The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Goodbye, grads! | Class of 2022 Farewell

The 2021-2022 STAND Managing Committee is so grateful for the wonderful team we had this year, notably our two graduating seniors: Aisha and Jordyn! As two longtime STAND members, we are constantly in awe of their dedication and passion, and cannot wait to see what else they’re able to achieve. Thank you for your wonderful presence with STAND! We’d like to wish you well with a proper send-off.


Aisha Saleem (co-Yemen Lead and University Outreach), Barnard College

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Aisha, where do I even begin? You are such an incredibly smart, funny, and kind person, and I am so lucky I’ve gotten to work with you and have you as my co-lead. The first time I ever spoke to you, you immediately offered to help me with the college application process. You are always helping somebody and checking in with us, and that generosity and supportiveness is what makes STAND feel like such a family. When we work on issues as heavy as we do, it’s important to be able to bring joy to the experience too. Watching you come up with creative ways to take action and call out companies is always a treat. You are our Spotify, meme, and STEM queen, and this will truly not be the same without you. As much as I’ll miss you, though, I am so proud of you and can’t wait to see what you do next. Congratulations! –Mira Mehta, Policy and co-Yemen Action Committee Lead


Aisha!! Bestie!! I have loved every moment of working as your outreach co-lead. You taught me everything I know about my role, and I really don’t know where I’d be without you. You’re so kind, so smart, and are always doing so many cool things. Go off woman in STEM!! Your classes sound terrifying to me but it’s so impressive. I love your creative ideas, and your dedication to STAND’s projects and campaigns. You’re literally so cool and so fun to spend time with. It’s so sad to see you go, but I know you’ll do great things in the future!! You 100% have to keep us all updated with how your life is going, I know you’ll do great!! -Grace Harris, co-Outreach and co-Fundraising Lead


Aisha, I’m so unbelievably proud of you and everything you’ve accomplished in the three years I’ve worked with you. Gillibrand LobbyWhen I joined the MC, you were the very first person I ever worked with, and I will never forget how welcoming you were. You are honestly one of the best people I’ve ever met, and I feel honored to know you and call you a friend and STAND colleague. Thank you for all of the hours of effort and energy you’ve put in to this organization since you were a high schooler- I can truly say that STAND wouldn’t be where we are today without you and your contributions. You are leaving such a legacy, and I can’t wait to see all you will accomplish in the chapters that lie ahead. Thank you for being my STAND Sister and for always giving 100% to this team– we love and appreciate you more than you know! -Claire Sarnowski, co-Fundraising and State-Level Genocide Education Lead


Image from iOS (15) (1)I can’t imagine a Managing Committee without Aisha! I’m so proud to have worked with you these three years in all of your roles. You have been incredibly reliable and a great team player. You always have a joke and a kind word for every member. I know you made all of the new recruits, chapter leaders, and Yemen Action Committee members feel welcome and empowered to grow in their activism. You always have a new idea to create more impact, and I’m sure you’ll be successful in whatever sciencey role you land!

-Laura Strawmyer, Program Director

 

Jordyn Galvan (SAL Lead, co-Policy Lead, Communications), Texas State University 

unnamedOmg Jordyn!!! My fellow STAND member tragically stuck in a southern state. I still can’t believe you already graduated back in December and am so so happy you stayed on with us for the rest of the year!! You’ve been doing so great with leading the SALs, and absolutely killing it with the graphics! I always look forward to collaborating on a project or even just talking and hanging out!! I, and everyone else here, will miss you so much, but I know you’re going to do great!! Please keep us updated about your life, you’ll do amazing things I’m sure of it! -Grace Harris, co-Outreach and co-Fundraising Lead


Jordyn, I am so grateful for the time we were able to spend together on the STAND MC. It has been a pleasure working with you, and I am going to miss you so much!! You brought amazing ideas to the MC, and everything you said was always so insightful. Thank you so much for always coming through with the graphics for various STAND events because I am so bad with technology lol. I really hope we are able to meet in-person someday!! Stupid covid lol. I know that you are going to flourish with whatever you decide to do after college. Again, thank you so much for just being you, and I feel so fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to work with you. Please stay in touch!! -Allison Weiner, co-Burma and co-East Turkistan Action Committee Lead


Screen Shot 2020-08-03 at 4.38.02 PMJordyn, I can not even begin to express how much you have impacted my life and so many others through your advocacy work. Whenever I need motivation or am in a space where I forget why I do this work, I always look to you. You have taught me what it means to be passionate about what you do and for that I will forever be grateful. My favorite memory of us is when I asked you to speak on the Indigenous Peoples’ Day panel and you just went above and beyond and brought together so many voices to make that event so impactful. I think about instances like that and just am in awe of how you are able to go above and beyond for everyone. Your compassion and love has taught me to be kind to everyone but most importantly, it has taught me how much potential I have to make change especially if I have the passion. -Ishreet Lehal, co-United States Action Committee and co-Education Lead


4You are truly a one-of-a-kind soul, and we’ve been so lucky to have your voice these last two years. Thank you for taking on so many different roles and finding all the *intersections* among them. You have shaped forever how STAND will work on domestic issues, especially Indigenous rights, as well as our social media standards and color theory! You always show up fully in every (virtual) room you are in, and I feel like I’ve known you in person for years. I’m sure we will cross paths again, and I can’t wait to follow your journey!  -Laura Strawmyer, Program Director

Genocide Declarations: Burma and East Turkistan

By Grace Harris, Mira Mehta, and Allison Weiner, members of the Managing Committee


As Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month comes to an end, it is important to continue to recognize ongoing genocides, the progress that has been made to oppose them, and the work that remains to be done. While many individuals have recognized genocides going on around the world, it is often a long and difficult process for the United States and other governments as well as international bodies like the United Nations to recognize something as a genocide. When they do so, however, they give greater attention to the situation and provide a pathway for greater action. There have been two notable declarations in the past year. Learn more about definitions for different atrocity crimes in STAND’s FAQ.

