The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

STAND Conflict Update: Week of July 14, 2019

Sudan and South Sudan

Sudan

After Mohamed Mattar, a Sudanese engineering student, was killed protecting two people during the massacre of protesters in Khartoum on June 3rd, his blue profile picture became the symbol for the online #BlueforSudan movement. Worldwide, people changed their social media profile pictures to that shade of blue to honor him and the other victims of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and to show solidarity with the civilians continuing to protest the Sudanese government.

Transitional Military Council (TMC) cut internet access after the June 3 massacre to stifle the information released about its crimes. As of Tuesday, July 9, a court-ordered restoration of landline phone connections has been implemented, technically ending the blackout, but leaving many still disconnected. Mobile connections have not yet been restored. This partial restoration of internet access in Sudan comes as the result of a power-sharing agreement between the TMC and civilian protest leaders. This agreement sets out a plan for a military leader for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18 months and then a democratically-elected president after the interim period. 

It is likely that people such as the head of the RSF and deputy head of the TMC Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagalo, who is accused of human rights atrocities in the Darfur Genocide, will maintain significant power. Furthermore, the inquiry into the June 3 massacre will not hold the military accountable. Many women and members of marginalized groups fear that they will be excluded from power, especially in regions recovering from immense violence such as Darfur. It seems best to look at this new agreement with optimistic cautiousness; it may turn out well for the people of Sudan but it may, like many agreements of the past, fall through. Awareness is still of the utmost importance. 

South Sudan

Eight years after South Sudan declared independence from Sudan, the country is still rife with conflict. President Salva Kiir apologized for conflict and government mismanagement contributing to the ongoing economic crisis in his eight-year Independence Day speech. Still, a recent UN report documents increased conflict in Central Equatoria in South Sudan since Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace agreement last year. Although violence has decreased elsewhere in the country, hundreds have been killed or abducted in Central Equatoria and many women and girls have been subjected to rape and sexual violence. Here, ongoing territorial contests between government forces, rebel groups who did not sign the peace agreement, and forces allied with Machar lead to deliberate and accidental civilian deaths. This surge in attacks has forced over 56,000 people to flee their homes, becoming internally displaced within South Sudan, and another 20,000 to escape to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Great Lakes of Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Over the past month, the total number of reported Ebola cases rose to 2,418, with 1,630 reported deaths, according to the latest situation report from the World Health Organization. No new cases have been reported in the town from which the outbreak originated, but the virus continues to spread to new towns throughout the North Kivu and Ituri provinces. One case was recently reported near the border with South Sudan; since last month, there have been no cases reported in Uganda. On July 15, a case was confirmed in Goma by the Rwandan border, but the responsiveness indicates that the chances of its spread in this region are low. However, the response capacity in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces is still hindered by the widespread distrust of public health and government officials amongst a population so long afflicted by violence. Rumors that the Ebola virus was brought into the region to target the historically victimized population are widespread and largely believed.  

In recent months, violence has increased. Displacement due to revived conflict, totalling at about 300,000 displaced persons since June, exacerbates the difficulty of tracking patients at risk of Ebola. In addition to extreme public health concerns, the resurgence of violence in the Ituri province prompted President Felix Tshisekedi to describe the longstanding conflict between Lendu farmers and Hema herders as “attempted genocide.” In early July, he launched an offensive backed by UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, Uganda, and Rwanda in an attempt to end the communal violence. According to Al Jazeera, Congolese refugees arriving in Uganda report extreme brutality; local officials say that at least 161 people were killed in one attack, all of whose bodies were found in a single mass grave. It is an incredibly complex region, with current violence further destabilized by neighboring conflicts such as the Rwandan genocide of the mid-90s, the presence of numerous local militias and foreign armed groups, and an abundance of lucrative resources like gold and cobalt.

While President Tshisekedi spoke out about genocidal conflict plaguing the Ituri province, police fired on protestors in the capital of Kinshasa as well as the city of Goma according to Human Rights Watch. Protestors are calling on Congolese authorities to investigate excessive use of force against the peaceful protestors of the Lamuka coalition, which backed Martin Fayulu during the recent presidential elections. On June 30, they gathered to protest widespread corruption and election fraud, but were met with teargas, live ammunition, and beatings

On July 8, General Bosco Ntaganda, also known as “The Terminator,” was convicted by the International Criminal Court of 18 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. First indicted in 2006 for his role in atrocities between 2002-2003, he now faces a maximum life sentence. 

Middle East

Yemen

Since 2014, the civil war in Yemen has killed more than 16,000 civilians and left more than 12 million people on the verge of starvation. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) partnered with Yemen Data Project and determined that there have been more than 91,600 conflict-related fatalities in Yemen since 2015. Around 67% of all reported civilian fatalities have been caused by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. They also found 2018 to be the deadliest and most violent year on record. A UN Security Council report covering the period from April 1, 2013 to December 31, 2018 determines that children are paying the highest price for the war. During that period, there have been 11,779 violations against children in Yemen. Maiming and killing were the two main violations, primarily caused by airstrikes and ground fighting. Additionally, underreported instances include sexual violence, recruitment and use of children in war and attack on schools and hospitals. 

Five years into the war, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a key member of the Saudi-led coalition, has decided to withdraw most of its forces from Yemen. However, they plan on leaving behind Emirati trained forces and maintaining its Al-Mukalla base for counterterrorism operations. The Houthis have also led missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities and airports since June 2019. One of the most recent drone attacks struck Abha airport on July 2 and nine civilians were injured. These attacks escalate tensions as the UN and the international community attempt to negotiate peace in Yemen. Diplomats from the UAE claimed that the UAE can always send troops back to Yemen, where Abu Dhabi has built strong local allies with tens of thousands of fighters.

Syria

The northwestern province of Idlib continues to be the focus of an ongoing Russian-led bombing campaign which began in April. 544 civilians, including 130 children, have been killed and over 2,000 have been injured as a result of strikes. These attacks have included the use of cluster munitions and incendiary weapons targeting largely civilian areas. The Russian government attempted to justify ongoing attacks by arguing that they are responses to al-Qaida action and a failed ceasefire deal between Turkey and Russia last year. 

Over 300,000 people have been pushed from their homes since the attacks began in April, moving closer to the Turkish border. As the campaign continues, reports have determined that three million civilian lives are at risk, including at least one million children. 

In Lebanon, which hosts the most refugees per capita in the world including 1.5 million Syrians, refugees are blamed for the country’s economic crisis and pressured to leave. Syrian refugees in the region of Arsal were given until July 1st to demolish shelters that were made of any material deemed more permanent than timber and plastic sheeting. Simultaneously, refugees have been targeted with an increase in arrests and deportations, confiscation and destruction of property, curfews, and limits to education and employment access. 

Southeast Asia

Burma

Many of the 100,000 ethnic Kachins living in 140 internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps continue to suffer from the effects of war since the ceasefire broke between the KIA and Burmese military eight years ago. As the Burmese government blocks IDPs from receiving aid in food, healthcare, shelter, and sanitation, prayers were said in the mountains of Kachin state on June 14. Moreover, an ethnic Kachin woman was found brutally murdered in an IDP camp on July 4. 

Burmese authorities also gave orders for the shut down of the internet in nine townships located in Rakhine and Chin states on June 20, which allowed for war crimes to go unnoticed as the Burmese military approached fighting with the local Arakan Army. In addition to these crimes, reports have found that cybercrimes, including online fraud and online sexual violence, have been increasingly on the rise since 2015. The U.S. expressed their disapproval of the situation on June 29 by joining calls for Burma to end the internet shutdown. On July 3, UN investigator Yang Hee Lee reported that new war crimes have appeared amidst the internet blackout, although the Burmese military constantly deny such allegations.

In response to atrocities against the Rohingya, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda filed a request with judges on July 4 to open up an investigation of crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese government against the ethnic group. On July 6, hundreds took to the streets in marches supporting the “Justice for Victoria” movement, a response to a toddler rape case that has become a campaign against sexual violence. In regards to Burma’s 2020 elections, speculators like Ma Htoot May believe that the NLD’s actions in the past year alone and inaction of Aung San Suu Kyi have lessened the party’s appeal to the public and that ethnic parties will thus have a higher chance of winning. On the morning of July 10, Burmese nationals, including the brother of the Arakan Army Chief General, were arrested in Singapore for their ties to the Arakan Army, in which they organized Burmese individuals living within the country to financially support the rebel armed group. Singapore plans to deport them.

