Watchlist: Protests Erupt Across the Middle East

Week of December 11th

A protest outside the US embassy in Lebanon's Beirut turned violent (Source: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)


A Pardon for Child Rapists in Tanzania

In an independence day speech on Saturday, December 9th, President Magufuli pardoned a group of select prisoners who had been convicted of raping children. Magufuli announced a pardon of prisoners with the immediate release of 1,828 convicts while 6,329 others would have their sentences reduced. This comes as a huge blow for children’s rights activists who are ultimately unsurprised by the actions of the president. According to Kate Alpine, the director of the Arusha-based Community for Children Rights, the president “has a blind spot when it comes to recognising children as victims.” This decision by Magufuli is another in a long string of choices that not only has the country divided but has come as a unilateral decision. For all the good some of the previous decisions have done for the country it comes as a worrying turn of events after so much hard work toward making children safety a priority. In a country that already has so many difficulties bringing child rapists to court, this decision can only embolden those who would seek to harm children. In the coming weeks watch for how this tragedy will further affect education in the country. LIAM BEERS


Unicef: India’s smog may permanently damage children’s brains

For years past, winter in India has meant smog. And a lot of it. Diesel-powered engines, construction dust, coal-burning and agricultural blazing of dead crops combine to engulf cities, particularly New Delhi, in bubbles of smog. The health effects of smog on humans were put on full display this week as a visiting Sri Lankan cricketer vomited in front of millions of Indians watching the televised match between India and Sri Lanka, which was promptly suspended. At the time, New Delhi’s air contained 22 times the level of hazardous particles that the World Health Organization considers acceptable. A new Unicef study into smog’s effects on child brain development specifically calls out South Asia for putting more children at risk than any other region in the world. Many point to China as a comparable country attempting to balance economic development with environmental concerns, but China has been faster to enforce their laws. India’s political arena remains much more decentralized and democratic than China’s, and coupled with pressure from foreign investors to construct an even more friendly business environment, the smog thickens. WILL FEUER


Request to Arrest Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

An Argentine judge, Claudio Bonadio, has submitted an official request to arrest former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on the grounds of treason (follow decision here in Spanish). As previously written for the Watchlist, the investigation centers on her role in the coverup of an attack of AMIA (Argentina Israelite Mutual Association in English) in Buenos Aires in 1994 which killed 85 people thought to have been done by Iran. Kirchner have immunity as a Senator, so the judge has had to request that the Senate allows her to be fully charged. Her charges of treason stem from a memorandum of understanding signed with Iran in 2013 to jointly investigate the bombing, which never occurred. It also concerns the death of Judge Alberto Nisman who testified against Kirchner but died just days afterwards. The Commission sanctioned by Kirchner following his death concluded he committed suicide, but a more recent forensic test determined he was likely murdered. There is a chance Kirchner escapes with immunity but still be fully prosecuted as the Senate is not dominated by the party wherein lie her main critics, also the party of her political nemesis and current president Mauricio Macri. Stay tuned for more turns in this case tearing at the heart of Argentine politics. ANDREW MITCHEL


Hard Lines On Hard Borders

The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been demilitarized for nearly 20 years, since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. That agreement ended sectarian conflict on the island of Ireland and has been staunch in its resolve until Brexit negotiations raised concerns on both sides for the potential return of a “hard” border. Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) makes up a group of 10 hardline members of the British Parliament, who vetoed a plan proposed by Theresa May, the UK’s Prime Minister, this past Monday. By Friday-- May, the DUP, members of the Irish government, and representatives from the EU had all come together to agree upon a deal. This deal essentially reiterates the commitment to the 1998 agreement, confirms that the UK (including Northern Ireland) will leave the EU single market, and ensures that the UK’s customs and trade policies will continue to encourage North-South cooperation. This initial deal was vital in moving Brexit negotiations into the second phase, and is being considered a personal victory by May- but, the deal leaves much to be desired for DUP members whose hardline on Brexit needs to be taken into consideration as May’s parliamentary minority depends on their votes. B.A. BACIGAL

Middle East

Protests Erupt in the Middle East over Trump’s Jerusalem Decision

U.S. President Trump’s decision on Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there has ignited demonstrations across the Middle East. Tens of thousands rallied in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday, yelling slurs against Trump and carrying banners saying Jerusalem belonged to Palestine. In Lebanon, there have been daily protests in many of the Palestinian refugee camps where many Palestinians fled during the wars of 1948 and 1967. There were also protests at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, where thousands demonstrated holding Palestinian flags and chanting slogans. Protesters who attempted to pass the roadblock protecting the embassy were injured in clashes with security forces. A similar protest attended by thousands was held at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. In Istanbul, demonstrators filled Yenikapi Square rallying against the decision while carrying Palestinian and Turkish flags. Demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strips were held on a daily basis since the decision, and have turned violent with the deployment of several extra battalions of Israeli troops. The announcement has also triggered denunciations by Arab leaders, with an emergency session of the Arab League resulting in a two page resolution condemning the decision as “illegal” and a “dangerous violation” of international law. It will be interesting to see if the protests will continue to manifest themselves over time in these Arab countries, and if their leaders will take concrete actions, rather than rhetoric, against this declaration. AYAH KUTMAH

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