Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Algeria faces a second wave of its pro-democracy movement

The movement is also known as ‘‘the Hirak’’

Algerians resumed their pro-democracy protests on the second anniversary of the country’s pro-democracy movement on Feb. 22, 2021, following calls for demonstrations launched on social networks in Algiers, the country’s capital.

In support of their compatriots there, the Algerian diaspora in Montreal gathers every weekend from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., not only to demand the departure of the regime in place, but also to urge the Algerian authorities to end all repression against militants and journalists.

The protest begins in front of the Algerian Consulate and ends at Place du Canada.

Bouzid Ichalalene, director of publication of the electronic journal ‘‘INTERLIGNES Algérie,’’ posted about the issue on Twitter, saying: ‘‘Through their placards, the demonstrators demand “a rule of law,” “a free press” and “a free and democratic Algeria.’’

The Hirak protests started two years ago when then-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention to run the country for a fifth term.

However, even after Bouteflika’s resignation on April 2, 2019, the Algerian community continued to put on pressure to bring down the entire regime.

Unfortunately, in March 2020, all protests were suspended due to coronavirus restrictions, and the Algerian authorities took the suspension of the weekly outdoor Hirak protests as an opportunity to silence the voices of the opposition at a time when the movement started gaining strength internationally.

According to the draft law presented by Algerian Justice Minister, Belkacem Zeghmati, during the month of March: ‘‘Algerians who have committed acts outside the territory ‘seriously prejudicial to the interests of the State’ or ‘undermining national unity’ could be deprived of their nationality, ‘acquired or of origin.’’’’

This draft law, which was submitted by Zeghmati in the form of an amendment to the nationality law, raised serious concerns within the vast Algerian population around the world.

‘‘While Algerian activists are prosecuted for their online posts on social media, those of us living abroad may not be able to return home any time soon,’’ said Bochra Rouag, an Arts and Literature student at LaSalle college, during the protest in Montreal.

After several weeks of controversy on the subject, the Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced the withdrawal of the draft bill because of a misunderstanding.

‘‘We withdrew it because there were other interpretations,” explained Tebboune during his April. 4th press briefing.

The Hirak movement has drawn attention internationally. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Algerian authorities to immediately end violence against peaceful protesters and to stop arbitrary detentions.


Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion



Yemen’s uncertain path to peace

In the short term, Biden’s diplomatic approach in Yemen may not be enough to leverage peace

Earlier this month, the Biden administration took considerable steps to reverse U.S. policy on the war in Yemen, instigated under Obama and continued throughout Trump’s presidency.

It notably put a hold on its support to the Saudi-led coalition, revoked the terrorist designation of the Houthi movement, and appointed veteran diplomat, Timothy Lenderking, as special envoy to the conflict.

What began in 2014, when the Iran-backed Houthi movement overthrew president Hadi’s unpopular government, has since turned into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As of 2015, neighbouring Saudi Arabia has spearheaded a coalition, while mobilizing a substantial part of its GDP, to back the Hadi government and wage a war against the Houthis and their allies – so far, unsuccessfully.

According to the United Nations, 233,000 people have been killed in the war and more than 20 million are left in dire need of humanitarian aid. In a briefing to the Security Council last week, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned the country is “speeding towards the worst famine the world has seen in decades,” adding that “something like 400,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished across the country.”

“This war has to end,” Biden said earlier this month, of the conflict that has reached a stalemate since the latest attempts at peace talks failed in 2018.

For the population, peace is long overdue. As reported by Newlines Magazine, many have welcomed efforts to reignite the peace process, but remain pessimistic about the prospect of a political solution in the near future.

The U.S.’ shift towards a diplomatic approach or even a hypothetical withdrawal of regional actors, like Saudi Arabia, would not necessarily result in the end of the civil war, warns Elena Delozier from the Washington Institute. In an interview on the Conversation Six podcast, she stressed that this conflict was and remains one mostly animated by local actors – the Houthis and the Yemeni government.

“If we had an arrangement for peace talks tomorrow, neither of them have the political will right now to go to the table,” she said. “The question for the United States is how can it get the Hadi government, the Houthis, or how can it help the U.N. get, those two parties to come to peace talks.”

In recent weeks, the Houthi movement has made advances on the government’s last stronghold of Marib – the fall of which experts say will bring about further displacement and humanitarian consequences.

Last September, a UN group of experts designated Canada as one of the countries responsible for “perpetuating the conflict” by selling arms, including sniper rifles and light armoured vehicles, to Saudi Arabia. The ongoing arms deal currently amounts to $14 billion.

