what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 231

July 27 – August 2, 2020

This is Sham, your very own news curator. I stopped reading the news yesterday at 9pm.

Sergei Furgal is still in prison in Russia and thousands of people are still protesting (which is super exciting), former prime minister of Malaysia was sent to prison for 12 years because of corruption charges (he is fighting this verdict though) and some 20,000 people in Germany took to the streets against the country's coronavirus restrictions (I'm ashamed and scared at the same time). 

But today I bring you news about women's rights activists in
Saudi Arabia, Portugal's Black Lives Matter moment and a land ownership discussion in Zimbabwe that's been going on for too long.

I put in a lot of hours and my heart into every issue of whlw. You're welcome to support me on
Patreon (like 136 others!) or via PayPal. I actually do this full-time.

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

what happened last week

We must talk about the many Saudi women's rights defenders in jail right now
Last week marked two years since the arrest of Samar Badawi,  Naseema al-Sadah and Loujain al-Hathloul, some of Saudi Arabia's most prominent human rights defenders and dozens of others. They are still in prison despite having committed no crimes.
  • Why this matters: In one of the world's most restrictive environments for women, these three women are powerful voices for two of the most significant issues facing Saudi women: women's right to vote and the guardianship, under which women cannot marry, work, or travel without a guardian's (male relative) permission. They're not the only ones (still) in prison.
Who are the women?
Their 'crime'? Well, all three tried to register to vote and drive a car. Both were 
arrested in May and July 2018. Loujain al-Hathloul turned 31 in prison last weekSaudi rights group ALQST says, 'we're sure they're being tortured and sexually harrassed by masked men on the regular.' Under Saudi Arabia's terrorism law, the activists face 20 years in prison.
  • Did you know Samar Badawi is the sister of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi? Does that name ring a bell? Her brother, Raif, is also in jail (and has been since eight years) because he, too, criticised the kingdom. 
What's the situation like for Saudi women right now?
It's gotten a little bit better. The country has given women a few more rights, like allowing 
them to drive (female Saudi rappers celebrated this with a banger song) and travel (if you're over the age of 21). But there is so much more that could and should be done. Think removing the entire male guardianship system, fight gender inequality, and end the arbitrary detention and prosecution of women’s rights activists.
  • Do you want to get to know Saudi Arabia from a local's perspective? Watch Wadjda or The Perfect Candidate, two movies made by a Saudi woman named Haifaa al-Mansour, the country's first female director. 
We are finally talking out loud about Portugal's institutional racism
Last week anti-racism protests started in Lisbon and other cities of Portugal
  • Why this matters: A lot of Black people live in Portugal because of the country's long, very long colonial history in Africa. The last country that became independent from Portugal was Angola in 1975. And sadly, 'Afrophobia' and 'institutional racism' is still a thing there – but most state institutions say, 'nope, there is no racism in this country.'
A Black man named Bruno Cande Marques, a 39-year-old actor and father of three children, was shot four times on a busy street in Lisbon.

Who shot him?
The suspect is a white man in his 70s. He was arrested at the scene right away. Local media says, 'we know this man was racist.' A witness was like, 'I heard this guys saying some really awful things like "I have weapons at home from the colonies, and I'm going to kill you."' The police has not officially confirmed that 'yes, it was racism'.

What are people in Portugal saying?
"Everything about the case is so obvious, and still they're just looking for reasons to justify why Bruno Cande was killed. Are we ever going to see a case of racism dealt with properly here by the authorities? We're sick of this."
  • Did you know that the anti-racism protests after George Floyd's murder by the police in the United States were the biggest anti-racism protest to have ever taken place in Portugal? Also, they say Vidas Negras Importam and not Black Lives Matter.
We finally decided what to do with the land ownership issue in Zimbabwe 
Last week Zimbabwe worked out a deal with white farmers whose land was violently taken away by the government two decades ago. The result: $3.5 billion to the farmers in question and their families.
  • Why this matters: This land discourse in Zimbabwe has a long history. So, this deal is quite 'historic' and Zimbabwe's president Emmerson Mnangagwa hopes that this means the country can start a new chapter, be better friends with the West and finally prosper financially.
Wait... white farmers?
Yes. 20 years ago, former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe (he died last year) did something pretty controversial: he violently forced white farmers to leave their land and gave it to some 300,000 Black families. 'I'm just taking back the land that belonged to us Black people before colonialism,' Mugabe kept saying.

Why was it controversial?
'Mugabe's land programme was a disaster for the agriculture sector and it hurt our economy a lot more than we could take,' critics say. Supporters say, 'it has empowered landless Black people and that matters a lot, too.' What are people in Zimbabwe saying?
The farmers are happy. Others are worried that this might not be the best move (financially) in the middle of a pandemic with no doctors or nurses in hospitals.
We put up the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world 
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said that it started operations in the first of four reactors at the very controversial Barakah nuclear power station – the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world. 
  • Why this matters: First, this took a lot of money. Second, what happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima was horrible and is still in the back of our minds and third, we all care about climate change and nuclear power seems to be an climate-change-friendly option. But also, attacks on reactors in the region keep happening and that's super dangerous.
What is the reactor doing? 
Make electricity without adding to global warming. Once all reactors are 'online', they will make 25 percent of the country's electricity.

Why does the UAE want to do this? 
Well, it's trying to become independent of oil and gas. Sure, it's got the world's largest solar plant but it doesn't think it is enough. 

How is the world reacting to this?
Well, some are worried. The neighborhood isn't a particularly peaceful one – with Iran and Saudi Arabia in the mix. If the UAE decides to go all 'now that we can make electricity for our entire population, why not go military nuclear, too?' The UAE is like, 'yo, seriously, we don't want to do that. Just trust us.'
We made 100-million-year-old microbes from the sea come alive again
Scientists in Japan said they revived microbes that were 'sleeping' for than 100 million years. Now that they're awake, they can grow and multiply.
  • Why this matters: We now know that there is no age limit for some of the living structures on this planet and that's pretty f*cking cool if you ask me.
Tell me more
The tiny organisms survived all these years in a seabed in the South Pacific. It looks like they ate some sh*tty food but had enough oxygen to allow them to live.
  • Catch up: Microbes are among the world's simplest organisms. They can survive in really, really extreme environments.

On a funny note

Egypt has had it with billionaire Elon Musk. He's again and again tweeted online that the country's famous pyramids were, in fact, built by aliens. 'Please, stop it with this BS. Just come and visit the pyramids. You'll see,' said the country's Minister of International Co-Operation Rania al-Mashat.

The end,

If you like what I do every week, yay! I put in a lot of hours and my heart into every issue. You're welcome to support me on Patreon (like 136 others!) or via PayPal. I actually do this full-time.
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