CANVAS Weekly Update – October 2, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers protests in Iran and Hong Kong, free speech restrictions in Chile, the oppression of civil society in Zimbabwe and Nicaragua, as well as many other stories.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]


U.S. President Donald Trump tested positive for coronavirus early Friday morning, placing the country into further uncertainty amidst an already fraught political climate leading up to the November 3 election. On Thursday, multi-national tech company Amazon released reports that nearly 20,000 of the company’s employees have tested positive for the coronavirus amidst pressures from labor groups to publicize the number of workers infected by the virus. A group of 16 life-science companies have pledged to work together to get COVID treatment and diagnostic products to the developing world, using not-for-profit and tiered pricing.

Hong Kong

Despite the banning of one march planned by the Civil Rights Human Front on China’s “National Day,” 86 protesters were arrested at scattered demonstrations on charges ranging from “not being able to show a valid Hong Kong identity card” to “disorderly conduct in a public place.” Three Hong Kongers had already been arrested earlier in the week for calling for violence on National Day. Separately, the Chinese government passed a directive ordering all American diplomats to receive permission from the Beijing Foreign Ministry before speaking to their counterparts in Hong Kong. If an American calls without permission, Hong Kong officials have been instructed to simply say, “I can’t speak with you,” and end the call.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe opposition politicians and activists continue to be targeted by the current regime. Activist Joana Mamombe, who faces trial for making “allegedly false claims of torture by suspected state security agents,” was sent to the infamous Chikurubi maximum security prison for psychiatric evaluation. Additionally, the state security minister Owen Ncube accused oppositionists of working with Western governments to smuggle guns into the country as part of a broader plot to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government. A leader of the main opposition movement, Movement for Democratic Change, has denied these allegations and said they remain “committed to nonviolence.”

Chile

This week, the Human Rights Watch has called upon the Chilean government to reject an “Anti-Denial Law” that will soon pass through the Chilean Senate. This law would criminalize the denial, justification, or approval of the human rights abuses that occurred during the country’s military dictatorship of the years between 1973 and 1990. This bill would contravene existing human rights standards protecting the freedom of speech. Additionally, the Chilean government announced it would not sign the Ezcasu Agreement, which aims to guarantee “full and effective implementation of the rights of access to environmental information, public participation in decision-making processes and access to justice in environmental matters.”

Iraq

According to Iraqi government officials, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened to close the American embassy in Baghdad unless the government intervenes to stop militia attacks on American diplomatic missions. Pompeo claims that these attacks have been increasing in frequency over the past few months. The U.S. government has already “begun preparations to withdraw diplomatic staff if such a decision is taken.” Iraqis fear that such a withdrawal would be followed by military action, leaving their country caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and Iran. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters gathered in Baghdad to mark the one-year anniversary of mass demonstrations against Iraq’s ruling class. Though the initial movement died down after several months, protesters are back in full force demanding “youth employment, functioning public services and the guarantee of transparent elections.”

Palestine

This week, AlJazeera reported on the continuation of the ongoing displacement of Palestinians and general policy of transfer of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which is aided by their fragile residency status. This residency status is described as that of a “permanant resident” similar to that of foreign nationals residing in Israel, though they are indigenous to the territory. Palestinians have also marked the 20th anniversary of the second Intifada (al-Aqsa Intifada) and the building of the apartheid wall between the West Bank and Israel this week.

Russia
Russia continues to struggle with its COVID-19 caseload as the government orders businesses to have one-third of their workforces work remotely and Moscow hospitals reach full capacity. This week, Opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused President Vladimir Putin of poisoning him. In response, the Kremlin claimed that Navalny was working with the Central Intelligence Agency. Separately, Armenia has asked Russia for help in its escalating conflict with Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Russia has accused “foreign terrorists and mercenaries” of playing a considerable role in the conflict.

Iran

Protests have flared on the in Iran over the control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region within Azerbaijan controlled by ethnic Armenians. Many of the protestors, ethnic Azerbaijanis, demanded that Iran closes its borders with Armenia, in which it is believed arms have been transported through. The International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN nuclear watchdog, has been granted access to inspect a location in which it was believed Iran implemented its alleged nuclear arms program in 2003 after seven months of being denied access by Tehran. Tensions have also flared between Iran and Iraq following the publishing of an editorial piece criticizing the Grand Ayatollah of Iraq for inviting the UN to observe elections by Hossein Shariatmadari, an advisor of Iranian Grand Ayatollah Khameini.

Nicaragua

Two controversial bills were proposed in the Nicaraguan assembly this past week. The first law, called the “Foreign Agents Regulation Law” would “require any person who receives funding from abroad to register with the Ministry of the Interior as a “foreign agent.” They would then be subject to close monitoring and restrictions on their civic and political rights.” It has been termed a “weapon of the police state against civil society” by the Nicaraguan Platform of NGO Networks, according to local sources. The second law would “make spreading fake news on social media punishable by up to four years in prison.” Similar lawd abroad have been met with criticism, as they tend to be applied disproportionately to opponents of the current regime.

CANVAS Weekly Update – September 25, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers mass arrests of women in Belarus, protests against recent deals to normalize relations between Arab states and Israel, and further crackdowns on journalists and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

China

Researchers have uncovered evidence that more detention centers have been built in Xinjiang province over the past few years, despite claims from authorities that the region’s “re-education centers” were on the decline. Apart from identifying newly built camps and prisons, their report says, “Evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees…are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities.” International pressure on China over its abuses in Xinjiang has been mounting lately; on Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted almost unanimously to ban products made with forced labor in Xinjiang province. Separately, Facebook shut down over 150 Chinese-run accounts that were posting about the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Hong Kong

Notable pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was arrested by Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday for “attending an unauthorized demonstration last October” and “violating a government ban on wearing a mask during that gathering.” Wong argues that the police had “political motives” for the arrest and that they are “try[ing] to confine all activists within Hong Kong’s borders” as many flee the city. The police also announced a new policy for journalists this week that only recognizes members of international media organizations or outlets registered with the government. Major media groups such as the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA) will no longer be recognized under this policy. This has far-reaching implications for journalists, ranging from restricted access to press conferences to reduced protections from police.

Belarus

On Saturday, 2,000 women participated in the “Sparkly March” in which they wore shiny accessories and called for President Lukashenko to step down. 314 women were arrested for taking part in the demonstration; police planned to arrest more, but “they ran out of room in [their] vans.” Days later, Lukashenko was sworn in for his sixth term at a small ceremony that was not announced to the public beforehand. Usually, the country broadcasts inaugurations on state television and radio channels, but many speculate that the president deviated from tradition to avoid confrontation with protesters. This move comes after the European Union failed to impose sanctions on Belarusian officials. Cyprus refused to green-light the sanctions unless the EU took similar action against Turkey for its “drilling in the contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean.”

Libya

Amnesty International released a report detailing the horrific abuses of refugees and migrants in Libya, which the country has yet to acknowledge. Migrants have been blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to witness severe human rights violations within the country. While experiencing extrajudicial killings, sexual or physical violence, forced labor, disappearances and other forms of exploitation, new reports have materialized detailing the involuntary transportation of migrants to unofficial detention centers and deportation.

Palestine

The West Bank and Gaza broke out in protests this week, denouncing the Emirati and Bahraini decisions to normalize relations with Israel and for leaving Palestinian leadership out of any negotiations. Palestinian Authority President Abbas has said that the only time peace will come to the Middle East is when Israel fully removes itself from the occupied territories. Palestine, which was supposed to chair the Arab League for the next six months, has rejected the position in protest of the recent normalization of ties.

Cuba

President Trump announced on Wednesday that, “as part of [his] continuing fight against communist oppression,” the U.S. Department of Treasury would ban imports of Cuban rum and cigars, prevent American tourists from staying in 433 government-funded Suban hotels, and restrict Americans from organizing and attending large events (e.g. conferences and weddings) in Cuba. These sanctions come as the island nation is suffering from one of its worst food shortages in over two decades, a disaster attributed to ongoing embargoes and COVID-19’s devastating effect on tourism. Cubans endure long waits — sometimes eight to ten hours — just to enter scant government-run grocery stores.

