STAND’s Outreach team compiles a monthly newsletter for chapter leaders and members. Read along for the latest news and resources from STAND
STAND’s Outreach team compiles a monthly newsletter for chapter leaders and members. Read along for the latest news and resources from STAND
On January 10, Egypt proposed an initiative to help Sudan settle its ongoing crisis and further unity in Sudan. The Egyptian government plans to create tactics that will lead to a peace settlement, aiming to provide aid to the Sudanese government and restore the former civilian-led transitional government. They also want to ensure that the Democratic Unionist Party is involved in the post-transitional government, as they have historically been allied. Sudanese military and government officials are currently in the process of restoring this civilian government, and Egypt plans to be involved.
President Salva Kiir reaffirmed in his New Year Address that the government would not participate in peace talks until rebel groups genuinely commit to peace. However, it is unclear what the threshold is for the government to resume talks. For the time being, some rebel groups have been reportedly preparing for war, and violent clashes have continued. In addition, three humanitarian aid workers have been killed in the past month.
However, there have also been some attempts to build peace and stability. On January 24, South Sudan welcomed the Pope’s advance team in preparation for his visit to the country in February. For the country’s Catholic population, the visit is expected to help promote peace and reduce intercommunal violence. The government also began another attempt to write a new constitution in January, which will be necessary to maintain stability as they move out of the transitional period. Political infighting has limited progress on the constitution, so it remains to be seen what the final product will be.
Following the November 2nd peace treaty signed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government, significant efforts have been made towards peace. The remaining presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray has been an issue due to the country’s involvement in human rights abuses during the war, but forces are now being withdrawn. Ethiopia has stated that there are no more Eritrean troops remaining in the country, but the US claims that they have moved to the border but have not left yet. There is no clear proof on either side, but Tigray has also reported that thousands of troops are still there. On a positive note, Tigrayan forces have been in the process of handing over weapons such as tanks and rockets, a sign that they believe the peace deal will last.
On January 20, Canada announced that it would host talks to begin a peace process in Cameroon and address some of the technical issues that have caused conflict. Several separatist groups, including the Ambazonia Governing Council and the Ambazonia Defence Force, have agreed to participate in the talks, unlike past attempts at peace processes. However, on January 23, the government of Cameroon denied having asked any other country for assistance in resolving the crisis. This came after months of its representatives attending talks in Canada to begin the process. It remains to be seen what the future of these talks will be, or if the change in stance indicates further fragmentation within the government.
Despite the recent ceasefire called last month, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s government remains suspicious about rebel troops, notably the M23 group. A recent report from the UN details suspected M23 troop movements in areas they were supposed to be withdrawn from. They have also seized new territory in other areas, and have been involved in multiple military clashes.
On January 15, at least 10 people were killed in a church bombing carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS. Both Uganda and the DRC forces have launched a campaign against them, but attacks have been increasing with no sign of letting up. Recently, the same group attacked a bar, killing 23 people and burning several shops and homes. UN peacekeepers have also made a grisly discovery as bodies were found in mass graves after reports of attacks from local militia groups. A total of 42 victims and six children were found among them, and CODECO militants are suspected of involvement in the killings. These events have left countless people, including children, traumatized and trying to desperately figure out how to rebuild their lives.
Since the end of the six-month truce in Yemen in October 2022, there has been an uneasy ceasefire. In the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels have revived back-channel talks in efforts to strengthen the current ceasefire and pave the way towards a more sustainable peace agreement. However, the situation on the ground in Yemen is by no means stable or without violence; military and Houthi activity across the country have continued to result in the deaths of civilians. Additionally, the U.S. Navy reportedly seized over 2,000 assault rifles bound for Houthi rebels in Yemen from Iran. However, in a briefing to the UN Security Council on January 16, UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg has urged that parties should take advantage of the lack of major escalation and focus their efforts on holistic peace efforts rather than short-term measures that focus on individual issues. As Yemen remains ravaged by the ongoing humanitarian crisis, it is vital for all parties to meaningfully engage with UN Peacebuilding mechanisms, and that those mechanisms are inclusive and Yemeni-led.
Early this month, the Israeli military launched a missile strike at an airport in Damascus, killing two soldiers and putting the airport out of service. While tensions have remained high between Israel and Syria, they have also risen between Turkey and Syria. Due to the threatening presence of Kurdish forces in northern Syria, Turkey has threatened a military offensive to stop them. Russia also has a presence in the region and had talks with Turkey to expand troop patrols to bring better security to the region. While some Syrians in the area have protested against the renewed contacts between Turkey and Syria, the effects of the civil war that has been brewing since 2011 have taken a toll, displacing countless people and sending many to Turkey as refugees. The UN has unanimously voted on a resolution to bring cross-border aid from Turkey to the northern part of Syria for another six months, while Amnesty International has called on the Syrian government to lift its siege on civilians in Aleppo. Hopefully, with these measures being implemented, the region can see a sign of reprieve from the horrors of ongoing civil war.
Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power in December and the swearing in of his new government, human rights defenders and policy experts began warning against the actions the extremist, far right government would begin to take. So far this year, the government is looking to be as bad as people feared. The government is moving to continue and expand illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has banned the flying of the Palestinian flag in public, and is actively working to weaken the power of the Israeli Supreme Court to reverse or strike down legislation. Furthermore, violence against Palestinians is on the rise. On the heels of the deadliest year for Palestinians since 2005, 2023 has already seen the deaths of at least 23 Palestinians by the Israeli military in the West Bank alone, including several children. At least one of the individuals killed occurred during a raid on the Qalandia refugee camp. According to the IMEU, Palestinian children have begun carrying goodbye letters on their person just in case, for fear of being killed by Israeli soldiers. The ongoing apartheid in Israel cannot be allowed to continue and is a violation of international law. The international community is obligated to take action to hold the government of Israel responsible for the decades of atrocities.
