The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

15 Reasons to Give to STAND

This holiday season, for our 15th anniversary, students are sharing 15 reasons to give to STAND. With your support, STAND will be able to continue our one-of-a-kind mission to build the anti-genocide constituency.

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1. STAND is student-led.

Claire Sarnowski, Lakeridge High School, Sophomore

Our volunteer Managing Committee directs our campaigns and committees. STAND puts a strong emphasis on “student-led” and encourages students to contribute to a new generation of atrocity-prevention leaders.

Meet our Managing Committee. 

2. STAND is one of a kind.

Jan Jan Maran, George Mason University, Junior

STAND is the only student organization in the U.S. focused on atrocity prevention- as such, it has allowed me to connect with an amazing network of student activists who are just as passionate as I am about preventing genocide, and has encouraged me to continue using my voice for those silenced by repressive regimes. Coming from a Kachin ethnic background myself, I had always wanted to do something about the atrocities in Burma but wasn’t sure how I would until I met STAND. Since joining the Managing Committee, I have been given various opportunities to advocate for people endangered by genocide not only in Burma, but in countries all over the world. There’s literally no other organization that will allow you to do this, and that’s what makes STAND so unique.

Learn more about Burma.

3. STAND has grassroots reach.

Aisha Saleem, Barnard College, Sophomore

STAND has grassroots outreach to many different high schools and universities across the U.S. There are very few atrocity prevention organizations that have national support across the U.S., specifically support from the youth who get to decide our future.

Start a chapter at your school.

4. STAND connects the global and local.

Grace Fernandes (Student Director), Simmons University, Senior

In my experience at STAND I have had the opportunity to learn about and advocate for both global and local issues. I’ve learned from diaspora and activists from a variety of background across the globe as well as advocated for issues at home regarding the land into trust status of my own tribes reservation land through our Indigenous People’s committee. Through campaigning and teaching about atrocity issues abroad we strengthen our connections from local to global.

Join the IP Action Committee.

5. STAND bridges classroom learning and civic engagement.

Caroline Mendoza, Cerritos High School, Senior

My public high school barely taught about the Holocaust- much less other mass atrocities, both past and present. STAND has allowed me to become knowledgeable on current human rights abuses and has given me the tools and resources to advocate for change on these topics, whether that be lobby days, call-in scripts, or committee engagement.

Read about historical atrocities. 

6. STAND enacts policy.

Megan Smith, University of Southern California, Senior

Right now, I am a member of the Managing Committee, but I began during my freshman year here and stuck around because I saw how STAND truly enacts policy. Utilizing our wide network of youth activists, STAND represents a strong voice in advocating for mass atrocity prevention. Throughout my time with STAND, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act was a key ask, and I remember writing op-eds, lobbying on the Hill, calling my representatives from Los Angeles… When I heard that it was enacted in January, I remember feeling so excited and proud of myself, my STAND community, and all of our allies in getting this milestone piece of legislation for the U.S. in genocide and mass atrocity prevention enacted.

Join the STAND Rapid Responders Facebook group.

7. STAND provides opportunities for individual activists.

Vishwa Padigepati, Yale University, Freshman

As a STAND MC member, I’ve gotten the opportunity to interact with individual activists from several states, coast to coast. Through STAND, I was able to help equip activists with the research, resources, and connections to the nonprofit and government sectors. From lobbying to research to writing, STAND has helped thousands of activists fight against genocidal history and present in its own historical journey.

Apply to be a State Advocacy Lead.

8. STAND empowers young people with professional skills.

Megan Rodgers, University of Arkansas, Junior

Through being a STAND MC Member, I have had the opportunity to interact with leaders in the Atrocity Prevention field, collaborate with other students who are passionate about atrocity and genocide prevention and learn effective methods for policy review and lobbying. Due to the training I received through STAND, I felt empowered to schedule meetings with my elected officials to discuss current pieces of legislation that I am passionate about.

Learn how to lobby.

9. STAND uses technology to democratize access to power.

Jordan Stevenson, Eastern Washington University, Senior

Being from rural Washington state, it can be hard to engage on policy that is made in D.C., especially foreign policy. STAND gives me the tools to organize national action, lobby, and help build the movement to end mass atrocities all from a far corner of the U.S.

Read about Our Issues.

10. STAND updates the public on issues often left out of the news.

Mira Mehta, Westfield High School, Junior

STAND is really amazing because it puts out monthly Conflict Updates and blog posts to inform people about a lot of issues that are often left out of the news, but affect real people. Genocides and mass atrocities aren’t things that we like to talk about or things that we like to teach about in schools, but they’re affecting real people every day, and it’s super important that we have resources like STAND to learn about it.

Alison Rogers, Baylor University, Junior

Through STAND, I’ve been able to engage with activists across the U.S. and internationally. Being part of STAND means that I’m always learning more and getting to participate in new, exciting ways. As a journalism student, I’ve especially enjoyed getting to write op-eds for my school paper and contribute to the conflict updates. I think of advocacy as story-sharing, and STAND is teaching me more about how to do that in ways that are impactful and create change, and that respect the voices of the people affected by genocide and atrocities.

Follow our Conflict Updates.

11. STAND promotes Holocaust and genocide education.

Abby Edwards, Columbia, Junior

Genocide education is currently only mandated in 12 states. Our team is working on creating accessible and appropriate curriculum to facilitate education about atrocity prevention in all schools.

Start a campaign in your state.

12. STAND creates a network of peer support and mentorship.

Grace Harris, Tampa Preparatory School, Junior

By being a part of STAND, I have been able to build important connections with peers. Thanks to STAND, I have a whole network of people I can reach out to for help with anything from editing an op-ed and researching a current crisis to balancing schoolwork and extracurriculars with activism!

Join the network.

13. STAND takes meaningful action for peace.

Daud Shad, Yale University, Junior

STAND raises awareness about humanitarian crises that are generally neglected or met with apathy across the country. Over the past 15 years, STAND has supported thousands of student advocates who work to end mass atrocities.

Learn about Our History.

14. STAND encourages youth activism.

Rujjares Hansapiromchok, George Washington University, Master’s Candidate

STAND empowers and emboldens youth’s voices in activism. The organization allows young people to speak up against injustice and guides us towards impacting change around the world. STAND has given me opportunities to speak up and take action on issues I am passionate about. I have learned different forms of advocacy and activism through the organization.

Organize youth in your area.

15. STAND builds a generation of leaders.

Our model of student-created and -led campaigning has led numerous STAND alumni/ae to work on related issues, by founding organizations and running for elected office.

Tim Hirschel-Burns, STAND Alum

STAND provides a constituency for genocide and mass atrocity prevention: People suffering from mass atrocities in Yemen, Myanmar, and South Sudan, and more don’t get a say over US policy even as it has enormous effects on their lives. STAND activists do, and it’s vital that elected officials and policymakers know that Americans want their government to effectively prevent atrocities.

