what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 276

August 9 – 15, 2021

Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Simi also says hi. In this issue, we'll talk about
  • The Taliban attacks in Afghanistan
  • We ended the 'female virginity test' for army recruits in Indonesia
  • Dying fish in Norway and the United States
  • The earthquake in Haiti and other natural disasters worldwide
  • Young people are deciding the next president in Zambia 
Are you listening to our Spotify playlist Decolonize Weekly yet? I'm hooked on Haitian music at the moment. Just peep 'Kite Zo A' by Lakou Mizik, a multigenerational group that formed in response to the 2010 earthquake

Next month, on September 15, this newsletter turns seven years old. Right now, 232 people support this newsletter on Patreon. Can we bring that number to 300?  You can also support me through PayPal, or just forward this email to a friend today.

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

what happened last week

We are watching the Taliban take control of Afghanistan
Last week, the world was watching Islamist military group, the Taliban take control over more and more cities in Afghanistan.

In just two weeks, they have taken control of 26 provinces (the country only has 34). As Afghan journalist Sayed Salahuddin
said on Twitter, ‘the Taliban are in control of more territory than they were when they ruled Afghanistan.’

Tell me more
Many people have been fleeing their homes and
rushing to get out of the country or to the capital, Kabul (the Taliban are closing in on the city, but they might not take the city by force). Even Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani has fled for Tajikistan. By the time you read this, things could look a little different. Things are happening fast. 

But why is it so easy for the Taliban to take over?
Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Fahim Abed and Sharif Hassan for The New York Times wrote up
this longread as a reply. 

Here are the highlights: 
  • Basically, Afghanistan’s military is not robust, independent and fed enough to really fight against the Taliban. 
  • On paper, the military counted around 300,000 people. In reality, the U.S. military says, ‘we counted only around 50,000.’ Meaning: corruption.
  • Plus, many men in Afghanistan didn’t think that fighting for President Ashraf Ghani’s government just wasn’t worth dying for. ‘He’s too corrupt. We don’t trust him.’ And those that do fight are burnt out.
Did you know that the United States have been in Afghanistan for the last 20 years and have poured more than US$83 billion in weapons, equipment and training into Afghanistan’s military? Now, they're leaving (along with other NATO troops) and Afghanistan's military is like, 'we're not ready for this.'

What about the international community?
They’re busy getting their people out of the country, too. The
United States, for example, has sent some 5,000 soldiers to help with the ‘evacuation’ of their embassy. ‘We’ll keep the embassy open but we want to get most people out as soon as possible.'

Germany is watching from afar, ‘No more money from us if the Taliban take over.’ And Canada plans to welcome more than 20,000 refugees from there, including a lot of women, human rights workers and journalists.  

What’s next?
The Afghan government and the Taliban will (probably) meet in Doha,
Qatar to… talk about the future of the country. They have been talking since last year, but no luck.

Why this matters: The last time the Taliban ruled the country (1996–2001), life didn’t look too good (understatement), especially for the freedom of press, ethnic minorities as well as women and young girls. As Afghan visual artist Moshtari Hilal said in this tweet, now it’s important to support and amplify voices who want a real democratic Afghanistan without imperial powers and war criminals. Like this Afghan Gen Z group who is rapping in protest, telling the Taliban in Dari, 'You didn’t let anyone live. Division was your practice in the country. We yearn for peace.' 

In context: Foreign powers have tried to control Afghanistan since the 19th century. First it was the
British, then the Soviet Union (with the help of the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia), then, of course, it was the United States. It’s been called a ‘Graveyard of Empires’ leaving the country in turmoil, after they try and fail.

Want to help?
We will stop the abusive ‘virginity test’ on female army recruits in Indonesia
Indonesia’s military said, ‘we’re finally going to stop putting two fingers into a woman to see if she is still a virgin.’ Yes, that was a thing and it’s called ‘the two-finger test.’ 

Why this matters: This ‘virginity test’ is sexual violence against thousands of women in Indonesia. The test has absolutely no purpose. Seven years ago, the United Nations and the World Health Organization even said ‘there’s no scientific proof that this test can tell you if a woman is still a virgin.’ And also, why the heck are you testing that in the first place? ‘The examination can be painful, humiliating and traumatic,’ they said.

Tell me more
The test has been in place since 1965, so, that’s thousands of women who have had to deal with this if they want to serve in the military.  The ‘purpose’ of the test is to find out if a woman’s ‘hymen is intact’ which is entirely misinformation. There’s no science that says the hymen is an indicator of ‘virginity.’ The army said the point of the test was to make sure nothing would ‘get in the way of a recruit's job’ (whatever that means). And that they’re actually
looking for health problems (like cysts and other complications), but human rights activists are like ‘this is just purity testing.’ And it’s not just the military. It happens in the police force too, and Indonesia has even tried to do this at schools. 

Did you know Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world?

Zoom out: ‘Virginity tests’ happen
everywhere, from Canada, Spain, Sweden to the Netherlands. Pakistan just banned it from being used on sexual assault survivors at the beginning of this year. And even the United States; remember American rapper T.I., who said in 2019 he gets his daughter's hymen checked every year. *um wtf* 
We killed so many fish and other sea life because of irresponsible company management in Norway and the United States
In Norway… International seafood company Grieg Seafood leaked nearly 4,000 gallons of chlorine into a fjord in the north of the country, killing around 96,000 fish. No people were harmed.

Btw, Grieg Seafood supplies more than 25,000 tons of salmon to North America and Asia each year.

What now?
‘We will clean this up and are extremely sorry this happened,’ said the company in statement last Tuesday. It’s going to take some days. However, the leaked chlorine has already flowed into the Atlantic Ocean and might do some more damage.