Sudan

Representatives of the Sudanese government met with American and Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi this past weekend to discuss regional stabilization. While discussing a potential deal to normalize relations with Israel, Sudan reportedly requested to be removed from the USA’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and to receive a US$3 billion aid package. The talks concluded without any formal resolution about Sudanese-Israeli relations, however. Meanwhile, the country is still struggling with COVID-19 and massive flooding, both of which have contributed to soaring food prices; the cost of some staples have risen by over 50%. This week, the International Monetary Fund approved Sudan’s plan for economic restructuring, opening the door for much-needed debt relief.

Bolivia

Tensions are high in Bolivia leading up to next month’s election. Supporters of ousted president Evo Morales’ Movimeinto al Socialismo party were prevented from holding an election rally and had previously engaged in street fighting in the city of Oruro with the members of the current party in office. This comes after interim president Jeanine Anez announced she would not be running in next month’s election and has fueled discontent within the country by suppressing and jailing pro-Morales supporters.

CANVAS Weekly Update – September 18, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers protests in Belarus and Libya, internment camps in China, human rights abuses in Venezuela, as well as many other topics!

Coronavirus [UPDATE]


Moderna Theraputics, a coronavirus vaccine developer, announced on Friday that they hope to produce 20 million doses of a vaccine candidate by the end of 2020, and plans to prepare 500 million to 1 billion doses in 2021. China’s CanSino Biologics plans to start clinical trials of a two-dose vaccine, after one dose had proven to be ineffective. Israel has gone into a second total lockdown, taking effect on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 30 million people have been infected with the coronavirus globally and nearly 950,000 have died. Approximately 20 million people have recovered from the virus.

The United States
Amid worries of election fraud and the prevention of the counting of mail-in votes, a U.S. court in the state of Michigan has ruled that late-arriving ballots must be counted, if received two weeks after the November 3 election as a special provision for the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, a federal judge has blocked recent changes to the U.S. postal service before the election, citing the probability of it being a “politically motivated attack” that could impact the outcome of the election. The U.S. has also begun to block the distribution of Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok on Sunday. TikTok will still be available for a few weeks, but WeChat is facing full blockage this weekend.

Belarus

Members of the European Parliament decisively passed a resolution that rejects the results of the most recent Belarusian presidential election, calls for “new, free, and fair elections to take place as soon as possible under international supervision,” and lays the groundwork for sanctions to be placed on Belarus. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has labelled the resolution as “aggressive” and “not constructive.” Separately, human rights groups announced at a press conference in Geneva that protesters in Belarusian jail cells were being tortured. Approximately 500 of the estimated 7,000 detained demonstrators in the country have testified about such torture.

Hong Kong

12 Hong Kongers who attempted to travel to Taiwan by way of a speedboat were arrested this week for illegal entry into mainland China. Those arrested are thought to be pro-democracy activists fleeing the territory out of fear of persecution — one of them was already being investigated under the National Security Law — though Chief Executive Carrie Lam denies this narrative. Activists’ journeys through the court system continue to make headlines this week: activist Tam Tak-chi has been denied bail after being charged with sedition, and 24 activists appeared in court on charges of “participating in an illegal assembly over a June 4 vigil commemorating the crackdown on protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989,” a vigil that was allowed in the city until the National Security law took effect this year.

China

Chinese authorities reported this week that 1.29 million residents of Xinjiang province have received vocational training every year since 2014. Human rights groups have previously argued that the government uses this “training” narrative to counter widespread reports about forced labor in internment camps in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, protests in Inner Mongolia over a new curriculum that replaces Mongolian with Mandarin as the language of instruction continue. Over 130 protesters have been arrested, and the government has announced that “parents whose children do not return to school by Thursday will be blocked from receiving bank loans for five years, and their children will be expelled and forbidden to take the critical national university entrance exam.”

Libya

Prime minister al-Sarraj of the internationally recognized GNA government has declared he aims to step down from office by late October, citing UN-brokered efforts to unite the country under a unified government. Additionally, after many years of resistance, the eastern rebel government of Khalifa Haftar resigned following a series of protests in the city of Benghazi. Residents of the city were angered at the rebel government’s corruption and worsening living conditions. Haftar has also announced that the blockade of oil by his forces will be lifted as long as revenues will be distributed fairly. Pro-Haftar organizations have been blocking access to oilfields and export terminals since January in order to demand a “fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.”

Nicaragua

On Tuesday, President Daniel Ortega proposed reforming the criminal justice system to permit life sentences in prison and “threatened to use it against some government opponents, accusing them of committing ‘hate crimes.’” Days before, 18 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica testified to the torture and sexual abuse they endured while in the custody of government forces during anti-government protests in 2018. Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement saying, “There is no progress observed in the human rights situation in the country; on the contrary, with Covid-19 the situation has worsened.”

Venezuela

On Wednesday, UN officials released a report of their investigations into the government of Venezuela in a US-led campaign, alleging the country’s human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity. Venezuela’s security forces have been engaging in violent political suppression and general terrorizing of the Venezuelan population with the support and orders from President Maduro and the ministries of the interior. On Thursday, Maduro denied the EU’s request to push back elections in order to send an observer mission.

Zimbabwe

The International Federation for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (also known as ZimRights) issued a joint statement condemning the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Noting “a spike in violations of fundamental rights and civil liberties” during the COVID-19 pandemic, ZimRights said it had recorded 820 instances of human rights violations, ranging from arbitrary arrests to extrajudicial killings, since the end of March. This week, Zimbabwe also held talks with major investment banks to discuss the opening of a Zimbabwe stock exchange, called the VFEX, in a few weeks.

Bolivia

Interim Bolivian president Jeanine Anez has announced she will not be running in next month’s election in a video message on Thursday. Though Anez did not endorse any current candidates, this is expected to be part of a bid to strengthen support for opposition against the party of ousted president Evo Morales, the Movement for Socialism (MAS). Some lawmakers are attempting to push a bill through Congress legalizing the use of a form of toxic industrial bleach to treat coronavirus, a move the country’s health ministry and other physicians have strongly rejected.

CANVAS Weekly Update – September 11, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers protests in Belarus, and Iraq, constitutional debates in Chile, human rights abuses in Myanmar, as well as many other topics!

Coronavirus [UPDATE]
Across the globe, colleges and universities have become coronavirus hotspots, In the United States alone, schools in their fall semester have reported an additional 36,000 infections, bringing the total number of campus infections since the virus entered the country to 88,000. France has witnessed a surge in coronavirus cases, and now aims to eradicate testing delays and create more space in hospitals in preparation for another wave. The New York Times reported on how coronavirus deaths and lockdown measures have been increasing global hunger.

Belarus

Pro-democracy protests have consistently been taking place in Belarus surrounding President Lukashenko’s declaration that he won a sixth term amidst widespread allegations of election rigging. Protest leader Maria Kolesnikova announced this week that she received death threats from security officials, around the same time as 121 people were arrested on protest-related charges in just one day. On Friday, the U.S. indicated that it was preparing to sanction Belarusian individuals tied to protest crackdowns and election fraud.

Hong Kong

A middle school student was suspended after attending online classes with a background that read “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now.” Students have been advised by the Education Minister to avoid everything from protesting the national security law at school to “singing songs that contain political messages,” which he said were “clearly propaganda.” The suspension comes against the backdrop of another change in the city’s education system: textbook publishers are set to “change the way they describe the territory’s constitutional arrangements” so that students no longer learn about the government’s system of separation of powers; rather, “students will be taught that all three [branches] operate under a political framework that ultimately answers to Beijing.”

Myanmar

Human rights group Fortify Rights published video testimony from two deserters of Myanmar’s army in which the former soldiers confirmed that they had received direct orders to kill and rape Rohingya Muslims en masse. One soldier said that his commander ordered him to “shoot all you see and all you hear” and “exterminate” members of the ethnic group. On Thursday, three students were arrested for participating in protests calling for the restoration of internet access in the Rakhine state.

Chile

Chile has experienced yet another earthquake this week, of magnitude 6.5 near the city of Tocopilla. While there were no reported injuries or deaths. the city and a nearby municipality have experienced power outages and other utility delays. The country is also in the process of constructing a new constitution in order to remove itself from the constitution written during the reign of military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Critics of the current constitution claim the lack of recognition of the indigenous Chilean population erases Chile’s history of genocide against indigenous groups. Chileans will vote on the new constitution on October 25th, 2020.

Iraq

At least six reporters from Diljah TV, a local television station, have quit and gone into hiding after receiving violent threats for broadcasting a concert on a day of mourning for Shia Muslims. Two days of protests are set to begin on Sunday due to the government’s refusal to employ some 31,000 medical graduates for budgetary reasons, despite the country’s rising COVID-19 caseload and alarming lack of practitioners. Organizers say that if they are not successful, doctors in non-emergency sectors will begin a partial strike. Meanwhile, families of ISIS militants, including women and children, are being detained at Iraq’s border with Syria.