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STAND Conflict Update: October 2019

Sudan and South Sudan

Sudan

Talks between the Sudanese transitional government and rebel groups from the regions of Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile began in Juba this month. The talks were temporarily disrupted October 15, after the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North movement–based out of the Nuba Mountains region–implicated government forces in a bombing killing at least one. The Nuba Mountains were the target of an intensive bombing campaign under the previous government. After further discussion and the decision by the Sudanese government to announce a “permanent ceasefire” in the conflict zones, the parties continued the talks. Sudan also agreed to allow humanitarian aid into these areas for the first time in eight years. These talks are expected to last for two months and will hopefully result in lasting peace. They are also opening up an opportunity to improve the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan, and a potential resolution of issues related to the Abyei region and a long-running border dispute.

Demonstrations continue as people respond to the ongoing trial of deposed President Omar al-Bashir and express support for a full democratic transition and justice for those killed during the earlier protests. These protesters are also calling for Bashir’s ruling party, the National Congress Party, to be disbanded. Despite the presence of the newly-formed civilian transitional government, many of the state positions are still filled with Bashir appointees. In addition, there are calls for Bashir, who is currently on trial for corruption, to be handed over to the ICC to stand trial on the charge of genocide in Darfur.

Meanwhile, work continues on a new Sudanese constitution. No end date has been announced, but the constitutional process is working to include members of various opposition organizations and to fulfill the revolution’s goals of justice and reform.  

South Sudan

The November 12 deadline for South Sudan to form a coalition government is quickly approaching. However, opposition leader Riek Machar recently voiced that meeting this deadline could push the country back into civil war. The date, already delayed by months, is critical in securing this fragile peace deal over a year after its anniversary. Machar claimed that should a government be formed on the 12th, the ceasefire that has lasted over a year will fall apart. Because there has been no agreement on how to integrate the army, Machar claims that he would be unlikely to take part in the unity government. 

The response from the international community has been mixed. 15 diplomats visited South Sudan over the weekend of October 20th, strongly pushing for the deadline to be met. Though they are concerned about Machar, they think that three weeks should be enough time for a security arrangement to be made. Despite the UN Security Council urging for the deadline to be met, some experts from organizations like the International Crisis Group doubt this to be the right approach. 

Meanwhile, the head of UN peacekeeping recently reported that the border dispute between Sudan and South Sudan could see a breakthrough. Given the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir, the political process to establish formal governance over the oil-rich territory of Abyei looks promising under the leadership of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and Abdalla Hamdouk, the civilian Prime Minister of Sudan.

Amid the fragile peace, heavy flooding that has been ongoing since July is reported to have affected over 900,000, including large communities of refugees and internally displaced people. Flooding is only expected to worsen with rains estimated to continue for another month or more. This has exacerbated the humanitarian situation, limiting access to health centers and basic services amid an already crippled economy. 

Great Lakes of Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s ongoing Ebola outbreak is still considered a public health emergency, although the number of new cases is dwindling. Only 15 cases were reported between October 7 and October 13 and much of the outbreak has shifted from cities to rural areas of the country. At the same time, the number of deaths due to a measles outbreak has surpassed the number dead from Ebola in the country, killing 4,096 and 2,143, respectively. Humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF continue to work to combat these deadly diseases.

In addition to this, conflicting armed groups pose a separate but still very deadly problem to Congolese citizens. Recently, Burundian security forces killed 14 armed Congolese men as the forces entered the province of Bubanza in Burundi. The group intended to replicate last year’s attack on Ruhagarika, a city near Burundi’s border with the DRC, where at least 26 were killed. Last month, the UN Office of the High Commissioner reported that fourteen people, including eleven children, were killed and then decapitated in the province of Ituri. Just a day later, 12 others were killed, all belonging to the Hema ethnic group. These acts of violence have led Leila Zerrougui, the head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC, to declare in a recent meeting that she will step up cooperation with the government of the DRC to fully defeat these armed groups in an effort to return peace to the region.

Middle East

Yemen

The United Nations announced on October 22 the establishment of four joint observation posts in the city of Hodeida. The posts are occupied by forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government as well as the Houthi rebels. Last year the government loyalists backed a Saudi-launched attack to regain control of the formerly Houthi controlled territory. The UN hopes that this move will enhance de-escalation efforts at one of the most vital entry points for humanitarian aid.

Yemen officials claimed on October 24th that the Saudi-led coalition is increasing its military presence in the southern parts of the country. They have deployed additional troops along with armored vehicles, tanks, and other military equipment. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates (a main ally of the Saudis) continues to withdraw troops from the country.

In a report recently released by the UN, September was the most deadly month in Yemen this year with an average of 13 killed each day. However, since the beginning of September, the UN response plan to Yemen has gone from 45% funded to 65% funded. This shows improvement in the amount of aid that can be used to save lives, but the obstacle of getting aid to civilians remains unsolved.

Syria 

Earlier this month, President Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, a move that has left the region’s Kurds in danger of Turkish military action. The Kurds have historically served as the primary partner of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. The U.S. withdrawal and the vulnerable position of the Kurds have created conditions allowing hundreds of ISIS terrorists in Kurdish-run prisons to go free. 

Despite the withdrawal of U.S. troops, President Trump announced this weekend that the U.S. will send armored vehicles and troops into eastern Syria to protect oil fields from falling to ISIS control. Additionally, the President announced that a U.S. commando raid on Saturday led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

In the past week, nearly 200,000 Kurds have fled the battle zone on the Turkish border, pushed further into Syria. Footage of Kurds being tortured by Arab forces in northern Syria has been announced by U.S. special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, as well as Kurdish officials as evidence of “potential war crimes.” 

The Turkish government has repeatedly stated that it plans to move up to 1 million Syrians currently living in Turkey to a safe zone. However, Amnesty International reports that Turkey is forcibly sending refugees back to Syria against their will. The report claims people were handcuffed, beaten, and forced to sign ‘voluntary return’ forms they were not allowed to read. 

Southeast Asia

Burma 

Human rights violations against the Rohingya people continue in Burma. Most recently, the Burmese authorities arrested a group of 30 Rohingya Muslims for attempting to travel from Rakhine State to the city of Yangon. On October 4, after a one-day hearing and a reported lack of access to legal representation, 21 of the Rohingya were sentenced to 2 years in prison and 8 children were sent to a detention center. 

Human Rights Watch says that Burma should “lift all arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement for Rohingya, repeal discriminatory regulations, and cease all official and unofficial practices that restrict their movement and livelihoods.” The restrictions the Burmese government is imposing on the Rohingya violate international human rights law, which grants the right to freedom of movement within, and to leave, Burma. More than 700,000 Rohingyas have fled from this abuse to neighboring Bangladesh. However, the refugee camps are overcrowded with around 1 million displaced Rohingyas. 

