The COVID-19 Disorder Tracker (CDT) provides special coverage of the pandemic’s impact on political violence and protest trends around the world, monitoring changes in demonstration activity, state repression, mob attacks, overall rates of armed conflict, and more.

About the CDT

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 has caused a global pandemic. From China to Italy and the United States, many countries are taking unprecedented steps to curb the outbreak, with wide-ranging and uncertain repercussions for stability and security around the world. Even as the United Nations has called for an immediate global ceasefire to deal with “the true fight of our lives” (AP, 23 March 2020), some non-state armed groups like the Islamic State see the crisis as an opportunity to go on the offensive (DW, 23 March 2020). 

How will COVID-19 impact trends in global disorder? How will it change the trajectory of conflict and demonstration patterns around the world?

Such a quickly evolving situation requires regular and reliable monitoring. Through the duration of the crisis, ACLED’s global network of remote researchers will continue to track these trends in real-time, publishing data on political violence and protest on a weekly basis to support ongoing research, policymaking, and humanitarian efforts. The COVID-19 Disorder Tracker (CDT) will provide special coverage of the pandemic’s impact on disorder around the world.

The CDT aims to track and evaluate the following expected trends:

  • While demonstration activity may initially spike in response to state management of the pandemic, it will soon decline as a function of concern over the spread of the virus, new medical guidelines, and/or government travel and assembly restrictions
  • State repression will rise, especially in authoritarian states, under the guise of strict adherence to health security standards
  • Mob violence too will rise, with vigilantes targeting marginalized groups, such as those suspected of being infected and Asian communities, amid an increase in general xenophobia
  • Overall armed conflict rates may remain stable, yet the composition of conflict will change: militaries may decrease their activity as states divert resources to combat the pandemic. At the same time, non-state actors may see the crisis as an opportunity to make ‘big moves’ and ramp up activity

The pandemic is still in its early stages and we expect trends to continue to evolve, especially in light of the exponential growth that can occur in numbers infected.

This page will be regularly updated with CDT Forecasts, Bulletins, Spotlight reports highlighting specific countries and trends, and more. Watch this space for monitoring and follow the latest from the COVID-19 Disorder Tracker on Twitter using #CDT.

CDT Update, 11 June 2020: Three months on from the WHO’s pandemic declaration, many countries around the world are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions and restart their economies. Mirroring this transition, the CDT will begin to shift from weekly updates to special reports reviewing the latest data. While the CDT will continue to monitor the pandemic’s impact on political violence and protest trends, CDT Bulletins and CDT Forecasts will be paused. Weekly analysis of conflict and disorder patterns around the world — including coronavirus-related events — will remain available via ACLED’s Regional Overviews.

CDT Special Reports & Featured Analysis

CDT in the News

CDT Spotlights

CDT Recaps: Two Month Review

Curated Data: Direct COVID-19 Disorder Events

This Curated Data File contains disorder events that are directly related to the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from violence targeting frontline healthcare workers to demonstrations against government lockdowns. Please note that this data file does not capture events that may be indirectly related to the coronavirus. For more information about ACLED’s coding of coronavirus-related events and how to use the data (and not use the data), see this methodology brief.

CDT Bulletins

ACLED’s CDT Bulletins highlight COVID-19’s latest effects on global disorder as recorded by our weekly Regional Overviews of political violence and protest around the world. Click on a key trend to see the most recent developments.

Updated 15 March – 6 June 2020.

17-30 May 2020

Demonstrations related to the coronavirus in Southeast Asia concentrated largely on the financial impact of the pandemic. In Indonesia, multiple protests called for greater government assistance. In Cambodia, factory workers protested over unpaid wages while parents in Phnom Penh called for a reduction in tuition due to financial hardship resulting from the pandemic.

In Thailand, protests were held to commemorate the anniversary of the military coup in 2014. One protest by students in Bangkok called for the government to cut the defense budget rather than reduce spending on relief efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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In Bangladesh, readymade garment factory workers clashed with police in Dhaka division while demanding unpaid salaries, Eid bonuses, and the reinstatement of jobs lost due to the coronavirus lockdown. In several states across India including Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, migrant workers continued to demonstrate violently and clash with security forces, demanding they be allowed to travel back to their home states. 

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Protests related to the coronavirus crisis took place in multiple regions of Kyrgyzstan, with people held in hospitals and quarantine facilities requesting permission from the authorities to self-quarantine. 

