Ryan Smith

Ryan E. Smith is Interim Director of Advocacy and Grantmaking at Jewish World Watch.

Jewish World Watch was founded in 2004 as a response to the genocide taking place in Darfur. Today, we continue to mobilize against genocide and mass atrocities through education, advocacy and projects serving survivors of acts of inhumanity around the globe. Every week, we’ll update you on news related to a number of current conflicts, including those affecting the Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma) and people from Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

At least 30 dead in ethnic violence in northeast Congo
Reuters, Feb. 5, 2018

At least 30 people have been killed in two days of ethnic clashes between Hema herders and Lendu farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s northeastern Ituri province, local authorities said on Feb. 5. Congo has been grappling with a fresh surge of unrest since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in December 2016. The latest killings echo the violence of the 1998-2003 war, when thousands of Hema and Lendu killed each other in Ituri.

Blockchain to track Congo’s cobalt from mine to mobile
Reuters, Feb. 2, 2018

Blockchain, a decentralized online database in the form of a distributed ledger, is to be used for the first time to try to track cobalt’s journey from artisanal mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through to products used in smartphones and electric cars. The aim is eventually to give manufacturers a way of ensuring the cobalt in lithium-ion batteries for products such as iPhones and Teslas has not been mined by children.

Congo Electoral Commission Finishes Registering 46 Million Voters
Reuters, Jan. 31, 2018

Congo’s electoral commission finished registering 46 million voters on Jan. 31 for a long-delayed election meant to replace President Joseph Kabila that is currently scheduled for the end of December. Repeated stalling of the election has raised tensions across the Democratic Republic of the Congo, triggering street protests and encouraging armed rebellions.

 

ROHINGYA

Myanmar Is Widening Its Crackdown on Reporters Covering the Rohingya Crisis
TIME, Feb. 6, 2018

Two Reuters reporters covering military operations against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority were returned to jail Tuesday after another court appearance in a controversial “official secrets” trial. Their fourth hearing comes a day after state officials threatened to sue the Associated Press over a story exposing mass graves, deepening concerns about a crackdown on the nation’s media.

UN official says Rohingya crisis has ‘hallmarks of genocide’
Associated Press, Feb. 1, 2018

The U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar said Feb. 1 that the Myanmar military’s violent operations against Rohingya Muslims bear “the hallmarks of a genocide.” Yanghee Lee told reporters in Seoul, where she is based, that she couldn’t make a definitive declaration about genocide until a credible international tribunal or court had weighed the evidence, but “we are seeing signs and it is building up to that.”

AP finds evidence for graves, Rohingya massacre in Myanmar
Associated Press, Feb. 1, 2018

At least five mass graves, all previously unreported, have been confirmed by The Associated Press through multiple interviews with more than two dozen survivors and through time-stamped cellphone videos. The AP’s reporting shows a systematic slaughter of Rohingya Muslim civilians by the military, with help from Buddhist neighbors — and suggests many more graves hold many more people. The Myanmar government denied the AP report, saying only “terrorists” were killed and they were “carefully buried.”

Devoid of hope, displaced Rohingya children are vulnerable to trafficking and radicalization
The Guardian, Jan. 31, 2018

Since August of last year, more than 668,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for camps over the Bangladeshi border. Nearly 400,000 of those are children, a figure that will rise as new families arrive still, and infants are born in the camps – with no government-issued birth certificates. This is a humanitarian crisis of the young. Girls face the threat of human trafficking, while boys are at risk for radicalization.

 

SOUTH SUDAN

Hundreds protest against U.S. arms embargo in South Sudan
Reuters, Feb. 6, 2018

Hundreds of protesters massed outside the U.S. embassy and U.N. headquarters in South Sudan’s capital on Feb. 6, chanting slogans against an arms embargo imposed by Washington four days earlier and handing in a petition to the United Nations, before some attacked journalists at the scene. The petition praised China – which has large investments in South Sudan’s oil industry – and Russia as “true friends” of the country.

New peace talks begin on South Sudan’s war as pressure grows
Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2018

A new round of peace talks on South Sudan’s civil war has begun as regional powers seek a solution to a five-year conflict that has caused Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Feb. 5’s talks in Ethiopia come days after the United States announced an arms embargo on South Sudan and urged further punitive measures.

Child abductions rise as South Sudan war incites desperation
Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2018

It’s been almost two years since Deng Machar’s three young children were abducted from his home and likely sold for cattle. It is a little-acknowledged tragedy in South Sudan’s five-year civil war: Child kidnappings between clans have increased as people become more desperate amid widespread hunger and a devastated economy, human rights groups say.

 

SUDAN

‘There’s no personal freedom in Sudan,’ says rights lawyer
The Irish Times, Feb. 1, 2018

In December 2016, Tasneem El-Zaki was arrested and put into isolation in a Sudanese prison for three months. The human rights lawyer was 28 years old at the time and underwent torture during her time in jail. Her crime? Defending the rights of a group of women who had been raped in Darfur.

 

SYRIA

Aid groups worry Syria refugees pushed into premature return
Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2018

The Norwegian Refugee Council and other international aid groups say they worry large numbers of Syrian refugees are being pushed to return home while their war-ravaged country remains unsafe. The groups say in a report published Feb. 5 that for every Syrian returning home in 2017, three more were newly displaced by violence. The report quotes the United Nations as saying that an additional 1.5 million Syrians will likely be displaced in 2018.

Turkish border guards are shooting at Syrian refugees, rights group says
CNN, Feb. 4, 2018

Syrians attempting to flee violence and seek refuge in Turkey are facing indiscriminate fire by Turkish border guards, Human Rights Watch said Feb. 3. Syrian asylum seekers leaving the brutality of Idlib province in northwest Syria “are being forced back with bullets and abuse,” according to Lama Fakih, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. In just a month, from December 15 to January 15, about 247,000 Syrians were displaced to the border area, according to the United Nations.

Lebanon says will not force Syrian refugees to return
Reuters, Feb. 1, 2018

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Feb. 1 that Lebanon would not force refugees to return to Syria but called for more international help in dealing with the refugee crisis. More than a million Syrians fled into neighboring Lebanon after war broke out in their country in 2011 and now account for about a quarter of its population.

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