The Bengali government plans to relocate around 100,000 Rohingyas to the island of Bhasan Char. This relocation presents a problem for the Rohingya because Bhasan Char is a flood-prone island, which could prove to be especially unsafe during the monsoon season. Many human rights groups are reporting that this relocation plan would only further the hardship these refugees already face. The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, established by the United Nations, released its final report on October 22, 2019, calling on UN Member States to keep watchful over the persisting threat of genocide. At the UN General Assembly, Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, says she sees no improvement to the situation. Human rights experts are calling on the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court or to try alleged perpetrators of international crimes. 

Emerging Crises

Mali 

As Mali continues its struggle against local al-Qaeda affiliates, at least 38 soldiers were killed on October 2 after two army camps on the border of Burkina Faso were raided and attacked. The Malian army and lost soldiers are part of the greater G5 Sahel Force, a multinational military backed by France to secure peace in the Sahel region. This attack is representative of the violence spreading throughout West Africa, affecting countries including Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali, all of which have seen losses due to jihadist insurgencies dating back to as early as 2015. 

After the October 2 attack on Malian forces and a succeeding attack in neighboring Burkina Faso, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita shut down rumors of a military coup on October 7. According to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), one peacekeeper was killed and five others were wounded by a roadside bomb that same day, adding to MINUSMA’s total of 200 peacekeeper casualties since its establishment in 2013. In an October 2nd meeting on Mali and the Sahel, UN chief Antonio Guterres stated that “We are losing ground to violence and terrorism,” noting that the number of civilian deaths in the region had quadrupled since 2012. 

Venezuela

Since 2015, an estimated 4.5 million Venezuelan citizens have fled their homes due to Venezuela’s ongoing political and humanitarian crises. Nearly 80 percent of these citizens have stayed in Latin America and other regions of the Caribbean. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), European Union, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have partnered to host an International Solidarity Conference on October 28 and 29 focusing on the Venezuela conflict. Keynote speakers at this conference include Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Commission, António Vitorin, IOM Director, and Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In the press release issued last week, these organizations strongly encouraged surrounding countries to continue showing solidarity towards Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The purpose of the conference is to further raise awareness for the conflict and call for increased international aid for Venezuelan citizens.

Due to recurring blackouts, Venezuela’s water system is collapsing. The shattered economy and lack of basic infrastructure have led to insufficient water access. The New York Times commissioned professional researchers from Universidad Central de Venezuela to initiate a study of Venezuela’s water quality. The researchers discovered that nearly one million Venezuelans have been exposed to contaminated water sources, which put them at an elevated risk for waterborne illnesses. This water crisis is a serious concern for scientists as infants, children, and the elderly are most susceptible to contracting these illnesses. In the most recent study conducted, samples were taken from over forty water sources in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital. One-third of these samples failed to meet the national expectations of water quality. Humanitarian organizations across South America plan on making the Venezuelan water crisis a top priority in the coming months. 

Alison Rogers is a junior International Studies and Journalism student at Baylor University, and the STAND State Advocacy Lead for Texas. She is also an Enough Project Student Upstander. Alison contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.

Megan Smith is a senior at the University of Southern California, a member of STAND’s Managing Committee, and an intern at the USC Shoah Foundation. Previously, she has served on the Policy Task Force of STAND France during her junior year and as California State Advocacy Lead during her sophomore year. Outside of STAND, she has interned at Dexis Consulting Group (Washington, DC), DigDeep Water (Los Angeles), and HAMAP-Humanitaire (Paris). Megan contributed to the South Sudan portion of this update.

Grace Harris is a junior at Tampa Preparatory School in Florida, where she serves as president of her STAND chapter. She also is a member of STAND’s Sudan, Yemen, Indigenous Peoples, DRC, and Burma Action Committees, and is STAND’s State Advocacy Lead for Florida. Grace contributed to the DRC portion of this update.

Brandon Alonzo is a student at Baruch College in New York City. He serves in the STAND Yemen Action Committee. Brandon contributed to the Yemen portion of this update. 

Abby Edwards is a junior in the Dual BA program between Columbia University and Sciences Po Paris and serves on the STAND USA Managing Committee. Prior to this, Abby served on the Managing Committee of STAND France and worked as an intern for the Buchenwald Memorial, the Journal of European and American Intelligence Studies, and conducted research for the US Department of State – Office of the Historian. This summer, Abby conducted research on memorialization and reconciliation in Cambodia as a Junior Research Fellow with the Center for Khmer Studies. Abby contributed the Syria portion of this update.

Yasmine Halmane is a senior at Teaneck High School, and is a member of STAND’s Yemen, Sudan, DRC, Indigenous Peoples and Burma Action Committees, hoping to gain as much insight into these conflict zones as she can. Outside of STAND, she works with the volunteering network at CODEPINK and with UNICEF’s New York advocacy team. Yasmine contributed the Burma portion of this update.

Caroline Mendoza is a STAND Managing Committee member and an incoming senior at Cerritos High School in California. She and served as STAND’s 2018-2019 West Region Field Organizer, and on STAND’s Burma and Yemen Action Committees. In her free time, Caroline participates in Model United Nations, marching band, and Girl Scouts, and pursues Holocaust and genocide education. Caroline contributed to the Mali portion of this update.

Claire Sarnowski is a sophomore at Lakeridge High School and a STAND Managing Committee member. In 2019, Claire introduced legislation to make Holocaust and genocide education mandatory in Oregon schools. Over the 2019-2020 academic year, Claire will be working to boost STAND’s grassroots fundraising efforts and work with communities to launch their own genocide education initiatives. Claire contributed the Venezuela portion of this update. 

Key Questions and Answers: U.S. Foreign Policy in Syria | October 2019

Recent events related to U.S. foreign policy in Syria and U.S.-Turkey relations have been major news in the past couple of weeks, but it can be tricky to follow along with all of the details. STAND has compiled some key questions to help you better understand the context and add avenues for engagement. These are short answers to very complex questions, so please feel free to connect with STAND for more information (info@standnow.org). 

Context

On October 7th, 2019, the Trump Administration announced a change in United States foreign policy in Syria following a phone call with President Erdogan of Turkey. This change would remove U.S. troops from a Kurdish-controlled border region in Syria, where they have been preventing conflict between the Turks and Kurds and maintaining the delicate balance in the war against ISIS and Bashar al-Assad. This change opened up the floodgates for Turkey to attack the Kurds, a persecuted ethnic group and embattled ally of the United States. For more information on how the U.S. withdrawal of troops in Syria is complicit in the targeting of the Kurdish population in Syria, please read STAND’s previous statement here.