Earlier this month, Burma’s military government held meetings with three different armed groups in the nation about holding elections in the regions they control. However, the military justified their initial takeover by claiming that there was fraud in the 2020 elections, and have spent the last two years suppressing opposition parties and taking control of the entire voting process. Because of this, many see this move as an attempt to legitimize the coup through a vote that may be unfair.
At the same time, opponents of the military government plan to protest the second anniversary of the coup on February 1. They urge the entire country to participate in a silent strike within their homes to show mass discontent. Previously, the military has responded violently to protests, attacking and killing countless civilians. An estimated 2,890 people have been killed and 17,400 have been detained since the 2021 coup.
China hosted a delegation of 30 Muslim scholars from the World Muslim Communities Council earlier this month to claim that their treatment of the Uyghurs in East Turkistan is an anti-terrorism measure, not a genocide. Following the visit, the organization has repeated this idea in a press statement, a move that has been heavily criticized by the World Uyghur Congress. The trip has been described as a propaganda visit to gloss over China’s atrocities by getting Muslims to deny the criminalization of Islam among the Uyghurs.
The World Uyghur Congress also recently challenged the British government in court for not investigating cotton imported from East Turkistan that may have been produced with forced labor. Unfortunately, they lost the case, as the court decided that they did not have a clear link to forced labor from specific products.
On January 1, two gunmen broke into homes, killing four civilians and injuring six others. Those shot were part of the Hindu community, reflecting the bitter divide between Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan fighting over Kashmir. The next morning on the 2nd, an explosion occurred in one of the homes that was attacked, resulting in the deaths of two children and injuring four others. It is still unclear if the attackers from the first incident played a role in the explosion.
In responding to these two incidents, blame has shifted between both India and Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir region, as local residents have protested these events. While India’s government has blamed Pakistani militants for the attacks, political parties in the Kashmir region have blamed security lapses of the ruling lieutenant governor from policies that have resulted in more attacks in the region. Despite this, all sides have condemned the two attacks and security has been increased in the region.
January has been a tumultuous month as gun violence has continued to run rampant across the U.S. in the new year. Just in the last week, in California there have been two shootings in three days killing 18 people; the first at a Lunar New Year gathering in Monterey Park targeting Asian-Americans, and the second in Half Moon Bay. Unfortunately, the U.S. is no stranger to these horrific acts this year. According to the Gun Violence Archives, while we are only 24 days into 2023 at the time of writing this piece, there have been 39 mass shootings recorded across the country. Following these tragedies, President Joe Biden called, again, for a congressional bill banning assault weapons. Unfortunately, congress continues to be divided on this issue; last year House Democrats passed a bill banning assault weapons, but the bill stalled out in the Senate with little to no chance of reaching the White House for signature. The absence of gun control policy remains unacceptable in a country where mass shootings outnumber the days in the year, and the leading cause of death among children and youth under 24 is gun violence. As we move into February and beyond, we cannot continue to operate in the familiar cycle of witnessing these tragedies, calling for change, and meeting inaction. It is urgent that U.S. policymakers protect lives over weapons and take swift and concrete actions to prevent further loss of lives.
Allison Weiner is a sophomore at DePauw University. She contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.
Alonna Despain is a recent graduate of New York University with a MS in Human Rights and International Law. She contributed to the Palestine, United States, and Yemen portions of this update.
Grace Harris is a sophomore at UCLA studying International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray, Burma, and East Turkistan portions 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, Syria, and Kashmir portion of this update.
Mira Mehta is a sophomore at Brown University. She contributed to the Cameroon and South Sudan portions of this update.
On December 5, 2022, an agreement was signed between the military of Sudan and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), a coalition made up of the civilian members of the former transitional government. This deal includes language to create the framework for a new transitional government to be formed by civilians. While it includes general wording for the government to be held accountable for human rights issues, it is phrased in a vague way that fails to acknowledge any formal, specific policy on how to do so. The agreement states that specific plans will be made at a later time.
Even though this pact has been made, there have been many protests regarding the agreement. Thousands have joined protests in the capital, and have been met with severe violence and poor treatment from police. They believe that this peace deal will not do anything and will only serve as an extension of the coup to keep the military in power.
On December 24, there were violent ethnic clashes in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, as armed people attacked from the nearby Jonglei state. This comes amidst a larger trend of ethnic violence in South Sudan. The UN reported that about 30,000 civilians have been displaced by ethnic violence in South Sudan.
Despite continued high levels of intercommunal violence, there has been some progress in establishing more stable peace in the nation. After ending formal participation in peace talks with rebel groups last month, the South Sudanese government has pursued other avenues for establishing peace and working with these groups. It remains to be seen what form this new approach will take. In addition, President Kiir on December 25 formally forgave Vice President Machar for, in his view, causing power struggles. The two have a history of disagreement and clashes, which appeared to be escalating again over the past two months. Machar has not responded, but it is possible that the two may be recommitting to peace and collaboration.
Since the ceasefire between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front last month, the situation has continued to improve. Mediators from both sides are currently negotiating the terms of a truce, where important settlements such as the withdrawal of Eritrean troops and the restoration of humanitarian aid are being discussed. Eritrea’s role in these atrocities is notable, especially since its military has been seen looting towns and arresting civilians in Tigray after the peace agreement was signed.
