The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Conflict Update: April 2019

This week’s conflict update covers events of April 2019 in STAND’s key focus areas: Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Yemen, Burma, Syria, and the escalating crisis in Venezuela. We are thankful to STAND Action Committee members Grace Harris, and Megan Rodgers, as well as STAND Managing Committee members, Grace Fernandes, Caroline Mendoza, Casey Bush, and Zachary Gossett for researching and writing pieces of this brief.


Sudan and South Sudan


On April 11, 2019,  after a week of thousands of protestors camping outside the nation’s military headquarters, the Sudanese military announced that President Omar al-Bashir had been arrested and ousted, marking the end of al-Bashir’s 30 year rule as an uncompromising and relentless ruler. On April 12, defense minister Lt. Gen. Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced he would head a two year transitional period through a military council, with terms including the dissolution of the government and 10PM curfews for all citizens. Increased protests caused Ibn Auf to step down as head of the military council within 36 hours and he was replaced by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan who lifted certain restrictions including curfews. After episodic violence during the protests, a 10-member delegation of protest organizers met with the military council at the country’s army headquarters in Khartoum. The military has agreed to allow civilian representatives on a supreme council to aid in the governing of Sudan, but refuse to allow a civilian majority out of fear of being overpowered and outvoted. Members of the military council have suggested three civilians and seven soldiers with a maximum of half of the council’s members consisting of civilian representatives. As of May 2, 2019, the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), a group of opposition leaders, has submitted a draft constitution with proposals for a cabinet and a 120-person legislature during the transitional period. The DFCF is expecting a response from the military within two to three days, leaving the future of Sudan’s governance still up to negotiations.

South Sudan

Since South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011 after a war over oil, religion, and ethnicity, the nation is once again in conflict and looking to commit to peace. As of April 18, 2019, opposition leader Riek Machar postponed the formation of a unified government until safety issues were resolved, as 2016’s peace agreements ended in Machar fleeing gunfire from President Salva Kiir’s troops. Machar’s return would have marked the establishment of a power-sharing government with Machar as vice president and Kiir as President. SPLM-IO, Machar’s rebel group, proposed delaying the formation of a transitional government for six more months as issues such as lacking security control and a unified South-Sudanese army have yet to be addressed.


Great Lakes of Africa

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

In early April, the Democratic Republic of the Congo held gubernatorial elections for its 26 provinces after a two-week-long postponement due to allegations of vote buying among provincial delegates. Before votes were even announced, 11 people were injured in clashes between supporters of newly-elected President Felix Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila in Lubumbashi. On April 11, it was determined that, months after losing the seat to his presidency, Joseph Kabila’s party, Common Front for Congo (FCC), had claimed victory in 16 of the provinces while Tshisekedi’s party won only one province while an opposition faction was successful in one other. (The remaining provinces were either postponed or will require a second round of votes.) With this announcement, Kabila’s party currently holds comfortable majorities in both houses of parliament as well as provincial governorships, thus ensuring that the country has not yet rid themselves of Kabila. As a result of the provincial election results, Al Jazeera has reported that supporters of Tshisekedi took to the streets protesting against the landslide victory of the FCC while simultaneously trying to hold off claims made by Martin Fayulu, candidate in the December election, that the presidential election was the result of a deal brokered between Tshisekedi and Kabila.

April has also marked a deadly month in the DRC as a result of the months-long Ebola outbreak that has plagued the country. More than 1,000 people have died from Ebola in eastern Congo since August, and as of May 4 the number has risen to 1,008. Despite these staggering statistics, however, it was determined by an expert panel of the World Health Organization (WHO) that the crisis would not be declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as of April 12. Professionals have predicted that this could have deadly consequences as such an announcement is necessary to draw greater attention and funding to fighting Ebola in the country.


