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whlw: no. 279

August 30 – September 5, 2021

Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • Sudan's path to democracy – A status update since the 2019 revolution
  • Paraguay and its big fight against a tiny armed group 
  • People in Thailand find it hard to trust their government
  • Women in Afghanistan want to play a role in government and are protesting for it
Are you listening to our Spotify playlist Decolonize Weekly yet? I snapped and added ten Sudanese rap tracks to the list. Forget Drake's CLB and Kanye West's Donda. 

Btw, do you like this newsletter? On September 15, this newsletter turns seven years old. As of now, 249 people support this newsletter on Patreon. Can we bring that number to 300? :)

Now without further ado, here's what happened last week,
Sham 

what happened last week

AFRICA
We are rebuilding a nation in Sudan two years after a 26-year-old dictatorship ended
Two years ago, the people in Sudan changed the politics of its whole country. It even brought a dictator (Omar al-Bashir) to his knees with mass protests. Now, a part-military, part-civilian transitional government is in power and a lot of people are asking, ‘Now that the revolution is over, why are we still poor?

Tell me more
Since last year, young people in the country have become really frustrated by the lack of options in their lives and have been protesting across the country. ‘We don’t believe that our new prime minister is truly representing our needs. He needs to step down.’ 

Who’s the prime minister?
His name is Abdalla Hamdok and was elected in September 2019. His main focus was to put Sudan back on the international stage – and he succeeded, meaning, he was invited to the
European Union and the United States (he was the first Sudanese politician to do so in decades) and the country is taking its first step toward joining an international court. Other than that, he’s kind of an elusive figure and has only been seen or heard from by a very small circle of advisers and staff. ‘That’s basically the problem. He needs to communicate more transparently and publicly,’ say outside experts.

What’s he dealing with now?
COVID-19. Some foreign relations crises; like, they’re not on good terms with
Egypt and Ethiopia (the dam problem). So many more people are poorer now. Oh, and don’t forget the floods and the locusts that are adding to the many damages done by the former government.

Zoom out: The world is trying to learn some lessons from what happened in
Afghanistan. Kholood Khair (she is a managing partner of Insight Strategy Partners, a policy think-and-do tank based in Khartoum, Sudan) wrote this opinion piece for Al Jazeera. She suggests that “The Sudanese political elite should [...] understand that prioritising international support over domestic needs and becoming overdependent on the international community can lay the path for the resurgence of fundamentalists triumphantly eulogising the failure of liberal democracy.” Basically, ‘focus on your people. The so-called international community is not the friend you think it is.’

Why this matters: The 2019 revolution in Sudan that removed Omar al-Bashir as dictator after more than two decades was one of the most significant events in Africa in 2019. The country has been in the middle of rebuilding itself ever since – and it’s not an easy job.
SOUTH AMERICA
We are killing too many innocent bystanders in the fight against a tiny armed group in Paraguay – ‘it’s not worth it’
One year ago, on September 2, police in Paraguay killed two 11-year-old girls from Argentina and still, nobody knows why, how and what now. Last week, a lot of people took to the streets across Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay to mark the anniversary of the event and to, well, demand answers.

Who were the girls?
María del Carmen Villalba and Lilian Villalba. Argentina is like, ‘
hello? These were our citizens you killed! What happened?!

How did they die?
The police had been on the hunt for a small armed group called the Paraguayan People’s Army, EPP for short by its Spanish initials. The government of Bolivia believes it to be a “criminal organisation”. And one day, during an operation on September 2, the police closed in on them in the town of Yby Yaú in northeastern Paraguay. That’s where the girls had travelled to Paraguay from Argentina to spend time with their parents, who are members of the EPP.

Tell me more about the EPP
The EPP is
one of the last left-wing armed groups in the country and believe they can change Paraguay by force. Some believe their methods to be ‘Robin Hood-esque’, more people reject them.

What happened then?
A mess. The whole story reads like a thriller, tbh. First, President Mario Abdo Benítez flew to the scene, ‘
it was a success. Here, take photos of me speaking here’. Then, the media found out that two children had been killed; plus more. How did they die exactly? An independent investigation would find that out but there is none yet. Plus, there’s the other extremely grave accusations that the state tried to cover up the murders, lied about how old the girls really were, buried them in unidentified graves, burnt their clothing and other evidence, claiming it was due to COVID protocol. 

Wtf?
Yep, it gets worse. There are girls who say the girls ‘had been captured alive and later executed.’ Paraguay literally has no friends at the moment and keeps saying, ‘no, this is not true. Plus, the EPP recruited them as child soldiers.’

Why this matters: Paraguay and this very tiny armed group have been fighting each other for years. Unfortunately, too many bystanders keep getting killed in this fight. Plus, the government has declared a de-facto ‘state of emergency’ in large parts of northern Paraguay, where police can practically do anything and get away with it.
Including human rights abuses. ‘The government should focus more on other things, like fight poverty and strengthen the economy,’ experts say.
ASIA
We are losing more and more trust in the government’s ability to deal with COVID-19 in Thailand
People in Thailand are becoming more and more frustrated with the government. There are more and more anti-government protests in the country, and some get violent, too. Opposition lawmakers in parliament tried to pass a vote of no confidence in the country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha. However, it failed.

