World News Politics Race The World Policy Inequality

Canada continues to violate the rights of Indigenous people

 Earlier this month, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir informed the world the remains of 215 children had been found near the city of Kamloops in southern British Columbia. Each child found had attended Kamloops Indian Residential School. This is just the beginning of the story: thousands of children died in residential schools and their bodies were not returned home. The entire country is in shock, and the image of Canada as a multicultural, accepting society has been torn. We are now able to see the true fabric of the country: a state that was founded upon settler colonialism, and its history which continues to seep through everyday interactions.

Indigenous people have the right to self-determination, and the state of Canada instead chooses to honor its tradition of genocide and strangle many rights of Indigenous people – regardless of the International community recognizing the plight of Indigenous people. Article three of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People states, “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

 Canada’s Indian Act itself coddles violence: upon its foundation in 1856, discrimination became law. Section 14 of the legislation banned potlatches along with other ceremonies such as sun dances. The explicit policy of discrimination continues to reign supreme in the country. The living conditions of Indigenous people are determined by the Indian Act-the reserve band system designates Canada as an apartheid state. Apartheid is defined as a policy of discrimination based on segregation or different laws for different people. It continues to remain an integral component of Canadian legislation:  Indigenous people live in a divergent world, far removed from other Canadians.

Reserves are littered with poverty: a study by Upstream Institute determines that 53 percent of children who reside on reserves are living in poverty. This affects a majority of Indigenous peoples: almost half of Indigenous adults and children live on reserves. Crowded housing and poor infrastructure on allocated land cause health problems and contribute to social crises. Tuberculosis, bronchitis, and influenza are dominant on reserves. Poor housing conditions have led Indigenous children to their death: studies have shown Indigenous people are 10 times more likely to die in fires than non-Indigenous Canadians.

Housing is also scarce: it is estimated between 35,000 and 85,000 new houses are needed on reserves. The atrocities do not end with housing- Indigenous children are neglected in their most critical years. Indigenous children often do not finish high school. A study by C.D. Howe Institute of Indigenous people in their early 20s found that only 48 percent finished high school compared to more than 90 percent of non-Indigenous Canadians. Canada nurtures apartheid through the band-reserve system and controlling identity.

The Canadian government promotes cruelty toward the first people of this land through various means: one form of this savagery takes the shape of identity control. The state of Canada determines Indigeneity. The government continues to employ a registry system to decide who has legal status as an Indigenous person rather than allowing diverse groups of  Indigenous people in the country to discuss identity amongst themselves.

 Canada must recognize the wrongs done in the name of colonialism. And how apartheid continues to fester in the country. The Indian Act discriminates against Indigenous peoples and continues to promote segregation, and it must be abolished. Self– determination must prevail, and Indigenous people have the right to govern their own affairs. Honoring the treaty rights of Indigenous people is an important stepping stone to independence: oil pipelines cannot invade Indigenous territory. Indigenous people must be empowered through their own communities and support systems. Indigenous people are the youngest and fastest-growing population in Canada and I am confident the future will see change.

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Editor's Picks World News Middle East and North Africa Politics The World

Here’s what you need to know about the violence against Palestinians this week

Sheikh Jarrah and Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City were sites of Israeli violence against Palestinians this Thursday. Al Jazeera’s Linah Alsaafin retweeted this video showing Israeli settlers disrupting Palestinians’ Iftar meal (the meal with which they break their fast every day during Ramadan) using pepper spray. The violence escalated until Israeli police arrived and arrested 15 people – all of whom were Palestinians.

The conflict was the result of growing tensions between the two parties over Israeli settlers threatening to forcibly evacuate several Palestinian families from their homes. These families have been undergoing a lengthy legal battle with the settlers who have been trying to acquire property in the region for a while.

Sheikh Jarrah Dispute

The disputed neighborhood was occupied by Jordan in the 1950s, just after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Jordan made a deal with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that allowed displaced Palestinian families to settle into houses in Sheikh Jarrah for three years, after which they would become the owners of the houses. In exchange, the families had to renounce their refugee status. In the 1970s and ’80s, Israeli officials contested this agreement and maintained that the land was illegally taken from them by Jordan and that the Palestinian residents were not legal owners. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Israeli officials and the residents had to start paying rent. Evictions started taking place in 2008, with the families being forced out of their homes one by one.

Fast-forward to February this year, the Israeli district court rejected an appeal from the families and gave them an order to leave the neighborhood and their homes by May 2, 2021. This ruling was postponed and another petition has been filed with the Supreme Court, and the ruling is set to happen on Monday. Israel maintains that Palestinians are escalating the conflict and that the Israeli police are only keeping order.

Violence at Al Aqsa Mosque

On Friday, hundreds of worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque, which is not too far from Sheikh Jarrah, were confronted by Israeli police in riot gear. The situation quickly escalated into violence the police used stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets to disperse the crowd, and the worshippers threw chairs, shoes, and other objects at the police. According to The Associated Press, it is unclear what started the violence, but it resulted in nearly 200 Palestinians being injured. The site of Al Aqsa mosque is no stranger to conflict. Not only is it one of the holiest sites of worship for Muslims, but it is also an extremely important Jewish site known as Temple Mount, where they believe the Biblical Temples stood. It has been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian tension for many years and has been the center of previous Palestinian uprisings. Protests about the Sheikh Jarrah conflict have been continuing in the region, and what happened on Friday was another escalation of the ongoing tension.

Social Media Censorship

Palestinians have accused social media companies of censoring them in matters related to Sheikh Jarrah and the Al Aqsa Mosque clashes. Palestinians and activists have been uploading updates and photos of the protests at Sheikh Jarrah for days under the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah, both in Arabic and English. But now they are saying that their accounts have been deactivated, or that they are not allowed to use this hashtag anymore on some platforms.

This is not a new story either. In 2016, Israel’s justice minister at the time, Ayelet Shaked, said that Google, Facebook, and Youtube would comply with 95% of Israel’s requests to delete content that, according to the government, incites Palestinian violence.

