The student-led movement to end mass atrocities.

Another One Down: Fall 2017 Semester in Review!

We have completed another eventful semester here at STAND, and we are excited to share our successes with you! From lobbying on the Hill for atrocities prevention legislation, rallying for refugees, and fundraising for the Rohingya of Burma, we made hundreds of phone calls, published several op-eds, and shook social media. This is STAND’s Fall 2017 Semester in Review.


In October, we launched #PledgeGAPAGAPA to advocate for the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Prevention Act. This year, we asked upSTANDers to “Go Greek” for genocide prevention (#genprev!) by collecting signatures, taking photos, and writing letters and op-eds. Thanks to the work of hardworking STAND students and our advocacy partners, the House bill (H.R. 3030) now boasts 60 co-sponsors, and the Senate bill (S. 1158) boasts 29. We’re looking forward to continuing to advocate for this groundbreaking piece of legislation, and hope you’ll get involved – check out our #PledgeGAPAGAPA toolkit here!

Lemonade for YemenAid


Many STAND chapters hosted #YemenAid Stands to raise awareness and engage students in advocacy for Yemen. Our “YemenAid Stands” functioned as good old fashioned lemonade stands, but with a twist! In exchange for some refreshing lemonade, students had two options: either call their representatives and urge them to oppose U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen or donate to STAND to support our advocacy efforts. U.S. government officials and legislators have taken increased note of the human rights violations in Yemen, and in November, President Trump condemned Saudi Arabia’s blockade on Yemen’s ports. STAND students have contributed to building a critical mass of leaders invested in halting US arms sales used against civilians in the conflict.

2017 Lobby Weekend for Atrocity Prevention

Students from across the country traveled to Washington D.C. for a weekend jam-packed with education sessions, campaign and advocacy training, and lobbying. All in all, 50 passionate students made it to Capitol Hill to lobby over 20 offices for the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, action to protect the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma, and an end to unconditional U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition responsible for vast civilian harm in Yemen.


We continued our partnership with the Nexus Fund to support peacebuilding in Burma, where the Rohingya Muslim minority group have been driven from their homes en masse and may be experiencing genocide at the hands of the Burmese military. With your support, we have raised over $7000 to support the Rohingya. We are inspired by all of the creative fundraising over the holiday season, through Giving Tuesday, art sales, and fun, engaging dares! Your support in this campaign is something to celebrate and we hope you will continue to support this work by donating at



STAND advocated for key atrocities prevention legislation in more than ten states. Our new group of State Advocacy Leads conducted outreach in several states to broaden STAND’s network of individuals, successfully published several op-eds and blog posts, and held multiple call-in days on a range of issues including the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, U.S. involvement in the conflict in Yemen, and attacks on U.S. refugee resettlement, including the Muslim Ban. In addition, our Education and Communications Task Forces covered a range of conflict areas in their pieces including less highlighted areas of injustice such as GuatemalaPunjab, and Indonesia.

Thank you to each and every one our partners, chapters, and supporters for helping STAND with another successful semester. Your efforts, whether making a phone call, signing our #PledgeGAPAGAPA petition, fundraising for #RiseForRohingya, or hosting a YemenAid Stand, have contributed greatly to these successes. Our campaigns and advocacy efforts are only successful because of all of you and we can’t wait to continue to build with you in 2018!

STAND USA Opposes U.S. Supreme Court Decision on the Muslim Ban

The 2017-2018 STAND Managing Committee has issued a formal statement in response to the Supreme Court decision on the most recent iteration of President Trump’s Muslim Ban. Please find the transcript below and the full PDF here.

STAND students organized a rally at UNC-Chapel Hill to protest the Muslim Ban. We remain committed to a world without identity-based fear or discrimination.

STAND students organized a rally at UNC-Chapel Hill to protest the Muslim Ban. We remain committed to a world without identity-based fear or discrimination.

Hours before the ban was to come into effect in October, a federal judge in Hawai’i found that the order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” and fails to show that the over 150 million nationals of these countries would have “detrimental” effects on U.S. national security. His ruling blocked the ban on the Muslim-majority countries, but not North Korea or Venezuelan officials.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court order suspended the injunctions of the lower courts, allowing the ban to take effect, and calling upon the Richmond and San Francisco appeals courts to swiftly rule on the legality of the ban. The orders were unsigned, however, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have denied the administration’s request for the latest ban to go into effect. This ruling does not mean that the Supreme Court has accepted the ban as constitutionalthat battle is ongoingbut does mean that they agreed that an emergency injunction against the ban was unnecessary. The court is expected to make a ruling on constitutionality in the coming months.

Significantly, unlike earlier iterations of the ban, which had expiration periods for restrictions, the third version is indefinite. As lawyers for Hawai’i told the justices, this distinction “deepen[s] and prolong[s] the harms a stay would inflict”. Although the restrictions vary, most cases, as reported by the New York Times, permanently bar citizens of the listed countries from emigrating to the U.S. as well as working, studying, or vacationing in the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), stated immediately after the decision that “this is not a ruling on the merits, and we continue our fight. We are at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday to argue that the Muslim ban should ultimately be struck down.” Additionally, they filed a letter to the Supreme Court regarding recent Islamophobic statements by President Trump that provide additional proof of the intent of the ban.

Karen Tumlin, the legal director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), also stated the following on Twitter: “It’s important to remember that the Supreme Court has NOT addressed the legal merits of the Muslim Ban nor the human impacts w/its order today. Those will be before 2 federal courts of appeal this week.”

As ever, we at STAND oppose the Muslim ban in all its forms and support our partners fighting this battle in court. We oppose all actions targeting and scapegoating an entire religion, as recent statements and actions by President Trump have.

As an organization fighting against genocide and mass atrocities worldwide, we hold the lessons of history close to our heart as we reflect on recent events in our own country. We will never allow such discrimination and hatred to be directed at any religious group in our countryor anywhere in the world. We stand with individuals kept from their loved ones because of the ban, with those waiting to enter, and indeed with all Muslims in the United States who have been shown that U.S. policymakers are willing to put their well-being, and that of their family and friends, at risk.

As the situation and analysis develops, we will share actions STAND supporters can take to oppose the ban and support those affected by the ban. As ever, thank you for your support.

Note: For a history of the Trump Administration’s various iterations of the ban and relevant court challenges, see STAND’s blog post here, and this article from the L.A. Times.

STAND Statement on the Escalation of Violence Against the Rohingya

In light of the escalation of violence against the Rohingya in Burma, the 2017-2018 STAND Managing Committee has issued a statement and a corresponding call to action. Please find the transcript below and the full PDF here.


One year ago today, we at STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him not to lift sanctions on Burma due to “a number of pressing issues threatening the stability of the country and its most vulnerable people.” Tragically, we are now writing once again to express our grave concern regarding the widespread crackdown by the Burmese military against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

After the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group fighting against the continued denial of human rights to the Rohingya, attacked several police posts and an army base on August 25, the Burmese military began a vicious military campaign, indiscriminately targeting Rohingya communities. Soldiers are burning villages to the ground as well as raping and killing hundreds of Rohingya civilians, some of whom have been beheaded or burned alive. According to multiple Bangladeshi officials, including Lieutenant Colonel Ariful Islam, Burmese security forces have planted land mines along the border with Bangladesh, targeting the over 300,000 Rohingya refugees attempting to escape the violence. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently condemned these atrocities as “ethnic cleansing,” affirming a widely-held belief that warning signs on the ground suggest an impending genocide.