In another important step forward, Ethiopian Airlines has resumed flights into Tigray, connecting people who have been separated for two years due to war. The entire region has also been reconnected to the national power grid, and plans have been made for a handover of weapons. While the peace process is progressing slowly, there is a general sense of hope that the war and the atrocities committed during it could end.
The Anglophone Crisis has continued with little progress towards peace. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on December 16 that more than 7,000 people were displaced as a result of this civil war in a single month. Civilians continue to bear the burden of the continued violence in other ways as well. There have been reports of unfair detentions, as people are labeled separatists with little proof. Conditions for detainees have been inadequate, and many have died in custody without due process or ability to see their families. The economy has been severely disrupted as well.
Despite the lack of progress this past month, there is hope for possible change. Cameroonian President Paul Biya attended the US-Africa summit on December 13-15, where he was expected to discuss a new response to the anglophone crisis with President Biden. The summit was reportedly fruitful, though there were not any reports of specific decisions made on this issue.
With the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between government and rebel forces, security is one of the most significant challenges facing the region. Because of human rights abuses and having the highest number of internally displaced persons in Africa, the UN has intensified its support of providing humanitarian aid and condemning the atrocities by the rebel groups.
Not only has violent conflict affected the DRC but severe flooding has caused great damage recently as well. At least 100 people have been killed from floods and landslides in the capital city of Kinshasa this month. This has been the worst flooding the country has seen since 2019, and the death toll has been rising. However, there is hope for a more peaceful situation as the M23 rebel group has withdrawn from seized positions in a goodwill gesture as the result of a ceasefire that was called last month. Hopefully this can ease tensions and build a stronger platform for peace in the next year.
Over the past few weeks, President Biden lobbied against and even threatened to veto the Yemen War Powers Resolution blocking US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, despite his pledge to stop US support for the war.
The Yemen War Powers Resolution was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, who called for a vote on December 13th. According to The New Republic, during the debate over the war powers resolution, the White House had pleaded with senators to vote against it. A vote in support, according to the White House, was not necessary as serious conflicts haven’t commenced despite the ceasefire’s expiration, and they believe the vote will make mediation increasingly challenging. Additionally, the White House has issued a warning that the resolution could make it difficult to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. Accordingly, Sanders withdrew his bill before the scheduled vote, but pledged to discuss the resolution again if he and Biden are unable to reach a consensus on how to stop the war. This is disappointing, as US weapons are still being used to bomb Yemen.
After weeks of Turkish airstrike attacks, Syria and other neighboring countries are trying to gauge if Turkish threats of invasion are serious. Turkey sees the Kurdish forces along their shared border with Syria as a threat and has launched attacks against Kurdish forces. Not only has anti-refugee sentiment grown in Turkey, but discrimination and violence have only increased against Kurdish people living in Turkey. Syria has been pressuring the U.S. and Russia, who both have military posts in northern Syria, to prevent further attacks from Turkey. The Kurds are also worried that Western silence will give Turkey further motivation to intensify attacks against Syria.
As Turkish relations worsen in Syria, so do the humanitarian and economic crises. Energy and fuel shortages have become more common, and access to healthcare has become more difficult to acquire. A projected 3 million Syrians could face food insecurity as many Syrian families have become unable to meet basic needs because of the increasing conflict. The lack of access to healthcare and basic needs has also contributed to a rise in cholera cases, and the displacement, imprisonment, and disappearance of Syrian people continue to go on in the heat of Syrian conflict.
On December 27, dozens of Palestinian protesters marched from the Al-Amari refugee camp, south of Ramallah, to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, protesting against Israel’s refusal to release over 300 bodies of prisoners. According to the protesters, these bodies are being kept to put pressure on Hamas to release four missing Israeli soldiers in Gaza. During the protests, at least 11 individuals were wounded in the capital when Israeli security forces fought with protesters calling for the return of the Palestinian bodies held hostage at the Qalandia crossing.
While these protests are ongoing, there is positive news that Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric, announced recently that he is planning to open an embassy in Palestine. In order to create diplomatic connections between Palestine and Chile, Gabriel Boric has declared that his nation will increase the level of its representation of its Palestinian citizens by opening an embassy, as Chile is home to the largest Palestinian communities outside the Middle East. Chile will be the first nation in Latin America to establish an embassy in Palestine.
Starting off with good news: the BURMA Act of 2021 has been passed and signed into law! Thanks to the great work of GM4MD and everyone else who has contributed to the advocacy, education, and awareness of the BURMA act, a huge accomplishment has been made regarding efforts of peace and reconciliation in Burma.
Over a million people have been internally displaced as the military coup has come close to its second year now. Since the coup in February 2021, attacks on mines and environmentalists have increased. Miners and environmentalists have faced conflict with not only the Burmese military, but the Chinese government as well, who use the mines and surrounding land to fuel their hydroelectricity plants. The Burmese military has also strengthened its relationship with the Russian government. Russia and China remain one of the anti-coup movement’s biggest opponents due to their continued support of the military government. Human Rights Chief Volker Turk has denounced Burma’s use of the death sentence against political opposition, and the UN Security Council has demanded a resolution to the violence in Burma, pressuring the Burmese military and the Chinese and Russian governments to give in to their demands. Lastly, the UN has urged other Southeast Asian countries to rescue over 200 Rohingya refugees who have been stranded at sea for the past month. The people on the boat have been without food and water for weeks and are facing extreme dehydration. Crises like these have become more common as thousands of Rohingya refugees are taking the risk to cross the sea to escape to Bangladesh.
