The latest edition of Conflict Weekly covers: Anti Racist Protests in the US and the Floods in Pakistan | Contributors to this edition are: Rahul Arockiaraj and Abigail Miriam Fernandez
The anti-Racist Protests in the US: Between “I Have a Dream” and “I Can’t Breathe”
In the news
On 25 August, the third night of the protests centred around the police’s shooting of Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, who was a part of a ‘self-appointed right-wing militia’, armed himself with an AR-15 rifle, in the process killing two protestors. This incident has brought even more attention to both the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as its critiques.
Crazy nights of protesting have been very familiar in many cities across America, but it is no question that Portland has dealt with the most attention from both the media, as well as the federal government. For almost a month, Homeland Security and federal troops have been deployed to help ‘maintain unity.’ Many have accused Trump of using ‘secret police’ to use excessive force on protestors. Since this deployment there have been many confrontations between BLM supporters and right-wing demonstrators, leading to violence.
On 28 August, on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, protestors gathered in the national mall to both honours the past and fight for the future. The families of Jacob Blake, George Floyd and Trayvon Martin gave speeches to call upon police reform and justice, and past civil rights leaders and their families urged the protestors to continue their efforts, to effectively honour the legacy of Dr King, as well as John Lewis.
Issues at large
First, it is clear that two out of the three incidents resulted due to confrontation between BLM supporters and right-wing advocates. While there has been evidence that suggests higher instances of social media debate between the two ideological groups, the last week has shown an increase in personal confrontation within protests. The debate behind Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions has made it clear that there is an inherent division among the two political groups. There is a clear “us vs. them” mentality that both groups carry, and when two different groups of demonstration meet, there is bound to be an argument leading to violence. Portland and Kenosha are just violent examples of these ‘debates.’ In reality, this tension stretches all across the country. The relevance of BLM and the protests backing the movement are a source of conversation in every household.
Second, it seems that this division among ideologies only serves to heighten the attention of the looming election. As headlines of BLM protesters being arrested in Portland increase, so does the media’s attention on President Trump, Vice President Biden, and the 2020 election. As thousands of protestors fill the street nightly, it is clear that America is at a tipping point. The election serves as an answer that many are looking for. This isn’t an election about two candidates but rather an election that focuses on two different sides of a movement. All of these protests and uproar over police brutality seems to be building. And it seems that the election results will either be a catalyst for more uproar and outrage or might be considered a sign of victory for an increasingly globally relevant movement.
Third, the anniversary of Dr King’s iconic speech serves as an important reminder for the BLM movement, that there is more work to be done. Dr King’s powerful words still inspire yet another generation in their efforts for social justice. However, some have questioned whether his dreams have come true. While one can argue that all citizens are given equal birth rights, there are still clear discrepancies that create racial barriers. One such example is the continued instances of police brutality. It is clear that the African American community is being disproportionally affected by this issue, and it has been the main focus of the BLM movement. However, Dr King’s speech reveals that there are problems beyond this institutional issue that need to be resolved. These problems don’t need to be solved in Congress or the justice system but can happen in any home in America. The reason that the “I Have a Dream” speech is so iconic is because of its personal nature. These past few months, BLM transformed into a world-wide movement centred around George Floyd. However, since then, the movement has been treated as a purely political statement, rather than a cultural movement. Dr King’s speech should remind us that BLM isn’t just a political movement, but rather a personal statement claiming that “Black Lives Matter.” This personal integrity is incredibly crucial to make a cultural change.
These three different events are all incredibly important on their own individual right. However, it seems that there is a common theme connecting all these instances. In every single protest, counter-protest, and news story, people want answers. Whether it be answers to police brutality or in a conservative light, answers to ‘unruly protests,’ all of these issues have come down to, the outcome of the upcoming election. Both democrats and republicans have placed a tremendous amount of weight to the upcoming election, some saying that it is the election where ‘we find the true nature of America.’ Some have even gone far enough to say that if Trump is re-elected that it would be a sign of failure for the BLM movement.
While it is no question that this is an important election, especially considering the potential number of supreme court justices being appointed, the validity of the BLM movement should not be attached so closely with the outcome of the election. If Biden loses, this should not mean that the BLM movement was a failure. The amount of local governments that have started to put policies brought up by BLM into action, has seen an unprecedented rise. More mayors and county officials all across the country are supporting police justice reform, and it is no doubt that BLM was directly responsible for this.