Given the gross human rights abuses in Burma as well as the regional implications caused by the escalating humanitarian crisis, STAND calls on both the United States and the international community to undertake five specific actions essential to ending the current violence and establishing the structural conditions for peace.

While STAND does not condone the violence of any party to the conflict, we are particularly alarmed by the disproportionate and indiscriminate force employed by the Burmese military against Rohingya civilians. A few policymakers in the House and Senate have attempted to draw attention to the violence targeting this Muslim minority and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley recently called on the Burmese military to abide by international and humanitarian law. Yet both President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have remained appallingly silent. Both must publicly condemn violence being committed against Rohingya in Burma.

The regional implications of the violence in Burma are significant. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are living in horrid conditions in refugee camps just inside Bangladesh. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there is no remaining shelter capacity and numerous refugees, many of whom are starving or wounded, have been forced to build makeshift shelters. Moreover, there is some indication that the violence against the Rohingya will worsen ethnic tensions throughout the region among Muslims and Buddhists. As such, STAND believes the United States must allocate increased aid to the region, particularly to organizations on the front lines of the displacement crisis in Burma and neighboring countries.

It is also imperative that actors within the United States government draw attention to the one year anniversary of the decision to lift sanctions on Burma due to the lack of promised human rights progress and calling for key improvements to the status and treatment of the Rohingya. One year ago, STAND led the opposition to lifting sanctions, viewing the move as preemptively permissive and perhaps emboldening. The inaction of the Burmese government and attacks by the Burmese military have confirmed this prediction. Any future conversations between the two countries should reference and apply pressure on this point. At a minimum, Congress must not follow through a legislative proposal to increase military cooperation with Burma as a geopolitical strategy intended to reduce Chinese influence in the region. Instead, STAND calls on senators to support Senate Amendment 607 in the National Defense Authorization Act, which would defund military assistance to the Burmese military. Geopolitics must not reign supreme over respect for human rights and international law and justice.

While other organs of the United Nations have begun to mobilize, the United Nations Security Council has yet to take definitive action in Burma. In light of the recent statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein “call[ing] on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred and reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population,” the Security Council must conclude its meeting on Wednesday with a resolution demanding that the Burmese military allow humanitarian aid into the country and permit humanitarian groups, journalists, and third-party fact-finding missions into the country to investigate the extent of the alleged human rights abuses.

Finally, all involved parties should support and advocate for the provision of full Burmese citizenship to the Rohingya. The statelessness of the Rohingya prevents them from accessing employment, housing, government benefits, and beyond, adding to their collective powerlessness and persecution. STAND calls on all parties interacting with the government of Burma to raise this issue in addition to a cessation of violence and discriminatory targeting.

For the last year, STAND has focused on early warning,  prevention efforts and fundraising for local peacebuilding projects. The recent escalation of violence, however, has demonstrated that these efforts alone are insufficient. Stronger action is required from the international community in order to ensure the steadfast promise of  “never again.”

This statement was issued by the STAND Student Managing Committee, STAND’s national decision-making body. Please contact STAND Student Director Savannah Wooten at or STAND Executive Manager Mac Hamilton at for any additional information. 

Year in Review 2016-2017

Thanks to our amazing STAND student activists, this past year was a great success! STAND activists across the nation have participated in numerous campaigns, a national conference, four regional conferences, and individual chapter activities. Because of your hard work, 26 Syrian students were awarded scholarships to universities across the nation, nearly $5,000 was raised for young peacebuilders in Burma, and we witnessed the release of political prisoners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We honored the victims of global genocides in our annual Together We Remember name readings across the country, fought back against human rights infringements and violence within our own country, and pushed critical legislation through Congress piece by piece. As always, STAND students have been at the frontlines of these actions.

Read below for some snapshots of the work they did this year. 

Save Aleppo


In the winter, the situation in Syria notably worsened in the besieged city of Aleppo. As the Assad regime stepped up its use of sieges and rebels lost territory, many called for action to help the individuals of Aleppo. STAND activists responded to the crisis by writing op-eds, urging Members of Congress in the US to vocally and vigorously push for civilian protection measures, including evacuating civilians, and fast-tracking the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which we will continue to support in the coming school year. Check out a few of our published student op-eds here and here!

Books Not Bombs

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This year, STAND continued our partnership with Students Organize for Syria, working with students to urge universities to create scholarships for Syrian refugees. This campaign has been a huge success. The petition has gained over 20,000 signatures, three universities have committed to create scholarships for refugees, and a fellowship has been developed to assist refugee students with supplementary funding for their education. To learn more and get involved, visit

Free Jean-Marie

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Last spring, STAND launched a campaign to bring attention to the unlawful imprisonment of young activists by the Congolese government. We particularly focused on Jean-Marie Kalonji, a recent law graduate and young pro-democracy organizer who was kidnapped by the Congolese intelligence agency in December 2015.

Using the hashtag #FreeJeanMarie, STAND students engaged senators using the power of social media to raise Jean-Marie’s plight. Earlier this semester, Jean-Marie and other activists were released from prison. While advocacy for human rights in Congo is ongoing, this campaign demonstrated the impact student activism can have in pressuring foreign governments.

#IlEstTemps – The Time is Now

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In December, Congolese elections were held. As the deadline for President Joseph Kabila to step down approached without an announcement that he would leave, Congolese took to the streets to call for free and fair elections. The STAND Managing Committee took action, issuing a statement of solidarity with pro-democracy protesters, and working with Friends of the Congo to encourage students to stand in solidarity with Congolese activists who were calling “Il Est Temps” – “The Time is Now” for democracy in Congo.

Together We Remember

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Throughout history, the month of April has been both a celebration of life and renewal and a month of horrible carnage and loss, and has long been recognized as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. For the second year, STAND partnered with #TogetherWeRemember to host over 25  commemorative name-readings at schools and in communities across the U.S. From the University of Southern California to Brooklyn Tech High School in New York City, students across the country read aloud names of victims of genocide and mass atrocities throughout history to honor the lives lost – and to take action to prevent future atrocities. Sign up to host your own #TogetherWeRemember event this April at!



STAND worked this semester to partner with filmmakers to offer screenings of films related to genocide and mass atrocities to chapters across the country. Along with the films, STAND provided action items for students to make a difference. Terre Haute South Vigo High School STAND partnered with the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Indiana to hold the first “STANDFest,” a film festival of learning and action. Interested in planning a screening or STANDfest in your community? Get in touch with us at!

R2P Journal Collaboration

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This year, STAND partnered with The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Student Journal, a global, student-led, free online journal founded in 2015 by a group of students from the University of Leeds and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. The journal aims to provide a platform for undergraduate and postgraduate students to publish academic work on R2P and related topics, including international humanitarian law, human rights, international criminal justice, and genocide and mass atrocity prevention. You can check out our  first joint issue here, including an article by former STAND Student Director Francesca Freeman!

Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

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The Elie Wiesel Act seeks to improve the U.S. ability to protect civilians around the world by creating a governmental working group focused on genocide and atrocities prevention, and authorizing the Complex Crises Fund (CCF), a small funding pot that allows the U.S. to quickly allocate funds to alleviate emerging crises. While a similar bill failed to pass last year, we have continued to build support. Last semester, STAND activists across the country asked Members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation. All the pressure paid off: the Senate bill, S. 1158 led by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Todd Young (R-IN), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) has 26 cosponsors, and a House companion bill, H.R. 3030, was recently introduced by Representatives Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Joe Crowley (D-NY) and has 30 cosponsors. We hope you will join us this year in pushing for this vital policy issue!

Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act


The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act aims to alleviate violence currently transpiring in Syria by implementing targeted sanctions on individuals with ties to the Assad regime in order to promote accountability to those perpetrating and financing atrocities. In addition to sanctions, the bill calls for an assessment of the potential effectiveness of both safe zones and no fly zones. Throughout the school year, STAND student leaders lobbied their representatives in favor of this legislation, leading to its passage in the House of Representatives last fall. As there was not time to build support and pass the bill in the Senate before the end of the year, we are continuing to work on this bill in the coming school year.



Since the Yemeni civil war began in 2015, the Saudi government has intervened on behalf of the government while using American and European weapons to deliberately target Yemeni rebels and civilians. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have nevertheless persisted in selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Providing the Saudi government with more arms will only exacerbate the conflict and lead to more civilian harm. This spring, STAND students in key states urged their Congressional representatives to oppose the Saudi arms deals. While a 2016 bill to condemn the arms deal only received 27 “Yes” votes in the Senate, the 2017 resolution received 47, showing a significant increase in opposition to selling arms to Saudi Arabia.


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Shortly into his first term, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) to drastically reduce refugee admissions and grind resettlement to a halt, specifically targeting refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. The EO, in what ultimately amounts to a Muslim Ban, threatened our refugee friends, family, and communities based on faulty and discriminatory premises. STAND students were vocal in opposing the ban, urging their Congressional representatives, local officials, governors, and beyond to make public statements against it, and by welcoming new arrivals at airports across the country. The EO is still being fought in court, and we will continue to advocate against this inhumane order.



This spring, the Trump Administration proposed a budget that would implement enormous cuts to funding for the State Department, foreign aid, and the United Nations. STAND students wrote letters, op-eds, and called Congressional representatives to insist that we should invest more, not less, in peacekeeping, development, and US diplomatic efforts. STAND’s grassroots network will continue to speak up on budget issues in the coming year, protecting the world’s most vulnerable people who benefit from this funding and bolstering America’s capacity to make “Never Again” a reality.

Kayla Mueller Medical Supply Drive

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In honor of Kayla Mueller, a dedicated STAND alumna who was tragically killed in 2015 while doing aid work on the border of Syria, STAND has partnered with Students Organizing For Syria and the Syrian American Medical Society to organize the Kayla Mueller Medical Supply Drive. The goal of this drive is to collect donated medical and dental supplies and machines from generous hospitals and practices. STAND students are writing to and visiting local hospitals in their communities to request donated materials. SOS and SAMS are coordinating to ship these materials overseas.


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This year, STAND, in partnership with The Nexus Fund, asked activists to #RiseforRohingya by fundraising for youth leadership programs in Burma, where the Rohingya minority ethnic group is at severe risk of genocide. We have raised nearly $5,000 to train young Burmese leaders to identify and respond to various threats to peace in their communities, focusing especially on the effects of hate speech. With your help, STAND hopes to reach its goal of $7,500 this summer! Check it out and donate here.

As always, the success of STAND relies on the activism of individual students and chapters across the country. As we enter our 13th year of anti-atrocity work, we want to give a direct, sincere, and deep thank you to every single one of you that has helped carry this mission with you in your day-to-day life and actions.

Introducing the R2P Student Journal!

STAND and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Student Journal at Leeds University are youth-led education and advocacy organizations with missions to prevent genocide and mass atrocity crimes by educating and mobilizing students on university campuses worldwide. While many organizations work on genocide prevention, STAND and the R2P Student Journal are two of the few primarily activating and amplifying youth voices.

At STAND, we understand that collaborating with other students strengthens our organization, furthers our mission, and allows us to produce more valuable and impactful work.  As such, we are excited to announce a new partnership between STAND and the R2P Student Journal at Leeds.

The Responsibility to Protect Student Journal is a global, student-led, free online journal that aims to provide a platform for undergraduate and postgraduate students to publish their academic work on R2P and related topics, including international humanitarian law, human rights, international criminal justice, and, genocide and mass atrocity prevention. The Journal was founded in 2015 by a group of students from the University of Leeds and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. After careful discussion, our organizations have decided to join forces to advance academic research on mass atrocity prevention, R2P, peacebuilding, and human rights.

Because STAND knows that approaches to genocide and mass atrocity prevention are multilateral and layered, we are thrilled to expand our existing genocide prevention initiatives into academia. Additionally, the R2P Student Journal looks forward to broadening its submission criteria to include atrocity prevention and peacebuilding.

This partnership will broaden the scope of the Journal, allow STAND representatives to both submit and be involved in the peer review process, will enlarge the Journal’s audience and number of potential collaborators, and will allow STAND and other advocacy organizations to inform forthcoming policies and campaigns with accurate research.

What are we looking for?

We are looking for excellent student essays and dissertation excerpts for the R2P Student Journal and short commentaries, analytical pieces, and creative work for our Blog. We welcome submissions on R2P-related topics including mass atrocity prevention, humanitarian intervention, international criminal justice, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, genocide, international humanitarian law, UN Security Council decision making. This is not an exhaustive list, so please get in touch with us if you are unsure of whether your work meets our admissibility criteria.

Author guidelines for Journal submissions

Word count: 2,500-6,000 words (footnotes and bibliography not included). Shorter pieces may be considered for the blog (see below).

Referencing: Please use the Harvard referencing style and include a full bibliographic reference list for each source quoted.

Plagiarism: If your essay was written as part of an assessment item for a course, we advise you submit it to the R2P Student Journal after your essay was marked so that you do not plagiarise yourself.

Language: Submissions must be in English. British or American spelling is acceptable but must be consistent. Please edit your piece before submitting. Submissions must not be under consideration with other publishers, and must not be already published elsewhere.

Formatting rules

• All headings must be in bold and be left-aligned. Subheadings should be italicised. Any custom formatting must be removed before submission.

• Do not indent the first sentence of a paragraph. Leave one line of space between each paragraph.

• Do not italicise any quotations. Place all quotations in single quotation marks and indent quotes over 40 words.

• Please remove any images (unless they are your own original work) from the essay before submission.

Author guidelines for Blog submissions

We welcome contributions on current developments in and reflections on humanitarian crises, mass atrocity prevention, peacebuilding, advocacy efforts and other R2P related themes. The blog is a space for youth to express their thoughts or experiences regarding these themes through commentaries, analytical pieces and creative work (poems, photography, video, short documentary etc.).

Word count: For commentary and analytical pieces, aim for 500-800 words. Longer pieces may be considered.

Referencing: Where possible, include hyperlinks. Otherwise, please use the Harvard referencing style.

Language: Submissions must be in English. If you have a good piece but do not feel confident enough with your level of English, please get in touch. Our editorial team will be happy to work with you to refine your work and provide further guidance.

Formatting rules

• All headings must be in bold and be left-aligned. Subheadings should be italicised. Any custom formatting must be removed before submission.

• Do not indent the first sentence of a paragraph. Leave one line of space between each paragraph.

• Do not italicise any quotations. Place all quotations in single quotation marks and indent large quotes.


Q: Who can submit?