On November 24, a fire broke out at an apartment building in Urumqi, the capital of East Turkistan. This resulted in the deaths of at least 10 Uyghur Muslims. Protests condemning the state’s zero-COVID policies– which exacerbated the fire’s severity and prevented firetrucks from reaching the scene– erupted across the country, particularly among China’s younger generation of workers and university students. While a promising indication of the people’s unwillingness to accept authoritarian measures, no one protesting in China made demands to close the camps, end forced labor or stop the Uyghur genocide. While some among China’s majority Han Chinese population have expressed sentiments of common humanity, with Chinese netizens circulating slogans like “we are all Chinese people” and referring to Xinjiang residents as “tongbao,” or compatriots, their aversion to explicitly naming the oppressed group in question, the Uyghurs, is a testament to the Chinese Communist Party’s control over the flow of information through censorship and propaganda. Whether the lack of recognition of the ongoing repression and genocide against the Uyghurs is willful ignorance or genuine unknowing, the underlying ethnic and religious forces of oppression must not be ignored. Looking into future conflict updates, Han solidarity with the Uyghurs will be a crucial indicator of progress in resolving the conflict.
At least two more prominent Uyghur cultural figures have died this month following their imprisonment in detention camps. Omar Huseyin, a former preacher, was arrested in 2017 after making the pilgrimage to Mecca. He died in prison, despite being in good health prior to his arrest. Abdulla Sawut, a renowned poet and influential individual in contemporary Uyghur literature, died after being released from prison. His condition deteriorated in prison, and it was reported that he could not obtain medical treatment and food upon release.
Finally, in East Turkistan updates, a report published by the Sheffield Hallam Institute’s Helena Kennedy Institute for International Justice found that almost every automobile company uses parts made by Uyghur forced labor in its production process. In response to the report’s findings, Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (OR-D) sent letters to Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen to ask if they were aware that parts of their cars were sourced from East Turkistan. Additionally, the United Auto Workers Union responded with a statement calling on these companies to move their supply chains out of the province.
Violence has escalated this month in Kashmir as violent protests erupted after the deaths of two civilians shot by the Indian army. This occurred near the entrance of a military base where three laborers were fired upon in what the Indian army claimed was a terrorist attack. Residents in the town, close to the border between India and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, protested the claim and demanded justice in protests at the base.
On December 28, four suspected militants were killed in a gunfight with Indian police in India-controlled Kashmir after police intercepted a truck carrying weapons and ammunition after the gunfight. More reports will be coming in about the recent event, as so far no one besides the police have confirmed this.
This week, President Joe Biden signed the BURMA Act into law– a piece of legislation to hold Burma’s military government accountable for genocide and atrocities through sanctions and support for opposition groups. This law has been a priority for many Burmese diaspora activists within the US for a while, and it is an important step in accountability.
Unfortunately, Biden has not extended his support for the Yemen War Powers Resolution to end US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. While Senator Bernie Sanders attempted to bring it to a vote earlier this month, he withdrew it for rewrites because Biden’s aides recommended a veto if it were to pass. This is disappointing, as the US still needs to reckon with its own role of enabling atrocities for profit. American weapons are being used to bomb Yemen, but the US government could stop if it wanted to.
Allison Weiner is a sophomore at DePauw University. She contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.
Mira Mehta is a sophomore at Brown University. She contributed to the South Sudan and Cameroon portions of this update.
Grace Harris is a sophomore at UCLA. She contributed to the Tigray and United States portions 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 and Kashmir portions of this update.
Alishba Waqar is a junior at Westfield High School. She contributed to the Yemen and Palestine portions of this update.
Seng Hkawn Myitung is a sophomore at Albemarle High School. They contributed to the Syria and Burma portion of this update.
Robert Liu is a junior at Durham Academy. He contributed to the East Turkistan portion of this update.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, visited Sudan on Sunday, November 13. Sudan was Türk’s first official visit since he became the UN High Commissioner. At the meeting, Türk met with the President of the Transitional Sovereign Council, First Lieutenant-General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan Abdelrahman Al-Burhan. He also met with other representatives of the National Human Rights Commission, along with other regional officials in other parts of the country.
In addition, he held a news conference on November 16, the last day of his visit, in which he emphasized the human rights abuses that are still being committed. Türk expressed a great sense of urgency in ending crises that are currently taking place and how it is crucial that we take whatever actions we can to create change in the country.
On November 21, the government of South Sudan withdrew from peace talks with rebel groups who did not sign the 2018 deal that officially ended the country’s civil war. These groups, both armed and unarmed, have maintained concerns about the country’s governance and have remained outside of the transition to democratic governance. However, some of the most prominent of the groups, including the National Salvation Front and the South Sudan United Front said on November 25 that they are still committed to the talks. It is unclear what the future of these discussions and peace agreements may look like.
The ongoing peace deal discussions between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have not stopped violence and human rights abuses in the region of Tigray despite the truce on November 2nd. The Ethiopian military has set up detention centers to arrest anyone believed to have ties with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and forces from the neighboring country of Eritrea have been allowed to kidnap, rape, and commit atrocities against Tigrayans.
On a good note, aid deliveries have resumed following the truce and organizations like the World Food Program have sent food and fuel to people in need. However, two years of war has made road access difficult, and millions are still in need. The UN estimates that 90 percent of the nation’s 6 million people are dependent on food assistance, and the current deliveries are not enough to serve them all. Still, this is an important step forward that will help many.