In a separate development, a rare protest took place in the Sughd region of Tajikistan, as Chinese employees of a zinc mine in Zornisor clashed with the police while demanding unpaid salaries, resulting in dozens of injured demonstrators (RFE/RL, 24 May 2020). The workers also wanted to return to China due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus in Tajikistan, which authorities only acknowledged weeks after the pandemic took hold in the region (Eurasianet, 14 May 2020). Large-scale energy and mining projects, especially Chinese investments, continue in the region despite the pandemic, stranding foreign workers inside the country as the borders remain closed (Eurasianet, 4 May 2020).

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In Croatia, protests were held against 5G technology, particularly its perceived negative health effects. Some protesters demanded that measures to combat the coronavirus be completely lifted.

In Albania, labor protests took place in Vlore and Berat, where workers demanded financial assistance from the government during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Bulgaria, the political party Revival protested against the government’s coronavirus measures and over perceived conspiracies fuelled by disinformation. Former Ombudsman Maya Manolova and mothers of children with disabilities mobilized as part of a movement called ‘the System is Killing Us’, which held anti-government protests and denounced the financial aid provided during the pandemic as inadequate (Dnevnik, 23 May 2020).

In Greece, labor groups held nearly two dozen demonstrations over the pandemic’s economic impact or their opposition to coronavirus-related restrictions (To Vima, 19 May 2020; To Pontiki, 22 May 2020; Ekathimerini, 28 May 2020; I Avgi, 21 May 2020).

In Cyprus, demonstrations were held in Limassol against migrants and 5G technology, attended by members of United Patriots (SigmaLive, 24 May 2020). Anti-fascists demonstrated outside a migrant camp in solidarity with migrants (Philenews, 25 May 2020).

Though lockdown measures were relaxed, the number of protests remains low in Romania. Still, several protests were held over misperceptions relating to various aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, including the perceived negative effects of 5G technology, the spread of the disease, and vaccinations (News.ro, 17 May 2020).

In Moldova, dozens of restaurant workers and market vendors protested for several days in Chisinau, Balti, and Cahul, demanding the lifting of the coronavirus restrictions on their businesses (Ziarul de Gardă, 27 May 2020).

In Russia, medical workers continued to protest demanding that the authorities pay them their promised coronavirus pay increases (Regnum, 21 May 2020). Multiple protests by local business owners took place, calling either to be included in the groups of businesses allowed to reopen under the eased lockdown measures (Vesti Voronezh, 22 May 2020), or for direct financial assistance (Caucasian Knot, 29 May 2020).

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In Switzerland, half a dozen demonstrations took place against the lockdown measures implemented by the government due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some protesters particularly denounced the consequences of these measures on prisoners.

In France, protesters of Action France demonstrated against the lockdown measures implemented by the government. More than 20 protests took place in front of hospitals to demand increased material resources for health workers to respond to the pandemic. Demonstrators also demanded salary adjustments and the payment of a coronavirus bonus to all health workers. Labor groups, including catering professionals, bus drivers for tourists, and actors, staged multiple demonstrations. They protested to raise awareness for the precariousness of their economic situation due to the coronavirus crisis.

In the United Kingdom, there were several small-scale anti-lockdown protests, many of which were organized by the newly formed UK Freedom Movement, which believes that the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures infringe on human rights. Parents in Manchester and Cambridge protested over the reopening of schools as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, claiming that it is too soon to put their children at risk (Manchester Evening News, 21 May 2020; Cambridge News, 28 May 2020),

In Germany, people continued to protest in various cities against the measures taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus. However, protests declined and showed lower turnout than expected. (Deutsche Welle, 23 May 2020). Various professions such as owners of travel agencies, travel coach operators, and artists protested to draw attention to their financial situation during the pandemic and to demand government support.

In Denmark, students protested for their right to celebrate the end of high school with traditional truck driving despite the coronavirus.

In border towns of Denmark and Germany, protesters gathered to demand the reopening of the border due to the closure’s effect on the tourism industry.

In Italy, the Tricolor Masks movement staged protests all around the country for the fourth weekend in a row. Protests gathered in approximately 80 locations. The biggest gatherings took place in Torino, Roma, and Milano. Labor groups held protests denouncing the economic fallout from the pandemic. Tourist guides, bus drivers, taxi drivers, private school workers, driving school managers, and business owners from the HoReCa sector, among others, carried out over 50 protests. Students staged about a dozen protests criticizing online teaching and calling for a return to schools in September. 

