East and Southeast Asia
After the coup was staged at the beginning of 2021, an increasing number of civilians have joined armed resistance groups and protest movements, specifically women. Once army chief Min Aung Hlaing took control of the government, more women became involved in resistance efforts to protect themselves and their families. Garment factory workers have taken to the streets and are at the forefront of protests, sewing flags to humiliate guards and Hlaing. The government has increased its crackdown on women; according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 87 women have been killed, and 1,300 have been dragged to jail. In general, civil resistance is rising with a coalition burning down a police station in order to deter the military from using the station to attack local villagers.
Tired of fleeing, many of the displaced have decided to join coalitions. According to the United Nations, 165,000 citizens have migrated to the southeast of Burma, waiting for a time of safe return. They have become medics, combat fighters, and farmers in an attempt to care for those injured by the government. As the humanitarian crisis continues to grow, civilians and the people of Burma are increasing the resistance efforts in an effort to bring justice back to the country.
East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)
Although there is a high level of secrecy regarding the Chinese government hiding their crimes, the situation has started to become more widely acknowledged by the people as well as by officials and experts. A video taken by Chinese journalist/activist Guanguan has resurfaced, where he took it upon himself to go out and find information over these concentration camps, amounted to an approximately 20-minute long documentary. This documentary video provides new proof of the existence of these horrific camps, free to the public domain to view.
The severity of the conditions in these camps has also been acknowledged by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide published a report with all the evidence they have gathered over these Uyghur Muslim concentration camps, regarding crimes the Chinese government has been accused of, such as torture, persecution, forced labor, rape, forced sterilization, and mass genocide. Additionally, the museum held a virtual launch event in which people such as Senator Marco Rubio, Dolkun Isa (President of the World Uyghur Congress), Sara J. Bloomfield (Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), Congressman Jim McGovern, and Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja spoke on the current situation in Xinjiang and the report the museum released this month. On December 23, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was signed into law.
Within the past couple of months, the rate of violence has escalated in Kashmir, especially in its largest city, Jammu. Militant groups in the town of Bijbehara, located in southern Kashmir, attacked Mohammad Ashraf, an assistant sub-inspector serving the Jammu & Kashmir Police, and Rouf Ahmad Khan, a civilian and property dealer who had just prior left his house to purchase crackers for his daughter. After several hours, J&K police officers investigated the crime scene, claiming that a possibly unknown, unidentified terrorist group was responsible for the attack. Khan’s family expressed devastation towards the situation and the ongoing violence in Kashmir. These attacks and the ongoing conflict have pushed leaders to promote discourse on potential solutions, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioning the “Kashmir agenda” to member states during a meeting called by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Khan stated that Palestinian and Kashmiri civilians desired a “unified plan” for the region to curtail the attacks and possible terrorist threat that exists. The outcome of these attacks has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the annual 40-day “chillai kalan”, a period of drastic temperature drop in Kashmir. Although J&K and Ladakh have received less snowfall this year, the harsh winter has fueled a public health crisis. Hospital officials are working to develop a solution that accommodates wounded individuals due to militant attacks, COVID-19 issues, and health problems caused by the extreme cold weather.
In early December, Airwars, an independent conflict monitoring group, reported 192 Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip, with several more civilians injured over a period of 11 days of back-and-forth bombing and fighting. Armed Palestinian militant groups within the Gaza Strip initiated a shooting attack against Israeli and other Palestinian troops after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Israel, generating mass protests from Hamas supporters and members. The attack, which resulted in the death of an Israeli civilian, incited the Israeli Defense Forces to retaliate with another tank attack, harming three Palestinian farmers with severe wounds. As this back-and-forth probing and armed confrontation continues, the rate of deaths in both Israeli and Palestinian territories increases as well. Recently, Jamil al-Kayyal, a Palestinian civilian, was shot several times in the head after a gunfight in Nablus, a city in the northern part of the occupied West Bank territory. Israeli police reported that the fight broke out after soldiers detected the presence of a wanted suspect in the Ras al-Ain region of Nablus. Palestinian civilians are still distraught over the gunfight and Israeli’s military presence, which often carries out arrest raids, in the West Bank.
The consequences of the Syrian Civil War continue to worsen, with violence between other countries escalating. The Syrian Observatory for Human rights officially declared 3,746 casualties as a result of the Civil War in 2021, with 1,505 of these individuals being part of the local civilian population and 360 being children. Additionally, 158 individuals were presumed as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition between Arab and Kurdish militant groups, and 600 dead Islamic State (ISIS) members. Although these numbers represent a significant death toll, they remain much lower than previous counts during the war. However, misery surrounding the conflict grows amongst Syrian citizens and displaced persons due to the large-scale political corruption, lack of infrastructure and welfare services, and immense poverty and COVID-19 crisis that populates the region. Over 78,000 Syrians applied to the European Union to seek asylum due to the food, water, and electricity shortages created by the war—a 70% rise from 2020. Many Syrian individuals report feeling hopeless due to the lack of resources and continued political instability and violent attacks that occur within the country.
