It makes sense that Daniel Ortega is a Scorpio.

what happened last week (whlw) | Subscribe

whlw: no. 301

April 25 – May 3, 2022

Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. I have some big news:
  • First, starting next week, Karakaya Talks (omfg) and whlw are going to be making TikTok videos together about some of the news in this newsletter in German. YAY! Check out their Instagram and TikTok. So, so excited for this!
  • Second, I have the honor to moderate a six-part discussion series on (re)framing reproduction from an intersectional point of view at Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung every two weeks. I didn't link to the first part because, duh, I was too excited. But here you can sign up for our next events.
  • And third, (wow, so many news), I managed to convince Wai Wai Nu to give whlw an interview. She's given interviews to BBC, Financial Times and SBS before. She's a Rohingya organizer, and super f*cking inspiring. I'm collecting questions for my interview. Do you have any for me? Reply to this mail. 
Now, let's talk about what happened last week:
  • A status update from Myanmar
  • Nicaragua's 'dictatorship' and what it means for the people
  • Bitcoin is now a legal tender in the Central African Republic
  • Plus: some good news (because we all need it) from so many places like Malawi, Egypt, Cuba, Palestine, Panama and Japan and even from space.
Btw, this newsletter has its very own Spotify playlist Decolonize Weekly. Feel free to subscribe. 

If you enjoy reading whlw on the regular, have you considered supporting it financially? You can do so by becoming a monthly supporter on Patreon or Paypal. If you can't afford to, that's OK! You can also help make this newsletter famous by telling your friends and family about it. I'd help me think about whlw in a bigger way. 

Now without further ado, here's what happened last week,

what happened last week

We need to talk about what's happening in Myanmar
There is still a civil war in Myanmar.

Why this matters: The war in Myanmar has been brutal. Since February 1, 2021, at least 1,800 civilians have been killed by the military. And, tens of thousands have been arrested, charged or jailed. There is little to no attention by the international community for this civil war.

Refresher: More than a year ago, the military in Myanmar took control and arrested the then-political leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The new leader is now Min Aung Hlaing. We still don't know why this happened. The military keeps saying, 'well, there was election corruption' with no actual proof. A lot of people in Myanmar have been protesting against this coup since the beginning.

What happened to the former leadership?
They're on secret military trials for various reasons. Plus, they (and their lawyers) have not been seen or allowed to speak in public since last year. 

What are the charges?
For example, Aung San Suu Kyi has already been
sentenced to 11 years in prison after being convicted of "illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, sedition," and two big corruption charges.

What about the population?
It's super difficult. Political activism here is a luxury only few can afford. For rest of world,
Nu Nu Lusan and Emily Fishbein wrote about the many internet blackouts in the country. The Myanmar military shuts down the internet quite regularly, especially in places where it has its most haters. Sometimes it turns it back on, sometimes entire regions, like the Sagaing region, are cut off from it "indefinitely".

"In many of the same townships where the military has blocked the internet, it has also 
burned houseslaunched airstrikes, and raided villagesdisplacing tens of thousands of people. The blackouts have disrupted the flow of news and communications that can be vital for people when they are trying to flee to safety, hindered humanitarian organizations’ attempts to respond to crises, and hampered efforts to document human rights abuses and hold the military accountable," write Lusan and Fishbein. Plus, "But information restrictions have made it hard for food, water, and medicine to reach the places it’s needed." People wanting to help rely on human messengers as a last resort to spread the news and to deliver humanitarian relief. On World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Al Jazeera English spoke to a Burmese journalist (he wanted to be anonymous) who said that most journalists in the country have fled to neighbouring countries/regions to be able to continue their reporting.
  • Fun fact: The 'Myanmar revolution' has an official anthem. It is called "Kabar Makyay Bu" (We Won’t Be Satisfied till the End of the World) and was written (a long time ago) by composer Naing Myanmar. It's very "Dust In the Wind" by Kansas-y. Lwin Mar Htun wrote a feature on the songwriter Naing Myanmar for The Irrawaddy.
What now? 
Last week,
Malaysia was like, 'all Southeast Asian nations should also engage with the NUG from now on.' NUG is short for National Unity Government and is a group of people that have one thing in common: The military removed them from power last year, and they want to bring 'Sexy Back,' as JT would say. It includes elected politicians, members of Myanmar’s different ethnic groups as well as anti-coup leaders. The military in Myanmar called Malaysia "irresponsible and reckless" last week. To them, the NUG is a "terrorist group". 'We don't care, we'll double our humanitarian aid even. You need it,' Malaysia said.

Cool of Malaysia. But isn't this a bit late?
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, short ASEAN (Malaysia and eight other nations are members) tried to resolve this in April last year, two months after the military seized control. No luck, however. The military has ignored their calls to end the violence. It probably feels confident because
China, a couple of weeks ago, was like 'we'll support the Myanmar military no matter what <3'. 