Who are the Kurds?

The Kurds are an ethnic group with large populations in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. However, they do not make up a majority in any country. They are the largest ethnic minority in Syria and previously made up 5-10% percent of the Syrian population as of 2011. Most Syrians Kurds live close to the border with Turkey in the north. The United States has a long and complex relationship with Kurdish peoples.

How did the Kurds become U.S. allies?

A Kurdish militia, known as People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., was one of the many factions that sought control of Syria as civil war broke out in 2011-2012. Y.P.G. became recognized as effective in taking on extremists. The international coalition led by the United States selected the Kurdish militia as a local partner. Gradually, the militia forced ISIS out of northern Syria and gained control of the land, including much of the border with Turkey. 

Why does Turkey see the Kurds as a threat?

The Turkish government is afraid dissidents and/or insurgents may find a safe haven in the Kurdish controlled area so close to its border. The Turkish government sees the Y.P.G. as an extension of a terrorist group, claiming it is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey. However, the militia in Syria has made efforts to distance itself from this affiliation. The Y.P.G. now makes up the majority of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which was founded in 2015 and also includes Arab and Assyrian militias.

Why are there concerns about ethnic cleansing?

After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, Turkey has continued to target the Kurds, a stateless population, American ally, and group with a long history of persecution.  On Thursday, October 17th, President Trump made a statement regarding Turkey’s “pause in fighting” in Syria. In this statement, he referenced Tukey’s campaign to remove Kurdish fighters and their families saying “they had to have it cleaned out.” This language, combined with the actions of Turkey in removing these individuals, coincide with the acts of ethnic cleansing as defined by U.N. entities. Additionally, President Trump referenced the fleeing of the Kurds during this pause in fighting as an “incredible outcome.” 

This decision is especially alarming given the Turkish government’s earlier statements. In August, President Erdogan proclaimed, “Turkey has the right to eliminate all threats against its national security[…]. God willing, we will carry the process started with Afrin and Jarablus (previous offensives into Syria) to the next stage very soon.” Erdogan has also refused to recognize the Armenian genocide or reconcile with its lasting impacts, despite campaign promises and international pressure to do so. The U.S. government reportedly considered finally recognizing the Armenian genocide in order to pressure the Turkish government, but decided not to do so.

Politicians and activists have warned about the likelihood of ethnic cleansing and even genocide, including Senators briefed on classified information, SDF leadership, presidential candidates, and diaspora groups.

What is ethnic cleansing?

Ethnic cleansing, while not legally defined by the U.N. General Assembly, was defined by the U.N. Commission of Experts in relation to crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. It is considered the intentional removal of the civilian population of one ethnic or religious group from a geographic area by another ethnic or religious group via the means of violence and terror. In this report, the Commission concluded that ethnic cleansing can constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

What can be considered as acts of ethnic cleansing?

The following acts, and more, when committed with the intent of removing a civilian population:

  • Murder
  • Displacement and deportation of the civilian population
  • Torture
  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Destruction of property
  • Confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas
  • Deliberate attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas

Is there a difference between ethnic cleansing and genocide?

While the lines are somewhat blurry, and the difference between definitions of ethnic cleansing and genocide can appear somewhat unclear, there are several points of distinction between the two crimes. Genocide, as defined by the United Nations Genocide Convention, includes acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. These acts can include killing members of the group but also other acts such as causing serious bodily or mental harm to the group or preventing births within the group. 

Ethnic cleansing goes beyond this definition to include acts committed with the intent of “removing a civilian population” from a certain geographic area — not necessarily the destruction of said group. This definition can encompass some acts similar to those above but importantly include the forced removal, displacement, and deportation of ethnic and religious groups. 

How can I take action to address this situation?

1. Stay Aware

There will be two hearings in Congress on Syria this week: 

You can watch these hearings via C-SPAN or online via the links above. 

2. Call Congress

The House passed a joint resolution on this policy change. If your Rep voted yes, thank them! 

A similar resolution was introduced in the Senate. Call your Senators to urge their support.

Call Script Syria Oct 19 (2)

If you do call, be sure to let us know so that we can help you follow up with their office, and we can keep a record of activists who are engaged on this issue.

3. Keep Up to Date

STAND will be following any policy changes closely and will add more actions as opportunities arise. Join our mailing list and follow our social profiles @standnow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you haven’t already!

Where can I find more resources?

STAND Conflict Update: September 2019

Sudan and South Sudan

Sudan

Throughout the creation of Sudan’s new civilian government, emphasis has been placed on female inclusion. Of the 18-member cabinet, four are women. Women were leaders in the protest movement which toppled former president Omar al-Bashir and led to the establishment of the transitional government. Establishing new, less restrictive roles for women in the society will be an important part of Sudan’s transition. 

New Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said that “the top priority of the transitional government is to end the war and build sustainable peace.” Sudanese leaders traveled to Juba earlier this month to meet with rebel leaders from Sudan’s conflict regions of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, and to build a better relationship with South Sudan.

Sudan’s government also expressed the desire to end Sudanese involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Thousands of Sudanese troops are estimated to be in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia is accused of recruiting child soldiers and mercenaries from Sudan. These goals remain uncertain due to the continued involvement of military leaders, such as Rapid Security Forces leader Mohamed “Hemeti” Dagalo, who have been implicated in violence against protesters and in Darfur.

The trial of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir continues. Al-Bashir was charged with illicit financial activities, including taking at least 90 million in cash from Saudi Arabia. As evidence, piles of euros and Sudanese pounds were shown at his trial on September 20. Al-Bashir admitted himself last month that he received $25 million from Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, Saudi Arabia has not responded to this accusation, and the BBC reports that they also provided financial support to military leaders within the transitional government. If convicted, al-Bashir will serve a prison sentence of about ten years. 

The charges do not address war crimes or human rights violations, an omission which was a factor in protests last week. It is widely perceived as a “sham trial,” as protestors are also concerned that the court system is stacked in al-Bashir’s favor. The government response did little to alleviate these concerns, as protestors were met with police opposition and tear gas. Protestors are demanding accountability measures and justice for the June 3rd  killing of nearly 130 people. Those responsible include members of the transitional military government. In response, the new Sudanese Prime Minister and civilian leader Abdalla Hamdok announced late on the evening of Saturday September 20 that there will be a new independent probe into the violent response to the June 3 protests, and may seek outside support of the African Union.

South Sudan

A recent investigation has found that a South Sudanese oil company financed military groups accused of committing human rights atrocities during the civil war in South Sudan. Accountability has yet to come for this corrupt funding, but this has drawn public attention to the situation. 

