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STAND Conflict Update: January 2024

Africa

Sudan

With the start of the new year, tensions between the government of Sudan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) remain high. While the paramilitary leader of the RSF has said that he is considering a ceasefire, a stalemate with the peace process remains as fighting continues in the region. In turn, Sudan has suspended its ties to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) due to the invitation of paramilitary leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo to an upcoming summit that seeks to mediate and bring an end to the conflict. This makes it more difficult to resolve the conflict, leading to a worsening humanitarian crisis as aid agencies scramble to find new routes from South Sudan to give aid to the affected regions despite facing attacks on workers and disease outbreaks. This stalling of deescalation is damaging to bringing peace and stability to Sudan and neighboring countries in the region.  

Tigray, Ethiopia

Although the pause on UN humanitarian aid was lifted in December, the resumption of aid has been slow and many people are still going hungry. Crisis levels of hunger are expected in Tigray and in other parts of Ethiopia according to the Famine Early Warning System. Already, nearly 400 people have died of starvation over the last few months while aid was suspended. This food insecurity directly stems from atrocities committed during the war. Government forces attacked food sources and weaponized starvation against the people of Tigray. They have yet to fully recover. Despite this, Tigray has seen relative stability since the peace agreement was signed last year and there has not been fighting.

Cameroon

Conflict has continued in Cameroon, without any significant escalations or progress towards peace. There have, however, been some efforts to improve the quality of life for Cameroonians. Notably, efforts to re-open schools in English-speaking regions have continued, with some secondary schools opening this month, continuing a trend of rising school attendance. There has also been an initiative to provide people with malaria vaccines, but it is unclear whether or not residents of English-speaking regions will have access to it.

Southwest Asia 

Yemen 

On January 26, Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a missile at the USS Carney, a United States warship cruising the Gulf of Aden, compelling the vessel to intercept the projectile. This attack was a major escalation in the biggest naval conflict the US Navy has seen in the region in many years. The Houthi missile strike on Friday night also caused another commercial vessel to catch fire. In retaliation, U.S. troops launched a strike near the port city of Hodeida against a Houthi anti-ship missile that was poised for launch into the Red Sea early on January 27th. The attack on the USS Carney signifies the first instance of direct targeting by the Houthis of a U.S. warship since their assaults on shipping commenced in October. 

The intensifying military standoff between the United States and Houthi militants poses a heightened risk of exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. In a nation where aid organizations were already grappling to address pressing needs, the potential consequences of this escalating conflict are particularly concerning. Yemen heavily relies on imports to meet the vast majority of its requirements for food, medicine, and fuel. Humanitarian groups express concern that the U.S. designation may jeopardize the fragile period of reduced hostilities and might encourage other nations to implement their own restrictions. This situation raises fears of further disruptions to the already challenging task of delivering essential aid to those in need.

Syria

Syria remains caught in the middle of a proxy war between Iran and Israel. Iran has claimed Israeli espionage and has retaliated by sending airstrikes that have killed four civilians. Turkey remains uncooperative in de-escalating violence as Turkish airstrikes in a recent series of overnight raids have destroyed 23 intended targets in Syria. Violence between Syria and the Islamic State has unfortunately increased as 14 Syrian soldiers have died due to an attack on an army bus in the Syrian desert. 

At least 10 civilians have died in the Syrian province of Sweida due to suspected Jordanian airstrikes. Jordan has made previous campaigns in Sweida to combat the drug trafficking in the region, but both Syrian and Jordanian civilians living near the border of the respective countries have come out and asked for a ceasefire. Jordan has not claimed involvement but is facing significant backlash due to the deaths of women and children.

Palestine

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to enact emergency measures to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians and prevent genocide. While it has yet to declare if genocide has occurred in Gaza, this is an important ruling that could serve to improve conditions for the numerous Palestinians under attack. An estimated 25,105 Palestinians have been killed and a further 62,681 have been wounded. Atrocities continue to occur, including an Israeli attack on a hospital serving as a shelter for 8,000 people in the city of Khan Younis. Last week, Israeli special forces infiltrated another hospital disguised as civilians and staff to kill three men. While Israel has claimed that Hamas is using hospitals as a cover for military operations, these attacks endanger civilians.

Despite this, peace talks are underway. U.S. officials have proposed an initial 30-day temporary ceasefire aimed at facilitating the release of remaining female, elderly, and wounded Israeli hostages. Subsequently, a second 30-day pause would be proposed for the release of Israeli soldiers and male hostages, coinciding with an increase in the flow of aid allowed into Gaza. The intention behind the cessation of hostilities is to create an opportunity for the negotiation of a more enduring, long-term ceasefire, but without a permanent end, violence may continue. Neither side can agree, as Hamas has rejected any deal that does not guarantee this permanent ceasefire and Israel has done the same for any deal involving a Palestinian state.

At the same time, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Finland have joined the United States, Australia, and Canada in suspending funding for UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine). The decision comes after UNRWA initiated an investigation into twelve staff members accused of participating in the October 7 attack led by Hamas, resulting in 1,140 casualties. Nine have since been fired, two are under investigation, and one remains unidentified. This funding pause is expected to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, as Palestinians have cautioned. Prior to the conflict, about half of Gaza’s population heavily relied on UNRWA assistance, which includes essential services such as education, medical care, support for local bakeries, and the operation of desalination plants to ensure access to clean water.

East and Southeast Asia

Burma

Conflict has continued throughout the month as ethnic resistance groups clashed with the Burmese military. The Araken Army claimed control over the town of Palewa near the border shared with India and Bangladesh, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army took over the town of Kokang in the northern Shan State. China managed to broker a temporary ceasefire on January 12 between Burma and an alliance of multiple armed groups, but issues arose. Both sides agreed to cease attacks, but fighting broke out again two days after the agreement was made.

The military junta has also faced backlash for not releasing a single political prisoner among the over 9,000 prisoners pardoned in celebration of Burma’s Independence Day. Experts have classified this move as an appeal by the Tatmadaw to promote progress, improve their image, and erase their injustices and crimes. This move was also heavily criticized by Burmese citizens as a political prisoner Ko San Lin San was beaten to death by the Tatmadaw and filmmaker Shin Daewe was sentenced as life-sentence on the grounds of terrorism.

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

On January 19, East Turkistan Genocide Recognition and Remembrance Day took place. The day serves as a day of remembrance for those persecuted in East Turkistan and to remind that the genocide of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples is still ongoing. Three years before, the United States formally recognized China’s atrocities committed against ethnic minorities in the region. Millions are still enslaved in ethnic cleansing concentration camps in inhumane conditions. They are forced to give up their entire cultural background and have had numerous violations of basic human rights, ranging from being forced to eat meat against their will to being subjected to forced sterilization, a measure in effect to essentially wipe out their population. Thus, this day is not only extremely important to honor victims in East Turkistan, but also to educate people across the world and encourage global support. 

North America

United States

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27, which commemorates the 79th anniversary of the Soviet army’s liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany released a demographic report that reveals there are 245,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors alive today – 16% of which live in the United States. Around 95% of survivors were children during the Holocaust who now range in age between 79 and 96. As the population of Jewish Holocaust survivors grow older, it is vital to preserve the history of the Holocaust by supporting legislation like the Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons Act (H.R.603) and state-level genocide education initiatives, such as the new bill proposed by Washington state (Senate Bill 5851). Adding to the urgency of this issue, the Anti-Defamation League has recorded 3,291 antisemitic hate incidents in the last three months alone, a close second to the amount recorded during the entire year of 2022. 

Additionally, the United States is considering expanding the Family Expedited Removal Management program, which rushes asylum-seeking families through the deportation process within a few days of arrival before they get a chance to get a lawyer, prepare their case, or present it properly. It is also a program of mass surveillance, requiring ankle monitors, curfews, and GPS tracking. This news is concerning for human rights, and comes at the same time as many politicians are calling for crackdowns on undocumented immigration. A group of 61 Republican members of the House of Representatives declared that they will not support any national defense spending bill without hardline immigration legislation including the return of the Remain in Mexico policy.

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Alishba Waqar is a senior at Westfield High School. They contributed to the Palestine and Yemen portion of this update.

Anika Gera is a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. She contributed to the United States and East Turkistan portion of this update.

Anne-Sophie Hellman is a senior at Buffalo State University majoring in History. She contributed to the United States portion of this update. 

Grace Harris is a junior at UCLA studying International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray portion of this update.

Jerry Harris is a graduate student at George Mason University in the Mass Atrocity and Genocide Prevention certificate program. He contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.

Mira Mehta is a junior at Brown University studying Economics and International & Public Affairs. She contributed to the Cameroon portion of this update.

Seng Hkawn Myitung is a junior at Albemarle High school. She contributed to the Burma and Syria portion of this update.

STAND Conflict Update: December 2023

Africa

Sudan

Throughout this month, tensions have escalated between Sudan’s military and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). International pressure has mounted with the United States State Department finding both sides of the conflict at fault for committing mass atrocities in the region. While this is an important step, it remains to be seen if any future actions will take place as a result of these findings. Heavy fighting also continues, and the RSF has taken control of the city of Wad Madani after previously being repelled after three days of fighting. This in turn has worsened conditions for civilian safety. The UN has reported that up to 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the city, previously a safe haven to escape from the violence. With the growing humanitarian crisis looming on and countless civilians with nowhere left to turn, the situation seems dire as the almost year-long conflict leaves the year off on a bleak note. An appropriate international response is needed to ensure safety and security as the new year begins anew.

