Anniversary of Martial Law in Philippines

by Nadia Babar and Minahil Rafay

On September 21st, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos placed the entirety of the Philippines under martial law. Twenty-nine years later, we reflect on that period, especially within the context of the election season in the country occurring now. 

Marcos, a known kleptocrat, became president of the Philippines in 1965. The self-proclaimed “most decorated war hero in the Philippines” (a claim that was not only disproved multiple times, but thought to be a gross mischaracterization) initially oversaw a growing economy, but his 20-year tenure ended in poverty rife throughout the country, along with an extreme debt crisis. 

Seven years after his election, Marcos implemented martial law across the country. The declaration, entitled “Proclamation No. 1081”, lasted until January of 1981. The drastic action was supposedly in response to “various leftist and rightist plots against the Marcos administration”, as well as an existential “communist threat.” During this period, under the guise of martial law, Marcos hid money, embezzled from his government, and ultimately stole from the country and its citizens. 

The period was peppered with human rights abuses and the silencing of the media. Anyone who dared speak against Marcos was targeted and made quiet in some fashion. This included anyone from high-profile journalists to student activists. On the eve of Marcos’ declaration, he sent out armed forces to arrest 400 individuals who were deemed ‘priority targets.’ By the next morning, 100 of those 400 had been arrested. 

This was the beginning of Marcos’ 14-year long dictatorship. Even when the law was lifted in 1981, Marcos stayed in power for another five years until he was exiled. Remembered by some as the leader of the Golden Age, by most, he is remembered as a corrupt, violent, and unethical dictator. 

But his influence remained. In 1991, when the Marcos family was allowed to return to the Philippines, they were received with riotous welcomes. Within the next year, Imelda Marcos, Ferdinand’s wife, was running for the office of the Presidency. Several other members of the Marcos dynasty held positions of power in the Filipino government throughout the 90s, with two of his children becoming senators in the past several elections. Despite the atrocities committed during the period of martial law, their presence remains. The current Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has come out in support of Marcos’ antics, a blatant display of anti-democracy. There is also an ongoing problem of historical revisionism regarding the period of martial law and the abuses committed during it. As we approach the anniversary of the period’s beginning, it’s even more pertinent to stay acutely aware of the country’s history and dark past under the Marcos regime. 

What’s Happening In Afghanistan?

by Fatima Malik

The Taliban Advances in Afghanistan:

The Taliban is a Sunni Islamic military organization that refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Multiple members of the Taliban are those who fought along the Mujahideen against the Soviets in the 90’s. The Mujahideen were supplied with money and weapons from the US, who was eager to defeat the Russians. Initially, the Taliban was seen as a positive change from the former commanders, since they managed to end some corruption and promised to end lawlessness. But the Taliban, even after taking over, did not ease on the restrictions placed to tackle war, and quickly began imposing more and more limitations, essentially telling people what to wear, where to go, and how to live their lives. They also began abusing ethnic and religious minorities.

In 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban refused to immediately hand over Osama Bin Laden — the leader of Al-Qaeda and the mind behind the attacks on US soil. The US soon invaded and defeated the Taliban, swiftly re-establishing a new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai. After the Taliban was overthrown, it remained working in the shadows and recruiting soldiers.

In as little as a few weeks after the US announced the departure of their troops, the Taliban began taking over districts in the country. By August 13th, the Taliban had captured 18 provinces out of Afghanistan’s 34, including Kandahar and Herat, the second and third-largest cities in the country. On Sunday, 15th August, Taliban forces stormed the capital, Kabul, and succeeded in capturing it by the end of the day. This capture officially commenced the return of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. 

The now-former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has fled the country — relocating in the UAE. He has been denounced in his home country, especially as the Russian government has released reports announcing that Ghani escaped with four cars full of cash. Ghani denies these claims.

Although the Taliban claims to bring about Islam in Afghanistan, it is much more likely to enforce a severe, militant regime; using Islamic laws only when they align with the organization’s personal interests, and blatantly disregarding them in other areas, for example, in female education. As the US Department of State’s archive put it, ‘The Taliban is out of step with the Muslim world and with Islam.’

