Compiled by Stephanie Meyer
On Dec. 28, 2017, protests began in Mashhad, Iran, and spread to even more Iranian cities. The demonstrators called for an end to the current Iranian government, which has been in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Protesters, motivated by economic hardships due to high unemployment rates and rising prices of food, rebelled by tearing down pictures of Iran’s political leaders, setting fire to official buildings and marching. Since December, the protests have decreased due to the government and police arresting many of the demonstrators, turning water cannons on the protesters and blocking access to social media. Lawyers of the protesters who have been arrested said that their clients were safe from jail time due to “the people’s right to protest.” However, it is still unclear how the Iranian government will handle these protesters’ criminal cases. On Tuesday, Jan. 9, an Iranian lawmaker reported that more than 3,700 people have been arrested during the protests, which have been the most significant anti-government protests in Iran in one decade. Iranian government officials contend that only hundreds of people have been arrested. Also according to Iranian government officials, only 21 people have been killed.
On Tuesday, Jan. 9, a suspected arson attack on a suburban Paris kosher store reignited fears of anti-Semitism in the country. Investigators said it was “too soon to discuss motives,” however reported that they did not believe the fire was an accident. Before burning down, the store was vandalized by graffiti depicting Nazi swastikas. The arson attack occurred on the third anniversary of the 2015 attack at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris, when ISIS gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, held customers hostage for hours, eventually killing four. After the 2015 attack, 10,000 soldiers were deployed onto the streets and more than 800 Jewish buildings were under permanent surveillance. In 2015, a record 7,900 French Jews left France, citing heightened fears of anti-Semitism. Former Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls stated that more is needed to be done to deal with the anti-Semitism that is present in France.
On Tuesday, Jan. 9, Prime Minister Theresa May concluded in a two-day reorganization of the British government. May promoted several female and ethnic-minority lawmakers to junior ministerial positions to make “the government look more like the country it serves.” Critics, including The Times, which is considered the most varied newspaper in terms of political support, are unimpressed, calling the reorganization “shambolic.” Many are criticizing the fact that most of the senior ministers kept their jobs, limiting the opportunity for women and ethnic minorities to implement their perspectives in the United Kingdom’s highest levels of government. Last year, May called for a snap election to strengthen her position in the Brexit talks and even though Brexit passed, May’s authority was weakened when her Conservative Party lost its majority in Parliament.
According to two independent rights groups, the number of civilians who have received death sentences in Egyptian military courts have dramatically increased from 60 in 2016 to at least 112 in 2017. The independent rights group allege, based on evidence, at least some of those who were executed in 2017 had given confessions after being tortured for weeks on end by Egypt’s National Security Agency. Many lawyers in Egypt fear that the significant increase in death sentences will only increase in the coming year. Non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Egyptians Abroad for Democracy see this situation as a threat to the Egyptian people and proof of a deteriorating legal system in Egypt. In August, 2017, the United States announced that it would withhold almost $300 million in aid from Egypt until it saw improvement in the Egyptian government’s handling of human rights and democracy.
On Tuesday, Jan. 9, North and South Korean leaders participated in an 11-hour long discussion which resulted in an agreement on military talks and compromises to avoid future violent conflicts. This has been North and South Korea’s first official discussion in more than two years. As a result of the talks, North Korea will send various representatives, including journalists, athletes, a taekwondo demonstration team and high ranking officials to South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. It is the first time since 2005 that North Korea will be participating in the Olympics. During the talks, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification reported that North Korea agreed to South Korea’s proposal to terminate antagonistic acts to maintain peace throughout the Korean peninsula. North Korea did, however, make a “strong complaint” after South Korea proposed to denuclearize the region. The talks between North and South Korea were closely watched by leaders worldwide to see if they would result in a reduction in tension created by North Korea continuing to develop nuclear weapons, which is not in compliance with resolutions of the UN Security Council. On Tuesday, North Korea also said in a statement that their weapons are “only aimed at the United States.”