Tigray, Ethiopia 

While the war has ended, instability is far from over in Ethiopia. The destruction of agricultural infrastructure, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and a recent drought and locust infestation have resulted in a famine in Tigray, although the Ethiopian government denies it. The lasting effects of conflict have brought about a humanitarian crisis. Aid from the US and UN is set to resume soon, and Ethiopia has mobilized to support people affected by the drought, but countless Tigrayans are still suffering.

Additionally, Tigray was not the only conflict that has affected the nation. The Ethiopian government is at war with the Fano militia in the Amhara region, and has used drone strikes indiscriminately. Over the past few weeks, drone strike attacks have increased, killing as many as 30-40 on December 10. Like in Tigray, this has been denounced as a form of collective punishment that harms fighters, civilians, and Amhara society as a whole. Many hope for an end to this conflict as well.

Cameroon

While there have not been any major updates in the direct conflict in Cameroon this past month, civilians continue to suffer the consequences of violence. The UN Office for Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs reported that 2.9 million people were affected by food insecurity and malnutrition between October and December of this year alone. Many civilians have been displaced by violence as well, including the destruction of homes in attacks last month. There have also been 142 cholera cases reported so far.

Southwest Asia 

Yemen 

Houthi forces have continued attacks on commercial ships bound for Israel, and leaders have pledged not to stop until a ceasefire is reached in Gaza. The US warned that a peace deal reached between Saudi and Houthi leaders would fail if these attacks continued. Then, on December 18, the US government announced Operation Prosperity Guardian, which will establish a multinational coalition to militarily counter Houthi operations in the Red Sea. The coalition includes Greece, Italy, the UK, and several other countries.

The Biden administration is considering easing restrictions on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. In 2021, President Biden had announced an end to support for offensive operations in Saudi Arabia, but may soon reverse this decision as a result of the reduction in violence in Yemen. It remains to be seen whether violence will escalate within Yemen given the recent increase in tensions with the US.

Syria

This year, 1032 civilians have been killed in Syria, 91 in the month of December alone. On one such instance on December 17th, seven were killed and twenty were injured in Idlib from a Syrian military bombing. Twelve years after the Syrian Civil War, the Internation Court of Justice (ICJ) has finally released information regarding the Syrian government’s torture program. The Court has ruled that the Syrian government must act to prevent the torture of detainees and cannot destroy any evidence regarding their unlawful acts and human rights violations. Desepite this ruling, torture remains a problem in the nation, as 133 of the 1032 deaths were caused by torture,

Despite ongoing need, the World Food Program (WFP) has announced that it will end its assistance program in Syria in January. This decision affects over 12 million displaced Syrian citizens who do not have a reliable food source. The WFP has claimed that this decision was made because of budget cuts, acknowledging that millions of Syrians would be harmed and food insecurity in Syria is at an all-time high. Simultaneously, the World Health Organization (WHO) has strengthened its health responses in northern Syria due to the rise in military attacks and public health emergencies. 

Palestine

December 7th marked two months since the beginning of escalated violence in Gaza. The temporary pause in fighting put in place at the end of November has also ended. More than 100 Israeli hostages are still believed to be in Gaza. Israel recently admitted to mistakenly shooting three hostages while in Gaza. In this time, more than 20,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed by the Israeli military, including 8,800 children. An additional 55,000 people have reportedly been injured in the attacks.

The UN has found that about 1.9 million people, over 80% of Gaza’s population, have been displaced since violence escalated. It has also declared Gaza to be the most dangerous place for journalists, as at least 64 have been killed in this period. The UN also finds hospitals in Gaza to be unsafe, as they are often occupied by military soldiers. While Israel has begun to allow aid into Gaza through inspected trucks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed that the war will be a long fight. 

The global response to the conflict has begun to shift slightly. Recently, US officials have begun to apply more pressure on Israel in response to mass civilian death. Officials continue to meet with Israel to plan for the future of the conflict. However, the US vetoed a recent UN resolution of immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and the UN Security Council has delayed votes for further resolutions. They hope to gain US support on future votes, in place of the previous veto.

East and Southeast Asia

Burma

Due to recent losses in the Shan state and ethnic resistance groups, the Burmese military junta has responded by hoarding mass imports of diesel to maintain military operations, worsening the country’s fuel crisis. Many fuel stations across the country have run out of supply while many citizens and cities face regular power shortages. 

China remains a powerful influence on the coup as it was able to force the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) to agree to a ceasefire regarding their seizure of Tatmadaw posts along the Chinese-Burmese border. The junta has recently strengthened their relationship with China as the Chinese government has cracked down on border cities like Kokang and communication has increased between Burma and Russia. Despite this ceasefire, the Three Alliance Brotherhood has urged the nation to continue to resist junta efforts

The UN has reported that the coup and civil war has displaced more than 2.6 million people, a number that grows daily as fighting increases in regions like Loikaw, Khampat, and Laiza, with increased attacks near the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) headquarters in the latter city.

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

 In the month of December, the United States has barred imports from three more Chinese companies associated with Uyghur forced labor and other Chinese minorities: COFCO Sugar Holding, Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group, and Anhui Xinya New Materials. These companies will be added to those prohibited by the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA Public Law No. 117-78). Their addition will bring the total number of companies on the list to 30. In response, the Chinese Embassy has called this an action based on lies and said that the United States is curbing Chinese development and undermining the stability of the region of East Turkistan (Xinjiang). It’s extremely important to both recognize the United States’ efforts regularly in calling out the crimes against humanity in the East Turkistan region, as well as understanding and recognizing Chinese attempts to deny such allegations.

Earlier this month, representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., warned of a trade policy loophole which could potentially make the United States complicit in the Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in East Turkistan. Blumenauer, a highly respected human rights advocate of a House Ways and Means Committee, alerted that there is a loophole in the de minimis threshold allowing for the import of packages valued at 800 dollars or less to enter the U.S. These imports undergo a simplified inspection where no fees or taxes are paid, resulting in the selling of forced labor goods to U.S. consumers. Closing enforcement gaps is crucial in order to reinforce the rights of those being persecuted, as well as identify the wrongdoings of the Chinese government.

North America

United States

December 9 memorialized the 75th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as well as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and the Prevention of this Crime. To commemorate the anniversary, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released a press statement announcing that the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury have imposed sanctions on thirty-seven perpetrators of human rights abuses in thirteen countries, including China, South Sudan, and Syria.

Regarding US laws and policies, several notable events have taken place over the last month. On November 29, the Uyghur Policy Act (H.R. 2766) passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This action will allow the United States to respond more effectively to the persecution of the Uyghurs in East Turkistan, China. The Texas Supreme Court, however, has ruled against a woman seeking an abortion for an unviable chromosome disease. This ruling comes a week after her request was granted by a district court. With regards to abortion rights nationwide, the Supreme Court plans to hear a case regarding mifepristone, the most widely-used abortion medication in the country. Banning or restricting it would drastically limit the ability of people to get abortions, even in states without anti-abortion policies. In better news, it declined a case challenging a ban on gay conversion therapy, a decision that was opposed by right-wing judges Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. However, 75 anti-lgbt bills were signed into law this year, a concerning statistic in an increasingly hostile country. This is a precarious situation for anyone who isn’t a straight, white, cisgender man.

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Anika Gera is a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. She contributed to the United States and East Turkistan portion of this update.

Anne-Sophie Hellman is a senior at Buffalo State University majoring in History. She contributed to the United States portion of this update.

Grace Harris is a junior at UCLA studying International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray portion of this update.

Jerry Harris is a graduate student at George Mason University in the Mass Atrocity and Genocide Prevention certificate program. He contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.

Krisna Kumar is a senior at Friends School of Baltimore. She contributed to the Palestine portion of this update.

Mira Mehta is a junior at Brown University studying Economics and International & Public Affairs.  She contributed to the Cameroon and Yemen portions of this update.

Seng Hkawn Myitung is a junior at Albemarle High School. She contributed to the Burma and Syria portions of this update.

STAND Conflict Update: November 2023

Africa

Sudan

Fighting has escalated further in the region with Sudan’s military and the Rapid Support Force (RSF) battling for control. Most of the recent fighting has taken place in the Darfur region and near the capital city of Khartoum. This genocide has left more than 9,000 people dead and 5.6 million people displaced within the last seven months. It seems to be following similar patterns to the Darfur Genocide in the early 2000s. As the RSF makes rapid gains, civilians continue to be caught in the crosshairs. The UN has denounced atrocities committed against Darfurians as pure evil. With the recent rise in escalation of the conflict, the United States and others have renewed calls to end the fighting and restart peace talks. Hopefully tensions can calm and lead to negotiations, which are vastly needed for the country and those affected by the violence.

Tigray, Ethiopia

November 2 marked one year since the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front signed a peace agreement. Despite this, many human rights abuses have continued, committed by neighboring Eritrean forces, the Ethiopian military, and Fano militias. Mass killings, sexual violence, and the ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans have been significant atrocities in the nation. In the region of Amhara, a state of emergency placed the region under military control, blocked internet access, banned public gatherings, and allowed for searches and arrests without a warrant. It has yet to be lifted.

Although USAID suspended food aid to Ethiopia last March, it has recently reinstated it for a one-year trial period. It plans to monitor the program to prevent further theft and corruption, the cause of their initial suspension. Over 20 million people were in need of aid in the nation in 2023 because of conflict. Although the new program does not begin until December, it will hopefully make a difference.

Cameroon

Violence in Cameroon has continued without any progress towards peace. On November 6, a group of anglophone separatists carried out an attack in Egbekaw village in the western region of the country. The government reported that 25 people, including one child, were killed. No group officially claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government has accused the Manyu Unity Warriors. Separatists carried out a second attack on a market in a French-speaking area on November 21. They reportedly kidnapped 10 civilians in addition to looting and burning down businesses. The UN has called for the release of these villagers, but there have not yet been any more updates.