More Conflicts Expected

It is expected that there will be more violence in the coming days. Sunday night is a night of religious significance for Muslims as it marks an important night during the holy month of Ramadan. It also marks the beginning of Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates its annexation of East Jerusalem. The Monday verdict about the evacuation of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah is expected to add to the general hostility as well.

States censoring dissenting content is a tale as old as time, and social media companies have been notorious in the past for implementing these crackdowns. There are some accounts you can follow on different social media, which are amplifying Palestinian voices and stories. The following Instagram accounts are of members of the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah that are directly affected right now. You can follow and share their updates.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by محمد الكرد (@mohammedelkurd)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kokym | كوكيم (@kokym7)

The hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah is being used across social media platforms to show support for Palestinians right now. The IMEU is a nonprofit organization that works to bring Palestinian stories to the world and has resources that have information about Sheikh Jarrah and the history of the Israeli occupation. You can follow them on Twitter and Instagram. It’s important to remember that your voice is powerful, and you can do a lot by using it.


World News The World

Can you detect bias in the news when you consume it?

The NewsRun is a daily email newsletter that delivers smart, clear and digestible breakdowns of Pakistan’s top news straight to your inbox. Check out their website to learn more and subscribe – it’s free! 

Factual, timely and unbiased these are the top three qualities most readers seek when opting for a news source or publication. While it’s fairly easy to assess how quickly and accurately media outlets report on the news cycle, it is much harder to gauge if the news source is also objective and without any bias. 

Some news organizations and media personalities have clear political and social leanings which in turn affects their reportage and the lens through which they frame their stories. As long as they are transparent with their viewers about their ideologies, a reader/viewer can make a clear conscious choice of engaging with their content and inevitably forming their own opinion on key issues.

However, according to the News Literacy Project, news bias is usually “incidental and debatable rather than intentional and overt,” meaning news organizations are trying NOT to be biased in their news reporting, (with the exception of opinion and commentary pieces.)

So then how does bias slip into reporting and how can we better train ourselves to recognize it as readers? Don’t worry, there are a few ways to do that.

The first step towards countering bias is recognizing it

Newsrooms fall prey to bias when the coverage is partisan i.e. think news anchors going out of their way to malign or defend certain political leaders or parties. Similarly, reportage can also fall prey to bias in demographics when stories from a certain class, sect or ethnicity is prioritized over others. Lack of diversity within the newsroom can also lead to certain opinions enjoying more leverage than others.

For example, minority groups such as transgenders are often seen through a victim lens because there isn’t enough community representation in newsrooms to tell their own stories accurately and with agency. Hence, when choosing news outlets, look for those that have a healthy balance of women, people of color and minorities in their workforce.

Lastly, when corporate ownership and interests clash with editorial guidelines, it creates room for bias towards certain interests. For example, sensational political content that drives profits might enjoy more airtime than purpose-driven meaningful journalism.

Yes, even as readers – we should always question things

While explicit bias, which manifests itself in tone, use of certain language and visuals is easy to recognize – as smart news readers we also need to train ourselves to recognize the more subtle biases that often affect news coverage and invariably shape our opinions. To be more mindful of these biases, here are a few quick questions you should ask yourself when reading/watching a news story that evokes a strong emotional reaction: 

Who are the sources reporting this? 

Beware of publications that don’t cite their sources transparently and over rely on the same people/institutions for perspective

Example: This piece in the Tennessean is a great example of recommendations from editorial by transparently citing the sources of all their data and research

Does the headline match the story?

If the headline is overtly sensationalized and not consistent with the story, it indicates a click-bait bias from the publisher where they are willing to compromise on the integrity of the story to drive up numbers

Example:  UK publication Daily Express ran the following headline “Air pollution now leading cause of lung cancer.”  The article, however, said no such thing, or, rather, not exactly. Instead, it reported that pollution was a leading environmental cause while other causes, like smoking, are still the main drivers

Is there a lack of diversity in the narrative? 

If there is not enough diverse representation in the story, it is highly likely that it is being portrayed through a selective lens and hence, carries some implicit bias

Example: Most Pakistani news outlets reporting on Afghan refugees fail to report on the community beyond the security/geopolitical angle since reporting and research mostly does not include sources and scholars from the region itself

Is there a lack of context?

Seek news outlets that provide complete background information, historical context and factual evidence to establish their narrative. Publications that put in that kind of work do so as a sign of respect to their readers and their right to acquire all the necessary facts to form an opinion

Example: This NYT headline on the famous Meghan Markle-Oprah interview spotlights her comment on suicide while failing to frame it through the race relations angle that was the underlying cause of Markle’s depression and poor treatment by the royals.

Is coverage and placement of stories holistic? 

If a news publication only commits its key slots or placements to certain types of stories, it indicates a bias towards overreporting on some issues while neglecting others. For example, even in times of political turmoil, it is critical that “softer” stories about health, education, civic empowerment etc also get their fair share of coverage 

Example: The failure of most leading international news organizations to frontline the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Yemen shows a bias where human suffering in conflicted parts of the world becomes routine and not considered front-page worthy especially if it extends over long periods of time.

Objectivity is a lifelong process…

Once you develop a good bias radar in news coverage, seek out outlets that are transparent about their editorial choices, sources and decisions and are open to feedback from readers. Try not to over rely on a single publication or media personality for all your information. And last but not the least, engage with news organizations and give them feedback on stories you find useful and informative.

Remember, recognizing and unlearning bias is a lifelong process for both publishers and readers – and open, transparent communication on both ends can raise the bar for storytelling as a whole.

This guest post is a part of The Tempest’s collaboration with The NewsRun. For the next month, we are working together to encourage mindful and smart news consumption.

