Educate yourself about international issues and become a more aware global citizen! Our weekly updates are short reads that will inform you about the humanitarian and global issues that occur, and how you, as a young person, can make a difference.
Astudia Current Events Update:
Climate Change: By Daliya Rizvi
Climate change is a global issue, largely caused by human activity on earth. Increasing CO2 emissions globally are leading to increased temperatures, rising sea levels, and more natural disasters across the world. Deforestation and mass agriculture are leading to a loss of habitats and increased CO2 and methane gas emissions. Many see climate change as a far-away issue that isn’t impacting them. However, climate change has begun to have an impact on people everywhere, and that impact will only increase.
Smoke from wildfires in California and emissions from factories in China have led to increased levels of respiratory illnesses among people living there. Increased air pollution in European and Asian cities have had the same impact.
Hurricanes and floods have damaged buildings and increased homelessness and levels of depression and anxiety. Typhoons, tornadoes, and tsunamis destroy entire villages, leaving people homeless as well. Such natural disasters also destroy food supplies and agricultural areas, leading to a food shortage. This then leads to the cutting down of more trees to provide more agricultural land, which leads to increased emissions and more health issues for humans and animals. It is a vicious cycle.
Rising sea levels aren’t only affecting animals and their habitats. By 2050, it is predicted that cities across the world will be damaged or destroyed, leaving their inhabitants to seek other places to live. People from Monterey to Mumbai and from New Orleans to Ho Chi Minh City could all face dire effects from rising sea levels and increased natural disasters.
The situation seems daunting, and dire. However, there is hope. Researchers across the globe are working on technology to help human beings become more eco-friendly. Philanthropists are investing billions of dollars towards ground-breaking research. New technology has even allowed researchers to take CO2 out of the air and store it underground. Human beings are not ready to back down, and people are making changes. There are a few small things you can do to help combat climate change: eat less meat, use less water, turn lights off when you’re not using them, recycle, plant more trees, upcycle your clothing or buy from eco-friendly stores, don’t use lawn fertilizers, carpool, take public transportation, and walk/bike when you can. If you want to have a bigger and more significant impact, here are some great organizations you can get involved with:
*We provide these organizations for climate change often because they are proven and have made an impact!
2. Conflict in Syria: By Ronak Mir
I want every one of you who’s reading this right now to think back to your childhood home. The neighborhood you used to bike around as a kid. The yard you built a snowman on. And now, imagine it going from that idyllic landscape to what Syria looks like now. The pictures or videos that you find all over the internet with just a click of your finger are not from any video game or movie. They are the living reality of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Displaced from their loved ones, their livelihoods, and everything they hold dear. A whole country laid to ruins. The work of a dictational regime doing anything possible to maintain its claim of power. Miles rendered uninhabitable. This is what has happened in Syria. A place that was once considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world has been reduced to a pile of dirt and dead bodies. Syria is currently in the midst of a conflict and genocide that has taken over the lives of 47,0000 souls and has left more than 11 million displaced from their original homes. 11 million people... It has been labeled as the greatest tragedy of our century, this disgraceful humanitarian calamity that historically has had no parallels since World War II.
The story of Syria began on April 29th, 2011 in the city of Daraa. A group of young boys wrote on the school walls, “Down with the government, the Assad regime must go.” Local officials proceeded to arrest and torture a young boy named Hamza Al-Khateeb, killing him in the process, and then having the despicable audacity to send his body back to his family’s doorstep. This became the catalyst for the Syrian people to revolt. To revolt for their freedom and for their democracy. Peaceful protests turned to organized uprisings when the government targeted the civilian crowds. Imagine that you have a family member from Syria. Every time you call them you hear the fear in their voice. The fear of not knowing when they will die. The fear of not knowing if they will see a tomorrow. And then imagine the fear in your voice. The fear because you don’t even know if you’ll listen to their voice again. Imagine what these people must be going through on a daily basis because this is their routine. While you wake up for a jog and some cereal, they wake up to another death.
A lot of you must be thinking that Syrians these days are being taken out of these places, are living safely in refugee camps, and are happy now. Sadly, this is far from the truth. At home in Syria, a refugee's village home was shelled and his leg injured. He could barely walk but he managed to flee and make the hazardous journey to cross the border to Iraq. By the time he reached the camp, his leg had deteriorated to such a degree that doctors had to amputate it. He buried his leg in the camp. “We Syrians had to bury a lot of things in the refugee camp,” he said. “Our joy. Our hope. I think I buried myself there, not just my leg.”
