March 31, 2023
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Ukraine has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus. NATO condemned the decision and said it would closely monitor the situation, but would not change its nuclear strategy. Additionally, Ukraine acknowledged Russian gains in Bakhmut, and Russia’s top security agency said they detained an American reporter on espionage charges.
After weeks of mass protests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed legislation to overhaul the judicial system saying he wanted to prevent a “rupture among our people” by making time to seek a compromise. Additionally, Syrian state media said Israel staged airstrikes in the Damascus area, wounding two soldiers and causing material damage, culminating in the fifth Israeli strike on Syria this month.
Strikes and protests against President Macron’s pension reform continued this week. While most demonstrations in Paris were peaceful, some civilians clashed with police, setting fire to garbage cans and throwing projectiles as authorities responded with teargas and arrested at least 22 people.
In Kenya, opposition leader Raila Odinga continued protests this week against high living costs and alleged fraud in last year’s election with protestors throwing stones at the capital and setting fire to the office of the president’s party. The government has warned that no more violent protests will be tolerated, stating that they, “must halt the descent.”
A prominent advocate for female education, Matiullah Wesa, was arrested by Taliban authorities. The Taliban has not released the reason for Wesa’s arrest. The hardline government has arrested a number of other women’s rights activists and critics of the ban on women’s education. The UN mission in Afghanistan called on the Taliban to clarify the reason for his arrest and to ensure he has legal representation and contact with family.
A suicide bomber attack in Kabul killed at least six people and injured several others. This is the second attack near the foreign ministry this year. Kabul police identified and killed the attacker at a security checkpoint, but the explosives detonated. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility.
Last week, an Iranian drone hit a US base in northeastern Syria, killed a contractor, and wounded several US troops. Shortly afterward, a new wave of air attacks hit Syria, killing 19 people. Although the US officials denied responsibility, Iran and Syria condemned them. Pro-Iranian forces in Syria warned they will respond to US air strikes, while a similar response by Joe Biden was directed to both Iran and Syria.
Canada imposed new sanctions on Iran for “gross and systematic human rights violations”. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) judged that the US illegally allowed courts to freeze the assets of Iranian companies and ordered the US to pay compensation. Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Minister announced the possibility of setting a legal deadline to move forward with talks on a nuclear deal.
The Iraqi parliament passed amendments to the election law, likely to undermine chances for independent candidates and small parties to win parliamentary seats in future elections.
Recently, Iraq has had strained diplomatic ties with several other countries. Iraq claimed Turkey violated their oil agreement by allowing the Kurdistan regional government to export oil to Ceyan in 2014, and halted crude oil exports, causing Turkey to shut down the Iraq-Turkey pipeline. The International Chamber of Commerce ruled both states were responsible for violating the deal and were ordered to pay reparations. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s foreign ministry condemned Iraqi officials for violating diplomatic ties by interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs. On Wednesday the US Senate voted to repeal the authorization of the Iraq invasion of 2003.
On Sunday, Lebanese citizens faced confusion as the country operated in two different time zones. The interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced that the country would not start daylight saving time until April 20. Many believe the decision was to allow Muslims observing Ramadan to break the daylight fast an hour earlier. The decision faced backlash from Christian organizations that announced they would not obey the rule. Some business organizations and industries abided by the rule, while others disregarded it to maintain the international standard. Due to the disputes and confusion, the Lebanese government reversed the decision.
Last week, the Uganda legislature passed a bill that prescribes the death penalty or life imprisonment for some homosexual offenses. Now, LGBTQ+ Ugandans fear the future and look for safety in the country’s underground club scene, shelters, and neighboring countries. Open for Business, a coalition of international corporations denounced the legislation and called it, “a concern for global businesses and investors operating or planning to invest” in the country.
Leaders discussed proposals for the integration of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) forces in the military, a central demand of the civilian Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance. Military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan reiterated support for the transition and commitment to the agreement formed in December, saying “the process of security and military reform is a long and complicated process and one that cannot be bypassed”.