Middle East


The United States Senate failed to override Donald Trump’s veto of the Yemen War Powers Resolution, a bipartisan measure to end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, on Thursday, May 2 with a 53-45 vote. Currently, the US provides intelligence and sells arms and ammunition to the coalition, all of which are used to fuel the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen. This unfortunate vote comes at a time when over 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition since January 2016 and over 12.6 million are in need of drinking water and adequate sanitation services. Cases of cholera are rampant among the millions of Yemeni citizens in need of humanitarian aid, with some areas seeing as many as 2,000 cases or suspected cases of cholera per week. Humanitarian groups have been blocked by fighting, restrictions to access certain areas, and bureaucratic difficulties, making it incredibly difficult to mitigate the worst of the crisis and keeping many Yemeni citizens from receiving lifesaving aid.

After the Stockholm Agreement in December, in which Yemen’s Houthi rebels and its internationally recognized government made concessions with the goal of mitigating conflict, the warring groups agreed to withdraw troops from Hodeidah Hodeidah has been and continues to be a significant port city as it is the main entry for 70% of imports, including humanitarian aid. However, in a press statement released on April 17, the UN Security Council expressed concern that the agreements are not being implemented. Both parties have been urged to follow through on the agreement to de-escalate the conflict, although a disagreement about which group should control Hodeidah has hindered this approach.



Since the removal of ISIS from Syrian territory, thousands of women and children have fled to refugee camps within the country. With 12,000 women and children now residing within these camps — many of whom are the families of ISIS fighters— their potential repatriation has garnered international attention. In just one camp in northeastern Syria, 2,500 children of ISIS fighters are being held which has prompted the International Committee for the Red Cross to urge that these children be repatriated to their country of origin.

In the past month, Russian and Syrian-led air-raids have recommenced in what was once a demilitarized zone in Northwestern Syria. Schools, health facilities, and residential areas within the “safe-zone” have all been hit. Additionally, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator reported that the area was experiencing the worst barrel bombing in fifteen months. These barrel bombs are found to have killed at least 15 civilians. The increase in attacks is exemplified by the May 5th targeting of three hospitals. Two of the hospitals were put out of service and one, The Nabad Al Hayat Hospital was destroyed.

Reliefweb reports that, since April 21, 231,087 individuals have been displaced and 462,496 remain under attack. Additionally, in this time, at least one hundred civilians have been killed.  In the end of March, there were 6.2 million internally displaced people within the country and 11.7 people in need of humanitarian assistance.


Southeast Asia


In the past month, the Burmese government has continued to refuse to change its treatment of the Rohingya minority and has initiated a crackdown against critics of the government and national armed forces, refusing the right to freedom of speech and expression. Especially concerning was the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold seven-year prison sentences of two reporters in apparent retaliation for their implication of the armed forces in an investigation of a massacre of Rohingya villagers in Inn Din, Rakhine State. The situation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh remains concerning as the government is ill-equipped to deal with the massive influx of refugees resulting in food shortages within refugee camps and the mistreatment of Rohingya refugees by Bangladeshi police, as well as the refusal of access to education for refugee children. Bangladesh is hoping to repatriate Rohingya as soon as possible after initial repatriation plans were delayed in November of 2018 but many refuse to return to the country until changes are made.

Throughout the past month, the international community has issued several responses to the persecution of the Rohingya. On April 29th, the EU council extended an embargo on arms and other materials that could be used for internal repression, issued travel bans to Myanmar, and froze assets on 14 top officials connected to serious human rights violations. These extensions will last until April 30, 2020. Efforts to address the persecution of the Rohingya have also been made in the U.S., where a bill proposing sanctions against the Burmese government due to their treatment of the Rohingya was introduced to the Senate on April 12th. Additionally, the status of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh was discussed at length during talks between the Russian and Bangladeshi governments on April 29th. During this discussion, Russia agreed to back Bangladesh in promoting the timely repatriation of the Rohingya by encouraging the Burmese government to create a safe environment for the Rohingya within their own home country. In April, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, head of UN migration agency (IOM) António Vitorino, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi took a joint visit to Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. After this trip, the officials reiterated their concern for the Rohingya, imploring the Burmese government to end persecution and asking the international community to support the Bangladeshi government in providing aid to Rohingya refugees. The UN also condemned the deportation of 3 Rohingya refugees who were returned to Burma from India due to their lack of documentation.


