This Week Around the World

May 20-27

May 21 Democratic Republic of Congo: The World Health Organization launched a vaccination program amid the growing worries surrounding the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. Over 7,500 doses of the vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been administered with healthcare staff working directly or indirectly with infected patients receiving the first round.

May 21–22 Paris, France: The president of the student union at Paris’ Sorbonne University is in a media storm after being criticized by two high ranking politicians for wearing her hijab in a documentary concerning education reforms. The Equality Minister and the Minister of the Interior stated her hijab was a form of political Islam. The student, Maryam Pougetoux, has become the target of hate speech and abuse after her phone number was posted online.

Meanwhile, around 15,000 public sector workers protested President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms, which include the cutting of 120,000 jobs. A video posted on RT showed protesters burning an effigy of Macron’s head.

May 22 Burundi: A controversial referendum extending Burundi presidential term limits passed with 73 percent voting in favor and 19 against. Five million people registered to vote in the May 17 constitutional amendment, which saw a 96 percent turnout. However, Human Rights Watch reported intimidation tactics were used against voters of dissent, including arrests and beatings. The new referendum will allow Pierre Nkurunziza—president since 2005—the possibility of staying in office until 2034.

May 20–22 Venezuela: The contested Venezuelan election resulted May 20 in victory for Nicolás Maduro with a voter turnout of just above 46 percent. Around 5.8 million voted for Maduro, while 1.8 million voted for his main opponent Henri Falcón. However, the governments of Argentina, Spain, Germany and the UK have denounced the election, while the EU declared it non-transparent and undemocratic. The Trump administration responded May 21 with new sanctions against the country with Maduro expelling the U.S. diplomat from Venezuela the following day.

May 22 Bangladesh: In a crackdown against drug traffickers, Bangladeshi police and the Rapid Action Battalion force have killed more than 30 suspects in shootouts this week. Rights activists said they worry this will lead to extrajudicial killings amid the country’s war on drugs.

May 22 Sinai, Egypt: A Human Rights Watch report accused the Egyptian military of forced evictions, farmland destruction and 3,600 home and building demolitions since January 2018, the majority of which it says was unlawful. The demolitions have been centered in the north Sinai region along the Egypt-Gaza border as part of the army’s effort to create a buffer zone and end smuggling through Gaza’s tunnels.

May 22 Palestinian Territories: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl gave a statement at the UNRWA headquarters in the Gaza Strip about the worsening conditions of the region, stating 70 percent of the population are refugees. Krähenbühl had visited hospitals following the May 14 violence along the Gaza-Israel border, and has warned the health system is on the brink of collapse.

May 22 Thoothukudi, India: Eleven people are dead after police snipers targeted demonstrators during a protest in the coastal city of Thoothukudi located on the southern tip of India. Protests ensued over allegations of environmental pollution from the UK–owned Sterlite Copper Plant. Demonstrators demanded its closure and formal investigations into the allegations.

May 22–24 Israel: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is under fire for receiving a doctored photo during a visit to the city of Bnei Brak. The photo depicted Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock replaced by the Third Temple, which stirred anger and fears over its implications. On May 24, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced plans to seek approval for the construction of 2,500 new homes in the occupied West Bank. Under international law, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal.

May 23, 27 New York, U.S.: The NFL, which is headquartered in New York, announced May 23 it will fine teams if players are not seen standing for the national anthem as part of a new controversial policy. The decision sparked a social media backlash accusing the NFL of  violating First Amendment rights while failing to recognize the widespread issue of domestic violence by NFL players.

In a separate case, a disabled Yemeni girl and her family arrived in the U.S. on May 27 after years of visa denial. The father, Najeeb al-Omari, is a U.S. citizen; however, his wife and three daughters, one of whom has cerebral palsy, do not. Their visas were denied due to the travel ban issued by the Trump administration, but the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti granted their visas.

May 23 Shanghai, China: Japanese company Muji was fined $30,000 (200,000 yuan) by the Shanghai Administration of Industry and Commerce after the company labeled Taiwan as a country of origin on their products.

May 23 Indonesia: In response to the violence along the Gaza-Israel border, Indonesia cancelled all Israeli visas and banned Israelis from entering the country. Additionally, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita announced the decision to give Palestinian imported goods tax exemption while the Palestinian Ambassador stated the country would export to Palestinian markets according to their needs.

May 23, 24 Pakistan: The family of Sabika Sheikh, one of the teenagers slain in the May 18 Sante Fe High School shooting, held a funeral for her in their hometown of Karachi. Sheikh began attending the high school in August and was planning to return to Karachi mid-June for the end of Ramadan celebrations. The family received her body on May 23, and thousands attended her funeral.

On May 24, the National Assembly passed a landmark constitutional amendment that will merge the Federal Administered Tribal Areas with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, thus making the five million occupants of the region equal citizens under the law.

May 22–24 Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Treasury Department announced it would impose new sanctions against Iranian officials in response to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s alleged support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. On May 23, D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin found prosecutors had withheld evidence which could exonerate six J20 Inauguration Day protesters. The House of Representatives voted May 24 to investigate the U.S. involvement in Yemeni torture prisons in operation following 9/11.

Additionally, Trump announced his decision to cancel the June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

May 24 Baghdad, Iraq: A suicide attack in a majority Shiite district of northwest Baghdad killed four people and injured 15 others. The attacker detonated the explosive vest he was wearing while surrounding by security personnel. No person or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

May 24 Hague, Netherlands: An international team of investigators concluded a Russian missile was responsible for the 2014 crash of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The Boeing 777 was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine. According to The Guardian, “Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said the countries that make up the JIT were now ‘considering options’ about how to proceed.”

May 25 Ireland: In a landmark referendum, the people of Ireland voted to repeal the eighth amendment, which criminalized abortion unless the life of the mother was at risk. Voter turnout was recorded by the Guardian to be 64.1 percent of the population, with 66.4 percent voting for and 33.6 percent voting against. The only constituency with fewer than 50 percent in favor was Donegal in the northwest of the country, while the Dublin constituency voted 70 percent or above in favor.

Ongoing U.S.-Mexico Border: A media storm ensued this week after a New York Times article published April 26 reported the federal government could not account for almost 1,500 children who were separated from their families following detainment by border patrol agents. The article concerned children taken by the Department of Health and Human Services between October and December 2017. The majority of children were from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after fleeing their countries from gangs, abuse and drug cartels.

Additionally, a U.S Border Patrol agent shot and killed Claudia Gomez, a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman, on May 23. According to LA Times, the agent responsible said he was attacked by a group of migrants when he fired his gun; however, witness accounts deny these allegations.

Ongoing Saudi Arabia: With a little more than a month before women will officially be allowed licenses to drive, authorities began a crackdown on rights activists on May 15, including Dr. Aisha al-Manea last week and Walaa Saeed al-Shubbar on May 21. Amnesty International reported May 25 that while 10 had been detained, four have since been released.