However, it is reported that schoolgirls in Herat have resumed going to school, a few days after the Taliban’s rapid-fire takeover. It is uncertain whether this is to continue, as is hoped, or whether this is just a ploy to improve the Taliban’s international image and current reassurances that they are ‘committed to letting women work in accordance with the principles of Islam’. Women have also been encouraged to join the government. But many remain disbelieving of this change in the Taliban’s ideology.

Another problem Afghanistan now faces is a severe drought, one leading to a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’, as the UN has warned. Many Afghans now have to add food shortages to the list of their current problems.

The US and its Decisions:

In April 2021, US president Biden released a plan for the departure of all US troops by September 11, 2021- ironically commemorating 9/11.

This marks the end of the two-decade war in Afghanistan, one initiated during the presidency of George Bush, which now is set to end during Biden’s rule.

 A war which, according to the Costs of War Project conducted by Brown University, the US has spent a total of 2.26 trillion dollars on. Yet, the situation in Afghanistan at the moment is almost no better than before all this money was spent — raising questions about the path of the cash. The training of the Afghan army sucked up a total of a little over 88 billion dollars, but the army succumbed to the Taliban astonishingly fast.

Critics question Biden’s seemingly comfort-lacking and indifferent speech and response to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, as the President stated that it was never the US’ responsibility (or aim) to establish a liberal democracy in Afghanistan; rather, their goal was to ensure that all terrorist activities occurring in Afghanistan come to an end.

“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland”, said Biden on Monday, adding that, “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.”

The US is also allegedly hosting talks with various countries, for them to temporarily accommodate Afghanis that have worked with the US military.

Pakistan’s Stance:

The US retreat from Afghanistan also put a lot of strain on the US-Pakistan relationship, since the US wanted Pakistan to put more pressure on the Taliban. On the other hand, Pakistani PM Imran Khan stated that Pakistan is only found ‘useful’ to the US when it needs to settle the military mess it has left behind. Pakistan has already stated that it will not provide any of its military bases for use against the Taliban. 

The country has loosened up on previous visa requirements for certain Afghans. Pakistan has recently declared that all journalists working for foreign media outlets in Afghanistan can apply for Pakistani visas, a measure put into place for the welfare of journalists. 

By now; 13,000 Afghan refugees have crossed into Pakistan through the Chaman border crossing, adding to the 3 million already present in Pakistan. Only around a million of these refugees are registered. The refugees now entering are to be relocated near the Afghan border, as opposed to their accommodation during General Zia’s rule in the 1980’s, when they were readily allowed, usually undocumented, all over the country.

Pakistan has also said that this time around it will not make an ‘isolated decision’ regarding the acceptance of the Taliban government, contrary to the last time the Taliban took power, when Pakistan was one of the three countries to accept the Taliban’s government.

 Responses from all over the Globe:

India, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and Finland are among those evacuating staff from and/or shutting down embassies in Kabul. To add to this, the UK and US are rapidly evacuating their citizens from the warring country, as well as the former promising to resettle 20,000 refugees. The US is yet to announce and implement a strategy for the protection of refugees, although President Biden has often talked about such a policy.

The embassies of Russia, Iran, and China are the only exceptions to the closures.

Meanwhile, France has offered visas to Afghan “artists, journalists, human right activists who risk their lives because of their commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and human rights.” Canada has also pledged to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, with an emphasis on those who have worked with officials, such as interpreters; and minorities, female leaders, activists, and journalists. German Chancellor Merkel has also insisted that Germany is to evacuate up to 10,000 people from Afghanistan.

Contrastingly, Austria, Australia, and Switzerland are refusing to take in large numbers of refugees, keeping the influx to the minimum.

The US response to the situation is the most troubling, for it is one of the world’s most powerful nations, and had the ability to ensure the progress in Afghanistan would be permanent. It is true that when the time arrived, neither the Afghan military nor the Afghan government took responsibility, the former surrendering and the latter, instead of negotiating with the Taliban, taking off. It, however, should not mean that the Afghan people are to pay for the selfishness of their leaders.