Emerging Crises


The situation in Venezuela continues to escalate. On April 30, Guaidó asked Venezuelans to join the “final phase” of the efforts to topple Maduro. On May Day, protestors took to the streets once again to demand Maduro’s resignation and they were violently suppressed with tear gas and rubber bullets. The military did not follow Guaidó’s demands for a revolt, exemplifying Maduro’s strong hold. On May 2, Maduro spoke on national television to frame the military’s support as a victory over the opposition’s attempt at a United States-backed coup.

The US claims that Maduro was prepared to flee if the military did follow Guaidó’s request, saying he had a plane ready to take him to Cuba. Maduro’s Administration denies these claims. These comments are the most recent mention of the United States’ “threatening drumbeat” to overthrow the Maduro regime, which includes talks of military intervention. The increasingly violent protests and suppression combined with threats of foreign intervention and seemingly everlasting economic suffering puts Venezuela in a dire situation, with political violence seeming more likely by the moment.


Megan Rodgers, who contributed to the Burma section of this brief, is a student at The University of Arkansas. Megan serves on STAND’s Burma and Democratic Republic of Congo Action Committees.

Grace Harris, who contributed to the Sudan section of this brief, is a sophomore at Tampa Preparatory School in Florida, where she serves as the president of her STAND chapter. Grace serves on STAND national’s Sudan and Yemen Action Committees.

Casey Bush, who contributed to the DRC section of this brief, is a graduate student at Clark University and one of STAND’s Student Co-Directors. She is a member of all of STAND’s Action Committees.

Grace Fernandes, who contributed to the Syria section of this brief, is a junior at Simmons University and one of STAND’s Student Co-Directors. She leads STAND’s Indigenous Peoples Action Committee and works with Simmons Amnesty International, an affiliate of STAND.

Caroline Mendoza, who contributed to the Sudan and South Sudan section of this brief, is a junior at Cerritos High School in California, and serves on the STAND Managing Committee. She is a member of the Burma and Yemen Action Committees.

Zachary Gossett, who contributed to the Venezuela section of this brief, is a sophomore at Butler University and a member of STAND’s Managing Committee. He serves on the Indigenous Peoples and Burma Action Committees.

STAND Statement on Trump’s Veto of the Yemen War Powers Resolution

As the U.S persists in engaging in the unconstitutional war in Yemen, Yemeni civilians continue to suffer. Estimates report that tens of thousands of people, possibly up to 80,000, have been killed in this conflict since 2015. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 24.1 million Yemeni people are in need of humanitarian assistance, with a quarter of a million people starving, 9.6 million just a step away from famine, and over 20 million facing food insecurity. Cases of cholera, malnutrition, and other diseases have increased due to the 12.6 million people in dire need of drinking water and sanitation services, and the 14 million in dire need of health services.

The passage of S.J.Res. 7, the Yemen War Powers Resolution, by Congress on April 4 is a tacit acknowledgement of the suffering of Yemen’s people, and the U.S. involvement therein. The Resolution demands an end to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war, and would outlaw U.S. arms sales, military support, and intelligence support to the Saudi and UAE-led coalition responsible for the bulk of civilian suffering in Yemen. On April 16, President Trump vetoed this resolution, despite its overwhelming bipartisan support. With this veto, the President has forcefully nullified and disregarded the voices of not just Yemeni victims and civilians, but U.S. citizens and their democratically-elected representatives.

