This Week Around the World – April 21-27:

April 21–25 South Africa: The nation’s eastern provinces experienced massive flooding and mudslides throughout the week after torrential rains began on April 21. Al Jazeera reported 23 people either drowned or were crushed while 32 were hospitalized by April 23. By April 25 Reuters reported the death toll had risen to over 70. One resident told Deutsche Welle, “When we looked around the gate, which was still standing, there was nothing left behind the gate. Their cars, their garage, everything was obviously down the hill.” Some 1,000 people from the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces were displaced as roads flooded, sewer lines became blocked and homes and buildings were destroyed.

April 22–23 Myanmar: Three people were confirmed dead while another 54 remain missing after a landslide in the northern Kachin state buried a jade mining site on April 22, Japanese news network NHK reported. According to Al Jazeera, the landslide occurred at around 11:30 p.m.  near the Maw Wun Kalay village when a mud-filter pond—which is used for discarded mining waste—collapsed and buried the sleeping miners. “They won’t survive,” Kachin lawmaker Tin Soe told Reuters, “It is not possible because they are buried under mud.” While the jade mining industry in Myanmar is worth billions, accidents are common.

Separately, on April 23, the country’s Supreme Court upheld the initial ruling against two Pulitzer-prize Reuters journalists, who were arrested in December 2017 for possessing classified documents. The Huffington Post reports Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were charged under the Official Secrets Act while investigating massacres committed by Myanmar forces and far-right Buddhist villagers against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state. According to The Japan Times, the journalists have the option of appealing twice more to the Supreme Court. If no appeal is given, they will carry out the remainder of their seven-year sentences.

April 23 New York, United States: The UN Security Council adopted a resolution addressing sexual violence in war devoid of any mention of sexual and reproductive health after the U.S. threatened to veto the measure. According to Deutsche Welle, the Trump administration would not support the measure otherwise, saying the wording allowed rape survivors to have abortions. While the resolution will still support victims of war-time sexual violence by creating better access to seek justice as well as medical and psychological assistance, references to prosecution under the International Criminal Court were also eliminated. Democracy Now! quoted UN Ambassador of France Francois Delattre, “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict, and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant, should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.” 

April 23 Saudi Arabia: The Gulf kingdom carried out 37 executions of prisoners convicted of alleged terrorism by the secretive Specialized Criminal Court, which Human Rights Watch said is “increasingly used to try peaceful dissidents and rights activists on politicized charges.” Human rights groups have condemned the mass executions, including the British group Reprieve, which was representing five of the executed prisoners. Amnesty International reported 11 of the 37 were convicted of spying for Iran in “grossly unfair trials,” while 14 anti-government demonstrators were convicted of violent offenses after being tortured into giving what they claimed were false confessions. At least one was a minor at the time of his original arrest. According to Middle East Eye, 32 of the 37 prisoners were of the Shi’a Muslim minority, and documents from three trials prove some of the men recanted their confessions, while others claimed to have never confessed at all.

April 27 California, U.S.: Six months after the Pittsburgh massacre, another synagogue was targeted on April 27 when a gunman entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego and opened fire, killing one person and injuring three others. According to The Los Angeles Times, the suspect, identified as John T. Earnest, is also suspected of writing a letter which was posted on social media, detailing a manifesto and plans for the attack while claiming responsibility for a March 24 arson fire at the Islamic Center in Escondido. The Chabad community had gathered to celebrate the last day of Passover, the week-long Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. After the attack, the suspect fled the scene but eventually surrendered to authorities, Reuters reported. The FBI is now investigating alongside San Diego police.

When I first came to PSU, I was a Chinese major, having studied three years prior in high school alongside French and Japanese. After the first year, I took a hiatus. I don't believe in going to college straight out of high school, but it's what was expected. I returned a few years later to study Japanese at PCC and Arabic at PSU. I am now a junior majoring in International Studies: Middle East and Arabic. In the future, I would like to work as a journalist or humanitarian aid worker in the region, helping people who lack economic and political backing and media exposure.