The World Today for September 21, 2023

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NEED TO KNOW

Scattered and Scarred

ERITREA

Recently, the Israeli government appropriated $7.85 million to “encourage the voluntary repatriation of infiltrators” and repair any damage they may have caused.

“The distress of the residents of the neighborhoods that are saturated with infiltrators is a problem for all of us,” said Yitzhak Wasserlauf, the Negev, Galilee and national resilience minister in a government press release. “Like many problems, it receives exposure only when it breaks through the immediate cycle of victims and bursts into the public sphere.”

The identities and origins of the infiltrators were never named. But Wasserlauf was clearly referring to violent riots that erupted earlier this month between Eritreans in Israel, injuring more than 100 people.

As the Associated Press explained, the unrest broke out on the 30th anniversary of Isaias Afwerki becoming president of Eritrea. The president’s supporters were holding a celebration to mark the day in Tel Aviv when they clashed with critics of Afwerki, whose government has never held elections, never established a judicial system, banned political parties, and pursued one of the worst human rights records in the world.

In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to expel African immigrants from the country, reported Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, Eritrean officials claimed that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, fomented the violence, added i24 News.

These contretemps aren’t isolated to Israel. Throughout the Eritrean diaspora around the world, fights abound.

In Canada, Sweden, and the US, Eritreans have butted heads at Eritrean events that celebrate Afwerki, the Guardian wrote. Organizers said the festivals and other happenings are cultural. The president’s detractors counter that they are actually designed to strengthen the regime and intimidate those who have fled the East African country as asylum seekers or economic migrants.

Since Afwerki led Eritrea’s secession from Ethiopia in 1991, he has ruled the country like a “one-man dictatorship,” according to Human Rights Watch. Among his nefarious policies are endless military conscription and forced labor. Eritreans serving in the country’s military, furthermore, regularly experience “inhuman treatment, sexual violence, and torture,” wrote InfoMigrants.

Hopes for Eritrea were high after independence, recounted London South Bank University professor of refugee studies Gaim Kibreab. After all, Afwerki was seen as a resistance hero then. Many observers were excited to see a country that could learn from the mistakes of Africa’s past – kleptocracy, indebtedness, illiberalism, military aggression – and flourish. Yet Afwerki’s political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, has repeated each of those sins.

The scars run so deep, they still hurt thousands of miles away.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Déjà Vu

ARMENIA/ AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijan and Armenian forces agreed to a ceasefire Wednesday following two days of fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, an area that has been the source of long-standing conflict between the two nations, the Associated Press reported.

The ceasefire came after the Azerbaijani government launched an “anti-terrorist operation” in the Armenian-populated enclave inside Azerbaijan earlier this week. Azerbaijan accused neighboring Armenia of smuggling weapons into the territory, planting landmines, and engaging in sabotage.

Armenian officials denied the allegations, with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan countering that Azerbaijan’s main goal was to involve Armenia in the hostilities.

By Wednesday night, the death toll had reached at least 200, including 10 civilians, and more than 400 injured, the office of the Ombudsman in the Armenian-controlled territory said, according to CNN.

Following the truce announcement, Pashinyan noted a significant decrease in hostilities. Azerbaijani authorities also confirmed they had ceased military operations.

However, it remains unclear if fighting has completely stopped.

The ceasefire agreement calls for the withdrawal of Armenian military units and equipment from Nagorno-Karabakh and the disarmament of local defense forces. Pashinyan said his government didn’t take part in discussing or negotiating the deal, but “has taken note” of the decision made by the region’s separatist authorities.

The recent flare-up has raised concerns about another full-scale war in the region. The two countries have been locked in a struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most recent conflict ended in 2020 with a Russian-brokered truce that saw Armenia cede swathes of territory it had controlled since the 1990s.

Talks are scheduled Thursday between Azerbaijani officials and Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian authorities regarding its reintegration into Azerbaijan.

During the conflict, protests erupted in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, with demonstrators demanding the protection of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. More demonstrations are expected to take place in Armenia, according to the Guardian.