Emerging Crises

Venezuela

Last week, talks began in Barbados between the Venezuelan opposition and the government of President Maduro. Mediated by Norway, both sides returned on Thursday with no announcement of a deal. During this break, two members of Juan Guaido’s security detail were detained for attempting to sell rifles during Guaido’s failed April 30 attempt at removing Maduro from power. Though talks were confirmed to continue into this week with an announcement from the opposition on Sunday, the arrests are expected to exacerbate tensions. The government will bring the weapons accusation against the opposition during the coming round of negotiation, while Guaido remains steadfast that the arrests are based on false evidence as a part of intimidation efforts. There is fear that talks will continue to stall as the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory continues to worsen. 

As the current government struggles to handle its worsening political and economic crisis, the United Nations recently released a report documenting 18 months of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Venezuelan special forces. Though the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry denounces the reports, the investigators give abundant evidence of the witness-described “death squads” killing thousands for resisting authority, cover-up of the deaths, and an overall system of suppression. United Nations human rights officials fear that the special forces and other armed groups are used by the government to control their population by fostering widespread fear. Briefly following the UN report, an international legal watchdog organization, the International Commission of Jurists, said that the government has seized the legislative and judicial branches of the Venezuelan government, leading to the breakdown of the rule of law. 

Mali

Violence in Mali has been steadily escalating with clashes between the Fulani and Dogon ethnic groups, where the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali recorded 488 Fulani deaths and 63 Fulani-caused deaths since the beginning of 2018. The ethnic violence between the Fulani and Dogon groups stems from long-fought battles over land and resources after Amadeus Koufa, a Malian preacher, started recurring Fulanis for an armed group in 2015. 

On June 19, 2019, an estimated 38 people were killed after Fulani communities attacked Dogon villages in the Mopti region. Dogon militiamen retaliated on July 1, when an attack on a village of Fulani herders left 23 dead and 300 missing. 

Civilians began to respond to the escalation in violence when, in late June, an estimated 5,000 organizers gathered in Mali’s capital to demand an end to the recent attacks. The events in Mali have also gained international attention due to the wide speculation that the growing population of Islamic extremists in the area has inflamed tensions after the recent killing of 10 peacekeepers in Mali. On July 10, the UN Secretary-General urged the international community to support West Africa’s fight against armed groups, stating that the violence started in Mali and has spread to Burkina Faso and Niger.

Grace Harris is an incoming junior at Tampa Preparatory School in Florida, where she serves as the president of her STAND chapter. She also serves on STAND national’s Sudan and Yemen Action Committees, and will be STAND’s State Advocacy Lead for Florida in the 2019-2020 academic year. Grace contributed the Sudan and South Sudan portions of this update.

Megan Smith is a rising senior at the University of Southern California, where she will be working to reestablish a STAND chapter, and is an incoming member of STAND’s Managing Committee co-leading education and outreach. 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 interned at the nonprofits DigDeep (Los Angeles) and HAMAP-Humanitaire (Paris) and currently works at Dexis Consulting Group (DC). Megan contributed the DRC and Venezuela portions of this update.

Aisha Saleem is a rising 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 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 will be conducting research on post-conflict education in Cambodia as a Junior Research Fellow with the Center for Khmer Studies. Abby contributed the Syria portion of this update.

Jan Jan Maran is a rising junior at George Mason University, and is Co-lead of the Burma Action Committee. As member of STAND’s Managing Committee, she is also involved in STAND’s Congo, Sudan, Yemen, and Indegeneous Peoples Committees. She is very passionate about genocide-related issues and enjoys working with organizations like STAND in order speak out against such atrocities. Jan Jan 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 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 the Mali portion of this update.

STAND Conflict Update: June 2019

Sudan and South Sudan

Sudan

In the two months since the fall of Omar al-Bashir, demands for civilian rule have been brutally denied by the military generals ruling Sudan. After weeks of protests, a military crackdown in early June has left at least 118 killed and 784 wounded by security forces. Eyewitnesses have reported militiamen hurling corpses into the Nile, some with cement bricks tied to their limbs to keep the bodies from floating. Militiamen have used tear gas, whips, and sticks to beat men and women alike, and have burned tents at the sit-in site, many with people still inside. Systematic rapes of both protesters and doctors have also been reported.

In response to the crackdown, demonstrators have decried the current ruling elites as holdovers from al-Bashir’s regime, initiating a civil disobedience campaign on June 9. Mass strikes have shut down businesses and public entities across Khartoum, and the government has held essential employees at gunpoint to force them to work. The Sudanese Professional Association, one of the groups that led the protest movement which forced al-Bashir out of power, has also urged international financial institutions to boycott the military government. The U.N. called for a monitoring team to be deployed to Sudan and the U.S. State Department condemned the crackdown, echoing demands for a transition to a civilian government. The African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership until a civilian government is put in place. For STAND’s latest on the Sudan crisis and its connections to U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, see our recent blog post here.

South Sudan

On Friday, May 3, the conflicting parties led by South Sudan President Salva Kiir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO) leader Riek Machar met and agreed to delay the formation of a united, power-sharing government for six months. While Machar, who fled in 2016 following a previous peace deal collapse, wanted a six-month delay to resolve security issues that have prevented his return to Juba, Kiir wanted to focus on forming the joint administration. A week later, Kiir declared that the formation of this unified government should be delayed by at least a year, stating that so far his administration has been unable to fully disarm and train all of the various forces formerly fighting in South Sudan and citing difficulties due to the upcoming rainy season.

This comes a month after South Sudan’s government hired lobbyists from Gainful Solutions, a California-based lobbyist organization, to persuade the U.S. government to reverse current sanctions on South Sudan and to delay and block establishment of a hybrid court that would try those accused of war crimes in South Sudan. While complaining about the costs of peace agreement implementation, it paid $3.7 million to the firm.

Citing corruption, human rights abuses, and fears that a united government will never be formed, youth activist groups called for demonstrations on May 15 to protest the Kiir administration, concerned that the delay would simply punt the same problems down the line. In response, South Sudanese troops were sent to prevent these protests, fearing that they could result in Kiir’s ouster.

Great Lakes of Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

In the second worst ebola epidemic on record, DRC’s outbreak has surpassed 2,000 reported cases, over half of which have resulted in deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the past two months alone, the reported number cases doubled. The outbreak shows little sign of containment. On June 11, the first cross-border case was reported in Uganda. The infected five-year-old boy died after he and his family entered Uganda on June 9. Since the announcement, three more cases have been confirmed in Uganda. The cross-border spread could incite a renewed push for declaration of the ebola outbreak as a global emergency.

The rapid rise in ebola cases coincides with dramatic intensification of violence in the region. Intermittent violence driven by politics, money, and regional insecurity have afflicted DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the center of the ebola outbreak, for over two decades. Historically, civilians have served as targets for both state and non-state actors, leaving communities with a strong distrust for authorities. Thus, rumors claiming ebola as a hoax, or caused by the government and health workers, are easily accepted. This mistrust has made emergency response efforts ineffective.

Additionally, attacks on treatment centers have become more frequent, leading organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to pull out. Attacks have been blamed by the government on local militias who often work on behalf of political sponsors and foreign bidders. In a June 3 statement, ISIS claimed responsibility for sponsoring a deadly attack in Beni—and not for the first time. Other attacks are tied to political tensions from the presidential elections. Leaflets left by attackers at treatment centers justify attacks with the exclusion of 1.2 million voters due to stated concerns of the Ebola outbreak.  

On May 20, President Tshisekedi announced Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba, an ally of former president Kabila, as prime minister. The position holds a substantial amount of power, confirming that Kabila has not left the political scene (nor has he left the presidential villa). Despite evidence of fraudulent elections and growing disapproval of the Tshisekedi-Kabila alliance, there is still hope for political change. Since taking office, Tshisekedi has pardoned over 700 political prisoners, opposition leader Moise Katumbi has returned from exile, and the late opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi was finally buried on May 30, two years after his death.

Middle East

Yemen

The conflict in Yemen has intensified in recent weeks with an increase in Houthi actions against the Saudi coalition. In response to Saudi escalation of air raids on the Houthi in Hajjah, a northern Yemeni province, Houthi forces have begun to target the kingdom increasingly with drone and missile attacks. There has also been an upswing in cholera cases in the third major outbreak since 2015. The spread of the disease has been exacerbated due to the war: many Yemenis are forced to drink dirty water, a major cause of cholera, as water resources have become scarce. Due to restrictions on imports over the past few years, it has become increasingly difficult for patients and medical professionals to have access to life-saving medicines which would otherwise be inexpensive and easy to access.

Following the U.S. Senate’s failed attempt to override Trump’s veto of the Yemen War Powers Resolution, a measure to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, on May 24, President Trump declared a national security emergency in order to waive Congressional review of $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan. Pompeo cited tensions with Iran as the reason for the declaration. He stated that a delay in the sale could increase the risk of losing U.S. allies at a time of instability caused by Iran. In response, a bipartisan group of senators plan to introduce 22 separate resolutions of disapproval: one for each of the 22 weapons sales. This effort is intended to reassert Congress’ role of approving arms deals to foreign governments. In a related effort, Senators Chris Murphy and Todd Young have announced that they will introduce a bill to force a vote on the U.S.-Saudi relationship.  Their bill will invoke the Foreign Assistance Act, requesting a report of Saudi human rights practices within a 30-day window. After receipt of the report, Congress can force a vote on U.S. security assistance to Saudi Arabia.