Southwest Asia 

Yemen 

 The Houthis in Yemen have continuously shown their opposition to the Israeli government. They have joined in the conflict in retaliation for the Israeli army’s bombardments of Gaza. On November 27th, Houthi forces fired two ballistic missiles towards a US warship carrying phosphoric acid, but the missiles landed in the water. The week before, on November 20th, the Houthi forces seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship, taking 25 crew members hostage. According to Houthi rebels, any ship belonging to the Israeli government will be targeted until the end of Israel’s campaign against Hamas. The Houthis have warned ships flying with the Israeli flag in the Red Sea, indicating that their ships are possible targets of violence.

Due to these actions, there are increased fears of the Israel-Hamas conflict widening, worsening violence in already war-torn Yemen. Responsive US or Israel strikes are likely to activate global involvement. Further provocations could possibly close Yemen’s ports to international shipping, putting immense pressure on the Yemeni people with the ongoing crisis of food insecurity and malnutrition. Their attacks may threaten the possibility of a new peace agreement with Saudi Arabia and there is pressure to redesignage them as a terrorist group, which would further hinder any deals.

Syria

A recent hearing in the International Court of Justice has found the Syrian government guilty of torture and declared that it must end the practice and work to protect the rights of civilians. France also issued arrest warrants for President Bashar al-Assad and three other important government officials for their use of chemical weapons, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Accountability is important to prevent further atrocities.

Additionally, conflict has continued this month. ISIL, also known as ISIS, still has a strong presence in the country and killed at least 30 soldiers in the military and pro-government militias. Both the United States and Russia are involved in the conflict as well, sending airstrikes and bombs. Tensions remain high throughout the country, and experts worry that conflict could escalate. 

Palestine

Qatar mediated a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, which lasted only through November 30. As part of this agreement, Hamas released more than 100 hostages, and Israel released more than 200 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons. Approximately 100 hostages have yet to be freed, while about 1,800 Palestinians are still held in Israel without charges or a trial. Part of the deal also detailed that humanitarian aid including food, water, and fuel are allowed to enter through Gaza’s ports.

Despite this progress, some violence continued during the ceasefire. Israel accused Hamas of violating the agreement. Israeli forces, however, also continued attacks in the West Bank and even killed at least eight Palestinians there during the ceasefire. They also warned people not to return to Gaza and opened fire on people who attempted to do so. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to continue attacking Gaza following the ceasefire, and violence is likely to escalate. The conflict has already killed approximately 1,200 Israelis and 15,000 Palestinians, and displaced over 2.3 million Palestinians.

East and Southeast Asia

Burma

As U.S. lawmakers continue to delay the finalization of the 2024 budget, the matter of U.S. humanitarian aid to Burma has been delayed until early 2024. Lawmakers are planning to pass a short-term resolution that would run until early 2024 that would fund the BURMA Act and other policies, but many activists are concerned that the delay and the lack of bipartisan communication may jeopardize the effectiveness of the BURMA Act. While the US has yet to do so, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, and Canada have joined the genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that accuses Burma of committing genocide against the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance, an ethnic resistance group, has launched dozens of coordinated attacks on military outposts in the northern part of the Shan state after capturing the border town of Shwe Haw. The alliance continues to gain ground and the junta has responded by sending fighter jets to bomb the areas reclaimed by the alliance, admitting that they are facing heavy assaults from anti-coup groups. This fighting in the Shan state has left 70 casualties and many residents have found themselves in a humanitarian crisis as resources decrease and environmental conditions worsen with heavy rain and a 5.7 magnitude earthquake.

As fighting on the border between the Chin state and India increases as well, many Burmese people have fled to India to escape the intense conflict. Resistance groups have taken over many towns and more than 100 security outposts from the Burmese military. However, as the situation calmed, over 5,000 people  were able to return to Burma. In an update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of November 9th, almost 50,000 people from the northern part of the Shan state have been displaced due to the escalating conflict between the junta and the resistance groups. An additional 40,000 people from the Sagaing region and Kachin state have been displaced as well. 

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

This month, the historic 9th East Turkistan General Assembly concluded on a positive note in Washington D.C. The assembly discussed many ideas regarding the strengthening of the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE), and how the national independence of East Turkistan can be secured. Emphasis was placed on the goal to strategize practical measures of addressing the ongoing genocide against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic peoples. The assembly ended with new government leadership, including a new president and a 4 year strategic plan to advance East Turkistan’s cause for national independence. A 12 point Declaration was also adopted, focusing on the key resolutions of the ETGE and calling for the East Turkistan Diaspora and community to support the struggle for independence, providing necessary hope for the recognition of the crimes against humanity committed against Turkic peoples, and the sovereignty of the East Turkistan region.

The United States recently made the decision to lift the authority from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science in Beijing. This is extremely concerning as the IFS was previously removed from the U.S. entity list mid-November, prompting worry over involvement in national security and human rights. Although the United States has stated that the delisting of the IFS does not correlate to the removal of sanctioning, critics voice their dismay over the IFS genetic research targeting Uyghurs. Although more information is yet to come, more awareness must be raised over the safety of the Uyghur people as the intentions of the IFS are unclear and China has explained the move as a counternarcotics effort.

North America

United States

In November, many people celebrated Thanksgiving, while others marked the day as the National Day of Mourning to remember the genocide of Indigenous peoples by European colonizers. This is a day of protest and remembrance and draws attention to false narratives about peaceful pilgrims that are often shared on the holiday.

Within the United States, other human rights abuses have taken place as well. The UN Human Rights Committee has criticized the country for recent discriminatory legislation targeting members of the LGBTQ community by restricting access to gender-affirming care, preventing transgender people from joining sports teams or using bathrooms that align with their gender identity, banning books, and censoring classroom discussions. 

Since violence in Israel and Palestine escalated in early October, there has been a spike in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate incidents in the United States. Notably, three 20 year-old Palestinian college students were shot while they were walking before a Thanksgiving dinner in Burlington, Vermont. The shooting is being investigated as a likely hate crime.

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Alishba Waqar is a senior at Westfield High School. She contributed to the Yemen and Palestine portions of this update.

Anika Gera is a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. She contributed to the United States and East Turkistan portions of this update.

Anne-Sophie Hellman is a senior at Buffalo State University majoring in History. She contributed to the United States portion of this update.

Grace Harris is a junior at UCLA majoring in International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray and Syria portions of this update.

Jerry Harris is a graduate student at George Mason University in the Mass Atrocity and Genocide Prevention certificate program. He contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.

Mira Mehta is a junior at Brown University. She contributed to the Cameroon portion of this update.

Seng Hkawn Myitung is a junior at Albemarle High School. They contributed to the Burma portion of this update.

STAND Conflict Update: September and October 2023

Africa

Sudan

Since the start of the war in April, fighting has continued between Sudan’s military and the Rapid Support Force (RSF), a rival paramilitary group. This has resulted in a humanitarian crisis that has displaced five million people who have fled to neighboring countries. The United States has imposed sanctions on the RSF due to human rights abuses and pledged $163 million dollars in aid to help with responding to this crisis. Not only has violence engulfed the region, but disease has also been spreading to fleeing communities. In the eastern part of Sudan, cholera and dengue fever outbreaks have been spreading due to overcrowded conditions in refugee camps. This has put a strain on resources, making the need for humanitarian aid even greater.

Humanitarian aid workers have described relief work amidst the conflict as planning for the apocalypse as more armed groups have joined the conflict and violence has spread to other parts of the country, exacerbating existing problems. Because of this, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to investigate any human rights abuses in the country. As the conflict reaches its sixth month, peace talks are still on the table to resolve the conflict and end the violence despite existing tensions. Both the Sudanese military and the RSF have once again began negotiations. There have been nine previous ceasefire agreements, but all have failed to end the conflict. There are still fears of this one being broken as the RSF claims to have taken control of Sudan’s second largest city and recently seized an airport as well. Nonetheless, it is a positive sign.

Tigray, Ethiopia

Nearly a year after the war ended, atrocities are still taking place in Tigray. The UN has found that the Ethiopian government failed to protect Tigrayans from violence and human rights abuses at the hands of militia groups and Eritrean troops who have yet to leave the country despite the demands of the ceasefire agreement. This heightens the risk of further conflict, particularly since all eight of the most common genocide and atrocity risk factors are present in Ethiopia.

Despite this, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) was not renewed by the UN for this year. Members of the investigation emphasized the importance of further work in the region, particularly since conditions have declined since the ceasefire.

Furthermore, Tigray remains in desperate need of aid. Around 5.4 million people out of the region’s total population of 6 million require humanitarian assistance, which was suspended in March. While corrupt officials conspired to steal grain, leading to the implementation of this policy, it has only put vulnerable people at risk of starvation.

Cameroon

In September, the Cameroonian military conducted a raid that killed a separatist leader and four collaborators and displayed his body in a public square. Some separatist leaders claimed that government troops were also killed during this raid, though official government sources deny this. In the aftermath of this incident, violence has continued, including separatists’ execution on October 4 of two civilians accused of being spies.

On October 6, US Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas announced that the US would extend and redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Cameroonians. This status allows people to legally live and work in the US for a specified time period, typically while they are fleeing a crisis. Approximately 2,000 Cameroonians have already been granted TPS and will be able to stay in the US until June 2025 due to this extension, and an estimated 8,000 more will now be able to apply for TPS.

Southwest Asia 

Yemen 

Talks and negotiations in Saudi Arabia have sparked hope for a lasting ceasefire. According to the U.S. Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, significant developments have been made over the last few weeks between the Houthi delegation and Saudi Arabia, with both sides meeting in person to discuss the war. With 18 months of relative de-escalation and no cross border attacks, Lenderking is hopeful that the decade-long conflict might come to an end. While each side has different objectives, their continued negotiations following the official end to the truce are a good sign.