A: Any undergraduate or postgraduate (including research) student can submit their work for the Journal. We welcome submissions from university students all over the world as long as they are in English (translated pieces are acceptable). If you have already graduated, we are happy to accept the article if it was written within 12 months of your graduation date. Please state in your submission email whether you are a current or former student and when your article was written.
For the Blog, we welcome submissions from young people, regardless of their student status.

Q: When can I submit?

A: We publish two Journal issues every year. For our Spring issue, the deadline for submissions is April 30, 2017.

We welcome blog submissions all year round. We aim to respond to you with our decision on whether your article/blog will be published or requires revision within 2 weeks of submission.

Q: How to submit?

A: If you decided to submit your work to the R2P Student Journal or the Blog, please download this Submission form, fill it in and send it with your essay to Please make sure you have made all the modifications in line with the formatting rules set out above.

Q: What about copyright?

A: We believe in open access and the free-flow of information. The R2P Student Journal is a cost-free resource and free to share or cite as long as you give appropriate credit in accordance to Creative Commons licensing.

A wild success: Spring 2016!

STAND had another successful and exciting semester, and we’re so glad you were a part of it!

We couldn’t have accomplished all that we did without our strong network of passionate activists ready to speak up and take action. The semester was a busy one, full of petition dissemination, name-readings, and Congressional advocacy.

This is the STAND Semester in Review.

Books Not Bombs

     In collaboration with Students Organize for Syria (SOS), The Syria Campaign, and the Karam Foundation, students across the country joined together to demand that their universities offer Syrian students and scholars a safe haven to continue their studies by joining The Syria Consortium. Over 140 schools are actively working on creating these scholarships and our petitions have garnered support from over 8,000 individuals in schools across the country.


Four of the hundreds of schools that participated in the Books Not Bombs petition campaign.

Together We Remember

     As part of Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, students across the country joined together to honor the lives lost in genocides of the 19th and 20th centuries, and to take action to prevent genocide from occurring in the future.This campaign brought communities together to read the names of victims of genocide — those whose names perpetrators hoped the world would forget.

     The name reading event took place in 5 universities across the U.S., where students read from a database of over 50,000 victim names. One chapter was even surprised when local news arrived to cover the event! STAND chapters across the country played a large role in launching this global initiative to memorialize victims and remind the world to make “Never Again” a reality.  


Local news showed up to document the #TogetherWeRemember name reading hosted by the STAND Chapter at Clark University!

UN Security Council Veto Restraint Campaign

     This semester we launched #LessVetoMoreAction with our friends at Aegis Students in the United Kingdom. The campaign recognizes that gridlock and political standoffs in the United Nations Security Council have long prevented mass atrocity-referencing resolutions from passing. As such, conflicts in STAND’s priority crisis zones have worsened and lifesaving aid has been withheld from victims of mass atrocities.

     Our campaign calls for United Nations member states to sign a “Code of Conduct” urging the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia, China) to voluntarily restrain their veto power when voting on a resolution that addresses mass atrocity situations. Stay tuned for future actions and ways to get involved!


Our partners at Uppsala University in Sweden engaged in the #LessVetoMoreAction campaign this May.

Free Jean Marie

     Earlier this semester we began our #FreeJeanMarie campaign, working to secure the release of Congolese youth activist Jean-Marie Kalonji from prison after his politically-motivated arrest in December. Working with Friends of the Congo in the U.S., and joined by many exceptionally brave and dedicated Congolese civil society organizations, we worked to ensure Jean-Marie’s name wasn’t forgotten and that the Congolese government knew the world was watching. Jean-Marie’s case has now been covered in global media and by several human rights organizations. As a result of this attention, the Congolese government finally released proof that Jean-Marie was alive after four months of internment, and transferred him out of a National Intelligence Agency cell to a prison to await trial. We’ll keep contributing to this global effort until we achieve our goal to #FreeJeanMarie.


STAND activists took to Twitter with the hashtag #FreeJeanMarie to raise awareness about Kalonji’s unjust imprisonment.


     Last semester, STAND launched #EasyAsAPB to promote the Genocide and Atrocities and Prevention Act, with a special concentration on institutionalizing the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB)  issued by the Obama administration in 2012. The APB works to ensure that genocide and mass atrocity prevention are a major priority of the U.S. government, and is made up of representatives from several agencies including the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, Justice, and Homeland Security, the Joint Staff, and more.

     In February, the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act was officially introduced in the Senate by Senators Ben Cardin and Thom Tillis. Since then, STAND students across the country have been working to gain bipartisan support in the Senate through call-ins, twitter storms, petition signatures, and direct lobbying. Since its introduction in February, the bill has gained 25 co-sponsors. We’re proud to have directly lobbied over half of the bill’s original co-sponsors, and we will continue to push to ensure the APB is continued into the next presidential administration!


We hand-delivered printed copies of our #EasyAsAPB photo campaign submissions to key Congressional Representatives at our January Capitol Hill lobby meetings.

One semester down, another to go.

As always, we are thankful for your continued activism and commitment to STAND.

Be on the lookout for new campaigns in August and have an amazing summer, STANDfam!

Education Update: January/February

Not sure what happened in our conflict areas in January and February? Get up to speed!

Great Lakes of Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo

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The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) has documented more than 400 cases of human rights violations, including at least 52 arrests, in the DRC since early 2016. Jose Maria Aranaz, the head of UNJHRO, affirmed that this year’s rights violations “exceeded the number [of violations] during the January protests of last year.”

On February 10, the United States Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Ambassador Thomas Perriello, cautioned the US Congress of a brewing political crisis in the DRC, particularly should President Joseph Kabila fail to surrender power in the upcoming November elections in adherence to the constitutional provision that mandates a two-term presidency limit. Addressing the same Senate committee, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, emphasized the “potentially disastrous results” that could arise from election-related political upheaval for both DRC citizens and those throughout the region.

A Human Rights Watch report revealed that 8 youth activists were arrested and detained by authorities on February 16 along with an estimated 30 political opposition supporters for participating in a peaceful protest against delayed elections held in conjunction with a national strike dubbed by the Congolese people as ville morte – meaning ‘dead city’ in French. The ‘dead city’ protests were most prevalent in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma, and Bukavu.

As aptly highlighted by STAND’s Timmy Hirschel-Burns, the date of the ville morte protests, February 16, holds significant symbolism for the Congolese people. On this day in 1992, scores of church members protested against then-president Mobutu Sese Seko’s cling to power. These protests contributed to the fall of Mobutu’s regime. Now, many Congolese are similarly protesting President Kabila’s unconstitutional efforts to remain in power. Hirschel-Burns writes that the push for Kabila to step down from power makes these protests “a powerful historical analogy.”

The arbitrary arrests are among a series of threats and clampdown efforts by Kabila’s government that have occurred since October of last year. His government has repeatedly attempted to thwart opposition supporters and protesters who are speaking out about the upcoming November elections. Notably, key parliamentarian and opposition leader Martin Fayulu was arrested and detained on February 14 for his organizational role in the ville morte protests. He was released after seven hours without charges. Several ville morte protesters also reported receiving anonymous threatening text messages.

Student representatives and leaders from STAND, The Enough Project, and Jewish World Watch have signed a joint letter to Secretary Kerry and other U.S. officials calling for attention to these arrests and for more vocal support for democratic processes within the Congo.


Great Lakes of Africa: Burundi

Lindah Mogeni 

On their February trip to the Great Lakes region, Ambassador Tom Perriello and Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield warned that the destabilization of Burundi serves as a foreboding example of what results when a “leader clings to power while ignoring binding commitments to step down.”