President Trump’s veto is another assertion of his continuing support for Saudi Arabia’s interests and yet another failure on his campaign promise of ending unnecessary U.S. involvement in international conflicts. We contend that U.S. arms sales, military assistance, and intelligence sharing amounts to executive overreach, as Congress is the sole branch with the authority to declare war. In other words, U.S. involvement in the war is unconstitutional.
STAND stands by the War Powers Resolution, and believes that it is our moral imperative to end U.S. support for the Saudi and UAE-led war in Yemen. We stand by the victims of atrocities committed in Yemen by all parties to the conflict and will continue to support efforts to end U.S. involvement in the war. We thank Congress for the bipartisan majority votes to pass the War Powers Resolution and ask that they continue the pressure to end U.S involvement in the war, as this conflict has hurt everyone but the private industries and contractors which directly profit from the arms sales and intelligence involvement. We ask that Congress support a veto override when it comes to a vote, likely this week, in order to preserve peace, assert United States’ values, and reclaim authority in promulgating the constitutionality of U.S. involvement in warmaking.

STAND Statement on Venezuela’s Political Crisis

Since 2013, the Venezuelan people have lived under the brutal and exceedingly authoritarian rule of Nicolás Maduro. Consumer prices in Venezuela have increased exponentially in recent years, making basic necessities such as food and medicine unaffordable for many citizens. As a result, 2.3 million migrants have fled the country since 2014, and in 2017, studies found that 75% of the population had lost an average of 19 pounds of weight due to food shortages and price hikes. In addition to the economic crisis, Maduro has taken widely unpopular steps to consolidate power through constitutional reform backed by a loyal Supreme Court.

Venezuelans have largely opposed these moves toward authoritarian rule, and protests in 2017 were met with violence and repression, killing over 100 people. Notably, in September 2018, well before the current crisis, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru referred the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). On January 5, 2019, Juan Guaidó was elected President of the National Assembly, and on January 23, after invoking articles 233 and 333 of the Venezuelan constitution, took the presidential oath. The articles of the constitution, as interpreted by the opposition, allow for Guaidó to serve as president until elections are called. Nicolás Maduro, who is backed by the military and judiciary, considers this claim illegitimate.

The international community is divided on the crisis, with Russia, China, Iran, Mexico, Uruguay, and Cuba supporting Maduro’s rule, and the majority of South American countries, the U.S., Canada, and now ten EU countries supporting Juan Guaidó. Within the U.S., communities are also divided on next steps.

As an organization committed to atrocity prevention and civilian protection, STAND remains deeply concerned about violence against protesters, crackdowns on dissent, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.  We stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela, who overwhelmingly oppose military intervention, but are calling for free and fair elections. We support humanitarian assistance in the form of food and medical aid, an increase in US resettlement of refugees from Venezuela, and an ICC investigation into human rights abuses. Absent political dialogue and a tangible timeline for elections, we support the interim presidency of Juan Guaidó.

Student Activists Celebrate Signing of Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act into Law

Last month, STAND activists celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, the landmark treaty that defined genocide as an international crime and committed signatories to working to prevent genocide and punish its perpetrators. In celebrating, we recognized the urgent need to recommit ourselves to its aims. Yesterday, after four years of dogged advocacy, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act was signed into law by President Trump. The signing of this legislation represents the most tangible progress the United States has made towards genocide and atrocities prevention since President Reagan signed the Genocide Convention in 1988.

Named after Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocity Prevention Act will bolster the ability of the US to contribute to ending and preventing genocide and mass atrocities wherever they occur. First introduced in 2016, the bill requires training for Foreign Service Officers placed in areas at risk of atrocities in order to better recognize and respond to early warning signs. It also supports interagency coordination through structures such as the Atrocities Prevention Board, to facilitate a whole-of-government approach to prevent and respond to emerging atrocities in at-risk countries. Finally, the Act requires regular reporting to Congress regarding these efforts.

Since 2009, when STAND students advocated for the passage of S.Con.Res 71, a resolution affirming U.S. national interest in preventing genocide, we have recognized the need to improve U.S. foreign policy approaches to emerging atrocity issues. Today, as an organization committed to building a world in which the global community is invested in preventing, mitigating, and sustainably resolving genocide and mass atrocities, we affirm this crucial, bipartisan effort towards achieving this vision.

