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Summer summary

Tamara Hopewell-Barreda brings you up to date with what has been happening in the last few months

Ferguson shooting

The shooting of an unarmed teenager Michael Brown by an armed police officer, Darren Wilson, led to demonstrations and riots in Ferguson, a neighbourhood on the edge of St Louis. The incident sparked social unrest in Ferguson, pictured above, as residents questioned the power of the police and saw race as a primary factor.

The unrest was later inflamed by the way in which the police handled the situation, from their handling of Brown’s memorial, which was crushed by police vehicles, to their handling of protests which consumed Ferguson for over two weeks. The nation has been polarised by the incident, but whatever either side’s views on race and policing, the result was peaceful demonstrations during the day and nights filled with tear gas and rubber bullets. The protests stopped on 25 August at the request of Brown’s family to enable funeral proceedings to occur peacefully.

Ferguson had its first public meeting since the shooting on Tuesday 9 September, exactly a month after Brown’s death. The elected leaders were met with anger as protesters stood up with their arms raised, a reference to the incident as witnesses claim that Michael Brown held his hands up as he was shot. Although the protests have died down the federal enquiry into Brown’s death continues as well as an investigation by Ferguson’s Police Department into discrimination.

 

Ebola outbreak spreads through West Africa

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976, however, the outbreak in West Africa, first detected in March 2014, is the deadliest since its discovery. Ebola is extremely dangerous as it is highly infectious as it spreads through the contact of bodily fluids. With no known cure, the virus is currently killing six out of 10 victims, with a total of over 1,500 deaths since March. Worryingly, there has also been an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has claimed 59 lives and is believed to be separate to the outbreak in West Africa. As epidemiologists map its spread, there is a fear that it will not be possible to contain the disease for 18 months, in which time it could claim thousands of lives.

As the virus continues to spread many are calling for Western governments to support the fight against Ebola. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian president, has asked for US help in tackling the virus. In an attempt to curb Ebola, a slum was quarantined in the densely populated Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. This led to food shortages, riots and unfortunately seems to have had little impact on the spread of the virus.

The medical crisis faced by Western Africa could also have political and social consequences. Sierra Leone and Liberia are both still recovering from brutal civil wars, which ended in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Both countries are amongst the poorest in the world and it is unclear how they will recover from this crisis.

Situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as of 4 September 2014:

Image Credit: Brian Groen

 

Malaysian flight MH17

On 17 July 2014 the Malaysian flight MH17 on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur disappeared from radar whilst it was flying above an eastern region of Ukraine. It is presumed that it was shot down as it passed over the conflict hit zone, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

Although it is widely agreed that MH17 was shot at from the ground, it is unclear whom it was shot down by. Many western nations say that there is growing evidence of the rebels, armed with Russian supplied weapons, being responsible. However, Russia is claiming no part in the crash, and is instead blaming the tragedy on Ukrainian government forces.

The preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board explains the route of the objects that hit the plane, ruling out other possible causes for the crash such as technical fault. The investigators have been unable to go to the site itself, as their security cannot be guaranteed, meaning that they cannot speculate on the nature and origin of the objects. The initial report was released four days after a ceasefire was called on 5 September 2014. This initial report has raised many questions particularly as sanctions are to come into affect against Russia once the EU assesses the implementation of the ceasefire, the final report is not due to be ready until July 2015 leaving many questions simply unanswered.

 

Who are Isis?

The Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant were originally an al-Qaeda group solely in Iraq known as ISI: the Islamic state of Iraq. With the intensification of war in Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISI’s leader, sought to expand the influence ISI has over Jabhat al-Nusra, the main jihadi group in the Syrian war. By directly expanding the operations of ISI into Syria and influencing more control over Jabhat al-Nusra, Baghdadi formed Isis in April 2013. Leading Muslims in Britain have called on David Cameron and the media to stop using the words ‘Islamic state’ as it gives them credibility whilst slurring the Islamic faith.

However Isis turned out to be too extreme for Jabhat al-Nusra and the differences in ideologies and strategies led to fighting between the two for land. Although Isis did lose ground to Jabhat al-Nusra, they currently control the territory from the edge of Aleppo in Syria to Fallujah in western Iraq, as well as Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Isis has demonstrated its ruthlessness in the areas under its control in Syria; forms of punishment it has used include crucifixion, beheadings and amputations.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, ordered Isis to kill fewer civilians in Syria and to leave Syria altogether and return to Iraq. Isis publicly ignored such orders and requests which lead to the split of the two in February 2014. They are now competing for influence over Islamist groups but it is thought that Isis will become more influential than al-Qaeda in the future.

 

Gaza crisis

Image credit: محمد الفلسطيني, taken on a mobile just East of Gaza city during violence, 18 July 2014

The death of three Israeli boys on 10 June 2014 sparked seven weeks of violence between Israel and Gaza-based militant groups. The very night that the bodies were found Israel began a bombing campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza. Just days after the Israeli boys had been found Muhammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian, was found dead near his Jerusalem home. Many saw this as revenge by Jewish extremists and the violence spiralled.

After 50 days of fighting with more than 2,000 people killed, most of which were civilians, both sides agreed to a month long ceasefire on 26 August. Ceasefires of a few hours or days had been called previously, but they had all either been broken or fighting had continued whilst it was still in effect or after their expiry. So far the ceasefire has proved durable although there are still issues that need to be discussed between both countries.

The fighting sparked debates around the world, particularly on acts carried out by Israel against Gaza. Two high-profile incidents that sparked controversy and outrage were the Israeli strike at Gaza’s port, which killed four children, and the shelling of a UN school that housed displaced civilians, both are now part of criminal investigations. Mahmoud Abbas, Palestine’s president, has threatened to take Israel to The Hague, adding to the pressure that Israel is facing. Although Hamas claimed a victory it is estimated that it will take 10 years for Gaza to recover from this summer’s violence.

 

Featured Image credit: SCGNews

Summer summary Reviewed by on September 26, 2014 .

Tamara Hopewell-Barreda brings you up to date with what has been happening in the last few months

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