Examining Non-state Stakeholders’ Role in Modern Nonviolent Conflict

The article was published in The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Summer 2022 edition:




This essay addresses some of the challenges that nonviolent activist movements encounter when navigating non-state stakeholders, including violent groups and transnational corporations. It argues that as the more successful strategy to wage conflict, contemporary nonviolent movements track non-state stakeholders’ fluctuating loyalties and leverage methods of protest, boycott, civil disobedience, and noncooperation in order to secure small wins. The essay provides insight into two movements in Iraq and Myanmar and breaks down how each group engaged non-state stakeholders and used nonviolent tactics to garner support and enact meaningful democratic change.





Since the end of the Cold War, power continues to be devolved from the state and into the hands of non-state stakeholders including militias, extremist groups, and international corporations. Some of the particularly violent stakeholders, such as those in Iraq, developed into extended and highly unaccountable arms of a military. In other scenarios, wealthy individuals and global corporations have scaled to compete with the state in monetary terms by leveraging their investments to influence geopolitics in their favor. Nonviolent activists know better than most that this dispersion of power has greatly altered the political landscape, and that non-state stakeholders must be skillfully navigated to guarantee victory.

This essay examines how nonviolent movements pivot their strategies to achieve democratic change and considers the rise of non-state stakeholders to positions of power. While subscribing to the core methods of strategic nonviolent struggle, the essay compares how movements in Iraq and Myanmar are utilizing non-state stakeholders’ newfound power to achieve positive change.

Part One provides context on the method of strategic nonviolent struggle and why, even in the face of violent repression, it is more likely to result in sustainable change compared to a violent strategy. Part Two discusses the challenge that movements face in navigating non-state stakeholders due to the nature of these actors’ loyalties. This section also compares how activists in Iraq and Myanmar tracked non-state stakeholder’s loyalties over time to identify ripe moments to secure wins for the cause. Despite a difference in context, this essay concludes that the scenarios in Iraq and Myanmar illustrate how a nonviolent approach that carefully navigates non-state stakeholders is the key to achieving democratic change—even in the face of unimaginable violence.


The success of nonviolent resistance challenges conventional thinking, which assumes that political violence is the most effective way for a resistance campaign to challenge an adversary and achieve its goals. As a civilian-based method, strategic non-violence leverages social, psychological, economic, and political means to challenge an adversary without the threat or use of violence.[1] Hundreds of methods of nonviolent resistance—including economic boycotts, labor strikes, public protests, non-cooperation, and nonviolent intervention—have been recorded by scholars and are employed regularly to mass mobilize populaces as means to assert political pressure and delegitimize adversaries.[2]

History even favors nonviolence as the choice method of resistance over that of a violent strategy. According to The Nonviolent and Violent Conflicts Outcome (NAVCO) 1.3 Data Set (an initiative including comparative data on 622 global resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2019) movements that adopt a nonviolent strategy are successful 52 percent of the time.[3] The achievements of nonviolent movements starkly differ to violent resistance campaigns, which have so far only been successful 39 percent of the time.[4]

Still, some contemporary scholars and activists have argued that political violence is a legitimate tool that activists should employ, particularly in the face of repression.[5] Nevertheless, the strategic logic behind nonviolent resistance reaffirms the method’s superiority. Many who argue in favor of violent tactics have claimed that nonviolence is a “Western” technique and that those who advocate for its application fail to consider risks involved with the strategy.[6] Some also argue that using methods of unarmed violence, like launching Molotov cocktails or throwing rocks, is effective for achieving short-term change due to a lack of other mechanisms at a groups’ disposal, such as elections.[7] Other activists claim that they’ve found a balance in establishing fringe groups in their movement who successfully employ unarmed violence in tandem with nonviolent actions.[8]

While it may be possible that the adoption of unarmed violent tactics resulted in short-term change for some movements, there is little evidence to suggest that the use of these tactics is effective for enacting long-term democratization. This is because when a resistance movement adopts a violent strategy, they are challenging their adversary in an area where their adversary maintains the upper hand.[9]

Adversaries (whether they are a corporation, military, or extremist group) have wielded violence to uphold what Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist, refers to as structural violence.[10] Unlike direct violence, which Galtung defines as the “physical harming [of] other humans with intention,” structural violence is the driving force behind social systems which prevent part of the population from meeting their basic needs, causing premature death as a result of exclusion, neglect, and poverty.[11] In modern societies, structural violence tends to manifest as institutionalized colonialism, racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, elitism, and nationalism. Galtung argues further that those stakeholders who benefit from structural violence rely on widespread direct violence, such as police violence or disinformation, to maintain their position of power.[12]

The theory of structural violence highlights a key reason for why adopting violence is unwise: a movement’s adversary has had many years of experience in using violence as a tool to stay in power. This means that in most scenarios, a movement’s adversaries will have an absolute advantage in a violent strategy from both a material and structural perspective.


Non-state stakeholders are entities that are not directly funded by the sitting government of the state from which they operate. In real terms, high net-wealth individuals, multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, militias, and nonviolent movements are among some of the entities that fall under the category of “non-state stakeholders.” Some of the more powerful non-state stakeholders tend to operate with a large degree of impunity as they have superseded the authority of a sitting government.[13] While countries have combined their resources to develop a global system of justice through the establishment of entities like the United Nations or international courts, powerful non-state actors persistently subvert accountability for international crimes.[14] Groups operating with impunity can be highly problematic for nonviolent movements as they can lead to unchecked repression targeting activists or result in a non-state stakeholder becoming the lifeline of the movement’s adversary.[15]

In order to overcome the conundrum of non-state stakeholders, successful activists have broken down non-state stakeholders according to their loyalties and created campaigns that aim to shift some of those loyalties to the movement’s cause. Loyalty in this scenario may be thought of as both an emotion and a set of behaviors.[16] Similar to emotions like love or sorrow, individuals can be loyal to multiple things at once and their expression of loyalty manifests in myriad forms. An individual’s loyalty to something or someone may also shift radically if a superior alternative comes along.[17]

This approach for conceptualizing loyalty alignments is congruent with the logic of strategic nonviolent struggle. This approach humanizes the individuals within a non-state stakeholder by asking: “what are those individual people loyal to as it relates to being part of that non-state stakeholder and why?” Therefore, instead of approaching a non-state stakeholder as an institution, activists view them as a large group of individuals. Each of those individuals, a human, is loyal to a variety of things, such as their families, their religion and their job.[18] The goal for activists is to acknowledge these loyalties and present individuals that constitute the stakeholder with a beneficial alternative, such as gaining freedom of expression or earning more money.[19]


Navigating Non-state Stakeholders to Achieve Victory

To complement the theory, we will now examine two examples of nonviolent movements that successfully navigate non-state stakeholders. The first example in Iraq conveys the importance for movements to act on individual’s loyalties when the prospect of winning the support of an entire non-state stakeholder group is not possible. The latter example in Myanmar examines how a boycott and divestment campaign tracked several non-state stakeholders’ fluctuating loyalties to apply sustained pressure and eventually, win over their support. In both cases, activists were faced with a choice between adopting a nonviolent or violent strategy to achieve their goals; activists in both cases chose nonviolence in the face of violent adversaries and yielded victories for their causes.


Popular discontent over poor living standards, unemployment and insecurity had been simmering in Iraq’s Shia Muslim majority areas during summer 2019, including the capital city Baghdad and across the oil-rich southern governorates. It had been one of Iraq’s hottest summers and despite generous oil revenues, most low to middle income Iraqis lacked clean running water and a sustained source of electricity. The situation boiled over in September 2019 when security forces violently dispersed a peaceful student sit-in outside the Prime Minister’s office in Baghdad using a water cannon.[20] Coordinated demonstrations surged across the capital and in the south; protesters were met regularly with live ammunition by the country’s Hashd al-Shaabi formations, an umbrella of militias that were originally mobilized to combat ISIS.[21] Several of the Hashd’s more powerful militias are loyal to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force, both ideologically and monetarily, and have affiliations with Iraqi political parties.[22]

The coordination among activists grew more sophisticated as more took to the streets, particularly following the former Prime Minister Adel Abdil Mahdi’s decision to transfer a commander Abdel-Wahad al-Saadi from the elite Iraqi Counter Terror Service to the Defense Ministry.[23] Seen as one of Iraq’s core war heroes in the fight against ISIS, al-Saadi was celebrated, particularly among Shia young men. While his promotion was executed by Prime Minister Madhi, al-Saadi’s followers perceived his demotion as an act of political coercion stemming from the Hashd’s powerful pro-Iran militias, and thereby an act of foreign influence from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.[24]

Protest participation surged once more, as activists began occupying public squares in Baghdad and the southern governorate capitals. In Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, protesters developed methods to communicate their demands, including a newspaper publication known as “Tuk-tuk,” named in honor of the local motorized taxi drivers known for bravely transporting wounded demonstrators to hospitals.[25] The movement also broadened its membership, inviting Iraqi women to join its leadership ranks. Participation surged once more with numbers reaching up to 100,000 in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square as hundreds of women took to the streets.[26]

To challenge the Iranian-aligned militias’ loyalties and persuade them to join the cause, protesters focused on a commonality among the support base’s loyalties: national pride. The demands, though arguably vague, included a stop to all foreign intervention in Iraq, whether it be Iranian or Western, fresh elections and an end to the country’s “status quo” of corruption, high unemployment, sectarianism, and violence.[27]

Fringe groups using unarmed violent tactics popped up, particularly in the South. They burned down the Iranian consulate general in Najaf as crowds chanted “death to Khamenei,” the Iranian Grand Ayatollah.[28] Iranian-aligned militias reacted aggressively, employing indiscriminate live ammunition, and launched Iranian-supplied military-grade tear gas, killing over 500 protesters.[29] Between December 2019 and August 2020 the militias proactively kidnapped and assassinated activists, namely female activists, to condemn their participation.

As a reaction to the militias becoming more entrenched in their loyalties, Iraqi protesters began to focus on chipping away at the militia’s source of manpower by persuading young disenfranchised, unemployed men to join the cause instead of the militias’ ranks.[30] When threatened by powerful clerics over gender integration in the streets, protesters held hands in the square and covered public spaces with drawings of martyrs and Iraqi women resisting.[31] This strategy enabled activists to forgo focusing on pulling the militias to their side altogether and instead appealed to the loyalties of individual fighters or prospect fighters.

As the protests raged, the Iraqi parliament pushed through electoral reform legislation in late 2019, changing the system from a proportional system to a single non-transferrable system.[32] Though imperfect, the change allowed for voters to select individual candidates over party lists. The legislation also reserved a quarter of the total 251 seats for women.[33]Still, the protests pressed on, with corruption and foreign influence remaining. On February 11, 2021, activists demonstrated the true influence of their actions after the powerful Iraqi Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr dissolved his “Blue Caps” militia. This was in response to protester demands over viral videos displaying the militia members killing dozens of protesters in Najaf to reopen roads.[34] The appetite to appease the movement reflected the protesters’ adjustment to appeal to Iraqi-aligned militia members’ loyalties to their country. In May 2021, the protesters’ campaigns over the Iranian militia’s kidnapping and assassination intimidation campaign also yielded a small win after the head of the Iranian aligned al-Anbar militia Qasim Muslin was arrested for playing a role in the death of two kidnapped activists.[35]

The movement’s true success shone through the parliamentary elections in fall 2021. The Iran-aligned militias’ Fatah Alliance lost ground in Parliament, relinquishing 31 seats. Meanwhile, Iraqi women- including two women representing the ethno-national minorities in Iraq, surpassed the established quota and won 97 seats.[36] Iran-aligned militias deemed the results as illegitimate and threatened to escalate their violence. Instead, the Iraqi Supreme Court ratified election results in December 2021.[37]

While the results may appear to be small victories, these extraordinary developments represent a

demotion in the militias’ power, a condemnation of their use of violence and an endorsement for the Iraqi state’s inclusion of women and minority groups. This progress was achieved as a result of the activist movement acknowledging that the Iranian militias’ loyalties were unlikely to shift in their favor. Instead, they made a conscious decision to appeal to the loyalties of young Iraqis and persuade them to join the nonviolent cause over the militias.



