United States of America
Protests against legislation banning abortion in Alabama and other states
Thousands of people have turned out across America to protest against recent state legislation banning abortion in several states including Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri. The #StopTheBans protests were organised by at least 50 civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL). Protests took place outside law courts, state legislature buildings and main roads across multiple states. Social media identified at least 300 individuals attending a demonstration in Lincoln, New England. Several hundred people, including several leading Democratic politicians, protested outside the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. Other locations for demonstrations include the Massachusetts State House, Iowa, Birmingham, New York and West Hollywood. Participants have been identified holding placards saying: ‘Stop the war on women’ and ‘Keep abortion legal’.
The protests were organised after multiple state legislatures made abortion illegal. In Missouri, lawmakers said abortion is illegal after the first eight weeks of pregnancy. Alabama’s governor signed the most restrictive law making it illegal in all cases, including in the event of rape and incest. Doctors who perform the abortion, as well as those getting it, can face up to 99 years in jail. This is the same punishment as those found guilty of murder or capital crimes. Other states, including Ohio, Louisiana and Kentucky have passed ‘heartbills’ making it illegal to get an abortion once a heartbeat is detected which is around the six-week stage, before women discover they are pregnant. The laws have been passed in what is seen as an attempt by the state legislature to generate a case in the Supreme Court and repeal the infamous 1973 Roe vs Wade decision.
Roe vs Wade is the name of the landmark 1973 case in the Supreme Court in which judges gave women the right to privacy that protected a women’s ability to obtain an abortion. The decision to obtain an abortion must be made after weighing up the threat to the health of the mother versus pre-natal life. The decision effectively ended state interference in the process. The case was brought to the Supreme court following the attempts of a Texan citizen to legally and illegally obtain an abortion. The individual attempted to obtain a legal abortion by stating she was raped but could not prove it so tried to have it done illegally. This failed as the facility had been shut down by the Texan state. The final decision was that Texas’s ban on abortion was unconstitutional.
Solace Global Comment:
The issue of pro-life versus pro-abortion has been debated ever since the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision. State legislators are attempting to get this case sent to the Supreme Court for discussion as the make-up of the justices in the court favours conservative values such as pro-life. The intention of the states is to have the decision repealed or at least amended to make it a state issue instead of a federal law. This would re-give the states the power to decide if citizens are allowed to get the procedure. Pro-abortion groups have declared their intent to continue protesting the issue and forcing the states to repeal the recent laws. Many leading Democratic politicians, including those who have put their names forward for the upcoming presidential elections, have vowed to apply political pressure on the issue in an attempt to repeal the recent decisions.
Unrest has resulted in rioting and fatalities throughout the country
Tensions in Jakarta have subsided following civil unrest over the outcome of the election results which broke out between 21 and 22 May. Public transportation in central Jakarta has largely resumed as a result of the calming of the unrest, and offices have reopened in the capital’s downtown area. Efforts are now underway to clear the debris left over from the riots that occurred on the previous days.
A police spokesman claimed that protesters had dispersed by 07:00 local time on 23 May. Restrictions were placed on the use of social media messaging applications, which will remain in effect until at least 25 May. Police have reported at least 257 arrests and some protesters are alleged to have admitted to accepting payments for engaging in violence ahead of the demonstrations. The authorities even stated that two rioters are alleged to have confessed to pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS). However, it is unclear if this was an effort to discredit the protests by the authorities or if they genuine affiliates of IS.
In total the unrest resulted in the death of eight people and more than 700 injuries. An Australian Broadcasting Corporation news crew also said it was attacked without warning by a mob. Nearly 60,000 security personnel were deployed Thursday 23 May and further security deployments are likely this weekend.
Iran and Palestine
International Quds Day is an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan, 31 May, that was originally initiated by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 to express support for Palestinians and oppose Zionism and Israel. Protests are held across various cities mainly in the Arab and Muslim world against the occupation of East Jerusalem.
Critics of Quds Day argue that it is inherently anti-Semitic. Marches outside of the Muslim world are smaller but have drawn sizable crowds. In London, demonstrations have drawn upwards of 3,000 people, while Berlin saw 1,600 protestors in 2018. Rallies were held in at least 18 cities across the United States in 2017. In Iran, the government sponsors and organizes Quds Day rallies, and these celebrations have had a long tradition of inciting anti-Semitic attacks. Additionally, in Iran, demonstrations against some of the country’s other rivals, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, do also occur.
Quds marches should be avoided; these protests do incite attacks on traditional enemies and elevated levels of violence towards westerners cannot be ruled out.
Rockets hit luxury hotel in Libyan capital
On 24 May, rockets hit a luxury hotel in Tripoli; understood to be the Rixos hotel. The Government of National Accord (GNA) have blamed the attack on the Libyan National Army (LNA) who are currently trying to capture the city. The interior ministry published pictures of the damage to the hotel’s roof. The hotel is understood to be where lawmakers opposing the offensive by LNA troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar have been meeting. Further details remain unconfirmed.