In the
United StatesHundreds of tonnes of dead fish have stranded on Florida’s beaches in the past few weeks. 

Who’s to blame?
Some say, ‘oh, it was just a toxic red tide. And
climate change is making those worse.’ However, experts were like, ‘yes but also no, this is because a phosphate plant almost collapsed in May. The plant (not working anymore) dumped millions of gallons of wastewater into the sea.’ HRK Holdings owns this property. Florida has filed a lawsuit against them.

How dangerous is this?
Very. It could
make the water radioactive. As of right now, it is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, and these nutrients create harmful algal blooms (and they can not only kill fish, but birds and even humans, too). ‘We’re in for a hard summer,’ say residents.
We, young people, are deciding the next president of Zambia
Last Thursday, people went to cast their votes in Zambia – for a new president and a new parliament. The now-president Edgar Lungu is worried he might lose and is calling the election ‘not free and fair’. ‘Not true,’ said others. They’re still counting the votes.

Do you know where Zambia is? It’s OK if you don’t.
Just play this game for a bit and you’ll get better at African geography. The country is also named after Africa’s fourth biggest river, the Zambezi.

But were the elections free and fair?
Difficult to say. In at least three provinces, fights broke out. In Lungu’s defense, the
European Union also sent some people to check if all was going well, and they came back with a ‘meh. It’s marred by unequal campaign conditions, restrictions on freedoms of assembly and movement, and abuse of incumbency.’ However, his opposition candidate (and businessman) Hakainde Hichilema at the same time seems to be a lot of people’s favorite this time around (he’s ran before, multiple times).

Tell me more about politics in Zambia
The 64-year-old now-president was elected in 2015. Now, Lungu is running for another (five-year) term. ‘He hasn’t done a great job in managing the country’s economy,’ said Hichilema. To be fair, the country
owes at least US$12 billion to international organizations and China. Plus, people aren’t happy with him either.

Why this matters: This southern African country used to be the go-to-invest country on the continent; it’s super rich in resources (they export millions of tonnes of copper every year) but… very poor in money. Today, most of its 17.9 million people (most means 74 percent, according to the Afrobarometer in November 2020) have to go without basic life necessities every now and then. This election is being decided by very frustrated young people. Statistics show that more than half of registered voters are 34 or younger

Did you know that in 25 years, the population in Zambia will double, from 17.9 to some 36 million people?

Elsewhere on the continent, not too far from Zambia,
Madagascar (where some 26 million people live) is going through a food and political crisis (I talked about this before). Last week, Andry Rajoelina, the country’s president was like, ‘you are doing such bad jobs, I have to fire all of you,’ and so he did.
We are dealing with a lot of natural disasters at the moment – Haiti, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria
On Saturday, an earthquake (7.2 strong, look) close to the capital Port-au-Prince, Haiti killed more than 300 people. 

Tell me more
More than 800 homes have been completely destroyed. The towns Jeremie and Les Cayes are especially hit. ‘Hospitals at the moment are overwhelmed,’ said Ariel Henry, the country’s prime minister. He’s declared a ‘one-month state of emergency’ because
aftershocks might destroy even more.

Remember the other earthquake (7.0 strong) in Port-au-Prince in 2010? That one killed around 300,000 people. ‘We don’t want to make the same mistakes.
Back then, help was so slow to reach people’ and there were some odd cases like when the Red Cross raised half a billion U.S. dollars for Haiti and built six homes. 

Why this matters: It’s not ‘good’ timing (it never is) for a natural disaster to hit this part of Central America. Haiti is still in the middle of a huge political crisis and it’s not dealing so well with the coronavirus pandemic either. And this shock, on top of that, is likely bringing back trauma from 2010.

Apart from the earthquake, what’s Haiti also dealing with?
Well, people have been super unhappy with the government for a long time. Think high fuel prices and a lot of corruption. Plus, their president, Jovenel Moïse, got killed (by armed men mostly from
Colombia) last month. This earthquake hit while the country was trying to set up new elections for September/November. Oh, and… Tropical Storm Grace will probably reach Haiti today or tomorrow.

Want to help? You can send money to
Doctors without Borders. They have established clinics in the country.

What about natural disasters in the rest of the world? 
Well, they’re kind of man-made natural disasters. A
new report (by the IPCC) was like, ‘90 percent of all climate change is because of us humans. We see code red for humanity.’

Here’s not a complete list: 

Venezuela: The government decided, starting October 1, ‘we’re losing six zeros again. If you had 1,000,000 bolivar, it’s only worth 1 right now.’ The country is in a deep, deep recession at the moment and millions live in poverty. 

Nigeria: Good news. The oil company Royal Dutch Shell will pay around US$111 million to communities in southern Nigeria because it had spilled oil there in 1970.

Lebanon: The country is going through a lot of different things at the moment. First, there’s no electricity in so many parts of the country (even in hospitals). Then, a fuel tank exploded yesterday and killed at least 20 people.

China: Scientists discovered two new dinosaur species in the northwest. 

Australia: Western Australia has made it illegal to protest just outside ‘abortion clinics’ (I very much prefer the term ‘women’s health clinics’. What about you?). Now, it’s illegal throughout the entire country.

Hong Kong: The population is shrinking. The city government said, ‘in the last 12 months, some 89,000 people left the city for good. In the last 60 years, never have so many people left.’

On a funny note
You can no longer buy citizenship in Vanuatu. A passport in this Melansian part of the world costs around US$130,000. But last month, it was revealed that too many criminals were buying it, including bitcoin thieves from South Africa or people who were extorting the Vatican

‘Even if we made US$260 million from this, it’s just not worth it.’
Please send us your recommendations for our Decolonize Weekly playlist. We add new songs every week.

Ok, that's it from Sham and Simi. 
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