This victory would not have been possible without the long-term commitment of our activists and our partner organizations, including the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, Jewish World Watch, In Defense of Christians, Peace Direct, and many others.

Read the full text of the legislation here.

Casey Bush is the co-Student Director of STAND. Casey recently graduated with her BA in History and Holocaust and Genocide Studies from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts and is preparing to pursue a masters at the same institution. She is available for comment at

STAND Statement on Mass Protests in Sudan

As a student-led organization born in 2004 during the movement to end genocide in Darfur, we stand in solidarity with anti-government protesters in Sudan. Since December 19, protests with the slogan “peaceful peaceful” have been staged across much of the country. Initially sparked by dramatic price hikes and fuel shortages, the rallies have escalated into broader anti-government protests demanding the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. Bashir, who has ruled Sudan for 29 years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide. Despite multiple arrest warrants, the international community has failed to bring him to trial and Bashir has continued to act with impunity.   

According to Amnesty International, 37 protesters were killed by Sudanese police in the first five days of demonstrations. Large numbers of security forces have been deployed across the country to subdue protestors by throwing tear gas, arresting journalists and opposition leaders, and opening fire on crowds. Opposition sources report that an estimated 45 civilians have now died, over 1,000 have been tortured, and an additional 2,000 have been detained.

As has been historically true in Sudan, the demonstrations have largely consisted of women, teenagers, and students. On December 23, 32 students from the University of Sennar were arrested, beaten, and accused of sabotage on state television as security forces attempted to coerce confessions of wrongdoing. Several peers have stated that the vast majority of these detainees were not politically active, and were “peaceful” and “highly respected students within the university.” This is not the first time student life has been disrupted at the university – in September, up to seven students were injured in an attack by student supporters of the NCP, and in November, 14 students were detained under the pretext of violating a ban on political activity.

In a speech celebrating Sudanese independence on January 1, Bashir justified the government’s suppressive tactics and promised increased economic development in 2019, claiming the recently-approved national budget would help Sudan “brave through the current crisis.” As the NCP presidential candidate for the 2020 presidential elections, if the protests wane, Bashir will be allowed to continue to consolidate his power.

Young people in Sudan have a powerful history of mobilizing for political change. Most notably, the October Revolution in 1964, which overthrew Sudan’s first military dictator, was prompted by an attack on student organizers at the University of Khartoum; and the April Intifada of 1985 led to the overthrow of Sudan’s second military regime. Protests have also flourished more recently. In December 2011, Darfuri student leaders were arrested at Red Sea University, leading to mass student-led protests and in June and July 2012, women at the University of Khartoum sparked massive anti-austerity protests. In 2013, thousands of demonstrators called for Bashir’s removal. These recent protests have been put down violently, leading to the increased public discontent that has predicated today’s popular uprising.

Nothing can justify the use of live ammunition on peaceful protesters. We are dismayed by the brutal suppression of demonstrations in Sudan and call on the international community to urgently and strongly condemn the regime’s response. Most importantly, we stand behind the thousands of Sudanese people who are demanding change.

Celebrating 70 Years of Genocide Prevention

We are so thankful for our activists across the country who have taken action, hosted events, and fundraised for us throughout fall semester. As the fall term wraps up, we wanted to give STAND supporters an update on one of our biggest campaigns of the semester: “A Cause for Celebration,” and invite you to join us!

STAND’s “A Cause for Celebration” campaign celebrates the 70 year anniversary of the UN Genocide Convention, a landmark event that categorized genocide as a crime and began to focus on genocide prevention in the global community. Adopted on December 9, 1948, the Convention has made huge strides in recognizing mass atrocities worldwide; however, humanity continues to witness the loss of innocent lives in mass volume, and still has a large amount of work to do.