On November 8, 2020, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the national elections. The elections were a major step forward on the path to democratization.[38] Nevertheless, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) declared the results as illegitimate on February 1, 2021, and launched a coup d’état against the elected government. Established activist groups, professional unions and civil servants quickly mobilized to form the “Civil Disobedience Movement” that aimed to garner broad support from across the country.[39] The goal was straightforward: to execute a national labor strike and bring the economy, and the Tatmadaw’s sources of financing, to a full stop.[40]

While the United States and its European counterparts began imposing economic sanctions on the Tatmadaw’s revenue streams, Myanmar’s liquified natural gas (LNG) industry remained untouched. Lobbying by companies with direct investments in the country, including the French oil and gas venture TotalEnergies (Total) and the US-owned Chevron Corporation (Chevron ensured smooth operations in the LNG sector).[41] The Civil Disobedience Movement recognized that by not sanctioning the LNG activities, the Tatmadaw would still maintain a strong source of revenue.[42]

The movement set about winning over non-state stakeholders’ support, convincing them to divest from the Myanmar LNG pipeline connecting the offshore Yadana Gas field to Thailand.[43] Activists mapped out Total and Chevron’s loyalties and deduced that profit and brand reputation were the critical assets that both companies were most loyal to. The Civil Disobedience Movement then worked with supporters abroad to develop the “Stop Buying Juna Business” boycott and divestment campaign, while also pulling both companies’ workers at the Yadana gas field into the nationwide labor strike on February 11, 2021.[44] LGN workers posted pictures from the offshore platforms calling on both companies to condemn Tatmadaw’s growing list of human rights violations against nonviolent protesters.[45] TotalEnergies promptly responded to the strike and calls to divest claiming that they would not stop producing gas on the Yadana Fields “in part to protect employees from those who might otherwise risk repercussions from the military junta.”[46]

Over the next 30 days, international pressure mounted as global news agencies, such as Reuters, published lists of foreign companies with direct ties to the Tatmadaw and acts of protest and civil disobedience which directly targeted these companies’ offices began to pop up.[47] In Washington D.C., American activists staged a demonstration outside of Chevron’s local office and took turns whacking a pinata adorned with a picture of the company’s primary lobbyist responsible for aggressively working to keep the US from sanctioning Myanmar’s energy industry.[48] This dilemma action targeted Chevron’s loyalty to its profit and identified the absurdity of its actions to protect that profit while directly funding the violent military junta. In May, an activist covered the façade of the national Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise’s headquarters with red paint, brandishing slogans demanding that Chevron and Total withdraw from the country, otherwise risking more Burmese blood being spilled.[49]

By the end of May 2021, sustained, albeit small scale protests, had popped up at numerous Chevron refineries in the US and at Total offices in Europe.[50] The campaign managed to impose enough upward political pressure on Chevron and Total that on May 27, 2021, the energy giants jointly suspended cash distributions derived from the Yadana gas venture to the Tatmadaw junta. The decision followed a joint vote by both companies’ shareholders.[51] The suspension marked an important step in the shift of the energy companies’ loyalties, as it signaled that they were unwilling to risk their reputation and potentially, their profit, if the boycott and divestment campaign grew stronger. With a combined 59.24 percent share in the offshore project, the act partially fulfilled The Civil Disobedience Movement’s goal to cut off financial support to the Tatmadaw.[52]

Amidst sustained nonviolent campaigns, including continued direct action targeting both companies, the energy giants halted all operations and withdrew from the Yadana gas venture on January 21, 2022, citing human rights abuses and a deteriorating rule of law as a direct result of Tatmadaw’s coup d’état.[53]


Non-state stakeholders, ranging from high net wealth individuals to violent extremist groups, will continue to emerge onto the political scene and challenge traditional sources of political power like standing governments, militaries, and international courts. The cases in Iraq and Myanmar demonstrate how those non-state stakeholders which manage to supersede a domestic government may act with high levels of impunity in using violence against civilians, or in maintaining business ventures that directly fund entities accused of committing war crimes. This shift in the political landscape presents a particularly complex challenge for nonviolent movements that aim to pull as many individuals as possible to their side because powerful non-state stakeholders exist outside of the system already attempting to democratize. For several movements, such as those in Iraq and Myanmar, tracking and appealing to individuals’ loyalties who collectively make up a non-state stakeholder has proven fruitful in realizing their goals.

Successfully tracking loyalties as a means to navigate the rise in non-state stakeholders will be critical for those movements seeking to enact meaningful change in constituencies especially where extremist groups have established viable alternatives to government systems. Despite their extremist ideologies, groups like Al-Shabaab in Somalia or the Islamic State-Khorasan in Afghanistan, are able to govern territories because they provide core services in the absence of the central government, such as security and clean water delivery. The populations they govern therefore, have accepted their ruling in order to survive. In other scenarios, such as Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, large-scale corporations’ boycott and divestment from those abusing human rights may prove to be a powerful tipping point in a movement’s ability to apply political pressure on its adversary. Activists’ ability to influence large-scale divestments may be achieved by appealing to the loyalties of the core decision makers within these corporate non-state stakeholders.

To work in parallel with activists’ strategy in appealing to loyalties, policy makers must meaningfully engage and endorse nonviolent movements as the legitimate voice of the people. Further, by applying economic sanctions on individuals within militias, extremist groups, or corporations who either monetarily support or directly repress nonviolent activism, the international community will aid in democratically diffusing power to the people.

[1] Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works, (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2014), 18.

[2] Gene Sharp, 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action, Albert Einstein Institution, 1973.

[3] Erica Chenoweth and Christopher Wiley Shay, List of Campaigns in NAVCO 1.3 – NAVCO Data Project, V1 (2020), distributed by Harvard Dataverse, https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/ON9XND.

[4] Ibid.

[5] See: Brent Simpson, Robb Willer, and Matthew Feinberg, “Does Violent Protest Backfire? Testing a Theory of Public Reactions to Activist Violence,” Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World 4 (January): 1-14.; Daniel Q Gillion, The Loud Minority : Why Protests Matter in American Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020).; Isaac Chotiner, “How Violent Protests Change Politics,” The New Yorker, May 29, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-violent-protests-change-politics.; Tonya Mosley and Allison Hagan, “Violence As A Form Of Protest | Here & Now,” Wbur, June 11, 2020, https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/06/11/voilence-protests-racial-justice.; John Morreall, “The Justifiability of Violent Civil Disobedience,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 6 (1) (March 1976): 35-47.

[6] Mosley and Hagan, “Violence As A Form Of Protest.””

[7] Interview with Hong Kongese activists, July 9, 2021.

[8] Austin Ramzy, “In Hong Kong, Unity Between Peaceful and Radical Protesters. For Now,” The New York Times, September 27, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/27/world/asia/hong-kong-protests-violence.html.

[9] Chenoweth and Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works, 22–24.

[10] Johan Galtung, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research,” Journal of Peace Research 6 (3) (1969): 175-179.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Galtung, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research,” 183.

[13] Sabine C. Carey, Michael P. Colaresi, and Neil J. Mitchell, “Governments, Informal Links to Militias, and Accountability,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 59 (5) (2015): 850-876; Stéfanie Khoury, “Corporate (Non-)Accountability and Human Rights,” Asian Journal of Social Science46 (4/5) (2018): 503-523.

[14] Ore Koren, “Means to an End: Pro-Government Militias as a Predictive Indicator of Strategic Mass Killing,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 34 (5) (2017): 461–84.; Khoury, “Corporate (Non-)Accountability,” 2018).

[15] For detailed examples in Iraq and Myanmar, see Marija Ristic, Ivan Angelovski, and Maja Zivanovic, “‘Epic’ Serbian Arms Deal Led to Pierced Skulls in Baghdad | Balkan Insight,” Balkan Insight, December 13, 2019, https://balkaninsight.com/2019/12/13/epic-serbian-arms-deal-led-to-pierced-skulls-in-baghdad/.; Manny Maung, “Myanmar Atrocities Show Need for International Action,” Human Rights Watch,  December 15, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/15/myanmar-atrocities-show-need-international-action.

[16] For theories on how loyalty is considered an emotion versus a behavior, see: James Connor, The Sociology of Loyalty, 9–34. (New York: Springer, 2007); Robert C. Solomon and Lori D Stone, “‘On “Positive” and “Negative” Emotions,’” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 32 (4) (2002): 417–35; Jack Katz, How Emotions Work (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999).; Morton Grodzins, The Loyal and the Disloyal: Social Boundaries of Patriotism and Treason (Cleveland: Morton Books, 1956).

[17] Katz, How Emotions Work.; Connor, The Sociology of Loyalty.

[18] Connor, The Sociology of Loyalty, 222–24; Grodzins, The Loyal and the Disloyal, 82–86.

[19] Chenoweth and Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works.

[20] “In Baghdad, All Bridges Lead to Revolution,” Al-Wasat, November 7, 2019, http://alwasat.ly/news/arabic/263236.

[21] “The Popular Mobilization Forces Admit to Shooting Protesters on the Night of the ‘al-Khilani Massacre,’” Al-Quds, December 9, 2019, t.ly/q5BR.; “Protests Erupt in Iraq against the American Targeting of the ‘Hashd,’ Abdul-Mahdi Threatens to Review the Relationship with the International Coalition,” Al Jazeera, December 31, 2019, t.ly/IcF4.

[22] For an excellent overview of the Hashd al-Shaabi’s structure and operating model, see: The Hashd and Politics from Iraq’s Paramilitary Groups: The Challenge of Rebuilding a Functioning State, International Crisis Group, July 30, 2018.

[23] Mustafa Saadoun, “Iran’s Influence Seen in Transfer of Iraqi War Hero,” Al-Monitor, October 4, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2019/10/iraq-protests-abdul-wahab-al-saadi.html.

[24] Ibid.; Mizar Kamal, “A Women’s Revolution in the Iraqi Streets: We Will Win!” Daraj, October 30, 2019, https://daraj.com/23324/.

[25] “Iraqi Protesters’ Newspaper Aspires to Be a Means of Change,” Reuters, November 20, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/idARAL8N2802YD.

[26] Mass Al-Qaisi, “Women Become the Icon of Iraqi Protests,” Al-Ithtijaj, March 8, 2020, https://alihtijaj.com/view.php?cat=1140.; Kamal, “A Women’s Revolution”; Dr. Ilham Makki, “The October Demonstrations Are a Turning Point in the Iraqi Feminist Movement,” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2020, t.ly/hfus.