Zoom out: Let's also not forget that before February 2021, the entire world was talking about the Rohingya. The Myanmar government at the time and still is also facing
genocide accusations at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. About 900,000 Rohingya are currently living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, most of whom fled Myanmar since August 2017 to escape the military’s crimes against humanity and genocide. 

Diversify your Twitter feed and
follow Wai Wai Nu. She is a Rohingya organizer with a lot of timely tweets on what's happening in Myanmar. Listen to this interview with her for Strength And Solidarity podcast where she reflects on the roots of Burmese protest and determination. And good news: She has kindly agreed to an interview with me for whlw. I'm collecting questions: What would you like to ask her? 
We are looking at a 'dictatorship' in Nicaragua
The (first) numbers are out: At least 81,000 people from Nicaragua have emigrated to United States in the first quarter of 2022, according to US Customs figures. 

Why this matters: News on migration, especially over here in Europe, typically focus on Greece or Italy, and now Ukraine. However, violence in Mexico and Central America are also causing mass migration. Here, too, people die while trying to cross rivers and other borders. And when it comes to Nicaragua, well, many people have called President Daniel Ortega a "dictator" and his government of Nicaragua a "dictatorship", even the country's own (active) ambassador Arturo McFields (Spanish). Some seven million people live here. 

Is this a trend?
Yes. In 2021, the number was slightly higher, around 87,000. They also (want to) emigrate to
Spain but Spain only approved 20% (Spanish) of asylum requests by Nicaraguans in 2021. Plus, emigrating is super dangerous. Just recently, on March 21, there was news of two Nicaraguan women (Spanish) who died while crossing the Rio Bravo at the border between Mexico and United States. One of the ladies, Felícita Lucrecia Soza, had lived in the U.S. for 22 years as an undocumented person and had gone back to Nicaragua to visit her children. The other lady's name was Gabriela Tatiana Espinoza Pérez.

Why do people emigrate?
Well, where do I start? I've been keeping up with the news from Nicaragua these past few weeks. There's so much but here's the overall vibes:
  • Civil society is really taking a hit. Last week, the government closed 25 more NGOs, making a total of 164 closed organizations since 2018. The latest NGOs include cultural, children’s humans rights, and local development programs. 
  • So many political prisoners. A new report found out that there 179 political prisoners in Nicaragua. 169 of them anti-government protesters in 2018. 
  • Even musicians are being detained. Like, these three (Spanish). 
  • So many human rights violations. Hence, why the United Nations’ Human Rights Council will investigate them, specifically in the context of the 2018 protests against the government of Daniel Ortega. Some sources say, some 570 people died (Spanish) during that time. 
  • Academia is also affected. Nicaragua is the Latin American country with the "greatest deterioration in academic freedom since 2018", according to a report from the V-Dem Institute (Spanish).
  • There's the threat of settler communities in Indigenous land. Recently, the government was proposing a “peaceful coexistence plan” (Spanish) in the Caribbean region to "harmonize relations among settlers and Indigenous groups" and to assess climate change in the Caribbean region. But Indigenous groups are like, 'nah, they're trying to legalize settler communities. We will resist and decide our own forms of government.'
  • Indigenous leaders are at risk. A few weeks ago, Mayangna Indigenous leader Salomon López Smith was found dead (Spanish) with signs of torture. His nephew is convinced that people wanting to steal Indigenous land have murdered him.
  • Abortion is illegal, and that creates a very dangerous situation for many people. Every year almost 9,000 women are hospitalized for all abortions (including miscarriages). You won't see any pictures or videos of people protesting this in the country because, well, President Ortega has restricted protests, such as March 8.
A dear Thank You to the very wonderful people at Central American News. I learn so much from you. Sign up for their newsletter here.
We adopted Bitcoin as an official currency in the Central African Republic – it's the world's second-ever country to do so
The Central African Republic (CAR) adopted Bitcoin as an official currency.

Why this matters: CAR is one of the world's poorest countries, but is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium. CAR is also the second country to adopt the cryptocurrency after El Salvador in 2021. Some 5 million people live here.

The country's President Faustin-Archange Touadéra claimed the move would "improve the conditions of Central African citizens” and distinguish CAR as “of the world’s boldest and most visionary countries." The two former Prime Minister
disagree. However, in general, both – Bitcoin and the decision to make it an official currency – have a lot of critics. For example, the International Monetary Fund (basically) says, 'it just makes things so financially unstable.' Others are like, 'criminals love Bitcoin. They can launder money much more easily,' and 'Bitcoin is super bad for the environment because it needs a lot of electricity.'