The Hypocrisy of Priti Patel

By Nadia Babar

Priti Patel wants to have her cake and eat it too. 

Corruption and scandal from the UK government is nothing new. Those of us above the approximate age of 35 will remember it well from the pre-Tony Blair days as well. Despite Tony Blair being pretty conservative for a Labour party guy, he was hailed as a breath of fresh air after a period rife with smoke and mirrors, controversy, and acrid political corruption. 

Now, post-Brexit, mid-pandemic, the ghosts of the old Tory values of the eighties are afoot once again. It’s merely the faces that have changed. 

Priti Patel is one of them. 

Patel’s latest faux pas was her blatant display of hypocrisy in the wake of the Euro 2020 Finals. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll remember that England lost to Italy on penalties after a spirited, entertaining match and overall season, with arguably England’s strongest football performance in decades. The English national team won the hearts of the entire country and then some, and the heartbreak of losing on the last penalty was cushioned by the sense of national pride in the young, talented team. 

Back in the beginning of the Euro tournament, several of England team’s players decided to kneel in protest of global racism, an act we’ve seen take place all over the world, in all kinds of sports, by all kinds of athletes, for a couple years now. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Mind you, the players taking the knee during the Euros (which included several teams, not just England), didn’t kneel while any national anthems were playing, as other athletes have done in different sports. They simply kneeled for a brief moment before the start of the match. The move shouldn’t be controversial, nor should it have been surprising. 

Patel wasted no time in condemning the players who took a knee. She told GB News that “I just don’t support people participating in that type of gesture politics.” She was later asked if England fans reserved the right to boo players as they took the knee. Patel did not say no: “That’s a choice for them, quite frankly.” It’s important to note that even Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who isn’t known for his anti-racism, said that the players should be allowed to “condemn racism in this country in any way that they choose.” 

It’s important to note at this point that Patel is no stranger to racism – I have no doubt that her claims of being racially abused as a young person in Britain are truthful. And my criticism of her is not meant to be dismissive of her experience with racism at all. But it makes her response to acts of anti-racism all the more shocking with the knowledge that she has firsthand experience with racism herself. 

Back to present day. In the last few minutes of the Euro Final, the England national team was set to take their penalties. Three of those penalties missed – those of Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho. All three of them are men of colour, and all three of them have extremely impressive football records, especially the 19-year-old Saka, who won the hearts of thousands of Brits this summer due to his stellar performance throughout the tournament. 

However, in the aftermath of the match, several “fans” began violent racial attacks against the aforenamed three men. One minute, they were diehard England fanatics, screaming their support, until they didn’t receive the outcome they wanted. They then turned to social media to spout racial abuse against Rashford, Saka, and Sancho. 

The sane remainder of the country responded accordingly, flooding the three players’ social media with messages of love and support to counteract the negativity. It was heartwarming to see how so many people rushed to defend these players against the racial attacks. 

Patel took to the stage as well. She expressed her ‘disgust’ at the abuse directed at the football players. But people were quick to call out her hypocrisy. Most notably came Tyrone Mings, Aston Villa player, who said “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘gesture politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens.”

It couldn’t have been said better. Patel is a caricature of modern politics, guilty of the very thing she accused others of doing: gesture politics. Her statement condemning racism had no weight behind it, and made her look all the more foolish considering her previous remarks. 

It doesn’t stop there. 

Despite being the child of immigrants herself, Patel’s latest piece of work is a harsh anti-immigration policy that criminalizes asylum seekers. Her plan states that only ‘the brightest and the best’ will be allowed into the UK. What does this mean? Any immigrant who doesn’t earn a salary of over £25,000 will be deemed ‘unskilled’ and unfit to gain legal residency in the UK.