Cameroon’s anglophone crisis has continued, with civilians often caught in the crossfire. On November 4, anglophone separatists allegedly kidnapped nine health care workers. A spokesperson for the Ambazonia Governing Council said that healthcare workers should be protected and that this was against their principles. However, the group has a long history of this type of behavior and continues to engage in violence that disrupts civilian life, including by closing down schools. Anglophones have also faced significant violence at the hands of the government. The UN has noted arbitrary detentions of anglophone separatists and violation of international human rights law. There has not been any significant progress towards ending the conflict or protecting civilians.
Armed conflict has been increasing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and is not letting up between the DRC government and other rebel groups such as the M23 group. This has resulted in bordering countries like Kenya sending in troops to bring peace to the mineral rich region in the eastern part of the DRC. As a result, many people have been forced to flee and many have been displaced, including children. This proves worrisome as rebel forces continue to push toward these towns where the camps are located, putting them more at risk of being harmed or killed. As the conflict has been brewing and escalating further with more neighboring countries joining in, it seems more difficult to end the hostilities. A ceasefire has been called for the fighting in the eastern part of the DRC, which initially was ignored by the M23 group. They said they will accept it conditionally on the condition that they talk with the DRC government. The DRC has also scheduled their presidential elections for December of next year, so hopefully something will change to address this harrowing conflict in the region.
Although violence between the Saudi-led coalition and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels still continues to harm civilians in Yemen, there has been some recent development in economic reform within the country. On Sunday, November 27, the Saudi Press Agency reported that Saudi Arabia sponsored The Arab Monetary Fund, intending to support the Yemeni government in its efforts to improve its financial standing and economy. This is an economic and financial program with a one billion dollar agreement with the Yemeni government to expand the nation’s banking industry and stimulate its private sector. Priorities for the program include strengthening services for small and local firms, youth, and women in rural areas. Additionally, it will work to increase digitalization and the variety of payment options.
Ever since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, many countries, including the US, have placed sanctions in order to dissuade the Assad government from cracking down on those who protested against him. Recently, a U.N. convoy has called to lift the sanctions imposed as it has worsened shortages in medical supplies and other necessities and resulted in “catastrophic effects of unilateral sanctions across all walks of life in the country.” Some other human rights groups have argued that sanctions should only be lifted if the Assad regime ends its crimes against humanity against its people. Not only has this impacted Syria internally, it has also affected other neighboring countries. After a bombing in Istanbul, Turkey which killed six, Turkey retaliated by launching deadly airstrikes over the northern regions of Syria and Iraq escalating further tensions by putting the responsibility of the bombing on the Kurds. While a US official has called for a de-escalation of airstrikes between the two countries, the airstrikes have affected many communities living between the crossfire.
The UN has reported on a surge in violence in occupied Palestinian land due to a stalled peace process, continued occupation, and economic challenges. Bombings, airstrikes, and violent attacks have resulted in the deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis, and negotiations have been challenging.
As a result, 197 organizations have written to the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute Israel’s human rights abuses. They argue that the ICC has the authority to intervene as an early warning to prevent further escalation.
Attention to the crisis has garnered worldwide attention as both Tunisian and Moroccan fans at the Qatar World Cup have displayed “Free Palestine” banners. This was done at the 48th minute of each nation’s respective matches as a symbol in memory of the Nakba– the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948.
On Thursday, November 17, the Burmese Junta released 6,000 prisoners in a mass amnesty including former British ambassador Vicky Bowman, and Australian economic advisor to the currently imprisoned leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell.
Turnell was arrested a few days after the coup d’etat on Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021. This coup marked the end of a decade of democracy in Burma. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pressured Thai and Cambodian leaders to pressure the Burmese military to release the prisoners.
Organizations like the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) have been documenting the Junta’s actions since the start of the coup. They believe that the Junta is using political prisoners as bargaining chips and released the prisoners to ease political tension. Nations of the prisoners, Japan and Australia have released statements and continue to pressure the Junta to solve problems peacefully and rebuild the democratic society of Burma.
Cybersecurity researchers have discovered that a spyware program is targeting Uyghurs by masquerading as regular apps such as messaging services and dictionaries. This spyware is connected by a Chinese government hacking group in order to track those they suspect of engaging in religious activity that they view as extreme, which can lead to being sent to a re-education camp. This surveillance program allows human rights violations to occur that can be difficult to stop, as many unofficial apps are treated as genuine services.
After a deadly high rise fire occurred in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, protests have been triggered over China’s COVID-19 lockdown strategy that has put the Xinjiang region in the longest lockdowns in the entire country. These events have in turn triggered many other protests in China and around the world calling for an end to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule and Xi Jinping to step down as leader. While many countries have passionately expressed their support for the Uyghur population, many companies have privately invested funds in other companies that are involved in Uygur forced labor and repression. Since many of these investments are privately funded, it is hard to tell where the money ends up going and who is ultimately benefiting from the investments. Establishing a list of banned entities and companies that are involved is crucial in ending further oppression and is what many countries must do to truly stand with the Uyghur people.
While there has not as of this month been any violent conflict in Kashmir, the weather has impacted many near the Indian and Pakistani borders in Kashmir. A brutal avalanche killed three Indian soldiers along the Himalayan frontier. With these tense conditions, as well as the difficult border dispute still being maintained by both countries by having troops stationed there, it still remains to be seen if tensions will decrease with both countries. As of a year ago on November 22, 2021, Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, was arrested on political terrorism charges. Amnesty International and other human right groups are calling for him to be unconditionally released from custody and drop all charges for speaking out on human rights in Kashmir and working towards change. Being detained silences the work of human rights defenders who work to expose the human rights violations and it is crucial for Kashmir to have a voice on these matters to bring accountability, transparency, and justice when violations occur.