[27] Ibid.

[28] “The Protest Scene after Protesters Burn down the Iranian Consulate General in Najaf,” Enab Baladi, November 28, 2019, https://www.enabbaladi.net/archives/345572.

[29] Saadoun, “Iran’s Influence Seen.”

[30] Makki, “The October Demonstrations.”; Saadoun, “Iran’s Influence Seen.”

[31] Ibid.

[32] Iraqi Council of Representatives, Iraqi Parliament Elections Law (No. 9 of 2020), 2020, https://moj.gov.iq/upload/pdf/4603.pdf.

[33] Iraq’s Electoral Preparations and Processes- Report No.4, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, December 10, 2020; “In a Remarkable Precedent, Women Make a Surprise Win in the Iraqi Elections,” Al-Jazeera, October 20, 2021, t.ly/2DeE.

[34] Muqtada Al-Sadr, Twitter post, February 11, 2020, https://twitter.com/Mu_AlSadr/status/1227247455818915840.

[35] “Iraq Arrests Commander in Iran-Backed PMU over Activist’s Murder,” Al-Arabiya, May 26, 2021, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/05/26/Iraq-arrests-chief-of-Iran-backed-PMU-over-attacks-on-base-hosting-US-force-Sources.

[36] “The Iraqi Federal Court’s Approval of the Election Results Removes Opacity in Iraqi Politics,” Iraqi News Agency, December 27, 2021, https://www.ina.iq/144833–.html.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Maung, “Myanmar Atrocities.”

[39] Victoria Milko, “How Are the Myanmar Protests Being Organized?” AP News, February 9, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/technology-aung-san-suu-kyi-myanmar-yangon-asia-pacific-026ad5eb9ad6920f0d0d5446e17e27c2.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Kenneth P. Vogel and Lara Jakes, “Chevron Lobbies to Head Off New Sanctions on Myanmar,” The New York Times, September 16, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/22/us/politics/chevron-myanmar-sanctions.html.; “403 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations to Patrick Pouyanne and Michael Wirth,” Progressive Voice Myanmar, April 20, 2021, https://progressivevoicemyanmar.org/2021/04/20/open-letter-to-total-and-chevron/.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Amanda Battersby, “Oil Workers in Solidarity against Myanmar Coup | Upstream Online,” Upstream, March 11, 2021, https://www.upstreamonline.com/politics/oil-workers-in-solidarity-against-myanmar-coup/2-1-960420.

[45] Battersby, “Oil Workers in Solidarity.”; Reuters Staff, “Total Says Abandoning Myanmar Gas Field Would Hurt Workers, Cities,” Reuters, April 3, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics-total-idUSKBN2BQ0OX.

[46] Reuters Staff, “Total Says Abandoning Myanmar Gas Field Would Hurt Workers, Cities,” Reuters, April 3, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics-total-idUSKBN2BQ0OX.

[47] “Rights Groups Call on Total to Suspend Payments in Myanmar Operations,” Reuters, March 16, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/rights-groups-call-total-suspend-payments-myanmar-operations-2021-03-16/; Thomas Conway to Michael K. Wirth, March 21, 2021, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gJxc8edR_FidQaH1TJxIx6eMB1qvaMYLC9kKcVyEuxQ/edit.

[48] SomOfUs, IMG_7380, photograph, Flickr, April 16, 2021, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sumofus/albums/72157718943019609.

[49] “Rights Groups Call.”

[50] “Protesters Demand Chevron Suspend Payments to Myanmar Junta Ahead of Shareholder Meeting,” MyanmarNow, May 25, 2021, https://myanmar-now.org/en/news/protesters-demand-chevron-suspend-payments-to-myanmar-junta-ahead-of-shareholder-meeting.

[51] Agence France-Presse, “French Energy Company Suspends Payments to Myanmar Army,” Voice of America News, May 26, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/east-asia-pacific_french-energy-company-suspends-payments-myanmar-army/6206257.html.

[52] “Chevron, Total Energies Stopping Operations in Myanmar over Human Rights Abuses,” NPR, January 21, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/01/21/1074792462/chevron-total-myanmar-human-rights.

[53] Ibid.



Military Coup in Sudan: What we know

Sudan’s military coup on Monday followed weeks of pro and anti military protesting. Soldiers arrested members of the Sudanese Cabinet, civilian members of the foreign council, government officials, and President Abdalla Hamdok’s media advisor. It’s been reported that the military has arrested staff of the state media. Members of the transitional sovereign council and ministers of the transitional government have also been detained.

Pro-civilian government protestors then took to the streets of the capital in large numbers, an estimated tens of thousands, demanding the return of civilian rule. Protests were met with violent dispersion tactics, including gunfire and beatings. The Sudanese Professionals Association has reported that internet and phone service has been out throughout the country. The group, Netblocks, which reports such disruptions, claimed that the nature of the incident is “consistent with an internet shutdown […] likely to limit the free flow of information online.” Reports also stated that the airport of Khartoum was closed, and international flights have been suspended.

Hamdok has allegedly been detained and taken to an undisclosed location. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the military officer who once headed a power-sharing council, addressed the press on Monday to declare a state of emergency and the dissolution of the transitional sovereign council, the Hamdok government, and the anti-corruption task force.

He also announced that a technocratic government would be installed, and elections would be held in July 2023. Burhan claimed that disagreements between political factions caused the military to take over.

The Umma and the Sudanese Congress, two popular political parties, have condemned the coup and the military’s response to the following protests. The Sudanese Professionals Association, who were active in the overthrow of the Bashir government, have called on supporters of democracy to mobilize in the streets, use civil disobedience tactics, and perform a general strike.


How did the coup unfold?

Hamdok’s office director, Adam Hereika, reported that this coup was attempted after an agreement had been reached between Hamdok and Burhan with a U.S. envoy present.

Hereika also points the finger at the military government for raising tension in eastern Sudan before the coup attempt.

The joint civilian and military-led government that took power following the ousting of former leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019 made promises to share power and pave the way for democratic rule in the future, but the clashing interests of the two parties have made cooperation very rocky. There has been another coup attempt occurring just last month, in September 2021.

Government officials claimed that the September coup attempt was orchestrated by Bashir supporters, leading to the arrest of 21 officers and an undisclosed number of soldiers. President Hamdok stated that measures would be taken to target former regime supporters who posed a threat to transition. Since the coup attempt, military leaders demanded the Forces of Freedom and Change coalition, which led anti-Bashir protests and were a substantial part of the transitional government, to be reformed. The military also demanded the replacement of cabinet members.

One major point of contention between the civilian and military sectors of government is whether or not to hand over the Sudanese who are suspected of war crimes during the 2003 Darfur conflict to the International Criminal Court, which the sovereign council has not been able to reach an agreement on. Another disruptive point is the civilian government’s investigation into the murder of pro-democracy supporters in 2019. While the military is against such measures, citizens grew unhappy with the delays in enforcing justice and sharing investigations.

Inflation and devaluation of the currency have caused severe issues for the economy. Citizens are faced with basic goods shortages and high inflation – of which international aid has been helping. Pro-military protestors have adopted slogans such as “down with the hunger government’’, stating that issues of food security and basic good access are the main reasons for supporting a coup by the military government.

These problems are exacerbated by the blockade on the Port of Sudan, which occurred in October of this year, where eastern Sudanese demanded that government take responsibility for prior injustice in the region following Bashir’s loss of power. Protesters demanded the deposing and replacement of President Hamdok, and equivalent revenue sharing by the government for the eastern Sudan region. Reports of such actions included speculations that the Port Blockage was staged or supported by military members of the Transitional Council of Sovereignty, who are still loyal to Bashir. Other speculations stated that the port blockage was staged in support of militant Islamist regimes in favor of a counter-revolution.

After last month’s coup attempt, many rebel groups and political parties allied with the military and staged a sit-in at the Presidential palace calling for the dissolution of the civilian government. In response, Cabinet ministers of the civilian government took part in large protests in Khartoum against military rule. In such protests, supporters of the transitional government counter protested pro-military demonstrations occurring at the same time.


Why did it happen now?

Tensions between the civilian government and the military transitional branch were running high for years. The frustration of the three-year delayed transition to civilian rule and the military’s continued attacks on the civilian branch have been threatening to collapse the power-sharing agreement.

Last month the attempted coup by a group of military officials exacerbated the conflict between the two governing branches. During late September, government officials stated that a group of officers attempted to occupy a state-operated media building. The act was labeled by officials as a failed coup attempt. The Sudanese army claimed that 21 officers, along with an unspecified group of soldiers, were arrested in connection with the coup attempt. A week following the coup attempt, Sudanese civilians chanted pro-democracy slogans and accused the military of delaying transferring power to civilians. They also accused them of postponing the expulsion of remnants of al-Bashir’s regime from state institutions. This includes finally prosecuting security forces who were responsible for the death of dozens of protesters during protests in June 2019.  The civilian branch voiced its support for protesters gathered in the Republican Palace while security forces, encouraged by the military branch, fired tear gas at demonstrators.

In early October, Sudanese security forces enacted a travel ban targeting eleven civilian politicians. This was an effort by the military branch to assert its dominance as this move was seen as repercussions for the civilian government’s “involvement” with the coup attempt. The civilian branch continued to dispute the accusation by the military that they supported a coup attempt. The Forces for Freedom and Change, a civilian umbrella coalition, mobilized protesters to show their support for the pro-civilian government side. This was not the first major protest started by FFC; they were responsible for organizing many demonstrations that led to the removal of President Omar al-Bashir. The central concept of “continuing the revolution,” a reference to the protests that brought down the late President, has been the central unifying cause for activists’ groups. However, during the protests on October 21st, it was evident there were fractures among these groups.

Protesters from the splinter FFC faction, the National Charter Alliance, have been holding a sit-in outside Khartoum’s presidential palace for the past few days. Many members of this group stated that they blame the civilian government for not representing them and ignoring rising poverty and economic deterioration around Sudan. However, members of the FFC claim that the sit-in was not connected to their post-revolutionary movement; instead, they labeled the sit-in as a pro-military protest led by security forces and their allies. With mass discontent on the streets and infighting between both branches invested in the power-sharing agreement, the situation in Sudan was ready to boil over.


Who is in charge?

On October 25th, midday, the military head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan declared a state of emergency. The military seized control of the government and state-run media outlets. Army officials were deployed across the capital city of Khartoum to establish control. The Khartoum airport has been shut down and international flights have been suspended. Additionally, the military has severely limited access to the internet and social media platforms.  In his live televised address to the nation, following the coup, General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan announced that the Sovereign Council and cabinet had been dissolved effective immediately. He referred to the ongoing disputes between politicians of the Council and incitement to violence as justification for the dissolution. All the members of the Sovereign Council–the temporary body responsible for overseeing Sudan’s democratic transition– and state governors will be relieved from their positions. Armed forces have placed many civilian leaders under arrest including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and the governor of Khartoum Ayman Khalid. News outlets have reported that high-level officials responsible for the outreach for the Sovereign council have also been detained. Sources close to the Prime Minister report there was pressure within the Sovereign Council to support the coup, however, Prime Minister Hambok refused, and he urged people to continue protesting peacefully.


How has the world reacted?