Why are they frustrated?
Many different reasons but: ‘The government did a really bad job dealing with the pandemic,’ most people say. This year, more than 12,000 people in Thailand have died of COVID-19 (it was some 100 people last year).
Only about 13 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and this is not because people don’t want to be vaccinated.

Why is the vaccination rate so low then?
Basically, the job to make vaccines was given to a company that had absolutely no experience in making vaccines. Its biggest shareholder is Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, Thailand’s king himself. To make matters worse, even if the company did have some vaccine-manufacturing experience, the government failed to import enough supplies for the company to make any in the first place. Plus, a lot of young, rich people have been able to get the available vaccines way ahead of older, poorer people. The government’s response?
“We might not be a country that handles the pandemic the best, but we’re not the worst.”

Are there other government f*ckups?
Oh, yes. As I said, there are many reasons people are very frustrated. To name a few:
  • To protest has become very risky. At least 12 leaders of protests that began last year, calling for the prime minister to resign and for reforms to the monarchy, are now locked up, awaiting trial. Not to mention the hundreds of people who have been arrested in recent months for criticizing the country’s king (it’s actually illegal).
  • A lot of people believe that the prime minister is/has become way too power-hungry. He, on the other hand, says, ‘I need more executive power to fight the pandemic’ and has declared a ‘state of emergency’, basically giving him a lot of extra powers to rule the country.
Why this matters: More than 66 million people live in Thailand. Things with COVID-19 could go way worse if the government doesn’t put the well-being of its people first very soon.
ASIA/MIDDLE EAST
We, women of Afghanistan, took to the streets to demand basic human rights and to play a role in the next government
The Taliban have illegally re-taken control over Afghanistan after twenty years and promise to have changed. Last week, women in Afghanistan took to the streets in Herat and Kabul (look here or here) to say ‘nah, we want to play a role in government’ and to demand that their right to work and education be respected. The Taliban broke up the protests; some got injured, like Narges Sadat. ‘Stay home. For security reasons,’ the Taliban said two weeks ago. But women are like, ‘this sounds like some familiar bullsh*t.’

What do you mean ‘familiar’?
“We heard some of these explanations in 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban said that the reason girls couldn’t study and women couldn’t work was because the security situation wasn’t good, and once the security situation was better they could go back. Of course, that moment never arrived,” said Heather Barr, associate director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch.

What’s the Taliban’s view on women?
In the 1990s, it was misogyny times 1000. They had barred women from almost all work and education. Now, the Taliban say they have changed. ‘We promise to respect women’s rights this time. Of course, all must fit within an Islamic framework,’ they say. 

What does this ‘framework’ look like?
Nobody knows. They refuse to define it. ‘Just give them time to form a government first,’ people from abroad say. Others, especially women, are like, ‘y’all, the Taliban haven’t changed.
Don’t trust them. Don’t legitimise them.’ There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical – not just because of what the Taliban did back when they were in power decades ago.

Like?
For example, the new higher education minister has said women and men must be separated at universities. But, as The Guardian reports, there are details in the new Taliban-laws that suggest that
it’s going to be extremely difficult to get a high-quality education in Afghanistan as a woman from now on. There’s also the having-to-paint-over-images-of-women in ads for beauty salons and the new ban on music (not clear how strict that is yet).

Why this matters: Well, human rights. Women, members of the LGBTQ+ community and other groups that the Taliban believe to be less worthy of protection and respect very likely pay (and will continue to) the highest price under their rule.
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Australia: Victoria is the first Australian state that will ban Nazi symbols in public.

Scotland: The country is getting more and more serious about a four-day workweek.

China: No more exams for six-year old school children. And no more idol auditions either

United States: It’s official: Nobody in the state of Texas can get an abortion six weeks into a pregnancy. Even if it is a result of rape.

Mexico: The country banned cosmetic animal testing. They’re the first North American country to do so.

Switzerland: Tens of thousands of people protested for gay marriage. On September 26, the country will decide in a referendum if it wants to legalize same-sex marriage or not.

India: A very famous (and separatist) politician named Syed Ali Shah Geelani died in the state of Kashmir last week.

FRIENDLY ADS
Are you an African journalist looking for paid commissions? Africa Arguments is offering a fellowship starting October 20 (until January 21, 2022) for young freelancers based in Africa. Apply here by September 5.

Want to stay updated on what’s happening in Myanmar? Read
Myanmar Now, an independent news service providing free, accurate and unbiased news to the people of Myanmar in Burmese and English.
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On a not-so-funny note
A 21-year-old Nazi sympathizer in Lincoln, United Kingdom who downloaded bomb-making instructions has been sentenced to read classic novels by Jane Eyre and William Shakespeare instead. The court will actually test his knowledge every four months, too. And then he left court looking like this.

I would have thought this was funny if I, like the judge, believed that he was ‘just a teenager’ and didn’t want to seriously hurt other people. But I might just echo
this Black Lincoln resident’s experiences growing up in Lincoln for some perspective: ‘People in Lincoln are really racist and ignorant.’
What are you currently listening to? Send your suggestions in for the Decolonize Weekly playlist.

If you enjoy this newsletter, you have my patrons to thank at least in part. Patreon makes an important contribution to helping me stay freelancing and scour the internet for underrepresented news and perspectives. So, thank you so much to everyone supporting me there.


That's it. 'See' you next week. And again, thank you for your patience,
Sham
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