In Spain, over 130 protests were held around the country against the management of the coronavirus crisis and calling for the government to resign. Some were called by  the Vox political party. The protests started in the Salamanca district, in Madrid, and spread to other areas across Spain. Several counter-demonstrations led to confrontations between groups amid rising political tensions. At the same time, health workers staged protests in approximately seven different locations to demand better working conditions and additional resources. Workers in the hostel and restaurant industry held several protests to express their discontent with coronavirus deconfinement measures and their impact on their industry.

In Portugal, half a dozen protests were held by workers in the culture and arts industry to demand an emergency fund due to the coronavirus crisis. Additionally, fairground workers held nearly a dozen demonstrations to demand financial assistance from the government. One of these demonstrations turned violent and rioters clashed with police officers when they tried to break through a cordon in order to access the Ministry of Finance building.

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Coronavirus-related demonstrations continued over the past two weeks, particularly with labor protests calling for the re-opening of stores and economic activity. In Dominica, Honduras, and Guatemala, transport workers took to the streets calling for a bonus and permission to work. In Honduras, between 18 and 21 May, transport workers and taxi drivers demonstrated in five departments. The discontent peaked on 27 May, when thousands of taxi drivers across the country staged demonstrations in nine different departments. Also, in Mexico, workers across the country continued to call for authorities to allow them to work or to provide financial aid. In Hidalgo state, the National Union of Agricultural Workers (UNTA) organized a series of simultaneous demonstrations that took place in at least 18 municipalities.

After criticizing Nicaragua for a lax response to the pandemic, authorities in Costa Rica restricted border controls, prompting protests by truck drivers at border points in Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua. Truck drivers were stranded and the move was criticized by neighboring countries due to its economic and humanitarian impact on the delivery of goods across Central America (CR Hoy, 27 May 2020).

In Saint-Martin, protesters on the French side of the island demanded the opening of the border after the Dutch side announced that coronavirus-related border checks would be suspended.

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Health workers continued to protest across the region, with events reported in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. The protesters call for better working conditions and proper protective equipment as they treat patients infected with the coronavirus. Recently, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that South America has become the new pandemic center of the disease (The Guardian, 22 May 2020).

The economic impact of the pandemic also led to protests around the region. In Argentina, workers from several sectors continued to protest for the third consecutive week across multiple cities to demand an end to quarantine measures and the reopening of businesses. With a strict lockdown implemented since mid-March, economic activities have been severely affected, worsening the country’s debt crisis (BBC News, 30 May 2020). In Ecuador, students and workers took to the streets after the government announced a cut to the budget for public universities and the closure of state-owned companies. In Chile, demonstrations over food shortages were held in several districts of the Metropolitan region, with citizens demanding food assistance from the national government. Clashes between rioting mobs and the police were reported after looting attempts at stores and supermarkets. The events followed President Sebastian Piñera’s announcement of stricter quarantine measures in Santiago, in light of an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases. In Venezuela, citizens continue to demand the distribution of potable water, fuel, and electric power amidst an economic crisis worsened by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, supporters of former President Evo Morales and his political party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS), continued to hold demonstrations for the third consecutive week, demanding new presidential elections and the lifting of the lockdown.

In Brazil, protests and motorcades calling for an end to social distancing measures and the re-opening of businesses continued to be reported across the country. Following pressure from different sectors, several cities launched plans to gradually reopen economic and social activities. The moves come even as approximately 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths are confirmed each day, with the overall toll now exceeding 30,000 (BBC News, 31 May 2020).

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In Aden, Yemen, significant public unrest over inadequate provision of basic needs, especially electricity, resulted in protests. One man was injured by fire from Security Belt Forces on 21 May, while another set of protests blocked streets on 30 May. The STC has controlled Aden since late January 2018 and declared self-administration in April 2020.

In Iraq, a handful of protests over the economic fallout from coronavirus-related business closures also took place. These will likely increase in the coming weeks as reported cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, which could result in an extension of the curfew and lockdown measures.

In Turkey, health workers held several demonstrations to protest their working conditions during the pandemic and salary disparities, particularly between those who work in departments treating coronavirus patients and those in other departments.