To celebrate the progress made since 1948, STAND has contributed in its own ways to prevent genocide and further mass atrocities. We’ve been raising money to support STAND’s student programming to end mass atrocities, educating our representatives on the importance of atrocities prevention, and celebrating what the UN Genocide Convention has accomplished since it was signed into action. We poured our hearts into this campaign because STAND truly believes that it is students like us who will one day put an end to identity based atrocities across the globe.

The best way to get excited about atrocities prevention is to throw a party! The most exciting component of “A Cause for Celebration” is that STAND is asking you to celebrate. Pick a day in December, get together with your chapter on your school’s grounds and have a blast celebrating Raphael Lemkin and the Convention. Eat pizza, have a cake eating contest, even “cake” your teachers and professors. Use this opportunity to party and bring attention to atrocities prevention. For more ideas, check out our toolkit.

Since our founding as an organization, STAND has been led by passionate student volunteers. We have been able to invest in students across the globe, preparing them to be future leaders in atrocities prevention. With one permanent staff person, STAND has made a tremendous impact in the atrocities prevention community with the help of many passionate student volunteers. However, many of our resources cost money that we do not have. Raising money for STAND is not about paying anyone’s salary. It’s about making copies of one-pagers for representatives to receive on Capitol Hill, training our student volunteers in policy and STAND specific actions, and ensuring that we can continue to be a leader in atrocities prevention. We ask that you consider raising money for STAND this year as a component of “A Cause for Celebration”. You can do this by having a bake sale, event, or fundraiser at your school, asking local businesses to support STAND National, or buying our apparel on Bonfire (a percentage of your purchase goes right to STAND and its programming and you get to look cool in a STAND shirt of your choice).

Again, we are so thankful for your participation in our campaigns and advocacy actions this term. It has been a pleasure working with you. Don’t forget to tag @STANDnow in your party pictures on Instagram. We cannot wait to see how you and your chapter choose to celebrate.

Elections in Kashmir Threaten World’s Most Militarized Zone

The northernmost state of India is one of the most picturesque regions in the world. Marked by grassy valleys and snow-covered mountains, it is no wonder that Kashmir is one of the top tourist destinations in India. However, 71 years after gaining independence from the British and the subsequent conflict in the area, Kashmiris continue to face violence and the country remains the most militarized zone in the world. The first local elections in Indian-administered Kashmir since 2005 could threaten all steps made towards peace in the past decade.

Once a stop on the Silk Road, Kashmir today is a hotspot of conflict largely between Muslims and Hindus that followed from the British partition of India in 1947. When India and Pakistan were granted independence, borders were haphazardly drawn amongst religious lines. India was mainly constituted of Hindus while Pakistan held a majority-Muslim population. The partition was determined a full two days after independence and displaced over 14 million people as Muslims and Hindus migrated to their respective countries. Large-scale violence that resulted from the mass movement caused the deaths of between 200,000 and 2 million people as British soldiers stationed in both countries stood idly by except when acting to save British lives.

Kashmir found itself in the center of this conflict as the region at the time of the partition was a Muslim-majority border state run by a Hindu maharaja, or king. India claimed that the maharaja chose to join India, but Pakistan disputed the claim. This began the Indo-Pakistani War, sometimes referred to as the First Kashmir War, which lasted just over a year. In the end, both sides reluctantly agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire and subsequently decided line of control— though still no official border was declared. In 1962, China invaded Kashmir from the Northeast, gaining control of the Aksai-Chin region of Kashmir, which they still rule today.

In 1965, India and Pakistan fought another war over Kashmir and in 1999 narrowly avoided a third war. In the midst of a fragile ceasefire, the region remains fraught with violence. Just over a year ago, armed militants attacked an Indian Army base near the Line of Control, killing 19 Indian soldiers. The climate of fear has increased with the rise of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist group which operates in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir with the goal of “liberating” Muslims residing in Indian Kashmir.