World News Europe The World

After a year of economic struggles, Italians are tired of suffering

As the first country after China to be infected, Italy has endured the pandemic’s emotional and economic hardships the longest, and the hardest. As of 1:28 pm (17:28 GMT) on May 5, 2021, the country has confirmed 4,070,400 cases and suffered 122,005 deaths. The first nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 9, 2020, and as cases exceeded 12,000, all bars, restaurants, and other nonessential businesses closed their doors. Since then, the country experienced eased restrictions during the summer as many regions became orange or yellow zones (medium to moderate risk). But once Christmas rolled around, former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte again imposed internal travel restrictions, curfews, and quarantine measures that lasted from December 4 to January 15

As the country passed its one-year anniversary of the initial lockdowns last month, restaurants and other nonessential businesses were again shut down nationwide for Easter. When it was announced that it would be extended for the whole month of April due to rising cases, suffering business owners took to the streets. 

For two consecutive weeks on April 6 and April 12, protestors clashed with police in front of the Palazzo Montecitorio in Rome, demanding that Parliament ease restrictions and allow businesses to reopen. Signs reading “Io Apro” (“I Open”) rippled over the crowds (open restaurants COVID-free). Many marched toward the Prime Minister’s office, chanting “Freedom!” and “Libertà!”, but were stopped by police. According to Italian news source ANSA, far-right group Casa Pound joined the crowd in the same way they did in the first week of demonstrations. That’s where things got violent. 

Smoke flares, stones, and other objects were hurled at police as they tried to restrain the crowd. The last time Casa Pound infiltrated a demonstration, it ended with the arrest of seven protesters and an injured police officer who was taken to the hospital. Many who protest extended lockdowns fear that the government will have too much control and that it is up to the people to take the economy into their own hands. 

[Image description: Protesters clash with police in Rome on April 6, 2021.] Via U.S. News & World Report
[Image description: Protesters clash with police in Rome on April 6, 2021.] Via U.S. News & World Report
What is Casa Pound?

Casa Pound, who takes its name from Mussolini-supporter and poet Ezra Pound, is Italy’s far-right militant group closely tied with the neo-fascist political party, Forza Nuova. Casa Pound openly glorifies the policies of fascists dictators and communists Che Guevara and Karl Marx (which doesn’t make sense, if you think about it: a fascist group supporting famous communists?). 

Founded in 1997, Forza Nuova’s policies are anti-gay, anti-immigration, nationalist, and ultra-conservative. The party’s controversial, hate-speech signs and billboards shocked many across the country, and to this day, the group has low support nationwide but is very loud. 

What is the political situation in Italy?

The violent protests in Rome, not the first demonstrations since Italy’s series of lockdowns, reflect the country’s political turmoil as a result of the pandemic. In January, Giuseppe Conte handed President Sergio Mattarella his resignation after the small party Italia Viva withdrew support from Conte’s coalition in Parliament. The withdrawal resulted from disputed COVID relief funds and left Conte’s coalition in the minority. 

Many saw this as the beginning of the end for Conte. Wolfgang Piccoli, co-president of consultancy firm Teneo, said in a note obtained by CNBC that Conte resigned “to ensure his own political survival.”

Conte ended up surviving: he won the confidence vote in the Senate. However, he stood firm in his decision to resign so he could take the helm in rebuilding the collapsed 5 Star Movement

What does this have to do with lockdown protests?

Despite receiving approval ratings as high as nearly 60% during his leadership, Conte’s resignation could not have come at a worse time. The after-effects of political turmoil, followed by the economic frustration of a devastating pandemic, manifested in fed-up people on the streets of the capital. 

Fortunately, the new Prime Minister Mario Draghi, former President of the European Central Bank, eased the restrictions on April 26, bringing back yellow zones so nonessential businesses could resume operations and restaurants could welcome diners alla fresca. This is earlier than the prediction made by Health Minister Roberto Sperneza, who had previously told ANSA that he saw restrictions being eased as late as May.  

At last, there seems to be cause for hope. Is this a result of the protests? 

Of course, with eased restrictions comes the stringent monitoring of mask compliance and social distancing, but as a country whose economy diminished by 9% in 2020, it will certainly be worth it. The downside to this is that not every business owner can adapt to lockdown restrictions so easily, nor can they bounce back from money lost. 

“I had to spend €10,000 to adapt the pizzeria so that it was in accord with virus safety precautions, then the government made us close down,” pizzeria owner Ermes Ferrari told the Corriere della Sera newspaper, obtained by VOA News. “It’s shameful. I have no more money left. My employees don’t have money to eat.”

Leaders make their political maneuvers while frustration only builds. While the tension may ease due to Draghi’s positive news about the lockdown, Italians are getting whiplash from the constant shutdowns, reopenings, and more shutdowns. For that matter, much of Italy’s population has yet to be vaccinated. Unlike the U.S. and the U.K., vaccine rollouts in Italy and the rest of the EU have crept at a snail’s pace. In fact, supplies are so lacking that the European Commission is suing pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over failing to provide the number of doses the EU contracted them to deliver (despite a clause in their contract stating they can’t be sued over delayed deliveries). 

Tensions between the company and the EU have been going on since June when the EU sent a formal notice to AstraZeneca after it didn’t deliver 90 million doses. By the end of the year’s second quarter, the company is projected to deliver approximately 70 million doses, when it was contracted by the EU to deliver 300 million. The lawsuit has not been supported by all members of the EU, such as Germany and France, for a variety of reasons. One of them is that there is no guarantee that AstraZeneca will deliver more doses just because they are sued. Another reason is that once sued, the company’s image will likely be tainted and therefore cripple the public’s trust in the vaccine. Despite obtaining 1.8 billion Pfizer vaccines through 2023, the EU has been frustrated with a low number of vaccine rollouts overall and points to AstraZeneca as part of the blame.

Draghi announced a goal of administering 500,000 vaccinations a day for the whole month of April. As of May 5, 21.6 million out of 60 million Italians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with only about 6.5 million being fully vaccinated. This mostly accounts for the elderly and healthcare professionals, leaving much of the rest of the country waiting for their turn. 

Without inoculations, what assurance do business owners have that another lockdown doesn’t loom on the horizon? Without widespread vaccinations, hope seems even farther out of reach for people who only want to take back control of their lives. 