Furthermore, while the media will continue to magnify the attention drawn towards the 2020 election, it is important to note that there are many working functions of the government that aren’t the bright spotlight hogged by the oval office. The Black Lives Matter movement is far more important than the outcome of a singular election. The movement stakes its value in individual homes and conversation rather than the electoral college and presidential speeches. It is important to note that Dr King had a dream, not about politics and elections, but rather people living with freedom in the comfort of their homes. A movement about humanity and freedom, not elections and party politics.
Pakistan: Torrential rains wreak havoc in Karachi and other parts
In the news
On 27 August, torrential rain and flash floods continued to lash Karachi for the third consecutive day, as downpours in August shattered an 89-year-old record, with the city receiving 223.5mm of rain in just 12 hours on Thursday alone, the highest amount of rain ever recorded in a single day in the city. Officials and rescue service have announced that close to 80 lives had been claimed by the various rain-related incidents with rains wreaking havoc in the following days leaving several areas of Karachi remained submerged and without power on 30 August.
The same was the case with Balochistan, where on 29 August, the Balochistan government has declared an emergency in nine districts as the flood situation has worsened in the province. Further, over 100 villages were inundated and hundreds of acres of crops damaged by floods that have reported across Punjab due to the heavy downpour.
More recently, on 31 August, the Pakistan Metrological Department (PMD) issued a significant flood warning for the northern parts of the country, predicting heavy to very heavy rainfall in catchment areas of river Kabul River along with hill torrents of Dera Ghazi Khan division.
Issues at large
First, the slow onset of climate change has caused rainfall to become unpredictable. Pakistan’s monsoon rains normally originate from moisture swept in over India from the Bay of Bengal. Usually, the rains start in the east, centred on Punjab province with the rains then migrate northwest, dissipating by the time they reach the capital, Islamabad, and ending in scattered rains before dying out in Afghanistan. However, over last few years, the PMD officials have noticed that the centre of Pakistan’s monsoon has been gradually shifting to the northwest, away from the nation’s watershed in Punjab due to impact of climate change on precipitation distribution patterns.
Second, Pakistan’s lack of preparedness for climate disasters. Pakistan’s development strategists have failed to respond effectively to the defining climate crisis. Sindh, in particular, is a prime example of this failure where despite the various development investments over the years, climate vulnerability remains. Further, the lack of access to climate funds is becoming disadvantageous for developing countries like Pakistan, which are facing the brunt of climate change.
Third, the situation most importantly exposes the grave shortcomings of governance. Poor design and management of roads, drainage, intersections, underground sewers and sidewalks have caused unparalleled chaos and damage. Further, the over spilling of drains and the absence of properly directed flow of rainwater, streets, transitways and adds to the problem. In a situation such as this, preparedness is one of is essentials in order to mitigate the disaster followed by prevention, alleviation of sufferings and community awareness. Unfortunately, successive governments have neglected in their preparation to deal with such crises. Further, the disaster management authorities now face the dilemma of managing flood disasters amid a pandemic.
The situation in Pakistan is a sign to show how much of the developing world is deliberately making it more vulnerable to climate change. The need of the hour is for the prioritization of urban flood risk management on the political and policy agenda and also to ensure that timely actions are of all tiers of government work in unison to mitigate the problem.
Further, the government of Pakistan, although it has a mechanism in the forms of laws to address the issues, needs to focus on implementing the same in order to deal crises.
Also, from around the World…
Peace and Conflict in Southeast and East Asia
China: Reopening of schools in Wuhan
On 1 September, nearly, 1.4 million students resumed classes in around 2,800 kindergartens, primary and middle schools in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged last year. Schools in the city have reopened first time in seven months, with photographs and videos showing children gathering together, reuniting with friends and attending classes in uniforms. Meanwhile, the authorities have instructed schools to stock up on disease control equipment and conduct regular drills. Further, Shanghai had reopened schools in May, and Beijing, which recently suffered from a local outbreak of the virus, is said to resume all schools including kindergartens in September.
China: Australian TV host detained in China
On 31 August, the Australia Foreign Ministry states that investigators in China have detained an Australian journalist who has been a host on Chinese state-run television. The journalist, Cheng Lei, who has worked on English-language business news for CGTN, the Chinese international broadcaster, was detained on 14 August, with no details of any accusations and with the Chinese government has not commented publicly on her case. Further, last week Ms Cheng was able to speak to Australian diplomats over a video link to a detention site. This development is said to be another potential opening point of friction in already tense relations between the two countries.
South Korea: Resurgence of cases as the virus spikes
On 31 August, South Korea has counted its 18th straight day of triple-digit daily increase in coronavirus cases as its health minister warned about an increase in transmissions gone untraced. The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 248 new cases on Monday itself are bringing the national caseload to 19,947, including 324 deaths. The resurgence has been linked to a church cluster, and an anti-government rally on which took place on 15 August 15 in Seoul, where cases traced to the Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul, the main centre for the recent surge is said to have reported 1000 cases. Further, the church outbreak led to at least 25 new clusters, with cases reported in several provinces and municipalities outside Greater Seoul.