Most recently, India-administered Kashmir has seen violence surrounding the first local elections since 2005 which took place in four phases throughout the first half of October. 45 candidates withdrew their nominations following threats from terrorist groups who claim the elections are an illegitimate exercise under military occupation. One separatist leader claimed, “people’s participation in polls are propagated as a verdict in India’s favor.”

Already the world’s most militarized zone, 50,000 additional soldiers have been deployed to ensure safety at the polls. Additional measures seemingly to protect civilians include the enactment of a curfew, the shutdown of the internet, and the closing of shops, businesses and most schools.

Kashmir’s main pro-India political parties are also boycotting the elections “to safeguard an exclusive citizenship law, known as Article 35-A” which protects citizens as part of a historical pact between Kashmir and India allowing the state a special status in India. If this law is not protected, pro-Indian politicians fear that Kashmir would lose its special status in the Indian Constitution and thus leave them open to further attacks from outsiders.

The elections concluded on October 16 witnessed about a 3-8% poll percentage due to threats and major protests, the first phase being the highest at 8%. In total, approximately 69% of voting locations did not witness any polling at all. In one municipality, a woman was injured by shotgun pellets fired by government forces, and others were injured by stone-throwing. As the results are finalized before announcement on October 20, the world must pay attention to the conflict in Kashmir and local officials must ensure that civilian rights and safety are protected.


casey head shotCasey Bush is STAND’s co-Student Director. Currently, Casey is pursuing her B.A. in History and Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University and is finishing an Honors Thesis on forgiveness after the Holocaust.

STAND Statement on the Refugee Resettlement Cap

Today, world displacement levels are at an all-time high, with at least one person displaced for every 112 people around the world. With this as the reality, STAND is dismayed at the Trump administration’s announcement recently that the U.S. will cap refugee admissions at only 30,000 next year — an all-time low for the United States’ refugee resettlement program. Over the past several years, STAND has opposed continued iterations of both the Muslim Ban and previous resettlement cutbacks, and now stands fervently opposed to this move to further lower the U.S. refugee resettlement ceiling. Now, more than ever, such a decision represents a complete abandonment of the nation’s moral responsibility to host and assist those who have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict, atrocities, and natural disaster.

According to the United Nations, today there are more than 68.5 million displaced people, including more than 25 million refugees. We cannot turn our backs on these, as one of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Facing the loss of their homes, families, and livelihoods, refugees look to the United States for a fighting chance at life. To restrict their entrance is to abandon the victims of global crises – crises that often the global community has failed to prevent.

We, the young people of STAND, continue to support the fight against anti-refugee actions taken by the United States. A country with such great wealth, potential impact,  and history of humanitarian assistance, has a moral obligation to do their part and accept refugees from around the globe.

As always, we stand #WithRefugees.

STAND Statement on Anniversary of Peak Violence Against Rohingya

One year ago today, the Burmese military intensified a systematic campaign of violence against the minority Rohingya population, killing 6,700 and causing over 723,000 refugees to flee to Bangladesh.

We, the student leaders of STAND, recognize that the wide-scale violence being taken against the Rohingya is genocide as defined legally by the 1948 Genocide Convention. We call on the international community to hold the Burmese government and military accountable for their actions.

In addition to a recent increase in violence, the Rohingya have historically been a marginalized group within Burma. In 1962, the Muslim minority group were stripped of their citizenship and labeled “illegal immigrants” by the government who speculated that they had arrived from Bangladesh. However, independent reports have recognized their pre-British colonial presence in Northern Arakan. Thus, the Burmese government must recognize and respect the inalienable right of the Rohingya to live in their country.

Recently, in its campaign to ethnically cleanse Burma’s Rakhine State, the military has burned villages, tortured and killed civilians, and raped hundreds of women. Even when refugees make it out of Burma, they live in overcrowded camps that struggle to provide basic living necessities and where the spread of disease is inevitable.

