Under the radar: Five global issues we aren’t talking about


Courtesy of Mira Nalbandian

Holding the Armenian flag and signs at a protest, juniors Mira Nalbandian and Anna Newberry work to bring awareness to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. As an Armenian, Nalbandian feels that it is important for individuals to recognize and be aware of global issues. “The American media hasn’t really done a good job of bringing light to any of these issues and that’s very harmful. People have the power to make change by organizing, but when we’re not aware of what’s going on, it’s even harder to resolve these issues,” Nalbandian said. “This is hard for many Armenians because we just want recognition and help.”

It’s safe to say 2020 has culminated in an eventful year, with COVID-19, our Presidential Election and the Black Lives Matter movement dominating the headlines. These issues, while pertinent, have been pretty much all that we have heard about in the media and talked about in our day-to-day conversations. Our discussions have been dedicated almost exclusively to our various domestic concerns, which has caused some in the United States to be unaware of certain pressing global problems. My intent is not to demean the importance of the pressing domestic issues affecting our country, but rather to recognize some of the probes that affect the human race as a whole. Now more than ever, thinking critically about global issues can help us recognize patterns and problems and generate positive change. We need to start acting deliberately with the intent of becoming more aware in order to help those in need around the world. We cannot let these crises slip under the radar any longer. Here are five current global issues that we need to be talking about. 

Yemen Humanitarian and Political Crisis

According to UNICEF, Yemen is currently experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis, with over 80% of Yemen’s population in need of humanitarian assistance. This severe problem is a result of a combination of many issues over the span of several years. 

On top of food insecurity, attacks by Jihadists, unemployment, corruption and a separatist movement, an unstable political transition is considered the root of Yemen’s crisis. Yemen’s political transition to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi following the Arab Spring protests were considered a failure. Hadi struggled to deal with Yemen’s onslaught of issues, which resulted in a weak political system. Taking advantage of the unstable authority, a rebel group, the Houthis, began a separatist movement. Quickly garnering support, this group eventually took over the capital of Sanaa. As a result of fears that this rebel group had ties with Shiite powers, Saudi Arabia, among eight other mostly Sunni Arab countries, began a movement to restore Hadi to power. This conflict launched a civil war, which has lasted until today. 

The United States is also a major component of this conflict. Beginning in 2015, the United States has inserted itself into this conflict, mainly by supplying U.S. made weapons to Saudi Arabia. With this connection, the U.S. holds the power to end this conflict, yet profit is prioritized over morality. 

With both internal and external forces at play, Yemen’s current status has many civilians dying as a result of the conflict, disease, malnutrition and poor health. However, COVID-19 created what was coined by UNICEF as an “emergency within an emergency” in Yemen. A lack of clean water, sanitation, health workers and medical facilities in Yemen means the pandemic continues to have devastating effects on a country already burdened with disease, civil war and poverty.

Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

A sudden eruption of a decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan occurred in September due to mounting tensions, resulting from COVID-19 and other factors. The region of Nagorno-Karabakh, known to Armenians as Artsakh, has long since been a factor within the disagreement between the two nations, with the majority of the conflict taking place in this disputed region. 

In the late Soviet period, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence, sparking the conflict between the two countries. While the region is internationally acknowledged as belonging to Azerbaijan, the majority of the population is ethnically Armenian. 

COVID-19 was one factor behind the recent spark of the conflict, due to the travel bans which prevented the traditional travel of diplomats between the country. 

On top of this, increased use of military and weapons as well as the involvement of Turkey, an enemy to Armenia and ally to Azerbaijan, have worsened the situation. Following the 1915 Armenian genocide, tensions run high between Turkey and Armenia, which means the presence of Turkey in this conflict was deeply offensive to Armenians. Turkey’s direct support for Azerbaijan has been said to increase fears that the conflict will become a regional problem. 

Nov. 9, Russia introduced a cease-fire between the two countries, an effort that has proved ineffective in the past. This action has left Armenians angry and dissatisfied. 

Terrorist attack in Nice, France

Worshippers in a French church were attacked and three were killed in Nice, France by a Tunisian man armed with a knife in a French church. This attack took place Oct. 29, but was just one event in a complicated history of terrorist attacks, several of which have been claimed by the Islamic State group, and Islamophobia in France. 

Following this attack, the Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor of France has launched an investigation against the young man for murder and attempted murder. France’s national police chief has also ordered increased security at religious sites, including churches and mosques.

Because of the nature of this attack, the French Council of the Muslim Faith has encouraged French Muslims to refrain from celebrations that mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad in solidarity with those affected by the terrorist attack. 

Just eight days prior to this attack, a French teacher and father, Samuel Paty, was attacked and killed after he showed a caricature of Prophet Muhammad. This frustration was sparked by the fact that the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is considered blasphemous for Muslims. 

Just two events in history of Islamophobia and terrorism in France, French Muslims fear that these current occurrences will prompt “collective punishment” and rising racism in the country. 

Infographic detailing several actions you can take to bring awareness to global issues. (Illustration by Leah Schroeder)

Threat of an Ethiopian Civil War

Issues that have existed for decades have come to a head in recent years with the power struggle between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Recently, pressures have built between the Tigray region and Ethiopian Federal Authorities, with both governments referring to the other as “illegitimate and unconstitutional”. 

Recent occurrences, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have resulted in fears that this internal conflict could turn into an international conflict. After the federal government postponed an election because of the virus, Tigray created their own regional parliament election, which the Ethiopian federal government has called illegal. This disagreement has prompted military involvement and both the Tigray leader and the Federal government have indicated that they are prepared for the situation to escalate into a military conflict. This situation has posed a threat of a civil war to Ethiopia. 

Uighur Muslim Crisis

Out of 11 million Uighur Muslims in China, over 1 million are reportedly being kept in more than 85 of the known internment camps in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China. This blatant abuse of the Uighur Muslims has been a fact for years in Xinjiang. After the beginning of the war on terror, China was able to use this war as justification for beginning severe movements to quell “separatists” in Xinjiang. During 2017, laws were passed in Xinjiang that seemed to target the Uighur minority, which included laws that prohibited men from growing long beards and women from wearing veils. On top of this, thousands of mosques that are sacred to the Uighur group have been demolished. The U.S. has also used this movement to further their own agenda, citing the war on terror as reasoning for establishing an economic and military presence in China.

Despite having previously denied the existence of internment camps, the government of China acknowledged the camps after photos of building construction with watchtowers and barbed wire emerged. The camps, which many experts assume were built with forced labor, are currently termed “re-education centers” for Uighurs. China holds that these camps are to target poverty and extremism, which they associate with the Uighurs due to the minority having taken responsibility for terrorist attacks in China in 2013 and 2014. 

A few members of the Uighur Muslim minority have spoken about their experience in the internment camps. These individuals recall interrogations, beatings, physical and psychological torture solely because of their religious beliefs.