The New Democratic Party reiterated this criticism earlier this month in the House of Commons. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau assured, “Human rights considerations are now at the centre of our export regime,” adding that he “will deny any permit application where there is a risk of human rights violations.”

In addition to the U.S.’ dwindling support, the declassification last Friday of a report that found Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salam responsible for approving the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, puts Ryadh in an increasingly defensive position. 

But while it may reduce its military spending in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is expected to further its presence through local undercover fighters, according to Ahmed Nagi, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Institute.

Meanwhile, for the Houthis, the “priority today is to make more gains, not to engage in power-sharing deals,” said Nagi, indicating that under such conditions, a viable path to peace remains nothing but precarious.


Graphic by James Fay


Sudan’s web of unsolved issues

The death toll is rising in Sudan’s Darfur region

An outburst of violence spiraled Sudan’s westernmost region, Darfur, into disarray in January. This territory has been subject to endless conflicts since early 2000 due to its tribal tension, even with the newly elected democratic government. However, Darfur is only taking the spotlight for what is a complex amalgamation of issues within Sudan’s core that are barely understood by the international community.

“Sudan is very large and complex, it has essentially been at war since before it was a country,” said Sara Winger, professor and former external affairs officer at the United Nations Mission in Sudan.

Sudan’s federal government is no stranger to perpetrating hostilities in its provinces.

“There is no single region of Sudan that has not been victim at one point or another to the central government’s exclusionary practices,” said Winger. Sudan is, like any other country, facing challenges intertwined with its social web and history. The Darfur Crisis is only one part of what is a national issue.

“Because we are focused on the problem in Darfur, we don’t address the crisis in Blue Nile and Kordofan states — these must be addressed globally to establish peace in Sudan,” said Aristide Nononsi, country director for Lawyers Without Borders Canada and former independent expert in Sudan for the United Nations. Yet, peace has not been reached. Why is that?

A legacy of violence

Throughout Sudan’s previous government, led by former president Omar al-Bashir, violence was enforced upon its people, especially when political opposition started to grow in certain regions.

Taking Darfur as an example, a civil war between the government and two rebel groups in 2003 led to the government hiring militias from nomadic Arab tribes to eradicate the rebellion. These Arab tribes were named the Janjaweed; they committed mass violence against civilians.

The government would “manipulate and instrumentalize the tribes against one another” to dismantle the rebellion, said Nononsi.

Similar actions were taken when dealing with most other conflicts. Even with the peace agreements signed after the wars, tribal hostilities are still plaguing many regions of the country because they have yet to reconcile.

When Al-Bashir’s government was toppled by the Sudanese Armed Forces in 2019, a democratic civilian government was elected later that year. This new government has been active in negotiating with the United Nations according to Nononsi.

Although, a history of governmental violence upon its people does not simply fade away.

“Changing leaders is one thing,” said Winger, although “There is a broader change that has to take place in order to make sure to inoculate the country from it ever happening again.”

She added, “The political elite were part of the country’s structure when these decisions were being made … Unless you change out your entire political elite, then you still have these people involved with these institutions.”

“When the root causes of the crisis are not addressed, the crisis will continue,” said Nononsi. According to him, these causes are related to the establishment of law, ensuring everybody can enjoy their human rights and resolve Sudan’s extreme poverty. But it seems as if the government is not taking every step needed to provide these needs.

The government’s inactions    

The United Nations is limited in what it can do to solve a problem in countries with conflict, which include that no outright actions can be made without being filtered through the biases of the local government.

But advising can be offered by the international community as tools to help a country build its various institutions, including education and health care.

“Tools can be provided, tools are super easy,” said Winger, “but it’s the willingness to open the toolbox that changes everything. If you don’t want to provide education, it doesn’t matter if there are five international partners who want to help you provide the education.”

In another setback, while assessing the human rights situation in Sudan, Nononsi found that the governmental position on this “is that there are no human right violations in the country and there are no human right abuses.”

This apparent government inaction stems from a feeling of persecution.

“Although the government seems to cooperate with the United Nations,” said Nononsi, “it also has a perception that the wars in general are against the regime of Sudan,” meaning that these wars based upon political opposition are critiques of Sudan’s governmental regime, attacking the legitimacy of their function.

Negotiations for international intervention and internal peace have been difficult for Sudan because of this notion. From outright denial to laborious negotiating, the solutions that may provide peace to Sudan are not acknowledged, making the process frustrating.

