Weekly Reports — CANVAS

Weekly Reports

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CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy, including Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

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Weekly Report December 6th, 2019

Weekly Report December 6th, 2019

Myanmar

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has flown to The Hague for legal hearings, as she faces genocide charges in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Suu Kyi has been accused of orchestrating an offensive with security forces and local Buddhists that systematically killed Rohingya Muslims and forced a large portion of the population to flee. The lawsuit was filed by the largely Islamic Gambia, as a show of religious solidarity with the Rohingya community in Myanmar. Suu Kyi has denied the allegations of genocidal intent and will be attending the hearings in hopes of refuting the conclusions drawn by the international community.

Vietnam

This week, the The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 (CRI) report noted that Vietnam’s position in terms of climate risk has worsened, moving from 9th place in 2018 to 6th place in 2019. The measure of the global vulnerability ladder is supplemented by Vietnam’s increase in extreme weather events over the last decade. With a reported 226 extreme weather events, killing on average 285.80 people per year and causing annual economic losses of US$2 billion per year, the report painted a grim picture for Vietnam’s future at this week’s 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) in Madrid. 

Malaysia

The People’s Justice Party (PKR) of Malaysia has continued to shown signs of fracture, as fights during the PKR Youth Congress were taken to the street this Friday. Though there was a ceasefire between rival groups in the party,  the Youth Congress event saw high levels of hostility within the organization. The fight outside of the political convention resulted in one person needing medical attention. As tensions escalate, it is likely that the party will split.

North Korea

This Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un unveiled a new town near Mount Paektu. This town will be able to house 4,000 families and offers a ski slope and a new stadium. However, the building of the town has sparked controversy, because “forced labour is said to have gone into the construction of Samjiyon.”  

Hong Kong

A large-scale march has been planned in Hong Kong for Sunday, 8th. On Thursday, police allowed the Civil Rights Front, the group that organized the massive protests from this past summer, to formally organize the march. Hong Kong’s police commissioner Chris Tang also urged citizens to continue to demonstrate peacefully, and continue the lull of violence from the past week. However,  Tang has travelled this week to meet with senior officials from the ministry of public security in Beijing and is expected to return to Hong Kong on Sunday. 

The Chinese government announced this week that the United States navy and Air-force would not be permitted to operate in Hong Kong in retaliation for Washington’s recent adoption of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — legislation that supports pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.  According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, Beijing urges the U.S. to “correct its mistake and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs”. The press statement was released on state-run media outlet Xinhua

Libya

This week, Greece has announced it will be “expelling the Libyan ambassador to the country”. Their reasoning for doing so is behind their disagreement of the Libyan-Turkish agreement “over offshore energy exploration”. They claim this agreement infringes on their sovereignty and their rights to the Aegean Sea. Alongside Greece, Egypt and Cyprus have also claimed the agreement is illegal. 

Sudan

This week, 23 people have died and 130 others were injured in a ceramics factory fire in Khartoum. The fire is said to have started when a gas tank exploded. The fire spread easily throughout the factory, because “there were inflammable materials improperly stored.”  

Also this week, leading public figures in Sudan sent a letter to President Trump urging him to remove Sudan from the terror list. President of the Sudanese Doctors Union Sara Abdigalil, one of the signatories of the letter,  shared how “things have changed”. She believes Sudan should not be punished for the actions of their ousted leader Omar al-Bashir. With the removal of Sudan from the terror list and the subsequent lifting of sanctions, Sudan will no longer be hindered in their economic progress. 

Iran

According to U.S. intelligence, the Iranian state has been secretly building a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq. Military officials stated this week that the weapon’s transfer is an attempt to intimidate the Middle East and counter emerging U.S. military presence in the region; since May, President Trump has sent over 14,000 troops to the region. The stockpiling also represents a failure of U.S. efforts to contain Iran’s influence in the region, at the likely expense of its allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iraq’s recent protests, which highlighted the public’s discontent with Iranian influence within the country, seem to have occurred simultaneously with the weapons transfer. According to U.S. Secretary of State officials, over 1,000 people were reportedly killed in the recent protests, though recent reports from mainstream news outlets such as the BBC have placed casualties at around 400. 

Iraq 

At least fifteen people were stabbed in Baghdad this week during clashes with pro-Iran protestors. A large group of men carrying flags and boasting the insignia of the Hashad al-Shaabi group (an armed, Shia-majority militia) attacked the demonstrators in Tahrir Square. The square has been the epicenter of peaceful protest since demonstrations started in Iraq. Many have speculated that the group of men were working on behalf of the government in an attempt to create divides within the movement. 