This news comes amid a continuing ceasefire and fragile peace talks. On September 11, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar met in Juba to renew a commitment to creating a transitional power-sharing government in South Sudan. The November 12 deadline for this interim government leaves just under two months for South Sudan to organize a peaceful transition. 

Since the ceasefire between South Sudanese and Sudanese officials and a representative of an armed group alliance was extended in July, more internally displaced persons are willing to return home. However, the peace remains fragile with many still in need of humanitarian aid. An estimated 6.35 million people, 54% of South Sudan’s population, face food insecurity, with 1.7 million of them in a more severe category of hunger. Although access to aid is increasing, these people still remain in dire need. 

Great Lakes of Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

President Felix Tshisekedi’s government has made many important actions throughout the past month, with the most notable being the announcement of the new government’s cabinet at the end of August. The appointments heavily favor former president Kabila’s party, the FCC, with forty two of the sixty five members of the cabinet coming from that coalition. Another milestone for the new government came with Tshisekedi’s first visit to continental Europe when the president visited Belgium in mid September and was met with protests for crowds who claimed that he was a “usurper” and “national shame” among other titles. 

The Congolese diaspora in the U.S. has also voiced opinions about their home country’s politics, with protests in Arizona bringing attention to disagreements between the Congolese about who should be held responsible for bringing peace to the Congo, and what the U.S. government’s role in promoting that peace should be. The new government also faces opposition within the Congo, as a longtime opposition party leader Moise Katumbi returned to the Congo after three years of exile. Another prominent figure from the Congo’s past also made headlines this month as former health minister Oly Ilunga, who resigned from his position in July, was detained and accused of mismanaging $4.3 million of public funds which had been allocated to combating the Ebola outbreak. 

Throughout the past month, the international community has expressed growing concerns over the Ebola outbreak, highlighted by a three-day visit of UN chief and senior officials and a U.S. delegation. Meanwhile, the disease has continued to spread with an average of eighty-one new cases being confirmed weekly.Widespread violence continues to delay the treatment of patients, however, the armed non-State actor APCLS signed the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment on protecting health conflict in armed conflict in mid-August, resulting in increased access to treatment within violence affected and APCLS controlled areas. Increased security and peace has also led to the return of about 8,500 refugees to the Kasai region. 

Other important events in Congolese news this month include a boat accident earlier this week which left thirty six individuals missing and feared to be drowned, the derailment of a train that caused at least 50 casualties, and the killing of FDLR (Rwandan rebel group) leader Sylvestre Mudacumura by Congolese troops in eastern Congo. Mudacumura was wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against civilians in the Congo where the rebel group has operated since the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. In more encouraging news, Congolese human rights activist Evariste Mfaume was named the regional winner for Africa for the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award for his work advocating for the rights of refugees and displaced peoples.

Middle East

Yemen

In the early hours of September 14, 2019, there was a drone strike attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. The Houthi rebels, who have been fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, have claimed responsibility for the attack. This comes weeks after the coalition stated that a joint committee was being formed in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates to stabilize a ceasefire in the Yemeni provinces of Shabwa and Abyan. The stated goal of the ceasefire is to achieve disengagement and redeployment of troops as part of the coalition military efforts. Despite Saudi Arabia calling for a summit to discuss ending the standoff, Hadi’s government states that they will not participate in the ceasefire until the separatists give up control of the various sites they seized. 

Obstacles to aid delivery in Yemen have worsened. United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Chief informed the council that operating conditions for delivery of humanitarian aid have “never been worse.” During June and July, aid agencies reported 300 incidents which have hindered the delivery of aid to 4.9 million people. This includes obstacles to beneficiary registration, attempts to divert aid, and efforts to control selection of implementing partners. Humanitarian workers have even been detained at checkpoints in some situations and in several cases capriciously arrested. Staff also face intimidation and harassment at Sana’a airport. 

Syria

After two years of negotiations, a 150-person Syrian constitutional committee made up of government, civil society, and opposition leaders was announced by the United Nations on the morning of September 23. The committee, first proposed in 2018 at peace talks hosted by Russia, will be completely “Syrian-organized and Syrian-led,” according to UN Secretary General António Guterres. Facilitated by the UN in Geneva, the formation of this committee is seen as pivotal in finding a sustainable political solution to the now eight-year conflict.    

The Russian-led bombing campaign of the rebel-held Idlib province continues into its fifth month. Idlib, being one of the last rebel strongholds in Syria, is home to three million people, around half of whom are internally displaced from other areas in the country captured by Syrian government forces. In the creation of a UNSC resolution calling for a ceasefire in the country, the UN released reports that two-thirds of those living in the province currently are women or children. The resolution, described by its supporters as “purely humanitarian” aimed to put an end to the bombing campaign which has indiscriminately targeted civilians through the bombing of health centers, schools, and large public spaces. The resolution was vetoed by Russia and China marking their thirteenth and seventh vetoes of resolutions on the Syrian conflict, respectively.

The Turkish government has promised to move forward with their plan to create a ‘safe zone’ with or without the support and aid of the U.S. – the original partner in the plan. President Erdogan has stated that the safe zone will exist near Turkish-Syrian border where between two and three million Syrian refugees could be resettled. 

Southeast Asia

Burma

The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, established by the United Nations in March 2017, released their conclusions on September 16. The panel of investigators found that “the 600,000 Rohingya remaining inside Myanmar face systematic persecution and live under the threat of genocide.” This threat of genocide is greater than ever. Along with the Rohingya, the report highlights the abuse suffered by many of the other ethnic groups living in Burma, who have faced routine persecution for decades. 

Since the conclusion of the fact-finding mission, the investigators transferred their findings to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, newly created by the UN. The purpose of the Mechanism is to build off of the almost two years of information in order to hold perpetrators of atrocities and war crimes accountable. The report also names hundred of culpable actors in the genocide and persecution and looks towards the international community to work towards prosecution and justice in these cases. Among those investigated could be Myanmar’s current civilian leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  

Rohingya who have managed to flee Burma still face many obstacles. In Bangladesh, where the majority of Rohingya have settled in overcrowded refugee camps, the government is now restricting communication with the outside world. They have banned the selling of SIM cards to refugees in the camps, for “security reasons” in what media outlets are calling a communication blackout. Rohingya refugees are also facing issues in the United States. The U.S. has opened its doors to some Rohingya children fleeing from conflict, but it is increasingly likely that these children will not be able to reunite with their families, as the Trump administration curbs immigration this year.

