Throughout this month, tensions have escalated between Sudan’s military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). International pressure has mounted with the United States State Department finding both sides of the conflict at fault for committing mass atrocities in the region. While this is an important step, it remains to be seen if any future actions will take place as a result of these findings. Heavy fighting also continues, and the RSF has taken control of the city of Wad Madani after previously being repelled after three days of fighting. This in turn has worsened conditions for civilian safety. The UN has reported that up to 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the city, previously a safe haven to escape from the violence. With the growing humanitarian crisis looming on and countless civilians with nowhere left to turn, the situation seems dire as the almost year-long conflict leaves the year off on a bleak note. An appropriate international response is needed to ensure safety and security as the new year begins anew.
While the war has ended, instability is far from over in Ethiopia. The destruction of agricultural infrastructure, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and a recent drought and locust infestation have resulted in a famine in Tigray, although the Ethiopian government denies it. The lasting effects of conflict have brought about a humanitarian crisis. Aid from the US and UN is set to resume soon, and Ethiopia has mobilized to support people affected by the drought, but countless Tigrayans are still suffering.
Additionally, Tigray was not the only conflict that has affected the nation. The Ethiopian government is at war with the Fano militia in the Amhara region, and has used drone strikes indiscriminately. Over the past few weeks, drone strike attacks have increased, killing as many as 30-40 on December 10. Like in Tigray, this has been denounced as a form of collective punishment that harms fighters, civilians, and Amhara society as a whole. Many hope for an end to this conflict as well.
While there have not been any major updates in the direct conflict in Cameroon this past month, civilians continue to suffer the consequences of violence. The UN Office for Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs reported that 2.9 million people were affected by food insecurity and malnutrition between October and December of this year alone. Many civilians have been displaced by violence as well, including the destruction of homes in attacks last month. There have also been 142 cholera cases reported so far.
Houthi forces have continued attacks on commercial ships bound for Israel, and leaders have pledged not to stop until a ceasefire is reached in Gaza. The US warned that a peace deal reached between Saudi and Houthi leaders would fail if these attacks continued. Then, on December 18, the US government announced Operation Prosperity Guardian, which will establish a multinational coalition to militarily counter Houthi operations in the Red Sea. The coalition includes Greece, Italy, the UK, and several other countries.
The Biden administration is considering easing restrictions on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. In 2021, President Biden had announced an end to support for offensive operations in Saudi Arabia, but may soon reverse this decision as a result of the reduction in violence in Yemen. It remains to be seen whether violence will escalate within Yemen given the recent increase in tensions with the US.
This year, 1032 civilians have been killed in Syria, 91 in the month of December alone. On one such instance on December 17th, seven were killed and twenty were injured in Idlib from a Syrian military bombing. Twelve years after the Syrian Civil War, the Internation Court of Justice (ICJ) has finally released information regarding the Syrian government’s torture program. The Court has ruled that the Syrian government must act to prevent the torture of detainees and cannot destroy any evidence regarding their unlawful acts and human rights violations. Desepite this ruling, torture remains a problem in the nation, as 133 of the 1032 deaths were caused by torture,
Despite ongoing need, the World Food Program (WFP) has announced that it will end its assistance program in Syria in January. This decision affects over 12 million displaced Syrian citizens who do not have a reliable food source. The WFP has claimed that this decision was made because of budget cuts, acknowledging that millions of Syrians would be harmed and food insecurity in Syria is at an all-time high. Simultaneously, the World Health Organization (WHO) has strengthened its health responses in northern Syria due to the rise in military attacks and public health emergencies.
December 7th marked two months since the beginning of escalated violence in Gaza. The temporary pause in fighting put in place at the end of November has also ended. More than 100 Israeli hostages are still believed to be in Gaza. Israel recently admitted to mistakenly shooting three hostages while in Gaza. In this time, more than 20,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed by the Israeli military, including 8,800 children. An additional 55,000 people have reportedly been injured in the attacks.
The UN has found that about 1.9 million people, over 80% of Gaza’s population, have been displaced since violence escalated. It has also declared Gaza to be the most dangerous place for journalists, as at least 64 have been killed in this period. The UN also finds hospitals in Gaza to be unsafe, as they are often occupied by military soldiers. While Israel has begun to allow aid into Gaza through inspected trucks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed that the war will be a long fight.