Syria

The last significant rebel stronghold in Syria, the northwestern province of Idlib has become the focus of a bombing campaign led by Russian and Syrian forces. The campaign has targeted over 25 health facilities and 35 schools. In the month of May alone, nearly 270,000 people were displaced and over 300 killed as a result of the bombardment.

In the southwestern city of Dara’a, more than 380 civilians have been arrested and 11 killed since the city fell to the Syrian army in July 2018. Despite the government’s promise to implement “reconciliation” agreements, the city has been a place of targeted killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests. Hundreds remain detained for unknown reasons in a move by the Assad government to reassert control and smother resistance in the region. In Syria at large, over 2,400 are being held in prisons, where thousands are believed to have perished due to poor treatment or torture.

Southeast Asia

Burma

On May 27, 2019, the Burmese government released seven soldiers who were jailed for the killing of 10 Rohingya in 2017, serving less than a year in what was supposed to be a ten-year prison sentence. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters reporters who gained international attention after being jailed for their investigation of Burma’s violence towards the Rohingya, were freed on May 7th after serving 500 days in prison. In mid-May, the World Bank announced plans to implement a $100 million development project in Burma to support small businesses and increase employment in impoverished areas of the country. Because of existing barriers that some rights groups liken to South African apartheid, human rights groups have expressed concerns that the project could end up being counterproductive if underlying social tensions remain unaddressed — which is likely if, as is proposed, the Burmese government decides how to allocate the funds.

In late May, Amnesty International conducted an investigation in Rakhine state, confirming that violence, war crimes, and human rights abuses are continuing against the state’s varying ethnic groups. The reports that ethnic Rakhine, Mro, Rohingya, and Khami villagers are living in conflict zones, in addition to newly-found evidence that the military is pursuing the destruction of ancient temple complexes in Mrauk-U. After being first reported on in March, the trafficking of women from Burma’s Kachin and Shan states has become increasingly dire. Kachin women have been continuously sold to China due to the country’s scarcity of women, and the issue has gone largely unrecognized with little to no action from Burma’s or China’s law enforcement.

Emerging Crises

Venezuela

Venezuela is mired in a major political crisis as the struggle for power intensifies between incumbent President Maduro and the leader of the opposition, Juan Guaidó. The 2018 elections remain contested, as numerous opposition candidates were barred from running and Venezuela’s Supreme Court carried out the legal indictment of National Assembly members. In January 2019, the National Assembly, led mostly by parties opposed to Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, declared Guaidó the interim president of the country.

The international community is now split between those who have withdrawn recognition of Maduro’s government (including the U.S., Canada, the Organization of American States, and the majority of E.U. members), and those who view the Maduro government as legitimate (including Russia, China, and Iran). In the midst of the political unrest, the conflict also harbors a massive humanitarian crisis, as the 1.3 million % inflation rate, medical crisis, and food shortages cause millions of Venezuelans to flee.

In April, the West solidified its stance against Maduro’s government, as the U.S. demanded that Maduro be held accountable for the humanitarian crisis. Canada joined by placing further sanctions against 43 members of Maduro’s government and freezing their assets. Red Cross and other humanitarian aid organizations have begun relief deliveries and services in the region. As oil sanctions from the West intensified mid-April, Venezuela increased oil sales to Russia. On April 19, Guaidó called for a nation-wide march against Maduro’s government, intensifying the military crackdown in the country.

Meanwhile, Maduro has increased his reliance on the military, continuing to praise their ‘total loyalty’ and their importance in preserving Venezuelan leadership. Pro-Maduro countries such as Turkey and Russia accused Guaidó’s party of resorting to violence. As rallies against the Maduro regime have intensified, Brazilian and Lima Group intelligence have suggested that there are fractions in the military which could lead to the regime’s collapse. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have called for the ICC to investigate crimes against humanity in Venezuela as the E.U. and the U.S. continue to condemn Venezuelan courts’ proceedings against opposition parties.

Isabel Wolfer is a recent graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and is STAND’s outgoing Communications Coordinator. In addition to her work with STAND, Isabel has interned for the Darfur Women Action Group, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has been a Junior Resident Fellow at the Center for Khmer Studies in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Isabel contributed the Sudan portion of this update.

Grace Harris is an incoming junior at Tampa Preparatory School in Florida, where she serves as the president of her STAND chapter. She also serves on STAND national’s Sudan and Yemen Action Committees, and will be STAND’s State Advocacy Lead for Florida in the 2019-2020 academic year. Grace contributed the South Sudan portion of this update.

Megan Smith is a rising senior at the University of Southern California, where she will be working to reestablish a STAND chapter, and is an incoming member of STAND’s Managing Committee co-leading education and outreach. 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 interned at the nonprofits DigDeep (Los Angeles) and HAMAP-Humanitaire (Paris) and currently works at Dexis Consulting Group. Megan contributed the DRC portion of this update.

Yasmine Halmane is an incoming senior at Teaneck High School in New Jersey, where she is working to establish her school’s first STAND chapter. She also serves on STAND national’s Yemen and Sudan Action Committees. In addition to her work with STAND, Yasmine is also affiliated with Amnesty International US. Yasmine contributed 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 will be conducting research on post-conflict education in Cambodia as a Junior Research Fellow with the Center for Khmer Studies. Abby contributed the Syria 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 the Burma portion of this update.

Vishwa Padigepati is an incoming first year student at Yale University, and a member of the STAND Managing Committee, as well as the Yemen and Sudan Action Committees. In addition to her work in STAND, she has interned for her State Senator and Congressional Representative and has done policy research on developmental infrastructure for Andhra Pradesh, India. Vishwa contributed the Venezuela portion of this update.

As NDAA Looms, Deaths in Sudan Another Reason to Limit Saudi/UAE Arms Deals

During the “Save Darfur” movement of the mid-2000s, thousands of concerned Americans rallied to demand that the U.S. take action to protect the Darfuri people, who were brutally targeted for genocide by Sudan’s military government. Celebrities like George Clooney were dramatically arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington, and places of worship donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help victims. Today, the energy of the Save Darfur movement may be gone, but the violence has not ended. As the world turned their sights elsewhere, the Janjaweed militia, supported by former President Omar al-Bashir, expanded its tirades into further minority regions in Sudan, and exported fighters to Yemen in exchange for support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As Congress begins marking up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week, they must consider the ramifications of their continued failure to address the meddling of Saudi and the UAE in Yemen—and now Sudan.

At dawn on Monday, June 3rd, as Muslims prepared to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) violently attacked protesters in Khartoum, breaking up the two-month sit-in near the military headquarters. According to the Sudanese Doctors’ Committee, at least 118 have been killed and over 784 wounded by the RSF, a paramilitary force born from the same Janjaweed militants who wreaked havoc in Darfur. Eyewitnesses have reported militiamen hurling corpses into the Nile, some with cement bricks tied to their limbs to keep the bodies from floating. Militiamen have used tear gas, whips, and sticks to beat men and women alike, and have burned tents at the sit-in site, many with people still inside. Systematic rapes of both protesters and doctors have also been reported.

In April, after over three months of massive protests, Sudan’s military ousted 30-year dictator Omar al-Bashir, announcing the formation of a two-year transitional military government. Protesters demanded an immediate turnover of the government to a technocratic civilian transitional council for a period of four years. But political talks faltered at the end of May aside stalling tactics by military leaders and disagreement over the makeup of the new transitional government.

Amidst this week’s chaos, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC), announced that elections will be held within nine months and that all agreements with the opposition were canceled. Days earlier, Burhan had met with leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In opposition to an Islamist Sudan, Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has been the TMC’s mouthpiece at the African Union, offering concessions until last week’s announcement that Sudan’s AU membership would be suspended until they hand over power to a civilian government.

The AU has provided the perfect opportunity for the international community to follow suit. In particular, the U.S. should oppose the organization of elections until a civilian government is in place, suspend cooperation with the military government except in cases of life-saving humanitarian aid, support full accountability for crimes committed, and expand sanctions and visa bans on enabling members of the TMC and RSF. The U.S. must additionally prioritize the United Nations Security Council as a space for strong condemnation of violence and coordinated multilateral action.