Syria

This Monday, at least 10 people have been killed and 18 others wounded in air raids perpetrated by the Syrian government. The air raids were targeting towns controlled by rebels: Maaret al-Numan and Saraqeb. In these towns the Syrian government’s raids targeted vegetable markets. Furthermore, on Twitter the Civil Defence shared that “the attacks came at a time when the markets were at their busiest”. These deaths add to Syria’s civilian death tally of more than 1,000 since late April. 

Lebanon

The Lebanese Presidency announced this week that parliamentary consultations to form a new government in Lebanon will begin next Monday, after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29th in response to the anti-government protests. However, demonstrators have rejected Samir Khatib, the latest frontrunner for Prime Minister, as government formation negotiations persist. Khatib has been criticized by the public has being “too close to the ruling elite”, as he is the head of a large contracting and construction company. Protesters demand the complete removal of the current political class and have insisted on a government dominated by technocrats, despite the will of current Sunni, Shia and Maronite leaders in government. 

Zimbabwe

Following shocking discoveries of widespread food insecurity in Zimbabwe, the United Nations has pledged to deliver food aid to 4.1 million people in the country. The agency will be procuring food from all over the world in an attempt to offset economic devastation, which has been worsened by extreme draught. Though the Zimbabwean people are struggling, the government has banned protests of any kind and has made efforts to consolidate power in the nation. 

Cuba

This Monday, Venezuela and Cuba were accused by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for aiming to “hijack” Latin American protests in Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Colombia. Furthermore, Pompeo accused Venezuela and Cuba of attempting to arouse unrest. In a statement Pompeo shared, “we will work with legitimate governments to prevent protests from morphing into riots and violence that don’t reflect the democratic will of the people.” 

Venezuela

On Wednesday, a survey released indicated that Interim President Juan Guaidó – who is considered the legitimate president of Venezuela in dozens of countries – has lost significant popularity among the Venezuelan people. According to the survey from Meganálisis, just 10% of those surveyed still “believe, trust and support” Guaidó. The results of the survey therefore place Guaidó and Maduro at equal standing in the eyes of the public. The survey of 1,580 people was conducted from Nov. 25 through Dec. 2 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percent. 

Nicaragua 

Human Rights Watch reported this week that press freedom remains under attack in Nicaragua, saying that “the Ortega regime has retained 100% Noticias equipment and kept the channel off the air. Journalists continue to face harassment and death threats from pro-government groups. Some have faced physical attacks and assaults”. As the Ortega regime continues to consolidate power and limit freedoms, the United States has taken steps to pressure the administration. U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the trading giant would be implementing sanctions in aims of holding Ortega accountable. 

Bolivia

With more than 30 protesters dead after weeks of turmoil and unrest, Bolivia is now entering a “tense calm”. The calm has come after Bolivia’s Interim President called for new elections. However, despite this recent calming of tensions, Bolivia’s indigenous populations are fearful of setbacks.  Under Morales’ 14 year rule, poverty lessened dramatically among Bolivia’s indigenous populations. Now these populations, which make up 40% of Bolivia’s total population, fear progress will stop. 

Russia

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel are scheduled to meet in Paris on Monday to discuss the murder of  Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen rebel, in Berlin this August. According to Germany’s head prosecutor, the killing was committed by a suspected Russian contracted assassin, and ordered by either Russian authorities or its Chechen republic. On Wednesday, Chancellor Merkel stated at a news conference that the recent expulsion of Russian diplomats was in response to the Kremlin’s refusal to aid in ongoing investigations into the murder, and that she will discuss the issue with President Putin in Paris.  

United States

This Monday, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died while under US immigration custody. The boy had shared early Sunday morning he was not feeling well and a nurse assessed his health. The nurse found that the boy had Influenza A and recommended that he should be regularly checked in on and sent to the emergency room if his condition worsened. The boy was then placed in isolation to avoid any spread of his illness. The next day, he was found dead. A video released reveals Border Patrol failed to check in on the boy. He was left for hours on the floor after collapsing before anyone took notice. This tragic incident speaks to highlight the often cruel treatment of individuals in US immigration custody. 