Burma

After many years of advocacy from Rohingya groups and other Burmese activists, the United States government formally declared on March 21, 2022, that the Myanmar military’s actions against the Rohingya people amounted to genocide. In 2017, Myanmar’s military began a crackdown against the Rohingya people, an ethnic and religious minority in the Rakhine state. In the first month alone, 6,000 people were killed. Since then, violence has only continued, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Many Rohingya refugees are living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh without access to adequate resources. Food, education, health care, and other crucial services are inaccessible to most of the Rohingya people still living in the Rakhine state, who continue to face violence from a military that has only been emboldened since they took power in a coup in February 2021. The genocide declaration is meant to put pressure on the military, but the U.S. cannot end its support for the Rohingya people there. Taking more concrete action through policies like the BURMA Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives, can help build on this momentum and limit the power and resources the military has to continue to oppress the Rohingya and other Burmese people.

East Turkistan

The atrocities committed against the Uyghurs by the Chinese government have gained a lot of attention in recent years. On January 19 of last year, the United States government officially declared that this crisis is a genocide and called upon the Chinese government to put an end to it. The Uyghurs have faced a history of brutal oppression where they have been labeled terrorists for their religion, faced mass surveillance programs, and been forced into camps for “re-education” and cultural destruction for so-called suspicious behavior. Forced sterilization, imprisonment, deportation, and labor are all ways in which the Chinese government has attempted to destroy the Uyghur population over the last few years, with a major crackdown beginning in 2017 that has its roots in historical oppression since the beginning of the People’s Republic of China itself. This crisis has received international condemnation, and within the U.S., policies have been passed such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of 2021 and the Uyghur Human Rights Act of 2020. By rightfully labeling this what it is, a genocide, the U.S. has taken another important step forward in helping the Uyghur people and ending the injustice enacted upon them.


To advocate for continued action in these and other regions, join an Action Committee.

STAND Conflict Update: February 2022

East and Southeast Asia

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet may visit Xinjiang, China, as long her team does not call for an investigation based on “prejudices” and other “uncalled for accusations,” which the Chinese government rejects. Several human rights groups have denounced China’s treatment of Uyghurs, including forced labor, concentration camps, and other human rights violations. As such, Bachelet has been wanting to delve into these occurrences in Xinjiang for much of her tenure. 

Amidst this tension, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a premier global development bank, has been exposed for financing loans to companies reliant on forced labor from Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region. A report titled, “Financing and Genocide: Development Finance the and Crisis in the Uyghur Region,” published by the Helena Kenedy Center for International Justice, showcases statistics and evidence that link the IFC to four major Chinese corporations. The Chenguang Biotech Group, Camel Group, Century Sunsion, and Jointown Pharmaceutical Group have received around $439 million worth of investments and loans from the IFC. Such investments contribute to the human rights violations that occur within camps in Xinjiang, which is reported to have over 2 million ethnic minorities imprisoned. 

Kashmir

The month of February has seen a large degree of crackdown on the press in Kashmir by the state. Journalists in Kashmir are claiming their archives are disappearing from local newspapers as a way to “rewrite” and “twist” the history of the land. This is especially prevalent in Indian-administered Kashmir where records of human rights abuses have gone missing. The stripping of Kashmir’s historical record began in 2019 when the special status of the region was revoked. One of the most prevalent instances of these erasures concerns the work of Mudasir Ali, a well-known reporter in the Greater Kashmir region. Ali was known for his groundbreaking news reports regarding human rights abuses and bringing the narratives of locals forward. However, much of his work has been missing from the newspaper archives and shows only four field stories. 

This censorship is concerning in many aspects. The local newspapers have been a window to the conflict in Kashmir. With the takeover of Indian censorship agencies, there is no guarantee the outside world will be able to pick up on the risk of mass atrocities in the region. At this point, Kashmir falls at the risk of being a “silent genocide.”

Middle East

Palestine

Recently, 17 Israeli civilians were arrested by Israeli police for committing hate crimes against Palestinians living in Huwara, a West Bank town. Hate crimes included multiple accounts of assault, uninvited participation in a Palestinian gathering, and property damage. Another group of Israeli protestors stoned at least 25 Palestinian vehicles, broke windows of small Palestinian businesses, and injured at least three individuals, including a three-year-old Palestinian child. The Israeli police and Defense Forces did not stop or arrest these rioters and are proceeding to question them to bring them to court instead. 

As the conflict worsens, the rates of the COVID-19 pandemic in Palestine also increased. The Omicron variant still persisted in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the 4th and 5th waves of the virus occurring in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. COVID-19 had increasing rates in January, with a strong peak in the middle of February and a fast decline immediately after. Many officials suspect that this sharp decrease is attributed to a lack of medical supplies and fewer tests being conducted versus improved health. 

Syria

Attacks on Syrian civilians still prevail after ISIS captured a prison in northeastern Syria. Recently, an Israeli airstrike landed in the outskirts of Damascus, Syria’s capital, resulting in the death of at least two civilians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the frequent occurrences of these attacks, as the Israeli military consists of an extensive network within Syria that has been carrying out raids since the beginning of this year, with an increase beginning in February. For instance, earlier this month, Israeli missiles killed four Iran-backed Houthi militia fighters and Syrian soldiers as well. 

Amidst this conflict, the Syrian government announced its position in the Ukraine conflict, which has been at the forefront of the international stage. President Bashar al-Assad made his decision to ally with Russia and supported President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. During a conference in Moscow, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad cited the West’s treatment of Russia mirrors its treatment of Syria as well, which has contributed to the solidarity that both Syria and Russia have with each other. The Assad regime especially favors Russia due to the military campaign it launched in 2015 that changed the course of the civil war to place Assad in power. However, the Syrian presidency still recognizes and vouches to build relations with Donetsk and Luhansk, two Ukrainian cities, as the conflict continues.