Here are a few ways you can take action to make a difference in the lives of the Syrian people:
3. The Civil War in Somalia- What’s Going On and How You Can Help: By Isra Hussain
The war in the Federal Republic of Somalia is an ongoing civil war that began in 1991. This war was sparked after Siad Barre, the former dictator of Somalia, was overthrown. Following this, the country plummeted into anarchy due to warlords fighting for a leadership position. Essentially, Somalia has gone without a functioning government since 1991. Without a stable government, citizens undergo poverty and lack adequate food, which has led to a major humanitarian crisis in the nation.
So far, different countries have responded by sending aid and forming a UN peace-making mission to regulate food distribution and keep Somalians safe. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 733 and Resolution 746 created UNOSOM I - the first mission to provide humanitarian relief and help restore peace and stability in Somalia after the destruction of its federal government. About 300,000 Somalians died from starvation in the first year of the civil war, so the United States sent troops to help with famine. The project soon escalated and turned into a mission to form a new government in Somalia. As the UN dug deeper into the issue, they soon realized that along with resources and protection, lawmaking and policymaking assistance was also needed in many parts of Somalia.
At first, Somalians appreciated the UN’s troops’ efforts, but citizens soon started to believe that UN troops were trying to convert them from Islam. This led to deadly gun battles in the middle of the streets, helicopter attacks, and more. All these graphic scenes were broadcasted around the world. The deaths of troops infuriated Americans, and the U.S. government withdrew all troops from Somalia by 1995. The UN also decided that reintroducing law and order in Somalia was the responsibility of African leaders. However, they did set up an office in Kenya to keep an eye on the situation.
In 1999, Ismail Omar Guellah, Djibouti's president, called for a peace plan. He met with Somali intellectuals to create a transitional government. Unfortunately, this government has not established control over the country yet. In fact, many states are declaring autonomy, further dividing an already fractured Somalia.
In 2006, the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) was formed as “an alliance of mostly-secular Mogadishu-based warlords.” They were opposed to the Islamic-Courts Union (ICU), a group that had just gained control of the Somalian capital. They recruited other warlords and pushed the ARPCT out. Then, both parties began to battle for control in late 2006. This caused the American government to intervene for the first time since 1995 to fight against the ICU and support the ARPCT. To make matters worse, the ICU then sparked a war between Somali and Ethiopian government groups.
It’s not just a political conflict that is erupting in the Federal Republic of Somalia. The nation also struggles with extreme weather conditions, famines, communicable diseases, huge numbers of migrating refugees, a lack of resources, and violence. Luckily, there are many ways we can help. One way you can make an impact is by providing nutritional support for Somalian citizens through the charity Love Army For Somalia. You can also sign multiple petitions on platforms such as change.org to help end the violence. Even one signature makes a difference. More opportunities to get involved can be found with a single Google search! Be an example to your peers and take action to help those who have been suffering for decades.
Image Credit: trtworld.com
Image Credit: keepthefaith.co.uk
4. What's Happening to Uighur Muslims in China and How You Can Help: By Isra Hussain
According to government experts, about 3 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities were detained in a series of mass detentions by the Chinese government as of 2019. There are currently 380 concentration camps that house these innocent people in the region of Xinjiang alone. Additionally, 30% of Mosques have been demolished, and 50% of Uighur Muslims’ cultural landmarks have been destroyed. How did this happen?
The Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic minority and reside in the northwestern part of China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) justified their persecution of the Uighurs by stating that “religious extremism” is not allowed in China. Although the Uighurs are not and never were extremists, they were persecuted by the Chinese government and forced to renounce Islam. After the CCP took complete control over their territory in the early 1900s, the Uighurs faced systemic harassment and were banned from being a part of the Chinese government. They also lost their farmland and their jobs, resulting in increased poverty among them.
In China, the cost of practicing Islam can be deadly. Millions of Uighur Muslims have been sent to concentration camps, where they are tortured, starved, and forced to work. Unfortunately, we don’t have much information about what goes on inside the camps, and human rights groups have been denied access to the information. However, we do know that many Muslims have fled for their lives because of the terrible conditions. According to studies, detainees are forced to bow down and pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and leave Islam. Also, there are cameras and microphones in the camps to detect every move and sound the detainees make. Many families have been ripped apart through these horrifying concentration camps.
