriculum. In response, the Minister of Education has agreed to convene an educational congress to analyze the current education system.

The foreign currency crisis in Bolivia has worsened as it has become harder to find dollars on the market. With the black market and commercial banks on dollar reserves evaporated, central banks have become the last place for Bolivians to buy foreign currency.



As the legislative elections are approaching, Cubans still do not see the purpose of voting as they are not optimistic it would bring about the solutions to the problems Cuba is facing. Amid the hopeless situation within the state due to the acute economic, infrastructural, and political issues, mothers in Cuba were recently recognized as the leaders of the Cuban resistance movement. Amelia Calzadilla, a mother of three, who posted a video asking the government to provide gas services in areas and informing the wider audience of worsening living conditions in Cuba, has been the voice of the group. Many mothers joined Calzadilla, and in recent protests showed up with their children addressing their inability to feed them and portraying mothers’ issues as the issues of Cuba as a whole.



The US State Department has flagged Nicaragua’s government for arbitrary killings, torture, and harsh prison conditions in its 2022 Human Rights report. The report also criticizes Nicaraguan President Ortega’s failure to investigate crimes committed by police during the 2018 anti-government protests that resulted in 355 deaths. This report comes days after the Vatican officially closed its embassy in the capital, Managua, amidst deteriorating relations between the Catholic Church and Nicaragua’s government.


The United States:

Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, testified in front of a U.S. Congressional committee about data security and user safety. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, and the U.S. fears the data of 150,000 million American users could be obtained and exploited, as it did with journalists last year. American lawmakers and the President are considering banning the app entirely, as tensions between Washington and Beijing heat up.

Thousands of service workers backed by teachers began a three-day strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District, shutting down education for 420,000 students in the country’s second-largest school system. Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 teachers’ aides, special education assistants, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other support staff, walked out to demand higher wages and staffing levels amid stalled contract talks.



This week, China reported that it performed its “first-ever naval drills” with Cambodia in. On the same day, it announced that nine Chinese nationals were killed by rebels in the mine area of Bangui, Central African Republic. On Wednesday, Chinese and Australian defense officials met for the first time since 2019 and exchanged their views on regional security issues. Meanwhile, China faces problems within its borders, as the sudden termination of its zero-covid policy has resulted in dozens of deaths that could have been avoided if China listened to the experts.

During President Xi’s meetings with Vladimir Putin this week, they signed a ‘no limits’ agreement on their cooperation, prioritizing economic and political partnership. The two issued a joint statement regarding the war in Ukraine stating that both are against states damaging the security of other states and in order to resolve the conflict it is necessary to prevent the formation of bloc confrontation and actions that would fuel the fire and lead to the nuclear war. They see the only sustainable resolution to the conflict is responsible dialogue through peace talks. The trip was concluded with Xi inviting Putin to the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.


Hong Kong:

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and former leader of the Hong Kong Alliance, Albert Ho, was arrested after being out on bail for medical treatment. Ho had previously been charged with inciting subversion under the national security law. Ho was arrested at home on charges of allegedly “interfering with a witness” for his history of activism with the Hong Kong alliance.



Dozens of conservative Muslim protestors marched to protest Israel’s first-ever participation in the FIFA World Cup Under-20 in Indonesia. Waving white flags bearing the Islamic declaration of faith along with Indonesian and Palestinian flags, more than 100 demonstrators filled a major thoroughfare in downtown Jakarta. Indonesia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel and has historically been a strong supporter of Palestinians.



The US announced additional sanctions on Myanmar to reduce the purchasing capabilities and revenue of the military junta that continue to rule the country. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said that America is, “committed to ratcheting up the pressure on the junta” and cited that the US has already imposed sanctions on 80 individuals and more than 30 entities inside Myanmar. The UN Human Rights Council held a hearing where the Myanmar Special Rapporteur said he, “regularly received reports of massacres of civilians, including beheadings and dismemberment. Torture and sexual violence remained a constant threat.



Thailand’s king dissolved the parliament meaning elections must occur within the next 60 days, which will be held on May 14. These will be the first elections since the 2014 coup and pro-democracy protests in 2020. Recent polls have Paetongtarn Shinawatra leading over the conservative pro-military United Thai Nation party. If elected she will be th fourth member of her family to hold the office of Prime Minister. These elections are considered to impact the influence of military rule as well as the status of the more than 1.5 million Myanmar refugees and migrants living in Thailand.



Alexander Lukashenko said that his country’s security forces discovered an arsenal of weapons intended for “terrorist” attacks, days after they killed a terrorism suspect near the Polish border. The country stepped up security along its border with Poland with guards intensely inspecting the vehicles, luggage, and phones of those crossing the border. Meanwhile, Polish leaders met with the wife of Ales Bialiatski, imprisoned Belarusian human rights campaigner, to stress Warsaw’s support for Belarus’ democratic opposition.