Palestine

This week, Palestine recorded its highest daily record of coronavirus infections at a total of 37,214. The West Bank and Gaza were shielded from the first global wave of the pandemic, but are now seeing a quick spread of the virus through the nation. An upcoming Arab League meeting on Wednesday will likely be dominated by discussion of the UAE’s “peace deal” with Israel and how other countries will continue to stand on the Palestinian cause for self-determination. Experts predict the conversation will be more divided than in past conversations.

Russia

American software giant Microsoft found that hackers tied to the Russian government have targeted over 200 organizations linked to the U.S.A’s upcoming election, mirroring the election interference that led up to the controversial 2016 presidential election. Local sources reported on the same day that the U.S. imposed sanctions on Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian politician with “close connections” to Russian intelligence who fueled conspiracy theories about American presidential candidate Joe Biden. In other news, teachers in St. Petersburg have been “instructed to comb through their students’ social media pages and submit detailed reports on students who post ‘LGBT symbols’ to the police,” raising alarms with rights groups working in the already LGBT-unfriendly nation.

Sudan

Sudan’s government has declared a three-month state of emergency over record-breaking floods that have killed dozens of people and wrecked over 100,000 homes. The floods are also putting two of Sudan’s “invaluable historical relics”, the royal pyramids of Meroe and Nuri, at risk. Separately, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebel group, which did not sign onto last week’s historic peace agreement between the government and nine rebel groups, has agreed to new peace talks with the government.

Bolivia

On Monday, a court blocked a senate bid by former Bolivian president Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president of the Movement for Socialism Party. Morales resigned from the presidency following claims of election fraud and military pressure, and was later exiled to Mexico. The Human Rights Watch has released a statement condemning the courts decision, claiming the interim government is abusing the justice system to carry out politically-motivated persecutions.

CANVAS Weekly Update – September 4, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers protests in Chile, the U.S., Mongolia and Zimbabwe, border disputes on the Sino-Indian border, election interference in Libya, as well as many other topics!

Coronavirus [UPDATE]


A meta-analysis performed by the World Health Organization found that common corticosteroids can reduce COVID-19 mortality rates by about one-third. The United States has withdrawn US$62 million in funding from the WHO and plans to sit out of the organization’s global vaccine effort in favor of a plan to distribute the vaccine to Americans first. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has reported that daily coronavirus cases are almost on par with those reported in March, which was previously considered the height of the pandemic.

The United States

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine, nearly four million people may die of coronavirus worldwide, with 620,000 perishing in the United States. In the best case scenario, two million people will die of COVID globally, with roughly 300,000 of them Americans. President Trump has suggested that Americans vote twice – once in person and once via mail-in ballot – in order to test the integrity of the election system, an action that is illegal in many states. Reports of a black man’s death by suffocation at the hands of a police officer have surfaced in the United States. Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old with mental health issues, was restrained with a spit hood and put on life support in a hospital after going cold. His death was reported as a drug overdose. The involved officers have been suspended, however Black Lives Matter protests have continued to occur.

China

Tensions continued to rise along the disputed Sino-Indian border this week as China accused Indian soldiers of making “flagrant provocations” and “trespassing” in Ladakh on two separate occasions. In response, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has banned 118 Chinese apps for being “hostile to national security.” Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people in Inner Mongolia protested a new curriculum under which core subjects are taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. Similar measures to use Mandarin as the language of instruction have been taken in Tibet and Xinjiang as part of a broader initiative to assimilate minorities into the broader Chinese identity.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has launched a voluntary city-wide COVID-19 testing operation as it fights its third wave of infections. While over 600k people have signed up for testing so far, activists and healthcare workers have called for a boycott of the campaign over fears that China will use it to collect DNA from Hong Kong residents. They cite the “direct involvement of mainland Chinese firms” in the testing operation and past accusations that China has collected DNA from Uighurs in re-education camps in Xinjiang province. Beijing denies that DNA will be collected during these COVID-19 tests.

Myanmar

Facebook has committed to increasing its efforts to take down hate speech and misinformation ahead of Myanmar’s election in November. U.N. investigators said that the social media platform played a “key role in spreading hate speech” in stoking violence against members of the Rohingya minority group in 2017. At the same time, the Ministry of Telecommunications blocked access to the website of activist group Justice for Myanmar, saying that it was spreading fake news. The group, which investigates Myanmar’s military and its business interests, says that the charge is false and the government is simply repressing critical voices.

Zimbabwe

After being arrested on the same day, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition politician Jacob Mgarivhume were both granted bail within hours of each other after spending over a month in prison on charges related to the July 31 anti-government protests. Chin’ono is not allowed to leave Harare or use social media while on bail, and Mgarivhume had to relinquish his passport. Overall, Zimbabweans continue to speak out against the government. Tens of thousands of people have used the tag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter on Twitter, and still more graffiti anti-government messages on the streets of the country.

Chile

Early Tuesday morning, a magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the northern coast of Chile, followed by an aftershock of 6.3 magnitude, resulting in some damage and the evacuation of residents of the northern coast. Chilean truckers ended a 7-day strike on Wednesday, which damaged supply chains and food access across the country. Strikers were pushing the Chilean Congress to fast-track security legislation following an uptake of arson attacks of their vehicles and the death of a 9-year-old girl riding in her father’s truck. Strikers reached a deal with the government after a promise to increase security for truckers in the Araucania province.

Iraq

On Saturday, Donald Trump announced plans to remove approximately 2,000 American troops from Iraq. Meanwhile, Al-Monitor reported that young Iraqi activists are in the process of registering 15 new political entities with the Independent High Electoral Commission ahead of next year’s elections. As 56% of Iraqis are under 24, the country’s sizeable young population has the potential to change the political landscape and has already been a considerable force in recent pro-reform protest movements.

Libya

This week, Libyans lined up at polling locations to elect municipal leaders amidst infighting between Government of National Accord leaders. GNA leaders have also accused the Russia-backed rebel forces of Khalifa Haftar of interfering with elections in eastern Libya, despite being recently ousted from Tripoli. Two Libyan families filed lawsuits in an American court against Haftar, who is an American citizen, claiming he is responsible for the deaths of their family members, including multiple children.

Syria

Yesterday, presumed Israeli airstrikes on Syria killed six Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary fighters outside the city of Mayadeen. On Wednesday, Syrian air defenses intercepted missiles fired by an Israeli warplane, and on Monday, airstrikes resulted in the deaths of one civilian, three government soldiers and seven foreign soldiers. The worn-torn country is also experiencing an aggressive outbreak of COVID-19, prompting concerns of “widespread transmission” and its effect on the country’s weak under-resourced and understaffed healthcare system by the UN.

Lebanon

Protesters were met with tear gas and rubber bullets as they gathered in Martyrs’ Square on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of Greater Lebanon, demanding that the current government step down after their mishandling last month’s deadly blast in Beirut. The protests coincided with French President Emmanual Macron’s visit, during which he put forth a draft proposal for Lebanon’s new government. The proposal focuses on the categories of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuilding from the Beirut port explosion, reforming the government and private sector, and combatting corruption.

Palestine

Following an agreement between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian fishermen have been allowed to work on the Mediterranian Sea. This stipulation comes in an agreement to contain airstrikes on Gaza by Israeli warplanes, brokered by Qatari diplomatic forces. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh visited Beirut to advise Palestinian factions on how to respond to normalization deals with Israel in an effort of a Palestinian coalition to negotiate their own deals.

Russia

German officials have determined that Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent used in a previous attack against an enemy of the Kremlin, late last month. Russia denies any involvement in the poisoning. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says that this poisoning constitutes “use of a banned chemical weapon.” Separately, the United States has deployed personnel and military equipment to Lithuania’s border with Belarus. Despite speculations that this comes in response to Putin’s statement that he was prepared to provide military support to Belarus’ embattled President Lukashenko if necessary, the USA has said that the exercises are “not directed against any neighbor, including Belarus.”

North Korea

Following two typhoons within the last week, North Korean media outlets have adapted reporting styles to resemble that of the international media, offering seemingly unscripted moments and overnight coverage, with reporters reporting directly from the harsh weather conditions. Specialists believe this attempt at modernization aims to keep up with South Korean and international media sources “seeping” into the country. South Korean sources claim that North Korea is waiting for the results of the U.S. election in order to resume nuclear arsenal negotiations with Washington.