Amidst this, Israel continues to attack Syria over territorial conflict over the Golan Heights. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired several missiles at three bases located close to Homs and Damascus, the two largest cities in Syria. The attack signified fears over Syria constructing chemical weapons and gaining access to materials that would expand their artillery and rocket capabilities. The attack resulted in the death of seven Syrian soldiers and an engineer working in one of the bases.
In November, Yemen’s Houthis were accused of attacking several Saudi cities, citing the escalation of Saudi Arabia’s violent efforts in Yemen. The Houthi rebels appear to be gaining momentum in the war and have managed to detain Yemenis working at the U.S. embassy. The U.S. State Department said that the Houthis are continuing to hold employees of the U.S. government hostage. In the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, a Saudi-led coalition struck Houthi-controlled military sites. Citizens in the area claimed that it was the “longest and most intensive” in recent years. The increased tension in the region does not help promote efforts for a ceasefire.
Violence continues to escalate, harming many innocent civilians in the process. On November 1, a police officer killed an 8-year-old child with a stray bullet after firing at a car of people who supposedly disobeyed orders at a checkpoint. Similar to another killing in October, this sparked smaller-scale uprisings, which turned into violent riots. Several other children became casualties of the ongoing conflict on November 24, when people attacked a bilingual high school with guns and explosives. Acts of violence like this one have contributed to the fact that 700,000 children currently lack access to education.
At the same time, multiple countries have cracked down on Cameroonian refugees. Throughout November, Equatorial Guinea deported thousands of people who had been living in the country illegally back to Cameroon. The government of Equatorial Guinea has pointed to national security concerns as their reason for the deportations, and it is uncertain what the future will look like for Cameroonians seeking safety away from the civil war. In addition, Nigeria, which was once a safe haven in opposition to the government of Cameroon, has begun allowing the Cameroonian military to enter the country in search of separatist fighters.
Violence rose in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a suicide bomber attacked a local restaurant in late December. Officials blame the Allied Democratic Forces which is claimed by ISIS as its central African unit. Earlier in December, there were reports of Ugandan troops present in DRC working to fight the Allied Democratic Forces. However, this presence was only temporary and thus led to a rise in violence after the retreat of the Ugandan troops.
The Allied Democratic Forces continue to operate along the border of both Uganda and DRC. The countries are working to defeat the groups together. However, lack of infrastructure and economic means are proving to be a barrier. In the meantime, the presence of the group is proving to be a very dangerous situation for all civilians in the region.
Since the October military coup in Sudan, protests denouncing the event have been at the forefront of all news in the country. Sudanese security forces have continued to fire tear gas to disperse protesters in Khartoum in late December. This has led to an increase in violence in the region and no transition to democracy is in sight.
Prime Minister Hamdok, a former UN official, was reinstated in December. He is seen as a face of Sudan’s transitional government and there was large pressure put on the country ro call for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight that was led by Hamdok. However, this deal was rejected by many protesters. Even at the end of 2021, the political deadlock in the region is at an all-time high and is proving to be detrimental for a peaceful transition of power.
As the border crisis escalates near Texas, thousands of migrants are finding themselves in extreme environments in an effort to avoid U.S. Border agents. Reports have found that many migrants are taking daunting journeys across the Sonoran desert. However, the journey often proves to be too much on their health. Migrants crossing the border have long been a political target and with instituting detention and child separation policies, the migrants have been compelled to find their ways to the states without any help, leading to more dire conditions at the border.
Migrant numbers have increased steadily since April 2020 due to conflict in many South American countries; however, President Biden has encouraged many migrants to not make the perilous journey to the states. Furthermore, a policy known as Title 42 aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities is causing many migrants to have to take dangerous paths to enter the country. This has caused discourse on how the United States could revise its border policies to ensure more migrants are not hurt.
Aparna Parthasarathy is a student at South Brunswick High School. Aparna contributed to the Burma portion of this update.
Alondra Becerra is a senior at Texas State University studying international relations. Alondra contributed to the Yemen portion of this update.
Mira Mehta is a student at Brown University. Mira contributed to the Cameroon portion of this update.
Alvina Mastakar is a student at Terre Haute South. Alvina contributed to the East Turkistan portion of this update.
Shreya Satagopan is a student at the George Washington University. Shreya contributed to the Kashmir, Syria, and Palestine portion of this update.
Ishreet Lehal is a student at the University of Southern California. Ishreet contributed to the DRC, Sudan, and United States portions of this update.