CANVAS Weekly Update – September 15th, 2023


September 15, 2023

Dear Friends,

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

Conflict Update:

Mediterranean storm Daniel swept through northeast Libya on Sunday evening after killing 26 in Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey the prior week. The city of Derna, held by military strongman Khalifa Haftar, was hit the hardest as two nearby dams burst, causing catastrophic flooding that swept away entire blocks of the city. Rescue efforts have continued throughout the week; however, the death toll continues to grow as thousands are still unaccounted for. 10,100 people remain missing while 11,300 are presumed dead. In a rare show of unity for an otherwise divided nation, relief and assistance are pouring in from all corners of the country including from the Tripoli government. Likewise, international aid is entering the country from around the world with other Arab countries sending support alongside the UN, the EU, and the United States. Questions have arisen as to Libya’s preparedness to deal with natural disasters. Experts say safety measures were far from adequate as the divided government’s institutions rarely function properly.

A powerful 6.8 earthquake hit Morocco this past Saturday. Centered around the High Atlas Mountains, 75 km west of Marrakech, villages were ravaged and roads destroyed, greatly complicating relief efforts. Earthquakes of this scale are rare in Morocco and infrastructure systems are poorly equipped to sustain such shocks and deal with large levels of destruction.  The death toll has neared 3,000 people while injuries have topped 5,500. Critics of King Mohammed’s monarchy have been vocal about the government’s poor response. Mohammed has been tight-lipped, offering few public comments about the relief effort. Since the time of the earthquake, there were large numbers of governments and institutions offering much needed relief to the people, but the government was slow to let foreigners in to assist, primarily only permitting aid from Qatar, Britain, Spain and the UAE. Many Moroccans have been forced to dig through rubble themselves, searching for family members and friends, as assistance was too slow to arrive.

Ukraine’s slow moving counteroffensive has continued this past week. Ukrainian forces reportedly retook the town of Andriivka, northeast of Bakhmut, while fighting continues along the heavily fortified southern line. Ukraine has also stepped up air assaults on Russian forces in Crimea and the Black Sea, reportedly taking out a missile defense system and heavily damaging Russian submarines at a dry-dock in the city of Sevastopol. On the political front, President Zelensky is expected to visit Washington in a bid to shore up support for Ukraine amidst growing calls for a halt to aid amongst some in the Republican party.



Saturday, March 16th, marks the one year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, also known by her Kurdish name Jina. Amini, 22 years old from the northwest city of Saghez, died at the hands of the so-called Iranian “Morality Police ” after being arrested for improperly wearing her hijab. Police initially responded with heavy force to local protests in Saghez, giving great visibility to the movement across the country. Her death soon became a rallying cry for Iranians across the country as protests exploded against the government’s repressive policies. Protests continue one year after her death. 500 Iranians have died to date at the hands of the police while thousands more have been arrested for peacefully demonstrating.



On September 12, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arrived in Beijing for a state visit. Discussions are expected to include Venezuela and China’s economic relations related to the oil and gas sector. Venezuela, an oil rich nation and OPEC member, has been largely excluded from the international scene due to strong western sanctions against the ruling government. The state visit led to an upgrade in the relationship to an ‘all weather strategic partnership’, which is a status China only grants to a limited set of countries. The two heads of state, Xi Jinping and Maduro, signed bilateral agreements in a large variety of areas, including the economy, trade and aerospace.



Georgian politicians continue to discuss actions plans needed for EU accession. A recent meeting of Prime Minister Gharibashvili and his government resulted in the adoption of the so-called “deoligarchization” plan, a bid to shore up corruption and achieve EU standards. However, Georgian politicians continue to straddle the fine line between East and West. Georgia has added its name to the recent nations who have allowed Chinese nationals to travel to their country visa-free. In a bid to shore up relations with China, Prime Minister Gharibashvili announced bilateral relations between the two nations after a state visit in July. The latest move towards China’s sphere of influences comes against the backdrop of rising tensions between Tbilisi and the west, as Gharibashvili has been slow to condemn Russia for their actions in Ukraine.



On Saturday, September 9, 1,200 Chinese nationals were arrested and repatriated due to their alleged involvement in criminal online scam operations taking place in the eastern state of Shan. The arrests were carried out by the United Wa State Army, a powerful ethnic minority militia that controls the state independently from the military junta based out of Naypyidaw. The Chinese nationals were repatriated through the China-Myanmar border in Panghsang, which borders the Yunnan province in China. Cybercrime has been on the rise recently in Asia, where large organized crime groups often lure unknowing workers through fake job offers.



Prime Minister Shretta Thavisin announced this week a new set of economic policies. Thailand’s economy has been struggling from fewer exports, and low investor confidence. Thavisin spoke to parliament during his inaugural speech on Monday about measures to relieve debt problems, lower energy costs and boost tourism as the country still has not fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans include a 10,000 baht (280$) handout program for all Thais 16 and above in a bid to boost economic spending and the waiving of visas for Chinese nationals to increase tourism. Thavisin, a retired real estate mogul, recently took power after a long election period saw the popular Move Forward party unable to form a ruling coalition.



Zimbabwe’s newly reelected president, Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ZANU-PF, appointed his son and nephew to deputy minister posts. The opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change, has heavily criticized this decision, reaffirming the dangers that Mnangagwa posed to democratic wellbeing, previously cited when the party dismissed the recent election results and called for a fresh election. The ZANU-PF party has been in control of the presidency and parliament since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. The continuation of electoral corruption seen throughout Mnangagwa’s reelection has plagued Zimbabweans, while international organizations have stated that the elections fell short of international standards.