Iran

According to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the United Arab Emirates has “betrayed” the Muslim world by normalising relations with Israel. Amnesty International has gathered testimonies from thousands of people arrested in Iran following protests over a price spike in gas and has accused Iran of using torture to extract confessions. Pro-wrestler Navid Afkari faces two death sentences for the murdering of a security guard in Shiraz during peaceful protests in 2018. The US has expressed concern that Afkari’s confessions were extracted by torture and are false.

Nicaragua

After months of health officials expressing doubt about Nicaragua’s low coronavirus infection numbers, the hacker group Anonymous gained access to the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 database and posted its contents on Twitter. The former Director of Epidemiology at the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health verified the database and found that it contained extensive evidence of the government underreporting cases. For instance, the government reported 3,413 cases of COVID-19 on August 11, whereas the database showed that they were aware of 10,524 confirmed cases.

Sudan

The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), the country’s main rebel alliance consisting of nine rebel groups, signed a peace deal with the government on August 30th after 17 years of conflict. According to local sources, the deal allocates seats in the government to the SRF, provides land rights to those displaced by conflict, outlines details of a plan for transitional justice, and builds upon a previous deal to integrate rebel fighters into the national army. Two rebel groups refused to sign the deal.

Venezuela

The Venezuelan government has announced it will free and pardon 110 detained political opponents, many of which caused outrage for their arrests. Though many of Maduro’s most vocal opponents will not be released, many of the released have close ties to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by more than 50 country’s as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. This decision comes amid claims that opposition parties will boycott the upcoming legislative polls. Maduro has called for Venezuelans to volunteer to be injected with the newly-approved Russian COVID-19 vaccine, for which Health Minister Carlos Avarado offered 500 volunteers to Russia.

Bolivia

Experiencing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Latin America, Bolivians have turned to digging unofficial graves for the dead, as the cost of cemetery spaces has skyrocketed in the past five months. On September 1st, the country reopened borders for international travel, despite keeping lockdown measures in place until September 30th.

CANVAS Weekly Update – August 28, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers ongoing protests in Libya, the United States, Chile and Bolivia, China’s reaction to US sanctions, recent reports of denying Rohingya candidates from running for office in Myanmar, as well as many others!

Coronavirus [UPDATE]


In the United States, two Food and Drug Administration employees were fired following “grossly misinterpreted” blood plasma data was publicly praised by President Trump. The Center for Disease Control was questioned by experts as they modified coronavirus testing guidelines to exclude those who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, the first four coronavirus reinfection cases were confirmed this week, with two mild cases in Europe, one mild case in Hong Kong, and one severe case in the United States. Finally, India became the world’s fastest-growing outbreak in the world with nearly 500,000 cases reported this week.

The United States

The US saw Black Lives Matter protests surge around the country following the shooting of unarmed Black man Jacob Blake by a Wisconsin police officer. On Tuesday, 17-year old gunman Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two BLM protestors after crossing state lines to confront protestors. Last Friday, thousands of people attended the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” March on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech, organized by civil rights campaigner Rev. Al Sharpton. A Category 4 storm, Hurricane Laura, caused 6 deaths and devastated communities around and inland of the Gulf Coast.

China

The United States imposed sanctions upon 24 Chinese companies for allegedly assisting the Chinese military with constructing artificial islands in the South China Sea. These companies now must receive special permission if they wish to buy any technology from the USA. Such sanctions have previously been reserved only for companies that pose national security threats or are complicit in human rights abuses in Xinjiang. In tandem with these sanctions, the United States announced that individuals “responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea” would be barred from entering the country. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry decried the sanctions, saying they “violate[d] international law” and were driven by “tyrannical logic.”

Hong Kong

On August 26th, Hong Kong police arrested 16 pro-democracy activists on charges related to last July’s protests against China’s growing influence over the city. Among those arrested were two high-profile members of the Democratic party, Lam Cheuk-ting and Ted Hui, both of whom had their homes raided by security forces. Mr. Lam was arrested on “suspicion of participating in rioting” and “conspiring to damage property and obstruction of justice outside Tuen Mun police station” last July, whereas Mr. Hui was arrested on counts of “attempted obstruction of justice, access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent, and criminal damage.”

Myanmar

Dozens of members of the Rohingya minority group have applied to be candidates in this November’s general election. Six have already been rejected due to a rule stating that both parents of the candidate must have been citizens when he/she was born. Under this policy, many Rohingya cannot qualify for office because Myanmar’s past military governments have consistently removed their identity documents.

Zimbabwe

Job Sikhala, the Vice Chairman of the Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance, was arrested last week on charges of “inciting public violence.” The high-ranking member of Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party had appeared on a police wanted list following nationwide anti-corruption protests held on July 31. Until now, he was in hiding along with approximately a dozen other activists involved in the demonstrations. Around the same time that Sikhala’s arrest was announced, fellow anti-government activist Jacob Ngarivhume was denied bail for a third time while fighting similar protest-related charges.

Chile

The United Nations sent a team to investigate the hunger strike of an Indigenous Mapuche leader and 20 others Mapuche people over his detention. The Mapuche have been fighting for ownership of their ancestral land against the wood pulp industry and the government. In 2014, leader Celestino Cordova was jailed for 18 years for his alleged participation in the murder by arson of two landowners in the region. Among other countries, Chile has been accused of using coronavirus lockdown restrictions to crack down on dissidents.

Iraq

The UN Envoy for Iraq reported that the country has seen a 10% increase in poverty during the coronavirus pandemic. 3 million Iraqis currently struggle to buy enough food. This change is attributed to a significant decrease in the cost of oil and petrol products, Iraq’s main exports, and massive job losses in the private sector during the COVID-19 era. Separately, the U.N. counter-terrorism chief announced that over 10,000 ISIL fighters remain active in “small cells” in Iraq and Syria, though coronavirus lockdowns have reduced the risk of terror attacks.

Libya

This week, Amnesty International called for the release of at least six protestors that were abducted by allies of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and called for an investigation into the matter. People have been protesting in Tripoli because of poor living conditions, electricity and water shortages and a general lack of government services. Additionally, a military commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) declared a ceasefire called by the GNA to be a “marketing” stunt and that the LNA would remain ready to attack.

Syria

Last week, several towns in Idlib Province housing displaced families were bombed by fighter jets believed to be Russian. On Monday, an explosion on a main gas line caused a blackout across Syria. Syrian officials claim the explosion was the result of a terrorist attack. Three Syrian Constitutional Committee have tested positive for COVID-19, halting talks towards a political solution to end the nation’s war.

Lebanon

Thirty-seven UN human rights experts issued a statement calling for an independent investigation into the explosion that devastated Beirut earlier this month, largely due to a lack of faith in the Lebanese government’s ability to investigate the issue impartially. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun previously shut down such calls for international probes into the blast on the basis that they would “dilute the truth.”

Palestine

Last week, Palestinian teenager Mohammed Damir Matar was shot and killed by the Israeli soldiers near the village of Deir Abu Meshal in the West Bank. Matar’s body is being held at Abu Kabir Forensic Medical Institute in Tel Aviv, which is notorious for illegally harvesting the organs of Palestinians. This week, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that a group of Jewish settlement houses in the West Bank were built on private Palestinian land and must be removed. Air raids on Gaza have intensified since the release of incendiary balloons by Hamas into Israel as the territory heads into lockdown after the first four cases of coronavirus were confirmed by the health ministry.

Russia

Ever since Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko declared he had secured a sixth term in office amid allegations of election rigging, there have been mass protests and calls for his resignation. Vladimir Putin, a longtime ally of Lukashenko, stated that Russia was prepared to provide military support to the Belarusian president if necessary; however, he stated, “there is no such need now, and I hope there will be no such need.” Leaders of European Union nations do not consider Lukashenko’s re-election to be legitimate, standing in opposition to Russia’s current position.

North Korea

Claiming that the country’s development goals had been seriously delayed due to recent flooding and the coronavirus pandemic, North Korean President Kim Jung-Un delegated responsibility for relations with South Korea. Un has also scheduled the creation of a new five-year plan in January due to the declining state of the economy.