Midterm elections in the United States were held early this month on November 8. While a “red wave” of Republican elections was predicted, no such event occurred. Republicans now control the House with a narrow margin, and Democrats control the house with only one seat. This sets the stage for future political decisions over the next two years.
The United States has a long history of genocide against Indigenous people, a practice that may continue with the possible overturn of the Indian Child Welfare Act. This law, which has been in place since 1978, requires Indigenous children in foster care or adoption agencies to be kept with Indigenous families in response to the family separations and cultural assimilation forced upon them throughout history. With a recent challenge in Brackeen v. Haaland, this may change. There is concern over the Supreme Court’s political bias– a factor that may determine the outcome of the case. If overturned, this could pave the way for future limits on tribal sovereignty and put more Indigenous people at risk of cultural genocide.
Another relevant case being considered by the Supreme Court revolves around the deportation of undocumented immigrants. A lower court in Texas ruled that Biden’s policy of only deporting criminals who pose a threat was too narrow of an interpretation of federal immigration policy, and the case has now reached the Supreme Court. While the labeling of certain immigrants as threats often has prejudiced and racialized undertones, the Trump-era policy of deporting everyone is certainly worse for human rights. This case will have wide-reaching repercussions for national immigration policy, and the bias of the court will likely play a key role.
Grace Harris is a sophomore at UCLA studying International Development Studies. She contributed to the Tigray, Palestine, and United States portions 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, Syria, East Turkistan, and Kashmir portions of this update.
Mira Mehta is a sophomore at Brown University studying Economics and International & Public Affairs. She contributed to the Cameroon and South Sudan portions of this update.
Alishba Waqar is a junior at Westfield High School. She contributed to the Yemen portion of this update.
Seng Hkawn Myitung is a sophomore at Albemarle High School. They contributed to the Burma portion of this update.
Allison Weiner is a sophomore at DePauw University. She contributed to the Sudan portion of this update.
STAND’s Outreach team compiles a monthly newsletter for chapter leaders and members. Read along for the latest news and resources from STAND.
STAND’s Education team, with the help of the United States Action Committee, has put together a lesson plan that includes resources and activities designed to introduce students to key concepts relating to the United States priority area and Indigenous issues throughout history and today. Since November is Native American Heritage Month and Thanksgiving is well-known for misrepresenting the colonialism and genocide that formed this country, we thought this would be a timely theme for the month! STAND encourages advisors and chapter leaders to adapt the plans to your own context (high school vs. college, focus on particular regions of the world, etc.).
October 25th of this month marks one year since Sudan’s military coup, where General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo took control of the country instead of allowing it to peacefully transfer to civilian control. This was a major violation of the terms of the 2019 agreement following the uprising against former President Omar al-Bashir. In the year since then, public support for the military has decreased due to the deaths of protesters and the continued use of militias that committed the Darfur genocide in 2003.
Tens of thousands of Sudanese people came together in a protest on the capitol to demand that the military relinquish control. They were met with tear gas, internet blackouts, and one protester was run over by a security truck and killed. The military is currently in negotiations with the pre-coup civilian organization Forces of Freedom for Change (FCC), but there are many who doubt that they will ever give up power willingly.
On the 29th, a separate group of thousands of protesters, including many still loyal to Bashir, joined together in support of the military government and against UN influence in their country. They seek to reject the FFC and any possible democratic processes in favor of religious rule. This only adds to the complexity of Sudan’s political system at the moment, with so many clashing ideas of how the country should be run.
At the same time, 220 people were killed in a land dispute in the south of Sudan between the Hausa and Berta people. An estimated 7,000 people were forced to flee, joining the 211,000 displaced by general conflict over the last year. Political instability has only worsened the violence.
On October 22nd, the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) removed the country’s First Vice President Riek Machar and former Secretary General Pagan Amam from their party and leadership. Both people led separate wings of the party, and the SPLM declared that this decision was crucial to unify the SPLM in accordance with its constitution. However, there are also concerns about the consolidation of power and the elimination of opposition opinions.
At the same time, humanitarian conditions have worsened, with many criticizing the international response because it has only worsened the crisis. In September, the African Energy Chamber called on the US to lift its oil sanctions on South Sudan. They noted that the initial stated goal of sanctions was to end the war, and the war has officially ended, with the formation of a unity government in 2020. Moreover, the sanctions have exacerbated economic difficulties in the country– which is now at risk of famine– and may be causing more harm than good to civilians.
In addition, aid workers in a UN camp have been accused of committing sexual abuses against residents. An estimated 5,000 more people are expected to come to the camp in the near future, raising concerns about further sexual abuses and dangers for these people. The allegations began in 2015, and despite a UN-led task force meant to combat this problem, many new reports of such abuse have continued to surface.
Peace talks have begun, organized by the African Union between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front: the two main forces at war for two years in the Tigray region of Northern Africa. While August’s ceasefire collapsed with the deaths of thousands and the displacement of even more, a spokesperson for Tigray’s forces has expressed a desire for a non-military solution with an end to hostility, unrestricted humanitarian aid, and a withdrawal of forces. Despite this hope, the ongoing humanitarian situation remains bleak.
Genocide watch has deemed Ethiopia’s persecution of Tigrayans a genocide, with massacres of thousands of Tigrayans, mass rape, and forced ID cards. The Ethiopian government denies involvement in this and claims to minimize civilian casualties, but as conflict intensifies, so do humanitarian atrocities. Six million people living in Tigray have lost access to healthcare due to the closings of the vast majority of health centers, blockage of humanitarian aid, and shortage of medical supplies. In addition, access to food and hygiene have been limited. The combination of physical violence with this humanitarian structural violence has culminated in the current crisis despite little international attention.