The American special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said that “the US is deeply alarmed at reports of a military take-over of the transitional government,” he added how “this would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people,” in his statement on Twitter.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, called for the “immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and military,” as well as the release “of all arrested political leaders and the necessary strict respect of human rights.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed deep concern over the developments in Sudan. The pan-Arab bloc has also urged all sides to adhere to an August 2019 power-sharing deal outlining the transition following the ouster of Omar al-Bashir.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas condemned the coup in a statement. He said the attempted overthrow must come to an immediate end while calling on everyone in Sudan responsible for security and order to continue Sudan’s transition to democracy and to respect the will of the people.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, wrote on Twitter “The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transitional process”. He will be attending a meeting of foreign ministers from the EU and the African Union on Tuesday in Kigali, Rwanda.

The United Nations Mission to Sudan has issued a strong statement to protect Sudan’s fragile democratic transition. The mission has a mandate to assist Sudan in its political transition and protection of human rights, hence can play an important role in garnering international support and local management of the situation. In a statement the mission called “the reported detentions of the prime minister, government officials and politicians unacceptable” and has called the security forces of Sudan “to immediately release those who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest” while urging all parties to “exercise utmost restraint.”



The worsening economic situation, factional infighting, and a deep division between the civilian and military have contributed to the current state of the country. After the ousting of al-Bashir, the Sudanese have yet another challenge to endure and overcome. Sudan has a long history of fighting for democracy, dating back to 1964 when the Sudanese brought down the dictator Ibrahim Abboud. Since then, the country has experienced two major revolutions and a number of rebellions. But, history did show us that Sudanese people are resilient and will continue to fight against authoritarianism.


Cuba’s Largest Anti-Government Protests in Decades

Protests against the communist Cuban government began on Sunday in the town of San Antonio de los Baños. The demonstrations, which are the largest anti-government protests the island has seen since the Malecón protests in 1994, have now spread across the country. Over 100 people have been detained, but protesters continue to take to the streets chanting “freedom” and “down with dictatorship!” The demonstrators are protesting food and medicine shortages and demanding an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations. Only 15% of Cuba’s population of 11 million is vaccinated and the country is reporting 7,000 new cases per day, the highest figures the island has seen since the start of the pandemic. 

Cuba’s economy has been struggling as a result of the pandemic, United States sanctions and a devastating reduction in sugar yields. Cuba’s economy shrank 11% in the past year and the country is facing its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic have devastated Cuba’s tourism industry, which is responsible for 10% of the country’s GDP. The government has exhausted its foreign currency reserves, leading to a shortage of commodities that normally could be imported. Food lines have increased drastically and hours-long power shortages have become a daily occurrence. 

Even purchasing food poses a significant problem for most Cubans: the government-run shops that sell food and other necessities are only accepting foreign currencies, whereas locals are largely paid in Cuban pesos, the national currency. Making matters worse, last month banks were barred by the government from receiving cash deposits in the form of dollars, the main currency through which remittances from abroad are received.

In addition, Cubans are struggling from a lack of doctors and medical supplies. Beds and oxygen tanks, crucial for treating COVID patients, are becoming increasingly scarce as cases continue to rise. Basic medicines are nearly impossible to come by, including those used to treat high blood pressure and scabies. The chronic shortage is driving people to use herbal remedies and purchase medicines on the black market out of desperation.

While the medical and economic crises served as the catalyst for the protests, the movement has evolved into a broader call for freedom and the downfall of dictatorship. This weekend’s protests come at a time when longstanding dissatisfaction with the government has reached a boiling point. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Cuban communist state has used the COVID-19 crisis to further limit civil and political freedoms. The government instigated harsh crackdowns against dissident artists and intellectuals as well as expanding the number of ‘regulados,’ the list of Cuban citizens forbidden from leaving the country due to their dissident activities. Detentions, interrogations and raids against human rights activists and independent journalists have also increased. 

While governmental security forces repressed Sunday’s protesters, social media and the ensuing international coverage have served as deterrents to more brutal practices. Demonstrators live-streamed the events that took place on Sunday, making it difficult for the government to deny the widespread dissatisfaction. Social media has also enabled the demonstrators to document abuses committed by security forces, which include the use of tear gas and batons to break up demonstrations. When Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez uploaded a video of pro-government demonstrations, government critics were quick to share footage of their own protests in response. 

The scope of the protests has elicited a government response: in a televised emergency nationwide address, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel called for government loyalists to “defend the revolution,” which resulted in an eruption of simultaneous pro-government counter-demonstrations. The president claims that the recent wave of anti-government protests is the result of an attempt by the U.S. to destabilize Cuba and blames the economic crisis on the long-standing American trade embargo. 

On Monday, President Biden released a statement of support for the anti-government protestors and appealed to the Cuban government to listen to their demands. However, the Biden administration has yet to respond to President Díaz-Canel’s claims that the U.S. is responsible for Cuba’s struggling economy. As of July 2021, the U.S. government has not reversed the 200+ sanctions placed on Cuba by the previous administration. 

The scale of these protests signal that Cubans will not tolerate the dire economic situation, the shortages of basic supplies, and the government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis. One protestor captured the widespread feeling of extreme discontent, telling the BBC, “This is the day. We can’t take it anymore. There is no food, there is no medicine, there is no freedom. They do not let us live. We are already tired.” 

CANVAS Weekly Update – December 18, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers the indictment of 12 Hong Kong protesters, internet crackdowns in Thailand, escalating protests in Kurdistan, and EU sanctions on Belarus. 

Conflict Update

Two weeks ahead of the official transition period ending, Brexit negotiations between Britain and the EU fail to make a breakthrough. South Korea introduces a ban on flying leaflets to North Korea, despite criticism that the government is prioritising close ties over freedom.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

The United States has begun to distribute the first doses of the newly-approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to healthcare workers across the country. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could be available for emergency use authorization as early as this weekend in the country, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. The first cases of community transmission were recorded in Sydney, Australia this week since December 3rd, authorities sending a public health alert. Local authorities responded by canceling visits to elderly care homes and encouraging increased testing. Brazil announced a coronavirus vaccination rollout plan set to start in early 2021. 

The United States
The House of Representatives has yet again passed a stopgap 2-day spending bill to avert a government shutdown. On Sunday night the government must vote on a proposed $900 billion Covid relief package. Meanwhile, the Texas lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the election results has been rejected, including by the judges selected by Trump. In other news, the Department of Homeland Security announced findings that extensive Russian hacking campaigns are targeting the government and private companies.

 Hong Kong

A Shenzhen court indicted all but two of the twelve Hong Kongers who were arrested months ago for attempting an illegal sea crossing to Taiwan. These twelve citizens were the subject of the #Save12HKYouth campaign which gained widespread support after reports that they were “denied access to lawyers and abused while in Chinese custody.” Further opposition figures have been targeted by the legal system this week: Adam Ma was denied bail again while facing charges of secession for multiple counts of chanting independence slogans, and the Bank of China closed the account of one of the twelve Hong Kongers being held in Shenzhen for “administrative reasons.”


The EU Commission approved a 24 million euro assistance package for Belarusian “civil society and independent media, students…youth professionals…small and medium-sized enterprises…[and] health capacities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Around the same time, the EU also implemented new sanctions on Belarusians involved in the ongoing crackdown on protesters, which continues to result in hundreds of civilian arrests every week. Meanwhile, the government continues to target human rights watchdogs: the courts added another two months to the pretrial detention of a coordinator for the Vyasna Human Rights Center, and police summoned the chairman of the Belarusian Journalists’ Association for questioning about “causing damage to national security.”


The US President-elect, Joe Biden, is set to begin normalizing US-Cuban relations by lifting certain sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, such as travel restriction and remittances. However, sanctions relating to Cuban Human Rights abuses are set to remain. In other news, dialogue between the San Isidro protesters and the government have fallen through, however, the unprecedented protest staged a few weeks ago continues to have its impact through its size and cross-cleavage support. The Cuban Catholic Church has waded in to call for dialogue while the protesters’ presence is stirring debate in the US surrounding the efficacy of sanctions. 


On Saturday, the police arrested 35 members of the opposition MDC Alliance Youth which assembled to launch their 1 million programmes. The Secretary-General of the alliance claims the mass arrests are in aid of the ruling political party, the police claim they arrested the youths for an unsanctioned gathering. Meanwhile, reports claim authorities are evicting families amidst the ongoing health and economic crises, and a UN World Food Program is requesting $204 to assist as food insecurity impacts 4 million Zimbabweans.


 Indonesian police have announced the capture of a senior member of the al-Qaeda militant group Jemaah Islamiah on Thursday. The detainee, Zulkarnaen, is one of the alleged masterminds of a series of bombings in Bali in 2002 which are known to have killed more than 202 people. In other news, the country has pledged free COVID-19 vaccines to its citizens, the president first in line to receive the vaccine. Unrelatedly, the country has lifted a ban on the use of seine and trawl nets, which marine conservationists have blamed for coral reef damage and overfishing. Critics of the new policy claim it will only benefit large-scale fisheries and contribute to depleting fish stocks in Indonesian waters.


The use of Uighur forced labour hits headlines as the European Union condemns the government’s use of arbitrary detainment. Meanwhile, software by Alibaba reportedly included facial recognition AI which had an algorithm identifying Uighurs., the company has since removed any ethnic tags. In other news, the US has blacklisted a series of Chinese companies while the US Navy sets out to be ‘more assertive’ against China.


This week, the Diplomat reported on a recent Thai crackdown on the use of the internet as an organizing tool. An important instrument in organizing under repressive governments, activists in Thailand have turned to the internet in the face of severe COVID-19 restrictions that limit activism. In other news, Thailand has relaxed travel restrictions for tourists from 56 countries in order to help stimulate the economy.


Protests driven by economic frustration in the Sulaymaniyah province of Iraqi Kurdistan continue to escalate. Security forces fired tear gas on protesters while the government blocked internet access and prevented journalists from reporting on the demonstrations. Meanwhile in Baghdad, prominent activist Salah al-Iraqi was shot and died before making it to the hospital. The killers of this major figure in the 2019 anti-government protest movement remain unknown.


Iranian and world leaders met virtually this week to discuss the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. US President-Elect Joe Biden has expressed interest in rejoining the deal, following the country’s leaving in 2018 by current president Donald Trump. Iranian President Rouhani claimed the country would return to compliance with the JCPoA within an hour of the United States returning to the deal, given the US lifts the crippling sanctions on the country. However, relations between the two countries remain fraught, as Iran came under fire on Monday for the death of an ex- FBI agent in 2007.


Prominent US political figures, including Senator Rubio, have come forward with an open letter responding to the Ortegas regime recent codification of press censorship. The letter criticises political harassment, restrictions on free speech and civil society, specifically calling for respect of independent media. In other news, a new report by the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress has claimed 31% of Nicaraguan exiles in Costa Rica are accompanied by children in need of psychological support.


After months of talks, Sudan was officially removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism on Monday. Soon after, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund announced that the completion of this key step meant that the two organizations were ready to provide long-awaited financial assistance to Sudan. The country continues to face an influx of refugees from neighboring Ethiopia, prompting Prime Minister Abdalla to visit Ethiopia to discuss the conflict in Tigray and offer to “broker a ceasefire.” The latter offer was rejected. Days later, Abdalla confirmed that an unspecified number of Sudanese soldiers were killed by Ethiopian forces while conducting a security patrol near the border.


