Four Big Protests to Watch Now

Four Big Protests to Watch Now

From the bloodied streets of Baghdad to the umbrella-filled parks of Hong Kong, from Haiti to Ukraine, and Bolivia to Zimbabwe, protesters are out in force in just about every region of the world right now. Here's a look at four of the biggest protests going on today.


Iraq: Deadlier by the day– Tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators poured onto the streets of Baghdad and other cities, demanding an end to corruption and high unemployment. The uprising, the first since Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi came to power a year ago, has been spontaneous and driven chiefly by young people. Most of them have no memory of Saddam Hussein's brutal reign, and they resent not having benefited from the stability that was supposed to come after years of sectarian violence and military occupation. The government has responded with a brutal clampdown that's further inflamed public rage: at least 110 people have been killed and scores injured. Even if Abdul Mahdi falls, will a subsequent government be able to meet these expectations?

Haiti: On the brink of crisis – It's been four weeks since thousands of people flooded the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. They're outraged over political corruption, soaring inflation and shortages of basic supplies including fuel and food. Some 2.6 million Haitians were vulnerable to food shortages before the protests began, but demonstrators' barricades of large rocks and burning tires have cut off the flow of goods and humanitarian aid to many of Haiti's already-struggling localities. As government forces respond with a heavier hand, and protests turn deadlier – at least 17 have been killed and 200 injured –schools remain closed for 2 million pupils. If the status-quo continues, a full-blown humanitarian crisis could ensue, the United Nation warns.

Hong Kong: Not going anywhere – What began 18 weeks ago as pushback to a now-withdrawn extradition bill, has evolved into a pro-democracy movement opposing Beijing's encroachment on the semi-autonomous territory's unique freedoms. The rallies have grown violent in recent weeks, with protesters setting fires and, in some instances, using petrol bombs. Meanwhile, last week, police used lethal force for the first time. The temperature has risen further since Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, used colonial-era emergency powers to ban face masks at public gatherings. The gas-mask clad movement appears more emboldened than ever, but Hong Kong's government shows no signs of backing down either: over the weekend, Lam issued a not so veiled threat that Beijing could intervene to quash the protests. But China's President Xi Jinping faces a big choice: doing nothing risks the appearance of weakness, while cracking down could ruin one of the world's main financial hubs.

Algeria: Swapping cronies isn't enough – It's been eight months since protesters took to the streets demanding the ouster of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The 82-year old was kicked out in April after 20 years at the helm, replaced by a military-backed government run by army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah. Protesters say they won't stop until a civilian democracy is installed, but so far, the political and military strongmen considered to be Algeria's true power brokers, known as "le pouvoir" (the power), have refused to make real concessions. An election is slated for December, but protesters have rejected it, saying it won't be free or fair as long as Bouteflika's cronies maintain positions in the government. Thousands of protesters continue to flood the streets, and the government appears determined to keep a firm grip on power: In July, 18 protesters were arrested and put on trial for "undermining national unity." The regime says it's in a transition period and working on reforms. But people on the streets merely see the replacement of one corrupt regime with another.

Where do these protests ever lead? Last month we wrote about the resurgence of protests among Egypt's youth. But that was swiftly quashed. And France's once-potent Yellow Vest movement has also fizzled. Protests are one thing. Systemic change is another.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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