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World News Media Watch Education The World

World Press Freedom Day reminds us that information is a right not a privilege

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day. Since 1993, global journalists have used World Press Freedom Day to discuss and implement solutions to emerging challenges to press freedom and journalists’ safety. This year’s theme is “Information as a Public Good,” a fitting reminder considering the state of our world and its increasingly negative view of news media.

Media distrust is on the rise. However, there is a stark difference between journalism and broadcast media commentary. The latter is usually what people are criticizing when they voice skepticism of the news. For example, the article you’re reading now isn’t journalism. While I will be disseminating information—specifically why the dissemination of information is important to global society—the message will be constructed from analysis and opinion.

The internet has muddied how people find, digest, and communicate news, mostly because anyone can pass their thoughts, analysis, and opinions online as fact. While this does have its merits, namely in calling out certain publications for spreading lies, hate, or half-truths, it shouldn’t downplay the importance of journalism and reporting.

Take a moment and imagine a world without news. If there was an emergency, how would your community become aware? Sure, word of mouth is powerful, but can it reach an entire community quickly in order to mobilize the masses? And will the information be accurate? Say the emergency in question is a fire. While one person could have told you there was a wildfire, another person (Sokka) could have told you Combustion Man (a.k.a. Sparky Sparky Boom Man) was detonating large explosions throughout your suburb. While both pieces of information do communicate the need for evacuation, there is an obvious factual flaw, which could affect how people respond to the emergency.

Many ancient global societies realized the importance of both efficiency and accuracy when it came to spreading information. As early as 206 BC, China used palace reports or imperial bulletins known as dibao to make official announcements and inform people of the latest news. In the Greek agora and Roman Forums, spoken news was complemented by daily handwritten sheets that included information on politics, the military, and executions.

Today, the news keeps many communities abreast of important events. Censorship, however, continues to prevent journalists from helping spread crucial information. While news consumption surged at the start of the pandemic last year, global governments restricted and discredited news media as “fake news,” especially after many journalists exposed the failings of governmental responses and regulations to COVID-19.

Media censorship regularly occurs, with stories edited for reasons like length, privacy, national security, or simply to protect news companies from corporate, political, or advertiser fallout. However, the fact remains news media is crucial to the circulation of information, and information should be a right that all people have access to.

But the pandemic also exacerbated the problem of the closing of news media outlets. Many publications shut down last year, and 37,000 news company workers were laid off, furloughed, or had their pay reduced. How can we continue to protect information as a public good without news media and journalism?

One way is through World Press Freedom Day, which reminds many of us that journalism is as important as ever. Local reporters and journalists are often the reason why headlines are picked up by national news companies. Such was the case for the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Both stories were first reported on by local news publications like The Brunswick News and Kentucky’s Courier-Journal before The New York Times, CNN, and more covered the stories.

Local newspapers are also important because they provide timely, relevant information to communities around the world. In the words of NBC’s Matt Laslo, “independent, close-to-home reporting has always—and will always—be a life-giving resource to communities because information is foundational to modern life.” For communities like mine, this has meant keeping my neighbors and me apprised of news on approaching wildfires, air quality, quarantine guidelines, vaccine availability, and more. This is but one of the reasons why the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is so important.

“The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, ‘Information as a Public Good,’ underlines the indisputable importance of verified and reliable information. It calls attention to the essential role of free and professional journalists in producing and disseminating this information, by tackling misinformation and other harmful content,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

To celebrate World Press Freedom Day this year, I suggest applying the old adage of “think globally, act locally” to our efforts. Support your local news media outlets and other organizations working on the ground in your neighborhoods. It may not seem like much, but small actions do lead to big changes—and both are what is needed to continue to protect the sanctity of information as a public good.

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Editor's Picks World News Coronavirus Action Guide South Asia The World

India is gasping for breath as the second Covid-19 wave hits the country

On the eve of 14th April 2021, in a small town in India, a very close family member of mine tested positive for COVID-19. The events that followed left a devastating scar on our family. Aged 67, my mom’s aunt kept fighting for her life till her last breath. As soon as she was tested positive, she needed to be admitted into the hospital, but there were no beds available across the city. It took one whole day to find a hospital bed in a government hospital. It took another day to find a bed with ventilator support.

On the morning of 18th April 2021, she passed away. Her daughter, also tested positive, was admitted in a private hospital on the opposite side of the city, completely unaware of her mother’s death. In between, her distressed husband was desperately trying to procure a dose of Remdesivir injection while tending to the needs of his family who were fighting for their life.

This is the story of countless Indians who are experiencing the devastating second wave of COVID-19. As of 28th April 2021, India is recording the highest number (379,308) of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases and the highest number (3645) of daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths. There is a major shortage of oxygen supply and hospital beds. The healthcare system is coming to a collapse and the medical staff is being pushed to their limits. There is a sense of panic and extreme grief across India.

[Image description: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amidst the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. ] via REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
[Image description: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amidst the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. ] via REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
“I work in a private medical college and a 500 bed hospital. During the first wave, the hospital had allocated 250 beds (5 wards) to the COVID-19 patients. Now, the second wave has seen an influx of 300+ patients everyday. From 250 beds, our hospital has now dedicated all of the wards including 5 ICUs towards fighting COVID.” said Dr. Avijit Misra, a medical intern at Bharati Hospital and Medical College Pune when I spoke to him. “Government hospitals are also full. There is an increase in makeshift hospitals by the government which has helped a lot, but it is still not enough”, he added.

How did it become so bad?

The government of India had one year to prepare for a catastrophe like this. Ever since the start of the pandemic, the government was supposed to set up 150 oxygen plants but only started bidding for it after 8 months of delay. As of April, only 33 out of the 162 government-sanctioned oxygen plants are functioning.

Along with the shortage of oxygen supply, the transportation of the oxygen from the factories to the patients is a big hurdle that is contributing towards the crisis. India cannot ensure 24/7 road supply of oxygen due to the shortage of cryogenic oxygen tankers. The travel time for the transportation of the oxygen from the factories to the patients has increased from 3-5 business days to 6-8 business days, and the duration is much longer for the remote and rural parts of India.