My first job in the UK amounted to the equivalent of £20,000. My friend’s first job – as an accountant for a bank, mind you – gave him a starting salary of £21,000. How is it reasonable for every immigrant, asylum seeker, expat – whatever term you prefer – to land a job in the UK on £25,000 right off the bat? It’s a ridiculous amount. Patel fails to notice that many ‘unskilled’ labor-intensive jobs – rubbish collectors, cleaners, gardeners, etc., jobs that make up the backbone of our economy – are just as valuable as £80,000 per year jobs. Many immigrants take such low-paying jobs as a means of surviving while they assimilate into the UK and learn English if they haven’t already. To dismiss this valuable sector of our economy as ‘unskilled’ and anything but ‘the best and the brightest’ is vile. 

Her questionable policies do not end here. She vows to crack down on crime while cutting police budgets across the country. In Essex, – her constituency, no less! – Patel backed the closure of a major police station, which is now being turned into offices. The lack of crime-respondent staff seemingly correlated with a 60% increase in violent crime in the area. 

The list goes on. Whatever your political views may be (and at this point I’d like to point out that this isn’t necessarily a scathing criticism of the Conservative party or Conservative values) the sheer hypocrisy from our Home Secretary – one of the most powerful seats in the UK – is undeniable. 

Now, as we stand on the cusp of a huge decision regarding the lives of thousands of Afghan refugees, I am scared. I am scared that Patel will, without a second thought, refuse Afghan asylum seekers, those who are seeking the most basic shelter and safety. I am afraid she will brand them ‘illegal’ – how fleeing to another country for your own life and those of your children can be considered ‘illegal’ is beyond me. I am afraid that her hypocrisy will continue, and she will refuse to offer sanctuary to Afghan refugees in the same country that once offered her parents sanctuary, back in the 1960s. 

Afghan Independence Day

“They are asking for protection, for education, for the freedom and the future they were promised. We cannot continue to fail them. We have no time to spare.” – Malala Yousufzai

Today is Afghan Independence Day, and the irony is not lost on us. Please head to @theafghan on Instagram to learn more about what is happening in Afghanistan. You can find donation links two posts down on our page.

For more information: follow @sadafdoost @alfirdauws @omar.haidari @middleeastmatters @afghansempowered on Instagram

Conflicts Gone Quiet: From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe

By Rania Hassan

War, unrest, and tragedy have become so commonplace that it is difficult to keep track of them all, let alone for all of them to garner the attention they are due. But they are real and horrific and essential to acknowledge.


Plagued by nearly ceaseless wars and violence since 1978, Afghanistan is an active volcano, still erupting and resulting in the destruction of a nation and countless lives within its borders. It is a battleground that has played host to its own internal conflicts— first between opposing political parties and later between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance— as well as the involvements of the Soviet Union, the United States (and its allies, including Britain, Italy, and Germany), Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, amongst others. Now, almost half a century later, Afghanistan is still suffering, a civil war raging between the Afghan government and the Taliban. In 2021 alone, the fatality count as a result of the war reached 872 people, 226 of whom were civilians. In spite of last year’s peace agreement, signed by the U.S. government and the Taliban, which promised to phase American troops out of Afghanistan and reduce violence on the Taliban’s part, violence remains prevalent. Airstrikes and raids continued, carried out by Afghan and American forces, as did attacks carried out by the Taliban and altercations between government and insurgent forces. This violence consistently results in civilian fatalities and casualties; those caught in the crossfire always suffering the most. Afghanistan’s plight is far from over and it must not be forgotten. 

How to Help: 

Donate to Afghanaid or CARE Australia


Prime Minister Hun Sen, founder of the Cambodian People’s Party, with the support of the “Dirty Dozen”, his cabal of 12 generals that play a major role in his retainment of absolute power over the nation. In the past three years, they have dissolved their main opposition party, gained 100% of the seats in the National Assembly, passed increasingly restrictive laws, infringing on or even denying rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to peaceful assembly. Hun Sen has managed to grant himself and his government almost complete control over citizens – their movements, their words, their lives. Activists and those who participate in peaceful, now-illegal demonstrations found themselves subject to unwarranted excessive force at the hands of police. The story is not so different from numerous others – a dictator slowly inching towards power until they can seize it all with no one to fight back. But Lord Prime Minister, Supreme Military Commander Hun Sen, with his faction of consolidated power and long-winded title runs a merciless regime that cannot go on. Cambodia is, in essence, being strangled under a dictatorship, protesting as much as possible for their freedom, suffocating in silence as the world turns away. 

