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whlw: no. 263

May 10 – 16, 2021

Hola,
This is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says hi. 


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

what happened last week

LATIN AMERICA
We are still looking for thousands of missing people in Mexico
Last week, on Mother’s Day, thousands of women took to the streets in Mexico City demanding that Mexico’s government do better to find those kidnapped since 2006, especially their children. 

Why this matters: Up to 87,000 people have gone missing since 2006 and nobody knows where to look. 1/4 of the missing are female and more than 12,000 are children (mostly girls). At the time, Mexico keeps finding thousands of secret mass graves. ‘Are these our relatives?' activists and family members keep asking. They are dealing with ‘ambiguous loss’ – a medical term to describe the pain experienced by people whose loved ones have disappeared – and haven’t been able to mourn because of it.

Why do so many people go missing in Mexico?
There are a lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the country’s so-called
war on drug trafficking that started in 2006 under former President Felipe Calderón. Since then, about 300,000 people have died as a result. Those who went missing are either forced into getting a job at a drug cartel or as a sex worker. Or they end up dead.

What does the Mexican government do about this?
The government often
says, ‘well, the victims of violence were themselves criminals and, therefore, had gotten what they deserved.’ 
  • Good to know: In 2018, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (also known as AMLO) ‘made many campaign promises of support and has never really followed up on them.’ He’s created, among other measures, the National Search Commission but it is super underfunded.
  • Did you know that AMLO wrote a book in defense of Mexican migrants? He called it ‘Listen Up, Trump.’
Want to learn more? 
Buy the cookbook ‘Recetario para la memoria’ made by a group of women who are looking for missing people, called ‘Las Rastreadoras del Fuerte’. The book helps fund their search. 
  • Watch this Al Jazeera doc about Las Rastreadoras del Fuerte, and the 200 people they have found so far. 
Random fact: The American Jewish World Service, a Jewish non-profit organization based in the United States, is extremely concerned about Mexican families finding their loved ones. In 2018, they donated four thousand U.S. dollars, one of the largest contributions the activist group had ever received. In 2020, it has granted an additional eight thousand U.S. dollars.
ASIA
We are still fighting for democracy in Myanmar – and it doesn’t look good
  • Refresher: More than 100 days ago, the military took over power in Myanmar. They said ‘we do this because the last election won by former leader Aung San Suu Kyi was a ‘fraud.’ The military ruled between 1962 to 2011 until they decided to try democracy out. Most people there say, ‘we still want democracy’ and took to the streets, demanding that things go back to how they were – with no success. 
The protests haven’t stopped. Last week, around 30 people were arrested during a protest in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city. 

Why this matters: Since the coup, the country’s economy has taken a huge hit and some 25 million people are on the verge of poverty. Plus, there’s also COVID-19, which doesn’t make things any easier.

Tell me more about the effects on the economy
By the end of last year,
83 percent of the country’s households said their incomes were ‘slashed in half.’ This week, the kyat (Myanmar’s currency) dropped to its lowest level in a decade. One source (Myanmar trade unions) says 600,000 workers have likely lost their jobs.

Also, foreign companies have pulled out (
major projects worth 9.4 trillion kyat/US$6 billion have been stopped) and people, mostly low-income families, don’t have enough cash (the central bank, also run by the military, mysteriously gave some money back to private banks).
MIDDLE EAST
We are witnessing the worst violence in Palestine and Israel in years
Disclaimer: This is a really long piece. You know why.

Last week, violence between
Israel and Palestine got really bad. Israel (read: Israeli Defense Forces) is dropping bombsGaza (read: Hamas, a terrorist group according to the United States, European Union, Canada, holding power in Gaza) firing missiles back. 

How bad is it?
Really bad. At least
192 people (including 34 women and 58 children) in Gaza and at least ten (including two children) people in Israel have been killed since last Monday. According to the United Nations, some 10,000 Palestinians have lost their homes in Gaza.