However, tensions with neighboring countries could pose a problem for this peace process. On October 27th, a Houthi drone injured six people in major explosions, hitting two Egyptian towns. According to US officials, this drone was meant to target Israel. This runs the risk of trapping Yemen in yet another cycle of conflict that could cause the war in Yemen to pick back up. Further involvement in other wars runs the risk of provoking retaliatory strikes from the US and its allies as well. 

Syria

In Aleppo, Arab tribesmen briefly took control over two villages in a stand against the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Ongoing tensions and conflict have resulted in 45 casualties since the latest outbreak of violence, including civilians and children. A camp for internally displaced people (IDP) was also shelled by Syrian forces, killing two. This is the latest in a string of attacks on IDP camps

In a graduation ceremony at a military college in the Homs province, a drone attack killed 100 people and left 240 more victims wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. The attack has been perceived as a significant blow to Syria as attacks continue to target the northwestern provinces of Syria. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for immediate de-escalation and continues to urge them to follow UN Security Council resolutions. Conflict has also continued throughout October, with attacks by the Syrian and Russian governments killing 65 civilians and injuring 265 more. This is the most intense military escalation in nearly three years.

In response to the current political situation, hundreds of Syrians protested in southern Syria urging President Bashar al-Assad to step down, most notably in the government-held Sweida. The protests were initially driven by the war-torn country’s surging inflation and worsening economy, but have quickly shifted to call for the al-Assad government to step down. These protests have quickly turned violent as at least three protesters were wounded amid gunfire. 

Palestine

On October 7th, Hamas launched a massive assault in Southern Israel, one of its deadliest assaults in years. An estimated 1,400 people were killed in the attack and 242 were taken hostage. So far, only 4 have been released and 1 has been rescued. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas, beginning renewed attacks in Gaza. On October 9th, the Defence Minister of Israel announced a total blockade of Gaza, blocking all access to electricity, food, water, gas, and other essentials. 

The blockade is enforced and thoroughly monitored by Israeli tanks and drones at the Gaza-Israel border fence. Although some relief vehicles have been allowed to pass the Rafah crossing, UN representatives stress that considerably more aid is required to address basic human requirements. Gas for backup generators, which power incubators and other vital equipment, has been scarce in hospitals due to Israel’s blockade on fuel deliveries to Gaza, forcing the region’s lone power plant to close.

The humanitarian crisis in Palestine is rapidly aggravating an already dire situation as Israeli airstrikes and lack of necessities increase the death toll. With almost 2 million civilians populated in a 139-square-mile territory, the Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. According to The Gaza Health Ministry, the death toll among Palestinains has passed 7,000. Furthermore, Israel has ordered the evacuation of 1 million people in 24 hours from northern Gaza. As they evacuated, 70 were killed in Israeli airstrikes. Both the blockade and Israeli siege of the region are still in effect now. 

East and Southeast Asia

Burma

Over the last few months, the Burmese military junta has targeted medical facilities and staff in rural areas with airstrikes and raids. It has attacked medical facilities using a map of public hospitals and clinics it created in 2019, and according to recent investigations, has destroyed all but one in a specific area of the country affected by fighting. Additionally, at least 29 people were killed and 59 people were injured in a military raid at an IDP camp, a camp for internally displaced people, in the Kachin state. As the death toll of anti-junta soldiers rises, these attacks have been condemned by the U.S. State Department.

The United Kingdom, Canada, and Taiwan have condemned Burma for the recent purges on political opponents as well. As Burma prepares for next year’s elections, many experts have criticized these actions and its plans to tightly control elections as a way of getting rid of potential rivals and maintaining control over the public. The U.S. has also approved an additional $116 million in humanitarian aid for Burma, Bangladesh, and surrounding regions to support Rohingya refugees who have fled Burma. 

After a failure to implement the five-point consensus plan to end the crisis in Burma, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has condemned the continuation of violence in Burma. The nation will now be barred from high-profile ASEAN events because of its continued attacks on civilians and lack of compliance with the agreement. A spokesperson from the junta has rejected the statement from ASEAN, claiming that its perspective was not taken into account when drafting the consensus. Burma was originally slated to chair the 10-member regional grouping meeting in 2026, but the other regional leaders have now agreed that the Philippine would assume that role instead.

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

The 74th anniversary of China’s invasion of the East Turkistan region was condemned on October 12th by many Uyghurs advocating for the national sovereignty of the people of East Turkistan. The region is still struggling to restore equity and freedom, and it is important to recognize the false statements China continues to release about the situational aspects of the institutions which Uyghur muslims are being forced into. The East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) continues to call for international recognition of the East Turkistan region and the genocide still taking place there.

Additionally, a document written by a senior Chinese official was recently released, stating that Dr. Rahile Dawut, a Uyghur professor and ethnographer, had been sentenced to life in prison on charges of endangering national security. She went missing in 2017 and is just one of the many Uyghur Muslims who have been subject to unjust maltreatment by the Chinese government. Her story represents the ongoing struggle of the Uyghur Muslims, as well as other Muslim ethnic minorities who strive to protect themselves, their families, and their cultures.

The Chinese government continues to violate international human rights and conceal this oppression by labeling camps as vocational education and training centers. Uyghur inmates at Keriye Prison in East Turkistan (Xinjiang) China have been forced into labor in poor conditions for long hours in fields and factories. While the Chinese government claims that these work programs are economically beneficial, they only further the exploitation of the Uyghur people. The abuses of Uyghur Muslims in the Keriye Prison are part of a wider scale of abuses in East Turkistan that are still denied by China.

North America

United States

Gun violence continues to run rampant in the U.S. with 587 mass shootings taking place so far in 2023. Continued shootings across the country only spark up more debates about gun control and gun violence across the country. The 500th mass shooting was marked in the Gun Violence Archive after a deadly shooting in Denver, Colorado occurred, leaving four wounded and a fifth victim later discovered. Another attack in Lewiston, Maine left 18 dead and 13 injured in the deadliest shooting in the entire history of the state. 

Jewish and Palestinian communities in the United States are grieving the monumental loss of civilian lives in Israel and Palestine following escalated violence and renewed global attention to the conflict. Social tensions, political divides, and misinformation have grown exponentially in the wake of this catastrophe. According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic hate incidents are already at a three-year high. Additionally, the FBI reported 158 Islamophobic and 92 anti-Arab hate incidents in 2022. This month, Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian Muslim boy in Illinois, was murdered during a hate crime that also severely injured his mother. Peace organizations like Solutions Not Sides are urging people to be mindful of rhetoric that fuels antisemitism and Islamophobia when addressing current events. 

In other news, President Joe Biden requested around $14 billion of military aid for Israel and allocated $100 million of humanitarian aid for Gaza. Representative Cori Bush and others introduced a Ceasefire Now Resolution. However, the United States vetoed a resolution for a ceasefire at the United Nations Security Council. Amid nationwide protests, Jewish Voice for Peace staged a rally at the National Mall and a sit-in at the Capitol to express solidarity with Palestinians. Two Israeli-American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan, were the first to be released by the terrorist group, Hamas, while above 200 people remain in captivity. 

~

Alishba Waqar is a senior at Westfield High School. She contributed to the Yemen and Palestine portions of this update.

Anne-Sophie Hellman is a senior at Buffalo State University majoring in History. She contributed to the United States portion of this update. 

Anika Gera is a junior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. She contributed to the East Turkistan and United States portions of this update.

Grace Harris is a junior at UCLA majoring in International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray, Ethiopia portion of this update. 

Jerry Harris is a graduate student at George Mason University in the Mass Atrocity and Genocide Prevention certificate program. He contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.

Seng Hkawn Myitung is a junior at Albemarle High School. They contributed to the Burma and Syria portions of this update.

Mira Mehta is a junior at Brown University studying economics and international & public affairs.  She contributed to the Cameroon portion of this update.

STAND Conflict Update: Summer 2023

Here at STAND, we operate on a school-year based schedule. While we aren’t active during the summer, important events related to genocide, mass atrocities, and human rights still take place across the world. Because of this, the Managing Committee has worked on a mini summer update on our four priority regions: Burma, Yemen, East Turkistan, and the United States. Starting next month, we will return to our regular conflict update schedule!

Burma

June

The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on the military junta’s defense ministry, the state-owned Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB), and the Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (CICB), accusing them of spending over one billion dollars on natural resources, arms, and oil from Russia. In response, its spokespeople have claimed that the U.S. is doing this to create political and economic problems for the nation. These sanctions have been applauded by opponents of the junta’s regime, many of whom have called for imposing additional sanctions on Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) because the company continues to fund and support the junta.

At the same time, fighting between the junta and resistance fighters has left at least 26 civilians, including 6 children, dead. More than a hundred soldiers marched into Mobye, a group of villages in a predominantly-Karenni minority region, and arrested over 100 residents. Many were detained and released after a few days, but others were shot in their homes or caught in the crossfire. The junta continues to remain silent on the release of any information about the fighting in Mobye.

Additionally, it has blocked humanitarian aid from reaching those recovering from Cyclone Mocha in the Rakhine state. Many Burmese aid workers believe that this is politically-motivated. The blockage of this aid has made it difficult for aid workers to properly access damage, and they believe that the junta weaponized the cyclone to further bolster their control over minority ethnic groups. During the storm, it provided minimal notice or support for the evacuation of the 600,000 Rohingya detained in the region.

July

Over the month, the EU has continued to place sanctions on Burma’s ruling junta. This is the seventh round of sanctions imposed by the EU, and it has banned travel and frozen the assets of six individuals and the state-controlled No. 2 Mining Enterprise (ME 2).