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield additionally expressed concern over Burundi’s internal peace prospects, iterating not only that they did “not appear promising,” but that the talks “are being held in an environment characterized by fear, repression, and lack of freedom of expression.” In agreement with this assessment, the State Department’s top Africa diplomat conveyed that not much is expected from the internal dialogue between the Burundian government and some of its opposition members, stating that it “lacks credibility, funding and externally-based opposition members.” This is significant because many opposition members and independent journalists have left the country in recent months.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm regarding the Burundi talks, the African Union has favored deploying peacekeeping troops to Burundi. According to an African Union statement, a delegation of five heads of state arranged to consult with President Nkurunziza regarding a potential deployment. The deployment of a peacekeeping force would be a large step for the country, especially in the wake of alleged “credible reports” received by Ambassador Perriello claiming that Burundian refugees in Rwanda have been recruited by groups seeking an armed overthrow of President Pierre Nkurunziza. The Rwandan government has since promised to investigate the reports and has made vocal commitments to  relocating Burundian refugees to third countries.

Reports by Human Rights Watch reveal that President Nkurunziza’s government-backed forces and authorities have shown “increased brutality” in their efforts to thwart perceived opponents and that summary executions, abductions, torture, and arbitrary arrests are occurring at alarming rates. Bujumbura is currently witnessing “new levels of lawlessness.”

Rather than dead bodies littering the city streets, a common daily sight in late 2015, “many abuses are now taking place under the radar, with security forces secretly taking people away and refusing to account for them.” While in Bujumbura, Human Rights Watch employees attempted to meet with Burundian government officials but received no response.


South Sudan

Jason Qu

At the end of January, South Sudan missed a deadline to form the long-awaited South Sudanese unity government due to President Salva Kiir’s controversial order to proceed with the formation of 28 new states, dissolving the original 10 states that made up the country. This order was questioned by opposition figures and external parties who viewed it as an obstructive decree with the potential to break down the peace agreement and send the country back into civil war. However, the Dinka Council, Kiir’s supporters, and the South Sudanese Army offered their support for the plan, considering it a provision which would give localities more power over social services. The Jieng Council warned that war could resurface if Kiir’s order was reversed. Tensions rose dramatically due to the creation of these new states, as the shift divided states on tribal lines, frustrating many ethnic groups.

Clashes in Western Equatoria between the Arrow Boy militias, a series of groups that began operating in the region as a “self-defense” force, and the SPLA killed five people. Clashes like these have contributed to the declining humanitarian situation in South Sudan – with the UN making an appeal for 1.3 billion dollars in funding for aid in South Sudan and the number of people sleeping on UNMISS bases topping 200,000.

On February 12 of this year, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir appointed SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar, his chief political rival, the position of Vice President of South Sudan, urging him to return to the capital within 7 days to begin forming a new government. From South Sudan’s independence in 2011, Machar occupied the position of Vice President until the most recent civil war, at which point he fled from Juba in July 2013. Vice President James Wani Igga was sworn in as 2nd Vice President on August 23,2013. Machar accepted the appointment but stated he will only return to Juba and begin his duties as Vice President when the capital is fully demilitarized, as stipulated in the 2015 August Peace Accords. Juba issued an order on the day of Machar’s appointment to withdraw SPLA forces from the capital by the end of February. Kiir did not immediately react to Machar’s demands. The SPLA indicated the demilitarization would be completed by the end of February.

In mid-February, opposition forces claimed that the SPLA launched offensives against rebel forces in Upper Nile State. In a separate statement, the SPLM-IO accused the South Sudanese Army of launching attacks against opposition-held bases across South Sudan, notably in oil-rich Unity State, and of preparing for a major assault on rebel positions. They cited SPLA troop movements in the area and military buildup in Jonglei State.

Deciding not to wait for Machar to return to the capital, President Kiir announced next steps towards the formation of a transitional government in mid-Februrary. He announced plans to name a partial cabinet, although he has not yet received input from the SPLM-IO about the 10 ministerial positions they have been promised. The Joint Monitoring and Evaluating Commission (JMEC)  asserted that all parties should be present and engaged in the creation of a new government, and that unilateral action would undermine peace efforts.

Per the August peace agreement and Machar’s demands, SPLA forces withdrew from Juba on February 18 in a move towards the demilitarization of the capital. According to the JMEC, the entire demilitarization was expected to take six more weeks. Many believed an extra six weeks was too long to wait to form a new government. The JMEC stated that they were reaching out to both sides to reach an acceptable compromise on security arrangements.

Additional political uncertainty and instability has continued to drive conflict in the country, with the SPLM-IO alleging that the SPLA is continuing an offensive across Greater Mundri in Western Equatoria State in an attempt to dislodge opposition positions in the area. An opposition spokesperson claimed that opposition forces underwent heavy shelling and were forced to withdraw from a number of bases due to SPLA attacks. In Wau State, hundreds fled fighting between SPLA and IO forces. On February 18, a UNMISS base in Malakal sheltering over 200,000 civilians came under heavy fire, resulting in the deaths of 18 people. The UN reported that Dinka and Shilluk youth armed with small arms and machetes began attacking the camp, displacing over 26,000 people.

Political instability and violence continue to destabilize and aggravate the already fragile severe humanitarian situation in the country. The UN has desperately appealed for monetary assistance, reporting that over 40,000 civilians are at catastrophic risk for starvation.


Sudan: Darfur

Jason Qu

New fighting ravaged Darfur in late January as the Sudanese Armed Forces began a broad new offensive in the tumultuous region, most notably Central Darfur’s Jebel Marra. Jebel Marra is a mountainous area and a stronghold for the Darfuri rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW), led by Abdel Wahid. Despite a one-month extended ceasefire by Khartoum, the Sudanese army and SLM-AW engaged in intense fighting east of Jebel Marra, displacing tens of thousands and killing dozens. Both sides produced conflicting statements regarding the clashes. This raised new doubts amid a commitment by the Sudanese Government to hold a referendum on the status of Darfur on April 11 to 13, although it has received opposition from some Darfuri leaders, rebels, and political factions.

The “Sudan Call” opposition alliance, a loose coalition of major armed and political rebel groups in the country, called for Darfuris to boycott the referendum on the administrative status of Darfur. Just days after, Darfuri displaced persons and refugee associations did the same. The referendum in Darfur had already been met with intense division in the Sudanese Government, and this announcement seriously threatened a major part of Bashir’s National Dialogue agenda for reconciliation. Using a proposal drawn up by the African Union Peace and Security Council, opposition forces asserted that their ideal solution to the crisis in Darfur would include the dissolution of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir’s Government and a replacement of the 2011 Doha Agreement. In the past, Khartoum has rejected such moves.

Informal talks were held between leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese Government in Germany, a nation that has signed an agreement with the AU to work with parties to the conflict in Sudan to help find peace. Despite initial optimism that a peace agreement was imminent, the talks collapsed in late January as both sides traded accusations for the lack of progress. Stumbling blocks, notably disputes over humanitarian aid, remained before an agreement could be made to end the 4-year conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The collapse came as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) began discussions with Khartoum in Ethiopia. These groups, active in Darfur, seek an alternative framework to finding peace in the region besides the 2011 Doha Document.

