Weekly Newscast – February 21, 2014By
Aneesa Andrabi: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Aneesa Andrabi.
Caroline Batten: And I’m Caroline Batten. This week marks the highest death toll in Ukraine since anti-government protests began in the fall. The BBC reports that 75 people have died since Wednesday, as violence between armed riot police and protesters grows in the capital city of Kiev. The European Union announced Thursday that it would impose visa bans, asset freezes, and other sanctions on specific Ukrainian officials responsible for deaths. The U.S. State Department has already announced that it is banning the visas of 20 unnamed Ukrainian officials. Protests began in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a planned trade deal with the EU and drew closer to Russia. Previously, the EU advocated dialogue and compromise, rather than sanctions.
Andrabi: 10 people were killed and 130 wounded in two simultaneous suicide bombings in Beirut. The bombs detonated in front of an Iranian cultural center, located in a neighborhood held by the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah. An Al-Qaeda affiliated Sunni extremist group, known as the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Brigades oppose Hezbollah’s active military support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as Iran’s financial contributions to the Assad regime. The Brigades justified the act as, quote, “retaliation for Iran’s party fighting alongside the criminal regime in Syria.” The attack is the latest in a series of bombings in the city, as violence from the Syrian civil war continues to spill over into Lebanon.
Batten: Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of Venezuela’s anti-government Popular Will party, turned himself in to government authorities this week. The charges against Lopez include terrorism and arson, in connection with recent protests in the capital city of Caracas. The protests, primarily caused by serious social and economic problems within the country, have heightened criticism of the socialist regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro faces allegations that he is stifling free-speech and scapegoating political opponents by imprisoning Mr. Lopez. The president, however, maintains that Lopez’s fascist agenda poses a serious threat to the country’s security. Before surrendering to the police, Lopez made a statement denying that he had incited the violent protests. Meanwhile, the United States continues to deny claims that they are aiding the Venezuelan anti-government movement.
Andrabi: One person was killed and 77 were injured this week during a riot at an Australian immigration detention center in Papua New Guinea. The uprising reportedly began after refugees broke free from the center, marking the second bout of unrest at the camp this week. Located on the remote Manus Island, the camp is one of several offshore centers for asylum-seekers immigrating to Australia, by way of dangerous sea voyage from Indonesia. In recent months, the Australian government has taken a firm stance against immigration, and such processing centers are an attempt to deter asylum-seekers from entering the country. Conditions of the detention camps have long been the subject of criticism from human rights groups and United Nations agencies, and many have called for closure of the camp on Manus Island in response to this week’s violence. Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, however, has insisted that the government plans to continue its policies and keep the detention camp in operation despite the unrest.
Batten: Rebels attacked an oil town in northern South Sudan earlier this week, leaving at least 10 people dead. The incident marks the first outbreak of fighting since the rebels and the government signed a ceasefire agreement in January. Thousands have been killed and over 800,000 people have been displaced since the conflict began last year. The assault on the oil fields may motivate future peace talks. Because oil is a crucial economic resource for South Sudan, any disruptions to the supply present a threat to the security of the country. It remains unclear, however, when negotiations between the two sides will resume. Although talks were due to begin last week, they have been delayed by rebel demands for the release of senior political officials by the government and neighboring Uganda.
Andrabi: Violent anti-government protests continued this week in Thailand. Five protesters were killed and 65 were injured in clashes with police forces in the capital city of Bangkok. The incident came in the wake of a recent civil court ruling that deemed the protests non-violent, and thus banned the use of government violence to disperse protesters. Over the last several months, thousands of demonstrators have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. They have alleged that Yingluck and her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have exercised too much control over the government through their decade-long rule over the country. The protesters have advocated for the construction of an unelected people’s council to replace the Parliament. Electoral change in the country, however, has been slow. Although Yingluck held elections last December in an attempt to appease opposition groups, large-scale boycotts of the election rendered its results inconclusive.
Batten: Gold miners were trapped while illegally working in an abandoned mine near Benoni, South Africa. Two bodies have been found, and 24 men were rescued and given medical attention before being arrested. Fearing punishment, many workers initially refused to exit the mine. The workers claimed that a competing group placed boulders at the entrance of the mining shaft to trap them inside. Conflicts between opposing mining groups have become increasingly common in South Africa. Illegal mining is on the rise throughout the country, posing health and safety risks for the miners and costing the industry over 500 million dollars per year. Unemployment is now at 24 percent in South Africa, forcing many to risk joining these illegal operations. The South African Parliament has considered legalizing access to abandoned mines, but costs of bringing the mines to acceptable safety levels may be prohibitive.
Andrabi: 455 Indian workers died in Qatar between 2012 and 2013, according to a report released by the Indian Embassy in Doha. Qatar is home to 1.2 million migrant workers, and is commonly criticised by international human rights organizations for inadequate labor conditions. The recent figure has prompted concern from advocacy organizations such as Amnesty International, which is pushing for labor reform in Qatar. Though the International Trade Union Confederation insists that the death rate is unusually high, Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee claims that the figure is reasonable given the size of the Indian community. Since FIFA awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup in 2010, migrant workers have played a growing role in Qatar’s development. Whether FIFA will respond to the reports of inhumane labor conditions remains to be seen.
Batten: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Nora Bailin, Anita Desai, Amy DiPierro, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Will Sullivan, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Caroline Batten.
Andrabi: And I’m Aneesa Andrabi. Until next time, thanks for listening.