The global response to the conflict has begun to shift slightly. Recently, US officials have begun to apply more pressure on Israel in response to mass civilian death. Officials continue to meet with Israel to plan for the future of the conflict. However, the US vetoed a recent UN resolution of immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and the UN Security Council has delayed votes for further resolutions. They hope to gain US support on future votes, in place of the previous veto.
East and Southeast Asia
Due to recent losses in the Shan state and ethnic resistance groups, the Burmese military junta has responded by hoarding mass imports of diesel to maintain military operations, worsening the country’s fuel crisis. Many fuel stations across the country have run out of supply while many citizens and cities face regular power shortages.
China remains a powerful influence on the coup as it was able to force the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) to agree to a ceasefire regarding their seizure of Tatmadaw posts along the Chinese-Burmese border. The junta has recently strengthened their relationship with China as the Chinese government has cracked down on border cities like Kokang and communication has increased between Burma and Russia. Despite this ceasefire, the Three Alliance Brotherhood has urged the nation to continue to resist junta efforts.
The UN has reported that the coup and civil war has displaced more than 2.6 million people, a number that grows daily as fighting increases in regions like Loikaw, Khampat, and Laiza, with increased attacks near the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) headquarters in the latter city.
East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)
In the month of December, the United States has barred imports from three more Chinese companies associated with Uyghur forced labor and other Chinese minorities: COFCO Sugar Holding, Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group, and Anhui Xinya New Materials. These companies will be added to those prohibited by the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA Public Law No. 117-78). Their addition will bring the total number of companies on the list to 30. In response, the Chinese Embassy has called this an action based on lies and said that the United States is curbing Chinese development and undermining the stability of the region of East Turkistan (Xinjiang). It’s extremely important to both recognize the United States’ efforts regularly in calling out the crimes against humanity in the East Turkistan region, as well as understanding and recognizing Chinese attempts to deny such allegations.
Earlier this month, representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., warned of a trade policy loophole which could potentially make the United States complicit in the Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in East Turkistan. Blumenauer, a highly respected human rights advocate of a House Ways and Means Committee, alerted that there is a loophole in the de minimis threshold allowing for the import of packages valued at 800 dollars or less to enter the U.S. These imports undergo a simplified inspection where no fees or taxes are paid, resulting in the selling of forced labor goods to U.S. consumers. Closing enforcement gaps is crucial in order to reinforce the rights of those being persecuted, as well as identify the wrongdoings of the Chinese government.
December 9 memorialized the 75th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as well as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and the Prevention of this Crime. To commemorate the anniversary, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released a press statement announcing that the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury have imposed sanctions on thirty-seven perpetrators of human rights abuses in thirteen countries, including China, South Sudan, and Syria.
Regarding US laws and policies, several notable events have taken place over the last month. On November 29, the Uyghur Policy Act (H.R. 2766) passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This action will allow the United States to respond more effectively to the persecution of the Uyghurs in East Turkistan, China. The Texas Supreme Court, however, has ruled against a woman seeking an abortion for an unviable chromosome disease. This ruling comes a week after her request was granted by a district court. With regards to abortion rights nationwide, the Supreme Court plans to hear a case regarding mifepristone, the most widely-used abortion medication in the country. Banning or restricting it would drastically limit the ability of people to get abortions, even in states without anti-abortion policies. In better news, it declined a case challenging a ban on gay conversion therapy, a decision that was opposed by right-wing judges Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. However, 75 anti-lgbt bills were signed into law this year, a concerning statistic in an increasingly hostile country. This is a precarious situation for anyone who isn’t a straight, white, cisgender man.
Anika Gera is a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. She contributed to the United States and East Turkistan portion of this update.
Anne-Sophie Hellman is a senior at Buffalo State University majoring in History. She contributed to the United States portion of this update.
Grace Harris is a junior at UCLA studying International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray portion of this update.
Jerry Harris is a graduate student at George Mason University in the Mass Atrocity and Genocide Prevention certificate program. He contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.
Krisna Kumar is a senior at Friends School of Baltimore. She contributed to the Palestine portion of this update.
Mira Mehta is a junior at Brown University studying Economics and International & Public Affairs. She contributed to the Cameroon and Yemen portions of this update.
Seng Hkawn Myitung is a junior at Albemarle High School. She contributed to the Burma and Syria portions of this update.