Violence has continually been increasing in the Mindat area of the Chin State as well. The Mindat Chinland Defense Force has sent out warnings to civilians regarding military airstrikes. They have advised civilians against gathering in large groups and encouraged them to build bunkers and shelters for protection. This comes at the same time as attacks in late June and throughout July, where multiple villages in the Chin State have been targeted. Due to this ongoing conflict, over 1.5 million internally displaced persons have been recorded during this two-year period. Countless people have faced atrocities such as the burning of villages and food sources as well, leading to these high rates of displacement.

August 

Early this month, deposed leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint were granted a partial pardon by the ruling military junta, although both remain in prison. However, the nation has once again postponed elections and extended the state of emergency, claiming that ongoing violence necessitates it. The National Unity Government, a group that claims to be the legitimate government of Burma, has said that this reflects the military’s lust for power and has called for revolutionary action.

Additionally, August 25 marked six years since the Rohingya Genocide began. Thousands of refugees rallied in honor of International Rohingya Genocide Rememberance Day to draw attention to this ongoing crisis. Nearly 740,000 Rohingya were forced to flee the country when conditions escalated and the former Burmese Government began the genocide. Six years later under new military rule, little has changed. The junta has continued persecuting minority groups still in the country and refugees live in uncertain conditions with recent cuts to food aid. Still, there is hope for peace and stability.

Yemen

June

Conflict between pro-Yemeni government forces and suspected al-Qaeda forces left three people dead in southern Yemen, reflecting the ongoing tensions in the nation’s civil war. Despite this, there is a general trend towards reconciliation. Saudi Arabian and Houthi forces agreed to exchange the bodies of dead fighters on both sides, and flights between Yemen and Saudi Arabia are now allowed. This comes after a series of peace talks to end the eight-year conflict and seems to be a step in that direction. 

However, in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, seventeen people were detained because they belonged to the minority Baha’i religion after a peaceful meeting was stormed by security forces.The Houthi have labeled the detainees as religious traitors and have called for their deaths unless they convert. Multiple other arrests have been made regarding hate speech and violence towards the Baha’i minority since this occurred, and the UN has denounced this persecution.

July

Throughout July, diplomatic efforts continued to reconcile Saudi Arabia and the Houthis. Since the truce expired last October, Yemen has been in a stalemate. Neither side seems inclined to compromise, although hostilities have decreased greatly. While those in power negotiate, the people of Yemen continue to advocate for peace. Over 40 Yemen-based organizations co-signed the Yemen Declaration for Justice and Reconciliation, highlighting the atrocities civilians have faced during the conflict and calling for accountability, reparations, and survivor-centered justice.

August

Negotiations between Yemen’s pro-government forces, the Saudi Arabian-led coalition that backs them, and the Houthi rebel group have continued with little change. Continued instability only serves to hurt civilians and promotes extremist groups. While these conflicting sides are willing to negotiate, there are no direct plans yet for lasting change. 

As these peace talks take place, another mass atrocity has been reported in Yemen. Over the last year, hundreds of Ethiopian migrants have been killed by Saudi Arabian border guards as they tried to cross over from Yemen. Many Ethiopians migrate for economic reasons, while others are refugees fleeing the conflict in Tigray and other human rights abuses. While it is not yet clear if these systematic murders are official Saudi policy, they have been internationally denounced.

East Turkistan 

June

Temu, a Chinese e-commerce and fast-fashion site, has been found to be linked to forced Uyghur labor in East Turkistan. Multiple products sold on Temu were made in factories in East Turkistan or with cotton from there. Despite the sanctions imposed by the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, companies like Temu and Shein have found a loophole because they fall below the $800 minimum value that requires them to report to US Customs and Border Protection.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and endorsed China’s treatment of the Uyghur people, claiming that it is countering terrorism and extremism. This statement was heavily criticized by human rights activists and organizations for delegitimizing the severity and existence of the Uyghur genocide. A representative of the Arab League has also recently visited Beijing and praised the Chinese government for their work in East Turkistan. Many human rights experts believe that this is just more propaganda spread by the Chinese government.

Additionally, a group of human rights organizations have sent a joint letter to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to address China’s human rights violations, particularly concerning the Uyghur people, ahead of his visit to Beijing. The letter calls for a new approach and recommends supporting international investigations, releasing human rights defenders, seeking accountability for detained family members of U.S. citizens and promoting press freedom. 

July

On Wednesday July 5, the 14th anniversary of the Urumqi Massacre, the East Turkistan National Awakening Movemen organized a protest outside of the White House to draw attention to China’s continued genocide against the Uyghur people. Protesters chanted “time to stop the genocide” while carrying the flag of East Turkistan. Later this month, the World Uyghur Congress released a statement commemorating the victims of the Yarkand Massacre of July 28, 2014. The Yarkand Massacre resulted in the death of over 100 Uyghur people during a peaceful rally in Yarkand County in China at the hands of Chinese security forces. It was the bloodiest act of violence committed against the Uyghur people since the Urumqi Massacre of 2009. The World Uyghur Congress continues to urge governments and other human rights groups to work together to combat the Uyghur genocide.

Around the same time as these protests, China started a 100-day “Strike Hard” campaign against the Uyghur people in East Turkistan. Within these 100 days, the authorities will be cracking down on gatherings of more than 30 people, raiding people’s homes, and restricting Muslim and Uyghur cultural practices. Chinese authorities claim that this is just a part of regular action to combat illegal activities, but many human rights activists and Uyghur people living in East Turkistan that this campaign is just another effort to persecute the Uyghurs.

Efforts to prevent the use of forced Uyghur labor have increased in multiple countries as well. Canada has launched an investigation into Nike Canada and Dynasty Gold after a coalition of human rights groups filed claims that they used Uyghur forced labor. In response, Nike issued a statement saying they no longer have ties to the companies accused of using forced Uyghur labor, and one of Dynasty Gold’s chief executives called the report completely false. In Germany, Volkswagen has also agreed to complete an independent audit of their East Turkistan plant in China after pressure from human rights groups. To expand on previous sanctions, the US has reintroduced the Sanctioning Supporters of Slave Labor Act in Congress, a bill that would expand sanctions to include foreign companies that conduct business with companies known to contribute to human rights violations against the Uyghurs in East Turkistan.

August

On August 26, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech in Urumqi, the capital of East Turkistan, where he emphasized the government’s priority to maintain social stability in the region through hardline policies. He also highlighted the Chinese government’s efforts to “sinocize” Islam and called for further anti-terrorism efforts in East Turkistan. These policies have actually worked to persecute the Uyghur people, criminalizing and erasing their religion, language, and culture. 

President Xi Jinping has also called for more tourism in East Turkistan as China reopens to tourists after the pandemic. In response to this, many Uyghur activists and organizations have condemned the Chinese government. They stress to western tourists that casual tourism in East Turkistan normalizes Uyghur oppression. Multiple travel companies offer tours of the Id Kah mosque, where Uyghur Muslims are banned from prayer, the Xinjiang Regional Museum, which has been criticized for erasing history, and cities that host Uyghur detention centers.

Earlier this month, China invited leaders from multiple countries to promote tourism in the region as well and has increased its efforts to promote a happy image of East Turkistan. While the consensus of the visit was that no forced labor or human rights violations were taking place, Uyghur human rights groups have claimed that this was a propaganda tour. Diplomats and ambassadors were shown a version of East Turkistan that aligns with China’s narrative, and each was from a country that has strong economic ties to China and little incentive to criticize it.

United States

June

Since the expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to force immigrants back across the border to Mexico, other restrictions on immigration have been instituted by the Biden Administration. The Pathways Rule requires migrants to apply for an asylum appointment and wait in the country they traveled through– a practice that has been challenged by civil rights groups for violating the right to claim asylum on US soil. At the same time, anti-immigrant sentiments remain high with calls to end birthright citizenship, stop a perceived “invasion” of migrants, and finish building a border wall by Florida Governor and Presidential Candidate Ron DeSantis.

Additionally, the state of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States is concerning. The Human Rights Campaign has declared a state of emergency in the country because over 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone. The Supreme Court has also ruled that businesses are allowed to discriminate based on religious views. On a more positive note, it also reaffirmed the rights of Indigenous children to stay with their tribes by upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act when it was challenged in a lawsuit.

July

A new immigration program has been put into place that will allow more South American asylum-seekers in Mexico to come to the United States as refugees. Although these migrants must go through a long and challenging process to prove that they were persecuted in their home countries, this program is an important step that will put many on the path to legal residency and citizenship. Additionally, refugee admissions in general have been on the rise in the US, with over 38,000 people admitted in 2023 so far. While this is higher than previous years, it is still far from the goal of resettling 125,000 people.

Additionally, the US House of Representatives passed a controversial defense spending bill this month. Alongside funding for the military, House Republicans added amendments banning flying the pride flag at military bases, ending funds for transgender healthcare in the military, cutting Department of Defense diversity, equity, and inclusion plans, and revoking a previous policy that offered time off and travel reimbursement for military members who have to go to another state to get an abortion. This bill is not yet law since it has to pass the Senate as well, and it has been met with resistance from Democratic members of Congress.

August

Although abortion rights continue to be under attack at the state level across the country, the Texas abortion ban has been temporarily lifted because it prosecuted doctors for performing abortions during medical emergencies. However, similar lawsuits in South Carolina and Nebraska failed, leaving the respective six-week and twelve-week abortion bans in place.

There are also over 30 new laws targeting LGBTQ rights in the classroom that have come into effect as the new school year started. Policies include book bans, idea censorship, requirements to out students to their families, restrictions on what pronouns teachers and students can use, and more. Because of policies like these, as well as bans on gender-affirming healthcare, Canada recently issued a travel warning for members of the LGBTQ community who plan to visit the United States.