October 1st marked five years since anglophone separatists declared their independence from Cameroon as the Independent Republic of Ambazonia. During this time, violence has escalated, and 4,000-6,000 people have died. In addition, the military has been accused of committing extensive human rights abuses against civilians living in the anglophone region of the country. For the first time, Cameroon’s military has publicly arrested several of its own soldiers for torturing suspected separatist fighters. However, they have denied accusations that these soldiers hurt civilians in the fighting and have not yet provided any details about how many soldiers were arrested or what consequences they will face.
Civilians have also faced violence from separatist fighters. On October 22nd, nine people who had been captured over a month prior were released. They expressed gratitude that they had been released without a ransom, but the group had demanded that their church pay throughout most of the time they were held captive. This has sparked fears that more similar incidents will occur in the future in order to fund separatist groups who are seeking more resources to match Cameroon’s government.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has seen widespread amounts of torture from victims in the conflict areas of the country. The United Nations has reported that responsibility for these cases of torture rest with both the DRC’s security forces and other armed militia groups. Due to the low number of reports filed, the sheer amount of torture that has been afflicted upon victims has been underestimated. As violence has been brewing between armed groups, families have been separated and many people have been displaced from the country to escape being attacked.
While violence in the DRC has been happening for years, recent violence has seen a high number of deaths after the resurgence of rebel groups to try to take back control against security forces and UN peacekeepers. Tensions are rising as the DRC has accused Rwanda of alleged support for the rebel groups– a longstanding issue that stems back to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. As recently as yesterday the Rwanda ambassador has been expelled from the DRC after rebel forces captured a town in the country. While other East African countries are discussing ways to de-escalate the conflict, it remains difficult to see if there will be any cooperation from these countries to curb out violence in the region.
Since April, the UN has led a truce in Yemen between the Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and the Houthi group, backed by Iran. This truce that once marked a hope for an end to the war expired at the beginning of this month, and the two parties failed to extend it. Conflict has not yet escalated, and the UN hopes to negotiate a ceasefire, but this is a very precarious moment for Yemen. There is a much greater risk of war now, concerning both the international community and the people of Yemen who will be directly affected by it.
There has been no end to Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. Half of Yemen’s hospitals have been destroyed or are non-functioning, 2.2 million children are hungry, and food and fuel prices are on the rise due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cutting off important supplies. Even during the truce when fighting ceased, vulnerable Yemenis still suffered from a lack of basic human necessities.
The United Nations in a recent statement said that Syria is facing acute violence due to a worsening economic crisis and a cholera outbreak that has resulted in over 24,000 cases and at least 80 deaths. Conflict remains ongoing despite a stalemate, preventing a peace process between government and opposition forces. The cholera outbreak has been worsened by Syria’s water shortage, causing high malnutrition rates. As winter approaches, Syrians are desperate for aid to help them, but programs are severely underfunded. This is further complicated by suppliers who benefited from UN contracts despite involvement in human rights abuses.
Recently, Israel has conducted airstrikes on Damascus as part of their efforts to stop Iranian-backed groups from funneling weapons to their country. This array of security, health, and economic crises have affected Syria daily since the start of the civil war in 2011. Many Syrians are struggling to survive, and recent events show that these cycles of crises are not letting up for their communities.
Since the killing of an Israeli soldier earlier this month by a Palestinian armed group called the Lions Den, the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank has been under a blockade with multiple military attacks. There has been a siege on a refugee camp, an attack on a school, and a raid that killed six and injured 21, affecting countless innocent people not involved in the fighting. These are just a few incidents among a long history of the brutal treatment of Palestinians by Israel’s military.
The UN Middle East Peace Envoy has also rated this the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank. Since January, 32 have been killed and 311 have been injured in military raids and crackdowns on protests, along with 63 who were injured when they were attacked by Israeli citizens. On the other hand, 2 Israeli soldiers were killed and 13 were injured in attacks by Palestinians. The violence remains ongoing.
The long-ongoing occupation of Palestine has been deemed illegal under international law by a UN Commission of Inquiry that has pushed for the International Court of Justice to address it. Members have stated that occupation of land in war must be temporary and cannot take away state sovereign power– two rules Israel has violated. In addition, the exploitation of natural resources, lack of access to water, and forced displacement have greatly hurt the people of Palestine. This international recognition of the harm of Israel’s occupation of Palestine is an important step forward.
On the night of October 23rd, an air raid by the Myanmar Air Force targeted the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kansi village in Hpakant Township. Witnesses reported that three bombs were dropped as villagers were celebrating a concert to mark the 62nd anniversary of the KIA’s founding. The attack resulted in 50 deaths and injured 100 people, including the musical performers. The military junta has denied killing civilians in the air strike, and said the attack was a counterinsurgency operation. The Myanmar Army has blocked humanitarian aid and first responders from treating the victims, making the death toll rise even further.
This attack marked the deadliest attack on civilians since the start of the civil war that occurred after the military coup last February. As a result, anti-government resistance has increased, especially in Kachin State with the KIA. While the attack has been condemned both internationally and domestically, a meeting will be held in Indonesia by Southeast Asian ministers to consider the peace process for Burma. This will prove difficult however, as the junta have ignored any previous attempts to bring about peace and end their oppression.