This comes after a claim made by the National Executive of BJP (the ruling party) in February that the battle against Covid-19 has been triumphantly won. While praising the leadership, the party declared “with pride” that India has “not only defeated Covid-19 under the able, sensitive, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, but also infused in all its citizens the confidence to build an ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat ‘(Self -reliant India)’.”

After the declaration, mass gatherings and crowd events became a normalcy. Events such as election rallies and religious events were sanctioned by the government. The rallies and the religious events were seen as an attempt by the ruling party to please and secure its vote bank, as their policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions. The government led by PM Narendra Modi, has also been constantly downplaying the extent of the crisis and shutting down voices which have been instrumental in raising awareness and providing help to those affected.

[Image description: Amit Shah at an election rally] via Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
[Image description: Amit Shah at an election rally] via via Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The price is being paid by the common man

While patients are affected on one side, helpless relatives running around in search of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and medications are also being forced to put themselves at risk. Families are being admitted to the hospital together but not all of them are going back home healthy and recovered.

The medical costs are only increasing. A middle-class person cannot afford a bed in a private hospital. Those who can, are being charged Rs. 15 thousand – Rs. 20 thousand ($2011 – $2682) just for the bed. The injections, oxygen cylinders and medication prescribed by the doctors are also in short supply and are being sold at 10 times the price in black markets.

[Image description: Table showing the comparison of prices of COVID-19 medications and oxygen cylinders in India] via BBC
[Image description: Table showing the comparison of prices of COVID-19 medications and oxygen cylinders in India] via BBC
People coming from rural parts of India to bigger cities to get help are being turned back. Families are fighting in the hospitals for bed space. “Phrases such as ‘my patient is younger than yours. At least, give them a chance to live’ can be heard across India,” said Dr. Misra.

In the midst of this tragedy, it is easy to feel helpless right now, but there are ways in which we can help:

1. Amplify

The best thing you can do right now is to use your influence to amplify and share the SOS alerts from those in need on your socials. One share can help save a life.

Instagram accounts to follow that are spreading awareness and amplifying SOS alerts:


Websites & Google Docs:

2. Donate

There are a number of organizations that have come forward and directly purchased resources for the front-line workers, donated supplies, or helped amplify the needs of vulnerable patients. Here are a few:

Local Agencies:

  • Ketto (Mission Oxygen- Helping Hospitals Save Lives) – You can donate to their efforts directly on their website
  • Hemkunt Foundation – Oxygen Suppliers. Donate here 
  • Khalsa Aid – Donate here
  • Milaap – Individual crowdfunding website. Donate here
  • Youth Feed India x Helping Hands Charitable Trust – Food Packages. Donate here
  • Care India – PPE Kits. Donate here

International Agencies:

  • United Nations agencies (UNICEF and WHO). Donate here
  • American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin – Oxygen Machines. Donate here
  • Care India – PPE Kits. Donate here
  • The Association for India’s Development – Protective equipment and food packages. Donate here

As I look back, I think that my family members were among the luckier ones to have at least gotten a hospital bed and oxygen support. We don’t know when this calamity will end. The road to the finish line looks too far ahead. The battle against COVID-19 continues with our healthcare workers on the front line. We cannot be spectators anymore. We need to step in and help those in need. 

In retrospect, the second wave of COVID-19 did push India to become Atma Nirbhar

World News The Environment Action Guide Africa The World

Here’s how you can help those impacted by the Cape Town fire

At the start of this week, firefighters in Cape Town, South Africa, contained a wildfire more than 24 hours after it broke out along Table Mountain. The fire is already being described as one of Cape Town’s worst blazes in recent years.

The fire began near Rhodes Memorial, spread to the Vredehoek area in City Bowl, and ended up at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Four helicopters and 250 city and volunteer firefighters worked to contain the flames through Sunday and into Monday. In the aftermath, South African National Parks estimated that 650 hectares of wildland and vegetation were destroyed across Table Mountain National Park.

Much of the park is home to fire-prone vegetation. In 2015, this vegetation contributed to a four-day wildfire that burned through 15,000 acres of land around Cape Town. In recent years, ecologists have urged national park officials to conduct more frequent prescribed burns in order to ensure flammable vegetation isn’t accumulating. However, residents who live along the foothills of Table Mountain have pushed back against prescribed burns because of the possibility of the destruction of their homes.

As high winds and dry conditions are exacerbated by climate change and hotter temperatures, Cape Town authorities are continuing to monitor the area for flareups. Thus far, firefighters have dealt with sporadic flareups in the Deer Park area, but have scaled back their resources since the fire has been contained. Parts of the Table Mountain National Park remain closed for safety and post-fire sensitivity purposes.

In addition to land, eleven structures, including six university buildings and the historical Mostert’s Mill, were damaged or destroyed. Across social media, people took to their feeds to raise awareness of what was razed in the fire’s path. The University of Cape Town’s famous, 200-year-old library and Jagger Reading Room were some of the landmarks caught in the fire.

“Some of our valuable collections have been lost,” UCT libraries director Ujala Satgoor said in a statement. “However, a full assessment can only be done once the building has been declared safe and we can enter the building.”

One valuable collection of note is an expansive African Studies collection consisting of 65,000 volumes, 26,000 pamphlets, 3,000 African films, and 20,000 other audiovisual items. Some works were incredibly rare, while others date back as far as the 1500s.

“An African continent, which has suffered several series of conquests, has been struggling to reconstruct its own history and particularly that which is documented,” historian and political analyst Somadoda Fikeni told TV news broadcaster Newzroom Afrika. “Therefore, any special collection that is frail, no longer available, or no longer printed very often tends to be priceless in terms of its heritage value and in terms of the knowledge project.”