To read more about the ongoing conflict in Libya, and the current impasse in the conflict, please have a look at our conflict report: https://www.solaceglobal.com//report/conflict-analysis-understanding-libyan-impasse/
Theresa May has announced her resignation as the Brexit Impasse continues
British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her resignation as a Conservative leader. The PM will step down on 7 June, allowing time for the Conservative party to decide her replacement. The two-week handover period will mean that May will be the country’s leader when US President Donald Trump makes his state visit at the start of June.
Among the favourites to become the next prime minister are former London Mayor and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is a more hard-line Brexiteer and member of the European Research Group (ERG, a group of hard-line Brexiters chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg who believe in a more hard-line Brexit). Dominic Raab, another prominent Brexiteer and member of the ERG (though his constituency voted remain). Michael Gove, not a member of the ERG but did support leave during the referendum. Graham Brady, member of the ERG (though his constituency strongly voted remain). Jeremy Hunt, voted remain in the referendum, as did his constituents, and has been the foreign secretary since Johnson’s departure from the role. Other possible candidates include Andrea Leadsom, Rory Stewart, Penny Mordaunt and Sajid Javid.
Of course, should an election take place, there is a chance that the next prime minister will not last long, with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party pushing for this eventuality.
At least five killed following an explosion at mosque during Friday prayers
Reports are stating that between two and five people have been killed,- and a further 25 have been injured following an explosion at the Rehmania mosque in Quetta’s Pashtun Abad area during Friday prayers. The area has subsequently been cordoned off by police at the scene and the victims have been transported to the Civil Hospital in Quetta for treatment. There have been no claims of responsibility at this time with a heightened security presence being deployed in the region and at other mosques throughout the country.
Solace Global Comment:
This is the fifth attack in Balochistan since the beginning of Ramadan. Most notably, on 12 May, at least five people lost their lives in a terror attack targeting the Pearl Continental in Gwadar. The region has seen regular violence in recent years with attacks claimed by Baloch separatists, Pakistan Taliban and local affiliates of the so-called Islamic State. Despite the violence, Balochistan is seeing a number of new infrastructure projects erected, including the port at Gwadar, as part of the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, a joint venture between the Pakistani and Chinese governments.
Modi wins re-election
After almost two months of voting, the Indian general elections, regarded as the biggest exercise in democracy worldwide, have been concluded. The results have been announced this week showing a sweeping victory of incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party secured a parliamentary majority of 303 out of the 545 available seats, surpassing its performance of the 2014 elections by 21 seats. The main opposition leader, Raul Gandhi, has admitted defeat after winning only 50 seats and losing majority in his home region of Uttar Pradesh.
For President Modi, however, this has been a historic victory, which will allow him to use the political momentum to push economic reform and reverse controversial regulation. Many, and especially among the Muslim minority consisting of 14 percent of the population, have expressed concerns over Modi’s government moving forward, as he had campaigned on a socially conservative platform that had clear religious lines favouring the Hindu majority, often reaching worrying populist tones. For instance, topics like the slaughter of cows and the end of the “privileges” of the Muslim population in India were central topics in his political platform.
The opposition forces have unified in their accusations against Modi, particularly in damaging the economy with his controversial fiscal policy and the taxation of services and goods, while focusing more on spreading a nationalist and populist sentiment in the country. This is coupled with a rising instability in the region, which has seen growing tensions over Kashmir and deterioration of Indo-Pakistani relations, which are likely to be affected by an increasingly nationalist and pro-Hindu narrative in India.
Continued caution is advised in the coming days and weeks as rallies both in support and against the election results are likely. Additionally, terrorist and militant groups may use the scaling down of security as an opportunity to conduct attacks in the country; especially in unstable regions such as Kashmir.
Cricket World Cup begins 30 May
The Cricket World Cup is set to begin on 30 May. The tournament will be held at ten venues in England and one in Wales. There are 10 teams taking part, including Pakistan, despite calls for the team to be banned following the 2019 Pulwama attack. There is expected to be enhanced security around venues; with special focus on the India v Pakistan match at Old Trafford. This will likely extend to team hotels and buses, given the experience of the Bangladeshi Cricket team’s near miss during the terrorist attack in Christchurch, and the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan.
At this time, matches of note are the opening match between England and South Africa on 30 May. England are set to play Australia on 25 of June and India on 30 June at Lord’s and Edgbaston. India and Pakistan are set to play on 16 June. While the two nations have not held a bilateral Test match since the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, they have played a number of matches since; including in the 2015 World Cup. There have been some calls for India to boycott their match against Pakistan.
The Cricket World Cup team have also put enhanced measures in places to tackle the threat posed by drones. The competition is the first major sporting event in the UK since the disruption caused by drones at Gatwick Airport last December. The shutting down of Gatwick following the sitting of a drone near its runway brought the need to add safeguards against drones. As a result, the security team have conducted analysis into likely areas within reach of each venue where drones could be flown from and have taken significant preventative steps. While the risk is still considered low, Premier League football clubs, cricket venues and others, have been warned about the possibility of a terrorist attack using drones, with experts urging that investment is made.
SIGNIFICANT DATES & EVENTS
|Potential for Unrest
|Saints Cyril and Methodius Day
|Battle of Pichincha Day
|Anniversary of 1810 Revolution
|Iran / Iraq
|Martyrdom of Imam Ali
|Presidential election run-off
|Downfall of Derg (Public Holiday)