Yemen

There have been sixteen reported casualties in Saudi Arabia due to a claimed Houthi rebel attack. Recent attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE may indicate that the conflict in Yemen is “spiraling out of control,” as claimed by the United Nations this month. Yemen’s Hajjah province, located in the north-west region of the country, experienced a bombing on February 21st that killed a 12-year-old girl and injured many others.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, a human rights nonprofit, cited a bleak report by the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project that the death toll in Yemen has almost doubled following the removal of UN human rights monitors last October. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, reported that the past month has seen a sharp increase in civilian casualties and speaks to the underwhelming effort by the international community to intervene in the crisis. He cites the airstrikes by Coalition forces that killed or injured more than 300 detainees at a prison in Sadaa, the Yemeni capital, in late January. Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, also claimed during a Security Council briefing that Yemen could be experiencing an aid shortage in the coming months due to a lack of funds. By the end of January, almost two-thirds of UN aid programs had to be cut back or closed.

In an open letter signed by multiple humanitarian agencies, there is a plea to the Biden administration to not designate Ansar Allah, the name of the Houthi rebels, as a foreign terrorist organization after reports of the administration considering it. Doing so, the letter says, would gravely impact the private sector which is responsible for imports of most food, medicine, and aid to Yemenis. 

Africa

Cameroon

In early February, there was a violent conflict between the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF) and Ambazonia Restoration Forces, two rival anglophone separatist groups. It resulted in several casualties, though the exact number has not been determined. ADF leaders have noted that the in-fighting among separatist groups, which are both fighting to create an anglophone state called Ambazonia, has posed significant problems for their efforts.

Conflict between separatists and the government has also been escalating over the past year. There has been an increase in the use of explosive devices, which increase casualties. Female activists have also been facing greater violence from both government and separatists forces, according to a new report highlighting the previously ignored role of women in the conflict. All of these factors have combined to create rising tensions and danger for civilians.

DR Congo

On February 1, an internally displaced peoples camp was attacked by the Cooperative for Development of Congo militia in a massacre that left an estimated 60 people killed and dozens injured. All victims were members of the Hema ethnic group, raising concerns about potential increasing tension between the country’s Lenu and Hema populations. UN peacekeepers and teams from UNHCR responded to the violence in the days following, deploying additional troops and initiating medical evacuations for the over 230,000 IDPs in DR Congo’s Ituri province. On February 5, four people were injured after a bomb explosion in a Beni market that many have attributed to the volatile nature of the region and its armed rebels. On February 17, a machete attack in Djugu Territory left 17 dead, 8 of whom were children, in addition to the death of a mother and her children as militia groups burned civilian homes. In response to February’s increase in violence, the UN stated its intention to work alongside DR Congo policymakers and key stakeholders to offer civilians, particularly IDPs and women, greater protection from future bloodshed. 

Sudan

Earlier this month, the United Nations attempted to facilitate a negotiation between Sudan’s military government that has been in power since its October 25 coup and the citizens protesting its rule. However, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), a leading anti-coup group, has rejected this proposal because the UN has yet to outright condemn the coup and the new military government. They see this position of neutrality as legitimizing it. 

Since the coup, Sudan’s new leaders have arrested countless protesters, with dozens taken in the last few weeks. Both protesters and politicians have been abducted from their homes or public spaces, and 81 have been killed by government police forces. Furthermore, those arrested have been given harsh charges, often for things they did not do. Ordinary people are facing the brunt of this state-sanctioned violence.

Still, the Sudanese people continue to protest. Young people are at the forefront of this movement, and young activists have expressed a desire to end this cycle of coups, violence, and authoritarianism. There is a strong sense of solidarity in opposition to military rule, despite protesters being labeled terrorists.

United States

​​The US Justice Department is putting an end to a Trump-era initiative that targeted Chinese professors. Designed to deter Chinese threats, the China Initiative was enacted in 2018 to address cyberattacks and other cybercrimes affiliated with the Chinese government. Consequently, many institutions in the United States, including schools or research centers, imposed stricter disclosure policies on professors of Asian descent. Members of the government as well as other critics claimed that the initiative’s name was controversial and implies an unjustified suspicion towards the Asian community.

On another hand, Texas Governor ordered state health agencies to report parents who provide medical treatment and hormones to transgender teenagers as “child abusers.” Not only does this statement express a misinterpretation of the definition of child abuse as written in the family code, but it also disregards a fundamental human right – that of equal access to healthcare. If applied, this order would have disastrous impacts on transgender teenagers’ mental health and integration. It echoes a general trend in the country – about twenty-one states introduced similar bills in the last year.

Writers

Grace Harris is a freshman at UCLA. Grace contributed to the Sudan section of this update. 

Alondra Becerra is a student at Texas State University. Alondra contributed to the Yemen section of this update. 

Caroline Mendoza is a sophomore at Columbia University. Caroline contributed to the DR Congo section of this update. 

Mira Mehta is a freshman at Brown University. Mira contributed to the Cameroon section of this update. 

Éléonore Louis contributed to the United States portion of this update. 

Shreya Satagopan is a student at George Washington University. Shreya contributed to the Syria, China, and Palestine portions of this update. 

Ishreet Lehal is a student at the University of Southern California. Ishreet contributed to the Kashmir section of this update. 

STAND Statement Condemning Russian Attacks on Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, Ukraine witnessed an invasion of over 190,000 Russian troops as the start of what has been an ongoing act of aggression against Ukrainian sovereignty and civilians. In the days that have followed, Russia has attacked Kharkiv and the capital city of Kyiv, shelling major sites and killing at least 11 Ukrainians. Over 4.5 million people reside in the two cities currently surrounded by Russian militias. STAND condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the human costs of war that will inevitably follow. 

