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Focus This Week in the World

This Week in the World | 04.14.18

The Editors April 19, 2018
  • Syria

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps via Haaretz

By: Alex Voisine

On the eve of Friday, April 13, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a series of air strikes on alleged chemical weapons facilities in and around Damascus, in response to allegations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians in the province of Douma.  American forces were joined by the French and British to carry out a targeted attack that avoided civilian casualties; according to the Syrian General Staff, only three people were injured in the attack, and no deaths have been reported. The bombing of suspected chemical weapons facilities was meant to send a message to Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies that chemical weapons attacks would not be tolerated.

The international response following the strike has been mixed, and it denotes the stark division amongst world powers who have been involved in the war in Syria. Russia, an ally of Syria, responded to the American air strikes by warning of “chaos in international affairs” in the event of more strikes, and called the strikes a violation of the UN Charter and an act of aggression. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed Russia’s criticism of the air strikes, saying that the strikes presented an unnecessary obstacle in the resolution of the conflict in Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that the strikes had only increased his intentions to crush rebel forces supported by the United States. The U.S., France, and the UK all celebrated the air strikes, hailing them as a success.

The United States announced new sanctions against Russia for its support of the Assad regime, in the wake of the chemical attacks and subsequent air strikes. Russia has not announced any retaliatory measures, but it plans to do so this week.

  • South Korea

Photo Credit: AFP via BBC

By Alice Hakvaag

Choi Eun-hee, a famous South Korean actress, passed away on Monday at the age of 95. She was born in 1926 and married Shin Sang-ok, and the two became well known as a film star and a director. In 70s, as her career started to go down and after her divorce from Shin, she was approached by someone posing as a Hong Kong businessman, was kidnapped, and was brought to North Korea. Despite their separation, Shin went to Hong Kong where she was last seen to try and find her, and ended up being kidnapped himself.

The two would then spend the next several years as captives in North Korea, making movies for the late Kim Jong-il. The former president of North Korea was a known film buff, enjoying old Hollywood movies regularly. He wanted to make North Korean films comparable to international films, and had the duo create multiple films. Their film Pulgasari, a monster movie that had socialist themes, became a cult classic within North Korea. After convincing Jong-il to let them promote a new film in Vienna, they escaped to an embassy, returning to South Korea after eight years. Shin Sang-ok passed away in 2006.

Choi’s death was widely observed throughout South Korea. Actress Um Aing-rang said that seeing Choi in movies inspired her to be an actress. On social media, she is remembered as “a beauty” and that “her life was so dramatic.” Her funeral will be held in Seoul on Thursday.

  • India

Photo Credit: Jaipal Singh/EPA via NY Times

By Rachel Elliott

Protests have erupted in India in response to the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in the Jammu and Kashmir state. The crime, which took place in January, is reported to have been motivated by a desire to intimidate Muslim minorities in the area. The case has surfaced in recent weeks because lawyers connected to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party attempted to block police from filing charges against the eight Hindu men for the crimes. On Friday,  Modi addressed protesters and said, “our daughters will definitely get justice,” but the remarks did little to calm the outcry. Two BJP ministers resigned last week after participating in protests in support of the men.

On top of that, police brought up a case against Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a politician in Uttar Pradesh, for the June 2017 rape of a 16-year-old girl. The girl was abducted several days after the initial incident and raped by people known to the politician. On June 20, 2017, police took the girl to a local police station and tried to intimidate her by threatening her family, in an effort to keep the girl from filing a report. In April of this year, the girl tried to set herself on fire in front of the state’s Chief Minister’s home. The day after, the girl’s father was assaulted and killed by the lawmaker’s brother and others. Another case was opened to the public over the weekend, this time in Modi’s home state. A girl, around 11-years-old, was found dead with injuries consistent with rape, strangulation, and torture.

The protests have become some of the largest demonstrations since the 2012 bus rape and killing of a female college student. Indian celebrities have joined in on social media campaigns to highlight the rapes and murders. The protests highlight the ongoing epidemic of rape and sexual violence in India. The government has passed stricter anti-rape laws in recent years, but it has done little to reduce the number of rape cases. In fact, India’s National Crime Record Bureau reported that there was a 12% rise in rape-related cases in 2017. In 2016, only 10% of these types of cases awaiting trial were resolved.

  • Australia

Photo Credit: Shutterstock via LiveScience

By Alice Hakvaag

Doctors in Australia are warning people in Victoria state that cases of Buruli ulcers have been growing more and more common. Also known as Mycobacterium Ulcerans disease, it’s mainly found in the tropical regions of Africa. The disease is caused by a bacteria that releases toxins that destroys skin cells, blood vessels, and fat. This usually manifests in trademark ulcers that appear mainly on the limbs. The ulcers can be dealt with, but if untreated, they can grow very large in size and can lead to permanent disfigurement and disability, making many people affected seek out corrective surgery.

