Miss the news this week? The Catchup has you covered on important happenings from around the globe.
Conflict broke out between armed militias in the Central African Republic this week, uprooting thousands and killing at least 25. The rapid escalation in just one week’s time prompted the UN to issue a warning that if tensions continue, this conflict could quickly become much larger in scale. Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch said that the militias “are more emboldened than ever to kill civilians, rape women and girls and destroy property. Displacement camps, places that are usually protected, are under attack.”
This week, over 100 women known as the “Chibok girls” were reunited with their families in northeastern Nigeria. The women were among the 276 girls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram from a Nigerian girls’ school in 2014. Eighty-two of the 276 were released in May as a part of a deal made by the Nigerian government with Boko Haram, 21 were released in the fall of 2016. The women have spent the four months since their release in government custody, undergoing counselling and rehabilitation programs. Saying that they are now “fully recovered,” the Nigerian government announced that the young women will have the opportunity to attend one of the best schools in the country, the American University of Nigeria. More than 100 others, however, still remain under the capture of Boko Haram.
A military crackdown that has targeted the Rohingya Muslim population of Myanmar since the end of August was deemed “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by a top United Nations human rights official this week. More than 300,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since the crackdown began on August 25, with reports of government military groups targeting civilian populations, killing men, women and children, and setting fires to Rohingya villages. Myanmar officials have claimed that the fires have been set by the Rohingya themselves. The country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has remained silent on speaking out against the military crackdown. In light of international criticism, Aung San Suu Kyi’s office announced Wednesday that she would not be appearing at the upcoming UN General Assembly as planned.
North Korea announced on Monday that it would inflict “the greatest pain and suffering” on the United States if sanctions were to pass against the regime in a U.N. Security Council vote Monday afternoon. Several measures were removed from the proposed sanctions before it passed later that day, including sanctions blocking all oil exports to North Korea and freezing the personal assets of Kim Jong-un. The reduction in sanctions is said to have been motivated by efforts to win the support of China and Russia, which have previously been critical of increased sanctions against North Korea, and not in reaction to threats from Pyongyang. Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement that the sanctions, which came just a week after North Korea carried out its largest nuclear test to date, are “nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen.” North Korea replied to the passing of the sanctions by saying that the U.S. deserves to be “beaten to death” and that Japan “should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb.”
Three weeks ahead of the Catalan independence referendum, up to one million supporters of the movement took the streets of Barcelona in support of secession on Tuesday. The Spanish government declared the independence referendum illegal, but Catalonia’s pro-secession government plans to push forward with the referendum. Recent polls have shown that the vote, should it take place as planned, will be a close one. Catalonia, in the Northeastern part of Spain, is home to the city of Barcelona and is one of the wealthiest and most industrialized regions of the country. Many citizens and politicians from Catalonia, which has its own language and distinct culture, have expressed discontent with the disproportionate amount of taxes diverted to Madrid.
Recent changes to French labor laws sparked protest across the country this week, with activists speaking out against President Emmanuel Macron’s legislative efforts to reduce France’s unemployment rate from 9.5%, more than double the rate in most other large Western European economies, to 7%. The laws give more power to French employers, making it easier to hire, fire, and set wages and benefits. The interior ministry estimates that numbers of protesters reached 223,000, though the hard-left CGT union says that the true number exceeds 400,000, with more protests expected to occur throughout the month.
Over 1,300 women and children, the families of Islamic State fighters, are being held in an Iraqi de-facto camp for displaced people after fleeing from Tal Afar, a northwestern Iraqi city that was under IS control until it fell to Kurdish troops last month. The women and children had previously been brought to Iraq by male family members following IS propaganda campaigns, most coming from Turkey, Russia and central Asia, with some from France, Germany and other European nations. According to reports from Iraq, the women and children will be repatriated to their home nations, with no mention as to the fates of the male IS fighters who were separated from their families by Kurdish troops after the fall of Tal Afar.
This week marked 100 days since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt announced a severing of ties with Qatar over alleged support of terrorism, effectively closing Qatar’s only land border with neighboring Saudi Arabia. Qatar has continually denied the allegations of supporting terrorist groups. 30 billion USD is estimated to have been withdrawn from Qatari banks since the severing of ties began, and reports surfaced this week that Qatar has had to funnel $38.5 billion USD into the economy, 23% of the country’s GDP, in light of the current political situation with former gulf partners.
The Islamic State has taken credit for two attacks carried out in Southern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 50 people. The first attack occurred in a restaurant near the southern capital of Nasiriya when a suicide bomber detonated his vest while gunmen opened fire inside the restaurant. Shortly after, a car bomb was detonated at a checkpoint, also in Nasiriya.
Hillary Clinton’s 512 page book, What Happened, was released on Tuesday. The book, published by Simon and Schuster, chronicles, among other things, her campaign to be the first female president, her thoughts on her loss, and her feelings following the Trump victory. Sections from Clinton’s book were leaked in the weeks leading up the September 12 release, perhaps the most controversial of which directly attributes Russian interference run by Vladimir Putin as a contributing factor to the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Clinton writes, “I never imagined that he would have the audacity to launch a massive covert attack against our own democracy, right under our noses – and that he’d get away with it.”
The Supreme Court decided Tuesday to overrule a mandate from a lower court that had previously blocked President Trump’s March 6 executive order banning travelers from six Muslim majority countries. The mandate would have significantly eased Trump’s refugee ban and allowed U.S. entry for up to 24,000 refugees before October. A hearing will take place in October on the constitutionality of the travel ban, but Tuesday’s overruling is seen as a partial victory for the Trump administration. Currently, the White House hasn’t released details on the proposed travel ban or any modifications that will be made to it before the October hearing, including the possibility for it to be expanded to cover travelers from other countries.
A press release on Tuesday from the French Foreign Ministry announced that mediating talks had been scheduled for the following day in the Dominican Republic between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan Opposition Party (MUD), a dialogue that Maduro publically supported. The opposition party, however, released a statement shortly after saying that they would not be entering into scheduled talks until several provisions had been met, including the scheduling of monitored elections, the release of political prisoners and immediate attention to the economic and social crises in Venezuela.
Protests erupted in Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince this week after significant tax increases were placed on cigarettes, alcohol and passport fees. The protests, which damaged commercial buildings and set cars ablaze, were organized by Jean-Charles Moise, a former presidential candidate. Tax increases came after a recent drop in foreign aid to the island nation. Haiti is still in a recovery phase after 2010’s devastating earthquake, and is one of the poorest countries in the Americas.
“Plan Rabbit,” devised to combat food shortages during the current economic crisis in Venezuela, got off to a bad start this week when a pilot test found that the rabbits distributed to 15 different Venezuelan villages were being kept as pets, instead of being eaten as planned. Government officials were surprised to find ribbons tied around the rabbits, which had been intended to provide animal protein to malnourished communities, saying, “A lot of people gave names to the rabbits and took them to bed.” The minister of urban agriculture, Freddy Bernal, attributed the failure of the plan to a “cultural problem.”