So... why did the government do this?
It probably (but few people say this out loud) has a lot to do with
France, and the CFA currency. The government is, again, probably trying to undermine it. France backs this currency; a lot of its former colonies – Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea – also use it. The story of the CFA currency is actually one of the most racist and colonialist stories that we don't talk about often enough. In short, France has total control over this currency that circulates in 14 African countries. It has many critics. For Review of African Political Economy, economist and author Ndongo Samba Sylla wrote about why the CFA franc no longer has a future.

Ah, this is payback then. 
Yes, and no. Others say, this has got more to do with
Russia. CAR is on Russia's at the moment; it said 'no comment' on the United Nations vote condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine – even though, one year ago, rumour had it that Russia had sent mercenaries (people that kill for money) to CAR, committing human rights abuses while fighting alongside the country's military. 

Could there be another reason?
Yes. Money. A lot of it. A recent
report by Chainalysis (a blockchain data platform) found that between July 2020 and June 2021, Africans received US$105.6 billion worth of cryptocurrency payments (+1200% from the year before). This is also the reason why there are so, so many fintech startups on the African continent like Empowa (financing residential real estate development in Mozambique) or Pezesha (finding more lenders to invest directly in enterprises in Kenya). In short: Adopting Bitcoin could be a 'big middle finger to France', about Russia or about better access to (global) money.

What do people in CAR say?
There are at least two sides: 
  • It's going to make life easier. "Businessmen will no longer have to walk around with suitcases of CFA francs that will have to be converted into dollars or any other currency to make purchases abroad," said economist Yann Daworo in an interview with BBC Afrique.
  • There are more important issues. "Like security, education and access to drinking water. Plus, internet access is still so underdeveloped," (kind of) said computer scientist Sydney Tickaya. In 2019, just 4% of people in CAR had access to the web.

First, the bad news

Afghanistan: More than 50 people were killed after a bomb exploded at Khalifa Sahib Mosque in Kabul. It was the second bombing in two days. 'It's probably Daesh' (ISIS), some say.

Spain: A person is killed and 24 are missing after a boat carrying migrants crashed off the coast of the Canary Islands.

Ethiopia: 20 people were killed by heavily-armed "extremist Christians" during the funeral of a Muslim elder in Gondar, Amhara Region.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Ebola is back – four months after last outbreak ended. This is the 14th Ebola outbreak in this country since 1976. However, effective treatments are available (unlike back in the day) and patients who get help early have pretty good chances.

Honduras: President Xiomara Castro declared 'a state of emergency' in the Colón Department because three policemen were killed (Spanish) in Trujillo. 

The kind-of-neutral

Montenegro: The country has a new Prime Minister. His name is Dritan Abazović. He is a 36-year-old Capricorn, and an ethnic Albanian.

China: Baidu and became the first robotaxi services to operate without safety drivers in Beijing.

And now, the good news

Malawi: A high court in Malawi convicted five people of killing an albino man and seven more people of selling the man's body parts.

Palestine: A limestone statue of the Canaanite goddess Anat from 2,500 BC was found in the Gaza Strip. 

Egypt: Here, they also found something pretty significant: ruins of an ancient temple for Zeus in Sinai.

Cuba: The United States has cleared Guantánamo Bay’s youngest prisoner for release. Hassan bin Attash has been jailed by the U.S. for the last 20 years, even though has never (!) been charged with a crime. He was just 17 (!) years old when he was captured in Karachi by security services in Pakistan in 2002 and turned over to the United States. Attash will remain in prison while he tries to find a country willing to offer him rehabilitation.

  • Did you know that a lot of former Guantánamo Bay prisoners were shipped off to Kazakhstan or to Serbia (read Mansoor Adayfi's story) and now live under (essentially) house arrest in random towns. Simon Ostrovsky from PBS did a documentary on it while he was at Vice.
Japan: A huge railway is powered only by renewable energy now.

Space: The probability of life on Jupiter's moon Europa just got a lot higher. A new study is like, 'we believe there may be pools of salty, liquid water.' This is where we (probably) come from.

Since it was
Earth Day last week, did you know that, earlier this year, Panama brought in a new law granting nature the "right to exist"? Meaning, Panama’s parliament will now have to consider the impact of its laws and policies on the natural world. 
On a funny note

On April 5, Jake Eberts and 15 other adults drank a shot glass' worth of cloudy, salty liquid that they knew was infused with diarrhea-producing shigella bacteria. They also knew that bacteria would — in all likelihood — make them super, no, violently ill, like dysentery-ill. And it did. It actually almost killed them.

But... why?
Eberts was part of an 11-day inpatient vaccine trial at the University of Maryland,
United States

But, still. Why? 
Even though Eberts said what followed were "the worst eight hours of my life," he said he'd do it all over again, provided that he was paid (
he earned more than US$7,000 in this trial) and knew the research was being done for a good cause.

That's it from me for this week. If you want to stay connected on social media, follow me on Twitter or on Instagram.

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