Both Burhan and Hemedti, the head of the RSF, have worked together in recent months to secure support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who have pledged $3 billion to aid the TMC. As violence erupted on Monday, Hemedti was in Jeddah meeting with Mohammed bin Salman, the murderous crown prince who called for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October. The men know each other well, as Sudan joined the Saudi and UAE-led Yemen war in 2015, deploying RSF forces—mostly child soldiers—to Yemen and pledging to support the coalition in their fight against Iran. In return, Saudi and the UAE have supported Sudan with money and weapons. In April, according to the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Hemedti claimed to have deposited $1 billion into the government’s coffers—pay for fighting in the Yemen war.

In the past year, Congress has become increasingly bold in rejecting U.S. military support for the Saudi and UAE-led coalition responsible for much of the civilian suffering in Yemen. The Trump administration, however, has proven that they have little concern for the Yemeni people, vetoing the Yemen War Powers Resolution that passed both chambers and recently announcing an “emergency” arms sale notification to overcome a Congressional “hold” on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan. A bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress announced that they would retaliate by introducing 22 resolutions of disapproval—one for each sale. While these resolutions are a welcome measure, they are mostly symbolic, as they will almost certainly not garner the 2/3 majority necessary to overcome a veto. However, there is an opportunity for lawmakers to do more than just posture, the most promising being the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Absent strong support in the Senate Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, responsibility lies with House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D-WA) to advocate for an arms sale suspension to be added to the NDAA, which will go into markup on Wednesday.

If U.S. lawmakers are concerned about the violent meddling of Saudi and UAE in the region, as well as their treatment of journalists and dissidents like Jamal Khashoggi, we must leverage our diplomatic relationships with them to protect civilian lives in Yemen and Sudan. If not, it won’t be long until American-made weapons are used against civilians in Sudan, just as they have been in Yemen.


headshot-smallMac Hamilton
is the Executive Manager of STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities. STAND was founded in 2004 in response to the Darfur genocide in Sudan, and today focuses on Sudan, South Sudan, Burma, Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indigenous Peoples in the United States. The author can be reached at mhamilton@standnow.org, on Twitter at @macnham, and you can learn more about STAND at www.standnow.org.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye to our MC Seniors!

So much has happened this year in the world of atrocity prevention – from the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act being signed into law, to the passage of the Yemen War Powers Resolution, to the introduction of the Global Fragility Act, ongoing political transformation in Sudan, peaceful handover of power in DRCongo… the list seems to go on and on. While in this field, we often say there is rarely good news, we have made vitally important progress for others to build on in future years. The role played by our seniors this year – many of whom have worked on these issues for years through their work in chapters, as interns, and through research – is difficult to understate. We will miss them dearly, and hope to continue to work with them as they enter various careers and professional fields. We can’t wait to watch what y’all do next!

Casey Bush, Student Director, Clark University

Image from iOS (4)Casey! I remember sitting down next to you at my very first STAND conference in the fall of 2015, terrified to be seated next to a college student. You immediately made me feel so welcome and at home. Fast forward to my very first MC retreat… Again, a bit scared and very much unsure of what to expect—but there you were again, sharing a hotel room, and making me feel like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Through the entirety of my time with STAND you have been there as a rock, a friend, and the source of too many laughs to count. I am so lucky to have spent this last year as SD with you. There is truly no better partner in crime. I cannot begin to explain the number of times I opened slack to see you had fixed all our problems or stayed up all night creating an inconceivable number of documents. I continue to be impressed by all the work you have done in and outside of STAND. Thank you for being the most amazing role model and friend! It has taken everything not to beg you to stay with me, but I know you’re going to do so many wonderful things! —Grace Fernandes, Co-Student Director

Image from iOS (5)Caseybee🐝, I hope you know how much STAND is going to miss your leadership next year. You were—and have always been—such a rock, willing to learn, willing to put in extra time even when you didn’t have any, and willing to find creative solutions to any difficulty that arose. From day 1 of meeting you at the fall conference back in 2015 (?!), it was clear that you would become a STAND superstar. I remember Francesca whispering to me as we packed participant folders late into the night, “that girl is gonna be SD one day.” She was right and I am so thankful! From leading Clark STAND to stepping into the Midwest Field Organizer role, to Development Coordinator, and then SD, you entered each role humbly, with a deep sense of responsibility to those affected by atrocities clear throughout. Outside of STAND world, I have loved getting to know you and learn from you through your academic work, drinking beer and witnessing Krampusnacht with you in Prague, and witnessing your hilarious sense of humor through your finsta. I know it’s been a tough year in many ways, but you handled it with g(G?)race and composure throughout, and I am so appreciative to have had you at the helm through everything. Much love always, and I can’t wait to rendezvous in DC or Europe soon! —Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Hannah King, Campaigns Coordinator, Clark University

Image from iOS (7)You have been a STAND queen for as long as I have known you! Casey and I have been so lucky to have you throughout this year as you flawlessly lead so many committees and campaigns and offered your off-the-charts organizational skills! I can’t imagine having done it without you! I will always treasure our “Grace and Hannah take NYC” trip and wouldn’t want to spend hours on a train with anyone else! Oh and there was also that time we met Joe Kennedy! Hannah, you have blown me away over and over again with your dedication to STAND and your constant willingness to take on more (and more… and more), simply because you care so much. I will miss being a part of the MC with you so so much but know you won’t be able to stay away entirely!!! Sending you off with so much love! —Grace Fernandes, Co-Student DirectorImage from iOS (8)

Hannah, although we constantly like to give each other a hard time, I consider myself lucky to know you. Since our call at the beginning of the year, you have continued to inspire me by the action you take and the dedication you give to any role you play. From these characteristics, I know that you will be immensely successful wherever your life takes you, and all I ask is that you keep us posted on where that is. Good luck in the next phase of your journey. You always have your STANDfam for support. —Zachary Gossett, Field Organizer

 

Isabel Wolfer, Communications Coordinator, The George Washington University

IMG_7981Congrats on graduating Isabel! You’re such a hard worker and deserve it all. Even though I’ve only known you for a short time, it’s clear you’re a dedicated and genuine person who gives 100% to whatever it is you do. I greatly appreciated your college wisdom during the Winter retreat, and always love to hear what you have to say. You’re extremely well-spoken and educated, and listening helps me gain insight to a lot of new things. I know I speak for the entire MC when I say that we all appreciate how gracious and kind you are. I remember working with you on several projects throughout the year and you would always message me with a thank you. I wish you the best of luck in your post-undergrad plansI know you’ll be amazing in whatever it is you decide to do. Thank you for making STAND a better place. I’ve always looked up to you and will miss you a ton! —Caroline Mendoza, Field Organizer

mc1819
I’m so sad to be losing you as a member of the STAND MC, and am very thankful to have gotten to know you and work with you this year. I won’t lie – I was worried when your Cambodia flight fiasco happened how you would get on with the rest of the team without having met them in person. It speaks volumes to who you are that you fell right into step and that everyone immediately adored you. In fact, watching you work with your Task Force with such care was a huge highlight of my year—it’s clear how much you bonded and how much they learned from working with you. In addition, your willingness to offer space in your apartment for MC members to stay during the January retreat was so kind and so appreciated, and gave me such peace of mind knowing our MC members were in good hands. I know I speak for many when I say how deeply I appreciated your willingness to lend a hand on policy statements and national emails, as well as your commitment to ensuring STAND cover Sudan as the protests grew and Bashir fell. I don’t know what we’ll do without you. Thank you for everything this year – I can’t wait to follow your next steps!
—Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Alison Hesser, National Outreach Coordinator, Stockton University

IMG_7994Alison, you are literally such an amazing person. I’ve always wanted an older sister, and you really showed me what I was missing. Apart from your trademark sense of humor, which has made every retreat, call, and lobby meeting so enjoyable, you are such a genuine, kind person, and I feel so lucky to have gotten to know you. You are so honest and personable—I remember that you were the first one to greet me during fall retreat, and I immediately loved how chill you were. Thank you for picking me up from the airport in freezing weather, letting me room with you at the end of the very, very long hallway, and always being there for me. I was going through college application season this year, and you were always so supportive and loving even when you didn’t have to be. I’m going to miss you so much…but you are not off the hook!!! Please keep in touch with us. We will never forget you :) You are so successful already— completing your masters, giving a killer graduation toast, and being an awesome aunt (love your FB posts)—don’t forget that we are here for you always if you need anything! —Vishwa Padigepati, Advocacy Coordinator

Alison, you are #old. I can’t believe that this time last year I barely knew youIMG_7274, and now you’re someone I can’t imagine not talking to. You’re super fun to be around, whether it be during long MC calls or in the cafeteria between lobby meetings. Winter retreat was beyond a highlight; I’ll miss our hotel room jokes and listening to your hilarious rants. I love your sense of humor and brutal honestyit’s something I think makes you extremely welcoming and personable, and something I greatly value in a friend. I appreciate your genuine kindness (picking Vishwa and I up from the airport, paying for all of our Lyfts). STAND won’t be the same without you ;( I know you’ll do well wherever you end up and I hope you get the job of your dreams and work with lots of awesome and interesting people. Congrats on your Master’s, keep your dogs safe, and you better not forget about me when you’re rich and successful!! —Caroline Mendoza, Field Organizer

Conflict Update: March 2019

 

This week’s conflict update covers events since the beginning of 2019 in STAND’s key focus areas: Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Yemen, Syria, Burma, and the escalating crisis in Venezuela. We are thankful to STAND Action Committee members Grace Harris and Maya Ungar, as well as STAND Managing Committee members, Grace Fernandes, Isabel Wolfer, Hannah King, Vishwa Padigepati, Caroline Mendoza, and Zachary Gossett for researching and writing pieces of this brief.

