what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 278

August 23 – 29, 2021

Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Long Covid is a real challenge these days for me. Thank you for your patience. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • Ethiopia's wars (yes, plural)
  • Aaaall the good LGBTQ+ news worldwide
  • Why Cuba (and other countries) is saying yes to bitcoin
  • Haiti is competing for attention with Afghanistan
  • What COVID-19 did to working women in Peru, Thailand and France
Are you listening to our Spotify playlist Decolonize Weekly yet? I took some inspiration from Errol Nazareth, host of Frequencies at CBC. He shared his playlist for Haiti here. My favorite is 'Merci Mon Dieu' but I’ve also added another track by Lakou Mizik again; this band helped me finish this week’s issue. Plus, thanks to whlw reader Caroline for my new favorite Jamaican artist: Nation Boss.

I also want to retract a word I used to describe Afghanistan. In a previous issue, I used the phrase ‘Graveyard of Empires’. It’s not correct and I thank the Instagram account Ajam Media Collective for this new knowledge bit. Recommended follow, btw!

On September 15, this newsletter turns seven years old. As of now, 245 people support this newsletter on Patreon. Can we bring that number to 300? :)

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

what happened last week

We are trying to find a political solution to the civil war in Ethiopia – and not a military one
Refresher: Ethiopia has been in the middle of civil wars since November last year. Ever since, the central government of Ethiopia (together with Eritrea) has been fighting against an armed group in Tigray, one of its regional states. Now, it’s also fighting against another one in Oromia, another regional state. Other regional states, like Afar and Amhara, are getting dragged into it, too. In short, it’s messy.

Last week, a group of more than 55 intellectuals from across the African continent
wrote an open letter, saying ‘it’s enough, lay down the arms and talk to each other. You’re destroying so much. Mosques and churches built more than a century ago. Not to mention all the people that have died because of all this fighting.’ The African Union and Turkey, too, have been trying to weigh in – but no luck so far. 

Did you know that
Turkey is the second-biggest investor in Ethiopia (after China)? There are some 200 Turkish companies in Ethiopia that have created job opportunities for over 20,000 Ethiopians.

How bad is it?
Very bad. And unfortunately, it’s only getting worse. Not only is there still fighting in Tigray (north). Last week,
more than 210 people were killed in the regional state of Oromia (west). It’s not clear as to who is responsible for the killings but some say that it might have been the OLA (short for Oromo Liberation Army). Since May, the central government has called them and the TPLF (short for Tigray People’s Liberation Front)  “terrorist groups”. And now, both groups, the OLA and the TPLF seem to have joined forces against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government forces.

Why are they fighting the central government?
Both, according to Odaa Tarbii who is the spokesman for the OLA, agree that
Abiy’s “dictatorship” must be removed. They accuse the prime minister of having become too powerful – militarily and politically. The government, on the other hand, has been trying to build its ‘own Facebook’ (the country of some 115 million only has about six million active users on there). ‘They are spreading so many lies,’ they keep claiming while shutting down social media services altogether sometimes.

What’s next?
The central government plans to host what it calls a ‘national dialogue’ without inviting to the table the very people it is fighting against. 

Why this matters: Some 50,000 people have become refugees in Sudan because of this fighting. Those who have stayed are having a really hard time, too. According to the UN, the conflict has already left some 400,000 people in a near-famine situation because humanitarian aid is rare in some parts of Tigray. Plus, this conflict has the potential to spill over. After all, Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous country.

Did you know that Sudan is hosting more than one million refugees from other countries?

For my German speakers: I also talked about this in my weekly international politics column in Die Wochendämmerung podcast with Katrin Rönicke and Holger Klein.
Have a listen here.
Elsewhere in the region

Egypt plans to sell a piece of its state company behind its new capital city (yes, they're building a new one). It could be the country's biggest-ever initial public offering (IPO).

(People representing) Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (who are actual enemies) met up. People are like, 'are they... ready to become friends? And why?'
We made a lot of progress worldwide in the fight for equality – especially for the LGBTQ+ community
There is too much bad news. So, here’s a curation of all the good things that happened to the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.

The United States: The city of San Francisco became the first city in the country to recognize Transgender History Month (it’s August). Thank you, London Breed. Drop her a ‘welcome to the revolution, london’ on her Twitter.

Worldwide: OnlyFans decided it’s not going to ban sexually explicit content after all. LGBTQ+ sex workers can breathe again. Did you know that transgender people are more likely than the general population to participate in sex work? As a result, many LGBTQ+ sex workers said the community was disproportionately – and negatively – affected by the decision of the company.

South Africa: A gay couple from Uganda was freed from jail in South Africa. They had immigrated to the country ‘illegally’ and were afraid they might get deported back to Uganda for having done so. ‘We will be prosecuted for being gay there,’ they said. Fortunately, the court agreed and decided to give them the permission to stay in South Africa.

Poland: A few more Pride marches took place across Poland last week, even though it’s super dangerous to do so. The country’s president, Andrzej Duda, during the last election said that ‘LGBT is an ideology worse than communism’. Oh, Andrzej.

Japan: At least 28 LGBTQ+ athletes will participate at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics this year. It’s one of the most inclusive sports events ever.

Israel: On August 19 (not exactly last week but in case you missed this news:), Israel said ‘gay men are now allowed to donate blood without too many restrictions.’ This is another step in the direction of a future where everyone is treated equally no matter their sexual orientation.