How to Help:

Donate to Save the Children or look into volunteer opportunities such as with Caring for Cambodia.


In 2011, civil war broke out across Libya between the National Transitional Council (NTC), the banner under which rebel forces united, and the Gaddafi regime, whose brutal response to demonstrations incited the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on the government. By October of 2011, Gaddafi’s government had been ousted, replaced by the NTC. This prompted its own unrest, resulting in a reversal of roles – former regime military members formed rebel groups while the new government found itself fending them off. The rebels now retaliated with vehemence, this violence escalating, boiling over into a second civil war. The schisms dividing the nation are numerous and of different depths – the main players, the Libyan National Army and the Government of National Accord, fight against a backdrop of smaller, pernicious conflicts, a myriad of divided groups vying for any power and control they can acquire. The ceasefire, brokered towards the end of last year, has held thus far, with an interim government set up by the U.N. set to remain in control until December 2021, when new elections will be held. There remain, of course, shadows of the war, and all-too-real daily reminders that they are not quite out of the woods – the Sudanese and Saudi Arabian presence in Libya is concerning, and its implications will likely be felt for years to come, and hundreds of thousands of displaced Libyans have yet to find the safety that was ripped from them. It is a confusing conflict to follow, what with its multudinous layers – rebels and revolutionaries, terrorists and tumult, and, in the end, people fighting for scattered motives with amorphous goals. It is our hope, though, that this tattered nation that is still piecing itself together will recover and move forward, its people more than ready for peace.   

How to Help:

Donate to UNICEF or the International Rescue Committee.


Coups and armed conflict lie at the root of the Mali War as well. The first coup, in 2012, overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré while the northern region of the country became a center for rebel and jihadist groups. Interestingly, the soldiers who carried this out were armed with weapons from Libya, at the time embroiled in their own civil war. Touré was replaced by Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, elected in 2013. Amid growing security concerns, particularly regarding Islamist militias situated in the north, an incredibly low voter turnout, and accusations of fraud, Keïta was reelected in 2018. Soon after, in August of 2020, Malian soldiers staged a coup d’etat, forcing Keïta’s resignation after months of protests against him and his government, demonstrations resulting in several deaths. Though relatively bloodless, it was condemned by several nations and international organizations, including the U.N. Like Libya, Mali is war-torn and bloodied, but because of its key position, both physically and politically, it has attracted interest and a desire for resolution from powerful countries such as a U.S. who hope to cut down on terrorism affecting their own nations. Today, Mali, already debilitated by its constant conflict, is greatly impacted by the economic implications of COVID-19. Over 300,000 people have been displaced, thousands more affected by the countless divided loyalties carving up the country and the incessant destructiveness perpetrated by the militias, governments, parties, and factions. They form, in their wake, an amalgamation of bloodshed, disorder and anguish.

How to Help:

Donate to International Rescue Committee or Save the Children.


With growing corruption in its autocratic government, Zimbabwe faces a dual crisis, with both its economy and political climate crashing and burning. In 2017, Robert Mugabe’s forced resignation was a cause for celebration. But under his successor, Emerson Mnangagwa, the country continued its downward spiral. As in Cambodia, the government cracked down on freedoms of expression, association, and the right to peaceful assembly. Authorities use everything from internet blackouts to torture and sexual assault to maintain order; in January 2019, police responded to peaceful protests with unprecedented force, killing and injuring protestors and arresting scores more (many arbitrarily) during and following the demonstrations. In July 2020, the protests were shut down before they even began, authorities released wanted notices for known leaders, forcing many into hiding while others were unable to escape arrest. Alongside this political turmoil, the economy has suffered greatly under the same regime, inflation rates peaking in the same July at 837%. This devastated the economy, the value of the Zimbabwean dollar plummeting to next to nothing. As of February 2021, it reached 321%, well above the normal rate of 3%. In 2019, a mix of natural disasters, inflation, low wages, and large-scale layoffs contributed to a far-reaching food insecurity. Though more food is now available, for many it is still unobtainable – they simply cannot afford it. With financial and food instability coupled with incessant warfare and an uncertain future, unrest is impossible to avoid. Zimbabwe’s troubles, though, remain stifled. As do countless others, their tribulations are squeezed into bylines, conflicts gone quiet for far too long.