The Ukraine Effect on Refugees Worldwide

On February 24 2022, Russia launched an attack on its neighboring country Ukraine. This tense war has continued for over a year, resulting in airstrikes and bombings on both sides. Over 9,000 civilians have died in Ukraine and even more have been displaced. Around 6 million people have been displaced within Ukraine and 8 million refugees have left the country. Yet still, 17.6 million still need aid within the country. The world has opened its doors to help Ukraine in many ways. Whether it be supplying weapons or economic boycotts on Russia, democratic countries across the globe rushed to aid the small country. 

As the world scrambles to help Ukraine, many have noticed a so-called Ukraine Effect. The effect is two fold. On one hand, countries began to focus more efforts and aid to Ukraine, while on the other, taking aid away from other countries. In Europe, Ukrainian refugees have gained access to health care, education and job opportunities while the repatriation of refugees from Syria and other Middle East countries has been instated. Recently, Hungary offered aid to around 600,000 Ukrainian refugees, but expelled thousands of Syrian refugees. Syria has been at war for 11 years and donors are losing interest in the cause while they rush to help Ukraine. This can be seen within UN funding as Ukrainian aid is 78% funded while Syrian aid is only 47% funded. While some tie the suddenness of Ukraine’s war to the amount of aid, other countries have also been suddenly thrown into peril. Afghanistan underwent a sudden dramatic change in 2021, yet aid is only 59% funded. These slashes in funding have real time effects. Food rations have been instituted in Yemen, a nation already dealing with famine and food insecurity. Somalia almost declared an official famine in 2022 with 7.8 million people in crisis levels of hunger and 700,000 starving in 2023. Despite this, the UN received only 57% of the 2.3 billion dollars of aid requested, and the money came in late.

Other problems have also been heightened because of the war in Ukraine. Russia has fueled another global food crisis by driving up prices and wheat supplies. This affects countries in the Black Sea and worsens problems in Yemen and Somalia. Additionally, as Russia causes inflation in countries like Lebanon and Turkey, it takes away from their spending to Syrian refugees.

While Europe has accepted the most Ukrainian refugees, other powerful countries’ treatment of refugees has been brought to light.  Within the US, there is discrimination against refugees, especially from South America. The number of people displaced by the Venezuelan refugee crisis is very similar to the amount of refugees from Ukraine, at 6.8 million refugees and migrants. However, in 2022 the $1.79 billion regional response plan was less than 14% funded by the time that the $1.85 billion Ukraine regional plan was 62% funded. Despite this, the conflicts between Ukraine and Venezuela do have stark differences. While Ukraine’s refugee crisis appeared suddenly and in the face of a war, Venezuela’s crisis developed over years and has been affected by many factors, not just war. Venezuelan refugees leave because of a lack of food and medicine and an increase in violence and death, all worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, many refugees do not get the help they need in the US because of the politicalization of the issue. 

Migrants and refugees are being used as political stunt props as they are sent on buses from state to state. While President Biden extended Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan refugees in 2021, the project is still very underfunded. 

Going forward, the US must work to depoliticize the issue of immigration and refugees. Countries across the world must work to help refugees from all countries and follow through on their promises.

Ultimately, the Ukraine Effect demonstrates the need to reform systems of global aid and assistance. It should go beyond temporary food provisions that can be taken away if funds are reallocated and center long-term goals like building infrastructure, making transportation accessible and strengthening equal education systems. Long-term aid must focus not only on providing necessities, but also providing training and opportunities to empower those who need it.

~

Krisna Kumar is a senior at Friends School of Baltimore. She is interested in human rights and diplomacy and has been a member of STAND’s Yemen, Burma, United States, and East Turkistan action committees since last spring.

 

STAND Conflict Update: May 2023

Northeast Africa

Sudan

May marked one month since fighting began in Sudan. Since the latest escalation in April, this conflict has left approximately 550 people dead and more than 4,900 people wounded. The Khartoum region has faced a plethora of bomb explosions and air raids, including a school in Darfur that was burned down. The UN refugee agency stated that the number of people seeking refuge in another country due to conflict will reach 860,000 people. 

Additionally, in response to the conflict, the World Health Organization provided 30 tons of medical supplies to Sudan. This is one of the first shipments to arrive in Sudan since the fighting began. The WHO plans to send more shipments to Khartoum in order to supply hospitals with adequate resources to respond to the fighting as soon as it is able to get the clearance to do so. Likewise, other countries have been making an effort to provide humanitarian assistance to Sudan.

While the situation seemed to be improving as negotiations between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took place, agreeing on a week-long ceasefire, both sides seemed to ignore the agreement and continued fighting. On May 31, the last day of the month, Sudan’s army withdrew from the agreement, citing this ceasefire violation and criticizing the RSF for their lack of commitment to negotiations. 

South Sudan

Tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in Sudan have entered South Sudan. With little infrastructure to support them and interethnic tensions already high, this has created fears about how sustainable this will be in the future. Already, there have been interethnic conflicts over limited resources, which have further displaced people. In addition, because South Sudan has historically relied on trade with Sudan to support its economy and to provide important supplies, the war has led to a spike in food prices, making resources even more scarce and inaccessible. While violent incidents have occurred at a relatively small scale thus far, there are concerns that they might escalate. South Sudanese officials have helped to mediate conflict in Sudan, but during this time, peace talks within the country have not made any progress. The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan has warned that the country is behind in the peace process and in achieving the goals of the transitional government, including writing a new constitution. More economic support and political progress will be necessary to prevent larger ethnic conflict.

Tigray, Ethiopia

May 2 marked six months since the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and began working towards lasting peace. While significant progress has been made so far, there are still complications, particularly regarding the involvement of the neighboring Eritrean military. While both signing parties agreed to the removal of Eritrean troops months ago, they have yet to withdraw. This is a major point of contention due to the atrocities they committed against Tigrayan civilians during the war on the side of the Ethiopian government. Recently, thousands of people protested in Tigray to demand the withdrawal of all foreign troops. They also sought to aid the return of those displaced by two years of conflict.

Humanitarian aid access has also been made more difficult by these tensions. Early this month, both USAID and the World Food Programme ended food shipments to Tigray after discovering they were being sold on the black market instead of given to those most in need. There are still 20 million people in need of humanitarian aid in the region, and conditions will likely worsen as a result of this. Furthermore, remaining Eritrean forces blocked a United Nations humanitarian mission from entering a village in Tigray. Locals reported that atrocities are still being committed by the Eritrean military, adding to the urgency of their withdrawal. Aside from blocking humanitarian aid, they continue to commit rape and sexual violence and destroy local infrastructure. Eritrea’s government denies any involvement.

Central Africa

Cameroon

On May 20, Cameroon observed National Unity Day. While some people saw the occasion as a chance to celebrate peace and come together, conflict between anglophone separatists and government forces has continued with little interruption or progress towards peace. The same day, thirty elderly women who had protested the taxes separatists placed on residents of the predominantly English-speaking Northwest region were abducted. The women were released three days later after experiencing torture. This came after 50 women had been abducted, beaten, and released on May 19. Civilians have also faced violence at the hands of government forces. Those who have reported on the conflict have been arrested, with some even dying while in custody. Despite claims of unity, the divisions and violence remain.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

While violence has been ongoing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the region was also recently swept up in a deadly natural disaster. Around 400 people were killed in floods that affected much of East Africa, including the DRC, which has hampered aid efforts. These events, including a recent attack by a rebel group that killed 17, make the violence seem everlasting as people continue to be displaced, still have no access to food, and remain exposed to many diseases with little healthcare services.

Despite this, the DRC has registered around 43.9 million people to vote in the upcoming election in December. Opposition groups have complained about irregularities in polling and led protests against the government. Hopefully change can take place as a result and bring about a lasting peace in the region.

Southwest Asia 

Yemen

Procedures to remove 1.1 million barrels of oil from a deteriorating tanker anchored off Yemen’s coast will begin soon, according to the UN. The tanker may release four times the amount of oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez catastrophe off Alaska, according to U.N. authorities, putting the Red Sea and Yemen’s coastline at risk. With Yemen’s ongoing humanitarian crisis, oil leaks or an explosion could cause a significant environmental catastrophe. The Houthis currently control the region where the tanker is docked and view the oil as a possible resource.

Despite this, progress continues with Yemen’s ceasefire agreement. The UN has noted that all sides seem willing to participate in the process and important gains have been made, although 21.6 million people are still in need of humanitarian aid. While the war seems to be over for now, this has not ended human suffering in the country. The Houthis continue to target the Baha’i community, a religious minority group in Yemen, and recently detained and disappeared 17 Baha’is  who were meeting at a community gathering. This is just the latest move in a history of persecution.

Syria

Israel’s air strikes have recently targeted the international airport in Aleppo. This attack killed one Syrian soldier and put the airport out of commission. This is a harmful development, as the airport has been crucial in efforts to bring in humanitarian aid during the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Syria in February. Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks on Syria in the hopes of stopping Iranian influence on other countries. 

Turkish intelligence has also claimed to have killed Abu al-Hussein al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS. Syria and ISIS have not commented, but Turkish occupation in Syria continues despite the tension between the two countries. This comes at the same time as Russia, Turkey, and Syria are holding talks in Moscow and all sides are striving to work with each other. 

Palestine

Israel is responsible for the deaths of five members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) in an explosion in eastern Lebanon, close to the Syrian border. Unnamed Israeli sources, however, claimed to news organizations that Israel was not responsible for the attack. Israeli officials, the Lebanese army, and the Hezbollah organization, which is sponsored by Iran, all remained silent. There were conflicting accounts from Palestinian and Lebanese sources that the explosion was caused by mines going off while being relocated or by an outdated rocket exploding in an armaments storage.