Bolivia has approved the first same-sex civil union following a two year battle. While the Bolivian constitution does not recognize same-sex marriages, the couple successfully managed to argue that the denial of a marriage license was a violation of international human rights standards. LGBTQA+ activists hope that this case will be the first in a series of steps to overhaul the country’s marriage laws. At a MAS political event this week, it has been reported on Twitter that a chair was thrown at the head of former president Evo Morales. The party has blamed right-wing instigators for the aggression.

CANVAS Weekly Update – December 5, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers ongoing protests in India, biological testing of soldiers in China, pressure on the Belarusian regime, and much more.

Conflict [UPDATE]

Ethiopian authorities claimed it had killed or captured rebel leaders in a mountainous region of the country bordering Eritrea, however the local rebel leaders in Tigray have countered that people are currently protesting against occupying soldiers that are looting civilian neighborhoods. The country has recently allowed humanitarian and aid workers access into the region, which many view as long-prevented and much-needed.
Mine workers in Peru from the Doe Run metallurgical plant have joined a group of striking farmworkers blocking major highways across the country in order to place pressure onto the country’s interim president, Francisco Sagasti.

In an effort to protest Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s proposal to overhaul the state-run system in which many farms do business, many farmers have set their fields on fire. Knowing the implications for the air quality of cities like Delhi, these farmers burn their farms out of fear that produce prices will drop and corporations will take over their farms.
This week, Catholic-majority Argentina lit up with protests against a government-backed bill that would legalize abortion. This is the ninth abortion legalization bill to be introduced to the Argentine Parliament.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

The global coronavirus death count lays around 1.5 million as the global case count has climbed to 64.91 million.
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported pharmaceutical company Pfizer was only able to roll out 50 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine, half the total number of doses they had projected to distribute by the end of the year. This caused its shares to drop nearly 2% by the end of the trading session last week.
Italy has imposed some of the strictest holiday rules in Europe, banning travel around the country in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.


The San Isidro Movement launched protests in Havana to demand the release of a jailed group member and rapper Denis Solís. The group of artists, intellectuals and journalists are critical of the communist’s encroachment of civil liberties, in particular freedom of expression. Following a statement by 300 artists and the risky protests staged in front of the Ministry of Culture, the artists secured a meeting with Fernando Rojas, the vice minister of culture. However, since then, authorities dispersed the protesters base in Old Havana, in which 6 protesters were on hunger strike, and state media is defaming the movement as US-backed imperialism. The movement is gaining support and is drawing international attention.

The United States

The House of Representatives passed a bill to decriminalise marijuana, which is considered a milestone for social justice movements. Trump and Giuliani continue their campaign to delegitimize the US election. However, Barr announced that the Justice Department uncovered no significant voter fraud and it has been revealed that Guiliani is seeking a presidential pardon. Meanwhile, Biden is preparing for office by urging action on the economy and Covid-19. The November employment report reveals 3.9 million people in long-term unemployment and the slump is disproportionately affected people of colour. Congress is divided over the stimulus packages, however, a bi-partisan group has detailed a $908 billion plan to move forward.


US Spy Chief, John Ratcliffe, is claiming that China has conducted biological testing in the People’s Liberation Army in an effort to genetically enhance its soldiers. Furthermore, he accused China of economic espionage and claimed China poses the largest global threat to freedom, to which the Chinese retorted that the US is entrenched with a Cold-War mindset. Meanwhile, Sino-Australian relations continue to deteriorate after a fabricated photo was tweeted depicting an Australian soldier threatening a child; this has drawn international criticism and calls for renewed dialogue between the spatting states. In other news, 23 people were trapped in a coal mine in Chongqing, due to an accident involving carbon monoxide. Finally, President Xi Jinping made remarks regarding China’s improved rates of absolute poverty, while outlining more work ahead.

Hong Kong

Prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was sentenced to 13 months in prison for violating the national security law by “organising and inciting others to join a 15-hour siege of police headquarters” last year. His fellow activists Agnes Chow Ting and Ivan Lam Long-ying were sentenced to 10 and 7 months in jail, respectively, on similar charges. The next day, pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai was arrested on fraud charges. He has been denied bail and will be detained until his hearing in April after the court determined he would be a “flight risk.”


The intensity of Indonesia’s coronavirus outbreak has come to light following the death of a senior doctor and his wife on Wednesday due to the inability to find a ventilator to treat their severe COVID infections. This death has “raised alarm bells” in Indonesia, representing the intense overcrowding in Indonesian hospitals. This week, the Indonesian city of Medan was flooded due to torrential rain, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people and left over 2,700 homes flooded.


Flooding has hampered rescue efforts to save the 10-40 illegal miners trapped in the Ran Gold Mine in Bindura. The miner’s explosives hit a support pillar causing the shaft to collapse; so far only 6 have been rescued, 1 body has been retrieved, and the remaining are feared dead, trapped under water and rubble. Zimbabwe’s economy is in crisis; with high inflation and unemployment rates, exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns, Zimbabweans are increasingly turning to the dangerous trade of illegal gold mining. In other news, hundreds are stuck at border posts due to a lack of sufficient Covid-19 test certificates and other documentation, following the reopening of borders. At the Beitbridge border post, 622 people were refused entry in a single day, consequently, many families and traders are struggling to get home.

Flooding has hampered rescue efforts to save the 10-40 illegal miners trapped in the Ran Gold Mine in Bindura. The miner’s explosives hit a support pillar causing the shaft to collapse; so far only 6 have been rescued, 1 body has been retrieved, and the remaining are feared dead, trapped under water and rubble. Zimbabwe’s economy is in crisis; with high inflation and unemployment rates, exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns, Zimbabweans are increasingly turning to the dangerous trade of illegal gold mining. In other news, hundreds are stuck at border posts due to a lack of sufficient Covid-19 test certificates and other documentation, following the reopening of borders. At the Beitbridge border post, 622 people were refused entry in a single day, consequently, many families and traders are struggling to get home.


The contested regime of President Lukashenko faced new sources of pressure from abroad this week. On Wednesday, Russian President Putin urged Lukashenko and the opposition to hold talks intended to resolve the current unrest. Soon after, the UN convened to review an independent report created by 16 OCSE countries that contained calls to “cancel the results of the elections of August 9…release political prisoners, ensure the safety of journalists, and refrain from limiting access to [the] internet.” The Belarusian opposition has simultaneously launched a lobbying effort to convince state prosecutors across Europe to investigate allegations that Belarus’ security forces have tortured detainees. In line with this, opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya announced this week that the movement planned to compile a “book of crimes” committed by the police during the past several months of protests.


The U.S. recalled more than half of its diplomats from its embassy in Baghdad this week as tensions between the superpower and Iran rise. Unrest within Iraq itself continues. To the north, hundreds of government employees protested yet another delay in wages that were due to them two months ago. In Baghdad, similar numbers of university graduates have demonstrated against the lack of employment opportunities for their demographic. In the southern city of Nasriyah, thousands participated in the funeral march of a protester who died in clashes earlier in the week. Eight people have been killed in Nasriyah, along with several dozen injured, since the unrest began.


Five people are facing charges of violating the Thai lese majeste law, including human rights lawyers and protest leaders. They are expected to report to the police by December 7th. Protest leaders see this as a sign: the monarchy is unwilling to listen to the people and feels seriously threatened by the ongoing anti-government pro-democracy movement. In other news, Thai king Maha Vajiralongkorn issued thousands of pardons this week in honor of his father’s birthday on Saturday. Among those being pardoned are political opponents, including those from the red-shirt protests of 2006.


Iranians took to the social media site Twitter this week in an outpouring of support for Vahid and Habib Afkari, recently arrested brothers of a professional Iranian wrestler that was hanged last year for speaking out against the government. Vahid and Habib were imprisoned for their involvement in demonstrations protesting against the regime in 2018. This week, Iran has rejected President-Elect Joe Biden’s terms for reconstituting a nuclear deal between the two countries. Iran’s foreign minister, Javas Zarif, has said that the US must strictly comply with their end of the 2015 nuclear programme before Iran would consider having talks with the global power. This comes amid a breach in treaty between Iran and multiple world powers that dictates the country should only have access to first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN watchdog organization, that it has installed three advanced IR-2m machines in an underground bomb-resistant location in Natanz.


A two-year report published by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) details the human rights abuses against political protesters following April 2018. The testimonies of 266 people report arbitrary detention, dire prison conditions and (sexual) violence against political prisoners. The abuse was carried out by the National Police, however, parapolice and armed civilian groups also engaged in excessive violence. Meanwhile, Nicaragua continues to suffer the aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota. The damages are set to contract the economy by 6%, and as an agriculture-dependent state, the risk of future extreme weather looms.

CANVAS Weekly Update – November 27, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers ongoing protests in Belarus, illegal gold mining in Zimbabwe, the arrest of government officials in Indonesia, and more.

Conflict [UPDATE]

In Ethiopia, the government is launching a military operation in the Tigray region where the TPLF party vows to keep fighting. The humanitarian impact could be massive as the regional capital Mekelle is home to 500,000 people. Furthermore, at least 54 civilians were massacred in the Oromia region by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).
In Taiwan, protests have erupted over the government’s decision to overturn a ban on US pork imports which contains ractopamine, a drug banned in the EU and in China.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

In increasingly harsh coronavirus measures, North Korea has executed an official for violating coronavirus rules, according to South Korean officials. The country has also completely locked down capital Pyongyang and some industries to further prevent the spread of the virus. In other news, NPR reported in an interview that the soon-to-be released COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer will not be available for children, as very few were involved in clinical trials, the youngest enrolled being 12 years of age. However, prospects are hopeful: scientists predict that the vaccine may be more efficient in children when studied in a pediatric population. This week, the online media platform YouTube has suspended the One America News Network – an organization that is openly supportive of US President Donald Trump – for sharing misinformation about COVID-19 and a new possible “cure”. This comes among a bid for YouTube to clean the platform of misinformation, as it has also banned alt-right group QAnon from using the site. Finally, G-20 leaders discussed coronavirus supply distribution in a two-day virtual conference. This comes in an effort to not prevent less economically developed countries from proceeding quickly with coronavirus recovery measures.

The United States

Donald Trump voices for the first time that he will leave office if the electoral college declares Joe Biden the winner. However, Trump and his allies continue with their unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud. Biden is picking his cabinet in preparation for taking office; the nominations are diverse and have extensive experience, however, commentators are criticising their backgrounds in ivy league colleges and the Obama administration. Internationalism is set to improve under Biden with a renewed emphasis on positive relationships with allies and value-based world leadership.


