Abortion rights activists protest outside the Constitutional Court where judges review a lawsuit that seeks to decriminalize abortion in Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 20, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Across the Americas, abortion rights appear to be heading in very different directions. Looking solely at the U.S., the recent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggests that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling—which established a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions—could soon be overturned. If so, it would be a symptom of a general assault on reproductive rights as well as civil rights more broadly. However, looking further south, a different story emerges. Throughout Latin America, feminist movements are winning major victories on abortion rights, and their lessons are instructive: Organizing matters, but so […]

Protesters chant slogans while burning representations of Israeli flags during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, May 15, 2021 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

Remember that astroturf conference back in September 2021, when a group of Iraqis gathered in Erbil supposedly to promote the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel? No sooner had the conference concluded than most of the participants quickly disavowed it. Many claimed they had been misled about the purpose of the gathering, which was purportedly convened to discuss Iraqi reconciliation—not Israel. Some of the participants were threatened with prosecution under Iraq’s 1969 law against normalization of ties with Israel, although none has been formally charged. Shortly after the conference was held, I warned in this newsletter that it was mostly a stunt that distracted […]

A university student attends a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017 (AP photo).

Since early May, Iran has been rocked by protests over a precipitous rise in food prices, triggered by the government’s decision to cut existing subsidies on food products. Since then, prices have gone up dramatically, with staples such as imported wheat increasing by up to 300 percent and cooking oil by close to 400 percent. Within a matter of days, protests that sprang up almost simultaneously in the north, east and center of Iran had spread across the country, eventually reaching the capital, Tehran, where bus drivers went on strike. The rising price of food products are yet another blow […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via remote feed during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, April 5, 2022 (AP Photo/John Minchillo).

How should one think about the future of the global order and international organizations against the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine? The war has highlighted the limitations of multilateral security institutions at both the global and European levels, as Moscow has blocked or ignored calls from the United Nations and other bodies to cease the hostilities. While some observers believe these organizations are as a result doomed to irrelevance, others have argued that the crisis creates an opportunity to revitalize them. There has been a lot of talk, for example, of changes to the U.N. Charter to stop Russia from using […]

People hold a banner showing Col. Assimi Goita, leader of the junta running Mali, as they demonstrate to show support for the junta in the capital Bamako, Mali, Sept. 8, 2020 (AP photo).

In May 2021, Mali suffered its second coup in the space of a year, both of which were perpetrated by the same group of colonels. While the first coup, in August 2020, followed a recognizable script of quickly standing up a civilian-led transitional government with the task of guiding the country to democratic elections, the second has upended that “business-as-usual” approach to post-coup transitions. As such, for Mali and for West African democracy in general, it represents a real turning point, revealing the coup-makers’ combination of shrewdness and ambition—a combination that is already being replicated by military juntas that have […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping leads other top officials pledging their vows to the party during a gala show ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, June 28, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

China is gearing up for the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party to be held later this year, where, according to the consensus view, President Xi Jinping’s historic bid for a third term as the party’s general secretary is all but assured. But for many clear-eyed observers, including inside China, an unprecedented third term for Xi is hardly a cause for celebration. Under his rule, China’s assertive foreign policy has alienated foreign governments and trade partners, while its economy is faltering under the weight of Beijing’s “zero COVID” coronavirus policy. Over the duration of Xi’s tenure, dissenting voices […]

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah speaks during a conference at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Editor’s note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. The United States’ partners in the Middle East continue to enjoy impunity when it comes to Washington’s responses to their human rights abuses. Witness the ease with which Saudi Arabia escaped accountability for the murder in 2018 of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist who lived in exile in the […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, March 25, 2022, in Jasionka, Poland (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Ukraine wasn’t supposed to stand much of a chance in a military conflict with Russia. It was outgunned and outmanned. In the first months of 2022, as the threat of an invasion loomed, the Russian military was expected to quickly and decisively defeat its much weaker neighbor with ease. Many experts were asking not if Russia could win the coming war, but how far its ambitions stretched within and beyond Ukraine. But as the war grinds on for a fourth month, Ukraine has defied expectations. With external assistance, its military has been able to force Russia’s troops to pull back […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leads a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 17, 2022 (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service photo via AP).

Reliable and accurate data are supposed to be the bedrock of the global health governance system. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is demonstrating just how difficult it is to collect such information, and why this failure has so many consequences for national and international responses to infectious disease outbreaks. Let’s use North Korea as an example. How many cases of COVID-19 have there been in the so-called Hermit Kingdom? If you ask North Korean government officials, the answer prior to the middle of May 2022 was zero—despite reports in the South Korean press that nearly 200 North Korean soldiers had died of the disease as early […]

Migrants arrive in Lesbos, Greece, in a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel, February 28, 2020 (AP photo by Michael Varaklas).