Additionally, for the first time in history, the United Nations commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the mass displacement of Palestinians during the construction of the modern state of Israel. This is an important step of global recognition, particularly as violence continues in Gaza, putting countless civilians at risk. The UN has condemned this as well. Israel called for its allies to boycott this event, and the US was one of a few countries that did not attend.

East and South Asia

Burma

As violence in Burma has increased, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have become increasingly concerned that their efforts to control violence have been ignored by the country’s military-led government. On May 9, the military used a vacuum bomb in an air attack that killed more than 160 people in the Sagaing region. The junta continues to blame independent resistance groups, yet their destruction and violence has increased and they are now targeting smaller villages and community centers. Members of organizations like Human Rights Watch say that this is more proof that other countries need to impose stricter sanctions and cut off funding for the junta’s arms and jet fuel.

Cyclone Mocha also has increased the need for humanitarian aid in Burma. Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state and home to many Rohingya, has been badly damaged. Many homes have been destroyed and countless people have been displaced as numbers continue to rise. Both the total damage and aid needed are hard to evaluate because of the sheer destruction of the cyclone.

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China) 

This month, human rights groups reported that Abuduwaili Abudureheman, a Uyghur scholar born in East Turkistan, went missing after arriving in Hong Kong. In his last known encounter, Abudureheman was reported to have texted his friend that he was being questioned at the city’s airport. In an announcement last Tuesday, Amnesty International noted that he was accounted for, reiterating that while he was actually safe in this case, they will continue to do all they can to support those who believe their loved ones are in danger of human rights violations. Notably, the announcement contradicted previous accounts in reporting that Abudureheman didn’t voluntarily travel to Hong Kong, contributing to the unusual circumstances surrounding his disappearance. 

In response to the ongoing genocide in East Turkistan, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party held two panels. The first panel recorded first-hand testimonials from survivors of camps in East Turkistan, while the second one was composed of experts on the subject. Drawing upon testimonials from both panels, the Committee provided legislative recommendations for Congress that include putting sanctions on tech companies using Uyghur forced labor, restricting investment from American actors towards sanctioned Chinese companies, strengthening US-funded groups like Radio Free Asia that report human rights violations in East Turkistan,  eliminating alleged loopholes in the Uygur Forced Labor Prevention Act. While the report advises action, it is worth noting that the bipartisan committee of 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats is unable to draft or amend laws to be voted on by Congress. 

Kashmir

India, the host of the G20 Summit this year, plans to host the summit in Kashmir. China has chosen to boycott the summit, as Chinese representatives have spoken and said that they refuse to participate in any event in the disputed territory. 

At the same time, rebels opposing Indian rule in Kashmir killed 5 soldiers in a recent altercation with the military. This is one of the major attacks that has happened in Kashmir in the past two weeks, and security has been heightened due to the upcoming G20 Summit. India has claimed that Pakistan is training rebels while Pakistan has not responded to these claims. In response, the Indian army killed 2 rebels in Kashmir and continues to watch over Kashmir. The National Investigation Agency of India has also ramped up their searches and efforts to dismantle rebel groups. More than a dozen raids have been conducted in the Agency’s increased terror efforts to prevent rebel sympathizers.

North America

United States 

May has seen a wave of transgender healthcare bans in various states. Texas passed a bill that banned transgender medical care for youth, including hormone, puberty, and surgical treatments. Children that are already getting these treatments may continue but are required to slowly stop these forms of treatment eventually. This bill drew outrage from many, inspiring protests. This is the largest transgender ban for youth in the US. Similarly, Nebraska also passed transgender health bans for youth. This bill bans surgeries for trans youth starting on October 1. Nebraska also passed an abortion ban that limits abortions after 12 weeks. North Carolina overrode its governor’s veto of a similar law and continued a 12 week abortion ban. While the ban is now in place, the override had a very slim majority in the state legislative body. 

There have also been freedom of speech concerns after Montana banned the use of the social media platform TikTok. Many constitutional researchers and TikTok users believe this ban is unconstitutional as it impedes on free speech. Some TikTok users even sued the state because of the ban. The predicted conclusion of the lawsuit is unknown. 

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election. His actions as governor concern many human rights activists. His previous bills include a six week abortion ban, the creation of a low threshold for death penalty sentences, lessened gun control, and a ban on sexual orientation and gender identity education in elementary and middle schools. 

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Alishba Waqar is a junior at Westfield High School. She contributed to the Yemen and Palestine portions of this update.

Allison Weiner is a sophomore at DePauw University majoring in Global Health, and minoring in Peace and Conflict Studies. She contributed to the Sudan portion of this update. 

Grace Harris is a sophomore at UCLA majoring in International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray portion of this update.

Jerry Harris is a recent graduate of George Mason University with a BA in Psychology. He contributed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo portion of this update.

Krisna Kumar is a junior at Friends School of Baltimore. She contributed to the United States portion of this update.

Mira Mehta is a sophomore at Brown University. She contributed to the South Sudan and Cameroon portions of this update.

Robert Liu is a junior at Durham Academy. They contributed to the East Turkistan portion of this update.

Seng Hkawn Myitung is a sophomore at Albemarle High School. She contributed to the Burma, Syria, and Kashmir portions of this update.

Solidarity and Action for MMIWG2S

Today, May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People. Often abbreviated as MMIWG2S, this day is a solemn remembrance of the countless Native people who have been harmed by gender-based violence. Statistics show that four in five Native women have experienced some form of violence in their lifetimes and are murdered at a rate ten times higher than the national average. In 2021, 5,203 Indigenous women were reported as missing by the FBI National Crime Information Center. Young women are primarily targeted, but cases of missing and murdered Indigenous members of the LGBTQ+ community are often underreported.

However, the real human impact goes far beyond statistics. Every day, another Indigenous woman goes missing. Families and communities are torn apart when they lose someone they care about. It is devastating to lose a friend, relative, or community member. Countless Native women across generations have grown up with the fear that they could be assaulted, kidnapped, or murdered simply for being an Indigenous woman. Even young girls are aware of the danger they are in. For them, MMIWG2S is impossible to ignore, yet much of the rest of the country pays little attention to it.

Canada has recognized the crisis of MMIWG2S as a genocide, but the US government has yet to do so. Systemic state violence and the legacies of colonialism and gendered colonial oppression all work to perpetuate this crisis. Institutions that claim to protect the people, such as the police, the legal system, and the entire federal government, fail to do so, and often are active perpetrators of violence. Proportionately, Native people are killed by police more than any other group. They face racist, discriminatory courts when trying to get legal justice for their relatives and community-members, and MMIWG2S are given little media attention.

MMIWG2S is a continuaion of the initial genocide and settler colonialism that founded the United States centuries ago. Since the late 15th century, Indigenous people have been attacked, killed, enslaved, stripped of their lands, forcibly sterilized, sent to reservations and residential schools, and forced to abandon their culture. Today, the legacies of this injustice are ongoing. Voting rights restrictions, the building of environmentally-destructive pipelines in sacred lands, and attempts to overturn policies like the Indian Child Welfare Act all serve as extensions of colonial violence. MMIWG2S exemplifies this along multiple axes of oppression. Colonial racism and gender-based violence intersect to create this crisis. It is not simply violence against women or Native people, but specific violence targeting Native women at the intersections of these identities, along with queer, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit people who also face gender-based oppression. 

It is clear that action is needed. Here at STAND, we stand in solidarity with the Indigenous communities working to protect themselves from systemic racist violence and honor the memory of all MMIWG2S. This list of resources provides hotlines for Indigenous women and all people experiencing violence, relevant government reports and scholarly articles, and a list of organizations currently taking action. You can also attend one of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center’s virtual events today to learn more or take action to support Indigenous women here. If you want to learn more about the work that STAND does to address atrocities against Indigenous communities, you can sign up for our United States Action Committee here.

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Grace Harris is a second-year International Development Studies major at UCLA who serves as the United States Action Committee Lead for STAND. She is also an Education and Outreach Co-Lead. This is her third year on STAND’s Managing Committee.

STAND Conflict Update: April 2023

Northeast Africa

Sudan

On April 15, violence broke out in the cities of Khartoum and Obdurman in Sudan. The fighting is ongoing, and has killed more than 420 innocent civilians so far, with one being a United States citizen. According to a Sudanese medical group, there has been a significant amount of destruction done to the city of Khartoum. Civilians who have been affected by this fighting are still trying to flee and reach safety. There were several ceasefire attempts made three separate times, all of which have failed. 

Disagreements between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are the reason for this violent outbreak. While the leaders of the two forces united in 2019 to overthrow Omar al-Bashir, the former dictator of Sudan, there were power struggles after the fact when Sudan decided that it was going to form a new government that involved both civilians and military officials. Eventually, the goal was to create a government that was fully run by civilians. Instead, the army and RSF broke out into conflict because of disagreements over which military branch was going to lead the government. As a result of the attack, all United States military and government employees have been evacuated from the country, and there has been no breaks in the conflict since it began.

South Sudan

On April 24, approximately 10,000 civilians fleeing the escalating conflict in Sudan arrived in South Sudan. While the majority of these people were South Sudanese, many Sudanese refugees were included among them as well. This influx of people represents one of many ways South Sudan will be impacted by violence in Sudan. South Sudan’s oil industry, which is a key component of the country’s economy, relies on a pipeline that runs through Sudan. The industry is already struggling due to infrastructure challenges, and further pressure could have serious humanitarian and political consequences. In addition to this, the transitional government in place in South Sudan remains fragile, and Sudanese leaders have helped to mediate conflicts and preserve unity in the past. These leaders will likely be unable to fulfill the same role while embroiled in their own conflict, which creates new risks and challenges in South Sudan.