“I worked in a town called Wau,” said Winger. “We were driving around as election observers at the time. And then in that same town in 2013–2014, conflict erupted, and everybody left. It is kind of crazy, like wow, I walked those roads. I went and bought my vegetables at the market, and now that market has been burned down.”

“We’re doing a bad job, making promises that we’re not coming anywhere near,” she said. “The UN says that they are going to save the next generation from the scourge of war. Well, sorry guys, you haven’t done it, you’re not doing a great job at it.”

Misunderstood nuances

The United Nations’ involvement in Sudan has been widespread, yet unproductive.

“There wasn’t a good understanding that the conflicts, while they were related, they were also distinct,” said Winger, “and I think just that sheer level of complexity bested and arguably continues to best the UN when it comes to Sudan.”

Decision making at the UN has been flawed when it comes to making a comprehensive strategy to solve conflicts. For example, in Winger’s UN experience in South Sudan, the international community would “focus on South Sudan and getting the election done,” instead of providing for other regions in need.

She follows this idea with “South Sudan was very much the hot topic until Syria started happening. We have kind of a collective inability to think about more than one thing at a time.”  The short attention span of both the international community and the media can only be detrimental to the well-being of the countries supported by these institutions.

“I think that the UN has to have a really nuanced understanding of an area, and I think that those kinds of interconnections need to be well understood,” said Winger.

That nuance can be reached through many means. Selecting specific conflict regions to solve the overall problem will only perpetuate unattended conflicts.

However, she also adds that a country’s overreliance on the international community may blur the lines.

“If you think the international community is supposed to bring you housing and education then you don’t get mad at your government when they fail to provide that. So, that’s part of the problem as well, there is this kind of unclear narrative about who is supposed to be doing what, and who is responsible for what.”

Sudan’s web of conflicts is convoluted. Decades of expert analysis, international investing and lives lost builds up to now.

The combination of a nuanced understanding, governmental implication and healing of the violent legacy may bring peace to Sudan. But, deeper roots to the conflict are harder to resolve.

“When you talk about long standing discrimination and inequality, you can’t address it in one day,” said Nononsi. This means that there are more years of conflict to come in Sudan, but the new democratic government is a step in the right direction for the country’s eventual peace. 


Graphic by @ihooqstudio


Poli Savvy: Canada seeks seat on UN Security Council

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been travelling the world last week seeking approval from African countries in his campaign for Canada’s hope of a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The UNSC is comprised of five permanent members–China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States–and 10 non-permanent members elected for two years, which currently includes Belgium, Germany and South Africa. For the remaining countries, they are allowed to participate in debates, though without the benefits of having a vote.

The UNSC is the principal body of the United Nations with the goal of maintaining international peace and establishing what is a threat to international security. In a situation where two states are in conflict, for example Israel and Palestine, the security council is in charge of setting the terms of settlement.

But would Canada, a non-council member state–i.e. doesn’t have a vote–actually get a permanent seat on the security council?

It is important to note that all permanent member states are nuclear powers. Now, whether the UNSC represents an international distribution of power is up to a political science debate, but Canada is not a nuclear state because it doesn’t have nuclear weapons. In fact, it is reliant on US anti-missile systems. Furthermore, if Canada was to launch an all-out nuclear buildup, the country would lose all international credibility as it signed and ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international treaty that prohibits countries from developing nuclear weapons. After all, there are many countries with nuclear power who would have the lead on attaining a spot on the UNSC before Canada does like India, Pakistan or Israel.

Being a member state also holds big responsibilities since they become the main actors of international peace. Is the US’s little northern brother really going to make a difference and stand its grounds on certain issues when it cannot even address its own? I’ll let you be the judge of that.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Climate activists join hands in promoting a long-awaited political action

“When an unstoppable force like Greta [Thunberg] meets an immovable clunk of politicians, my bet is on Greta. That’s why, inspired by her and by youth, I am amazingly against all odds, defiantly filled with hope.”

That’s what Stephen Lewis, Canada’s former ambassador at the United Nations, said in his speech during the Climate First Tour on Oct. 1 in Montreal.

Alongside Lewis was scientist, broadcaster, author and environmentalist, Dr. David Suzuki. Guest speaker, Ellen Gabriel, a famous Indigenous militant and feminist, also joined the event.

The event was launched a month ago as an opportunity for Suzuki and Lewis to speak directly to Canadians on the importance of climate change. Highlighting the urgency of the problem comes at an opportune time for Canadians to affect change with their votes.