How to Help:

Donate to ActionAid or British Red Cross.

Works Cited

Abed, Fahim. “Afghan War Casualty Report: March 2021.” The New York Times, The New York  Times Company, 11 March 2021 

Gossman, Patricia. “Attacks Targeting Afghan Civilians Spread Terror.” Human Rights Watch, 23 February 2021, 

“War in Afghanistan.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, 18 March 2021, 

“Cambodia: Events of 2020.” Human Rights Watch, 13 January 2021, 

“Cambodia: Escalating Crackdown Amid Pandemic.” Human Rights Watch, 13 January 2021,

Francavilla, Claudio. “EU Should Sanction Cambodia’s “Dirty Dozen.”” Human Rights Watch, 15 March 2021, 

“Libya clutches at new hope 10 years after its revolution.”, Deutsche Welles,

MacKinnon, Amy. “The Conflict in Libya Is Getting Even Messier.” Foreign Policy, The Slate Group. 21 February 2021,

“Libya: Events of 2020.” Human Rights Watch, 2021,

“Mali: Events of 2020.”Human Rights Watch, 2021,

Bussemaker, Natalie and Clare Felter. “What to Know About the Crisis in Mali.” Council on Foreign Relations, 12 August 2020,

Maclean, Ruth. “Mali’s President Exits After Being Arrested in Military Coup.” The New York Times, The New York  Times Company, 18 August 2020,

“Zimbabwe: Events of 2020.” Human Rights Watch, 2021,

Muronzi, Chris. “‘Life’s so tough’: Never-ending misery for crisis-hit Zimbabweans.” Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera Media Network, 3 July 2020,“Zimbabwe Inflation Rate.” Trading Economics, March 2021,

The Joe Biden Series: Deb Haaland

  • Party: Democratic
  • Education: University of New Mexico (BA, JD)
  • Chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party (2015-2017)
  • Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Mexico’s 1st District (2019-2021)

On Monday, the 15th of March, Debra Haaland was confirmed as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Interior. Haaland brings a solid history of political service into the administration, along with an impressive record of bipartisanship.

Haaland is the former chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party and a former U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district. As a political progress, Haaland supports The Green New Deal and the Medicare For All programme. She is the second Native American and first Native American woman ever to serve in a Presidential U.S. Cabinet.

Haaland’s career in New Mexico politics was extremely successful. She was credited with rebuilding the state party after large defeats for Democrats in New Mexico in 2014. During her two years as chair, Haaland raised enough capital to pay off seven years’ worth of debt which was built up under previous chairs.

As Secretary of the Interior, Haaland will be responsible for overseeing the lands, seas, and natural resources of the United States, as well as its tribal affairs. Haaland is a Native American and a member of the Laguna Pueblo Indigenous American tribe, which makes her the most senior Indigenous American in the U.S. government in nearly a century. The only other Indigenous person to hold an office higher than Interior Secretary was Charles Curtis, Republican vice president to Herbert Hoover and a Kaw nation citizen.

Reportedly, Haaland has an extremely good record of bipartisanship in Congress, though only four Republicans voted to confirm her as Interior Secretary. She said: “I’ve gotten more Republicans to sign on to my bills than any other Democrat. It’s important for all of us – county commissioners, governors and mayors, not just Congress – to make sure we’re working together for the greater good. We want to pass laws that will help people across the country, and we need to make sure these messages are getting out … I’m going to continue to reach across the aisle, to protect our environment and make sure that vulnerable communities have a say in what our country is doing moving forward.” This sentiment is proving to be vital in the post-Trump era, with Republicans and Democrats just as vitriolic towards each other than ever before.