In early February, after weeks of fighting with Darfuri rebel groups in Jebel Marra, the Sudanese Army claimed key territory. As they regained control of the area, they stated that displaced civilians should return home. Major rebel organizations such as the SLA-AW made statements that fighting was still ongoing. However, neither claim was confirmed. Over 44,000 civilians were uprooted from their homes as a result of the clashes, with the United Nations stating that these civilians faced a “dire” humanitarian situation. There were reports of armed militiamen charging “passage fees” for those fleeing from bombardment in East Jebel Marra. Despite these challenges, a shipment of aid from the UN reached over 20,000 civilians in North Darfur seeking refuge in a UNAMID base.


Central and West Africa: Central African Republic

Ruhi Bhaidani

In late January, hundreds of people marched through the Central African Republic denouncing the fraud of the parliamentary election and calling for a rerun of both the parliamentary and presidential elections. “The aim of this peaceful march is to demand the constitutional court to cancel both polls since the same causes produce the same effects,” said Josephine Ngbaboulou, spokesman for the Alliance of Democratic Forces for Transition. Although demonstrations are officially banned during the election period, protesters gathered at the entrance of the office of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Bangui, demanding the court to act.

The constitutional court in the Central African Republic decided that December’s parliamentary elections must be rerun due to irregularities. This decision came after over 400 complaints, primarily regarding spoiled ballot papers, were lodged by individuals who had participated in the election process. In December, CAR’s election authority admitted that ballot papers for legislative candidates had not arrived in certain parts of the nation, and called for a rerun and recount of votes. A second round of elections was held on February 14, after which CAR was left with a new president but no new parliament. According to Lewis Mudge, a CAR researcher at Human Rights Watch, “These elections were never going to be a silver bullet for Central African Republic. Fundamentally, the ongoing crisis in the country is due to generations of bad governance and corruption.”

The two candidates for presidency, Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Faustin Archange Touadera, are both former prime ministers of the country. Dologuele’s platform includes promises to reformthe country’s troubled finances and attract foreign investment. Touadera is running to end corruption and bring unity to the nation. According to Mohamed Malick Fall, the CAR’s UNICEF representative, children have been dragged into the war, with as many as 10,000 recruited by armed groups during the crisis. He stated that the voices of the children are extremely important as they are the generation responsible for peacekeeping in the future. Preliminary results showed former PM Faustin-Archange Touadera as the expected winner. On February 20, 2016, Touadera won the run-off with 62.71% of votes according to the Election Commission.

In the days leading up to the election rerun, Hillary Margolis of Human Rights Watch commented for NPR that, “People are quite hopeful that it [the election] could bring some form of stability, which is sorely needed in the country. But the fact remains that there do continue to be abuses perpetrated by all parties to the recent conflict. And this government will really have to take action to make sure that systems are put back in place that the rule of law is instated or reinstated and that perpetrators of crimes are held to account.”

In addition to the presidential frenzy, four new accusations of sexual abuse and exploitation against minors by U.N. peacekeepers in the CAR surfaced in February. According to Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, the four children lived in the Ngakobo displaced persons camp and were abused as well as exploited in the past two years. The United Nations will start publicly tracking sexual abuse and exploitation cases in the coming weeks.

In Bangui, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams distributed hygiene and cooking kits to 560 families who lost their living spaces and shelters in a fire on February 10 in the Batangafo camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) that hosts about 30,000 people. Five injuries were treated at an MSF hospital. “This situation shows once again the extremely precarious situation in which thousands of Central Africans are living,” said MSF’s head of mission for the CAR, Miroslav Ilic. “Families are living with almost nothing at all and fearing for their basic security every day. The humanitarian crisis in this country is far from over,” he added. In a nation with over 450,000 IDPs and thousands more who have fled the country as refugees, violence and robberies against average civilian have become rampant, adding to the difficulty of citizens’ everyday lives. Reims Pali, an MSF Assistant Field Coordinator, spoke of the refugee camps: “In comparison to the abuses, killings, robberies and lootings that the people have witnessed in their neighborhoods, they feel relatively safe here. But the living conditions in the sites are very difficult. They live in tents built of waste tarpaulins that are full of holes. They sleep on mats on the ground and are exposed to mosquitoes which may carry malaria. Unless the security situation gets better, they will have to stay here in these camps.”


Southeast Asia: Burma

Sophie Back

The newly elected National League of Democracy (NLD) spent the beginning of the year readying itself to take office in February. However, many have doubted whether the new government will be able to bring about the ‘wind of change’ that it promised voters in November. In order to avoid angering the military, the NLD announced that Aung San Suu Kyi will not be assuming the presidency, but intends to lead the country through a ‘ceremonial head of state.’ Furthermore, the NLD will include at least one minister of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the outgoing military-backed government, in its cabinet. Under these conditions change is likely to be very gradual in Burma in the coming months.

Despite the ceasefire agreement signed in October, fighting has continued. On December 31, state troops attacked positions held by the Shan State Army–South (SSA-S) in Northern Burma, killing one of their guards and violating the peace deal. Similarly, on December 27, clashes occurred between the Arakan Army and state soldiers. This ongoing instability in Northern Burma has aided the growth of the region’s opium trade, which currently produces 90% of the heroin trafficked each year through the ‘Golden Triangle,’ an area between China, Burma and Thailand. This adds fuel to the flames of regional conflict.

The Myanmar Union Peace Conference in January sought to reopen dialogue between the government, ethnic armed groups, and political parties to agree on a framework for peace. The Conference concluded with the creation of a Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JCMC) and the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) which will coordinate peaceful negotiations in the future. The delegates set out four proposals to support the peace process: 1) to broaden the national-level dialogue to involve all minority groups within 3 to 5 years, 2) to convene a second peace conference, 3) to increase the number of women involved in the dialogue to 30% of participants and 4) to uphold honour and respect between participants. However, these are early days yet and the concrete aims of the peace process are yet to be agreed upon.

The NLD and USDP remain virtually silent regarding the future of Burma’s persecuted Rohingya communities. Legal discrimination, poverty, police brutality and sporadic violence are among the top threats to the survival of Rohingya communities in Burma which have intensified since the elections. On January 10, a Rohingya fisherman was shot dead on the Naff river by Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP).The man is believed to be nineteen-year-old Mohammed Raffique from Maungdaw Township; no explanation has yet been given for his death. Following the crackdown on illegal trafficking in Southeast Asia since last May, human trafficking has slowed due to the rising price of using traffickers which has made leaving Burma unaffordable for most Rohingya people. Reports in mid-January indicated that groups of Rohingya refugees have been escaping desperate conditions in camps in Thailand and Indonesia to continue their journeys to safety. Nonetheless, the majority of Southeast Asia’s refugees remain in a state of limbo, as heads of states are reluctant to take action in defense of their rights.

On January 27 Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) arrested 32 Burmese Rohingya migrants and a Bangladeshi human trafficker attempting to cross into Bangladesh via motorboat near Shapuridip. The six crew members and the trafficker have been arrested pending investigation and the passengers are due to be forcibly repatriated to refugee camps in Burma as soon as possible.  

At her first press conference since the new parliament was formed on February 1, Aung San Suu Kyi announced to the world press that it is “not yet time to form a government … don’t be anxious. You will know when the time comes.” Aung San Suu Kyi sought to quiet concerns in Burma about the newly elected National League of Democracy’s (NLD) delay in naming their presidential candidate. The NLD leader has promised that a candidate will be announced by early March, meanwhile the party is in the process of a careful decision-making process which she insisted insists “cannot be rushed.” Next month, members of Burma’s two parliamentary houses and the military will nominate three candidates to compete in the presidential election which will decide who is to replace outgoing President Thein Sein.