Ukraine, part of the former Soviet Union (USSR), declared independence in 1991. The country gravitated towards the West after ousting a Russian-aligned president in 2014 and announcing interest in joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a Western-headed group formed in part to prevent Soviet expansion. Under the pretenses of “protecting” Russians and Russian speakers residing in Ukraine, Russia has gradually increased militarization around Ukrainian borders with tensions heightening to late February’s ultimate invasion. Since February 24, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that over 1 million people have fled Ukraine and currently endure freezing temperatures and rapidly-changing asylum laws in host countries. 

STAND condemns the acts of violence committed by the Russian government and military. We support a no-fly zone to protect Ukraine from Russian airstrikes, stronger Russian sanctions that completely cut Russia from the SWIFT messaging network, and financial and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. We fear that the situation will only worsen, as indiscriminate attacks on civilians mark an early warning sign of further atrocities. Russia has been reported to the International Criminal Court by 38 countries, reflecting global opposition to the militarization and authoritarianism STAND has always opposed. As STAND also focuses its work on genocide education and awareness, we condemn Russia’s distortion of the Holocaust as a means to justify its attacks on Ukraine following a missile strike that hit dangerously near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial. 

Additionally, as a youth-led organization committed to ending mass atrocities, we stand with the young people of Ukraine advocating for a peaceful future, notably the students of color who are facing discrimination and barriers to both exiting Ukraine and entering host countries. Both Ukrainian and Russian youth are uniquely affected by war, already being vocal about their opinions of the future of both countries. 

STAND would also like to highlight the importance of this conflict in a global context- as an organization that works on issues in a number of regions, the response and attention paid to Ukraine is different from the attention given to other conflicts in notably non-white and Global South countries. STAND also closely monitors the ongoing atrocities in Yemen, and is concerned about the country’s famine potentially worsening as Ukraine’s ability to export food supplies dwindles. You can read our conflict updates on our blog for more information about the conflicts STAND has been working on in the Global South.

Click here for information and resources to support the Ukrainian people. Click here to view a webinar on the role of young people in gaining peace for Ukraine. We also encourage donating to organizations such as Voices for Children and Razom for Ukraine while continuing to follow the current situation and prioritizing local Ukrainian journalists. Use our call script to contact your Congressional representatives to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. 


STAND’s Managing Committee is STAND’s central decision-making body.

STAND Conflict Update: January 2022

East and Southeast Asia

Burma

Since the end of 2021, there has been an increase in displaced persons in Burma. There has been an increase in fighting in Loikaw, the capital of Burma’s eastern Kayah state. The Burmese military carried out an airstrike in early January, and on January 6th, the military cut off electricity in the area. There has been difficulty in accessing the water supply by locals in Loikaw. Many civilians have been forced to flee the intense fighting and relocate to relatively safer areas, including Thailand. The United Nations reported that more than half of the population of Loikaw have been displaced since the intense fighting in the area began in December. The fighting has also suspended humanitarian organizations from operating in the area and delivering aid. In the region of Kayin, there have been disruptions of mobile networks, and it has been hindering response efforts to affected people and communities. 

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

Two Uyghurs have been detained in Saudi Arabia after fleeing China. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been trying to prevent the men from being sent back to China where they will most likely face torture or execution. HRW believes that the two men were arrested after speaking out about China’s persecution of Uyghurs.  

At the end of 2021, an unofficial United Kingdom tribunal launched an investigation into the treatment of Uyghurs in China. The tribunal concluded that “by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide.” The Chinese government has since denied the tribunal’s findings; China has also sanctioned the tribunal and its chair, Geoffrey Nice, a former United Nations judge. 

Kashmir

In January, Indian troops are reported to have killed at least five Kashmiri militants, including a commander of the Jaish-e-Mohammad insurgent group, after increased operations that have been struggling to regain control of the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The militants were killed in two different battle operations towards the south of Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-governed area of Kashmir. The Pakistani government and Foreign Ministry condemned these actions and called for international actors to hold the Indian army accountable for killing these individuals, stating that the, “Indian occupation forces are known to kill innocent Kashmiris passing them off as ‘alleged militants.’” However, no extra-judicial moves have been made, and the conflict between Indians and Pakistanis continues over land disputes on Kashmir. 

Middle East

Palestine

The rift between Israelis and Palestinians worsened over mass land conflict. In January, the Jerusalem Municipality destroyed a two-story building in Beit Hanina, an Arab Palestinian neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem. Nine civilians were severely injured as Israeli security forces attacked individuals living in the suburb of Abu Tor, in which buildings were supposedly constructed without a permit and necessitated demolition. For instance, the Karameh family, a local Palestinian family of 15, was forcibly removed by the Israeli police, resulting in six family members needing immediate hospitalization. Such treatment has increased feelings of anger and resentment in Palestinian families, as they demand justice for their families. Another family, the Salhiyehs, took Israeli authorities and military offices to the International Criminal Court (ICC) after another forcible eviction from their apartment in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, in which they have lived for decades. The Jerusalem Municipality and Israeli Defense Forces continue to destroy Palestinian homes, hurt residents, and exacerbate tensions between Palestinian and Israeli civilians. 

Syria

Recently, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) attacked and regained complete authority and control over a prison in northern Syria, causing the battle and conflict to spread in surrounding urban centers and neighborhoods, such as the Ghweran neighborhood. To mitigate the attacks, the U.S. Special Operation troops and Kurdish counterterrorism forces tracked down ISIS militants that posed as residents in alleys, streets, and these neighborhoods. The Syrian Democratic Forces reported 30 surrendering ISIS members were found antagonizing adolescents within the Gheran neighborhood and Hasaka, a Kurdish-led region of northeastern Syria. This area, called ‘Rojava’, had received no electricity or water for over a week and has been a ‘hotspot’ for terrorist activity and ISIS’s attacks. Many individuals face violence not only from ISIS but unfortunately, from Kurdish and Syrian troops as well. 