Iran

In return for pursuing no further questions about the issue, the Iranian government has allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency access to two suspected former nuclear sites inTehran and Isfahan. Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian was placed under house arrest for reports that one of his upcoming projects will include videos of women singing and dancing, activities which are considered to be immoral under Iranian law. Iranian women have been speaking out on Twitter against sexual assaults in order to break the taboo and speak about their experiences publicly. This led to the arrest of a serial rapist by Tehran Police, and called for other women to come forward about their experiences.

Nicaragua

According to local sources, over 500 Nicaraguans are stranded at the country’s border with Costa Rica. Authorities say they will not admit anyone without a negative COVID-19 certificate, though they do not provide COVID tests to citizens seeking to return home. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights has urged President Ortega to allow those stuck at the border to return “immediately.”

Sudan

Following talks held in South Sudan, the Sudanese government signed an agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) to integrate the major rebel group into the national armed forces over the coming 39 months. The deal stipulates that rebel forces will operate under the Sudanese army’s command for the next 14 months while staying in their current positions in the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile, after which they will be stationed across the country for 13 months before being completely integrated. The deal has been lauded as “historic.”

Venezuela

The US Department of Treasury approved the release of frozen Venezuelan government assets to opposition forces in order to fight COVID-19. However, the Human Rights Watch has accused Maduro’s Venezuelan security forces as using the coronavirus lockdown to intimidate and persecute government critics. Additionally, President Maduro publicly thanked Iran for aiding the country in overcoming US oil sanctions.

Bolivia

Protests in Bolivia have calmed after an electoral tribunal declared that elections must be held on October 18th, 2020. Evo Morales supporters have been protesting the continual postponement of the country’s elections by the interim government that overthrew Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Additionally, Canadian citizen Juan Tellez and mayor of Bolivian town Betanzos was charged with sedition and terrorism by the interim government for organizing nation-wide highway blockades to demand a fair election in October. Tellez claims that the government is charging him in order to intimidate members of the Movement for Socialism Party from participating in the upcoming election.

Weekly Report August 14 2020

Coronavirus

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a locally developed vaccine for Covid-19 has been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans. Amid fears that safety could have been compromised, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Russia last week to follow international guidelines for producing a vaccine against Covid-19. Meanwhile, global cases of coronavirus have passed 20 million, with over 5 million in the United States, 3 million in Brazil, and 2 million in India.

United States

President Trump repeated the claim this week that the election could be riddled with fraud if mail ballots were widely used, and he made clear that he opposed Democratic demands for additional funding for both the post office and election security measures because of his opposition to mail-in voting. He left open the possibility that he could come to a deal as part of a larger negotiation over a new round of economic stimulus. Meanwhile, large-scale protests continue in the U.S.; this past week in Portland, protesters set fire to the police union headquarters, and in Chicago, hundreds of young people responded to reports of a police-involved shooting by looting downtown stores.

China

The U.S. and China will reportedly review the progress of their “phase one” trade deal later this week — roughly six months after the agreement came into effect. This comes as President Trump imposed sanctions on top Chinese officials after China imposed Hong Kong’s new security law, which has already led to the arrest of journalists and activists.

Hong Kong

As a result of Hong Kong’s new security law, Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon and prominent pro-democracy figure, was arrested on Monday, on suspicion of committing foreign collusion crimes in breach of Beijing’s national security law, and conspiracy to defraud. Nine others were also arrested, including his two sons and four senior executives at his company Next Digital Media, the publisher of Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s largest daily tabloid. Separately, Agnes Chow, a young pro-democracy activist, was also arrested on foreign collusion accusations.

Myanmar

An independent election monitoring group in Myanmar has been prevented from observing polls for the country’s November 8th election. Rohingya Muslim Abdul Rashid of the Democracy and Human Rights Party has been denied the right to run for office in the upcoming election. Officials cite his parents not having been citizens upon his birth, which he refutes. Facebook has not yet released alleged evidence to the International Court of Justice of “serious international crimes” related to the country’s current charges of genocide of the Rohingya Muslim population.

Zimbabwe

The Human Rights Watch called on the Zimbabwean authorities to end the inhuman prison conditions in which prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe Party leader Jacob Ngarivhume are being held. Chin’ono and Ngarivhume, currently in pretrial detention at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare, were arrested on July 20 for allegedly inciting public violence. The activists had helped expose high-level corruption in Zimbabwe and called for nationwide anti-corruption protests on July 31.

Chile

The Chilean government plans to lift the world’s longest quarantine lockdown restrictions in the capital city of Santiago on Monday. With one of the highest death tolls per million people in the world, residents of Santiago have been urged to continue to engage in safety measures such as social distancing, frequent handwashing and wearing a mask.

Iraq 

On Tuesday, a Turkish air raid killed two members of the Iraqi border guard as well as their driver. Iraqi government officials have cancelled a visit to Baghdad by Turkey’s defense minister as a rejection of the aggressor’s airstrikes, but may not take any further action in order to not sever ties with the major trading partner. The Assyrian International News Agency reported on Tuesday the call of Iraqi PM Al-Kazemi to Iraqi Christians to “return home,” citing the defeat of Daesh. On Thursday, the country reported a new record of 3,841 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours.

Libya

US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland consulted with senior Turkish officials in Ankara on Wednesday about ways to achieve a demilitarised solution in central Libya, with a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, and stressed the need to enable the country’s National Oil Corporation to resume its vital work.

Syria 

Reuters reported yesterday of a rift in the Syrian ruling elite as Rami Makhlouf, cousin of President Bashar Al-Assad and a member of his inner circle, published a video on social media lashing out against the President. In the video, Makhlouf spoke directly to the president, calling the state security forces “inhumane” and criticising the President for allowing them to attack people’s freedoms. An American journalist based in Idlib province, an area controlled by state opposition, has been arrested by the Hay-at Tahrir al-Sham on Thursday following the arrest of a British aid worker on Tuesday. These arrests have prompted concerns about the role of torture in the  HTS prison system. The Guardian reported on Thursday of the lack of support for sexual assault survivors and the sexual violence LGBTQ protestors were forced to face by Syrian intelligence agents. Eight children under the age of five have died within the past week in aYPG/PKK controlled camp in northern Syria due to health problems.

Lebanon  

The Lebanese government has declared a two-week state of emergency following last week’s brutal explosion in Beirut that left hundreds dead and thousands homeless. This statement grants the military expansive power to deny citizens the freedom of assembly and free speech. Angered by the protection of the ruling class and apathy of the government, residents have begun to protest across the capital city to demand the dismantling of the political system of Lebanon. Despite the government stepping down on Monday, street demonstrations move forward in the face of brutal police force and endemic homelessness.

Palestine 

Following the agreement of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize ties, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of social affairs spoke out about Palestinians being left out in negotiating the deal, and other Palestinian leaders claim the normalization of ties aims to”liquidate Palestinian national rights.” Despite the deal with the UAE to suspend declaring sovereignty over the West Bank, Israeli prime minister was said to have only agreed to delay the annexation, according to US President Donald Trump. However, Aljazeera reported plans for 30 structures being bulldozed in a village in the West Bank this past week, as well as a water reservoir that would force community members to travel to other villages for their water supply. The Israeli army carried out an airstrike on the Gazan city of Rafah in a retaliation against incendiary balloons being released into Israel on Tuesday. The attack left an unexploded bomb in a UN-run school in the Shaiti refugee camp.

Russia

Russia has approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine despite concerns that offering a vaccine to the public before the final stage of trials may put people in danger. The vaccine, called the “Sputnik-V,” is expected to be available for medical personnel by the beginning of September and for a mass roll-out by October.

North Korea

Despite no having no confirmed cases of COVID-19, North Korea continues to place a strict quarantine on its citizens. The North Korean Red Cross has also deployed more than 43,000 volunteers to provide aid to areas plagued by heavy rain and flooding.

Iran 

The US circulated a revised UN resolution to indefinitely ban weapons sales to Iran, which will be put to vote today. The US has also seized the cargo of four Iranian fuel tankers transporting oil to Venezuela at the request of federal prosecutors in Washington. This week, two Iranian men were convicted on charges of espionage on behalf of Israeli, German and British intelligence and have been sentenced to ten years in prison. Throughout the summer, Iran has arrested, convicted, and executed numerous citizens for serving as spies to foreign powers as for acts of public destruction during protests, citing concerns from human rights advocacy groups about access to fair trials and legal representation.