 

Sudan and South Sudan

Sudan

Weekly protests every Thursday calling for the end of the al-Bashir regime continue as they enter their fourth month. These peaceful protests, which originally began in December to protest the rising costs of basic goods and shortages of fuel, have resulted in dozens of civilians killed, hundreds injured, and thousands detained as Sudanese security forces responded with extreme force, including tear gas, batons, and ammunition. The Sudanese Professionals Associations (SPA), one of the primary groups coordinating the marches, named the demonstration on March 21 the “Procession for Justice” as a memorial for war crimes committed by the government. Although the government has reduced the excessive use of force against demonstrators, between 30 and 50 protesters have been killed since December 2018.

On February 22, President Omar al-Bashir declared a yearlong State of Emergency in an effort to quell the protests. The legislature has since cut this to six months. Earlier this month, Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Darfur, delegated leadership of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to Ahmed Harun, who is also wanted by the ICC for war crimes in Darfur.

Earlier this month, an emergency court sent eight people to prison for participation in anti-government protests. The Democratic Lawyers Alliance, a group supporting the protests, reported that at least 870 protesters were brought before these emergency courts that were established due to al-Bashir’s declaration of a national emergency.

Interested in learning more about current events in Sudan and how you can support peaceful demonstrators? Join our webinar on Thursday, March 28 at 7 PM EST – click here to register!

South Sudan

Violence in South Sudan continues despite the peace deal signed by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar last fall. The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, stated last month that the peace agreement has done little to deliver immediate improvement for civilians or enhance accountability measures, noting an increase in arbitrary detention, torture, execution, and gender-based violence. Notably, more than 10,000 people have been displaced since January due to violent clashes between government forces and armed groups. Violence has been particularly severe in Central Equatoria State, where the National Salvation Front has clashed with the government army. Thousands of refugees displaced by this unrest have fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past eight weeks. A UN report released last week concluded that South Sudan’s population is the least happy in Africa.

In late March, an almost $185 million spending deal was approved by the transitional government. This decision sparked criticism from observers claiming that the peace deal continues to suffer from a lack of funds due to corruption. Last December, the government allegedly authorized over $135,000 to renovate private residences owned by First Vice President Taban Deng Gai and the late revolutionary leader John Garang. Experts have expressed concern over an increasing lack of financial transparency among government officials and warned that international donors may not contribute to the depleting transition fund as consequence.

Great Lakes of Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Controversy surrounded the long-awaited DRC elections in December 2018. In addition to internet and text messaging shutdowns, signal cuts of Radio France Internationale, and voter intimidation and coercion, voting was postponed for voters in three opposition areas, restricting voting for over a million Congolese citizens. Over 1,000 polling stations in Kinshasa were closed due problems with voting machines and voter lists, and election observers were unable to access many polling stations and vote tabulation centers. In the wake of these events, at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded by security forces during protests against the victory of Félix Tshisekedi. Notably, the Catholic Church, one of the most trusted institutions in the country, leaked results based off of their voter observation efforts that Martin Fayulu, another opposition candidate, had won by a landslide. Fayulu has challenged the results in court, but to no avail.

Concurrently, Congo has suffered a grave Ebola epidemic which has exceeded 1,000 cases, making it the world’s second worst outbreak. Due to ongoing conflict in Eastern DRC, there is great deal of public mistrust when it comes to treatment of the disease, and armed groups have staged attacks on ebola treatment centers, inhibiting the response of health workers. Just last week, two Médecins Sans Frontières treatment centers were set on fire in such attacks, forcing them to suspend operations in these areas. According to UNICEF statistics, children represent a third of ebola victims, and women, who often serve as primary caretakers of sick children, have also been disproportionately affected.

On March 14, DRC held Senate elections in which former President Joseph Kabila’s party, the Common Front for Congo, won the majority of  seats while Tshisekedi’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, won only 3 out of 100. There is evidence of at least 20 candidates who withdrew from races due to voter bribery efforts by provincial assembly members. As such, Tshisekedi has not allowed the newly-elected senators to take office, pending an investigation, and has indefinitely suspended the gubernatorial elections that were scheduled for next week.

Middle East

Yemen

At the end of 2018, there was cautious optimism for the situation in Yemen as the warring parties met in Sweden for peace talks. They agreed to a ceasefire in the strategic port city of Hodeidah, as well as a prisoner exchange. However, the condition of ordinary Yemenis remains bleak, with 80% living in poverty and 110,000 suspected cases of cholera. Since the war began, the World Bank estimates that 35% of businesses have closed, with household income plummeting due to inflation and currency devaluation. While the ceasefire has lead to short respites from violence, civilian deaths remain high and both parties blame the other for violations. The agreed-upon prisoner exchange has yet to occur and relatives of those imprisoned are calling for the parties to uphold the agreement. The continuation of peace talks has been delayed and some say time is running out. Additionally, some from southern Yemen are threatening a new conflict if they are not included in the talks. There have been calls for independence in southern Yemen since the unification of Yemen in the 1990s, as the ruling north has sidelined local economic and political concerns.

The United Nations is seeking $4.2 billion for the continuation of humanitarian work over the next year. Last month, they regained access to the Red Sea Mills, a food storage center pivotal to efficient food distribution in the region. Despite their active involvement in the war, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged $2.6 billion dollars to fund the UN humanitarian plan for Yemen. However, the full funding goal is, as of now, unmet.

In the United States, the House and Senate voted this year to end assistance to Saudi Arabia’s efforts in Yemen, each passing a version of the War Powers Resolution. However, since the language is not identical, the House must vote on the Senate version before being sent to the White House to be signed into law. President Trump has threatened to veto this legislation if passed.

Syria

As Syria enters the ninth year of civil war, Syria’s refugees and internally displaced peoples have suffered another harsh winter. Over 37 internally displaced children were frozen to death, both in Rukban Camp, and fleeing from Hajin, an ISIS-held bastion further north. In late January 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey revived the idea of creating safe zones along Turkey’s border to protect civilians. Concerns remain as to whether refugees may be forcibly returned as a result, and how safe zones would affect Kurdish civilians. Turkey has long has tensions with the Kurdish people, who have long fought for political autonomy in Turkey and throughout the Middle East. Since the beginning of the conflict, over half of the country’s pre-war population has been displaced, with 5.6 million people living as refugees and 6.2 million people displaced internally. Half of those affected are children.

On March 23, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces announced a military victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), who once held a third of Syria and Iraq’s territory. Following this victory, the top military commander in Syria’s Kurdish territory, who led anti-ISIL efforts, urged President Bashar al-Assad to pursue dialogue and in order to reach a political solution towards an autonomous Kurdish region. In response to the announcement of the defeat of the ISIL, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany said they would remain vigilant of the group’s “sleeper cells” that still pose terrorist threats. Amongst military strategists, concerns remain that victory will be fleeting, and that ISIS will regroup once troop withdrawals are complete.

Southeast Asia

Burma

Content Warning: This section describes sex trafficking and sexual violence.

The situation of the Rohingya has continued to worsen in 2019. The Rohingya, a primarily-Muslim ethnic and religious minority group, have long been persecuted by the Burmese government. Since August 2017, thousands have been killed, driving hundreds of thousands across the border to Bangladesh, sparking international outrage and leading to the creation of the largest refugee camp in the world. Overcrowding in the camps has led to further problems. Bangladesh, already a very poor country, has struggled to handle the influx of refugees, and are seeking to move Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal. This island is remote, frequently hit by cyclones, and is considered uninhabitable. Experts worry that this forced movement will lead to further problems for the vulnerable Rohingya population.

Conflict continues against ethnic minorities due to Burmese military activity in the Kachin and Shan states. These conflicts have increased the vulnerability for exploitation of Kachin and Shan women. While men fight, women must take increasingly risky job opportunities to support their families, some of which lead to human trafficking. A massively incriminating report released by Human Rights Watch last week uncovered the human trafficking of Kachin women forced to become wives in China. Originally promised jobs in China, these women discover upon arrival that they were instead sold to Chinese families. They are locked away and repeatedly raped until they become pregnant. After having a child, the women either remain as sex slaves or are returned to their families, sometimes after years of abuse.