“Our message tonight is that for the sake of the future of our children we must make climate change the top priority for every candidate running for office,” said Suzuki.

Over the last decades, governments and lobby groups have been ignoring and sleeping on the climate situation to advance economic growth, according to Lewis.

“The responsible perfidious government resembling political dinosaurs drunk on fossil fuel, they know exactly what’s required but there is some kind of self-inflicted paralysis,” said Lewis. “They have known for more than 30 years what’s afoot and they are criminally inert.”

Lewis also pointed at energy multinationals that have been sharing disinformation about the reality of climate change, while simultaneously investing $4.5 billion on new oil and gas exploration and development since last year.

The panelists did not cut it short for Canada’s inaction.

“How do you embrace the principles of the Paris Conference on Climate Change and then come home and buying a pipeline?” Lewis asked.

Trudeau’s acquisition of a $4.5 billion pipeline, after campaigning in 2015 on making Canada a leader in the fight against climate change, was harshly reprimanded.

All this state’s hypocrisy was a common theme in the three panelist’s speeches. Gabriel followed with the ongoing reconciliation attempts with Indigenous communities.

“Canada has broken all its promises,” said Gabriel. “Justin Trudeau did not fulfill a single promise to Indigenous people in Canada. He bought pipelines.”

Her testimony denounced a multitude of dangers intertwined with climate change – as simple as maple syrup, which needs cold weather to form, to the deterrence of the wildlife by the tar sands.

Climate change goes against and destroys all principles of the Indigenous tenets. According to these principles, everything in nature is interconnected. From the insect pollinating the root that feeds the animal hunters hunt, climate change is breaking a natural cycle.

But the issue is not only a governmental concern, Gabriel added.

“We are effing up the environment, and we are all responsible for it,” Gabriel said. “It’s up to every single individual in this room and beyond to be the solution to climate change.”

While the march for climate on Sept. 27 was highly honoured during the event, the experts stressed the importance of actively promoting and informing peers on the impact of climate change, especially with federal elections around the corner.

Lewis finished his speech by mentioning a collection of previous attempts at fostering political climate activism and the consequences it would have prevented.

“If we had taken the carbon reduction target seriously, instead of consigning it to oblivion, and had we begun the implementation of all the other interventions, this would be a different planet,” Lewis said. “We would not be discussing self-emulation. We would not have a generation of youth growing up with critical mental health symptoms of ecoanxiety.”

But hidden between reprimands, Lewis shared his hope in the youth movement that could highly influence the Canadian political arena.


Photo courtesy of Climate First Tour


World in Brief

Donald Trump said that peace negotiations with the Taliban were officially dead on Monday. According to the BBC, Trump canceled the hosting of a Taliban delegation after the group admitted to killing a U.S. soldier. The two sides were said to be getting closer to a deal. The talks were aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The Taliban had previously said that the U.S. would “lose the most” if negotiations were canceled.

The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran is installing new centrifuges, trespassing the limits of a nuclear deal. According to the Associated Press, the nuclear deal was meant to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons in exchange for economic incentives. However, the U.S.’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal last year prompted struggle from other signatories to meet Iran’s demands and salvage the treaty.

A typhoon with wind speeds up to 207 km/h killed two and caused travel chaos in Tokyo on Monday, according to the Agence France Presse. More than 30 people were injured and about 2,000 had to take refuge in nearby shelters. The train system and the airport had to shut down their services. Taxis and buses were the only remaining options.


A year of success for ConMUN

The Model UN delegation is already preparing for the upcoming application period

Following an incredibly rewarding semester, the Concordia Model United Nations (ConMUN) is celebrating a number of recent victories and making plans for the future. The organization took home 12 awards at two conferences, including an award for Best Delegation at the 2016 Montreal United Nations Conference.

Throughout the year, ConMUN, the university’s official model United Nations organization participates in a number of simulation competitions, where delegates debate and propose solutions to hypothetical situations involving the United Nations.

Of the 12 Concordia delegates who participated in the Montreal conference in December, seven took home individual awards, including three for Best Delegate in various model UN situations. The Best Delegation award was given to ConMUN as they received the most individual awards out of all participating delegations. The group’s success carried into 2017 with a February victory at McMUN, the McGill University Model United Nations conference.

After three days of conferences that simulated agencies within the UN and various historic events, four ConMUN delegates—Laura Galvez, Eleni Gkesoura, Julien Sinnett and Andrei Bochis—took home awards. Bochis also took home an Outstanding Delegate Award for his participation in a simulation of the Fall of Constantinople. According to Seeba Chaachouh, ConMUN’s VP of marketing social media, this is the first time the organization has received awards from both conferences.