Nicaragua

Amnesty International has reported the quick spread of coronavirus through Nicaraguan prisons. In a surge of detainment of political opponents of the government and student organizers, Nicaraguan prisons have become overcrowded, lacking safe drinking water and medical access to those at risk of infection. The northern coast of the country adjacent to the Carribean is reported to be facing severe flooding due to a tropical wave and overflowing rivers, leaving hundreds of homes submerged in water.

Sudan

Al Jazeera reported that at least 25 people have been killed in clashes between ethnic groups in a port city in eastern Sudan. The Central Doctors’ Committee said in a statement on Wednesday that about 90 others were wounded in the fighting that began on Sunday between members of the Bani Amer and Nuba ethnic groups in Port Sudan, a key international trade harbour on the Red Sea. The United Nations says that almost 10 million people in Sudan face food shortages as a result of conflict.

Venezuela

The Foreign Policy Magazine wrote an article this week depicting how Maduro has used the pandemic to solidify his control over the country. In mid-June, Venezuela’s top court, which remains loyal to Maduro, ousted the leaders of two major opposition parties, replacing them with chavista loyalists. In early July a similar move suspended the leadership of Voluntad Popular, the former party of Guaido?, the U.S. backed opposition leader. Journalists have reported harassment by authorities and Maduro’s supporters while covering the pandemic.

Bolivia

Bolivia has been brought to a standstill as the country moves into the 14th day of a nationwide highway blockade and general strikes, shutting off access to nearly all highways in and out of major cities. Opponents of the government that ousted former president Evo Morales are protesting the continual deferral of Bolivia’s first presidential election since the coup of November 2019. The strikes and blockades have been primarily organized by rural groups, indigenous groups and labor unions allied to the political party of Morales. On Monday, the Bolivian government deployed military personnel to disperse protesters and protect the transportation of oxygen tanks amid attacks on protesters by pro-government paramilitary groups.

CANVAS Weekly Update – August 14, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers ongoing protests in Lebanon, Bolivia and the United States, as well as arrests as a result of Hong Kong’s new security law.

Coronavirus [UPDATE]
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a locally developed vaccine for Covid-19 has been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans. Amid fears that safety could have been compromised, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged Russia last week to follow international guidelines for producing a vaccine against Covid-19. Meanwhile, global cases of coronavirus have passed 20 million, with over 5 million in the United States, 3 million in Brazil, and 2 million in India.

The United States

President Trump repeated the claim this week that the election could be riddled with fraud if mail ballots were widely used, and he made clear that he opposed Democratic demands for additional funding for both the post office and election security measures because of his opposition to mail-in voting. He left open the possibility that he could come to a deal as part of a larger negotiation over a new round of economic stimulus. Meanwhile, large-scale protests continue in the U.S.; this past week in Portland, protesters set fire to the police union headquarters, and in Chicago, hundreds of young people responded to reports of a police-involved shooting by looting downtown stores.

China

The U.S. and China will reportedly review the progress of their “phase one” trade deal later this week — roughly six months after the agreement came into effect. This comes as President Trump imposed sanctions on top Chinese officials after China imposed Hong Kong’s new security law, which has already led to the arrest of journalists and activists.

Hong Kong

As a result of Hong Kong’s new security law, Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon and prominent pro-democracy figure, was arrested on Monday, on suspicion of committing foreign collusion crimes in breach of Beijing’s national security law, and conspiracy to defraud. Nine others were also arrested, including his two sons and four senior executives at his company Next Digital Media, the publisher of Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s largest daily tabloid. Separately, Agnes Chow, a young pro-democracy activist, was also arrested on foreign collusion accusations.

Myanmar

An independent election monitoring group in Myanmar has been prevented from observing polls for the country’s November 8th election. Rohingya Muslim Abdul Rashid of the Democracy and Human Rights Party has been denied the right to run for office in the upcoming election. Officials cite his parents not having been citizens upon his birth, which he refutes. Facebook has not yet released alleged evidence to the International Court of Justice of “serious international crimes” related to the country’s current charges of genocide of the Rohingya Muslim population.

Zimbabwe

The Human Rights Watch called on the Zimbabwean authorities to end the inhuman prison conditions in which prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe Party leader Jacob Ngarivhume are being held. Chin’ono and Ngarivhume, currently in pretrial detention at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare, were arrested on July 20 for allegedly inciting public violence. The activists had helped expose high-level corruption in Zimbabwe and called for nationwide anti-corruption protests on July 31.

Chile

The Chilean government plans to lift the world’s longest quarantine lockdown restrictions in the capital city of Santiago on Monday. With one of the highest death tolls per million people in the world, residents of Santiago have been urged to continue to engage in safety measures such as social distancing, frequent handwashing and wearing a mask.

Iraq

On Tuesday, a Turkish air raid killed two members of the Iraqi border guard as well as their driver. Iraqi government officials have cancelled a visit to Baghdad by Turkey’s defense minister as a rejection of the aggressor’s airstrikes, but may not take any further action in order to not sever ties with the major trading partner. The Assyrian International News Agency reported on Tuesday the call of Iraqi PM Al-Kazemi to Iraqi Christians to “return home,” citing the defeat of Daesh. On Thursday, the country reported a new record of 3,841 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours.

Libya

US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland consulted with senior Turkish officials in Ankara on Wednesday about ways to achieve a demilitarised solution in central Libya, with a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya, and stressed the need to enable the country’s National Oil Corporation to resume its vital work.

Syria

Reuters reported yesterday of a rift in the Syrian ruling elite as Rami Makhlouf, cousin of President Bashar Al-Assad and a member of his inner circle, published a video on social media lashing out against the President. In the video, Makhlouf spoke directly to the president, calling the state security forces “inhumane” and criticising the President for allowing them to attack people’s freedoms. An American journalist based in Idlib province, an area controlled by state opposition, has been arrested by the Hay-at Tahrir al-Sham on Thursday following the arrest of a British aid worker on Tuesday. These arrests have prompted concerns about the role of torture in the HTS prison system. The Guardian reported on Thursday of the lack of support for sexual assault survivors and the sexual violence LGBTQ protestors were forced to face by Syrian intelligence agents. Eight children under the age of five have died within the past week in aYPG/PKK controlled camp in northern Syria due to health problems.

Lebanon

The Lebanese government has declared a two-week state of emergency following last week’s brutal explosion in Beirut that left hundreds dead and thousands homeless. This statement grants the military expansive power to deny citizens the freedom of assembly and free speech. Angered by the protection of the ruling class and apathy of the government, residents have begun to protest across the capital city to demand the dismantling of the political system of Lebanon. Despite the government stepping down on Monday, street demonstrations move forward in the face of brutal police force and endemic homelessness.

Palestine

Following the agreement of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize ties, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of social affairs spoke out about Palestinians being left out in negotiating the deal, and other Palestinian leaders claim the normalization of ties aims to”liquidate Palestinian national rights.” Despite the deal with the UAE to suspend declaring sovereignty over the West Bank, Israeli prime minister was said to have only agreed to delay the annexation, according to US President Donald Trump. However, Aljazeera reported plans for 30 structures being bulldozed in a village in the West Bank this past week, as well as a water reservoir that would force community members to travel to other villages for their water supply. The Israeli army carried out an airstrike on the Gazan city of Rafah in a retaliation against incendiary balloons being released into Israel on Tuesday. The attack left an unexploded bomb in a UN-run school in the Shaiti refugee camp.

Russia

Russia has approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine despite concerns that offering a vaccine to the public before the final stage of trials may put people in danger. The vaccine, called the “Sputnik-V,” is expected to be available for medical personnel by the beginning of September and for a mass roll-out by October.

North Korea

Despite no having no confirmed cases of COVID-19, North Korea continues to place a strict quarantine on its citizens. The North Korean Red Cross has also deployed more than 43,000 volunteers to provide aid to areas plagued by heavy rain and flooding.

Iran

The US circulated a revised UN resolution to indefinitely ban weapons sales to Iran, which will be put to vote today. The US has also seized the cargo of four Iranian fuel tankers transporting oil to Venezuela at the request of federal prosecutors in Washington. This week, two Iranian men were convicted on charges of espionage on behalf of Israeli, German and British intelligence and have been sentenced to ten years in prison. Throughout the summer, Iran has arrested, convicted, and executed numerous citizens for serving as spies to foreign powers as for acts of public destruction during protests, citing concerns from human rights advocacy groups about access to fair trials and legal representation.