Timor-Leste: Stolen children were taken during the war return home after decades
Decades later, ‘stolen’ as children, victims of forced separation are beginning to return to Timor-Leste in search of their long-lost families. These victims are said to be raised by Indonesian families across the archipelago. It has been reported that more than 4,000 children were taken from Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation between 1975 and 1999 while some non-government organizations believe the real number is even higher.
Hong Kong: Calls for mass testing amid deep distrust
On 1 September, Hong Kong launched a mass coronavirus testing scheme in an attempt to stamp out the third wave of infections that began in late June and saw the densely populated city reimpose economically painful social distancing measures. However, this call has left millions undermined by a deep distrust of the government with the programme hampered by a limited response due to the involvement of mainland Chinese testing firms and doctors, and increasing public fears of the harvesting of data and DNA as Beijing cracks down on calls for democratic reform.
Peace and Conflict in South Asia
India-China: Military moves raise fears of escalation along LAC
On 31 August, India and China accused each other of military provocation on the contested Line of Actual Control. This comes a day after the Indian Army announced that it had taken “measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions” to change the status quo on the south bank of Pangong Tso after which China’s military said Indian troops had crossed the border on Monday near Pangong Tso, and engaged in “open provocation and caused the border situation to become tense.” Pangong Tso is one of several hotspots where there has been increasing troops build-up since June, the two sides blaming each other for recent clashes and with military and diplomatic talks have failed to reach any consensus.
Peace and Conflict in the Middle East and Africa
Lebanon: Diplomat Mustapha Adib has been designated to be Prime Minister
On 31 August, Mustapha Adib, Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany, has been picked to head the country’s next government by a group of four former prime ministers who represent the largest number of Sunni Muslim MPs in Lebanon’s parliament. Fouad Siniora, while speaking on behalf of the group stated that Adib should rapidly form a government capable of implementing the much need reforms and overseeing Beirut’s reconstruction following a massive explosion that killed at least 190 people and damaged large parts of the capital in August. President Michel Aoun is due to hold binding consultations with MPs to go through the formal motions of picking the next prime minister, who must then form a government. The reaction to this selection has been mixed, with people demanding to know how Adib could be an independent prime minister if he had been chosen by political parties.
Israel-UAE: First direct Israel-UAE flight lands in Abu Dhabi
On 31 August, high-level delegations from Israel and the US arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), via the first-ever direct commercial flight between the Middle Eastern nations, a major step in normalizing relations after the announcement of a peace deal. The flight was allowed to cross Saudi Arabian airspace which otherwise is normally blocked to Israeli air traffic. President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat were on board on Israel’s flag carrier El Al, which was decorated with the word for “peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew. Further, the joint teams will meet Emirati representatives to develop areas of co-operation between Israel and the UAE. This development is viewed as significant as it marks a new turning point in relations between Israel and the Arab world.
Israel-Hamas: Hamas announces deal to end Gaza-Israel escalation
On 31 August, the Hamas announced that it has reached a Qatari-mediated deal to end the latest escalation of violence with Israel. The office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar stated that after talks with Qatari envoy Mohammed el-Emadi, “an understanding was reached to rein in the latest escalation and end [Israeli] aggression against our people.” There was no immediate comment by Israel. Further, this announcement came amid a diplomatic activity from Qatar whose envoy delivered the latest tranche of $30 million in aid Gaza before holding talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. However, far from resolving the issues this agreement seems to be yet another short-lived moment of peace.
Sudan: Rebel groups from Darfur sign a peace deal with the government
On 31 August, Sudan’s government and the main rebel alliance agreed on a peace deal to end 17 years of conflict. The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile had signed the peace agreement at a ceremony in Juba, capital of neighbouring South Sudan, who has hosted and mediate the talks since late 2019. The final agreement covers issues such as security, land ownership, transitional justice, power-sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes because of war. Further, it also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national Army.
Mauritius: Thousands protest over government response to oil spill
On 29 August, tens of thousands of Mauritians marched in the capital city to protest against the government’s handling of a giant oil spill off its pristine Indian Ocean coast and the alarming discovery of dozens of dead dolphins earlier last week. The protesters took to the streets waving the country’s flag and held up signs with messages stating: “You have no shame.” The protest was the said to be the biggest demonstration Mauritius has seen in 40 years, with up to 75,000 marching in the capital against Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. Further, many also called for the leader and top officials to step down.