Haaland intends to uphold and respect tribal communities more so than her predecessors, who attempted to develop projects on tribal land with little regard for the ecological and cultural significance of such land. Her predecessor, David Bernhardt, was not a politician, but an oil and energy lobbyist.

We think this is a good choice. Deb Haaland has a good track record of navigating difficult economic situations and a desire to help combat climate change extensively. Earlier in 2021, she proposed a bill that set out a national goal of protecting 30% of of US lands and oceans by the year 2030 – this bill has since been adopted by the Biden Administration for its environmental agenda.

“This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ [Native Americans]. I’m a living testimate to the failure of that horrific ideology.” – Deb Haaland

The Joe Biden Series: Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg was confirmed as Joe Biden’s Secretary of Transportation earlier this month.

  • Party: Democratic
  • Education: Harvard University (BA), Pembroke College, Oxford (BA)
  • Military service: United States Navy, 2009-2017, Lieutenant
  • First openly gay Cabinet member in United States history

Pete Buttigieg is a former U.S. Navy Intelligence Officer and served as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, from 2012-2020.

In 2019, he became the first openly gay person to launch a major presidential campaign, and then later became the first gay person to win a presidential caucus, which he did in Iowa in 2020. He also came a close second in the New Hampshire primary, just slightly behind Bernie Sanders.

President Joe Biden nominated Buttigieg to be his Secretary of Transportation and he was confirmed on February 2 2021, by a vote of 86-13. This makes him the first openly gay Cabinet member in U.S. history. He is also the youngest Cabinet secretary in the Biden administration and the youngest ever Secretary of Transportation. He succeeds Elaine Chao, wife of Mitch McConnell, who is currently the Senate Minority Leader.

Buttigieg served two consecutive terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, winning both elections by a wide margin. During his tenure, unemployment and rates of uninsured people fell consistently, and large investments were made in the city’s infrastructure. He promoted a number of development and redevelopment projects, resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs. He also helped establish a recognised city identification card, a stepping stone which would help undocumented immigrants carve out a path to citizenship.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Buttigieg described himself as a progressive and a supporter of democratic capitalism, while criticizing crony capitalism. His major positions included abolishing the electoral college, support for a public health insurance option with an individual mandate, labor unions, universal background checks for gun purchases, addressing climate change, helping undocumented immigrants develop pathways to citizenship, and implementing a federal law that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

After a surprisingly successful campaign, Buttigieg eventually dropped out of the primaries in March and endorsed Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee.

We think that Biden’s choice for Secretary of Transportation is a good one. While Buttigieg hasn’t done anything major during his tenure in the position just yet, his track record is promising and leads us to believe that he will address several key issues in the transport sector.

India’s Farmers Protests

Artwork by @seerat.designs

For months, the Indian farmers’ protests have been peaceful. Last month, they took a violent turn when protestors clashed with police in Delhi. However, the leaders of the protest have attributed this incident to a fringe group, and urges people not to discredit this otherwise peaceful movement.

The Indian government has since said they would postpone the bill in question for 18 months, but farmers want a full repeal. Negotiations have not been fruitful.

Artwork by @almost_bobby & @bob_almost

Protestors in India have been ongoing since August 2020, as the Indian government passed three bills of agricultural legislation which refuse to acknowledge or consider the demands of farmers and agricultural unions.

The government of India has prioritised corporate absorption, with no regard for the significant work of farmers, as they decrease trade regulations of their goods and regular supply of essential commodities.

These three new laws are considered a threat to the livelihood and existence of these farmers.

This has now become a human rights issue in terms of worker and labour rights and regulation.

The Indian government insists that the new laws will make it easy for farmers to sell to large corporations. Farmers are afraid that this will leave them vulnerable to being taken advantage of by said corporations.

They are also concerned about no longer being entitled to MSP – the minimum profit price the government was previously paying them.

Artwork by @mirsuhail

The peaceful protests took a violent turn in January 2021.

On India’s Republic Day, farmers drove their tractors into Delhi to protest. They were met with armed armed police carrying tear gas and assault rifles, beating them with batons. Hundreds of people were injured and one protestor was killed.