Weekly Report November 29th, 2019

Weekly Report November 29th, 2019

Myanmar

This Tuesday, Myanmar’s military began a court martial to try soldiers accused of committing atrocities during a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, according to an Army spokesperson. Myanmar prepares to face genocide charges at an international court in The Hague within the next month. Occurring in 2017 and resulting in a mass influx of Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh, the military crackdown has been labeled by the UN as “executed with genocidal intent”. Under investigation will be soldiers, police and local Buddhists that allegedly razed hundreds of villages in the Rakhine State. 

Cambodia

The Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has responded positively to diplomatic efforts by the Trump administration. Hun Sen accepted an invitation to the United States for a meeting of Southeast Asian countries and agreed to promote talks between Cambodia and the United States. Additionally, Hun Sen also appeared with the Trump administration’s push for democracy in the region, following a trend of increased liberty in Cambodia in the past few weeks. Despite improvement in freedoms, Hun Sen still intends to rule until 2028 and remains a stringent leader; many see his alleged efforts to foster democracy and human rights as a show to maintain trade relations with democratic countries. 

Thailand

Thailand confirmed that mandatory conscription in the country will not be abolished due to low numbers of volunteers. The current conscription system targets men over the age of 21 and uses an annual lottery to pick servicemen. Public opinion concerning the system has been unfavorable, but the latest statement from the Thai Deputy PM indicates that conscription will continue. 

Laos

The Laos economy has been steadily growing since its initial launch of public companies in Laos Stock Exchange 10 years ago. Now having 11 Laotian companies trading in the stock exchange, the country has seen significant financial growth and has implemented a policy of transparency and neutrality in trading. Growth is expected to continue as the nation aims to add more public companies to its stock exchange. 

Vietnam

The bodies of 16 Vietnamese found dead in Essex this October were returned to Vietnam this Wednesday. The victims were flown to Hanoi’s Airport, and will be taken by ambulance to their family homes. The lorry driver, 25 year old Maurice Robinson, has admitted to assisting in illegal immigration, while investigations are under way in both the UK and Vietnam. Though relatives were encouraged by authorities to opt for ashes “to ensure speed, low cost and sanitation safety”, many paid more for the bodies to carry out traditional burials, as cremation is rare in the Vietnam countryside. The Vietnamese government has issued loans to the families of the victims. 

Malaysia

This month, Malaysia’s economic growth “grew at its slowest pace in a year”. The reasoning for this slow growth is because of faltering exports in the wake of the US-China trade war. Still, Malaysia is the third-largest economy in Southeast Asia. A statement from Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara, suggested they are unconcerned with the growth slow, sharing the “growth is expected to be within projections in 2019 and the pace sustained going into 2020”. 

North Korea

North Korea has described US democratic candidate Joe Biden as a “rabid dog” after his campaign release that condemned Trump’s foreign policy. In the campaign, Biden criticized Trump’s tendency of praising “dictators and tyrants”, while pushing aside US allies. The campaign then showed an image of North Korean leader Kim and Trump meeting at the in Singapore at their first summit. Trump has responded to Biden’s criticism by sharing Biden “is actually somewhat better than that.” 

Hong Kong

China has responded angrily to U.S. President Donald Trump’s signing of legislation that attempts to defend protesters in Hong Kong. The signing of the bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, was met with enthusiasm by pro-democracy protesters in the region, who recently made more concrete steps towards democracy with local elections. The Hong Kong elections saw overwhelming support for pro-democracy candidates and a clear aversion to pro-Beijing candidates. Chinese media outlets in mainland China attempted to downplay the results of the elections, after the Chinese government’s hope for a silent majority of Beijing supporters was crushed by voting outcomes. Some media outlets ignored the elections altogether, while others accused the United States of interference. 

Libya

This week, Senior US officials met with Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan renegade general, in an effort to stop his offensive in Tripoli. The US state department also announced that they believe Russia to be “exploiting the conflict.” The aim of this meeting was to initiate “steps to achieve a suspension of hostilities and a political resolution to the Libyan conflict”.  Russia has yet to comment on the recent US accusation concerning Russian influence and exploitation of Libya.

Iran

After a week-long internet blackout, Iranian citizens can now access digital services again – however, the damage done to Iran’s virtual economy seems to be extensive. The blackout, imposed by the Iranian government, disrupted daily routines, postponed university application plans and dealt a blow to the bottom lines of many businesses. Currently, the damage to business is unclear after being barred from global infrastructure for 7 days. Though Tehran is on the verge of containing the violent protests, which claimed over 300 lives, intelligence agencies have indicated that Iranians are questioning the legitimacy of the regime and its Islamic revolutionary values instilled in 1979. With parliamentary elections set for February, Iranian officials fear a mass boycott of voters that will further delegitimize the status quo.  