Emerging Crises

Venezuela

The Venezuela crisis began in January when the opposition-led National Assembly declared Juan Guaidó the interim president of the country. For years, Venezuela has suffered from hyperinflation, food shortages, and increasingly totalitarian policies at the hands of Nicolás Maduro’s government. While the U.S. and the majority of the EU and Organization of American States support Guaidó, Russia and Cuba, long-time Maduro allies, continue to support the current government.

Early on March 21, Venezuelan authorities apprehended Guaidó’s chief of staff, Robert Marrero, marking a significant escalation in the political crisis. His arrest mirrors similar crackdowns on dissent by Maduro’s government. Venezuelan doctors also face government pressure after attempting to alert the UN to the dire shortage of essential medicines. Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Chief, has criticized both the Maduro regime for cracking down on dissent, and US sanctions for exacerbating the conflict.

The US claims that these sanctions are meant to target government activities alone, yet many argue that they are hurting the most vulnerable Venezuelans. Along with sanctions, the US has increased intelligence sharing in the region, providing information to Colombian authorities about insurgents who have been strengthened due to the Venezuela conflict. While unconfirmed, experts speculate that Maduro is allowing insurgent activity in order to prepare for possible military intervention. If true, these actions would simply be the latest example of the Maduro administration’s transgressions.

Recent US-Russia talks over Venezuela have stalled due to the differing visions of Maduro’s role in the nation, and on Monday, Russia landed two military planes in the country, a move the U.S. denounced as a “contradiction of both Nicolas Maduro’s and Russia’s calls for non-intervention […] [and] a reckless escalation of the situation.”

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. She joined STAND after learning about the Darfur genocide in my World History 1 class during her Freshman year, seeking an opportunity to take action and make a difference in the world. In addition to leading STAND at Tampa Prep, Grace serves on STAND national’s Sudan and Yemen Action Committees.

Isabel Wolfer, who contributed to the South Sudan section of this brief, is STAND’s Communications Coordinator and a member of the Sudan Working Group. She is a senior at The George Washington University in Washington, DC and a former intern for the Darfur Women Action Group.

Hannah King and Vishwa Padigepati, who contributed to the Yemen section of this brief, are members of STAND’s Managing Committee and the Yemen Action Committee. Hannah is STAND’s Campaigns Coordinator and a senior at Clark University in Massachusetts and Vishwa is STAND’s Advocacy Coordinator and a student at Fairmont Preparatory Academy in California.

Maya Ungar, who contributed to the Burma section of this brief, is a junior at the University of Arkansas and is serving as STAND’s Southeast Asia Coordinator for the 2018-2019 academic year. She is currently studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Grace Fernandes, who contributed to the DRC section of this brief, is a junior at Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, and one of STAND’s Student Co-Directors. She leads STAND’s Indigenous Peoples Action Committee.

Caroline Mendoza, who contributed to the Syria section of this brief, is a junior at Cerritos High School in California, and serves on the STAND Outreach Team. 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 Outreach Team, He serves on the Indigenous Peoples and Burma Action Committees.

STAND Condemns Attack on the L’Simcha Tree of Life Synagogue

STAND is deeply saddened by the shooting at the L’Simcha Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday. The attack, which took place during Shabbat services, resulted in the murders of eleven people and emotional and physical harm to many more. We condemn this anti-Semitic and xenophobic act of terror and stand with our Jewish members, friends, and colleagues in this moment of intense sadness and fear.

The alleged perpetrator had previously openly expressed hatred for Jews, and witnesses told police he shouted, “All Jews must die” before opening fire. Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated event. The shooting took place at a time when the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has reported a sharp increase in anti-Semitism in the US – including a 57 percent increase in 2017. The ADL has called this attack the “deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.”

The alleged perpetrator was driven by misinformation, as well as a hatred and fear of immigrants and refugees. Earlier this month, the L’Simcha synagogue hosted a National Refugee Shabbat sponsored by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a Jewish-American refugee resettlement agency driven by the biblical concepts “Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee.” As a partner in refugee resettlement advocacy, we have long valued HIAS’ commitment to supporting resettlement of refugees of all identities. This attack, specifically aimed at the critical work of HIAS, is a clear manifestation of the links between xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and white nationalism.

As an organization that educates students on historical and contemporary cases of identity-based violence both domestically and internationally, STAND strongly condemns the L’Simcha synagogue attack and emphasizes the need to urgently address the factors that have allowed such attacks to be carried out. We remember the victims and their families and celebrate all those who are working to combat anti-Semitic and xenophobic violence at home and abroad.

May the victims’ memories be a blessing.

Joyce Fienberg, 75

Rich Gottfried, 65

Rose Mallinger, 97

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Cecil Rosenthal, 59

David Rosenthal, 54

Bernice Simon, 84

Sylvan Simon, 86

Daniel Stein, 71

Melvin Wax, 88

Irving Younger, 69

Featured photo by Andrew Stein/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP.

STAND News: Spring 2018 Semester in Review

STAND student activists have completed another successful semester of advocacy and action! From advocating for ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and fundraising for displaced Rohingya, to making calls and lobbying on Capitol Hill, STAND students continue to lead in the fight against genocide. As we settle into summer, we applaud our students for their continued activism and achievements by highlighting some important moments of this semester.

 

From Remembrance to Action: Together We Remember

Db0qUn9XcAAYIbD
STAND was excited to take part in the 6th annual Together We Remember campaign in which communities around the world held name readings, vigils, and other events to commemorate those affected by genocide and mass atrocities in the 20th and 21st centuries. This year, we helped organize
over 40 vigils across 8 countries, and we even got a shout out on the House Floor by our friend and long-time partner in atrocities prevention Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts!

Students practiced turning remembrance into action by coupling their TWR events with advocacy for the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act. By writing op-eds and Letters to the Editor (like this one by former Co-Communications Coordinator, Ashley Morefield, published in The Sentinel!), signing petitions, and making calls to their legislators, STAND students advocated loud and proud for this historic act. Recently, the legislation was voted out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, marking an important victory for genocide prevention advocates!

 

#RiseForRohingya

As the plight of the Rohingya worsened in the fall, STAND prioritized the #RiseForRohingya campaign, a partnership with The Nexus Fund, to raise funds to support on-the-ground peacebuilding efforts in Burma. On Giving Tuesday alone, we raised over $1,600! Additionally, STAND chapters spread the love with Roses for Rohingya where upSTANDers sold roses, candy, and other Valentine’s goodies, while educating their peers on the Rohingya crisis.

1930888_10156279866412049_4630290978365236511_n 28056192_10156279866402049_3796208902520148003_n

STAND released some killer merchandise (PSA: we’re still selling them!!) created by our very own Grace Fernandes Proceeds were split 50/50 towards our #RiseForRohingya campaign and operational costs for STAND. Here are some of our STAND superstars rocking their #GiveAShit and #CaringIsCool gear.

STAND also advocated for the BURMA Act of 2018 (H.R. 4223/S. 2060) through lobby meetings and call-in days. This legislation would ensure that senior-level Burmese military officials are held accountable for mass atrocities against the Rohingya. The hard work of activists around the country paid off, as the act was voted out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in May!

 

23736157_10156008379622049_7605303592362175728_o

Yemen War Powers Resolution

In February, STAND, along with a number of partners, stood behind a landmark resolution – S.J.Res 54, to convince the Trump Administration to end U.S. involvement in Yemen’s Civil War. Though it was voted down, this vote showed a strong bipartisan message: that U.S. military support for atrocities in Yemen must end.

Check out some of the op-eds written by our incredible STAND members! Former Student Director Savannah Wooten and Executive Manager, Mac Hamilton, published an op-ed in The Raleigh News & Observer. In addition, Kelly Choate was published in The Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire and Bridget Rhinehart was published in the Portland Press Herald in Maine.

 

Protecting Syrians

The No Assistance for Assad Act (H.R. 4681), led by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), passed the House this April. This bill would prohibit U.S. reconstruction funds from going to Assad-controlled territories until there are assured steps taken towards ensuring freedom and security in those areas.

 

Looking Forward

STAND welcomed the introduction of The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act of 2018 (H.R. 5273) in March. This bill, supported by numerous partners such as the Alliance for Peacebuilding and Mercy Corps, would establish an interagency Global Initiative to Reduce Fragility and Violence. This group would analyze 10 pilot countries and develop strategies to reduce levels of violence and improve its abilities to prevent future violent conflicts.

17884445_10212561699940408_4790748620734334164_nAshley Morefield is STAND USA’s former Communications Coordinator, and a graduate of Dickinson College with a B.A. in International Studies and French and Francophone Studies. In her post-STAND life, Ashley will be heading to Côte d’Ivoire on a Fulbright Fellowship.

 

 

101Casey 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.