Opening Up

CUBA

Cuba’s entrepreneurs will be able to open bank accounts in the United States and access their money remotely, part of a series of measures by the US government aimed at supporting the expansion of the private sector in the Caribbean country, the Miami Herald reported.

The Biden administration will announce these and other new regulations this week aimed at helping Cuban entrepreneurs in Cuba import essential goods, such as food and medicine, more easily.

Currently, Cubans visiting the US can open bank accounts but can’t access their money back home because of the long-standing embargo. That embargo originally targeted the Cuban government, but has also affected private entrepreneurs who must find costly ways to pay for imports.

The new measures will also permit the provision of internet services, such as video-conferencing and cloud-based services, which were previously restricted. This change is expected to benefit Cuban software developers and potentially enable access to Google and Apple app stores.

Some of the changes also include the reversal of a Trump-era measure that prohibited US banks from processing transactions involving Cuba and banks in third countries.

The new policy comes as Cuba’s private sector has been expanding significantly over the past two years. Private businesses, including small and medium-sized firms, have grown dramatically and are on track to import more goods than the government itself.

Cuban officials also estimate that the private sector now employs more workers than state enterprises.

Even so, the changes will include restrictions on doing business with entities owned by the Cuban government and military. Private Cuban companies with owners listed on the Treasury’s “prohibited officials of the government of Cuba” will not benefit from these new rules.

Despite these changes, analysts said the success of these measures will depend on how clearly they define the responsibilities of US banks and companies, as well as the willingness of these entities to engage with Cuba’s private sector, given the country’s designated status as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Doubling Down

IRAN

Iran’s parliament passed a bill Wednesday that will toughen already strict penalties for women flouting the compulsory wearing of the Islamic headscarf, despite months-long protests against the dress code, and criticism of the measure from both inside and outside the country, Radio Free Europe reported.

The draft law will grant powers to various intelligence agencies, police, paramilitary forces, and religious authorities to take action against women who do not adhere to the legal dress code.

According to the bill, women who violate the mandatory hijab law could face severe penalties, such as fines and imprisonment for up to 10 years.

The upcoming legislation also penalizes individuals who insult the hijab, promote immodesty or engage in activities that encourage these behaviors. Punishments include fines, travel bans and Internet activity restrictions.

At the same time, it calls for stricter gender segregation in various public spaces, including universities, administrative centers, and parks.

The compulsory hijab rule for women was instituted in 1981, triggering protests that were quickly suppressed by authorities. Many women have resisted the rule over the years.

Lawmakers passed the bill on Sep. 20, four days after the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in the custody of Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaking the hijab rules.

Her death ignited widespread protests against the rule that saw tens of thousands of people demonstrate against Iran’s ruling clerics.

The government launched a crackdown against protesters and the recent bill reflects a tougher stance advocated by some officials and religious figures.

Despite signs of the protests waning, analysts cautioned that resistance to the hijab will continue, with many Iranians seeing the religious garment as a symbol of state repression.

DISCOVERIES

Beyond The Nose

Dogs and wolves don’t just rely on their super noses to sniff out hidden food, according to a new study.

A research team discovered that canines are able to find secret treats by simply observing where a human hid them, Popular Science reported.

Their experiments involved nine timber wolves and eight mutts. Researchers assessed each animal’s ability to spot four, six, or eight caches of food, after either seeing a human hiding the food or without seeing the action at all.

Both dogs and wolves uncovered the first five food caches faster and with less effort when they watched a human hide them. The findings also showed that the wolves performed better than their domesticated relatives, regardless of whether they saw the food being hidden.

The team explained that the study shows evidence that the canine species are capable of a form of social learning known as observational spatial memory. This means that an animal is able to remember when another creature has hidden its food and then snatch it.

The findings suggest that the canine species didn’t necessarily rely solely on their olfactory senses, but also their memory.

The authors noted that even though wolves were better at finding the hidden cache, their performance is not tied to having a different observational spatial memory than dogs.

Rather, it’s related to other traits, such as persistence and food-related motivation.

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