Emerging Crises

Venezuela

The UNHCR shared at the end of August that there is “no end in sight” to the largest recorded migrant crisis in the Americas. Last month, rising xenophobia in important neighboring countries highlighted the strain put on host countries by the Venezuelan migrant crisis. Now, countries like Peru, Chile, and most recently Ecuador have imposed firm restrictions on Venezuelan migration, leaving hundreds stranded.. Colombia maintains an open-door policy even as the two countries accuse each other of harboring terrorists and after Venezuela carried out large-scale military “anti-invasion” drills at their border. Colombia, having taken in the largest portion of the refugees, will now receive some assistance from the EU. Despite being as large as the Syrian migration crisis, Venezuelan migrants receive 1.5% of the support from international donors. Hyperinflation and human rights abuses, among other factors, are among the drivers behind the mass migrant exodus. Since the end of 2015, over 4.3 million refugees and migrants have fled Venezuela. 

At the beginning of September, the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council that a “pattern of torture,” including extrajudicial killings and sexual violence among other abuses, seems to be continuing in Venezuela. Bachelet also mentioned that U.S. sanctions, which are aimed to pressure Maduro to step down, exacerbate the already collapsed economy. Despite exceptions for humanitarian assistance, the sanctions have other effects, like a decrease in oil production and lower public revenue, that are beyond the scope of aid. Even so, more allies of the U.S. throughout Latin America are now considering multilateral sanctions

On September 16, Venezuela’s opposition confirmed that six weeks after Maduro’s government discontinued participation, the Norway-mediated dialogue had ended. Though the talks have been discontinued, representatives of both the Venezuelan government and the opposition confirmed that there is a working agenda on some issues. There has been an agreement reached on some issues. The opposition-controlled National Assembly, which Maduro called illegal and overrode through the creation of the parallel National Constituent Assembly, would meet again for the first time since 2017; however, the National Constituent Assembly would, according to the draft agreement, remain. With no current open talks and parallel legislative institutions, the deep political crisis, during which economic and migration catastrophes have dramatically escalated, continues. 

Mali

After falling to armed groups in 2012, Northern Mali has seen sporadic violence targeted towards both the military and civilians. On September 4, at least 14 people were killed in an explosion on a passenger bus carrying 60 people. Although condemned by various organizations, attacks have been common and continue to increase tensions between the rival Fulani and Dogon communities who have engaged in tit-for-tat violence since the beginning of 2019. The Songhoy communities and the Arabs in Timbuktu are two groups that also have long-standing tensions within the region, where a confrontation on September 19 left two children killed and several others injured. 

The United Nations has started to take a closer look at domestic issues in Mali after stating on August 29 that it would be extending its sanctions in the country to those who delay the implementation of a 2015 peace agreement. The resolution was unanimously passed by the Security Council and aims to improve stabilization in the region and remove barriers to compromise. The Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) also recently convened on September 14, citing the rise of Islamic extremism and a need for “greater mobilization.” Mali, alongside other member nations of ECOWAS, is working towards improved coordination of troops and tapping into developed nations’ military equipment to effectively combat attacks within the Sahel region. 

Alison Rogers is a junior International Studies and Journalism student at Baylor University, and the STAND State Advocacy Lead for Texas. She is also an Enough Project Student Upstander. Alison contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.

Grace Harris is a junior at Tampa Preparatory School in Florida, where she serves as president of her STAND chapter. She also is a member of STAND’s Sudan, Yemen, Indigenous Peoples, DRC, and Burma Action Committees, and is STAND’s State Advocacy Lead for Florida. Grace contributed to the South Sudan portion of this update.

Megan Rodgers is a junior International Studies, Political Science, and Spanish major at the University of Arkansas and serves as the Democratice Republic of the Congo Action Committee Lead. She became interested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during her time studying abroad in Kigali, Rwanda during spring 2019 and through relationships with refugees in her community who are from the Congo. Megan R. contributed the DRC portion of this update.

Brandon Alonzo is a student at Baruch College in New York City. He serves in the STAND Yemen Action Committee. Brandon contributed to the Yemen portion of this update. 

Abby Edwards is a junior in the Dual BA program between Columbia University and Sciences Po Paris and serves on the STAND USA Managing Committee. Prior to this, Abby served on the Managing Committee of STAND France and worked as an intern for the Buchenwald Memorial, the Journal of European and American Intelligence Studies, and conducted research for the US Department of State – Office of the Historian. This summer, Abby conducted research on memorialization and reconciliation in Cambodia as a Junior Research Fellow with the Center for Khmer Studies. Abby contributed the Syria portion of this update.

Maya Ungar is a senior at the University of Arkansas, and a member of STAND’s Burma Action Committee. Previously, she was STAND’s Southeast Asia Education coordinator. Outside of STAND, Maya has interned at the State Department, Peace Corps, and a nonprofit focused on Middle East peacebuilding. Maya contributed to the Burma portion of this update. 

Megan Smith is a senior at the University of Southern California and a member of STAND’s Managing Committee. Previously, she has served on the Policy Task Force of STAND France during her junior year and as California State Advocacy Lead during her sophomore year. Outside of STAND, she has interned at Dexis Consulting Group (Washington, DC), DigDeep Water (Los Angeles), and HAMAP-Humanitaire (Paris). Megan contributed to the Venezuela and Syria portions of this update.

Caroline Mendoza is a STAND Managing Committee member and an incoming senior at Cerritos High School in California. She and served as STAND’s 2018-2019 West Region Field Organizer, and on STAND’s Burma and Yemen Action Committees. In her free time, Caroline participates in Model United Nations, marching band, and Girl Scouts, and pursues Holocaust and genocide education. Caroline contributed to the Mali portion of this update.

STAND Conflict Update: Week of August 20, 2019

Sudan and South Sudan

Sudan

After missing his court appearance in late July, ousted president Omar al-Bashir’s trial over corruption charges began August 17. He faces charges of foreign currency possession, corruption, illegal reception of gifts, all of which his lawyers say are baseless. According to the BBC, a detective told a Sudanese court that al-Bashir previously confessed to receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the Transitional Military Council’s ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said that more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies have been seized from al-Bashir’s residence since May. Other than corruption charges, al-Bashir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity since June 2008, yet the military insisted throughout power-sharing negotiations that he will not stand trial for these charges.

On the same day the al-Bashir trial began, military and civilian leaders signed Sudan’s long-awaited power-sharing deal. Drafted on August 4, the constitutional declaration describes the three-year interim Sudanese government that will pave the way for a transition to civilian rule. The TMC was supposed to be dissolved and replaced by a new Sovereign Council on August 18, but the process has been delayed. The Council is expected to be an 11-person coalition of five members chosen by the opposition, five chosen by the military, and one civilian member to be jointly chosen. For the first 21 months, a military general will lead the Sovereign Council until replaced by a civilian leader for the last 18 months. The Sovereign Council is meant to be the highest authority. The cabinet of ministers will hold executive power, and has not yet been chosen. Despite any concerns, the signing of the constitution was met with an outpouring of joy. Across Sudan, celebrations filled with music, poetry, and fireworks showed widespread optimism. Sara Abdelgalil of the prominent Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) promised to “go back to the street” should the civilian-led government not be realized by the end of the three-year interim period. 