Shortly after, a parliamentary member for the Arakan National Party (ANP), Khin Saw Wai, spoke out about the NLD’s plans to amend laws which discriminate religious and ethnic minorities in the country. These include the 1982 ruling that automatic citizenship should be granted only to ‘recognized ethnic nationalities’ and groups that settled in the country before 1823, and the four “race and religion protection laws” which were passed by Parliament last year. The latter have provided a legal basis for discrimination against the Rohingya in recent months. Khin Saw Wai argued these laws offer protection from the perceived threat of “race annihilation” in the Northern Arakan State townships, where Arakanese communities make up just 3 percent of the population. The ANP are threatening to mobilise politically against the NLD’s reforms. Many view this as a reminder to the new government that it will have to negotiate with groups like the ANP, which are driving racial hatred in Burma, to achieve a democratic transition.

Additionally, the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) has raised its concerns about child malnutrition in Burma which has been exacerbated by last year’s floods and has placed added strain on Burma’s persecuted Rohingya communities living in temporary accommodation. Reporting on the conditions of the refugee camps in Rakhine state ECHO’s regional coordinator Roselyn Mullo said refugees are surviving on one meal a day and a diet of predominantly rice and water. 19,200 children under five are currently moderately malnourished in the flood-zone and 1,500 are suffering severe malnutrition. Mullo has predicted that these levels are likely to rise in 2016 and has urged the new government to take immediate action to address Burma’s most vulnerable.

Amnesty International has called for the Burmese government to repeal the ‘Former Presidents Security Law’ passed on January 27, which protects retired statesmen from being indicted for human rights violations committed under their watch.  According to Champa Patel, Amnesty International Interim Director South East Asia and Pacific Office has rebuked this law as an attempt by the outgoing government “to protect its ranks from any form of prosecution.” Critics warn that this legislation could seriously undermine Burma’s democratic transition and rob the Burmese people of their right to justice and reparations for the last 25 years of oppression and military rule.

Mid-February, Aung San Suu Kyi came under increasing pressure to increase her level of personal security after a receiving a death threat on Facebook from a man known as Ye Lwin Myint. Ultra-conservative Ye Lwin threatened to shoot anyone who tries amend the article in Burma’s constitution which bars Suu Kyi from being elected president. Further threats were made by Buddhist Fundamentalists in Rakhine State whodemanded that Aung San Suu Kyi ignore calls from the international community to amend the exclusive 1982 citizenship law and grant citizenship rights to the 1 million Rohingya people living in Burma.

Pe Than, parliament member for Arakan National Party told in late January that “We are ready to fight back on it as we have vehemently called for not amending the law because we need to scrutinize illegal migrants and… consider our race, sovereignty and security.” The threat of ethnic-based and political violence continues to loom large in Burma and many remain resistant to democratic reform.

This week, a report published by the Calcutta Research Group revealed that the number of Rohingya families settled in India has reached 10,565. The report titled ‘Rohingyas: The Emergence of a Stateless Community’ interviewed thousands of Rohingya refugees and studied the precarious position of these families (representing some 40,000-60,000 people) living in India’s refugee camps, particularly those living in Jammu, Hyderabad, Delhi and Kashmir. A key concern highlighted by the report was the widespread incarceration of families seeking refuge in West Bengal where UNHRC refugee cards are not recognized as valid. Reporters claim this harsh treatment is leading to the “disintegration of the refugee family” and has had a profound psychological effect on detainees. This report highlights a new facet of the Rohingya diaspora which is no longer simply a Southeast Asian issue but is now affecting much of Southern Asia.  

In Bangladesh, the government has begun it first official census of Rohingya refugees. The study is being conducted in partnership with the International Organization for Migration and will take place over several weeks. It seeks to assess the economic and social conditions faced by stateless Rohingya migrants in through interviews and home visits. Current estimates claim that there are around 500,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, however, without a clear understanding about the scale of the issue authorities have been unable to act to improve the situation. Many hope this study will help bring about the decisive action needed to improve the quality of life for Refugees in Bangladesh.

In Kuala Lumpur on February 11, clashes broke out between Rohingya workers and local gangsters, leaving one man dead, a Rohingya worker, and two injured. The violence, which took place in the Selayang wholesale market, was part of a continuing turf-war between the two groups, however, this was the first time that local hostility towards the Rohingya community has led to a killing. It is feared that the incident may lead to further flare ups in the coming weeks.


Middle East and North Africa: Syria

Maddie King

Representatives from both the Syrian government and the opposition attended at the first round of Syria talks in January in Geneva,  part of a process outlined in a UN resolution in January providing an 18-month timetable to end the war in Syria. These UN backed negotiations were designed to bring together the Assad Regime and the opposition in order to devise a plan to begin the process of political transition including elections and the drafting of a new constitution. John Kerry confirmed that the two groups would not meet directly, but that negotiations would take place through proximity talks. Russia continued to push for the inclusion of Kurdish groups, who were excluded from earlier talks in Riyadh.

On February 3—just two days after their official start—the third round of Geneva peace talks were suspended and postponed.These negotiations were initially set to begin on January 25, but were pushed back repeatedly as the opposition council (the High Negotiations Committee) formed in Riyadh in December refused to engage in negotiations until Assad’s regime agreed to certain humanitarian measures. These measures included the halting of bombardment of civilian areas, the opening of besieged areas to humanitarian aid, and the release of detainees as a gesture of goodwill.

The collapse of the Geneva peace talks occurred in the context of a dramatically escalated offensive on Aleppo by regime forces, supported by heavy Russian airstrikes. The offensive aimed to cut supply lines to rebel held parts of the city of Aleppo and to end the opposition’s siege on two government held Shiite villages, Nubol and Zahraa. Pro-government forces successfully broke rebel sieges on Nubol and Zahraa and approached Aleppo, with reports indicating that up to 70,000 civilians evacuated the city and its surrounding area in anticipation of a siege of the city. Despite these developments on the ground, Stefan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria, insisted that negotiations would resume. Additionally, the UN held an important donor conference in which world leaders pledged provide nearly $11 billion in aid for Syria in 2016.

Although the first round of the Geneva peace talks were suspended, the the ISSG (International Syria Support Group) announced a cessation of hostilities in mid-February. The agreement came out of a bilateral American-­Russian pledge to expand diplomatic and military cooperation and increase the rate of aid delivery to affected regions in Syria, a move congruent with the demands of the rebel groups. The ceasefire did not include international efforts to combat terrorism, and many expressed doubts that Russia’s airstrike campaign may continue to target moderate Syrian opposition forces, despite the aforementioned ceasefire. These concerns were especially potent because the Assad regime continued to advance on Aleppo.

Just days after the ISSG agreed to end hostilities in Syria, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev stated in an interview with Time that Russia would continue its bombing campaign of moderate rebel forces in and around Aleppo. The Russian airstrike campaign, ostensibly intended to target ISIS and al­-Nusra targets, has in practice targeted many moderate rebel forces. Many international forces hoped that the recently agreed upon cessation of hostilities would lead to an end of Russian air raids on civilian and rebel forces, but Medvedev’s statements that “they are all bandits and terrorists” left observers with little hope about the end of airstrikes.