While fires on Table Mountain are common, this is the first time the university was affected by flames. Residents based along the slopes of Table Mountain, including the suburb of Vredehoek, the three residential buildings of Disa Park, and 4,000 university students, were evacuated to local hotels on Monday. By Thursday, residents began returning to their homes and UCT students departed emergency accommodation sites, with temporary accommodation sites set up on-campus for those whose residence halls were deemed unsafe due to fire damage.  

Already, an outpouring of relief has begun to help firefighters and those affected, impacted, and evacuated. If you’re interested in helping, here are a few action items:

Protect yourself.

Stay indoors and encourage your friends, family, and pets to stay inside, too.

As you shelter in place, shut all windows and doors to keep any smoke out. This will protect your lungs and ensure there is breathable air.

In addition, be sure to stay informed by making sure you will be alerted if conditions worsen or if there are more needs in your community.

Consider opening up your home.

If it’s possible, provide shelter and homemade meals to those who were evacuated. Volunteering is also a way to help rebuild and respond to your community’s needs.


Water, food, energy bars, and eye drops can be donated to your local fire station. Cape Town-based nonprofits such as the Gift of the Givers Foundation, South African Red Cross Society, and the Volunteer Wildlife Service are accepting monetary donations and encouraging locals to donate blankets, clothes, and old furniture to homeless shelters and to those who have lost their homes. Animal shelters are also accepting pet beds, food, and kennels for those displaced by the fires.

With this wildfire causing insurmountable damage in Cape Town, it will be interesting to see if residents change their minds about prescribed burns. Many ecosystems benefit from controlled fires as they help to maintain the health of habitats by reducing extra vegetation and encouraging new growth.

As climate change continues to alter ecosystems, now is the time to demand action from leaders and implement strategies to protect the well-being of ourselves and the environment.

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World News The World

Here’s everything 2021 has – and hasn’t – promised us so far

2020 has been one heck of a rollercoaster for all of us. As much as we like the phrase ‘New year, new me’ to be true, the reality is that 2021 will take on some of the challenges from the previous year and will expose us to new hurdles as we move ahead (And in some ways, the year has already proved to be as chaotic as its predecessor).

Here is everything we have predicted that will take up most of the news space all over the world:

1. Battle over the vaccines

2020 was the year when all everyone hoped, prayed, and wanted for was to get rid of the pandemic. Or at least develop a vaccine as a safety precaution.  As the vaccines for COVID-19 start rolling out all across the world, 2021 is going to be a year focused on which countries get the vaccine first and in how much quantity.

A coalition of international organizations, warn that 90% of people in 67 low income countries will not receive vaccinations against COVID-19 in 2021. The People’s Vaccine Alliance argue that this is due to rich countries purchasing the vaccine for their populations, disrupting the global distribution patterns.

The global distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is far from equal

2. Adjusting to the new world order

Economies all over the world are struggling to bounce back from the after effects of the pandemic. The road to recovery is not too smooth because 2020 has been the first year in decades that the world has collectively faced a pause to businesses.

At the same time, the world took a much needed pause that the human race otherwise was not ready for. On the bright side of the pandemic, people have had moments of self reflection and simple pleasures. We have also gotten an opportunity to take rapid action on climate change by investing more in green recovery initiatives by different governments all across the globe and cutting down on our carbon footprint as individuals.

3. Survival of the fittest

With the United States of America getting a new president in the face of Joe Biden, along with Kamala Harris as vice president, it will be interesting to see how and where this term starts off, making further changes or taking U-turns on the already patchy relationships established under the Trump presidency. All eyes are on the new president elect as he takes over office tomorrow. Will we see the US becoming a signatory to the Paris Climate Change treaty again? What about the Iran Nuclear deal? What’s the relationship with China going to look like? Democrats aim for America to be fitter and smarter under the Biden/Harris term, unlike Trump whose only agenda was to ‘make America great again’.

4. All eyes on streaming

With studios moving to streaming, what is the future of the movie industry?

5. Recovering together

In 2020, the world collectively suffered while each country dealt with issues of its own. COVID-19 might have taken most of the news space but, the truth is that it did not help in hiding social upheavals in many parts of the world. The number of countries rated extreme risk in the Civil Unrest Index has jumped from 12 in 2019 to 20 by early 2020. Countries dropping into this category include Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Sudan, meanwhile, has overtaken Yemen to become the highest risk country globally.

India gathered a lot of media attention by the end of 2020 during the protests being staged by farmers in Delhi. Human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and the use of indiscriminate violence, pose a risk to the protesters. The use of violence, in turn, radicalizes protesters, provokes violent responses and ultimately fuels further unrest which is likely to continue in 2021.

Unlike other new years that we have experienced or celebrated, 2021 started off with a sense of weariness. The year already feels one that the collectively will call as the year of healing or recovery or the one after the pandemic. We already know how we need to cope up with the troubles that 2020 brought along. So, even with the new variant of the coronavirus, and yet another display of white supremacy, for some reason, it already feels like, ‘been there, done that’ or ‘bring it on’. After all, what can be worse than 2020?


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USA World News Tech The World

The 2020 cybersecurity attack that we’re still dealing with

Despite being one of the biggest political issues of the past year, there hasn’t been a lot of clarity or coverage on the 2020 cybersecurity attack. The what—? you say. Yes, the past year has been marked by a pandemic, US elections, climate disasters, and general chaos—but a major event still unfolding into 2021 is perhaps the most concerning cybersecurity breach in years. The most concerning? Why haven’t I heard much about this? 

It doesn’t help that even those at the center of these discussions are still trying to find out exactly what happened. Right now, the baseline looks something like this: Government agencies, think tanks, NGOs, and companies around the world have been breached in what may be the biggest espionage attack in years. 

And yet, news coverage and press outlets have resulted in an alphabet soup that looks something like this: cybersecurity, hacks, SolarWind, Russia, NSA, Microsoft, US, governments, pandemic, technology, etc. 

Let’s start from the beginning.

As early as March 2020, but possibly earlier, hackers breached computer agencies around the world. There are different ways to “hack” a system. In this case, malware—software that had been tampered with—was added to an update from SolarWinds, an IT management and monitoring company based in Austin, Texas. So when the clients of SolarWinds received a typical software update—on the back of that update was malware, piggybacking in. 