Earlier this month, Journalists Without Borders’ annual World Press Freedom Index placed Greece last among European Union countries for press freedom, citing a number of challenges faced by journalists in the country. The index suggests that Greece is a country in which democratic norms are in serious crisis. Journalists covering refugee pushbacks—in which Greek security forces illegally expel refugees and migrants that have reached Greek territory and waters—have had their phones tapped without explanation; others were monitored with spyware by the Greek authorities without any justification from the government. Meanwhile, a new law, which according to the government was passed to combat COVID-19 disinformation, makes it an offense for citizens […]

President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea-Bissau arrives for a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Nov. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved Guinea-Bissau’s parliament this week and called for snap parliamentary elections to be held at the end of the year, in the latest twist to a long-running political crisis in the country. In a televised address to the nation, Sissoco cited “persistent and unresolvable differences” with parliament as the main reason for his decision. He also accused lawmakers of corruption and embezzlement, saying that several parliamentarians had “turned the people's national assembly into a place of political guerrilla warfare and conspiracy.” Sissoco’s party, MADEM-G15, currently holds a minority of legislative seats; the historically dominant and former ruling African […]

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni attends the state funeral of former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by John Muchucha).

Last month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, celebrated his 48th birthday with a series of public parties. The events were widely viewed as the thinly veiled launch of a political project that would see Muhoozi succeed his father. The move follows years of similar, albeit more subtle, maneuvers—particularly Muhoozi’s rapid rise through the ranks of the country’s military; the apparent purge of potential contenders within the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party; increased public appearances; and, more recently, his flurry of meetings with various diplomats and heads of state. It is not yet clear what is prompting the apparent acceleration of the […]

Judith Andeka, a worker in the informal economy, returns to her house in the Kibera informal settlement, Nairobi, Kenya (AP photo by Brian Inganga).

Kenya’s largest trade union federation hailed an executive order issued earlier this month by President Uhuru Kenyatta that increased the monthly minimum wage by 12 percent. The Central Organization of Trade Unions called the directive “a great win for Kenyans” during a period of economic hardship brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, high inflation and a rise in fuel prices. Kenyatta made the announcement during a Labor Day celebration on May 1, saying that higher wages would cushion workers against the erosion of their purchasing power and enhance Kenya’s economic productivity. He further described the increase as “an appreciation to workers for […]

A supporter of John Lee, Hong Kong’s chief executive-elect, holds a copy of Lee’s election manifesto during a 2022 chief executive electoral campaign in Hong Kong, April 29, 2022 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

John Lee, Hong Kong’s former security chief, was confirmed as the city’s next chief executive with 99 percent of the votes from last Sunday’s election. Lee, a career police officer who rose to the highest echelons of the Hong Kong government ran unopposed in what critics call a “political farce.” As a hardliner approved by pro-China elites to carry out the orders of Beijing, Lee is expected to continue the assaults on political freedoms and civil liberties that have progressively eliminated space for dissent in Hong Kong, threatening its reputation as an international hub for commerce. Sunday’s polls marked the first chief executive “elections” […]

Demining experts search for mines in Kohsan district of Herat province, northwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, April 3, 2010 (AP photo by Reza Shirmohammadi).

On the morning of April 1, seven children were playing in the lush wheat fields of Afghanistan’s Marjah district, in the southern Helmand province, by tossing around a metal object. Moments later, it exploded. The blast claimed five of their lives, including the youngest in the group, a 5-year-old boy. “My daughter has not only lost her three sons, but also her senses,” Haji Abdul Salam, a 55-year-old farmer who lost two children and three grandchildren in the explosion, tells me at his home while attending to visitors there for the funeral. “She neither sleeps nor eats.” But Salam is […]

A sign at a rally for Ukraine at the White House shows Russian President Vladimir Putin in prison and calls for him to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (NurPhoto by Allison Bailey via AP).

Terrible stories are emerging from Ukraine about the mass rape of civilian women by Russian soldiers. Among the most notorious reports is one involving a group of teenage girls who were held captive in a basement in Bucha. Nine of them are now pregnant after multiple gang rapes. According to Ukraine’s ombudsman for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova, “Russian soldiers told [the victims] they would rape them to the point where they wouldn’t want sexual contact with any man, to prevent them from having Ukrainian children.” Currently, these are reports from officials of a nation at war, and must therefore be verified by independent […]

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Reserve, May 4, 2022 in Washington (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

It’s a widely acknowledged truth that when the United States’ economy sneezes, many countries catch a cold. And so it is with this week’s interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve in Washington, whose efforts to contain inflation in the U.S. are sure to create new problems for already battered economies and families in less affluent countries. The move will unintentionally pile onto the multiple, interconnected crises and growing challenges already facing developing countries. As I noted a few weeks ago, Russia’s war on Ukraine is sending economic, and therefore political, shockwaves across the planet, from Peru to Sri Lanka. Now comes the […]