The Uighur Muslims are forbidden from practicing any part of their faith, including praying. Prayer is one of the five pillars of Islam, meaning that all Muslims are required to pray five times each day if they are able. Uighurs are only allowed to pray once a week, which doesn’t meet the five-times-per-day requirement. Many citizens can’t even set foot in a mosque if they don’t register with the Chinese government. Another barrier Uighurs face is that Muslim women are entirely discouraged from wearing a hijab (a scarf worn to cover the head as a symbol of modesty).
The U.S. Government and the United Nations, along with human rights groups, have recently labeled this treatment as blatant religious discrimination and genocide, but the Chinese government continues to torture innocent Muslims merely trying to practice their faith. Although the situation seems far away and rapidly escalating, there are many ways you can help end this unwarranted religious persecution.
Donate money to support the Uighurs.
Tell Zara: Stop Profiting From Uyghur Forced Labour
Beijing Olympics: The choice is simple: respect Uyghur rights, close the camps, or lose the 2022 Winter Games. China: Respect Uyghur Rights Before Hosting 2022 Olympics
Share information on social media and educate others. Our platforms may be small, but they can still reach many people who need to hear what is happening.
Support https://uhrp.org/ (The Uighur Human’s Rights Project)
Call the US Senate to Pass Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act: https://www.saveuighur.org/congress/.
Remember: anything you do makes a difference. One donation, one vote, is one step taken to help improve the lives of the Uighurs.
Image Credit: Chinese Muslims (Uighur Muslims) - Pakistan Affairs
5. Refugee Crisis in Myanmar By Noraa Alkhamis
Background knowledge and history of Myanmar:
Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia. It borders Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. As you can guess, that makes Myanmar a very diverse country. With over 135 ethnic groups that the government has officially recognized, Myanmar is one of the most diverse countries in the world.
Myanmar was under British rule from 1824-1948, there was also a brief Japanese occupation in Myanmar from 1942-1945. It finally gained its independence in 1948 and was named the Union of Burma. The many ethnic groups of that time had many disagreements. In 1962, their Military— lead by Ne Win staged a coup. The leader created a military-established government. This also created a 1 party state that was only challenged in 1988, a movement started by students who declared Aung San Suu Kyi to be their leader. 2015 was the first time that Myanmar held a free and open election. This election was between a pro-military party—USDP and NLD. The NLD (National League of Democracy) won by a landslide.
Myanmar’s 2020 Election Results
On November 8, 2020, Myanmar held an election. This time between Myanmar’s Military and the NLD. The NLD won by a landslide, once again. The military called fraudulence and claimed that there was widespread voter fraud. There was no credible evidence that supported their claim.
How did the Military seize power after losing the election?
On February 1st, a fitness instructor accidentally caught footage of the start of a Military Coup. Behind her were military vehicles on their way to arrest several political leaders, one of them being Aung San Suu Kyi. This way they could gain power and take over Myanmar’s government. Ever since the military overthrew the government, locals have been protesting in many ways. The military has shut down internet access in most parts of the country to stop citizens from investigating further.
Why hasn’t the UN stepped in?
China has blocked the UN’s condemnation of the coup in Myanmar. They have pledged to release the leaders who’ve been unlawfully arrested. However, not condemning the coup in Myanmar is absurd. The military holds such great power and Myanmar needs help from international organizations to gain their democracy back.
Why Myanmar’s citizens don’t want to be under Military rule:
The ethnic minorities in Myanmar such as Rohingya experienced little to no liberty under military rule. They were put under arrest for advocating for their rights. The education system was also described as military propaganda.
How You Can Help:
https://www.savethechildren.org/us/where-we-work/myanmar (helping children in refugee camps access essential resources)
Show support to Myanmar Now’s Journalism.
Learn about unreported atrocities in Myanmar through this outlet: https://www.globalgiving.org/rohingya-refugee-relief/
6. The Oppressive Kafala System by Noraa Alkhamis
What is the Kafala System?
The Kafala system is a system in which the Kafeel (employer), monitors migrant workers.
The term Kafala is derived from Islamic jurisprudence on legal guardianship and other topics. Beginning in the early twentieth century, the Gulf states developed a new framework to control the care of foreign workers in the pearl industry and other commercial trades.
Image Credit: middleeasteye.net
Who are the workers?
Almost all foreigners employed in a Kafala host country, of all nationalities, economic groups, and occupations, are subject to the system. The majority of today’s staff are from Africa and South Asia. They often work in industries that nationals dislike for financial or cultural reasons such as domestic work, construction, or in service industries.
What risks do employees face?