“When the ConMUN delegation attends conferences, we represent the larger Concordia community,” said Julien Sinnett, ConMUN’s vice-president of special projects. “We show everyone in and outside of Montreal, including attendees from high school, CEGEPs and universities, how hard-working we are and our academic propensity.”

While the conferences are just simulations, ConMUN remains focused on real-world solutions. Throughout the fall semester, the delegation participated in a number of charity events, including a Christmas gift drive for homeless Montrealers and a game night event at Concordia’s downtown Hive Café to raise money for UNICEF.

Although the ConMUN delegation is proud of their recent accomplishments and philanthropic efforts, the delegation is already looking ahead to next semester, and focusing on recruiting ambitious and hardworking students to represent Concordia at future conferences.

Throughout the year, ConMUN offers training sessions for students interested in participating in conferences, as well as workshops to help students hone their debating, writing and public speaking skills.

Photo courtesy of ConMUN.

Later this semester, ConMUN will be releasing an application form for students looking to join the delegation. Sinnett explained that, after the initial application, selected applicants will be chosen after participating in two model simulations similar to what would be expected during a conference. However, Sinnett insists that ConMUN is a welcoming organization.

“All are welcome to come to ConMUN…[the organization] is important because [it] teaches people interpersonal skills and discusses important international issues,” Sinnett said.

In the meantime, students interested in joining ConMUN and representing Concordia at upcoming MUN conferences are welcome to attend training sessions from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays between Feb. 27 and March 12.

The sessions offer introductory information in applying to ConMUN, as well as writing and debating practice from seasoned ConMUN delegates. However, attendees are not obligated to apply and are welcome to use the sessions to help them with classes, other student groups or personal growth. The sessions are open to all students, regardless of department.

“We also have social events, including bake sales, where anyone can come and ask our executive team questions,” Sinnett said. Schedules for upcoming events will be available later in the semester, he added.

For more information, interested students can contact the ConMUN executive team at for more information.


Will push come to shove?

Image via Flickr

North Korea is at it again. After a recent United Nations Security Council vote to impose more sanctions, the nation has chosen to end it’s non-aggression pact with its southern neighbour as well as cutting the hotline between the two.

The UN vote comes after North Korea’s third nuclear test last month despite general disapproval from the international community and is set to strike hardest at North Korean diplomats, cash transfers and access to luxury goods.

According to CBC, North Korea’s reaction has been to claim it will retaliate with “crushing strikes” to any intrusion into North Korea, as well as threaten a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States.

North Korea is backing itself into a corner. The international community has already condemned the country for their actions and yet they continue to press forward.

In 2003, the country pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty that was signed by most of the world’s countries. By 2006, North Korea had started testing long-range missiles, a move that the United States called “provocative.” Between then and 2009, North Korea, while it claimed to have stopped testing, threatened on several occasions to restart its testing programs. In April of 2009, North Korea announced the launch of a satellite, which drew criticism from many countries, including the United States. North Korea then announced that any sanctions or pressure applied after the testing would be considered an “act of war.” Three years later, in 2012, North Korea once again disregarded the international community and launched a long-range rocket, which put the satellite successfully into space.

The UN had no choice but to take action against North Korea. After blatantly disregarding the opinion of the international community, putting aggressive sanctions in place is the best way to send a message to North Korea. Even North Korea’s biggest ally, China, voted with of the rest of the UN Security Council unanimously in favour of these sanctions. This is an especially big moment — China is historically against economic sanctions, let alone on a neighbouring country.

However, North Korea seems determined to move forward with their agenda. For them, at least outwardly, this tactic is one of self-preservation. North Korea believes that having nuclear capabilities is the only form of deterrence, especially from larger countries like the United States. The country also declared some of their actions — such as launching a satellite into orbit in December 2012 — as non-violent, peaceful acts.

However, the world is not convinced. As long as North Korea continues to test these advances in nuclear and missile technology, the world will be on constant alert for any sign of a threat from the East Asian country. If this conflict continues to escalate and North Korea doesn’t heed the warnings of the international community, pressure through sanctions will probably continue from the United Nations.

How far is North Korea willing to push this? Are they really prepared to take the actions they claim? Will they be able to withstand the pressure from the majority of the international community?

For now, the UN Security Council is content with passing sanctions against North Korea. However, if Kim Jong-un continues to push the country in this direction, this conflict could reach the point of no return.

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