Cuba held parliamentary elections to choose 470 legislators who would represent them in the National Assembly. Despite calls from oppositional groups to boycott the election because it does not include oppositional parties, the total voter turnout was relatively high, 75.9 percent, and it was reported that both pro- and anti-government groups participated in the elections. The Communist Party of Cuba celebrated and hailed its victory event though its candidates didn’t have any real competition, as it previously banned Cuban opposition to participate.
A shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville unfolded over approximately 15 minutesas a shooter opened fire inside, killing three students and three adults, before police arrived and fatally shot the suspect. Authorities said the assailant Audrey Hale, 28, was a former student of the school and elaborately planned the massacre, but the motive is still unknown. More than 130 mass shootings in the US have now occurred this year.
Donald Trump has become the first former U.S. president to be charged with a crime after a Manhattan grand jury voted to indict him on charges related to hush money payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign. The specific charges are not yet known, as the indictment remains sealed, but outlets have reported he faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud. The unprecedented event throws the 2024 presidential race into uncharted territory, for which Trump has already announced his candidacy.
China established diplomatic relations with Honduras after Honduras broke its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, signifying China’s growing influence in Latin America. The former Taiwan president, Ma Ying-jeou, began a 12-day trip to China along with a group of students to lower tensions and foster connections among young people. The Taiwanese ruling DDP declared the visit inappropriate. The day after the new Chinese ambassador to North Korea held talks with Kim Jong Un, the two focused on developing their friendship.
Xi Jinping was invited to visit Ukraine by president Volodymyr Zelenskyy after there has been no communication between them since the war broke out. Chinese officials did not formally accept or decline the invitation, but claimed that Beijing is maintaining “communication with all parties concerned, including Ukraine”. On the same day, Chinese companies who participated in the persecution of Uyghur people received a new set of sanctions by the US, while several more companies were added to the blacklist, preventing them from buying parts and components from US companies without US government permission.
Hong Kong had its first protest since the 2020 national security laws were enacted. Hong Kong police heavily monitored the small march, requiring organizers to carry approved posters and wear number tags. Authorities allowed only 100 protesters to attend. Participants protested against a proposed land reclamation and rubbish processing project. Some protesters criticized the restrictions by police, claiming they need “ a more free-spirited protest culture.”
Fifa has stripped Indonesia of hosting rights for the Under-20 World Cup. Fifa was forced to cancel the official draw for the tournament because Bali’s governor refused to host the Israeli team. Indonesia does not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel and publicly supports the Palestinian cause. The tournament is set to begin in less than two months and Fifa has yet to announce a new host.
More than 180 Rohingya Muslims landed on Indonesia’s shores, officials said, the latest among hundreds who have fled by boat from desperate conditions in Myanmar and in camps in Bangladesh. Authorities are collecting information and giving medical aid to some of the refugees.
The junta put on a military parade, with leader Min Aung Hlaing pledging to deal decisively with and defeat “terrorists”. This display of strength to inspire fear comes amidst continued violence and displacement against civilians. International condemnation was sparked later in the week when the junta abolished 40 political parties including the National League for Democracy. The United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Japan denounced the action for increasing instability and failing to create free or fair elections.
Current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha began his reelection campaign and officially accepted his party’s nomination. He has been in power since leading a military coup in 2014 which spurred months of protests in 2019 after his election. However, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of the formerly overthrown Prime Minister, is leading polls. Thursday, Amnesty International published a piece condemning the continued suppression of freedom of expression and targeting of children as a 15-year-old girl is held in pre-trial detention for protesting the lèse-majesté law in 2022.
Belarus confirmed it will host Russian tactical nuclear weapons. Officials said the decision was a response to Western pressure including sanctions and what it claimed was a military-build up by NATO member states near its borders. The US said there was no sign that Russia was preparing to use the weapons. Poland’s prime minister said he expects additional sanctions on Belarus to follow from this decision.