Chinese-Australian relations continue to deteriorate following Australia’s support for a probe into Coronavirus. China has imposed a 212% tax on Australian wine imports, the latest of a string of import restrictions on Australian goods. Australia, along with Washington and Japan, has concerns over China’s military construction in the disputed South China Seas. Malaysia claims Chinese vessels are ‘harassing’ their drilling rig as the two face off in the area over hydrocarbon exploration. Chinese-Indian relations flared after satellite images revealed that China was building along a disputed border shared with Bhutan and India. Meanwhile, Pope Francis has criticised China for its treatment of Muslim Uyghur’s.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is currently facing its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, which has resulted in the closure of bars & nightclubs as well as the delay of the long-awaited travel bubble with Singapore. Leading pro-democracy figure Joshua Wong and two other activists pleaded guilty to “unauthorized assembly charges” and will be sentenced next week. In the meantime, Wong is being kept in solitary confinement at a medical center where the lights are on “24 hours a day” after doctors claimed to see a shadow on an X-ray of his stomach. Wong has not been allowed to see the X-ray. Finally, the city’s Secretary for the Civil Service has stated that city officials who refuse to sign a loyalty pledge to the government will face negative consequences for promotions.


Indonesian Maritime and Fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo arrested on Wednesday in the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport upon returning from a working visit to the United States. The country’s anti-corruption agency released a statement regarding suspicions of Prabowo taking bribes in relation to lobster larvae export permits and using the money to shop for luxury goods in the United States. He was arrested alongside five other government officials and businesspeople for taking bribes in exchange for permits.


The disused Bindura gold mine has collapsed, trapping approximately 30 illegal miners who are now feared dead. Research has revealed that $1.5 billion worth of gold is illegally smuggled out of Zimbabwe annually. The government’s centralised gold buying scheme forces miners to sell to the central bank which underpays producers and causes delays. In other news, Marfume, the mayor of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, has been arrested for alleged corruption and abuse of office in 2010. Opposition groups claim that his arrest is politically motivated.


Lukashenko announced on state television that he would step down following the adoption of a new constitution, however, the implications and sincerity of this announcement remain unclear. On Friday, thousands of Belarusians attended the funeral of Roman Bondarenko, an anti-government protester who died after being beaten by security forces last week. Last Sunday, thousands of demonstrated in Minsk for the 15th consecutive week in a “March Against Fascism”. More broadly, the government continues to punish those who oppose President Lukashenko’s regime: thousands of homes in the Novaya Borovaya district, an opposition stronghold, have lost heating and water while at least 16 journalists have been beaten, arrested, and jailed for reporting on the ongoing movement. Meanwhile, seven non-EU members, such as North Macedonia and Ukraine, have joined the EU in sanctioning Belarus.


Iraq has drawn criticism from two international human rights watchdogs this week. First, Amnesty International reported that following the closure of displacement camps that sheltered hundreds of thousands of people, displaced people with “perceived ties” to the Islamic State have been “subjected to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and unfair trials” while also being denied “civil documentation essential for employment, education, access to state benefits, and free movement.” Second, Human Rights Watch condemned a cybercrime bill being considered in the legislature that “includes vague provisions that will allow Iraqi authorities to harshly punish expression they decide constitutes a threat to governmental, social, or religious interests.”


Thailand saw the revival of the country’s lese majeste, or royal insult law, this week. In its first use since 2018, police officials summoned seven leaders of the ongoing anti-government demonstrations for speaking out against the royal family. These summons came directly before another planned rally, which the location was changed in order to avoid clashes with the police and counter-protestors. The rubber duck, now symbolic of the Thai protests for shielding demonstrators from water cannons, has inspired solidarity memes online. Unrelatedly, Thai authorities admitted to a failed seizure of what they believed was nearly $1 billion in ketamine but was actually 11.5 tonnes of a food additive.


Leading Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated near Tehran on Friday, according to authorities. Fakhrizadeh was rumored to have piloted Iran’s covert atomic bomb program in 2003, although Iran denies any claims trying to weaponize nuclear energy. State media has stated that Fakhrizadeh was killed by terrorists, although no group or state has claimed responsibility for the attack. Australian professor Kylie Moore-Gilbert was recently released from her two-year detention in Iran in a trade-off with Iranian prisoners detained abroad.


Nicaragua continues to suffer the aftermath of Hurricane Iota, a category four storm, which hit last week, and Hurricane Eta which hit a week prior. The storms have caused at least $743 million worth of destruction, with 44,000 homes destroyed; the additional damage from Iota is yet to be calculated. The Inter-American Development Bank has pledged $1.7 billion in aid for the millions impacted across Central America. Costa Rica is offering safe passage for Nicaraguans seeking refuge or asylum, and with the assistance of the EU and the UN, is aiming to improve protections for the thousands migrating.


The UN says it expects up to 200,000 refugees from Ethiopia to flee to Sudan over the next half-year if fighting continues in Tigray; 40,000 have already crossed into Sudan as of this week. This refugee crisis comes as Sudan is already battling a new stage of the COVID-19 pandemic: the country is considering new lockdowns due to this month’s spike in cases that has left many dead, including several doctors and a former prime minister. Separately, the governing alliance announced that the formation of the country’s transitional parliament has been postponed until the end of 2020. They say this delay will enable them to account for the needs of the Sudan Revolutionary Front with whom the government signed a peace agreement with in October.


This week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) began an investigation into the deaths protestors in Bolivia last year following the ejection of former president Evo Morales from office. This investigation will examine individual deaths and the deaths as a whole and investigate the human rights abuses perpetuated by the interim government. Unrelatedly, President Luis Arce announced that the multimedia platform teleSUR would be allowed to air content in the country after being prohibited from airing by the interim government of Jeanine Anez.

CANVAS Weekly Update – November 21, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers promising COVID-19 vaccines, an intensifying refugee crisis in Sudan, the end of a lengthy teachers’ strike in Zimbabwe, and more.

Conflict Update

37 people were killed in the riots in Uganda after the arrest of the opposition leader Bobi Wine. Wine was released on bail, after he was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly violating coronavirus measures.
German police broke up demonstrations in Berlin against opponents of the restrictive Covid 19 measures. Police used water cannons on protesters after they ignored calls to wear masks and keep a safe distance from each other.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

The World Health Organization has recommended that the COVID-19 medication remdesivir not be used to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients of any severity due to emerging evidence from a study that demonstrates it has little to no effect on the wellness of the patient. Bioceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have sought emergency authorization for a coronavirus vaccine in the US. American bioceutical company Regeneron has also applied for emergency use authorization for its antibody treatment for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Brazil surpassed 6 million coronavirus cases on Friday, becoming the third country to hit this milestone following the United States and India.

The United States

The aftermath of the 2020 Presidential Election continues to play out. Joe Biden was confirmed the winner in Georgia after a recount, while Donald Trump continues to dispute the election results by claiming voter fraud and rigging. Trump is focusing his election fraud claims on Michigan, attempting to rally certification board members to overturn endorsements of Biden. Meanwhile, concerns are mounting about Trump’s potential drastic actions during his last weeks in office with important implications for foreign policy, especially with regards to China, Afghanistan, Iran and Israel. Meanwhile, a coalition of climate activists has protested Biden’s decision to appoint people with connections to the oil industry to his staff.

Hong Kong

A Beijing representative said that the mainland Chinese government is “considering changes” to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a document that has long acted as the city’s mini-constitution and guaranteed certain liberties to all residents. Another official made it clear on Tuesday that Beijing wants to reform Hong Kong’s judicial system. The local government continues to crack down on dissent: this week, a high-ranking official rejected a protest application from journalist groups seeking to rally against the recent arrest of a journalist covering last year’s controversial Yuen Long incident. Police are also set to investigate students who chanted “separatist slogans” at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, as such slogans have been criminalized under the National Security Law.


Anti-government protester Roman Bondarenko died last Thursday after spending several days in a hospital following a severe beating by the police. In response, protesters have begun chanting his last words at demonstrations around the country: “I’m going out.” Belarusian authorities have also ordered banks to freeze the assets of Andrei Leonchik, who has raised millions of dollars to help protesters pay fines and medical bills, on the pretense that the funds were going to be used to “topple the government.” In other news, the Belarusian Journalist Association won the Media Freedom Award earlier this week for its “ongoing commitment to journalistic ethics…and its perseverance and self-sacrifice in the face of increased targeted crackdowns on media in Belarus.”


A teachers’ strike that started back in September has come to an end now that the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) has accepted a 41% pay rise. ZIMTA claims they are already engaging with their 2021 strategies to improve conditions and salaries for their 40,000 members. In other news, there have been reports of illegal miners being murdered on Chinese-owned mines. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is investigating but little details have been uncovered so far. Meanwhile, government critic Hopewell Chin’ono continues to be detained after his bail was denied.


Indonesia’s candidate vaccine, CoronaVac, was announced to not be distributed by January. This serves as a blow to the country’s president Joko Widodo, who planned to fast-track the final trials of the vaccine and mass distribute it by December. Indonesian police discovered soda bottles stuffed with smuggled parrots on a ship docked in the country’s eastern region of Papua. The animals found were black-capped lories, a protected species native to New Guinea.


On Sunday, sixteen countries — China included — signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to form the world’s largest trading bloc. The agreement includes approximately a third of the world’s population and GDP and aims to eliminate tariffs and implement new regulations. Major economies, such as India and the US, are not party to the agreement. In other news, Chinese-Australian relations have soured over accusations of Coronavirus mismanagement, continued fallout from the evacuation of two Australian journalists back in September, and new defense pacts between Australia and Japan.


Pro-democracy protests still march through Thailand despite increased political repression sanctioned by the government. However, the movement has adopted a new and unlikely mascot: inflatable yellow rubber ducks. When facing police violence at a protest on Tuesday, protestors utilized a collection of inflatable yellow ducks that was brought to the demonstration as a joke as armor against water cannons and tear gas. This interaction was captured and shared on social media, becoming a new symbol for the movement nearly overnight. In other news, the Royal Thai police headquarters in Bangkok was splattered with paint by angered protestors.


A pro-Iranian militia launched a series of seven rockets targeted at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad this week. Though the embassy was not directly hit, the attack injured five civilians and killed a child. Just two days earlier, a U.S. official ordered another 500 American troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by January 15 of next year. Separately, a financial alliance was formed among the G-7, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and parts of the Iraqi government this week to assist the country with its financial crisis. This comes as the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights announced that 40 percent of people in the Basra governorate are living below the poverty line, marking an all-time high.


The United States has yet again imposed more sanctions on Iran. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump imposed broad sanctions on the country, targeting a foundation controlled by Ayatollah Khamenei. This action is one of many in the White House’s bid to place “maximum pressure” on the country, coming only two months before Trump is scheduled to hand power over to President-elect Joe Biden. Additionally, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched a warship on Thursday, with photographs showing it carries an array of missiles and smaller ships. Experts speculate this release is a response to US navy patrols in the region near Bahrain.


Hurricane Iota brought yet more devastation to Nicaragua while the country was still in shock from Hurricane Eta, which ravaged Central America just days earlier. Iota is thought to be the strongest hurricane to ever hit Nicaragua; its destruction has left many residents without electricity. 60,000 people were evacuated as a result of the storm, and at least three children have died. Meteorologists are claiming this year’s unprecedented hurricane season was caused by climate change, an idea that Joe Biden has also emphasised. International aid and regional banks have provided assistance; however, accessing funds is a slow and difficult process.


Conflict in the neighboring country of Ethiopia continues to fuel a refugee crisis in Sudan. The United Nations estimates that about 25k Ethiopians have sought refuge in Sudan in recent weeks, with many crossing the river on the border by boat or by foot. Meanwhile, leaders from the Sudan Revolutionary Front returned to Khartoum this week, signifying that they “have become part of the transitional government” following a peace deal signed in early October. The government also announced this week that Russia will proceed with building a military base near Port Sudan. The base will accommodate approximately 300 military personnel and enable Russia to more easily conduct operations in the Indian Ocean.


