Watchlist: Euphrates Rage

Week of November 7th

Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega.


Museveni Closes University Following Protest

Following months of protests at Makerere University, President Yoweri Museveni has decided to close one of Uganda’s oldest academic institutions. Lecturers have been on strike since February, arguing their wages have been withheld by the government. Students subsequently missed months of expected education because of the strike and began to protest this past week. Police intervened violently, meeting the protesters with tear gas and water cannons. President Museveni responded to the incident by releasing a statement saying, “I have this evening ordered for immediate closure of Makerere University until further notice to guarantee safety of persons and property.” Makerere is a leading academic institution in East Africa and serves as the country’s most important center for scholarship. Museveni’s action will likely encourage scrutiny from those who believe he is exercising too much power, especially with his wife being the Minister of Education and Sport. This action comes at a time when the public has been critical of police action and the role of the government in response to public protests. The country will continue to observe the university’s closure and the government’s $8.3 million debt to lecturers at the school. JAKE LOCKLEDGE


Journalist Surveillance in Canada

It has been revealed this past week that the Quebec police have been tracking phones calls made and received by at least 6 French-language news reporters, breaching what was assumed to be freedom of the press under Canadian law. It was first divulged that local Montreal police were surveilling Le Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé by following phone calls and text messages to know his whereabouts. This opened the can of worms that allowed for the currently unsettled total of at least 6 reporters, who were being spied on to be realized, including 3 from Radio Canada. On Friday, the Quebec Superior Court affirmed that all data seized from Lagacé must be sealed and unused by the Montreal police. The police claim that this was an 'exceptional situation,’ as Lagacé and others were reporting on a case that involved the possible fabrication of evidence by police officers in a case that saw 5 cops indicted this summer. They also claim that the data gathered was all done legally with warrants, claiming they followed all the rules. However, the local media and many Canadians see this case of the erosion of press freedoms as a firm example of the breaching of individual rights that covertly occurs in Canada quite often. ANDREW MITCHEL

Nicaraguan Elections

Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, is running for his third consecutive term—7th term overall—as the country’s leader. The vote took place on Sunday, with full results expected on Monday. Ortega is largely expected to win the election, with many Nicaraguans convinced that the election is fixed. International observance of the election by the Organization of American States (OAS) was initially rejected by Ortega as the majority of other candidates (including the most viable opponent, Luis Callejas) were barred from the race over the summer. As of last week, Ortega has “invited” the OAS to observe the elections in a limited context. Ortega has been popular among Nicaraguans since the 1980s, when he overthrew the Somoza political dynasty and promoted more widespread social programs that have helped many throughout the country. At the same time, there is concern that Ortega is attempting to set up another dynasty through his own family; he has selected his wife, Rosario Murillo as his running mate for the position of vice president. Murillo has been called the “co-president” of Nicaragua, as opposed to the first lady, since she has been extremely active in the political scene in her husband’s most recent term. As Ortega has entered the election estimated to receive approximately 60% of the votes, watch out for the election results in the coming week. AVA TAVRAZICH


Islamist Hardliners Gain Influence in Jakarta’s Governor Elections

Solo, Indonesia is unequivocally the ground zero in Indonesia’s fight against Islamic extremism, and has increasingly become a breeding ground for Islamic State recruitment in Syria and Iraq. As the largest exporter of Islamic State fighters from Southeastern Asia, this wave of hard-line Sunni ideology, Salafism, has gained traction in the world’s largest Muslim country. This has been especially evident in recent waves of terrorist attacks in Jakarta earlier this year. As the country prepares for Jakarta’s pivotal gubernatorial elections in February, the Islamic Defenders Front, an Indonesian Salafist organization, are accusing the current Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaha Purnama, known as ‘Ahok’, of blasphemy for allegedly criticizing Quranic verses. This past week, a protest aimed at denouncing the Governor in the Indonesian capital garnered more than 100,000 people, many holding banners that read ‘put Ahok in jail’. It is clear that this accusation stems from many Islamists in Jakarta at odds with having a Christian governor, many calling Ahok a kefir, or non-believer. This week, Ahok is planning to meet with investigators on Monday for the alleged blasphemy case, which has a maximum prison penalty of five years. As scattered outbreaks continue in Jakarta by various Salafist organizations, there are serious criminal implications for Ahok leading up to the February election. JALAL TALEB


Further Unrest in Turkey

The arrests of numerous HDP officials and pro-opposition journalists has prompted many to question whether or not democracy still prevails in Turkey. On Friday, Turkish officials loyal to the Erdogan regime arrested nine HDP leaders suspected of having ties to the PKK. Within a day they had arrested and detained another nine officials and nine Cumhuriyet newspaper journalists--among the only publications still willing to openly criticize Erdogan’s regime. The Turkish government attempted to justify these arrests by alleging that the journalists have connections to Fethullah Gulen, the cleric accused of plotting the coup attempt of this past July. However, the Turkish people do not accept this excuse. Hundreds of citizens have flocked to the streets of Istanbul in protest, criticizing Erdogan’s abuse of executive power and denial of free speech. As if to bolster the protesters’ point, police quickly arrived in the heart of the demonstration and drove the crowd away using water cannons and tear gas. While citizens of Turkey await the return of freedom of expression, events of the past few months indicate this could be a long time in the making. ANNA HAYNES

The Middle East

Syrian Opposition Declines Ceasefire, Russian-Syrian Bombardment on Eastern Aleppo Strengthens

Last week, the Russian-Syrian coalition imposed a 10-hour ceasefire in the bombardment of Eastern Aleppo, giving rebels a final chance to leave besieged areas. With a diminishing counter-offensive to damage the Russian-Syrian coalition in Aleppo, the last-major area held by the rebels in Syria is unequivocally on the verge of collapse. With the refusal to acknowledge the ceasefire imposed by Bashar Al-Assad and his allies, a continued assault on Eastern Aleppo is forthcoming. A series of text messages sent to residents by the Syrian government has urged civilians in Eastern Aleppo to flee, threatening the opposition to “stop resisting or die.” The government opened six routes for civilians, and two specific corridors for the rebel opposition to leave Eastern Aleppo before the assault continues; however, these efforts were neglected, with rebels increasing attacks in government-held Western Aleppo last week, killing at least 12 civilians and wounding more than 200. The intensity of the warnings by Assad and his allies certainly suggests the significant push that will commence this week in Eastern Aleppo, an assault that has strategic implications for full control of Aleppo for the Syrian government. JALAL TALEB

Rebel offensive to retake Raqqa from ISIL to begin

The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced Sunday that it is planning an offensive against the ISIL “capital” of Raqqa, Syria. The SDF, a coalition composed of Kurdish and Arab forces, has dubbed the offensive “Euphrates Rage”, and will be coordinating with international forces in order to carry out the operation. Brett McGurk, US President Obama’s envoy to the coalition, said Sunday: “There is an isolation phase which began today and there will be subsequent phases to make sure that we kick Daesh out of Raqqa.” The announcement comes just weeks after an Iraqi-led offensive began to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL. The Iraqi military recently blocked the main roads between Mosul and Raqqa to isolate the two cities from each other and prevent ISIL forces in either city from coming to the aid of the other. An SDF spokesperson stated that heavy resistance is expected: “IS will defend its bastion, knowing that the loss of Raqqa will mean it is finished in Syria.” Raqqa and Mosul are of extreme importance to ISIL, and their liberation, if successful, is expected to be a tremendous blow to the terrorist organization. MAYA ZREIK

Featured Posts
Recent Posts