Why this matters: This is the worst outbreak of violence in years in Palestine and Israel. Some two million people live in Gaza where their freedom of movement is limited (they can only cross the border to Egypt), they don’t have easy access to clean water and electricity, Most of them depend on humanitarian aid.

But why? 
One of the flashpoints was when Israeli forces evicted
residents in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Protests then began at the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and Israeli forces moved in as Muslim worshippers were praying for Ramadan. 

But eviction is legal?
(Unfortunately) yes but this so-called eviction is not what you think it is. Normally, eviction is ‘a legal process that tends to happen when people are unable to pay their rent and landlords make claims to move that process forward. That is a completely different situation than what we are talking about here: forced expulsion of people because of their identity,’ said Palestinian-American writer
Yousef Munayyer in an interview with Slate’s Mary Harris
  • Btw, in that same interview Munayyer also compares what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today to what the United States did to the Indigenous peoples way back: ‘This is the reality of settler colonialism.’
Could you give me some historical context?
These evictions have been happening for a long time. 100 years ago,
mostly Palestinian Arabs lived in what’s Israel today. This is why, every year on May 15, Palestinians celebrate ‘al-Nakba’ or ‘Catastrophe Day’. It’s to remember some 750,000 Palestinians who were forced out of their homes when Israel was founded on May 14, 1948. It’s still happening today. Israel has been building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem because they believe that the land originally belonged to Jews. Today, some 700,000 Israelis live there. 

According to the Geneva Convention, this is widely viewed as
illegal. As a result of these settlements, around five million Palestinian refugees live in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, East Jerusalem, Syria and Lebanon today. They haven’t been allowed to go back to their homes.

Refresher:
The Israeli-Palestine conflict: a brief, simple history byVox and the importance of the West Bank with Why does Israel want to annex the West Bank by Al Jazeera.  

What does Israel say? 
Some
3,000 Hamas rockets have been fired into Israel, killing at least ten. ‘We are only targeting Hamas back because we need to defend ourselves,’ says Israel’s military. Most of the Hamas missiles have been blocked by Israel’s high-tech defence system called ‘the Iron Dome.’ 

What about the rest of the world?
The United Nations Security Council is meeting to come up with a solution, but the United States (a really important member) has been
delaying the process because they and other Western countries say and have been saying ‘Hey, after the Holocaust, Israel has a right to an independent state and the right to defend itself.’

Decolonize your feed
Journalist Schayan Riaz recommends that you dive deeper with these books/movies on Palestine and Israel:
  • Adania Shibli's book ‘Minor Details’ and Isabella Hammad’s book ‘The Parisian’ get into how the violent history has shaped Palestinians today.
  • Annemarie Jacir’s movie ‘Wajib’ is about a father who, together with his estranged son, hand-delivers invitations (a Palestinian custom) for his daughter's wedding through Nazareth. 
  • David Grossmann’s ‘To The End of The Land’ is a novel about grief from the perspective of an Israeli family and what it means to live in a place of never-ending conflict.
AFRICA
We are so close to officially abolishing capital punishment in Sierra Leone
Last week, Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio said ‘we’re getting rid of the death penalty’. The country’s parliament will soon be making the final decision but it seems likely that they will say yes.

Why this matters: Capital punishment has been something the country has been criticized for still having on paper. No one has actually been executed in Sierra Leone since 1998. The country has gone through a lot: it used to be colonized by Britain (became independent in 1961), a civil war from 1991 until 2002 killed some 120,000 people and, well, Ebola. Today, around 7.5 million people live in this very poor but diamond-rich West African country.

Why now? 
A combination of ‘it was time’ and the peer pressure by the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Council. The country tried to abolish the death penalty more than a decade ago. In 2004, the so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up after the civil war basically said that ‘we must learn from our mistakes and abolish the death penalty so that no government in this country can abuse it to kill political opponents ever again.’ 

Is this a trend in Africa?
Yes. More countries abolish the practice and there are less and less executions. According to Amnesty International, executions
dropped by 36%, from 25 in 2019 to 16 last year. 

What about the death penalty worldwide?