Yemen

Violent attacks spurred by the Iran-backed Houthis continue to escalate conflict within Yemen. On January 17th, the Houthi group residing in Yemen launched military strikes, including missiles and drones, resulting in three casualties in Abu Dhabi. These deaths sparked Saudi and Emirati officials to enforce military action against the Houthis that increased the number of Yemen civilian casualties. Iran’s relationship with the Houthis signifies a crucial role in the development of Arab-Israeli relations, as Iran’s potential plan to pressure Israel is supported through its usage of Yemen as a base. These campaigns led the United Arab Emirates to overtly request the United States to blacklist the Houthi rebel group again and label them “terrorists.” On the other hand, human rights groups within Yemen advocate the U.S. government not to, as the adverse effects entail the Houthis fulfilling this label by carrying out more attacks against civilians. Due to the global discourse, this matter remains suspended, and violence still presides. 

Africa

Cameroon

Violence in Cameroon has continued over the past month, especially as Cameroon’s hosting of the Africa Cup of Nations raised tensions. Anglophone separatists planned to disrupt games, while the government enacted further restrictions on freedom of movement and association.  There were not any casualties related to the anglophone crisis during the tournament, though the crisis has continued.

Anglophone separatists killed an opposition senator and a soldier in two different attacks in their region during the past month. This is just the latest in violent exchanges between government forces and separatists. Meanwhile, government repression of anglophones not engaging in violence continues. More than 1,000 anglophones who have been arrested for participating in peaceful protests against this repression face inhumane conditions and torture in Cameroonian jails.

DR Congo

Violent conflict, which momentarily simmered, escalated again in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Near the end of January, a bomb exploded in a populated market in the city of Beni, killing at least four people. Local police officers attempted to find the suspect but were unable to trace the bomb. Such attacks are a result of military campaigns carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan militia group that maintains close ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS). As such, Beni and its civilians are often the target of bomb explosions and violent outbursts. 

Amidst this violence, a DRC military court sentenced fifty-one individuals to the death penalty for the murder of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, two members formerly part of the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fifty-four individuals were charged with “murder,” “terrorism,” and “the act of a war crime through mutilation” at the trial. Some officials and activists spoke out condemning the death penalty and stated that these individuals must be imprisoned for life instead. However, capital punishment signifies a key penalty in the DRC justice system, and a date for this penalty for the accused is yet to be determined. 

Sudan

Since the military coup in Sudan in the fall of 2021, there has been a declaration of a state of emergency in the region. Protestors have been on the streets ever since trying to get the governmental reform they deserve in the form of peaceful democratic transition. However, there have been many reports of arbitrary arrest of protestors across Sudan, especially in recent weeks. Reports show that at least 105 protesters are being held without due process, a blatant violation of their rights. According to Noon Kashkosh, a member of the Democratic Coalition for Lawyers, security forces are trying to make the protests die down by scaring the public through false charges against young protesters. 

Global pressures by world powers have helped some of those who have been abducted; however, this is not enough as some protestors still have charges of possession of illegal weapons and ammunition. Despite these efforts to subdue the protesters. Many Suadnacese civilians claim that this only “ignites us more,” speaking to the courage of the people of the region. 

United States

The Customs and Border Protection released their annual data on immigration to the United States. Migrant arrivals at the southern border went up by 7% in the last month, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement also increased the number of deportations. According to data released by the CBP report, 55% of immigrants were deported in the month. The increase in immigration arrests came mostly from Mexico, Guatemala, Cuva, and Colombia, all countries which have seen an increase in gang violence since the start of the pandemic. 

The increase in arrests is putting a large pressure on detention centers, especially since the beginning of this year. The Biden Administration is planning for as many as 9,000 arrests per day by spring, which raises the question as to if border control reform is truly possible in the next few years. 

Writers

Alondra Becerra is a student at Texas State University. Alondra contributed to the Burma and Xinjiang sections of this update. 

Mira Mehta is a freshman at Brown University. Mira contributed to the Cameroon section of this update. 

Shreya Satagopan is a student at George Washington University. Shreya contributed to the Yemen, DR Congo, Palestine, Syria, and Kashmir portions of this update. 

Ishreet Lehal is a student at the University of Southern California. Ishreet contributed to the Sudan and United States portion of this update. 

STAND Conflict Update: November & December 2021

East and Southeast Asia

Burma

After the coup was staged at the beginning of 2021, an increasing number of civilians have joined armed resistance groups and protest movements, specifically women. Once army chief Min Aung Hlaing took control of the government, more women became involved in resistance efforts to protect themselves and their families. Garment factory workers have taken to the streets and are at the forefront of protests, sewing flags to humiliate guards and Hlaing. The government has increased its crackdown on women; according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 87 women have been killed, and 1,300 have been dragged to jail. In general, civil resistance is rising with a coalition burning down a police station in order to deter the military from using the station to attack local villagers. 

Tired of fleeing, many of the displaced have decided to join coalitions. According to the United Nations, 165,000 citizens have migrated to the southeast of Burma, waiting for a time of safe return. They have become medics, combat fighters, and farmers in an attempt to care for those injured by the government. As the humanitarian crisis continues to grow, civilians and the people of Burma are increasing the resistance efforts in an effort to bring justice back to the country.

East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China)

Although there is a high level of secrecy regarding the Chinese government hiding their crimes, the situation has started to become more widely acknowledged by the people as well as by officials and experts. A video taken by Chinese journalist/activist Guanguan has resurfaced, where he took it upon himself to go out and find information over these concentration camps, amounted to an approximately 20-minute long documentary. This documentary video provides new proof of the existence of these horrific camps, free to the public domain to view.