South Africa: Fatal police shooting kills disabled teen
On 26 August, Nathaniel Julius, a 16-year-old boy who had Down’s syndrome, died in a hospital in Johannesburg, hours after he was allegedly shot by the police metres away from his home in the city’s Eldorado Park suburb. The killing is said to have occurred after residents in the neighbourhood which is ravaged by drugs and crime, took to the streets to protest the lack of housing in the area. This incident comes amid the rising allegations of police brutality during the enforcement of coronavirus restrictions in South Africa.
Peace and Conflict in Europe
Belarus: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya opposition leader to address the UN Security Council
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is said to address the UN Security Council on 4 September and then before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 8 September, according to her representatives. Tikhanovskaya was forced to leave Belarus after Alexander Lukashenko had been declared a winner in this month’s disputed presidential election. Further, as the exiled leader lobbies for support, protests and violence continue to increase in the country.
Sweden: Riots broke to protest against anti-Islam activities
On 28 August, a riot broke out in the Swedish town of Malmo, where around 300 people gathered to protest against anti-Islam activities. According to sources, right-wing extremists had allegedly set fire to a copy of the Quran, which then escalated violence in the town with the local police finding it difficult to control. The riot broke out after, Rasmus Paludan, a far-right Danish politician who leads the anti-immigration party Hard Line, also called Stram Kurs, was due to speak at a rally. However, Sweden authorities blocked his arrival in Malmo, prompting further violence among clashing groups.
Russia: Yegor Zhukov leading opposition blogger beaten up
On 30 August, a prominent opposition blogger in Russia, Yegor Zhukov, was been beaten up in Moscow. The attack took place near his home where two unidentified men had attacked him on Rashchupkin Street and injured him. He was hospitalized with facial lacerations and a possible brain injury. The police have launched a criminal investigation into the assault. Earlier on Sunday, Zhukov stated that he had been excluded from a Master’s degree course at the prestigious Higher School of Economics in Moscow, shortly after enrolling, adding that a university administrator told him the decision had been taken “on orders from above.” Further, last year Zhukov was arrested during protests against the exclusion of independent and opposition candidates from Moscow council elections, later in December he was given a three-year suspended jail term for “inciting extremism.”
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Migrant situation ‘volatile’ in Bosnia border town
Tensions are growing in the northwestern Bosnia after local authorities launched a widespread crackdown on thousands of migrants stranded in the area and set up police roadblocks to prevent more Europe-bound newcomers from arriving. The UN migration agency has warned that the crackdown is fuelling a “volatile situation.” On 26 August, special police forces were sent to the migrant camp of Lipa in Bosnia’s Krajina region to try to calm a protest by 1,000 migrants over the alleged police beating of an unhoused migrant. Further, in two other migrant camps in Bihac, each housing more than 1,000 single men, eight migrants have tested positive for coronavirus.
Peace and Conflict in the Americas
The US: A man was shot and killed after supporters of President Trump clashed with counter-protesters in Portland
On 29 August, a caravan of supporters of President Trump travelled through the city, clashing with counter-protesters after which people began to shot paintball guns from trucks and protesters threw objects at them. Later, s video showed a small group in the street, where gunfire erupts and a man collapses after which the police found a man with a gunshot wound to the chest. Further, the police have not released information about who fired the shots. In recent weeks, right and left-wing groups have clashed, with protests occurring in the city since the killing of George Floyd in May. Further, this shooting came in the same week that a 17-year-old armed with a military-style weapon was charged with homicide in connection with shootings during a protest in Kenosha, that left two people dead and one injured.
The US: Thousands gathered in Washington to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
On 28 August, thousands gathered in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to calling for racial justice and encourage voting and census participation. Activists and politicians gave speeches, including Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, who appeared in a recorded video. Further, other speakers stressed on the importance of voting in November’s election and links between activism for Black civil rights, disability rights and LGBT rights and against gun violence, among other causes.
Venezuela: Right-Wing Opposition Leader Released to House Arrest
On 28 August, opposition politician Juan Requesens was released from prison and transferred to home detention. Requesens was arrested in August 2018 after being accused of participating in a failed drone attack on President Nicolás Maduro, his family. Further, Venezuelan authorities have not commented on the terms of his release or explained what sparked the decision to move him to house arrest. However, the release of Requesens and the pardoning of over 100 people which includes dozens of imprisoned political opponents comes ahead of Venezuelan congressional elections in which are to be held in December.
About the authors
Rahul Arockiaraj is a third-year student at the Brandeis University, Boston. Abigail Miriam Fernandez is a Research Assistant at NIAS.