Globally, more than 70% of the world’s countries have abolished capital punishment in law or practice. China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States have not. 

Decolonize your knowledge of history

Read this extremely engaging long-form article by Yosola Olorunshola for Quartz Africa on the history of the West African Students’ Union (WASU) in London – and their contributions to anti-colonial agenda in Britain at the time.
  • Btw, the WASU is also where Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, and Nigeria’s H.O Davies (who both drove the movement towards independence in their home countries) hung out a lot.
MIDDLE EAST
We are mourning the lives of at least 90 people who died in a high school bombing in Afghanistan – most of them were young girls
A high school in Kabul, Afghanistan was bombed three times. At least 90 people, mostly girls, have died and many more got injured. The high school that was attacked lies in the part of Kabul where mostly Hazara people live, the third-largest ethnic group in the country – and one of the most oppressed. 
  • Did you know about the 1893 massacre in Afghanistan that killed up to 70,000 Hazara families? 
Who’s responsible for the attack?
‘The attack is horrible but it wasn’t us,’
said the Taliban on Twitter. The government thinks they are lying. The Islamist terrorist group ISIS could also be behind it. 

Why this matters: Violence is getting worse in the country as all foreign military are leaving after 19 years. Just last week, at least 134 civilians died in attacks by the Taliban. People, especially women, are worried, ‘what if this becomes our new normal? What if the Taliban take back military control?! What if ISIS comes back?’ 

Refresher: The Taliban governed Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Since last year, the Taliban and the current Afghan government have been trying to reach a
peace deal but it doesn’t look good. This is why many are worried that the Taliban’s strict Islamist rules – like, keeping girls out of school – could become the norm again. 

What do people in Afghanistan say?
‘I have lost count of attacks harming children,’ Shaharzad Akbar, the chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission,
said on Twitter. “I have lost count of attacks on education. I have lost count of civilians killed even just this month. This war must stop.’

Decolonize your feed

Follow Afghan journalist Najim Rahim on Twitter. He is a reporter for The New York Times and is based in Kabul. 
OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT FIND INTERESTING
  • Colombia: President Iván Duque Márquez said that ‘yes, we know that officers were brutal and violent towards protesters. We will punish 65 of them.’

    • Why this matters: At least 41 people died while protesting the government since April 28. The people of Colombia (should) have the right to peaceful protest. 

  • South Sudan: President Salva Kiir finally dissolved the country’s parliament. ‘I now allow more people who come from the party of my former arch enemy to become members of parliament,’ he (basically) said. 

  • Ukraine: The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is heating up again and scientists aren’t sure why. 

    • Why this matters: 35 years ago, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. It was the world’s worst nuclear accident. At least 4,050 people have died either during or as a result of the fallout.

  • Nepal: The country’s parliament voted that Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli step down. Oli has been in office since 2018. ‘He’s done a really bad job handling the coronavirus pandemic,’ say people. 

    • Why this matters: Changing your political leader in the middle of a pandemic is a very vulnerable situation to be in. As of yesterday, some 448,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus and some 5,000 people have died.  

  • Malaysia: The country’s state investment fund 1MDB is trying to get its money back by sueing parts of Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, and Coutts for a combined amount of US$2.9 billion. 

    • Why this matters: Everybody basically hates and mistrusts 1MDB today because they were responsible for Malaysia’s biggest corruption scandal – even the country’s former prime minister (and founder of 1MDB) Najib Razak was involved. They lost more than US$23 billion. That money was supposed to help with the country’s economic development.

On a funny note

Funing, a county in southwest China, has banned birthday parties because the Communist Party doesn’t want people flaunting their money. It’s also made it illegal for people to gift someone more than 200 yuan (US$31). But this only applies to the members of the Communist Party. 

As Rae Sremmurd famously once said, ‘No Flex Zone.’
That's it from Sham and Simi. This issue was written with our Decolonize Weekly Spotify playlist running in the background. Bye for now and stay safe.
Copyright © 2021 what happened last week?, All rights reserved.


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