Week of March 27th
Syrian football team competes for World Cup qualifiers
Mubarak Released from Egyptian Prison
After six years of incarceration Hosni Mubarak was released from a military prison in southern Cairo to his home in a northern suburb. He was arrested and charged following Egypt’s 2011 democratic uprising. He was originally sentenced to life in prison, but a court of appeals ruled in his favor and exonerated Mubarak of the charges. Activists have voiced their disdain over the ruling, as the country continues to struggle under the rule of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Massive protests allowed the government to overthrow Mubarak and courts offered some retributive justice for his actions. Keep watch for continued coverage of his situation as courts leave prosecutors the option of reopening a corruption investigation into gifts Mubarak received from a state-owned news outlet. While the event was kept relatively silent by state media, international sources have covered it widely, and the story is likely to play a role in democratic efforts in the country. Mubarak will have all the rights granted to a retired head of state and will continue living his life in a residence paid for largely with embezzled state funds. JAKE LOCKLEDGE
Hong Kong Elections: the Status Quo Maintained
Hong Kong’s Sunday elections have concluded and the results are unsurprising: Beijing-backed candidate, Carrie Lam, has won with a solid majority. However, her victory comes amidst controversy and disgruntlement. Many have dubbed Election Day as merely “Selection Day,” referring to Beijing’s influence and the public’s inability to vote directly for their leader. Instead, a committee of 1,200 individuals - mainly pro-Beijing electors - are charged with choosing the new Chief Executive. Lam earned 777 votes while her two opponents merely earned a combined total of 386.
Discontent against Beijing’s interference was what prompted the 2014 Umbrella Protests. Demonstrations rocked the island for months as thousands took to the streets to voice their complaints. Although later silenced, sentiments and leading figures from the movement still remain. After Sunday’s vote, pro-democracy legislator, Nathan Law, declared the result a nightmare. He stated: “Lam’s victory despite her lack of representation and popular support reflects the Chinese Communist party’s complete control over Hong Kong’s electoral process.” From the Umbrella Protests of 2014 to the brouhaha in the Legislative Council in 2016, pro-democracy advocates will certainly not accept the results quietly. Expect to see further demonstrations or protests in the coming weeks and months. WARREN YU
El Salvador’s Anti-Abortion Law: Coming to an end?
A parliamentary bill has been introduced in El Salvador which would reverse the current law concerning abortion, which makes abortion, under any circumstance, illegal. This landmark legislation would allow for abortion when a woman has been raped or the survivor of human trafficking; the fetus has died or is otherwise unviable; or to protect the woman, herself, from death or harm. The current law is written in such a way that women have been sentenced to life in prison for having a miscarriage and/or stillbirth due to illness or other causes. Cases against women include death of a baby with only suspicion of an abortion in the case of recently pardoned Sonia Tábora, who was charged with homicide. Not only is the topic taboo in the mainly Catholic nation, but there has been limited discourse by those not being directly impacted by what many are calling a draconian measure until the introduction of this bill. The bill is being considered currently by a committee on legislation, so watch to see if it is passed onto the full legislative body to be voted on in the coming weeks. ANDREW MITCHEL
OAS to Discuss Venezuela Crisis Tuesday
The Organization of American States (OAS) will meet Tuesday in Washington, D.C. to discuss the ongoing politico-economic crisis in Venezuela after fourteen of its members called on President Nicolas Maduro to restore democracy in the country. Venezuela has been experiencing massive inflation due to dropping oil prices, leading to extreme good shortages. Many have criticized Maduro of mismanaging the economy in response to the crisis. Meanwhile, Maduro has also stifled political opposition, indefinitely delaying congressional and recall elections that were projected losses for his party, while mitigating Congressional laws through judges loyal to him. As such, OAS Chief Luis Almagro has demanded that Venezuela release political prisoners, return full powers to the opposition majority Congress, and hold all suspended elections in order to access international credit markets. While Mr. Maduro has been reluctant to allow help from international organizations, in a sign of the situation’s severity, he recently called on the United Nations for assistance in boosting the country’s medicinal supply. It is unclear if this policy change indicates renewed willingness to negotiate on Tuesday. However, regardless of Tuesday’s discussion, it is certain that Venezuela’s economic woes will not slow down anytime soon. MEGHAN ROWLEY
Russian Opposition Politician Assassinated in Ukraine
On March 23, 2017, Denis Voronenkov, a Russian politician living in exile in Ukraine, was shot dead in broad daylight in central Kiev. In an ensuing gunfight with Voronenkov’s bodyguard, the assassin was injured and later died. Voronenkov, a former MP in the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, and a prominent member of the CPRF (Communist Party), was most widely-known for his criticism of Russia’s intervention in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of the 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests in Kiev, comparing Russia’s actions to those of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Although no such proof has surfaced, many are already blaming the Russian authorities for authorizing the killing, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko going so far as to call the assassination an act of “state terrorism” by Russia. Similarly, the motive remains unclear, although there has been speculation that the killing was ordered in response to evidence allegedly held by Voronenkov suggesting that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych played a role in the deployment of Russian troops to eastern Ukraine, an allegation which Russia still officially denies. In the coming days, watch for more reactions from the Russian and Ukrainian governments over this bold assassination. MARK DOVICH
Speculation Surrounds London Attack
On the afternoon of March 22, Londoner Khalid Masood drove a rented vehicle along the sidewalk of the Westminster Bridge and crashed it into the railings lining the Palace of Westminster, killing three pedestrians, injuring at least fifty others, and forcing one women off the bridge into the Thames. Immediately upon crashing, Masood left his vehicle and ran through the palace gate straight toward the Houses of Parliament, brandishing a knife. PC Keith Palmer intercepted Masood, who stabbed and killed the officer before being shot and killed himself by other members of the guard. The circumstances surrounding the attack are fairly clear, but a number of questions still trouble the investigators and public alike. One of the primary concerns is the extent, if any, to which Masood’s radicalism motivated these attacks and, more importantly, if this attack is connected to any others. ISIS has already issued a statement claiming this attack as their own, although analysts believe this is more an attempt at fear-mongering than anything else. Other questions that remain to be answered as the investigation continues regard an unknown WhatsApp message sent from the attacker’s phone just before he drove onto the pavement and his time supposedly spent as an English teacher in Saudi Arabia, which the English government’s records cannot confirm. ANNA HAYNES
Syria’s Football Team Inches Closer to the World Cup Finals
With the hopes and dreams resting on one penalty kick against Uzbekistan on Thursday, stakes were high as the Syrian Football Team is close to clinching World Cup Finals qualification. Calmly, Syria’s top striker scored his penalty as the match was near completion, inching the Syrian Football Team one step closer to making history. As a true symbol of unity, the Syrian Football Team has all odds against them. With home games played in Malaysia, as their country’s stadiums remain in peril throughout the war, they see the symbolism of advancing to the World Cup Finals beyond the football pitch. Ayman Hakeem, the head coach of the national team, poured emotions in the post-game press conference. Choking on his words, Mr. Hakeem dedicated the victory to the Syrian people. Four qualifying matches remain in the preliminary stages; to advance, the Syrians must obtain only 2 points from those four matches. One victory, worth 3 points, puts them in the World Cup Finals - and two draws, each worth 1 point, will also advance the team. With spirits high and their chances of qualifying increasing, the Syrians will travel to Seoul on March 28 - a victory will complete the Russia 2018 dream. JALAL H TALEB