Critics have named the system “modern slavery”, claiming that mistreatment stems from a power disparity between sponsors and workers, as swell as sponsors legal impunity. Furthermore, the Middle East lags behind other regions in ratifying international agreements that protect workers.
In Jordan, Lebanon and all Arab Gulf states except Iraq, the Kafala system is a legal structure that defines the relationship between migrant workers and their employers. It was established to provide inexpensive, abundant labor during a period of rapid economic growth, and supporters argue that it benefits local businesses and promotes developments. However, the system has become increasingly controversial, with a rising awareness that it is riddled with exploitation. Low salaries, bad working conditions, and employee harassment are often the product of a lack of laws and protections for migrant workers rights. Gender-based abuse and racial inequality are widespread. The Kafala system’s weaknesses have been highlighted by global anti-racism demonstrations, the coronavirus pandemic, and preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup In Qatar, but the future of reform efforts remain uncertain.
Sumi Akter’s story:
Sumi Akter posted a video onto her Facebook in 2019. She was filming a video speaking about the abuse she endured while working as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia. Her employers would pour hot oil on her and violate multiple human rights. This is the unfortunate reality that so many migrant workers face in gulf countries.
How You Can Help:
Sign petitions. Yes, they do work. Petitions demand justice for migrant workers and have sparked a lot of conversations on ending and reforming the Kafala system.
If you know someone who employs domestic workers, make sure they’re not abusing them and are paying them. Have uncomfortable conversations, if you have to.
Support local organizations such as, @thisislebanon. These organizations organize protests and marches.
In conclusion, the Kafala System is an unjust system that violates the human rights of migrant workers. This system has shaped a lot of the anti-blackness and racism in the Arab community. We must all take action against it!
7. What Is Happening in India and How You Can Help By Swetha Krishnamoorthy
As most of us already know, India is suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus cases have been skyrocketing ever since the end of March 2021. To show the scale of this disaster, there were 15,000 coronavirus cases reported on the week of March 2, but by April 2, there were 70,000 weekly cases! Currently, as of May 2, weekly reported cases are at 373,000.
The pandemic is affecting India so horribly in particular for three reasons. First of all, India is the second largest country in the world, with a population over 1 billion people, which makes it harder to control their citizens. The second reason is due to the new, more contagious variants.The two main variants are B.1.1.7 from the United Kingdom and B.1.617 from India.
The final reason has to do with people disobeying safety guidelines. Initially, India had a harsh lockdown to keep the cases as controlled as possible. Unfortunately, as soon as restrictions were lifted, many Indians stopped taking the necessary precautions. This is a third reason for the second wave.
Since the number of coronavirus cases have exploded recently, there are not enough hospital beds and medical equipment to be able to take care of all the patients. There has been a shortage of oxygen, hospital beds, medicine, and protective equipment. Thousands and thousands of people are dying everyday without being able to get inside a hospital, due to the lack of space. Although India is one of the biggest manufacturers of the COVID vaccines, the country has been struggling to vaccinate its own population. According to the New York Times, less than 10% of India’s population has been fully vaccinated.
How can you help?
Here are some website you can use to donate:
Image Credit: aljazeera.com
The Occupation of Palestine- By Noraa Alkhamis
The ethnic cleansing of Palestine began in 1948 when Israel was first established. The colonial state of Israel has had strong allies with the U.S, U.K, France, etc. These countries all have a long history of occupying land and wiping civilians out of the land they’re indigenous to. Israel began to seize more power over Palestine and eventually took over 78% of the land.
The living conditions in Palestine are hazardous, deathly, and fatal. We’ve seen the death toll in Gaza rise to 200 just this past week. Israeli settlers have forced Palestinians out of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah so that they could move in. Palestinians have 60 seconds to evacuate their homes or they get arrested. They’ve had to sleep in Schools, hospitals, and mosques because of this. Israeli soldiers have thrown air strikes at them, white phosphorus, and bombs late at night.
How can you help?
Support BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions).
BDS is a movement that helped South Africa when it was an Apartheid country. Palestinians have decided to create a movement that would limit Israel’s funding from brands that have ties to funding it. For example, corporations like PepsiCo that saturate the market send a lot of money to Israel through private organizations like AIPAC.
You can also spread awareness through social media and actively call out propaganda. Attending protests is a very efficient way to start conversations in your local community. If you live in the U.S.A, contact your local representatives to support HR 2590. HR 2590, is a bill that was established in hopes that American tax money doesn’t go towards the funding of Israel’s apartheid crimes. With the current propaganda and misinformation in favor of Israel being spread, contacting your representatives is vital.