The severity of the conditions in these camps has also been acknowledged by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide published a report with all the evidence they have gathered over these Uyghur Muslim concentration camps, regarding crimes the Chinese government has been accused of, such as torture, persecution, forced labor, rape, forced sterilization, and mass genocide. Additionally, the museum held a virtual launch event in which people such as Senator Marco Rubio, Dolkun Isa (President of the World Uyghur Congress), Sara J. Bloomfield (Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), Congressman Jim McGovern, and Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja spoke on the current situation in Xinjiang and the report the museum released this month. On December 23, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was signed into law.

Kashmir

Within the past couple of months, the rate of violence has escalated in Kashmir, especially in its largest city, Jammu. Militant groups in the town of Bijbehara, located in southern Kashmir, attacked Mohammad Ashraf, an assistant sub-inspector serving the Jammu & Kashmir Police, and Rouf Ahmad Khan, a civilian and property dealer who had just prior left his house to purchase crackers for his daughter. After several hours, J&K police officers investigated the crime scene, claiming that a possibly unknown, unidentified terrorist group was responsible for the attack. Khan’s family expressed devastation towards the situation and the ongoing violence in Kashmir. These attacks and the ongoing conflict have pushed leaders to promote discourse on potential solutions, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioning the “Kashmir agenda” to member states during a meeting called by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Khan stated that Palestinian and Kashmiri civilians desired a “unified plan” for the region to curtail the attacks and possible terrorist threat that exists. The outcome of these attacks has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the annual 40-day “chillai kalan”, a period of drastic temperature drop in Kashmir. Although J&K and Ladakh have received less snowfall this year, the harsh winter has fueled a public health crisis. Hospital officials are working to develop a solution that accommodates wounded individuals due to militant attacks, COVID-19 issues, and health problems caused by the extreme cold weather. 

Middle East

Palestine

In early December, Airwars, an independent conflict monitoring group, reported 192 Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip, with several more civilians injured over a period of 11 days of back-and-forth bombing and fighting. Armed Palestinian militant groups within the Gaza Strip initiated a shooting attack against Israeli and other Palestinian troops after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Israel, generating mass protests from Hamas supporters and members. The attack, which resulted in the death of an Israeli civilian, incited the Israeli Defense Forces to retaliate with another tank attack, harming three Palestinian farmers with severe wounds. As this back-and-forth probing and armed confrontation continues, the rate of deaths in both Israeli and Palestinian territories increases as well. Recently, Jamil al-Kayyal, a Palestinian civilian, was shot several times in the head after a gunfight in Nablus, a city in the northern part of the occupied West Bank territory. Israeli police reported that the fight broke out after soldiers detected the presence of a wanted suspect in the Ras al-Ain region of Nablus. Palestinian civilians are still distraught over the gunfight and Israeli’s military presence, which often carries out arrest raids, in the West Bank. 

Syria

The consequences of the Syrian Civil War continue to worsen, with violence between other countries escalating. The Syrian Observatory for Human rights officially declared 3,746 casualties as a result of the Civil War in 2021, with 1,505 of these individuals being part of the local civilian population and 360 being children. Additionally, 158 individuals were presumed as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition between Arab and Kurdish militant groups, and 600 dead Islamic State (ISIS) members. Although these numbers represent a significant death toll, they remain much lower than previous counts during the war. However, misery surrounding the conflict grows amongst Syrian citizens and displaced persons due to the large-scale political corruption, lack of infrastructure and welfare services, and immense poverty and COVID-19 crisis that populates the region. Over 78,000 Syrians applied to the European Union to seek asylum due to the food, water, and electricity shortages created by the war—a 70% rise from 2020. Many Syrian individuals report feeling hopeless due to the lack of resources and continued political instability and violent attacks that occur within the country.

Amidst this, Israel continues to attack Syria over territorial conflict over the Golan Heights. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired several missiles at three bases located close to Homs and Damascus, the two largest cities in Syria. The attack signified fears over Syria constructing chemical weapons and gaining access to materials that would expand their artillery and rocket capabilities. The attack resulted in the death of seven Syrian soldiers and an engineer working in one of the bases. 

Yemen

In November, Yemen’s Houthis were accused of attacking several Saudi cities, citing the escalation of Saudi Arabia’s violent efforts in Yemen. The Houthi rebels appear to be gaining momentum in the war and have managed to detain Yemenis working at the U.S. embassy. The U.S. State Department said that the Houthis are continuing to hold employees of the U.S. government hostage. In the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, a Saudi-led coalition struck Houthi-controlled military sites. Citizens in the area claimed that it was the “longest and most intensive” in recent years. The increased tension in the region does not help promote efforts for a ceasefire. 

Africa

Cameroon

Violence continues to escalate, harming many innocent civilians in the process. On November 1, a police officer killed an 8-year-old child with a stray bullet after firing at a car of people who supposedly disobeyed orders at a checkpoint. Similar to another killing in October, this sparked smaller-scale uprisings, which turned into violent riots. Several other children became casualties of the ongoing conflict on November 24, when people attacked a bilingual high school with guns and explosives. Acts of violence like this one have contributed to the fact that 700,000 children currently lack access to education.

At the same time, multiple countries have cracked down on Cameroonian refugees. Throughout November, Equatorial Guinea deported thousands of people who had been living in the country illegally back to Cameroon. The government of Equatorial Guinea has pointed to national security concerns as their reason for the deportations, and it is uncertain what the future will look like for Cameroonians seeking safety away from the civil war. In addition, Nigeria, which was once a safe haven in opposition to the government of Cameroon, has begun allowing the Cameroonian military to enter the country in search of separatist fighters.

DR Congo

Violence rose in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a suicide bomber attacked a local restaurant in late December. Officials blame the Allied Democratic Forces which is claimed by ISIS as its central African unit. Earlier in December, there were reports of Ugandan troops present in DRC working to fight the Allied Democratic Forces. However, this presence was only temporary and thus led to a rise in violence after the retreat of the Ugandan troops.  