You might not be familiar with SolarWinds but a lot of really important people and organizations are, including government agencies. SolarWinds is a software company for IT and network management, and its products are widely used around the world. As a result, the hack has affected NGOs, think tanks, IT agencies, and at least six different US government departments. It even breached cybersecurity firm FireEye and tech companies like Microsoft

While the US is the target for 80 percent of the hacks, it is not the only country affected. In fact, seven other countries have also been identified as targets: Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, United Kingdom, Israel, and the UAE. SolarWinds has since reported that approximately 18,000 of their clients—government agencies, companies, and individuals—had malware installed. 

This specific malware created a “backdoor” for additional software to be added, which then monitored emails and internal data of SolarWinds’ clients. This gathered the information and data from agencies, organizations, and companies. Plain and simple espionage.

Of course, the root of the problem is a little less simple. According to US officials and cybersecurity experts, Russia’s foreign intelligence service SVR is responsible for the hack. According to the Associated Press, the White House had prepared a statement identifying Russia as the responsible party but was told to stand down as President Donald Trump dismissed the concern and suggested that China was responsible instead, to everyone’s confusion. In turn, Russia’s SVR has denied responsibility.

The scope of this cybersecurity attack is still unfolding, but it is becoming more obvious that many of the threats governments face today are based online. These attacks may seem to only exist on the Internet, but they have serious consequences for data and information. Moreover, US President-elect Joe Biden has stated that in office, he will pursue “substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks.”

As of now, it’s unclear what those costs will look like or how Biden will respond to these types of attacks when he is in office, but it forces us to seriously reconsider cybersecurity attacks as dangerous as physical, material attacks.  Another event like this will not just affect the online information and data, but may also reshape our political landscape.


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World News South Asia The World Inequality

The Hazara Community has been suffering for years, yet no one comes to their aid

If there’s anything the first few days of 2021 have reaffirmed for us, it’s that being part of any minority group in any country puts one at double the risk of unjustified prejudice. Just now, we’ve witnessed white supremacy on the steps of Capitol Hill in the United States, with pro-Trump rioters all but casually being let into the building to loot and wreak havoc. The ease with which these domestic terrorists practically walked in, knowing their white privilege will see little to no repercussions for their actions, was startling. Especially in stark contrast to police brutality and the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that took place last year, where people were attacked, arrested and even killed for fighting for their right to live.

Allow me to redirect your attention to other side of the world. Towards the Hazara Community of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Hazaras – Afghanistan's oppressed minority | Morning Star
[Image Description: a group of Hazara women wearing brightly coloured headscarves smiling at the camera] Source: Morning Star
Hazaras are a Persian speaking ethnic minority from the Hazaragi region of Afghanistan and the third largest ethnic group of the country. They have Turkic and Mongol roots, with notable East Asian ancestry. Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs. 

Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs.

The existence of a strange binary has led to a growing divide between not just the major religions, but also various sects within one religion; one “right” set of religious beliefs to be followed, while all other “wrong” ones to be eradicated. This binary has overpowered many Sunni Muslims’ (usually those in extremist groups) outlook on things; a sense of righteousness trumping any shred of humanity when they believe eradicating Shi’a Muslims, Ahmedis, Qadianis and the like is the equivalent of eradicating the “wrong” from their society. Never mind that this mindless eradication is something even Islam does not condone.

The Hazaras have been one of the most persecuted minority groups in Afghanistan since the 1890s, during which 60% of their population had been eradicated. Half of the Hazaras were driven out of their villages due to the killings, and forced to migrate to other countries due to the injustice and poverty they had to suffer. There are large groups of Hazaras residing in Pakistan, Iran and various parts of Europe, Australia and Canada. The Hazara community residing in Pakistan, about 900,000 people, had immigrated to the country for better opportunities. Most of them reside in the Balochistan province, where they work in labor jobs and coal mines in order to support themselves and their families.

Religious and sectarian violence and prejudice run rampant in Pakistan, with Hindus and Christians residing in the country constantly being on the receiving end of it. Shi’a-Sunni clashes are sadly a common occurrence in the country, with thousands of Shi’as being killed by extremist groups and mobs since 2008, according to the Human Rights Watch. Even the country’s politics have long stood to serve Sunni Islam over the other sects, with the Pakistani Legislative Assembly (PLA) passing the Protection of Foundation of Islam bill last year, which states Sunnism as the only acceptable form of Islam. This was followed by over 42 blasphemy cases being registered against Shi’as in Pakistan, one of them being on a 3 year old child.

It’s a clear example of state politics enable behaviour towards and against other groups by favouring one.

On Sunday, 3rd January, 11 Hazara coal miners were kidnapped and brutally murdered by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) in the Mach area of Balochistan. One family related to five of the deceased say they no longer have any male relative to even attend funeral prayers and take bodies for burial.

Hazaras continue protest on 5th day, refuse to bury slain miners despite PM's request - Pakistan - DAWN.COM
[Image Description: A group of Hazara men sitting in front of coffins, with a picture of one of the deceased miners visible.] Source:
Sadly, this is only the latest incident to happen in the cold-blooded persecution of Hazara people, which has been going on for years. Militant groups have attacked and killed large groups of Hazara Shi’as traveling in vans or buses, at processions and weddings, and have bombed Hazara mosques over the last two decades. Even children of the Hazara Community are not spared.

The outcry against the Hazara genocide is loud, with hashtags like #StopHazaraGenocide, #HazaraShiasWantJustice and #HazaraKoJeenayDo (Let Hazaras Live) being on the forefront of twitter trends. GoFundMe pages, non-profits, and initiatives such as The Grief Directory and Imamia Medics International are working to raise money and awareness for those affected by such acts of terrorism.