What’s worrying doctors is the lack of information regarding how the disease is spread. Cases have gone up by 400% over the last four years, and have grown more intense. The state of Victoria is in a temperate zone, unlike the tropical regions where the disease usually is found. Doctors don’t know how the bacteria actually gets transmitted to humans, but theories include environmental factors or transmission from mosquitos. Doctor Daniel O’Brien, along with several other doctors, wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia, asking for aid from the Australian government. “No one understands what’s happening and what’s driving this epidemic … it’s a mystery.”

  • Myanmar

CAPTION: Detained journalist Kyaw Soe Oo. Photo credit: Reuters/Stringer

By Rachel Elliott

Despite international outcry, Myanmar’s courts will proceed with charges against two Reuters journalists for violating the Official Secrets Act. The two reporters, U Kyaw Soe Oo and U Wa Lone, are accused of attempting to undermine national security by revealing secret information to the public. The Reuters reporters were investigating the massacre of 10 Rohingya civilians in Rahkine State that occurred in September. They had already procured photos of a mass grave when they were arrested for obtaining allegedly secret documents from police officers. The defense had hoped that with the election of Myanmar’s new president, they could appeal for a dismissal of the case. They have had no response from President U Win Myint so far. The judge ruling over the case has asserted that the case will proceed.

Just days before the judge’s decision, seven Myanmar soldiers were charged and sentenced to ten years in prison for the massacre the reporters were covering. The sentence and trial was carried out through the military court system. Reports of the massacre given by the army conflicted Reuters’ reports. The military asserted in January that the men who were killed were part of a group of 200 militants who had attacked the soldiers first. Reuters, however, reported that the victims of the massacre were killed by Buddhist neighbors and soldiers as part of what the United Nations has called an “ethnic cleansing.” If the Reuters reporters are found guilty, they could face 14 years in prison, four years more than those who committed the massacre.

Additionally, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called on Myanmar to do more to repatriate Rohingya refugees at the United Nations on Tuesday. Since August, nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled the Rakhine state for Bangladesh to escape violence, rape and arson committed by both Buddhist neighbors and military troops. The Myanmar government has denied the claims and continuously reasserts the story that the troops were simply acting in response to violence committed by Muslim Rohingya militants. Prime Minister Hasina told the General Assembly that Bangladesh had submitted over 8,000 families for repatriation in their homeland, but Myanmar had denied them. She also revealed that Myanmar had only repatriated five members of one family out of the thousands submitted. Hasina confirmed reports that Bangladesh is planning to move 100,000 Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal to help relieve the pressure and strained resources in the refugee camps.

  • Ecuador

Photo Credit: AFP via BBC

By: Alex Voisine

Three journalists were killed last week in Ecuador, near the border with Colombia. The journalists were killed by a dissident faction of the FARC, a guerrilla group in Colombia that recently signed a peace and amnesty deal with the government of Colombia. The dissident faction, though once a part of the FARC, has since separated from the FARC’s mainstream political body, which was granted seats in Colombia’s Parliament as a condition for the signing of the peace deal.

The journalists, who worked for El Comercio newspaper, were kidnapped three weeks ago and were executed on Friday. Their killing is most likely a response to President Lenin Moreno’s recent crackdown on drug trafficking on the Colombian border. The dissident FARC group controls much of the drug trafficking from Colombia to Ecuador, and has attacked members of the Ecuadorian military stationed on the border. To date, four members of the military have been killed and dozens injured. The execution of the journalists though signals a more heavy-handed response to Moreno’s drug trafficking crackdown on the part of the FARC faction. On Tuesday, the rebel group captured two more journalists working in the same region as the three reporters who were executed. The FARC faction has demanded that Ecuador release a number of its combatants that are currently being held by Ecuadorian police forces, as well as discontinue anti-drug cooperation with Colombia. Ecuador has refused to give in to either of these demands, and has offered $230,000 for information leading to the capture of Walter Arizala, the leader of the rebel group. In a video released on Tuesday, one of the captured journalists was recorded saying: “Mr. President, please help us, give us a hand, so the same thing doesn’t happen us as it did with the other journalists. We have kids, we have family… we have nothing to do with this war.”

As of Tuesday evening, the two journalists are alive but still in the hands of the rebel faction.

  • England and Caribbean

By Alice Hakvaag

The Windrush generation is the name given to immigrants from English colonies in the Caribbean that arrived in the UK from 1948 to 1971. Labor shortages in the UK encouraged workers from the area to make the trip across the ocean, often bringing families with them. Thousands of workers came over, and the descendants of this wave were given special citizenship that allowed them to stay even though they didn’t meet new requirements in 1971. Unfortunately, not a lot of paperwork was given to people exempt from new residency laws, and many children came to the UK under parents’ visas.

These children, now grown up, are finding it hard to prove their citizenship, and have started to be marked for deportation, albeit by mistake. Immigration laws changed in 2012, and now things like employment, property rental, and healthcare require documentation that children of the Windrush generation don’t have. Some were even being marked as being in the country illegally, and were facing deportation. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that those that were affected would be given the necessary documentation for free. She acknowledged that her department “sometimes loses sight” of individuals affected by these changes, and that it was “appalling” that some citizens faced deportation. Prime Minister Theresa May has already offered an apology and is meeting with leaders of Caribbean countries affected.