 

MC Seniors 2018: Baby Bye Bye Bye

To our smart, hardworking seniors who are about to go out and change the world – from Med School to Fulbright to TFA to who the heck knows what’s next (we all been there – you’re gonna do great!), we are so proud of all you’ve helped STAND accomplish this year, and are excited to follow your adventures. For everything you’ve done to help progress atrocities prevention over the past year (and for many of you for several years!), we offer our deepest gratitude.

Savannah Wooten, Student Director, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Savvy Sav, what can I say – Even before meeting you at the Lemkin SummIMG_2433it in 2016, I knew STAND had to have you! Reading your application to attend was all I needed to know you’d be an amazing addition to our team – and jeez was I right. While many join STAND wanting to put their skills to use, I’ve watched you welcome and grow from taking on so many roles with us – even when they weren’t your first choice. Your intellect, humor, and empathy for others have helped us form stronger and harder-working teams, and the sheer amount of time, love, and energy you’ve put into growing this organization will be so sorely missed. Thanks for always lobbying a million Members of Congress, listening to my rants (and often ranting with me), and staying up well past both of our bedtimes before retreats and conferences to make sure everything was perfect. Throughout your time at STAND you’ve felt more like a sister to me than a coworker, and having you as a support system in my life has been so meaningful. I can’t wait to watch & analyze more Bachelor(ette) with you, swap more sangria, and hang out at more dawg parks together when you move back up to DC. I love you so incredibly much, and am so excited to see where life takes you next. 

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Oh Savannah, I have no idea where to start. You are such a brilliant, ambitious, caring, compassionate woman. I feel as if I have learned more from you these past 3 years than almost anyone. You have helped me during the most difficult times in my life— with school, relationships, expressing my feelings, developing my leadership skills, and feeling confident about myself in every aspect. I am always so amazed at the way you express yourself— both in professional and personal settings— and I work hard to emulate your thoughtfulness and compassion. You will never begin to understand the impression you have made on me and am very much looking forward to our future matching STAND tattoos 😉

– Casey Bush, Development Coordinator, Clark University

IMG_4653Sav Woot, your presence in STAND has inspired me since long before I even joined the M.C. At my first STAND conference you complimented me and it made me feel so welcome and so special. You continue to have this effect on me and so many others every year, always making everyone feel important and cared for. I am inspired by your empathy and social practices. In my time at STAND it has always been a goal to live up to your passion, drive and ability to befriend all. From your wealth of knowledge that becomes apparent in lobby meetings to your love for head pets and singalongs, I have been so impressed and thrilled to have become your friend. We all know you will do great things but you continue to do one of the greatest of all each day by being a terrific and thoughtful friend who is always there. We’ll all miss Auntie Sav – but all the energy you have put in and all you’ve done to inspire others will never leave STAND.

– Grace Fernandes, Digital Media Coordinator, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Bethany Vance, Campaigns Coordinator, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bethany, you are hands down the funniest person IMG_0635I have ever met. You never fail to make everyone in the room smile and you bring such a positive energy to STAND. I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the MC with you for the last two years and am so sad to see you graduate. Whether it is being the Campaigns Queen or filming crockpot videos for Rise For Rohingya, you never cease to inspire me. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the future!

– Ellen Bresnick, Washington University of St. Louis

Bethany Kathleen Vance, I was absolutely terrified of you upon first joining the MC. And now I consider you one of my dearest and funniest friends. Having been a sheltered Cape Cod girl who had never met anyone from the south, you truly opened my eyes! I am so sad to see you graduate but also so excited to see everything that you will do. I don’t know what I’m going to do at retreats without you sitting next to me… but I suppose I’ll make it. You are one of the hardest workers I have ever met, yet you never cease to keep things fun. I hope that the post-grad life is the best life and I promise if I ever travel south of D.C. I’ll come visit!

– Grace Fernandes, Digital Media Coordinator, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Ashley Morefield, Communications Coordinator, Dickinson College

IMG_0451Dear sweet Ash (I only learned 6 months into knowing you that Ash is what your friends call you smdh), it has been such an absolute pleasure getting to know you and work with you over the past year. Not only are you one of the hardest workers I know, but you are also such an incredibly thoughtful person, always asking the right questions and pushing our team to work harder and do better. The work and care you’ve but into STAND that goes well beyond your position’s stated responsibilities is remarkable – from planning and running our first (hopefully annual?!) STAND Drag Bingo, to mentoring our bloggers, to getting some of our first Letters to the Editor written and placed, you’re someone who truly understands STAND inside and out and how important it is for every team member to do both their own role and personally commit to living out STAND’s values and theory of change in our day-to-day lives. Your patience with me reading blog posts for the 15th time after a 4 month hiatus, readiness to change track and volunteer for tasks, and constant kindness and laughter will be so missed. I can’t wait to hear all about your Fulbright experience – and hopefully get in some hang out time in DC before you leave!

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

DSC_0826-54Ashley! Working with you this past year has been incredible, and I couldn’t ask for a better other half to this communications dream team! Thank you for speaking French with me, keeping me sane during STAND retreats, and repping Maryland as hard as I do. You are without a doubt one of the most talented and committed people I have ever met and I cannot WAIT to see where you go and what you do next. You may be leaving the MC, but you will always be in my heart and I know we’ll stay in touch!

– Nick Shereikis, Communications Coordinator, The College of Wooster

Justin Cole, Policy Coordinator, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

IMG_3328Where do I even begin? From late night fast food runs to Game of Thrones, from Harry Potter trivia to convincing everyone that you’re actually Mormon, working with you has been a wild ride. There are so many different things I could talk about here – from Quidditch to Mulan – but my favorite Justin memory is without question sprinting around D.C. in business dress, holding two very dead cell phones, trying to find the rest of the MC. Your ability to keep things light even while really digging into the policy aspect of our work and holding everyone accountable is a mix that is incredibly unique, and one that I’ll be lucky to ever find again. I am beyond glad that we met, and I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.

– Nick Shereikis, Communications Coordinator, The College of Wooster

Justin, it has been great to get to know you during the past semester! Unfortunately we did not get a full year together, but it was so nice to hang out at the spring retreat! You are such a smart guy who not only knows so much about policy issues, but also knows more about Harry Potter than I could ever imagine anyone knowing. I’m so excited to hear about all the great things that you will accomplish in your future and thanks for explaining that being a Hufflepuff really isn’t all that bad.

– Casey Bush, Development Coordinator, Clark University

Farida Ettefa, National Outreach Coordinator, University of Maryland at College Park

DSC_0831-58Farida, you are so sweet and I am so lucky to have you as a mother/big sister/friend. Thank you for being a wonderful outreach leader – you are so smart, organized, and efficient and it’s been a pleasure to work with you. You are an incredible role model and constantly inspire me. I can’t wait to see everything that you accomplish!

– Amala Karri, Advocacy Coordinator, Hunter College High School

Farida, I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to work with you on Outreach this year! You are one of the smartest, most dedicated, and funniest people I’ve met. Thank you for all the advice you’ve given me for both STAND and life in general. And most importantly, thanks for jamming out to Taylor Swift with me during Lobby Weekend (and for letting me borrow your straightener during retreats!) I’m so excited to see what you do in the future, and I know you’ll do great in med school!

– Ugo Ndife, Field Organizer, University of PennsylvaniaDSC_0740-4

Faridz, you’ve been cracking me up ever since I learned that your twitter handle is @LetFARIDomring. You’re such an incredibly hard worker, and it’s been so valuable to have some non-PoliSci students on our team letting us know what’s too “wonky” and what works for the rest of the world. Your joy and warmth always shine through, and have helped build such important relationships with our grassroots, especially in the Mid-Atlantic. Thanks for always working around your crazy lab schedule for retreats and calls, chatting with visiting STAND students to DC, helping us pronounce things in Arabic, and for at least ~trying~ to teach us some belly dancing skills. We’re gonna miss you terribly, and can’t wait to see what you do for public health in the future. So much love, and please stay in touch! <3

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

STAND Statement on Chemical Weapons and Civilian Protection in Syria

The following statement is issued by STAND’s student-led leadership teams in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities strongly condemns continuous violations of international law in Syria, including the recent suspected chemical attack in Douma. We call for a renewed effort to protect innocent civilians.

On 7 April 2018, Syrian civilians were attacked with chemical agents in Douma, a formerly rebel-held town east of Damascus. According to human rights watchdogs, between 40 and 70 civilians were killed, and over were 500 impacted in total, including those wounded and still in critical condition. Hundreds more remain in need of medical and humanitarian aid. Although drastic, this attack is not surprising – it falls within a dangerous precedent and pattern of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime and tacit permission from Russia, its ally in the conflict. The attack perpetuates a reigning culture of impunity in the conflict and underscores the Assad regime’s disregard for civilian lives and international law.