In response, the government restricted internet access in areas where the protests were taking place & wasted no time in labeling the event an ‘act of villainy aimed at destabilising the country.’

The protesters are demanding that Prime Minister Modi repeal the recent farming laws. The government is reshaping farming in India in ‘the hopes’ of growth for private investors without considering the interests and opinions of the farmers themselves.

Their existing protection is already at a bare minimum, and by removing state intervention, they will be left with no protection & under the thumbs of big, corrupt corporations.

“The laws have been so contentious because agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India’s 1.3 billion population, and farmers have been arguing for years to get the minimum guaranteed prices increased. They are the biggest voter block in the country – making farming a central political issue. The government has held rounds of talks with leaders of more than 30 farmers’ unions that are opposed to the laws – but the talks have gone nowhere.”

Nodeep Kaur is a 24-year-old labour rights activist who comes from a family of politically active women. She was protesting with the farmers against the new laws when she was arrested on the Singhu border on the 12th of January. She has now been in jail for over 20 days. On the 2nd of February, her bail was rejected.

“When I went to meet her at Karnal jail a day after she was arrested, she had told me that she was beaten up brutally by male police officers and had injury marks on her private parts. We had immediately asked for a medical test to be done, the report of which will be submitted in court. We still have no clue what happened to that report.” – Rajvir Kaur, Nodeep’s Elder Sister

Artwork by @seerat.designs

If you would like to help the farmers in India, head to one of the websites below:

American Sikh Council – Search for “support all farmers”

Khalsa Aid International

The Joe Biden Series: Lloyd Austin

The Biden Administration Series is a series of short articles doing profiles on the politicians Biden is appointing to his Cabinet. Each article will discuss the person’s political history and the potential implications their addition to the administration could have on the public.

Lloyd Austin

  • Party: N/A
  • Education: United States Military Academy (BS), Auburn University (MA), Webster University (MBA)
  • Four-star Army General
  • Vice Chief of Staff of United States Army
  • Commander of United States Central Command

Continuing Joe Biden’s streak of selecting Cabinet members that break barriers is Lloyd Austin. The retired four-star Army General has just been confirmed as Biden’s Secretary of Defense, making him the first black person to serve in the position. Austin has had a long and distinguished career in the military and was confirmed as Secretary of defense by the Senate on January 24th. 

Austin’s whole life has been involved with the United States military. After graduating from West Point, he immediately began serving in the Army. In 2010, he became Commanding General of the United States Forces in Iraq (USF-I); this is where he first met Joe Biden. Over the next year, Austin oversaw the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, a massive operation involving 150,000 soldiers. 

After leaving Iraq, Austin became the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army, managing the day-to-day operations of the organization. Under his supervision, the army took steps to implement better mental health care provisions and reduce cases of suicide. The wellbeing of the military has always seemed to be a priority of Austin’s, and we’ve seen this pattern continue during the short time he has served as Defense Secretary. Hours into being confirmed in his new position, Austin ordered a thorough review of sexual assault prevention practices in the military, demanding reports on how the military’s current practices were doing and whether or not they needed to be overhauled. He reportedly wants to ‘stamp out’ sexual assault in the military. 

An interesting facet of Austin’s appointment is that Joe Biden felt the need to pen an article for The Atlantic, aptly titled “Why I Chose Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense.” As far as I can recall, this isn’t a common practice. But this article sings praises of Austin, and in Biden’s defense, he does seem like a good choice for the position, especially evidenced by the few things he’s implemented since being confirmed. In the article, Biden describes Austin as ‘the definition of a patriot,’ ‘distinguished,’ and a ‘trailblazer.’ However, his nomination was met with some concern. Some Congress members were concerned about his confirmation’s impact on civil-military relations. However, when it came time to vote, only two members of Congress, Josh Hawley (MO-R) and Mike Lee (UT-R) voted against him. We look forward to seeing more from Lloyd Austin in the future, and hope that whatever decisions he make are indeed in line with the following statement from President Biden:

“We need a leader who is tested, and matched to the challenges we face in this moment. I know how he reacts under pressure, and I know that he will do whatever it takes to defend the American people.”