Notably absent from the signing were Sudanese women, who made up an estimated 70% of demonstrators and were vital to the protest movement despite being systematically targeted by soldiers. There will be one female civilian member of the Sovereign Council. 

Throughout the negotiations leading to the deal, security forces continued killing protestors in Omdurman and El-Obeid. In response, the TMC detained nine members of a paramilitary group, while rallies in Khartoum demanded justice for at least ten deaths, among which included four students. The U.S. Secretary for Political Affairs, David Hale, visited Sudan claiming that the U.S. needs to resolve longstanding issues with the country before considering its removal from the state-sponsored terrorism list. However, he did not discuss sanctions against the TMC’s attacks on protestors. Now that the power-sharing deal has been signed, renewed calls for Sudan to be removed from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list in order to stabilize the deteriorated economy have been met with expert concerns that the military will continue to predominately hold power. 

South Sudan

Although South Sudan formally separated from Sudan in 2011, the border between the two nations—both embroiled in civil unrest—is permeable and controlled by non-state armed groups. On July 27, South Sudan and Sudan successfully negotiated with a military leader in control of the league of non-state armed forces along the border for an extension of this ceasefire along with permission for humanitarian provisions to cross. The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, is expected to continue exerting his influence over Sudan’s new government as it comes into effect. 

Meanwhile, domestic security forces use unlawful detention and torture to intimidate the South Sudanese people. On July 30, Human Rights Watch called on the nation’s security forces to charge or release six airport officials in government custody since November 2018. Similarly, the nonviolent youth action group Red Card Movement released a press statement on August 6 denouncing the non-fatal shooting of a female university student, Mary Agau, at a hostel in Juba. Their statement accused the South Sudanese government of failing to stop the abuses committed by security forces and called for a “peaceful and people-centered” revolution demanding “law, freedom, democracy and equality” for the people of South Sudan.

The International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix Mobility Tracking estimates 530,000 refugees have been repatriated since the signing of the peace accords in September 2018 between Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar. While there have been a few notable exceptions, such as upticks in violence around Lei and uncomfortable delays in the ceasefire monitoring and verification process, the decreasing levels of violence put foreign direct investment (FDI) at $2 billion, up from $250 million in 2016-2017. The financial surge was primarily concentrated in the oil, mineral and agricultural industries, coming on the tail of the launch of the first South Sudanese mobile money service. Called M-Gurush, it aims to incorporate citizens, the vast majority of whom are without bank accounts, into the financial markets. However, the fragile peace has done little to decrease the availability of firearms. Some former soldiers are transitioning into rangers to protect the wildlife on national reserves that are severely threatened as a result of the conflict. 

Great Lakes of Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

On August 1, the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history passed its one-year mark since the government of the DRC declared the outbreak in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces. The outbreak is now recognized as a global health emergency with over 2800 cases, of which about 1905 have resulted in death. The virus recently widened its geographic spread as cases were confirmed in South Kivu, the first cases in the province, and militia-controlled territory of North Kivu. The virus also earlier reached Goma, the capital of North Kivu on the Rwandan border and a hub for international trade. Only one confirmed case in the city was enough for the WHO’s global health emergency declaration, and since then there have been at least three more cases with 12 more people instructed to undergo testing. Rwanda temporarily closed its border with DRC on August 1, causing panic for Congolese and Rwandan citizens who rely on crossing the border daily for work, and a food price surge for border towns. Facing heavy international criticism, Rwandan authorities reopened the border after eight hours. Despite its continued spread, renewed hope followed two experimental drug trials in Congo improving survival rates of Ebola by 90%. 

The security of health workers has been an ongoing issue throughout the epidemic, hindering response capacity. On August 12, three local doctors were charged with killing a Cameroonian WHO doctor after a military prosecutor accused them of plotting the assassination in connection with an armed group. However, without the release of their colleagues, the local Butembo branch of the DRC’s national doctors council threatened to go on strike. Additionally, a report by the Kivu Security Tracker and Human Rights Watch released that 1900 civilians have been killed by the over 130 active armed groups in the Kivu provinces over the past two years alone. This violence and the mass displacement it causes complicate aid workers’ ability to track high-risk patients and contacts, revealing flaws in current response plans.

The Congolese government’s new Ebola response coordinator, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, said that with over half of Ebola cases going unidentified, the epidemic could last for at least two or three more years. As one of the scientists who discovered the Ebola virus in the 1970s, Muyembe’s appointment as Ebola response coordinator has calmed some concerns that Ebola response would be politicized. Still, controversies around the recent elections remain, with the Lamuka opposition party reaffirming their December victory. After a recent conference, they called on Congolese politicians and civil society to continue fighting for democratic values and the rule of law in order to improve living conditions for Congolese citizens. 

Middle East

Yemen

After southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took control of the presidential palace located in Aden, the interior minister of the internationally recognized Yemeni government admitted defeat to the UAE on August 11. Clashes in the southern port city of Aden, sparked by Houthi missile and drone attacks after the UAE announcement of military drawback, prompted the UN to call for a de-escalation of violence that left at least 40 dead and 260 injured. With the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) defeating forces loyal to the Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni Hadi government, infighting over Aden indicated a widening fracture in the Saudi-led coalition. The International Crisis Group stated that these clashes “threaten to tip Southern Yemen into a civil war within a civil war.” The STC vacated key posts of the Hadi government, including the palace and the central bank, on August 17 under the supervision of a Saudi-UAE delegation. However, they still hold government military bases and support of civilians living in southern Yemeni provinces, as seen through the thousands who demonstrated in Aden for their support of the STC. An end to the infighting is still unclear, with Saudi Arabia calling to host a summit to resolve the crisis. However, the Hadi government refuses to attend unless what they call a “coup” by the STC ends, and the UAE has not actually asked the STC to give back full control. 

In the north, the Houthis carried out a large scale drone attack on a remote Saudi oil and gas field. Though the attack did not result in deaths nor disruption to operations, Houthi spokespersons have promised larger, more aggressive attacks should Saudi Arabia retaliate. Previous Houthi attacks on Saudi oil tankers during May and June resulted in airstrikes by the Saudi coalition on urban centers, which are mainly controlled by the Houthis, like the capital Sana’a. 

The UN’s World Food Program (WPF) and the Houthis have reached an agreement to resume WPF food aid programs for citizens in rebel-controlled parts of Yemen. Aid had been suspended in June because Houthis fighters were accused of stealing food this past December. This halt affected about 850,000 civilians, according to the UN, though nutrition programs for malnourished children and pregnant or nursing mothers were maintained. The Houthis’ website stated that the deal included a biometric database of civilians in need of aid. This database includes fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scanning and is used to hopefully “benefit the neediest.”