The Allied Democratic Forces continue to operate along the border of both Uganda and DRC. The countries are working to defeat the groups together. However, lack of infrastructure and economic means are proving to be a barrier. In the meantime, the presence of the group is proving to be a very dangerous situation for all civilians in the region. 

Sudan

Since the October military coup in Sudan, protests denouncing the event have been at the forefront of all news in the country. Sudanese security forces have continued to fire tear gas to disperse protesters in Khartoum in late December. This has led to an increase in violence in the region and no transition to democracy is in sight. 

Prime Minister Hamdok, a former UN official, was reinstated in December. He is seen as a face of Sudan’s transitional government and there was large pressure put on the country ro call for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight that was led by Hamdok. However, this deal was rejected by many protesters. Even at the end of 2021, the political deadlock in the region is at an all-time high and is proving to be detrimental for a peaceful transition of power.

United States

As the border crisis escalates near Texas, thousands of migrants are finding themselves in extreme environments in an effort to avoid U.S. Border agents. Reports have found that many migrants are taking daunting journeys across the Sonoran desert. However, the journey often proves to be too much on their health. Migrants crossing the border have long been a political target and with instituting detention and child separation policies, the migrants have been compelled to find their ways to the states without any help, leading to more dire conditions at the border. 

Migrant numbers have increased steadily since April 2020 due to conflict in many South American countries; however, President Biden has encouraged many migrants to not make the perilous journey to the states. Furthermore, a policy known as Title 42 aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities is causing many migrants to have to take dangerous paths to enter the country. This has caused discourse on how the United States could revise its border policies to ensure more migrants are not hurt. 


Writers

Aparna Parthasarathy is a student at South Brunswick High School. Aparna contributed to the Burma portion of this update.

Alondra Becerra is a senior at Texas State University studying international relations. Alondra contributed to the Yemen portion of this update.

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

Alvina Mastakar is a student at Terre Haute South. Alvina contributed to the East Turkistan portion of this update. 

Shreya Satagopan is a student at the George Washington University. Shreya contributed to the Kashmir, Syria, and Palestine portion of this update. 

Ishreet Lehal is a student at the University of Southern California. Ishreet contributed to the DRC, Sudan, and United States portions of this update.

STAND Statement on Military Coup in Sudan

On October 25, 2021, Sudan’s military seized control of the government by forcefully detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials. This followed a failed coup attempt on September 21, for which the military claimed no responsibility. STAND condemns the military’s control of the government and urges the restoration of the transitional government to bring power back to the people. 

Sudan has a long history of injustice. In 2019, the transitional government was established after former President Omar al-Bashir was removed from power. Under Bashir, military generals controlled the Sudanese economy and had taken over public property. Under the transitional government, about 20 million square feet of land was taken back as public land, causing the military to lose their wealth. Some members of the military were also put on trial for crimes committed under Bashir. Generals have been found guilty in the murder of dozens of unarmed protesters in June 2019; Forces for Freedom and Change, a coalition that fought for the transitional government, demands that officials be charged. The Sudanese people also want justice for the atrocities that the military committed under Bashir, including forced displacement, attacks on humanitarian facilities, and more. 

STAND condemns the actions of the military coup and urges the Biden administration to take action to support democracy and protect the rights of civilians. STAND (originally an acronym for Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) was founded in 2004 as part of the Save Darfur movement, and helped to lead many of the first demonstrations in the United States about the Darfur genocide. We have led many direct action campaigns related to Sudan, including a day-long STANDfast in 2005 with activists and celebrities, and multi-day protests outside of the U.S. Sudanese Embassy. Because of our history, and our now global mission, STAND maintains a commitment to lasting peace, human rights, and self-determination in Sudan.

To get involved in advocacy for Sudan, you can look for protests in your area through Act for Sudan, and follow local and diaspora groups such as Darfur Women Action Group. We will continue to monitor the situation and share other actions people can take to support the people of Sudan.


STAND’s Managing Committee is STAND’s central decision-making body.

Key Questions and Answers: U.S. Foreign Policy in Afghanistan | August 2021

Recent events related to the U.S. and allied forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan have been major news in recent weeks, but it can be tricky to follow along with all of the details. STAND has compiled answers to some key questions to help you better understand the context and add avenues for engagement. These are short answers to very complex questions, so please feel free to connect with STAND for more information (info@standnow.org). We also encourage you to look to sources who are most directly impacted by the events, such as refugee and diaspora activists and organizations.


Context

The Doha Agreement, or the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan, was signed in February 2020 between the United States and the Taliban to invite a framework that would bring an end to the two-decade U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. The framework outlines: 1) measures to ensure the continued security of the U.S. and its allies, 2) the withdrawal of U.S., allied, and Coalition forces from Afghanistan, 3) a process to put in place a new, inclusive government, and 4) a permanent ceasefire amongst all parties in Afghanistan. The Agreement explicitly called for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces and non-diplomatic civilian personnel over a 14-month period, with the final round of forces departing Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. The Doha Agreement was negotiated and signed by the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration negotiated a 6-month extension for troop withdrawal, bringing the final date to have troops removed by September 11, 2021. 

Why do so many Afghans want to leave Afghanistan?

As the U.S. and allied forces stepped away, the Taliban made many initial gains in territory which further increased their access to roads, a critical source of control in Afghanistan, as well as minerals, other natural resources, guns, and other combat supplies that supported their war effort. As fighting intensified in areas outside the capital, many people fled their homes and either left Afghanistan or stayed in makeshift camps in Kabul that were still under the Afghan government’s control. The Taliban signaled that they were not interested in continuing to uphold their part of the Doha Agreement with their rapid, forceful takeover of Afghanistan and the capital. Instead, they sought a purely military solution to the conflict. 