Assad also expressed concerns about the feasibility of the planned “cessation of hostilities,” citing issues regarding the proposed time frame and questioning what a ceasefire would mean for terrorists. Despite the potential military complications, the agreement was successful in terms of allowing aid to reach many besieged Syrian towns.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Syria continued to escalate throughout the peace process. Ilya al-Adl, a local leader of the al-Nusra Front, Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, was assassinated on January 20 in northwestern Idlib province. More than 20 Islamist leaders and commanders were assassinated in Syria between December and January. Analysts have attributed these assassinations to either the Islamic State or the Syrian government.

The Islamic State made territorial gains in late January, capturing territory including weapons depots and the Saiqa Camp army base from the Syrian government in the northern areas of Deir Ezzor province immediately after a series of defeats. On January 19, ISIS released 270 of the 400 or so civilians abducted in the area, but abducted an additional 50+ men and massacred another 135.  

The United Nations continued to mobilize over the severe malnutrition in besieged areas throughout Syria. In early January, the situation in Madaya reached crisis levels when the city of 42,000 suffered a 174 day siege by regime forces. More than 30 died of starvation in early January. On January 7, after international outcry,  the Syrian government allowed a first round of aid to reach the area. However, many remain at risk and will continue to be at risk as the conflict continues. The United Nations has declared that world powers will continue to push for the end of sieges across Syria to ensure the health and safety of the 400,000 people under siege nationwide.

As pro-government forces continued to move forward in Aleppo in early February, tens of thousands of civilians fled to the Turkish border. The Turkish government established another refugee camp by the Oncupinar border gate and began providing aid and assistance to incoming refugees. The Syrian government also continues to tighten sieges in other Northern cities and villages. The United Nations estimates that around 450,000 Syrians are living under siege, but a report issued by Siege Watch and the Syria Institute challenged this figure, estimating that some 1.09 million people are living in besieged areas throughout Syria.

Turkey also launched a series of massive artillery bombardments against Kurdish targets in northwestern Syria, hitting an air base recently reclaimed from the Islamic State. Ankara claimed these attacks were a “retaliation” against Kurdish attempts to form an independent state in Northern Syria. The attacks received condemnation from the ISSG, which called for an increased focus on fighting ISIS and seeking political solutions in the region.

In late February, Turkey continued to fire artillery units on positions held by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militants in Northern Syria, claiming to be in response to Kurdish fire. Ankara has become increasingly worried about YPG territorial gains along the border due to YPG’s political affiliation with the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party. Turkey has also blamed Wednesday’s car bomb attack on a Syrian Kurdish militia fighter, despite denials from Kurdish groups.

Bystanders to Burundi: The Urgent Need for Global Engagement

Burundi is another Rwanda, but not for the reason you think.



From left to right: Political protests against Nkurunziza’s 3rd term; Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza; Burundian refugees fleeing to neighboring Rwanda in fear of escalating violence and political targeting


In recent weeks, western media has been preoccupied with the refugee crisis, the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the ever-imminent threat of terrorism. Growing fear of foreign refugees has sparked a comparison to the world’s attitude towards Jewish refugees during World War II. Presidential candidates Donald Trump’s call for Muslims to bear religious badges harkens back to Germany in 1939. This is not the only crisis resembling darker times in our collective history. The rise in violence and hate rhetoric in the small East African nation of Burundi is an alarming reminder of the shared inaction of the international community during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The violence in Burundi began in April when sitting President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would pursue an unconstitutional third term. Nkurunziza won the July elections by a large margin, prompting several international leaders, such as the US Secretary of State John Kerry, to question the democratic legitimacy of the elections.  Violence between Nkurunziza’s party and the political opposition has intensified in subsequent months. There has been targeted political silencing and violence against civilians. As of last weekend, over 250 civilians have been killed and more than 200,000 have fled to neighboring countries.

Burundi’s complex problems are rooted in the region’s history of colonial oppression, big-man politics, and regional violence. The country last experienced widespread violence in 2003-2005 when an estimated 300,000 people were killed. Given the circumstances, it may be tempting to cast the current violence as genocidal, akin to the Holocaust of the Rwandan genocide. But while crying genocide in the face of ethnic or political violence in Africa is an easy answer, it is not the right one. Instead, Burundi speaks to a recurring theme of international inaction in the face of “unworthy” or “insignificant” conflicts.

Rather than genocide, Nkurunziza regime’s violence towards civilians is the systematic violence of subjugation. If civilians are being murdered, some might ask, do definitional semantics really matter? Yes, they do. According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention of Genocide; genocide is the systematic and intentional destruction of a racial, religious, ethnic, or national group. The word was invented by a Jewish man in 1945 in response to Nazi war crimes. The word is meant to alert international actors to one of the most destructive forms of violence. As such, the word “genocide” should only be used as a final resort. When used incorrectly, it loses its severity and meaning. In assessing violence, definitions are incredibly important so we know the possible trajectory and the appropriate forms of response.     

The current conflict in Burundi is violence of subjugation. Jacques Sémelin, a genocide scholar at Science Politiques, states that subjugation occurs when an actor “annihilate[s] a group partly in order to force the rest into total submission.” When constitutional term limits threatened Nkurunziza’s position of power, the president initiated a campaign of violence designed to secure his power through fear. His primary focus is power, not the intentional and complete destruction of his citizens. Nkurunziza’s pointed use of rhetoric from the Rwandan genocide is another powerful and telling step in the subjugation. These threats are an incredibly effective tool of subjugation since many Burundians were affected by the Rwandan genocide. Citizens fall obediently silent because they fear the language used.

As civilians suffer in Burundi, the world must decide how to respond. We must develop and sustain international concern for the ongoing violence in Burundi. Should this violence escalate, history shows the United States will likely be involved in a peacekeeping and humanitarian capacity. The political and economic costs will be enormous if we wait until the bodies have been buried. Inaction sends a message to an increasingly unstable region that indiscriminate violence towards civilians will be tolerated. This breeds a culture of impunity and instability. From a more pragmatic perspective, it is incredibly expensive to rebuild democracy and stability following violence against a civilian population.   

Although the UN recently signed a resolution condemning the violence, more than 500 Belgian nationals were asked to leave the country last week. The world is collectively turning away from Burundi during a time in which civilian security is dependent on international action. Inaction in the face of Nkurunziza’s violent regime is the worst possible response.

This crisis demands international attention. Burundi needs NGOs documenting violence on the ground, diplomatic negotiations with the Nkurunziza regime, and the focus, care, and political pressure of millions of individuals. Boots on the ground is not the solution, but silence is the worst thing we can offer the people of Burundi. Bystander-ship allows room for further violence. Should this situation escalate further without concerted international efforts to stop it, Burundi will be remembered as another flagrant instance of inaction in the face of brutal atrocities.

R8as6gaTon-W0KIlw6fsFpIBowy7cQdiFW9tzGHnw-MCorie Walsh is a senior at the University of North Carolina, studying Peace, War, and Defense, and researching genocide, civilian protection, and identity-driven conflict. Notably, Corie co-founded a micro-finance program for Ugandan women; started the first collegiate chapter of the UN Shot@Life Campaign; and has engaged in initiatives such as AIESEC, RESULTS, Roosevelt Institute, Conference on World Affairs, and Beyond Conflict. Corie blogs at Nomadic Tendencies and can be reached at

savbiopicSavannah Wooten serves on the Managing Committee of STAND as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizer. She is majoring in Public Policy and Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. Savannah has engaged in comparative human rights coursework and research in Chile, Jordan, Nepal, and Rwanda, where she has studied a variety of pressing human rights and conflict-related subjects. Savannah can be reached at