Syria

This week, the United States military has resumed large scale operations against ISIS in Northeastern Syria. Though President Trump ordered for a full withdrawal of American troops, nearly 500 troops still remain and are expected to be engaged in active combat for the foreseeable future. Though ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was killed by U.S. forces, intelligence agencies have reported that ISIS fighters in Northeastern Syria have regrouped. Last Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters, previously abandoned by the Trump Administration in the face of a Turkish invasion, reunited to conduct a large-scale operation against ISIS fighters in the Deir- al-Zour province, 120 miles south of the Turkish border. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency report published this week, the death of al-Baghdadi would probably have “little effect” on the Islamic State’s ability to regroup. 

Zimbabwe

A UN envoy to Zimbabwe released a statement this week claiming that over 60% of Zimbabweans suffer from food insecurity, placing the country on the brink of man-made starvation. The current situation comes as a result of an economy crippled by hyperinflation, a period of extreme drought and the failure of government programs as a result of corruption. Though high numbers of food insecurity were expected, the figures shocked the UN envoy, who claim that the crisis will only worsen. Additionally, various senior doctors in the nation have stepped down as the doctors’ strike continues for the fourth consecutive month. 

Iraq

Iraqi security forces have killed at least 45 protesters in Najaf after demonstrators stormed the Iranian consulate and set it alight. The killings come a day after the shootings of 29 people in Nassiriya and 4 people in Baghdad; many people ignored city-wide curfews to mourn the bloodshed. Protests continue in the region despite the violent crackdown of government forces and the deployment of military to the south of Iraq.  

Cuba

This Tuesday, new sanctions were imposed on Corporacion Panamericana SA. Sanctions were imposed by the Trump administration, because the company was accused of evading Venezuela-related sanctions. In an effort of backing the newly imposed sanctions, US Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich shared that “Cuba has played a direct role in preventing the return of democracy to Venezuela.” The US hopes that by imposing sanctions on Cuban companies evading Venezuela-related sanctions, Nicolas Maduro will be squeezed from power. 

Nicaragua 

The Ortega regime has awarded 70 loyalists and security personnel for the repression of protesting civilians. Described as “peace-loving”, many of the individuals chosen for the award were involved in the killings of at least 328 demonstrators in the past year and a half. The award ceremony comes shortly after Ortega decided to enhance security measures in response to unrest in Bolivia. 

Sudan

Sudan has repealed a public order law from the al-Bashir era that dictated the way women acted and dressed. The law had previously allowed law enforcement personnel to punish women for the way they acted in social situations and for what they choose to wear. The repeal was seen as the first step in correcting a hugely discriminatory legal system put in place by the al-Bahsir regime, and appears to be a continuation in efforts to foster equal opportunities for men and women in Sudan.

Venezuela

Despite the financial crisis in Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro reportedly sent over $900 million in oil to Cuba this year, according to a top U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams. Abrams stated that Maduro has the funds to alleviate the shortages of food and medicine that have ravaged the country, but has instead opted to pay debts to Russia and China, while continuing to supply Cuba with oil as Venezuela’s main regional ally. In total, Maduro has sent over $4 billion to foreign governments in 2019 alone. 

On Tuesday, a Miami investment manager Gustavo Hernandez Frieri plead guilty to participating in a $1.2 billion money laundering scheme with Venezuelan businessmen connected to Nicolas Maduro. The indictment charged against him last year also named seven other defendants, most of whom are still fugitives. Hernandez is accused of helping launder at least $12 million that prosecutors say was paid in bribes to one former senior official in Venezuela’s national oil company, PDVSA. 

Lebanon

This week, Lebanon enters its third night of violent protests after nearly three weeks of mostly peaceful demonstrations. Many individuals who once supported the anti-government protests have been swayed to support Hezbollah and the Amal movement after the Hezbollah leader condemned the protests and called for its end. With the Hezbollah leader’s  condemnation, the once largely inclusive protests began to show divisions and violence eventually sparked between protesters. Many fear the violence may lead to another civil war

Bolivia

On Sunday, interim President Anez signed a law that requires new presidential elections to take place. This law not only has the backing of Anez’s party, but also is backed by former President Morales’ party. The law also symbolizes a return to normalcy in Bolivia after weeks of deadly protests from anti-Morales’ protesters and protesters supportive of Morales.  