While the Taliban’s formal position was that amnesty would be granted to members of the Afghan government, that citizens would not be harmed, and human rights would be respected, members of the Afghan government fled, fearing retaliatory attacks. Many other Afghans continued to attempt to flee, believing that their human rights and women’s rights would not be respected, and that mass atrocities might occur. While flights have resumed, it is difficult to get to the airport in Afghanistan as the Taliban controls the only road that leads to the airport. The Taliban have checkpoints along the whole road, and there are reports of the Taliban ripping up people’s documents to stop them from leaving the country, as well as reports of killings targeting certain ethnic groups. The decision to leave is not just about fearing attacks and human rights violations, but also financial ability and the ability to travel.

Who are the Taliban?

The Taliban, formally known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is an Islamic armed insurgent group that became well known under the Soviet Union’s occupation of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Initially popular, they represented Afghan independence in the conflict against the superpower that was the Soviet Union, and also provided consistent justice mechanisms and structure to people’s lives in times of conflict. They overtook Afghanistan militarily and ruled from 1996 to 2001, when an international coalition of countries led by the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban government, who had protected and given shelter to Osama bin Laden, the coordinator of the September 11 attacks. The Taliban is not recognized as a state by the U.S. or by the broad international community. It is also not a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), although there have been an embargo and sanctions on individuals who sell arms to the Taliban since 2011, enforced by the United Nations Security Council.

Afghanistan has more than 14 ethnic groups, one of the largest being Pashtun, with communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban are pro-Pashtun and do not single-handedly reflect the diversity of Afghan society. The Taliban are organized through committees which manage all aspects of life, like education and other social services, media, and culture. Under Taliban rule from 1979 to 1989, women’s rights were not upheld.

How can I take action to address the situation?

1. Conscious Consumption

The Taliban make money through the illicit global economy, and some goods and services, including timber, minerals, and methamphetamine get exported to the U.S. Consumers can divest from products that may have come from the Taliban. Learn more about Conscious Consumption.

2. Call Congress

You can find your House Representative here and your two Senators here.

Call your representative and ask them to support: 

  • Increasing the number of Afghan refugees admitted to the U.S.
  • Improving visa processing capacity and expedited processing
  • Declining to formally recognize the Taliban as a government
  • Continuing financial sanctions
  • Providing humanitarian aid and support to local aid organizations

If your representative supports the above measures, thank them!

3. Keep up to date

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

Where can I find more resources?


The Managing Committee is STAND’s central decision-making body. 

STAND Statement of Solidarity with Palestinians

In Israel, the Basic Law serves to protect human dignity and liberty- it states that Israel recognizes the “value of the human being, the sanctity of his life, and his being a free person.” However, the Israeli government is not respecting the human rights of all individuals. On May 10, Israeli forces stormed the al-Aqsa mosque and used stun grenades against Palestinians worshipping inside, sparking a wave of violence. Most recent estimates report a death toll of at least 120 Palestinians, 31 of whom being children, with over 900 injured. It is clear that the events occurring in occupied Palestine, now and historically, are representative of mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. 

STAND has long worked to organize American youth to prevent and end genocide and mass atrocities abroad. As Palestinian human rights continue to be violated by forced evictions, explicit discrimination, arbitrary harassment, and violence from Israeli police, STAND, as an organization dedicated to ending violence and mass atrocities, stands in firm solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and is in staunch opposition to all human rights violations perpetrated by Israel. For these reasons, the 2020-2021 Managing Committee selected Palestine as a new Education focus area for STAND. As with all of our issues, we will work with partners closer to the issue to build our base of knowledge.

Ethnic cleansing is the forced removal of an ethnic group from a territory. Clear signs of ethnic cleansing were present in Sheikh Jarrah as Palestinian families were ousted from their homes to allow Jewish civilians to move into East Jerusalem. These evictions are part of the Israeli government’s larger effort to change the region’s demographic makeup to one that is completely Jewish- a goal that involves ethnically cleansing East Jerusalem to be free of indigenous Palestinians. The concept of apartheid has also long been attached to Israel, with Israel’s actions of arbitrary arrests, seizure of property, and overall systematic oppression of Palestinians fitting with many of the 1973 Apartheid Convention’s defining factors of apartheid. 

Further, according to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, the illegal Israeli settlements forcibly displacing Palestinian families amount to war crimes, and Israel’s annexation of the West Bank is widely regarded as a violation of international law. As seen recently in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and throughout occupied Palestine, state-sponsored violence, uneven civil liberties, and restriction of movement are rampantly violating Palestinian human rights and are all risk factors of mass atrocities. A recent Human Rights Watch report showcases the extent to which Israel has forced the movement of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, denied residency rights, and suspended basic civil rights for Palestinians. Moreover, Genocide Watch states that Israel has limited the spread of Palestinian culture and identity by removing Arabic as the official language. 

Noting the United States’ complicity in aiding Israel to continue a pattern of some of the most telling signs of mass atrocities, leaving Israel’s human rights violations unaddressed would be hypocritical given STAND’s position as a U.S.-based atrocity prevention organization. STAND also notes that Hamas, an armed Palestinian group, is guilty of inciting violence through various rocket attacks and acknowledges these actions as deeply condemnable. However, there is an obvious power imbalance that works to the advantage of the Israel Defense Forces, as evidenced by the disproportionate amount of attacks against and casualties amongst Palestinians. 

We recognize the lasting impact that atrocities, namely the Holocaust, have had on Jewish people and recognize Israel’s role in allowing self-determination and safety for Jewish people. However, this does not negate the plight of the Palestinian people facing human rights abuses at the hands of the Israeli government. STAND has advocated against the forced displacement of the Rohingya, actively takes a role in raising awareness for the ongoing genocide in East Turkistan, and notes U.S. complicity in the crimes occurring in Yemen. We refuse to remain silent about the violence that the Palestinians endure under the Israeli government.


The Managing Committee is STAND’s central decision-making body.