South Sudan continues to experience violence and challenges to governance within the country as well. In recognition of this situation, the UN Human Rights Council renewed the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan on April 3, despite protests from the government. This is meant to provide greater accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, though it is unclear how this will happen without support from the government.

Tigray, Ethiopia

Despite an official end to the war and the commitment of both sides to the peace agreement, many Tigrayans are still reckoning with the aftermath of the conflict and atrocities they faced during it. Over the last three years, 380,000 civilians and 253,000 military forces were killed, tens of thousands of women were raped, and millions of people were cut off from food and other necessary resources due to the blockade. Countless people have come forward to share their stories about the atrocities they were subject to at the hands of Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. Despite these horrors, many are optimistic that change is possible.

There have been multiple important developments in Ethiopia’s peace process this month. First, schools in Tigray have begun registering students in preparation for the upcoming school year. This is the first time classes will have been held in the region in three years. Administrators plan to start classes on May 2, and are offering remedial education to help students make up for the last three years. This, alongside the reinstitution of communications, banking, and transportation, are all good signs for a lasting peace. Many prisoners of war have also been released in recent weeks.

Central Africa

Cameroon

Fighting between anglophone separatists and government forces has continued with little sign of ending. There has not been any further news about the peace talks Canada offered to help mediate at the beginning of the year, nor has there been significant progress on their business development initiative. In fact, government officials recently announced that their initiative to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by conflict over the past several years would need $100 million to be invested in addition to their original $150 million plan. While some projects have been successful, progress has been very slow, in part due to the fact that conflict is ongoing.  Officials have specifically accused separatists of seizing construction materials and attacking workers, citing this as the main cause for the delay.  Separatists have been known to justify the use of guerrilla tactics as a necessity against a more powerful army, though they have not commented on this particular situation.

At the same time as this conflict continues within the countries, civilians in Cameroon also face danger from cross-border attacks by militants, mainly members of Boko Haram, in the Central African Republic and Nigeria. In response to a spike in this violence, the government of Cameroon announced that it would redeploy troops to the border to help protect civilians.  It remains to be seen what this change in military resource allocation will mean for the course of conflict with anglophone separatists and for civilian trust in government.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Violence continues to be prevalent and tensions still remain high between rebel groups and the government of the DRC. In one week, the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamic militant group, killed over 30 people in one attack and killed 22 people in another. This cycle of never-ending violence continues to traumatize the people of the DRC. Recently, reports have shown that at least 60 people have been killed by the M23 rebel group. This makes it all the more imperative to have these groups withdraw in order to fully investigate the atrocities they have committed and to provide aid to those who have been in the crossfire of this conflict.       

Southwest Asia 

Yemen

Yemen is currently at a crucial point in the peace process. Although the truce between warring sides in the conflict expired six months ago, critical progress is still being made. This is the longest period of peace in the nation since the war began eight years ago. Airports have reopened, food and fuel continue to flow into ports, and recently, 900 prisoners on all sides were released following a series of negotiations. There is still a lot that needs to be done to help the people of Yemen, who continue to suffer from the effects of years of war and a humanitarian crisis, but many remain optimistic that lasting peace is possible.

In Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, at least 78 people were killed and dozens more were injured in a crowd surge on April 19. This occurred during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan as people were receiving charity handouts from local merchants because someone was shooting in the air, causing panic among the people. A bullet hit an electrical wire, which fell on the ground and caused electroshocks. The tragedy was Yemen’s deadliest in years, even though it wasn’t directly correlated with the conflict in Yemen. Due to a lack of basic necessities, such as water, healthcare and education, the people of Sana’a found themselves desperate for a small amount of money, making violence and chaos occur. 

Syria

On April 25, Turkish, Russian, Iranian, and Syrian defense ministers and intelligence chiefs met in Moscow to discuss potential peace talks to rebuild relationships after years of war. While no definitive actions came from these talks, they were considered constructive and were an important first step for later action. All four countries reiterated their desire to preserve Syria’s original territory and the need to intensify efforts for the speedy return of Syrian refugees to their country. Syrian officials have reiterated that peace talks between Ankara and Damascus can only come after the removal of Turkish troops along northwest Syria.

Palestine

 On April 24, thousands of Israelis and Palestinians came together in a joint memorial ceremony to honor and remember the victims of the conflict. This was a powerful show of solidarity despite opposition from right-wing counter-protestors. While the Israeli government attempted to ban Palestinians from joining this memorial ceremony, this was overturned by the Supreme Court.

This show of peace comes at the same time as escalating violence in Jerusalem, a significant Muslim, Jewish, and Christian holy city. At the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, Israeli authorities made overnight worship illegal and banned many Palestinians from entering to pray. While people were praying inside the mosque earlier this month, police forces attacked them, injuring 12 people, arresting 400 others, and using violent force to stop further people from worshiping. Since then, retaliatory violence has erupted, with armed groups in Gaza and Lebanon sending rockets towards Israel and Israel carrying out airstrikes in both regions. In response to this, the UN has reaffirmed its calls for peace, declaring that the international community needs to strengthen Palestinian institutions and work towards a two-state solution.

East and South Asia

Burma

On Tuesday, April 11, the military junta bombed the Kant Balu township in the Sagaing region, killing around 100 people. The Nation Unity Government’s Ministry of Labour described the attack as a war crime. The military junta has not commented on the attack. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, in a statement responding to the attacks, condemned the junta’s actions and reassured that the United States would continue to support Burma through the UN Security Council, other UN member states, and other partners like ASEAN.

Violence between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the junta has increased this month as the KNLA attacked military outposts and more than 80 people have died in Shwe Kokko. Some 10,000 Burmese people have fled to Thailand to escape fighting between the military and KNLA since the start of increased conflict at the beginning of this month. A singular monastery holds almost 500 refugees as the humanitarian crisis worsens, and is now reported that 1 in 3 Burmese persons are in need of humanitarian aid.  

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

Since June of last year, the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA) has been in effect in order to ensure that products imported by the US are not made using forced labor in East Turkistan. However, a recent review by Reuters shows that the crackdown on imports from East Turkistan has harmed manufacturing in Vietnam, which depends on China for imported materials to make apparel and footwear. Due to Vietnam’s reliance on cotton textile materials from China, this could lead to difficulties in complying with the UFLPA affecting the nation’s trade with the US.

As a way to promote tourism in East Turkistan, a Chinese advertisement featured a Uyghur woman dancing in a mosque. Many Uyghurs in the diaspora have condemned this as an act of desecration. It is particularly noteworthy that this video took place during the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims, who have been persecuted by the Chinese government for their religion in the region. This is seen as a way for the Chinese government to erase and diminish their culture and language, turning important cultural and religious traditions into ads with no understanding of their history and importance.

Kashmir

A court in the Pakistan controlled region of Kashmir has recently removed a local leader and protégé of Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan from office because he made public remarks insulting judges. Another one of his allies was elected to this post as a replacement. Since his removal from power last April, Khan has remained outspoken about the current government.

While these internal disputes have been going on, violence has surged in Kashmir as five Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush near the Line of Control that separates the Indian and Pakistani controlled regions of Kashmir. They were killed in an ambush by a rebel group opposed to Indian control and oppression. At the moment, tensions remain high.

North America

United States 

Gun violence continues to run rampant in the United States, with a recent spree of shootings of people who accidentally walked up to the wrong house, made a U-turn in the wrong driveway, got in the wrong car, lost a ball in the wrong yard, argued with the wrong neighbor, and brought an instacart delivery to the wrong address. Very little change has been made to address this culture of violence in the name of self-defense.

Despite this, there have been some recent positive developments in the US legal system. First, neither Nebraska nor South Carolina was able pass a statewide abortion ban due to the abstention of a single vote in Nebraska and the efforts of five women to filibuster in South Carolina. Both states have a Republican majority, yet were unable to garner enough votes for an abortion ban. Despite the ongoing destruction of reproductive rights in the United States following the overturning of Roe V. Wade, this is an important move that will protect the rights of countless women and all people who can become pregnant. Additionally, Tennessee– a state that recently banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth– is currently being sued by the US Justice Department for this law. The Justice Department has declared that no person should be denied medical care for being transgender, and that this policy violates the equal protection clause of the US Constitution. If the lawsuit goes through, this could be a landmark case amidst the hundreds of proposed laws aimed at the destruction of trans rights.

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Alishba Waqar is a junior at Westfield High School. She contributed to the Yemen portion of this update.

Allison Weiner is a sophomore at DePauw University majoring in Global Health, and minoring in Peace and Conflict Studies. She contributed to the Sudan portion of this update. 

Grace Harris is a sophomore at UCLA majoring in International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray, Palestine, and United States portions of this update.

Jerry Harris is a recent graduate at George Mason University with a BA in Psychology. He contributed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Turkistan, and Kashmir portions of this update.

Mira Mehta is a sophomore at Brown University. She contributed to the South Sudan and Cameroon portions of this update.

Seng Hkawn Myitung is a sophomore at Albemarle High School. They contributed to the Burma and Syria portions of this update.

April 2023 Lesson Plan: East Turkistan

STAND’s Education team, with the help of the East Turkistan Action Committee, has put together a lesson plan that includes resources and activities designed to introduce students to key concepts relating to the East Turkistan priority area and the ongoing atrocities against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic groups there. STAND encourages advisors and chapter leaders to adapt the plans to your own context, and do what works best for their members.

Download the lesson plan here

April 2023 East Turkistan Lesson PlanApril 2023 East Turkistan Lesson PlanApril 2023 East Turkistan Lesson PlanApril 2023 East Turkistan Lesson PlanApril 2023 East Turkistan Lesson Plan