Nicaragua

Amnesty International has reported the quick spread of coronavirus through Nicaraguan prisons. In a surge of detainment of political opponents of the government and student organizers, Nicaraguan prisons have become overcrowded, lacking safe drinking water and medical access to those at risk of infection. The northern coast of the country adjacent to the Carribean is reported to be facing severe flooding due to a tropical wave and overflowing rivers, leaving hundreds of homes submerged in water.

Sudan

Al Jazeera reported that at least 25 people have been killed in clashes between ethnic groups in a port city in eastern Sudan. The Central Doctors’ Committee said in a statement on Wednesday that about 90 others were wounded in the fighting that began on Sunday between members of the Bani Amer and Nuba ethnic groups in Port Sudan, a key international trade harbour on the Red Sea. The United Nations says that almost 10 million people in Sudan face food shortages as a result of conflict.

Venezuela

The Foreign Policy Magazine wrote an article this week depicting how Maduro has used the pandemic to solidify his control over the country. In mid-June, Venezuela’s top court, which remains loyal to Maduro, ousted the leaders of two major opposition parties, replacing them with chavista loyalists. In early July a similar move suspended the leadership of Voluntad Popular, the former party of Guaidó, the U.S. backed opposition leader. Journalists have reported harassment by authorities and Maduro’s supporters while covering the pandemic.

Bolivia

Bolivia has been brought to a standstill as the country moves into the 14th day of a nationwide highway blockade and general strikes, shutting off access to nearly all highways in and out of major cities. Opponents of the government that ousted former president Evo Morales are protesting the continual deferral of Bolivia’s first presidential election since the coup of November 2019. The strikes and blockades have been primarily organized by rural groups, indigenous groups and labor unions allied to the political party of Morales. On Monday, the Bolivian government deployed military personnel to disperse protesters and protect the transportation of oxygen tanks amid attacks on protesters by pro-government paramilitary groups.

CANVAS Weekly Update – August 9, 2020

Dear friends,

CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers ongoing protests in Russia, the United States, Zimbabwe and Bolivia, China’s reaction to US sanctions, recent reports on the Chinese detention system in Xinjiang, as well as many others!

Coronavirus [UPDATE]

The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in July, but the momentum of the recovery appears to be slowing. Africa has surpassed one million cases of the coronavirus, but the true toll may be much higher, hidden by extremely low testing rates. The global number of confirmed cases approach 20 million, and deaths approach 750,000; the top 3 centers of the virus remain the United States, Brazil, and India.

The United States

Oregon has experienced violent clashes this week between protesters and police, ratcheting up tensions in the city days after an agreement between state and federal officials appeared to bring calm. Demonstrators continued to rally in Portland on Thursday night, hours after the city’s mayor criticized the current unrest that has roiled Portland since George Floyd was killed. “You are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said on Thursday in a hastily called news conference alongside Portland police chief Chuck Lovell.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International released a report documenting widespread and egregious human rights violations by police officers against protesters, medics, journalists and legal observers who gathered to protest the unlawful killings of Black people by the police and to call for systemic reform in May and June of 2020.

China

Last week, a video surfaced showing a first-hand account of China’s highly secure and secretive detention system in Xinjiang. Over the past few years, estimates suggest more than one million Uighurs and other minorities have been forced into a network of highly secure camps in Xinjiang that China has insisted are voluntary schools for anti-extremism training.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Chinese officials condemned and mocked a Friday move by the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and 10 other senior officials for their roles in a prolonged crackdown on political dissent in the city. Last week, the government arrested four activists who had posted pro-democracy sentiments online, and barred a dozen pro-democracy candidates from running in the upcoming legislative elections, before postponing the elections entirely.

Myanmar

A court in Myanmar has sentenced a Canadian pastor to three months in jail for holding church services in defiance of a ban on gatherings to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Myanmar’s military and 10 ethnic armed groups agreed to hold bilateral meetings during the state-level Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee meetings to discuss the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, amidst hopes of a renewed peace process between the groups.

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government cracked down on peaceful anti-corruption protests on July 31, 2020. Zimbabwe authorities have arrested at least 60 people, including the novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and the opposition MDC Alliance spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, in connection with the protests. Sixteen people were injured and required medical attention. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s president Mnangagwa has vowed to “flush out” his opponents, as anger with his government grows over alleged corruption and economic mismanagement. Over the last few days, in response to this brutal clampdown by security forces, the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has gone viral, globally.

Chile

In southern Chile, a confrontation between Mapuche indigenous protesters and residents turned violent Sunday. Several government buildings in the Araucanía region were damaged as the violence erupted. Local media reported that residents tried to force the Mapuche protesters out of the municipality buildings, before burning and overturning vehicles belonging to them. Chilean police intervened to evict the protesters and prevent other violent acts.

Iraq

This week the Iraq prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has called for early parliamentary elections for June 2021. The United Nations has praised the prime minister’s announcement stating that it would promote “greater stability and democracy.” The original election was scheduled for May 2022. On the 1st of August, 16-year-old Saeed was released from Iraqi custody following extensive police brutality. Prime Minister Mustafe al-Kadhimi stated in a press briefing that those responsible have been suspended pending investigation. Saeed was originally arrested in May 2020 while selling water and taking part in an anti-government protest on Baghdad’s Tahrir.

Libya

This week, the Trump administration backed UN calls for a cease-fire amid the many factions, and signaling again that the country’s oil fields are off limits to those seeking to profit on the war. The US initiative comes during an escalation of fighting between the Libyan Government of National Accord, which is recognized by the UN and backed by Turkey, and the insurgent forces of former general Khalifa Hifter, who has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France.

Syria

On Monday this week an Israeli aircraft attacked targets in Syria as a retaliation for an attempted bombing of the border fence by an enemy squad. The strike hit Syrian observation posts, intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft batteries and command-and-control bases. Meanwhile, opposition factions fired several rockets on the Russian positions in Kensaba frontlines in the northern countryside of Latakia. There is yet to be a full report on the number of casualties.

Lebanon

Thousands are left homeless following a massive explosion on Tuesday in Beirut. The explosion killed at least 157 people with 5000 injured. Lebanese authorities have taken into custody 16 individuals as part of an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion that shook the capital, state news agency NNA said on Thursday. Protesters in Beirut are calling however for the government’s resignation following the investigation probe. Following investigations it has become apparent that the explosion could not have happened without a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate. The exact details of the explosion are still under investigation.

Palestine

Israeli forces have destroyed numerous irrigation ponds in the al-Jiftlik village in Jordan Valley. The three ponds that were destroyed were used to irrigate 70 dunums of village land. The further restricts Palestinians access to water in the area both for drinking and for farming irrigation. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council in a press statement condemned the arrest of human rights defender Mahmoud Nawajaa. Last Thursday, Nawajaa was arrested in his home by the Israeli occupying forces and relocated to the Al-Jalama interrogation centre. This was done in violation of International Humanitarian laws. Coronavirus cases have surged in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, reaching 13,457 last friday.

Russia

Thousands of demonstrators have gathered again for a fifth week in Russia’s southeastern city of Khabarovsk to denounce the arrest of the region’s governor a month ago. Sergei Furgal was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of involvement in murders and taken to jail in Moscow. Russia is about to become the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with mass vaccinations planned as early as October.

North Korea

North Korea is quarantining thousands of people and shipping food and other aid to a southern city locked down over coronavirus worries, officials said, as the country’s response to a suspected case reinforces doubt about its longstanding claim to be virus-free.

Iran

An investigation over the weekend suggests that Iran’s actual coronavirus death toll is three times the official government numbers. An anonymous source leaked data which showed vastly more people had tested positive and further died from the virus suggesting the suppression of data by the Iranian government. Iran’s health ministry claimed that 279,000 people had been infected and only 14,000 have died; however, the BBC’s Persian service has reported more than 451,000 positive cases with more than 42,000 deaths. Meanwhile, The United Nations Security Council will vote next week on a US bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran.

Nicaragua

Aljazeera reported this week about the pattern of incarceration of opposition-minded people in Nicaragua that human rights organisations have been documenting since the mass protests of 2018. There are more than 90 activists imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Daniel Ortega’s administration has been accused of using the judiciary to punish those who have criticised its policies and practices.

Sudan

Local reporters warn against plans by the Sudanese army to file legal complaints against journalists for cyber libel and “insulting” the armed forces, saying that these actions echo the intimidation tactics used under the rule of ousted President Omar al-Bashir. In a statement last month, the armed forces said a cybercrime military commissioner had been appointed. The commissioner, working under the military prosecutor, will monitor and document “insults” against the army, and any violations will result in criminal complaints brought against journalists in Sudan or outside its borders.