Russia

Russia has seen a 2.2% growth in their economy last month when compared to the year before. This economic growth may be attributed to President Putin’s 13 projects proposed in 2018. These projects range from from education, healthcare and infrastructure. In all, $406bn is expected to be spent on the 13 projects. However, there is still uncertainty on the private sectors roll in these state funded projects. Many also claim that this economic growth is not sustainable and will lesson in the coming months. 

The United States

This Wednesday, review boards for three Navy SEALs were cancelled that could have stripped them of their SEAL status. The SEALs were superiors to Edward Gallagher, who was convicted of posing for a photo with a dead ISIS fighter in Iraq and accused of murdering a prisoner of war, though he was ultimately acquitted of the latter. In total, Gallagher faced nearly a dozen charges for allegedly opening fire on civilians during a deployment to Iraq, and threatening fellow SEALs who wanted to report his actions. This week, President Trump ordered the reversal of the Navy’s demotion of Gallagher, resulting in the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer as he refused to restore Gallagher’s full rank. The decision to cancel review boards for Gallagher’s superiors was made by the chief of naval operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, and Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, who was named to the job earlier this week.

Weekly Report 21 November, 2019

Weekly Report 21 November, 2019

Myanmar   

Within the last week, three separate cases against Myanmar were been filed on counts of human rights abuses and genocide. The Gambia filed a genocide case with the International Court of Justice (IJC) against Myanmar on November 11th, urging the United Nations court to immediately issue orders to to stop atrocities and genocide against the Rohingya people. On November 14th, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched its own investigation into Rohingya prosecution, while a separate lawsuit was filed in an Argentine court against Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader. Though the three cases complement each other, they are distinct in the crimes they charge Myanmar with, the identity of the accused and the remedies the courts can order, which creates significant and differing advantages. The UN has stated that The Hague will hold public hearings in the case next month. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, former Burmese leader and icon of democracy, will lead a delegation to the Hague next month and defend Myanmar against allegations of genocide. Prior to her election as State Counsellor in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi spent decades under house arrest in Myanmar for campaigning for democracy. Though she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her efforts in spreading democracy, she has repeatedly refused to condemn the actions of the military against the Rohingya, claiming there is not enough evidence to definitively say whether or not a genocide occurred in Rakhine, and blaming “terrorists” for the situation. 

Cambodia 

The first political prisoners in Cambodia were freed this week following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s promise to release over 70 individuals. The prisoners were jailed in response to their alleged support of the Cambodian opposition party formerly led by Sam Rainsy. The release of political prisoners is a step forward for Hun Sen’s administration, which has been heavily criticized for human rights infringements and the consolidation of power. 

Maldives

A 69 year old woman from Britain died in the Maldives this week while swimming. The unnamed tourist is the sixth person to have died in the Maldives this year as a result of strengthening currents around the island. 

Thailand  

Former leader of the Future Forward Party (FFP), Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has been stripped of his role as an MP following allegations that he had not sold shares in his company before taking office. Thanathorn has claimed that the charges were politically motivated and maintains that he sold shares before his time as an MP; Thanathorn and the Future Forward Party have criticized the monarchy and the military, leading many of the Thai political elite to see him as an enemy. Though the charges come as a blow to the FFP, Thanathorn was not jailed or banned from politics, as many thought he would be.

Laos

A strong earthquake hit the border between Laos and Thailand, registering as a 6.1 on the richter scale. Despite the level of the earthquake, no casualties or major damages have been reported in Laos; though there were no serious repercussions, the earthquake comes as a reminder of the need for earthquake-resistant structures as Laos builds up its infrastructure. 

Vietnam

Families of the 39 victims found in a refrigerated lorry in Essex last month will be responsible for covering the costs of repatriation for the victims. On Tuesday, Vietnamese officials in the Ha Tinh province, where 10 of the victims lived, received instructions from Vietnam’s foreign ministry to inform families that neither the British government nor the Vietnamese government would aid families in the costs of returning the bodies of the victims. The Vietnamese government has offered to pay only the costs of bringing the bodies “home from the airport”. Though both agreed to front the costs initially, the loans of 66,240,000 Vietnam dong (£2,209) will need to be paid for the bodies. Interviews with several of the families revealed that the families were already experiencing crippling debt, with one stating that “the cost [of the loan] is out of our family’s capacity to pay now”. Pham Van Thin, the father of Pham Thi Tra My, stated that he “had to take loans from the bank to pay for her travel, and we still owe the banks”. 