The fire departments of Chiquitania and Santa Cruz in Bolivia have declared states of emergency as active forest fires have consumed nearly a million hectares in the past few months. A deadly Ebola-like virus called Chapare is having a second outbreak in Bolivia. The lethal virus was originally identified in 2004 but caused its first outbreak in 2019. It is likely a pygmy rice rat-borne illness, and can cause a hemorrhagic fever if allowed to progress. Though the virus is unlikely to spread outside the outbreak site, it is untreatable and doctors caution those in Bolivia to be cautious when handling unwashed rice or rats.

CANVAS Weekly Update – November 14, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers police brutality in Thailand, closures of displacement camps in Iraq, sanctions on Iran, protests in Sudan, as well as other news!

Conflict Update

This week, a link between a recent mass shooting in a Nice church in France has been tied to the beheading of a schoolteacher two weeks prior.
Russian troops have been deployed to the Nagorno-Karabakh region following a peace deal with Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have been mired in conflict since July 2020.
Post-election violence following the win of controversial president Alassane Ouattara in the Ivory Coast between ethnic groups has come to a lull after a month of fighting.
Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged fire along the Line of Control, with both officers of both countries accused of firing at civilians.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

This week in the United States, the state of California hit 1 million total COVID-19 cases, placing it with the second highest number of infections of any state in the country, just after Texas. In recent weeks, Iran’s coronavirus infection rate has skyrocketed, bringing the country to a death count of 40,000. Italy has measured more than 40,000 coronavirus infections and 550 deaths in 24 hours. A new study has shown that ethnic minorities in both the US and UK have a greater risk of infection than white people. This may be due to the higher employment rates of ethnic minorities as essential workers and lower socioeconomic status.

The United States

Lawyers for the presidential campaign of incumbent Donald Trump have dropped a lawsuit in Arizona, in which the president made claims of voter fraud. This comes after a projected loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who has won the state. Pundits believe Trump may face prosecution once he leaves office, as he is currently under a pending grand jury investigation by a district attorney in New York into his businesses and taxes. The US Constitution states that a sitting president may not be subpoenaed, however once the president leaves office the subpoena, if granted, will allow him to be charged in state courts.

Lawyers for the presidential campaign of incumbent Donald Trump have dropped a lawsuit in Arizona, in which the president made claims of voter fraud. This comes after a projected loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who has won the state. Pundits believe Trump may face prosecution once he leaves office, as he is currently under a pending grand jury investigation by a district attorney in New York into his businesses and taxes. The US Constitution states that a sitting president may not be subpoenaed, however once the president leaves office the subpoena, if granted, will allow him to be charged in state courts.


US president Donald Trump signed an executive order this week that dictates no American should invest in Chinese military firms. The White House claims that these military firms are owned by the Chinese government. This caused shares to drop for multiple companies on the New York Stock Exchange, such as China Telecom. The automaker company Volkswagon has defended its decision to keep an operating car manufacturing plant in Xinjiang, amid allegations that Uighur Muslims are being detained and forced to work in factories or labor camps. The company claims they have no ties to this practice and control their hiring process; however, critics state the company has a moral obligation to not be tied to such practices given their history in the Nazi party and their historic use of forced labor.

Hong Kong

The central Chinese government removed four opposition lawmakers from the Hong Kong Legislative Council on Wednesday, dealing a devastating blow to political freedom in the city. The U.S. was quick to condemn the action as a “flagrantly violation” of “its commitments to Hong Kong,” and the E.U. voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for the “immediate reinstatement of the Legislative Council members” on Thursday. 15 of the remaining opposition members of the LegCo have responded by resigning en masse, leading many to fear that democracy in the city is all but over. China has rebuked the walkout as an “open challenge to its authority.”


Since the beginning of the academic year, Zimbabwean teachers have been on strike over their low pay and insufficient school safety measures in the wake of COVID-19. This week, the government voted to double teachers salaries to about US$180 per month in an effort to bring educators back to schools; teachers’ unions rejected the salary increase, arguing that the new figure was still far below the poverty line (~US$540 per month) and thus did not meet their demands. Separately, prominent government critic Hopewell Chin’ono has been denied bail while facing charges of obstruction of justice. Chin’ono claims that the charges are false and he is “being persecuted for exposing corruption in [the] government.”


Indonesian officials will meet with high-level executives of the U.S. automaker Tesla next week in order to become the world’s largest producer of electric batteries. This meeting is supposedly a part of the country’s new omnibus bill, which faces criticism for the removal of worker and environmental protections. Additionally, the president has stated the country will begin a mass COVID-19 vaccination effort later this year after final trails of the vaccine have been run. Politicians in Indonesia are deliberating a ban on alcohol. An alcohol-prohibition bill was first introduced in 2015, and though it was not passed the possibility has prompted protests from tourist destinations, producers and some community leaders.


In a demonstration on Sunday, pro-democracy protestors trying to deliver letters of their grievances to the Thai monarch were blasted with water cannons by police forces. No one suffered serious injuries, however the protest was largely nonviolent and did not warrant the use of police force. Earlier this year, an American tourist posted a negative review of a Thai hotel on the website TripAdvisor and was arrested in September for defamation, prompting TripAdvisor to put a warning on the page of the hotel.


International bodies such as the Norwegian Refugee Council have criticized the Iraqi government’s decision to continue closures of displacement camps in seven provinces on short notice, despite the coming winter and COVID-19 pandemic. The government expects that the estimated 100k people who will be left homeless by these closures will “return to their areas of origin.” At the same time, the government has been dealing with a wave of protests across the country. Hundreds of civil servants have taken to the streets in multiple cities to express anger over their salaries being delayed, while others have protested outside of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. In Basra, Iraqi forces opened fire on protesters, wounding 40 and killing the first protester since May.


The International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN watchdog on the possession of global powers of nuclear energy, has stated that Iran has an enriched uranium stockpile of nearly twelve times the amount permitted underneath the 2015 nuclear arms programme. The organization will continue to monitor the country for any other dangers or infractions. In other news, the United States has imposed more sanctions on six companies and four people for supplying good to military organizations in Iran.


Nicaragua is still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Eta, which left hundreds of residents homeless. Spain’s Agency for International Development Cooperation has committed to sending 150k euros of humanitarian aid to the battered country. Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s parliament voted Tuesday to approve a much-criticized amendment to the constitution that allows perpetrators of hate crimes to receive life sentences in prison. Since “crimes motivated by hate against the government” fall under this categorization, human rights groups have criticized the amendment, arguing that it will be weaponized against opponents of President Ortega’s regime.


Protests popped up across Sudan this past weekend. Workers in Port Sudan went on a three-day strike as others protested and held vigils to express their dismay at increased electricity prices in the Red Sea state; residents of Kordofan demonstrated against a fuel shortage that has led to a “transportation crisis;” and Ethiopians in Khartoum protested a decision by the UNHCR office to change their status from “refugees” to “asylum seekers.” The biggest news of the week, though, is the flood of Ethiopian refugees into Sudan. According to the UN, an estimated 11,000 Ethiopians have fled to Sudan following a deadly military campaign by the Ethiopian government in the Tigray region. As a result, Sudan has partially closed its border with the embattled country.

Luis Arce, the president-elect of Bolivia was inaugurated on Sunday in a ceremony at a pre-Incan site of Tiwanaku. Some speculate he may face This week, former Bolivian president and Movement Towards Socialism Party (MAS) leader Evo Morales returned to the country, from which he was exiled after a military coup ousted him from office in 2019. Morales was residing in Argentina.


Amnesty International has reported that over 1,000 peaceful protesters were detained in a single day across Belarus last weekend. International tensions continue to run high: the U.K. government reported that Belarus had expelled two of their diplomats for “legitimately observing protests” and decided to expel two Belarusian diplomats in response. Separately, Belarus’ Astravyets nuclear power plant halted operation within a day of opening after several transformers exploded. The incident worsened pre-existing safety concerns voiced by the neighboring country of Lithuania, whose capital is just 25 miles (40 km) away from the Astravyets plant.

CANVAS Weekly Update – November 7, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This report covers the state of the U.S. presidential election, new scandals in Zimbabwe, and natural disasters in Nicaragua and Indonesia.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

London researchers have discovered that certain antibodies created by the human body whilst fighting the common cold may target the COVID-19 virus and offer some protection against the strain. Over the past week, both Italy and France have hit new daily coronavirus infection highs of 37,809 and 60,486, respectively. On Friday, northern Denmark went into another lockdown as the transmission of a mutated strain of the coronavirus between minks and humans is being investigated. This has led to a nationwide order to kill millions of the animals. Additionally, the president of Portugal has declared a COVID-19 state of emergency that will go into effect next week, strongly recommending that people stay home in order to help lift some of the pressure on the country’s overwhelmed healthcare system. Aspirin is being tested as a treatment for the coronavirus in a UK-based study. The International Monetary Fund has approved a 370 million USD coronavirus aid loan for Afghanistan, which is already struggling from violent conflict.

Conflict Update

Over 50,000 Bangladeshis protested and demanded a boycott on French goods this week after President Emmanuel Macron defended criticism of Islam as an exercise of freedom of speech.

Fears of a civil war in Ethiopia have grown following a crisis of legitimacy resulting from September’s elections and a military offensive in Tigray.

Four were killed and 24 were wounded in Vienna on Monday when a 20-year-old man opened fire on a popular nightlife district. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and the shooter was killed by the police.


On Thursday, conservative opposition leaders called a two-day strike, claiming election fraud in last month’s elections despite the validation of the election results by multiple intergovernmental organizations, such as the Organization of American States. Luis Arce, the victor of October’s election, will be sworn in on Sunday despite the tensions. Following the Movement Towards Socialism Party’s return to the presidency last month, former president Evo Morales of Bolivia will return from his exile in Argentina next week.

United States of America

Amidst a slow ballot count, allegations of voter fraud and the fear of a non-peaceful transfer of power, the United States has maintained an air of tension following the country’s election day on November 3rd between current president Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden. Biden has effectively been declared the winner. Trump has attempted to pursue multiple lawsuits that, if successful, could change the outcome of the election; however, these efforts appear to be fruitless as there has not been any legitimate evidence of voter fraud.


Without much fanfare, Indonesian president Joko Widodo signed a divisive omnibus bill into law on Monday night, disregarding the mass protests demanding the revocation of the bill taking place in the country throughout the past few weeks. Activists worry the bill will have a negative impact on the working class and the environment, as it has stripped regulations that previously protected related issues. Indonesian authorities have begun to evacuate residents near Mount Merapi, an active volcano that the Yogyakarta’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center warns may erupt soon. During its last eruption, over 350 people were killed and nearly 20,000 people living in the area were evacuated.


In a continuation of anti-monarchy protests that have persisted in the country since this summer, thousands of Thai protestors marched towards the German embassy in Bangkok, demanding the German government investigate the king’s multiple stays in Germany in recent months. Protestors have also begun to adopt celestial imagery during demonstrations, challenging symbolism that has traditionally been reserved for the monarchy.