Venezuela

The Venezuelan government is being accused of taking punishing measures against people who break quarantine rules imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Witnesses and rights groups say that security forces are punishing some Venezuelans who violate anti-coronavirus measures with physical exercise, sitting under the sun and even beating. A Venezuelan court has sentenced two former American soldiers to 20 years in jail for trying to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.

Bolivia

Anti-government protesters in Bolivia blockaded some of the country’s main roads this past week to challenge the delay of general elections and rebuke the government’s poor response to the coronavirus pandemic. The protesters, who support Bolivia’s former president, Evo Morales, say they have set up 70 roadblocks, marooning about six million residents of three highland regions, including Bolivia’s most important metropolis, La Paz. The government on Thursday said it would break up the blockades by force if it can’t reach an agreement with the protest organizers.

Weekly Report August 9 2020

 

Coronavirus

The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in July, but the momentum of the recovery appears to be slowing. Africa has surpassed one million cases of the coronavirus, but the true toll may be much higher, hidden by extremely low testing rates. The global number of confirmed cases approach 20 million, and deaths approach 750,000; the top 3 centers of the virus remain the United States, Brazil, and India.

 

United States

Oregon has experienced violent clashes this week between protesters and police, ratcheting up tensions in the city days after an agreement between state and federal officials appeared to bring calm. Demonstrators continued to rally in Portland on Thursday night, hours after the city’s mayor criticized the current unrest that has roiled Portland since George Floyd was killed. “You are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said on Thursday in a hastily called news conference alongside Portland police chief Chuck Lovell. Earlier this week, Amnesty International released a report documenting widespread and egregious human rights violations by police officers against protesters, medics, journalists and legal observers who gathered to protest the unlawful killings of Black people by the police and to call for systemic reform in May and June of 2020.

 

China

Last week, a video surfaced showing a first-hand account of China’s highly secure and secretive detention system in Xinjiang. Over the past few years, estimates suggest more than one million Uighurs and other minorities have been forced into a network of highly secure camps in Xinjiang that China has insisted are voluntary schools for anti-extremism training.

 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Chinese officials condemned and mocked a Friday move by the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and 10 other senior officials for their roles in a prolonged crackdown on political dissent in the city. Last week, the government arrested four activists who had posted pro-democracy sentiments online, and barred a dozen pro-democracy candidates from running in the upcoming legislative elections, before postponing the elections entirely.

 

Myanmar

A court in Myanmar has sentenced a Canadian pastor to three months in jail for holding church services in defiance of a ban on gatherings to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Myanmar’s military and 10 ethnic armed groups agreed to hold bilateral meetings during the state-level Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee meetings to discuss the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, amidst hopes of a renewed peace process between the groups.

 

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government cracked down on peaceful anti-corruption protests on July 31, 2020. Zimbabwe authorities have arrested at least 60 people, including the novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and the opposition MDC Alliance spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, in connection with the protests. Sixteen people were injured and required medical attention. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s president Mnangagwa has vowed to “flush out” his opponents, as anger with his government grows over alleged corruption and economic mismanagement. Over the last few days, in response to this brutal clampdown by security forces, the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter has gone viral, globally. 

 

Chile

In southern Chile, a confrontation between Mapuche indigenous protesters and residents turned violent Sunday. Several government buildings in the Araucanía region were damaged as the violence erupted. Local media reported that residents tried to force the Mapuche protesters out of the municipality buildings, before burning and overturning vehicles belonging to them. Chilean police intervened to evict the protesters and prevent other violent acts.

 

Iraq 

This week the Iraq prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has called for early parliamentary elections for June 2021. The United Nations has praised the prime minister’s announcement stating that it would promote “greater stability and democracy.” The original election was scheduled for May 2022. On the 1st of August, 16-year-old Saeed was released from Iraqi custody following extensive police brutality. Prime Minister Mustafe al-Kadhimi stated in a press briefing that those responsible have been suspended pending investigation. Saeed was originally arrested in May 2020 while selling water and taking part in an anti-government protest on Baghdad’s Tahrir.

 

Libya

This week, the Trump administration backed UN calls for a cease-fire amid the many factions, and signaling again that the country’s oil fields are off limits to those seeking to profit on the war. The US initiative comes during an escalation of fighting between the Libyan Government of National Accord, which is recognized by the UN and backed by Turkey, and the insurgent forces of former general Khalifa Hifter, who has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France.

 

Syria 

On Monday this week an Israeli aircraft attacked targets in Syria as a retaliation for an attempted bombing of the border fence by an enemy squad. The strike hit Syrian observation posts, intelligence collection systems, anti-aircraft batteries and command-and-control bases. Meanwhile, opposition factions fired several rockets on the Russian positions in Kensaba frontlines in the northern countryside of Latakia. There is yet to be a full report on the number of casualties.

 

Lebanon  

Thousands are left homeless following a massive explosion on Tuesday in Beirut. The explosion killed at least 157 people with 5000 injured. Lebanese authorities have taken into custody 16 individuals as part of an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion that shook the capital, state news agency NNA said on Thursday. Protesters in Beirut are calling however for the government’s resignation following the investigation probe. Following investigations it has become apparent that the explosion could not have happened without a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate. The exact details of the explosion are still under investigation.

 

Palestine 

Israeli forces have destroyed numerous irrigation ponds in the al-Jiftlik village in Jordan Valley. The three ponds that were destroyed were used to irrigate 70 dunums of village land. The further restricts Palestinians access to water in the area both for drinking and for farming irrigation. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council in a press statement condemned the arrest of human rights defender Mahmoud Nawajaa. Last Thursday, Nawajaa was arrested in his home by the Israeli occupying forces and relocated to the Al-Jalama interrogation centre. This was done in violation of International Humanitarian laws. Coronavirus cases have surged in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, reaching 13,457 last friday.

 

Russia

Thousands of demonstrators have gathered again for a fifth week in Russia’s southeastern city of Khabarovsk to denounce the arrest of the region’s governor a month ago. Sergei Furgal was arrested on July 9 on suspicion of involvement in murders and taken to jail in Moscow. Russia is about to become the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with mass vaccinations planned as early as October.

 

North Korea

North Korea is quarantining thousands of people and shipping food and other aid to a southern city locked down over coronavirus worries, officials said, as the country’s response to a suspected case reinforces doubt about its longstanding claim to be virus-free.

 

Iran 

An investigation over the weekend suggests that Iran’s actual coronavirus death toll is three times the official government numbers. An anonymous source leaked data which showed vastly more people had tested positive and further died from the virus suggesting the suppression of data by the Iranian government. Iran’s health ministry claimed that 279,000 people had been infected and only 14,000 have died; however, the BBC’s Persian service has reported more than 451,000 positive cases with more than 42,000 deaths. Meanwhile, The United Nations Security Council will vote next week on a US bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran.

 

Nicaragua

Aljazeera reported this week about the pattern of incarceration of opposition-minded people in Nicaragua that human rights organisations have been documenting since the mass protests of 2018. There are more than 90 activists imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Daniel Ortega’s administration has been accused of using the judiciary to punish those who have dared criticise its policies and practices.

 

Sudan

Local reporters warn against plans by the Sudanese army to file legal complaints against journalists for cyber libel and “insulting” the armed forces, saying that these actions echo the intimidation tactics used under the rule of ousted President Omar al-Bashir. In a statement last month, the armed forces said a cybercrime military commissioner had been appointed. The commissioner, working under the military prosecutor, will monitor and document “insults” against the army, and any violations will result in criminal complaints brought against journalists in Sudan or outside its borders.

 

Venezuela

The Venezuelan government is being accused of taking punishing measures against people who break quarantine rules imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Witnesses and rights groups say that security forces are punishing some Venezuelans who violate anti-coronavirus measures with physical exercise, sitting under the sun and even beating. A Venezuelan court has sentenced two former American soldiers to 20 years in jail for trying to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. 

 

Bolivia

Anti-government protesters in Bolivia blockaded some of the country’s main roads this past week to challenge the delay of general elections and rebuke the government’s poor response to the coronavirus pandemic. The protesters, who support Bolivia’s former president, Evo Morales, say they have set up 70 roadblocks, marooning about six million residents of three highland regions, including Bolivia’s most important metropolis, La Paz. The government on Thursday said it would break up the blockades by force if it can’t reach an agreement with the protest organizers.