Malaysia

This week, four Malaysian men were punished and struck by canes six times each, because they had violated Islamic law by having same-sex intercourse. The men were also fined and sentenced to 7 months in prison. According to Amnesty International, the religious authorities uncovered the event by “monitoring [their] messages”. The authorities then proceeded to raid the apartment and detain the men. Religious authorities have the power to arrest and detain Muslim citizens, because of the dual-track legal system in Malaysia. Malaysian religious authorities often impose Islamic Law and punish violations against it. 

North Korea

North Korean senior official Kim Kye Gwan announced that North Korea will no longer participate in nuclear talks with the United States until concessions are made. He stated that North Korea “will not give anything for the US president to brag about.” North Korea wants to be acknowledged for their achievements, instead of President Trump crediting them for himself. This message comes after Trump urged North Korea via Twitter to “act quickly” on restarting talks. 

Hong Kong

The United States Senate has passed a bill that would attempt to preserve human rights in Hong Kong, and passed a second bill that would ban the sale of riot gear to Hong Kong police forces. The contents of the bill, labeled the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” were widely supported in the House and the Senate and will soon be going to President Donald Trump’s office for his approval. Chinese officials slammed the move by Washington, saying that they “condemn and firmly oppose” it due to perceived infringement by the US. 

In Hong Kong, this week has seen the continued fight of activists in university campuses. Many demonstrators have taken control of campuses and blockaded entrances, but riot police have managed to gain access to some of these areas and have arrested over 1,000 people. Inside one campus, 3,900 petrol bombs were found. Demonstrations continue. 

Libya

 

This Monday, the UN Security Council received word by the UN Libya envoy that the attack in Wadi Rabea killing 10 people and wounding 35 may be considered a war crime. Many people killed and injured during this attack were migrants from Niger and Bangladesh. The attack was carried out by the Libyan National Army (LNA) under renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar. The UN Libya envoy also shared that this attack may be considered a war crime regardless of whether the factory was the LNA’s intended target. He blames LNA for increased civilian casualties through their use of unguided bombs. The LNA’s drone attacks have also been disproportionate to that of the Tripoli government; LNA has carried out 800 drone attacks, while the latter has carried out 240

Iran

A week of lethal protests has resulted in at least 106 deaths and over 1,000 arrests, according to Amnesty International. The Iranian government has rejected these claims, stating that the human rights group is “biased”, and “fabricated” the death toll. The protests, originally sparked by growing anger and frustration after authorities rolled out a petrol-rationing scheme that sent prices soaring by 50 percent, have resulted in a four-day internet blackout and a violent crackdown from Iranian forces. The Iranian government has said that the price increase was imperative due to crippling American sanctions that have degraded its oil-based economy, and the purpose was to raise about $2.55 billion a year for subsidies to Iran’s poorest families. 

Iraq 

Iraqi protestors have been using humor to fight back against the spread of fake news by military officials. In the latest move by demonstrators, many have taken to Twitter under the hashtag #Tweet_Like_Khalaf to make fun of General Abdul Khalaf for consistently making false claims. In the past, Khalaf has denied the use of live ammunition by security forces and has accused protesters of mooning government forces in aims of provoking them. Tweets under the hashtag depict ridiculous, humorous scenarios in order to point out the absurdity of Khalaf’s claims. 

Syria 

At least 22 civilians have been killed in Idlib’s Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP) as Russian-backed Syrian forces continue to shell the last stronghold of the Syrian resistance. A ground-to-ground missile struck the camp in the village of Qah on Wednesday according to Ahmed Yarji, a spokesman for Syrian Civil Defense (also known as the White Helmets). Among the victims were 10 children and three women

This Tuesday, Israeli forces launched retaliatory missiles at Iranian forces located in Damascus, resulting in two known civilian deaths. The strikes followed the interception of four rockets fired from Syria towards northern Israel on Tuesday morning.

Lebanon

This week, a parliament session was postponed after Lebanese protesters convened around the entrance to parliament and formed a human barricade. The announcement to postpone parliament was widely celebrated amongst protesters who argued the session did not properly address the protesters’ demands. Still, security forces were deployed to block the entry of additional protesters intending to join protesters and bolster the human barricade. 