As nationwide protests and strikes continue in Belarus, the contested regime faces more and more international scrutiny: the EU is “expected to approve” new sanctions on members of President Lukashenko’s government this week, and Belarus’ human rights record drew massive criticism at their Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council. At the same time, Lukashenko closed many of his nation’s land borders, acting on a threat he had been making for weeks. The most notable protest of this past week was a demonstration involving over 200 disabled Belarusians. Several of them were detained during their march in Minsk.


The U.S. Secretary of State announced this week that he had begun to officially push the United Nations to end sanctions that it placed on Sudan back in 2005 following the Darfur conflict. Despite this, President Trump renewed a 23-year-old “state of emergency” declaration on Sudan, saying that the country continues “to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the U.S.” Meanwhile, three-way talks among Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the contested Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam ended on Wednesday without any new progress.


Iraq’s president and parliament passed a law allowing for early elections in 2021 under new rules intended to increase competitiveness, such as the division of each province into multiple electoral districts. This came days after the country’s security forces used bulldozers to clear out Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, a key landmark in the year-long anti-government protest movement where demonstrators were still staging a sit-in. In other news, one of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s advisers was arrested this week on corruption charges.

Hong Kong

Residents of Hong Kong can now anonymously submit photo, audio, and video files to a new police hotline that aims to gather information on violations of the national security law. A Human Rights Watch researcher has criticized the service, claiming that people could abuse the hotline by reporting “people who they dislike or are in a different political camp.” Meanwhile, the judicial system continues to hand down punishments for those who act against the current government. Pro-democracy activist Chan King-hei will go to jail for two years after doxxing three police officers as part of what the judge called a “deterrent sentence.” Around the same time, reporter Bao Choy Yuk-ling was arrested on charges related to a TV program she co-produced about last year’s controversial Yuen Long incident, drawing outrage from multiple journalism groups.


Prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono has been arrested once again for violating the conditions of his bail. When he was released back in September, the court ordered him to stop using his Twitter account; in response, he created a new account on the platform where he writes about corruption and other critiques of the government. Separately, there have been new developments in last week’s gold-smuggling scandal: the mining official caught with 14 gold bars claimed she “picked up the wrong handbag,” and her colleague claims that President Mnangagwa’s wife and son are major players in the smuggling ring.


On Tuesday night, Nicaragua was devastated by Category 4 storm Hurricane Eta. At least three people have died as a result of the hurricane that caused mudslides, flooded rivers, and ripped homes apart. Over 10,000 have been huddled in close quarters in storm shelters, despite the risk that it poses for COVID-19 transmission in a country already struggling with the pandemic. In the wake of this destruction, Nicaraguans have pleaded with the international community for humanitarian aid.


The only major economy to grow in the historic year, Chinese president Xi Jinping announced the country is expected to import nearly $22 trillion worth of goods over the next ten years, advocating for free trade. On Tuesday, Nepali opposition leaders accused China of seizing territory on the border of the two countries in the Himalayan mountains, a claim that both the Nepali and Chinese governments have denied. An Indian military commander has commented on tension in the Himalayas on the Indian-Chinese border, voicing concerns a months-long standoff could become a larger conflict in the near future.


The foreign ministers of Iran and Cuba met in Havana this week in order to show solidarity with each other in the face of American sanctions against both countries. The Iranian foreign minister traveled Havana after a visit in Venezuela, another country also currently facing American sanctions. Grand Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran mocked the U.S. elections in a tweet earlier this week, calling it a “spectacle” and saying the elections show the true nature of American democracy.

CANVAS Weekly Update – November 1, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This report covers police brutality protests in the United States and Iraq, a contested election in Tanzania, a new Nicaraguan cyber crimes law, sanctions on Iran, and much more!

Conflict Update

Over 100,000 people flooded the streets in Budapest on Friday, protesting the Hungarian government’s efforts to undermine academic freedom for students of the University of Theatre and Film Arts, calling it an “attack on culture.”

A top court in Poland ruled in a decision that is not subject to appeal to ban all abortions, prompting widespread women-led protests across the country despite a spike in coronavirus infection rates.
Somewhat violent anti-coronavirus restriction protests broke out across Italy on Monday following the national government’s order to close restaurants, bars and gyms, as well as the implementation of a curfew by some local governments. Both protestors and police exhibited violence towards each other.

Anti-lockdown protests also took place in London, United Kingdom following the government’s decision to strengthen social gathering restrictions, leading to 18 arrests.

Amid accusations of “shameless vote-rigging” by the ruling party’s opposition, 11 Tanzanian members of the opposition were shot and killed by police after trying to prevent soldiers from depositing pre-filled ballots before the polls opened in order to sway the upcoming election.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

Friday, NBC reported that coronavirus antibodies may provide protection against reinfections, though they may wane over time. The prime minister of Belgium announced a national lockdown which may be the country’s “last chance” to keep the country’s overrun healthcare system from collapsing. European countries have been documenting new daily records each week, showing no sign the pandemic will slow down on the continent. The United States surpassed nine million known coronavirus cases this week, recording a new daily average of 89,000 infections, as well.


On Tuesday, a Bolivian the Plurinational Legislative Assembly approved a report penned by Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party members that recommended ex-interim president Jeanine Áñez and her advisors face consequences for their involvement in the massacres of Senkata, Sacaba and Yapacani peoples of Bolivia, including a judgement for involvement in genocide. Áñez has declared herself to be innocent, but stated that she will remain in Bolivia for an investigation she hopes will be “impartial.” Unrelatedly, a regional news source reported on Friday that formerly ousted president Evo Morales will resume leadership of the Six Federations for the Tropic of Cochabamba, a powerful union for coca growers.

United States of America

Tensions are high leading up to the U.S. general election on November 3rd. On Monday, 27-year old Walter Wallace Jr. was murdered by two cops in Philadelphia during a wellness call regarding Wallace’s ongoing psychological episode. In the following days, protesters and police officers clashed in another instance of national outcry over police brutality. The demonstrations grew increasingly violent, with police officers aggressively targeting protestors, firing tear gas and striking them with batons. In many local elections, police brutality and police reform have become the centerpiece of campaigns, however the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots and concerns surrounding whether they will be counted remains at the forefront of election concerns.


As protests against Indonesia’s unpopular omnibus law continue, local news sources have reported that intruders have disrupted the peaceful protests and damaged a dozen traffic cameras. Unrelatedly, inmates have tested positive for coronavirus at a prison in Pekanbaru, a major economic hub located on the country’s Sumatra island. With one death thus far, concerns of prison overcrowding leading to quick coronavirus transmission have been voiced by authorities within the corrective facility and international media.


Protests calling for reform of the Thai monarchy that started mid-June continue to rage on despite Prime Minister Prayuth refusing to step down, citing loyalty to the Thai king. Prayuth has faced criticism for his engineering of last year’s elections to keep himself in power. Other members of parliament have also called upon him to step down, adding to the mounting local and international pressure for democratic reform. There have been increasing instances of royalist counter-protestors showing up at demonstrations and raising tensions. Analysts have voiced concerns about the protests, calling upon activists to keep a watchful eye on Thailand lest the protests turn violent and lead to a military coup.


Nationwide strikes began this week after President Lukashenko refused to resign by the Sunday deadline given to him by opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Since the beginning of the strikes, police have detained doctors, forcing them to postpone life-saving operations for their patients, who participated in the protests and Lukashenko threatened to conscript student participants. Dozens of student protesters have already been expelled from their universities for the same reason. General hostility towards protesters continues: police fired stun grenades into crowds on Sunday, detained over 500 demonstrators nationwide that same day, and even violently raided homes that protesters took shelter in after receiving orders to do so from Lukashenko.


Sudan’s foreign ministry announced on Sunday that the country will discuss cooperation agreements on trade and migration with Israel in the weeks to come. The announcement has been met with opposition from Iran, who says Sudan was held “ransom” by the U.S., and high-level Sudanese officials who say that such normalization should not take place until the formation of a transitional parliament. Normalization has also led some 6,000 Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel to fear deportation back to their home country. On a more positive note, a representative of the International Monetary Forum said that Sudan’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror “eliminated one of the hurdles to possible…debt relief,” an encouraging sign for the country in a time of economic crisis.


On October 25, thousands of Iraqis hit the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriyah, and Basra, renewing a movement against government corruption and emphasizing earlier demands for the prosecution of those who killed protesters during the past year. The protests first began just over a year ago, but were temporarily halted due to COVID-19 concerns. Police and protesters exchanged blows in this new round of demonstrations: as the police employed tear gas and stun grenades, protesters hurled molotov cocktails, burned tires, and threw rocks. Dozens of civilians were injured in the process. In other news, Kurdistan authorities announced this week that they had foiled a PKK-led attack on diplomats in the city of Erbil.

Hong Kong

Lasting unrest in Hong Kong has taken a toll on its citizens’ feelings of security: the city, which previously ranked 5th in the world on Gallup’s Global Law and Order Index, tumbled to 82nd place in 2020. Official figures show that an increasing number of Hong Kongers are seeking asylum, especially in Canada and Australia; this week, four activists attempted to seek asylum at the U.S. Consulate but were rejected within hours. One of the activists, 19-year-old Tony Chung, was arrested on charges of secession soon after. Meanwhile, calls for the Chinese government to release twelve Hong Kongers who have been detained ever since attempting to flee to Taiwan are intensifying around the world. Opposition lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan hung up banners saying #save12HKyouths, a hashtag echoed by prominent activists such as Greta Thunberg.


China, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, and the African Union have all urged the international community to halt sanctions on Zimbabwe after the country’s anti-sanction campaign this week. The series of events ended with an all-night online “extravaganza” with Zimbabwe’s top musical talent that drew just 14 viewers. Separately, the government has amended the Criminal Law Act to criminalize “unauthorized communications with foreign governments,” “protesting during international events or visits,” and making “unsubstantiated claims of torture or abduction” in a move that experts say takes aim at opposition activists and charities. The ruling party drew additional fire this week when a relative of President Mnangagwa was arrested after attempting to smuggle 14 gold bars past airport security prior to boarding her flight to Dubai.


Nicaragua’s legislature has approved the Special Cyber Crimes Law, which includes provisions for imprisoning anyone who “promote[s] or distribute false[s] or misleading information that causes alarm, terror, or unease in the public,” “incites hatred or violence,” or “puts at risk economic stability, public health, national sovereignty or law and order.” Many fear that this law will be disproportionately applied to members of President Ortega’s political opposition, which is why the European Union and United States expressly disavowed the law after its proposition.


On Thursday, China unveiled a new 5-year economic plan, emphasizing quality growth over speed in order to become a self-reliant “technological powerhouse.” This plan aims to encourage domestic demand and slowly open up the economy throughout the duration of the plan. It is expected that President Xi Jinping’s pledge of making the country carbon neutral by 2060 will heavily shape how the country carries out the five year plan. China has announced its plans to impose sanctions upon Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing following the U.S. approved a nearly $ 2 billion arms sale to Taiwan last week.


On Thursday, United States announced it would place sanctions upon 11 firms and individuals for their alleged participation in the sale and purchase of Iranian petrochemical products. Additionally, the country announced it had seized missiles and oil from Iran on route to Yemen. UN atomic power watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that Iran is in the process of building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after the country’s previous one exploded. Following the hit of a new coronavirus infection number, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei has called for stricter rules for those who flout public health rules.