Every week, we bring to you the top five international stories of the week, with a particular emphasis on religious liberty, justice issues, and geopolitical issues that impact liberty and justice.
1. Turkey steps up attacks against Syria in Iraq after major terror attack in Ankara. A Kurdish separatist group unaffiliated with the major Kurdish parties claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 28. In response, Turkey launched airstrikes against Kurdish positions in Syria. Turkey had been shelling these positions this week, but the conflict heated up dramatically after the terror attack. Turkey seems to see the rise of Kurdish power and influence in the region as a threat; Kurds within Turkey continue to press for greater political rights within Turkey.
The U.S. has supported and coordinated with Kurdish forces Syria, who have been the United State's most reliable ally against the Islamic State. The growing tension between Turkey and the Kurds puts the U.S. in a difficult position as Turkey maneuvers to force the U.S. to pick a side.
2. Uganda experiencing alarming turmoil and violence associated with its current round of elections. President Museveni has been in power for 30 years and this month's elections have already experienced police violence, the jailing of Museveni's most credible opponent, and now a national ban on the social media sites Facebook and WhatsApp. Museveni has brought considerable stability to Uganda and is considered a strong U.S. ally, but the recent election turmoil reveal a lack of genuine transparency in the nation's politics along with the potential capacity for Uganda's days of tranquility to be threatened if leadership is not eventually transitioned peacefully.
3. Political leaders, religious leaders, and religious freedom advocates gather in Taiwan to coordinate on religious liberty in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum held its first gathering with representatives from 26 different countries across the region. The Forum held high-level discussions to share best practices and coordinate strategic efforts to promote religious freedom across the region. The participants drafted and released the Taiwan Declaration for Religious Freedom, which APRFF will release to the public along with a list of signatories in the coming months.
4. An MSF hospital in Syria was bombed this week, creating an alarming trend of hospital attacks in the region. The hospital was supported by Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym, MSF. The attack killed 25 people, injuring scores more. The hospital was “double tapped”: four missiles struck the hospital, and then the hospital was attacked again after rescue services arrived at the hospital.
In most cases, MSF registers the locations of its hospitals with all combatants to the conflict where the hospital operates. But in this case, the MSF hospital in Syria kept its location secret to prevent it from being bombed by Syrian or Russian forces.
MSF has suffered a number of hospital attacks over the last few months. U.S. planes mistakenly attacked a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan; multiple MSF hospitals in Yemen have been attacked. This trend is truly disturbing; international humanitarian law guarantees the right to receive medical care, regardless of which side of the conflict a person is on.
5. Radioactive material stolen from Iraq last year. The material, which was about the size of a small laptop, went missing last year from a facility near Basra. The material was owned by a Turkish company and used for specialized oil and gas testing equipment. The U.S. State Department was aware of the theft and indicated that there is no evidence that the material has fallen into the hands of the Islamic State or another terrorist group.
6. U.S. airstrike hits Islamic State training facility in Libya. A U.S. source has indicated that the attack killed as many as 40 Islamic State trainees.
The U.S. also struck cash stash houses in Iraq and Syria, which are believed to have destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars in cash.
Have suggestions for a top five article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at [email protected].