Watchlist: Turkey Launchs Offensive Against YPG

Week of January 22nd

Turkish forces near the Syrian border on Sunday (Source: Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse)


Several People Killed in DR Congo

At least six people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo following widespread protests against President Joseph Kabila. Kabila has been in power since 2001 and is still in office today, despite the fact that his term expired over a year ago. Protestors took to the streets to demand that he step down after the DR Congo’s Catholic Church called on citizens to participate in demonstrations against Kabila. The church has been a vocal critic of the government, and members of the clergy marched with protestors on Sunday. The Congolese government has banned marches and troops used tear gas and live bullets to disperse protestors, leading to at least six deaths. Several dozen more people have been arrested. This is one of several anti-Kabila demonstrations that have been organized across the nation following his decision to delay an election to choose his successor. MAYA ZREIK


China Arrests Another Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Another figure has been silenced in the continued crackdown on civil society and domestic dissent. Prominent human rights lawyer, Yu Wenshang, was detained by Chinese police while walking his son to school on January 18, 2018. The move, while shocking, should not be particularly surprising. China’s “War on Law” has already been in motion for around two years now with hundreds of legal workers and activists disappearing under concerning circumstances. Troubling reports and details of torture and inhumane treatment have also emerged—one particular individual was “forced to sit hours in stress positions [while] being shackled with chains.” The detainment of Yu Wenshang demonstrates that Chinese leadership appears more concerned with maintaining the status quo than it is with ending its arbitrary use of power. It will be interesting to see how the “Chinese Dream” is reconciled with these troubling developments.​ WARREN YU


Odd Tweet Leads to Questions of Russian Interference in Mexican Presidential Race

A strange tweet put out to the world on January 18th by Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, is leading to a concern of Russian collusion in yet another world election. Obrador, seen at the port of Veracruz, states in the video that he is waiting for a Russian submarine to bring him gold from Moscow. The video has led to an attack on AMLO by the ruling PRI party, while AMLO himself continues to pass off the video as a joke. This matter of Russian influence and monetary support for the populist Obrador is not without further recent scandal, as one of AMLO’s potential cabinet members is married to John Ackerman who appeared often on state-sponsored Russia Today (RT) programming as a contributor. AMLO, running on an anti-corruption campaign, wishes to appoint Ackerman’s wife Irma Eréndira Sandoval to a new cabinet position to directly combat corruption and malpractice in the Mexican bureaucracy as well, further complicating the situation. Questions of legitimacy swirling around Obrador will be sure to intensify as the July elections approach, as AMLO is faced by staunch competition from the PRI’s former Secretary of Finance José Antonio Meade among other candidates. ANDREW MITCHEL


Protesters Hold Power in Romanian Political Crisis

Citizens of Romania pushed back in protests on Saturday, demanding an end to the government’s extreme corruption. One of the most fraudulent states in the EU, Romania has faced months of political upheaval as the two most recent Prime Ministers lost their positions in a clash with majority party leader Liviu Dragnea. Numerous charges of embezzlement and fraud cloud Dragnea’s reputation and have elicited opposition from Western leaders, Romanian politicians, and citizens alike. In December, the Parliament passed laws weakening the powers of the judiciary to investigate corruption cases, shielding Dragnea and other Social Democratic Party leaders from searches and investigative custody. Saturday’s protesters responded to these laws, which still await Presidential approval, with cries of “All for Justice”, “Thieves”, and “Resign”. With the threat of snap elections looming, protesters have the power to check corrupt officials and prevent these controversial judicial reforms from becoming law. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

Turkey begins offensive against YPG Turkey has officially launched “Operation Olive Branch,” a mission aimed at removing the Kurdish militia YPG from Syria. The group is active in the Afrin region and are a US ally that has been instrumental in the fight against ISIL in the region. Turkey recognizes them as terrorists and has launched multiple air strikes against them, and on Saturday Turkish troops crossed the border into Syria and have been advancing towards the YPG. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the goal of the mission was to establish a 19-mile “safe zone” in Syria, and President Recep Erdogen promised that they would defeat the YPG in a “short time.” A spokesman for the Kurdish militia has claimed that Turkish forces “have not entered one inch of the Afrin district.” Clashes on Sunday morning left casualties on both sides. Western powers have countered the claim that the YPG has terrorist links and have urged Turkey to show “restrain,” and the UN Security Council will convene today for an emergency meeting on the issue. MAYA ZREIK

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