As a student-led organization dedicated to ending genocide and mass atrocities wherever they may occur, STAND acknowledges the suffering of the Rohingya in Burma as genocide and urges the international community to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Rohingya— as well as other ethnic minorities in the country— are not persecuted based upon their ethnic or religious identity.

Soccer for Peace: The World Cup you haven’t heard of (yet!)

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.” -Nelson Mandela

As the World Cup teams finished up group rounds, fans from across the world gathered in Russia in support of their respective home countries. From South Korea to Panama, these fans donned the colors of their national flags, bowed their heads at the sound of their national anthems, and sang loudly the chants of their national languages.

Simultaneously, 4,000 miles away in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, another soccer tournament was taking place. This match was not attended by thousands, the players may not have trained for years or had the same professional resources as those competing in Russia, and there were no national anthems to sing or national flags to wave.

Instead, their jerseys proudly display the letters RFC or RFM— Rohingya Football Club or Rohingya Football Malaysia. These teams are made up entirely of Rohingya, a Muslim minority group who are have been,and continue to be,persecuted and denied citizenship in the predominantly Buddhist country of Burma (Myanmar) and neighboring Bangladesh. Though these players, who are also refugees from Burma, have found respite in Malaysia, they are still formally considered stateless and, therefore, do not have the same rights as people with statehood – right that include the ability to legally work or travel outside of the country.

In spite of their harrowing journey out of Burma and the prejudice they continue to face, RFC and RFM players have found refuge in the game of soccer. “Since my birth, I haven’t known freedom,” said Farouque, one of RFC’s leaders. “We can openly play football here. In [Burma] we are not even allowed to go out of our houses. I had to leave my country to save my life.”

We can openly play football here. In [Burma] we are not even allowed to go out of our houses. I had to leave my country to save my life

RFC hopes to make a better life for future generations of Rohingya by bringing awareness to the crimes taking place in Burma as well as proving that the Rohingya can achieve greatness if only given the opportunity. “We want to tell Rohingya youngsters that they can be whatever they want in the world. We want to promote the social development of our people,” said RFC co-founder Muhammad Noor.

The Rohingya are not the only peoples for whom soccer has been a haven. The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA), is an organization of 47 teams all comprised of minority ethnic groups, refugees, diaspora, stateless persons, and nations not recognized by FIFA. One of the most well-known teams that participates in the CONIFA World Cup each year is Darfur United, a team of refugees from Darfur, Sudan, who have been resettled in Östersund, Sweden.

Many non-Arab citizens of Sudan have faced years of government persecution due to their identity. About 15 years ago, the conflict in Darfur was recognized as a genocide by the United States government, but, despite continuing violence against Darfuris, it has since lost media attention. Coach Souliman states, “Football, to me, is everything. Football is support. Football is health. It means relationships and it means peace.”

For many years sports, and soccer in particular, have been used to heal individual pain and reconcile fractured communities. After the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, organizations such as Football for Hope, Peace and Unity were established to bring together Rwandan youth and ensure that violent conflict would not take place in the country again. Similar tactics have been employed in the post-conflict countries of South Africa, Colombia, Bosnia, Liberia, and countless others.

Soccer brings people together— it’s an activity in which to find a community, to gain confidence, and, for many, to escape the harsh realities of life. It’s a chance for individuals to shed their victim status and focus on personal improvement. For generations, soccer has been used as a healing program to foster peace, unity, and reconciliation in post-conflict countries. From post-genocide Rwanda and Bosnia to contemporary conflicts in Burma and Sudan, soccer has proved beneficial in empowering traumatized individuals and bringing together devastated communities. So, if you’re enjoying watching this year’s World Cup, check out one of the many inspirational teams not recognized by FIFA!

casey head shotCasey Bush is one of STAND USA’s Student Directors. She is a senior at Clark University, where she studies History and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She has previously served in several roles with STAND, including as a summer intern and as Campaigns Coordinator, and she has also served as the chapter president of Clark’s STAND chapter. Casey is currently interning at the Buchenwald Memorial, a former concentration camp in Weimar, Germany.