South Korea: Not really news but this TikTok video showed up on my FYP last week. It shows a young woman telling her dad that she fell in love with a girl and his very cute reaction to it. Just a cute pick-me-up video for you in times like these.
We are opening the door to cryptocurrencies in Cuba
Starting September 15, you can now officially pay in cryptocurrencies in Cuba. ‘We will establish some rules for mainstreaming cryptocurrency transactions,’ said the country’s central bank last week.

Why this matters: Cuba is having a lot of money problems, and its government is looking for solutions. This is a solution for a small part of the population, specifically those who understand the concept of and use cryptocurrencies as a form of payment; like Cuban photographer Gabriel Guerra Bianchini (who sold his first work in six days for 1.6 ethereum) and some 10,000 other people on the island. However, for the majority, this is still not a thing. 

Refresher: Last month, thousands of Cubans took to the streets across the island to express how unhappy they were/are that most things (especially foreign imports like oil and medicines) have become so expensive. It’s expected to get worse. ‘Inflation will go up 400% this year,’ say some economists. Plus, the economic s
anctions (by the United States) on Cuban products like rum, tobacco and sugar aren’t helping, to say the least.

Did you know that a
similar crypto law will come into effect on September 7 in El Salvador?

Zoom out: People in
Lebanon are also using crypto coins. Why? A really, really serious financial crisis has hit the country. A U.N. report a few months ago said that, in 2021, around 78% of the population had sunk below the poverty line. As a way to go around the broken banking system, people invest and use cryptocurrency. If you want to dig deeper, read this article by Rest of World’s Jacob Russell on Lebanon’s underground cryptocurrency market. Btw, a similar thing is happening in Venezuela.
We are having some difficulties getting more aid to Haiti after the earthquake – because the world is paying a lot of attention to Afghanistan
Some 2,200 people died and more than 12,000 people were injured during the really strong (7.2-magnitude) earthquake in the southern (rural) coast of Haiti on August 14.

More than 130,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, along with other infrastructure such as roads. And then, Tropical Storm Grace hit just two days later.
More than 800,000 people are affected.

However, with most of the world’s attention focused on what’s happening in
Afghanistan, it has been really difficult for the government of Haiti to raise funds for recovery efforts

How bad is it?
It’s still not clear how much has been destroyed by the natural disaster but ‘it’s probably billions of dollars in damage,’ said Simon Desras, Haiti’s Minister of Planning and External Cooperation. However, the country
hasn’t received much help from the international community – even though there have been offers by the United States, Taiwan or the European Union.

Refresher: More than a decade ago, another really strong (7.0-magnitude) earthquake hit places in and around the capital Port-au-Prince. More than 200,000 people died. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from how the international community came to the ‘rescue’ here. This is why some Haitians and allies on social media are
asking that would-be donors send their money to local charities rather than international aid groups. 

Want to help Haiti? I contacted Sarah Lee, COO of
New Story (they’re working to build a world without homelessness), for some donation tips, and she replied, “There are two teams in the field working on the most urgent needs: Mission of Hope and Core Response.”

Why this matters: Haiti is the poorest nation in ‘the West’. For more than a decade, Haiti has been trying to rebuild and come back even stronger; think two earthquakes, tropical storms and the assassination of the country’s president one month ago, this very resilient nation has had enough challenges.
We must work harder to get women back to work ‘after’ the pandemic – or else, the gender gap is only getting bigger
Four women wrote this incredible piece for The Washington Post last week. Emily Rauhala, Anu Narayanswamy, Youjin Shin and Júlia Ledure wrote about the effect of the pandemic on women’s jobs in three countries, Peru, Thailand and France.

Tell me more
In short, they found out that 54 million women around the world lost their formal* jobs (that’s a 4.2 percent decline; men’s employment declined by 3 percent) and it might take another generation for them to get back.

*When I write formal, it means, women took on more unpaid labor, too. Think child care, home schooling or elder care.

Peru… A lot of people lost their jobs during the pandemic. 20 percent men and 25 percent women lost their jobs between March and June 2020. In the city, it was even worse. Here, the number of women in the workforce fell by 55 percent and that hasn’t changed (last status update was in March 2021) yet.

Thailand… As we all know, 2020 was not a particularly tourist-friendly year, to say the least. Hence, Thailand kept firing people in this (and other) industry, especially women. 339,000 fewer women were employed in the summer of 2020 compared with 5,500 fewer men.

France… Women had it better. The government has a better working ‘safety net’ (think partial unemployment benefits and a lot of support for businesses). Plus, in some European countries, life has started to ‘come back.’ In the fourth quarter of 2020, a lot of women returned to their jobs and it’s almost like in pre-pandemic times. 

Why this matters: Although the pandemic is not yet over, the fear is that the gender gap will only get bigger both within and between countries.
If this newsletter is the perfect way to start your week, the Weekly Filet is how you start the weekend. Longreads, podcasts, explainers — the best of the web, thoughtfully curated. Sign up for free.
Need cultural inspiration? How about this monthly newsletter by writer, artist and athlete Thị Minh Huyền Nguyễn. Here, she shares a unique perspective at the intersection of arts, sports and activism.
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On a funny note
Estonia’s parliament failed to elect a new president after lawmakers rejected the only candidate in the first round of voting. Someone ask Alar Karis if he's doing OK.

Btw, this reminds me of the one candidate for the mayor of Makassar,
Indonesia last year. Ramadhan "Danny" Pomanto really lost to a blank box.
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,
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