ISIS Terrorists Assail Non-Combatants
On Friday, Nov. 16, three teams of terrorists carried out a coordinated attack at six locations in and around Paris leaving 129 civilians dead and 352 wounded, 99 of whom were in critical condition (New York Times, “Three teams of coordinated attackers carried out assault on Paris,” 11.14.15).
All of the attacks occurred within 20 minutes of each other between 9:20 and 9:40 P.M. The terrorists first hit the Stade de France, a soccer stadium, by method of suicide bombing. President Francois Hollande was attending the soccer game, yet was safely evacuated. Another bomb was later detonated near the stadium. Shortly after the first suicide bombing, a group of gunmen opened fire at the restaurants Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge.
The gunmen also attacked the Café Bonne Bière and restaurant La Belle Equipe. A third suicide bombing occurred inside the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant, leaving one person wounded. At the same time of the third suicide bombing, attackers fired into the crowd of concertgoers at Bataclan, a concert hall where a rock concert was being held. The attackers started to round up hostages and had a standoff with the police that lasted almost two hours. Meanwhile, a fourth suicide bombing also took place near Stade de France (New York Times).
Islamic extremist group, ISIS, has since claimed responsibility for the attacks. The mastermind behind the attacks is believed to be Beligan jihadist Abdelhamid Abaaoud (BBC News, “Paris attacks: manhunt for Salah Abdeslam and accomplices,” 11.16.15). French and Belgian security forces are also currently searching for key suspect Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old man from Brussels. Though French authorities have conducted over 160 raids across the country, with 23 arrests and 104 placed under house arrest, Abdeslam remains at large (New York Times, “Call to arms in France amid hunt for Belgian suspect in Paris attacks,” 11.16.15).
One byproduct of the attacks was an initiation of dialogue between leaders of many European countries over the migration crisis facing Europe presently. One of the attackers allegedly got into France posing as a Syrian refugee. Currently, European countries that have free immigration policies for all refugees are starting to reconsider tighter security measures. The EU currently operates under the Schengen accord, which allows for passport-free travel of the 26 signatory countries–but some politicians are proposing setting up strict temporary borders for the sake of national security (The Wall Street Journal, “Paris terror attacks transform debate on Europe’s migration crisis,” 11.16.15).
This attack came just one day after a suicide bombing that killed 40 people in Beirut, Lebanon for which ISIS has since also taken responsibility. This attack on Paris is the most mass violence France has seen since World War II, and heavy bombing raids on ISIS strongholds are expected to continue in retaliation (ABC News, “120 Dead in Paris Attacks, Worst Since WWII,” 11.14.15).
Protesting Mizzou Students Force University President’s Departure
Tensions rose to a boiling point at the University of Missouri after a series of racial incidents on campus concluded with an unprecedented reconstitution of the school’s administration.
The school’s administrators announced in August that they would be eliminating subsidies for graduate students’ healthcare plans and later announced the end of the school’s cooperation with Planned Parenthood (ABC News, “Timeline of recent events at University of Missouri,” 11.10.15), in light of recent controversy surrounding the supposed selling of organ tissue from aborted fetuses. In addition, racially-offensive, anti-gay and transphobic, and anti-Semitic incidences have occurred throughout campus in the past few months.
The students of the university held several rallies and sit-ins in opposition to the administration’s changes and for raising awareness of racism on campus.
The protests were organized by student activist group Concerned Student 1950. The name of the group refers to the year of admission of the first black student. The group created a list of demands of the university administrators, the second of which was the “immediate removal of Tim Wolfe as UM system president” (CNN, “University of Missouri campus protests: ‘This is just a beginning’,” 11.10.15). Students felt that Wolfe was inadequately addressing and handling these issues students of color reported facing regularly on campus among faculty as well as their peers.
Institutionally, the University of Missouri has perpetuated a history of lack of diverse representation of minorities in the administration. Students felt the administration neglected racism on a campus where African-Americans only make up eight percent of the undergraduate student body and three percent of the faculty (CNN).
At one rally, police emerged and threatened with pepper spray demanding to speak to Wolfe (Daily News, “University of Missouri’s chaos on campus,” 11.14.15). On Nov. 2, graduate student and co-founder of Concerned Student 1950 Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. He indicated that he would not eat until Wolfe resigned his post (Los Angeles Times, “Hunger striker gives credit to fellow activists fighting racism at University of Missouri,” 11.10.15).
That same week, athletes on the UM football team announced on social media that they would boycott all team activities, in alliance with Concerned Student 1950’s mission, until adequate action was taken by the university’s leadership. The Legion of Black Collegians, UM’s unreplicated all-black student government, stated that all athletes of color would not participate in any football-related activities until Wolfe resigned his post at the university. (NBC News, “#ConcernedStudent1950: Missouri Football Players Boycott in Protest of President,” 11.08.15).
After months of protests and rallies, Wolfe resigned on Nov. 9, and the Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also stepped down that same day. Butler ended his strike after one week and tweeted, “More change is to come!”
Democratic Elections in Myanmar See High Participation
On Sunday, Nov. 8, Myanmar held its first free general election since 1990. The National League for Democracy Party (NLDP), led by the popular Aung San Suu Kyi, was expected to claim many of the available legislative seats. The party expected to win more than 70 percent of seats in this election.
Results were slowly released by Myanmar’s election commission, resulting in the party’s election to all seats in the lower house of Myanmar’s parliament, and three out of four seats for regional assemblies, suggesting that the NLD party is likely to come out victorious (The Guardian, “Myanmar election: Aung San Suu Kyi’s party heading for decisive victory,” 11.09.15). However, hundreds of results still needed to be announced before the results would become clear. Myanmar citizens were skeptical of whether results would be based on the ballots or if the country’s high level of corruption would influence results.
Myanmar, previously known as Burma, was under rule of a military junta from 1962 to 2011. The generals who ran the country were accused of a number of human rights abuses, including forced relocation of civilians and child labor. In 2011, current president Thein Sein took office after being elected by the Presidential Electoral College, a three-member committee, as part of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (BBC, “Profile: Myanmar President Thein Sein”, 11.10.14). Sein is known to have led a series of reforms in Myanmar since his presidency, including relaxing media censorship and creating peace deals with minority groups.
One of the biggest steps he took was to meet Suu Kyi, the current leader of NLDP, and to bring her party back into the political game. In 1990, the junta allowed for a general, multi-party election and the NLD party (led by Suu Kyi then as well) won by a landslide to the surprise of the military generals. The military annulled the results and placed Suu Kyi and her colleagues under house arrest (CNN, “Myanmar election: Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition NLD wins early seats,” 11.09.15).
While the NLD party was likely to win this historical election, it still took a significant amount of work on Suu Kyi’s part in opposition to the national military’s interests. According to the Constitution, 25 percent of seats in the parliament are reserved for the military, as well as three ministries that oversee the police, army and border affairs.
In addition, even if the NLDP won the majority of seating in parliament, Suu Kyi could not become president. Myanmar’s constitution bans anyone married to a foreign citizen or whose children are foreigners from becoming president. Suu Kyi is thus ineligible because she is married to a British citizen and has two children with him (New York Times, “Myanmar’s people joyful in voting, even with final results days away,” 11.08.15).
Despite general skepticism on surrounding the legitimacy of the election, around 32 million people were registered to vote. While they do not have direct say in who will become the next president (this will be determined by the parliament early next year), citizens are elated to finally have some influence on their country’s politics.
—Shelia Hu, Guest Reporter