Burkina Faso paratroopers participate in an annual counterterrorism exercise in Thies, Senegal, Feb. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Cheikh A.T Sy).

State security forces in Burkina Faso summarily executed 31 unarmed people in the northern town of Djibo earlier this month, just hours after they were taken into custody, according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch. It described the killings as a “brutal mockery of a counterterrorism operation that may amount to a war crime.” The victims were suspected of collaborating with jihadist groups that have been operating in the area. Shocking as the massacre may be, it is by no means an anomaly in northern Burkina Faso and the neighboring region of central Mali, which have become epicenters […]

French police officers patrol a street during a nationwide lockdown to counter COVID-19, Paris, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

The violent protests in Paris’ banlieues this week, after an incident of police brutality, are a clear indication of the social tensions fueled by France’s strict national lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Neither the violence by police nor the riots come as any surprise, given the history of both in the suburban ghettos surrounding France’s major cities, where much of its immigrant and immigrant-origin population lives. But the tensions between France’s overstretched security forces and its population extend beyond the banlieues. Combined with popular dissatisfaction over French President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the pandemic, they risk making Macron […]

Asylum-seekers wearing masks attend a mandatory immigration court hearing in El Paso, Texas, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Cedar Attanasio).

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has complained that on immigration, the United States has “the worst laws of any country in the world,” which constrain his anti-immigrant agenda at the border with Mexico. He hasn’t been able to convince Congress to change those laws, or even to pay for a wall along the southern border, even after instigating the longest government shutdown in history just to pressure Congress. Trump’s administration has instead sought to chip away at immigration statutes and bend them almost to their breaking point, in order to make it harder for all immigrants, but primarily asylum-seekers, to […]

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Before the coronavirus struck China, the people of Hong Kong had launched a massive push to protect the territory’s partial independence from Beijing. Giant protests had filled Hong Kong’s streets for months last year, as pro-democracy activists inspired millions of residents to join in the demonstrations. But suddenly, everything changed. The outbreak started in Wuhan, then China shut down and the world followed suit. The coronavirus crisis seemed to do for the Chinese regime what months of threats and intimidation had failed to: halt the protests in Hong Kong. Now, with the rest of the world distracted and China reopening […]

Police test facial recognition technology in London, Dec. 17, 2018 (Photo by Kirsty O’Connor for Press Association via AP Images).

The growing prevalence of facial recognition technology in authoritarian countries like Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which use it to monitor activists and suppress dissent, has raised increasing alarm among human rights advocates. Perhaps the most egregious example is in China, where the government has used facial recognition technology to racially profile Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that is concentrated in Xinjiang province, and forcibly lock them up in internment camps. But authoritarian countries are not alone: This technology is now being harnessed for law enforcement and surveillance purposes in many democracies. Last month, for example, India’s government […]

Former pro-democracy lawmaker Martin Lee, second right, leaves a police station in Hong Kong, April 18, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Hong Kong police arrested 15 prominent pro-democracy activists on charges of illegal assembly last weekend, the biggest crackdown on the territory’s protest movement since anti-government demonstrations erupted last year. Among the detained was 81-year-old Martin Lee, a major architect of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement who helped found the Democratic Party, the third-largest party in the Legislative Council. Lee is often called the “Father of Democracy” in Hong Kong and helped draft the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Enacted in […]

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

MONTREAL—On Feb. 10, Karla Tait was arrested in northern British Columbia while participating in a ceremony along the path of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline project to honor missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police accused Tait and other members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation of violating an injunction preventing them from blocking construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The project passes through an area where members of the Unist’ot’en clan, a sub-group of the Wet’suwet’en peoples, have set up a traditional healing center and camp to reclaim their ancestral lands and protest the pipeline’s construction. The road […]

Soldiers distribute food to people who cannot leave their homes during the coronavirus lockdown in Quito, Ecuador, April 2, 2020 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, has emerged as Latin America’s epicenter in the COVID-19 pandemic. Though smaller in scale than the staggering outbreak in New York City, Guayaquil’s is no less devastating. Its 2.7 million inhabitants are enduring many of the same, wicked challenges that New Yorkers have been facing: a surge in confirmed cases, overwhelmed hospitals and mortuaries, and a national government that is trying to look like it is handling the crisis. Yet one thing is quite different: Guayas, the province surrounding Guayaquil, has been placed under military jurisdiction. To respond to the spread of the virus, […]

A police officer wearing a face mask at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, April 8, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The dusty border town of Taftan in western Pakistan is a frequent stopover for religious pilgrims. Many members of the country’s Shiite minority pass through it en route to visit holy sites in neighboring Iran. But after Iran emerged as one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus, the Pakistani government set up a quarantine camp in Taftan to prevent further movement, inadvertently turning the town into an epicenter for the spread of COVID-19. Testing in the camp is sporadic at best, while health facilities are abysmal. Many pilgrims reportedly paid bribes to escape back into Pakistan, and as […]

A subway passenger holds up a green code on their phone, which allows a person to travel freely, in Wuhan, China, April 1, 2020 (AP photo by Olivia Zhang).

Editor’s Note: You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. In a video uploaded to Twitter on March 16, Carol Yin talked through a white face mask as she explained to the camera what it was like to travel in a country that has turned cell phones into weapons to fight COVID-19. Yin, a Shanghai-based podcaster, described her trip to the nearby city of Wuxi, outside Shanghai, shedding light on how integral a phone’s location data has become […]

A member of the Kenya Youth Service wearing a cloth face mask, in Nairobi, Kenya, April 3, 2020 (AP photo by John Muchucha).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent More than half of Africa’s 54 countries are restricting people’s movements in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, with regulations ranging from evening curfews to the total lockdowns that have been imposed in South Africa, Rwanda and, as of this week, the Seychelles. As those constraints expand, so are concerns about the violation of rights, including the violent tactics being used to enforce some of the new rules. In Kenya, where the government introduced sweeping restrictions on movement in late […]

Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard outside a mosque as police clear a protest site as part of virus-containment measures, in New Delhi, India, March 24, 2020 (AP photo by Altaf Qadri).

Shortly after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December, the Chinese Communist Party faced a PR problem. Its attempt to cover-up the public health crisis had sparked fervent criticism from journalists, foreign governments, international organizations and, more worryingly, from Chinese citizens themselves. Once the authorities in Beijing responded to the outbreak by shutting down Wuhan and its surrounding province, the party had to rebrand. A chief part of that effort was to declare that, in the battle against the coronavirus, its authoritarian government had proved that it could manage a […]

Volunteers provide soap and water for people to wash their hands in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 15, 2020 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Governments across Africa are taking drastic steps to try and slow the spread of the coronavirus, from implementing strict curfews to releasing prisoners from overcrowded jails. This week, Ethiopia became the first African country to postpone an election over concerns that holding the vote would worsen the pandemic. Its highly anticipated general election is now delayed indefinitely. The vote, which was scheduled for August, is seen as a critical referendum on the reformist agenda that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed introduced when he […]