Syria

The Russian-led bombing campaign which began in April came to a brief stop after leaders of relevant factions brokered a truce on Friday, August 2. Syrian state media said that the ceasefire would continue so long as armed groups in the region followed through with a 2018 agreement which aimed to create a buffer zone in the region. This agreement also mandated that the groups “retreat 20km from demilitarised areas around the rebel stronghold, as well as withdraw their heavy weapons from the front lines.”  

Within three days, the ceasefire was broken as the main opposition group in control of Idlib stated that they would not withdraw from the buffer zone. The Syrian government declared the ceasefire officially over on Monday, August 5. By early Thursday afternoon, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 49 air raids in 10 locations. These air raids have made the past week the “bloodiest in three months.” Notably, many of these air raids are targeting health facilities and schools, leading to a call from over 10 members of the UN Security Council to set up an inquiry as to why hospitals have been singled out in the raids. Since the Russian-led campaign began in April, at least 46 healthcare facilities have been attacked in the rebel-held Idlib and Hama provinces, and the UN has documented over 500 civilian fatalities across Syria. 

Between August 15 and August 17, at least 24 civilians were killed by airstrikes. Among those killed are seven members of one family and a pregnant woman and her unborn child. The coalition maintains that they are targeting terrorist groups, not civilians. Turkey and the U.S. are in the process of establishing a safe zone in northeast Syria. Little information has been released as to the details of the safe zone or how it will be operated.

Southeast Asia

Burma

The Burmese government sent an 11 person task force to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh to discuss repatriation in late July. They have controversially mandated that returning Rohingya must register for identification cards. Human rights critics have argued that this will only further discrimination for the minority group. On the other side of the country, some Burmese people who fled decades earlier have agreed to return to the country after living in Thailand. This voluntary repatriation is part of a larger push for repatriation from the Burmese government across ethnic groups. 

In addition to crimes against the Rohingya people, the Burmese government is restricting the rights of their citizens in other ways. Villagers in the Kachin state, for example, are not receiving compensation for land stolen by the army. This land contained crop fields and homes, as well as a community graveyard. Burmese fleeing from this persecution and other crimes from the government have desperately searched for work and freedom in other places. This has been especially problematic for the many Burmese women who seek work in China, and who have found themselves in horrific and exploitative trafficking situations.

For those remaining in Burma, there are 941,351 people in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UNICEF. Assistance is primarily limited due to a lack of adequate funding and restrictions set up by the Burmese government. UNICEF still has a funding gap of 66%, severely threatening their ability to help those in need in the region. Additionally, the Burmese government allows limited access to the regions in most dire need of assistance, restricting the ability of UNICEF and other international aid organizations to create effective change even if proper funding were actualized. 

For the first time since the military began systematically targeting the Rohingya and other ethnic groups, UN investigators have reported evidence of “genocidal intent” from at least six high-ranking members of the Burmese military. The final report of the fact-finding mission suggests that these officials should face prosecution for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. 

Emerging Crises

Venezuela

On August 19, progress in Venezuela’s political crisis seemed possible as allies of Maduro claimed new elections could be considered. Talks in Barbados between the rival leaders Maduro and Guaido, most recently due to Maduro accusing Guaido of celebrating U.S. sanctions on government assets, have continuously broken down. Now, with opposition leaders to speak this week with U.S. officials in Washington, the Maduro government tentatively agreed to a presidential vote, contingent on the U.S. lifting sanctions. U.S. sanctions on Venezuela exacerbate the nation’s unprecedented economic crisis and have been criticized as hurting the people more than the government. Additional sanctions on Venezuelan government officials were placed on August 5, targeting anyone supporting Maduro government. 

These recent sanctions spurred an increase of Venezuelan migrants in what is expected to become the world’s largest human migration by the end of 2020. Though typically relatively open to receiving Venezuelans, Latin American countries have begun implementing restrictions as the Venezuelan migration crisis has worsened since 2018. The exodus of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is now being met with rising xenophobia in countries such as Peru, the second-largest receiver of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. While other countries create legal barriers to incoming migrants, Colombia is struggling to manage the 1.4 million Venezuelans at the border. In addition to Colombia’s inability to handle anticipated “humanitarian shockwaves,” a recent report by Human Rights Watch revealed that armed groups at the Venezuela-Colombia border are committing abuses against civilians. The report follows a statement by President Maduro that two missing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia commanders were “welcome” in the country, raising fears that Venezuela could become a haven for armed groups. 

An additional issue underlying the Venezuelan crisis is the plight of the Wayuu, an indigenous group of shepherds in South America. The Wayuu began leaving Venezuela in late February 2019 to settle in indigenous lands in Colombia in hopes of finding stability from Venezuela’s economic desperation. As of late July, the Wayuu have been struggling to survive in Colombia’s Guajira Desert, where running water and electricity do not reach and children have since died of malnutrition.

 

Abby Edwards is a junior in the Dual BA program between Columbia University and Sciences Po Paris and serves on the STAND USA Managing Committee. Prior to this, Abby served on the Managing Committee of STAND France and worked as an intern for the Buchenwald Memorial, the Journal of European and American Intelligence Studies, and conducted research for the US Department of State – Office of the Historian. This summer, Abby conducted research on memorialization and reconciliation in Cambodia as a Junior Research Fellow with the Center for Khmer Studies. Abby contributed the Syria portion of this update.

Aisha Saleem is a sophomore at Barnard College, and a member of STAND’s Managing Committee. Previously, Aisha was a task force member where she contributed to monthly blogs and op-eds about genocide-related issues around the world. She is also interested in current issues in education and enjoys doing neuroscience research. Aisha contributed to the Yemen portion of this update.

Maya Ungar is a student at the University of Arkansas, and a member of STAND’s Burma working group. Previously, she was STAND’s Southeast Asia Education coordinator. Outside of STAND, Maya has interned at the State Department, Peace Corps, and a nonprofit focused on Middle East peacebuilding. Maya contributed to the Burma portion of this update. 

Rachel Hobbs is a new graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, and a volunteer activist with STAND. She wrote about economic foreign policy for the Berkeley Economic Review, and she works part-time for Naval Information Warfare Center. Rachel contributed to the South Sudan portion of this update.

Megan Smith is a senior at the University of Southern California and a member of STAND’s Managing Committee. Previously, she has served on the Policy Task Force of STAND France during her junior year and as California State Advocacy Lead during her sophomore year. Outside of STAND, she has interned at Dexis Consulting Group (Washington, DC), DigDeep Water (Los Angeles), and HAMAP-Humanitaire (Paris). Megan contributed to the DRC, Yemen, Venezuela, and Sudan portions of this update.