With the human rights abuses that have been inflicted on ethnic minorities in China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has now been using social media influencers to whitewash and deny that these human rights abuses have taken place. While Chinese propaganda has been viewed as unconvincing, using individuals in the Uyghur community to deny that abuse was happening on social media gives an authentic feel to convey a false sense of what is actually taking place. This form of propaganda appears casual enough that it is hard to prove if it is scripted or if influencers have any links to the CCP, making it easier to convince others to support the CCP narrative of Uyghurs living in peace and not concentration camps.
Despite of this, the UN has reported that what China has been doing to the Uyghur Muslim community in the Xinjiang province amounts to crimes against humanity. This has led the international community to investigate and put pressure on China to end and acknowledge what has been done to the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Uyghurs have also put pressure on other countries to take strong action, such as how U.K. Uyghur groups have challenged the government to ban the import of cotton products produced using forced labor.
Starting this month, a cinema opened in Kashmir for the first time in fourteen years as the Indian government seeks to normalize tensions brought about after imposing direct rule in 2019. However, few moviegoers decided to show up, which stems from the long insurgency that Kashmir and India have faced where many cinemas in the past have been attacked or bombed. Ever since direct rule has been imposed, the region has come under new laws and restrictions, making tensions more volatile. This has even led India to stop a Kashmiri photojournalist from flying to receive the Pulitzer Prize.
With these difficulties with India as well as Pakistan, Kashmir has faced dual problems, making peace ever more difficult. But there is a sense of hope among some with the recent appointment of the next U.K. prime minister. Rishi Sunak, who has Indian and Pakistani roots, hopes to forge a solution to stop the hostility in Kashmir. Both countries have embraced him and it remains to be seen if Sunak can bring better cooperation and understanding to the region.
October 10th was Indigenous People’s Day, a day of remembrance of the genocide of millions of Indigenous people and a day to celebrate and honor those still here fighting for their rights today. In our work for atrocity prevention today, it is important to remember the atrocities of our past and uplift survivors today.
Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council held a meeting discussing police violence in the United States and across the world. Speakers called for the US to bring down historical and systemic barriers to equality and to hold systems of law enforcement accountable for the harm they have brought to Black communities. It has been over two years since the murder of George Floyd, but police brutality and systemic injustice within the entire police and prison system continue.
Additionally, the US Supreme Court’s removal of nationwide abortion rights with the overturn of Roe v Wade in June continues to affect millions of women and other people who can get pregnant. Thirteen states have complete bans with few exceptions, and even more have harsh restrictions or bans in progress. While the United States claims to support international human rights, it has been criticized by members of its own Congress for the hypocrisy of this restriction of human rights by its own legal system.
There is also a heightened fear of political violence as the 2022 elections approach. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband was attacked by a right-wing conspiracy theorist who was one of many posting violent rhetoric online. Ever since the attempted coup on January 6th of last year, the number of threats against American political figures have only increased.
Grace Harris is a sophomore at UCLA studying International Development Studies. She contributed to the Sudan, Tigray, Yemen, Palestine, and United States portions of this update.
Mira Mehta is a sophomore at Brown University studying Economics and International & Public Affairs. She contributed to the South Sudan and Cameroon portions 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, Syria, Burma, East Turkistan, and Kashmir portions of this update.
STAND’s model has changed many times since our founding in 2004. Since 2015, STAND has operated as the U.S.-based Youth Department of the Aegis Trust, with one full-time staff person dedicated to supporting STAND’s student leaders. Due to a lack of funding, STAND and the Aegis Trust have decided to terminate the Program Director full-time staff position effective November 1, 2022. The youth Managing Committee will continue to direct STAND as an independent volunteer organization, under the leadership of the co-Student Directors.
To ensure continued support and mentorship, the STAND Advisory Board will be expanding to include designated Program Advisors for each area of STAND. This new model will be more decentralized, but it will also offer more STAND alumni and partners an opportunity to directly engage with the youth leaders. The current Program Director, Laura Strawmyer, will stay engaged with STAND through the Advisory Board and the alumni network.
STAND has always upheld the values of youth-led organizing. We’ve mobilized thousands of youth over 18 years, often with very limited resources. We’ve led grassroots advocacy for several monumental policies, including the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, and the Global Fragility Act. We’ve also shaped lives in less countable ways—by building lasting friendships and instilling a sense of hope in the face of daunting global challenges.
We’ve studied the history of movement organizing, and we know progress comes in waves. At the STAND Summit in Washington, DC, in June, we reviewed every element of STAND’s strategy, including our values, team structure, and activities. Building on examples from other youth movements and input from our advisors and alumni, we have updated our programs for the coming years. We will be building an even stronger sense of STAND membership at all levels, including through our recent orientation and a national campaign on genocide education.
We greatly appreciate each and every one of our supporters and hope that you will continue to participate in this community however you can. STAND has withstood many changes to the atrocity prevention advocacy community. While we are proud of what we’ve accomplished, there continues to be an urgent need for our work.
With guidance from the Advisory Board, STAND will continue to raise funds for youth leader stipends and in-person events. Individual donations are critical to making participation accessible for all youth. It’s a great time to make a donation to ensure our students can continue this work.
We always welcome feedback, ideas, and questions from our community. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you for years to come!
The Managing Committee is STAND’s central decision-making body.
Thanks to everyone who joined the first national Orientation on September 24! If you missed it, here are the slides, and here is the recording:
To get more involved with STAND this year:
Join an Action Committee on Burma, East Turkistan, the United States, and/or Yemen
Start a chapter at your school or local community
Existing chapters can be in touch with Grace, email@example.com
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