As student leaders advocating against genocide and mass atrocity crimes, we are deeply concerned about the massive civilian harm in Douma and condemn the attack with the utmost severity. We recognize that while this attack has particularly captured the attention of the international community, that chemical attacks are only one of a wide host of tactics that have been used against Syrian civilians for the past seven years. Throughout the conflict, civilians have been continually targeted by barrel bombs and double tap strikes. Siege warfare has also been systematically employed to starve civilians and prevent them from accessing medical care.

While we remain vigilant and wary of military responses to the conflict, we also recognize the relative absence of viable alternatives in a bloody, ongoing conflict that has already claimed the lives of thousands. We stand with our Syrian counterparts in our belief that we must explore every avenue to bring this conflict to an end.

As citizen advocates from three of the five permanent United Nations Security Council countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, we commend our national leadership and international representatives for swiftly condemning this attack on the behalf of both the victims and the international community at large. In light of the subsequent punitive military airstrikes conducted by the three states, we strongly insist that all future actions taken to address the crisis in Syria are multilateral in both design and implementation, to ensure effective and sustained pressure to prevent further use of both chemical and conventional weapons against civilians by all parties to the conflict. Additionally, we call on the legislative bodies of each country to stay engaged and committed to upholding international law and the protection of civilians.

Failure to sustain diplomatic and political pressure would maintain the dangerous precedent that the international community has shown time and time again: that such attacks can continue with impunity.

STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities, was founded in 2004 by students at Georgetown University. Since then, STAND has expanded to high school and college campuses across the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Originally an acronym for “Students Taking Action Now: Darfur,” STAND’s mission quickly expanded to ending and preventing genocide and mass atrocities wherever they may occur. Today, STAND focuses on Sudan, South Sudan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Yemen, as well as on emerging atrocity issues such as those in Burundi and the Central African Republic, and on comprehensive atrocity prevention and peacebuilding policy.

For comment or for further information, please contact our country contacts, below:

Savannah Wooten, STAND US Student Director, swooten@standnow.org

Charlotte Massey, STAND France Student Co-Director, cmassey@standnow.org

Daisy Goodall, STAND UK Student Director, dgoodall@standnow.org

Click here for a PDF of this statement.

Goodbye’s the Saddest Word: We love you, MC Seniors!

To STAND’s graduating MC seniors – It’s been an incredible year with all of you, and we are absolutely in awe of your hard work and dedication to this movement. STAND is stronger because of you and your beautiful hearts, commitment, late nights, and strategic thinking. We have learned so much from each one of you and can’t wait to build upon your efforts in the coming year. We love you, we will miss you, and we can’t wait to see how you move and shake the world!

 

Giulia Duch Clerici, Southeast Regional Organizer, Tulane University

giuliamacAlthough your time on the MC was short, you left a large impact! I am so thankful I got to spend time with you in both DC (at the National Conference) and New Orleans. You radiate kindness and grace and are someone who comes to mind when I think about “walking the walk”. I felt so heard and understood by you when we talked about balancing school and activism. Thank you for what you gave to me and to STAND and for your passion on these issues. Much love!

– Savannah Wooten, Student Director 

Giulia, we have been friends for such a long time! I don’t even remember how many years we have known each other but they have been filled with us awkwardly being the older siblings at all our younger siblings’ events and ceremonies. No matter how much time we spend apart, when we catch up, it is as if no time has passed! I love bonding over our love of salads (or half salad and half pizza #ModernMarket), the Mediterranean, sunshine, Dolcezza (we need to go soon please), and of course, our passion for human rights. Recruiting you for STAND was possibly the best late night idea I have ever had because you are an incredible, hard working, and dedicated addition to the team. Hit me up when you are back in Btown so we can hang out at one of our favorite spots!! Love you to the moon and back, forever and always!

– Farida Ettefa, outgoing Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizer, incoming National Outreach Coordinator

Sweet lady, I am so incredibly happy that we met at the Rally for Refugees this past summer! It has been amazing to get to know you and your passion for humanitarian and service work. You are such a thoughtful and loving person, friend, and activist, and I know you are going to do amazing things. I’ve loved what you’ve brought to the team over the past semester, especially within our policy discussions on Syria and the refugee crisis. I’m so grateful for you letting me crash at your home in New Orleans, and for all of your NoLa recommendations. Forever glad to have had you on the STAND team, and I can’t wait to see what you do next and keep cheering you on! See you in DC so soon!!

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Tim Hirschel-Burns, Policy Coordinator, Swarthmore College

Timmy1Timmy, you are one of the kindest people I know. I am so happy that we have become friends over the past year and a half—I wouldn’t want to have been the “New Kid in STAND” with anyone else. It has been such an honor to see you open up from the quiet and shy RO to the sassy and hilarious Policy Coordinator! You are always the first person to reach out whenever someone needs help and I am so thankful for all your kind gestures. We are all going to miss you on the MC but know you will be one step closer to single-handedly changing the world in Benin! Best of luck in all you do!

– Casey Bush, Campaigns Coordinator

When I first met you this summer I found you both intimidating and hysterical. Thank you for always being there to answer my overwhelming number of questions and tell me what you really think. When I see someone and know I want them to be my friend I tend to jump right into making fun of them… (solid game plan right?). So naturally I spared no time in spreading rumors that you dye your hair. Thank you for being a good sport and letting me photoshop you into countless memes. My favorite Timmy memory is the Women’s March which I don’t think I would have made it through had you not been my “buddy.” Thank you for keeping me with the group and dragging me through crowds. I will forever be in awe of your knowledge and passion. I’m glad we decided to join forces and end our rivalry and I feel so lucky to have gained you as a friend.

– Grace Fernandes, Digital Media Coordinator

Ahhhh sweet Timmy, I know I am going to find this very hard to distill into a short blurb, but I shall try. From getting to know you as a summer intern, to having you on the MC, you have consistently been one of the hardest workers of the STANDfam I have ever met, bringing so much heart to the team, while also bringing your a-game sarcasm. I have loved getting to know you both as a friend and as a colleague, and getting to debate policy and campaign strategy with you over the years. You’ve been such a rock, and we’ve all come to rely on you so much, and I’m sure the new STAND team will also look to you for guidance during your limited times of internet access. I will really miss your thoughtful analysis of US foreign policy, your ability to roll out a policy brief in record-breaking time, and sharing laughs and eye-rolls over DC politics. Please know you always have a home in DC when you come visit. I can’t wait to hear your reflections from your time in Benin, and thanks for an amazing few years!

– Mac Hamilton, Executive Manager

Elisabeth Huh, Communications Coordinator, University of Chicago

Elisabeth2We are so lucky to have snagged you for your final year! We’ve loved your thoughtful contributions to MC calls, your “big vision” understanding of STAND, and your heart for both the team and the organization. You bring light and care to those around you and you operate with drive — traits that will take you anywhere you want to go after STAND. We can’t wait to see what you do next and will always be thinking of you!

– Savannah Wooten, Student Director

You are one of the most inspiring, driven, and beautiful people I have ever met – and that is no exaggeration. Talking to you about your high school, gap year, and college experiences left me absolutely mesmerized! I cannot believe that someone could have done so much so well; you have forever left an impact on my perspectives and thoughts. From listening to your TEDx talk (which is one of the most beautiful talks in existence) to hearing your voice and opinions on MC calls, your articulate and passionate words have made me think about different sides on many subjects. I am so thankful that I have been able to listen and learn from your inspirational words and gotten to work with your driven self. Organize the Midwest conference and hearing attendees’ reactions truly showed me your driven vision. All that you did, from getting food to getting the most amazing speakers, made that conference absolutely amazing for everyone. I am so honored that I got to participate in that with you. In that conference and numerous other times you have been the most beautiful soul and person I have ever met. Your way of interacting with people and talking to them is unbelievably kind and gentle. Your heart is truly made of gold and anyone who has met you could easily say that you are truly a beauty (inside and out) like no other! Thank you so much for talking to me and listening to my high school self and thank you so much for making me feel like even I had a place on a table of such intelligent and amazing people. You are truly the most inspiring, driven, and beautiful person I have ever met Elisabeth – thank you so much for being you!

– Harleen Kaur, outgoing Midwest Regional Organizer, incoming Field Organizer

It has truly been a privilege to work with you on the MC this year. You are such a kind hearted, compassionate person and it is evident in all the work you do. It was so much fun planning the conference at UChicago with you, and even though we didn’t think it would end up happening, it did! It was such a successful event and I was so proud of what you, Harleen, and I accomplished. Not only have you been an amazing person to work with, but your lighthearted spirit always makes for entertaining times. It has been so amazing working with and getting to know you this year. You have such great things ahead of you, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next!

– Ellen Bresnick, outgoing Midwest Regional Organizer, incoming Education Coordinator