The real question is: when will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

When will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

It has been six days since the murders of the miners, but their families and thousands of the Hazara Shi’a Community continued to stage sit-ins on the streets of both Quetta and Karachi, in below freezing temperatures. They refused to bury the bodies of their loved ones until their voices reach the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan; until he comes to Quetta himself to meet the mourners and show that he does, indeed, hear their cries and will take immediate action. 

“If someone really is concerned about our security and tragedy we are facing, it must be reflected by their moves,” said Maulana Sadiq Jaffrey, the leader of a Hazara political party. “We will not call off our sit-in and bury our loved ones until Prime Minister Imran Khan personally meets the mourners”, said another party leader Syed Agha Raza.

Khan only just arrived in Quetta, after convincing the families to arrange the funerals. Just the day before, he gave a poorly worded statement to the grieving families; insinuating they are blackmailing him into visiting by not burying the deceased.

Regardless, justice is yet to be served for the Hazara Community after being massacred for years. Minority groups all over the world continue to be persecuted, simply for their differences, with little to no action being taken for their right to live and peacefully co-exist with others. It’s as if a few factors like religion, race and gender are considered enough to determine one’s worth. To determine whether voices should be heard, or to determine whether rights matter. To determine whether one is any more or less human the other.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Justice delayed is justice denied. It is only so long until the silence becomes deafening, and the inaction shows how much one truly cares about those being wrongly persecuted.  

But, as always, we still continue to hope for better days.
It is, after all, only the beginning of a new year.


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World News Sustainable Fashion The World

The global fashion industry is complicit in the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims in China

The BBC recently found evidence of China forcing hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims into manual labor in vast cotton fields in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang. China has repeatedly denied these reports, claiming that Uyghur Muslims are there at their own free will, insisting that the camps are “vocational training schools” and factories in Xinjiang are part of a voluntary “poverty alleviation” scheme. The BBC report provides a clear picture of the scale of forced labor in the region, revealing how Uyghur Muslims are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by the Chinese government. They’re also been subject to mental and psychological torture, are made to learn Mandarin Chinese, and are expected to criticize or renounce their faith.

While China’s treatment of the minority Muslim community is inhumane, we can’t afford to stay back and point fingers at China without recognizing how the world’s governments, industries, and businesses are complicit. The fashion industry is one of those players. Global fashion companies use raw cotton picked by Uyghur Muslims in their garments, and are complicit in the exploitation and forced labor of Uyghurs. The fashion industry is turning a blind eye to a human rights crisis that is happening in the world today to favor profit over people.

The BBC uncovered documents that revealed the full extent of forced labor in the region. Upwards of half a million minority workers a year are being marshaled into seasonal cotton-picking under coercive conditions. The picking of a cotton crop accounts for a fifth of the world’s cotton supply, and are used widely throughout the global fashion industry.

Dr. Adrian Zenz, from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation who uncovered the documents, told the BBC, “For the first time we not only have evidence of Uyghur forced labor in manufacturing, in garment making, it’s directly about the picking of cotton, and I think that is such a game-changer. Anyone who cares about ethical sourcing has to look at Xinjiang, which is 85% of China’s cotton and 20% of the world’s cotton, and say, ‘We can’t do this anymore.’”

The Better Cotton Initiative, an independent industry body that promotes ethical and sustainable standards, recently stopped auditing and certifying farms in Xinjiang over concerns on China’s so-called “poverty alleviation” scheme. Director of standards and assurance, Damien Sanfilippo, told the BBC that the organization’s decision to walk away only further raises the risk for the global fashion industry. “To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t any organization that is active locally who can provide verification for that cotton.”

The pandemic has uncovered the fashion industry’s many failings. 2020 has shown how unethical labor is an inherent part of the fashion supply chain – cheap labor and low production costs are applied to generate huge profits for retailers. Fashion supply chain abuses persist across the globe – from the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims in China, garment workers in Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Lesotho, Haiti, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Cambodia, and Bangladesh going hungry because fashion companies canceled billions of dollars worth of clothing orders, to accusations of worker exploitation in garment factories in the UK. 

Big-name brands such as Adidas, Lacoste, Nike, and Zara have been linked to Chinese factories that allegedly used forced labor earlier this year. These companies along with others claim they’re unaware of how their cotton is sourced. Their ignorance is part of the problem – they have willfully distanced themselves from the dark reality of what is transpiring in their supply chain. In recent years, some have pledged to increase the traceability of their materials, but have yet to succeed in establishing visibility and control throughout the chain.

Thulsi Narayanasamy, senior labor researcher at the Business Human Rights Resource Centre, comments that the fashion industry is structured in a way that allows brands to avoid responsibility for the workers in their own supply chain. The business model designed by fashion brands doesn’t strive to protect workers, it’s designed to pocket as much money as possible through worker exploitation and forced labor. 

The fashion industry will only endeavor to make changes once governments take action with mandatory legislation. Raphaël Glucksmann, the vice-chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, has long been aware of reports of forced labor practices suffered by Uyghur Muslims. He said in an interview with Vogue Business that the only solution is to hold fashion companies legally responsible for any form of violation of human rights in their value chain, including violations made by their suppliers, subsidiaries, and subsidiary contractors. 

 “[Brands] will take all the progressive stances in the world as long as it does not impact their business model, but the problem is their business model,” Glucksmann says. “The only way to convince them is to show that if they don’t change [it], they might face justice.” Glucksmann is taking the first steps – he’s working on an EU legislative initiative that would make human rights and environmental due diligence mandatory for companies through their entire supply chain.

Consumer scrutiny can hold power too. Brands are nothing without their consumers buying more and more from them, and they can’t hide from consumers if they question their practices. We can hold brands accountable by asking them directly on social media or via email ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ Fashion Revolution created this campaign in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in 2013.


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Human rights abuses are happening right now in China and the world is watching. In September 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act with almost unanimous support. There’s hope that the incoming Biden Presidency will condemn human rights abuses in China and impose further sanctions. On the flip side, the global fashion industry needs to take action too. Whether they refuse to acknowledge the issue or not, they are fully complicit in the repression and forced labor of Uyghur Muslims and as consumers, we are too.


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