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean police forces responded violently to civilians who had gathered to listen to a speech by the primary opposition party. Growing discontent in Zimbabwe comes as a result of the worst economic crisis in a decade and the decline of political freedom. Anti-government protests have been banned by the Mnangagwa regime and nonviolent demonstrations have been met with violence. Conditions in the country have continued to decline at an alarming rate and the economic situation continues to spiral. 

Cuba

This month, Havana celebrates its 500th year since its founding in 1519. In recognition of Havana’s anniversary the Spanish crown visited the capitol, marking the country’s first Spanish royal visit. The celebration comes in the wake of worsening economic conditions caused by increased US sanctions. However, these circumstances did not deter Cubans from celebrating their capital. One Cuban shared, “even if we are feeling low, we know we have to pick ourselves up, so it’s good Havana is celebrating its 500 years and there is a party.” 

Venezuela

This week, University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley has been arrested on money laundering charges amounting to $2.5 million in proceeds from bribery in Venezuela. For years, Bagley has been a go-to expert for journalists reporting on drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption in South America. According to federal prosecutors, Bagley kept about 10% of the money for himself as a commission. Though specific details were not released about the bribery scheme, Bagley’s corruption was “in connection with public works projects in Venezuela”. 

Nicaragua

A hunger strike held by seven mothers in a Catholic Church in Nicaragua came to an end after police surrounded the building and pro-government protestors broke in and threatened the demonstrators. The mothers were holding the strike to protest the imprisonment of their children, whom they consider to be political prisoners. The support of anti-government demonstration by the Catholic Church underlines the influence of the church as the last major institution independent from the Ortega regime. 

Tensions in Nicaragua have risen since the ousting of Bolivian leader Evo Morales; Ortega has expressed that what happened in Bolivia would not happen in Nicaragua and has begun to crack down on protests of any kind.

Bolivia

Clashes between security forces, Morales supporters and anti-Morales protestors have dominated Bolivia in the past week, following the resignation of longtime president Evo Morales. The death toll has now risen to 32, with casualties primarily on the side of pro-Morales demonstrators. New elections have been proposed by interim leader Jeanine Áñez, though a date has not been set. Bolivian officials have stated that Morales would not be allowed to run in the election, and the interim government has voiced a desire to move on from the former leader’s 14 year rule. Morales, who has been granted asylum in Mexico, accused security forces of using unnecessary violence against protestors, a large number of whom are indigenous people.  

Russia 

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine will meet for the first time in over three years in Paris on December 9th of this year. They will meet to discuss peaceful resolutions to the Eastern Ukraine conflict. Also attending will be the leaders of France and Germany. Elysee Palace has commented on the upcoming conference and shared that “the summit will be held following major progress since the summer in negotiations for a settlement in the East Ukraine conflict, progress which in particular allowed for the removal of troops from several areas of the frontline.” 

United States

President Trump has been further implicated in an attempt to persuade Ukrainian officials to investigate his political opponents for the 2020 election. This Wednesday, key witnesses testified before Congress such as Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, testified before the House Intelligence Committee. Their appearance followed testimony from U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who implicated President Donald Trump directly in a “quid pro quo” trade with Ukrainian officials. Referencing a White House meeting, Sondland explicitly stated that “everyone was in the loop” about what was going on with the Ukraine foreign policy, including the President and his top officials. Sonland’s testimony along with the testimony from Cooper and Hale have been labeled as “explosive” and “damning”, drastically altering the course of impeachment hearings. 

Other News

Israel: 

This Monday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the U.S. no longer considers Israeli Settlements in the occupied West Bank to be in violation of international law. The decision marks a stunning reversal of decades of U.S. policy, and a direct contradiction to international consensus. Pompeo’s announcement arrived as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz attempted to gather a majority of the Israeli Knesset. Gantz ultimately failed to form a coalition on Wednesday evening, which will likely result in Israel’s third election of 2019. 

This week, Israeli authorities rejected a request from Human Rights Watch regional representative Omar Shakir to remain in the country. Shakir is set to be expelled from Israel on November 25th, in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling that implicated him in “promoting boycott strategy”. The expulsion of boycott supporters, Shakir’s request said, “is an earthquake for everything that relates to the ability of human rights organizations and advocates to do their work in Israel and the occupied territories in connection to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”