 

New and adapted demonstrations

In the United Kingdom, new forms of protest have emerged amidst the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures, including: Extinction Rebellion’s use of empty shoes to represent children in a protest to demand that the government adopt a climate-friendly economic recovery plan (Reuters, 18 May 2020);  Led By Donkey’s use of a truck pulling a giant screen playing the Prime Minister’s speech on staying home to protest against political adviser Dominic Cumming’s violation of lockdown measures (Chelmsford Weekly News, 24 May 2020); and the use of a plane pulling a banner over a police station in North Wales that called attention to the lack of justice for a woman who had been killed by an automobile. (Daily Post)

As in the United Kingdom, members of Extinction Rebellion in Spain staged a performance protest by laying out pairs of shoes in nearly a dozen of cities to demand the government adopt a climate-friendly economic recovery plan. Similar protests were held in some 70 locations in Sweden (Expressen, 31 May 2020).

10-16 May 2020

In Southeast Asia, coronavirus-related demonstrations were reported in Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. In Indonesia, students protested over restrictions on travel during Eid al-Fitr due to the pandemic. In Thailand, workers in Bangkok and Chiang Mai protested over unpaid wages which employers claimed were a result of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. In Cambodia, garment workers likewise protested over unpaid wages. While unpaid wages have been a motivating factor for protests in Cambodia prior to the outbreak, the pandemic has exacerbated the issue.

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Despite growing concern over the resurgence of COVID-19 in South Korea, large-scale demonstrations of approximately 1,000-3,000 people were reported for the first time since the beginning of the country’s coronavirus outbreak in February. Workers, kindergarten teachers, and doctors took to the streets to call for government measures to tackle the socio-economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown. With many universities only providing online classes, college students continued to protest for a tuition refund.

In Taiwan, around 300 members of a union for workers in the nightlife business gathered at the Taipei City Council to urge the government to allow them to reopen. Nightlife businesses were closed in Taiwan due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There was a spike in demonstrations reported in Hong Kong this week, leading to one of the highest event counts recorded in a single week so far this year. Four demonstrations were directly related to the coronavirus crisis. Various groups protested for increased financial support from the government, while employees of a famous restaurant chain continued to protest for the second consecutive week, calling on their employer to clarify their employment status and make necessary payments. These employees had reportedly been asked to take unpaid leave since February. 

While the total number of events remained low in China, this week registered one of the highest weekly event counts in months. Only one demonstration was directly related to the coronavirus pandemic: a protest by hundreds of taxi drivers calling for operators to further reduce rental fees. Taxi drivers’ incomes remain depressed, as cities continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic. This protest reportedly went on for three days.

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Workers from different sectors protested to call for the lifting of work restrictions implemented during the pandemic across Central America and the Caribbean. In Honduras, transportation workers staged several demonstrations across the country. In Guatemala, truck drivers protested to be allowed to deliver agricultural products despite the coronavirus lockdown. In El Salvador, strict lockdown measures sparked pot-banging and horn-honking protests across the country amidst growing fears that the government is becoming more authoritarian, after the president dismissed several Supreme Court rulings (Human Rights Watch, 17 April 2020). In Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago, residents and labor groups called for economic support during the coronavirus crisis and asked to resume their professional activities. In Mexico, blockades were reported in four municipalities of Michoacán to prevent an alleged fumigation campaign against dengue fever for fear that it might spread the coronavirus. Though according to some reports, misinformation had been circulated on social networks and no such campaign actually existed.

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In South America, demonstrations continued in Colombia with citizens calling for authorities to provide financial aid and basic goods. In Venezuela, citizens demanded the distribution of potable water, fuel, and electric power amidst an economic crisis worsened by the pandemic. In Ecuador, students took to the streets after President Lenin Moreno announced a cut to the public universities’ budget. Following demonstrations reported in the country’s main cities, the Supreme Court ordered the Ministry of Finance to refrain from making any reductions that would affect the educational institutions. In Argentina, workers from several sectors, including teachers, demanded the payment of delayed wages. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recently warned that the pandemic will cause the worst economic contraction in the region’s history, leading to a rise in unemployment and poverty rates (UN News, 21 April 2020).

Health workers continued to protest across the region, with events reported in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. The protesters call for better working conditions and proper protective equipment as they treat patients infected with the coronavirus.

In Bolivia, supporters of former President Evo Morales and his political party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS), held several demonstrations demanding new general and presidential elections. In Cochabamba city, more than 200 demonstrators blocked the K’ara K’ara city dump for several days, while attacks against journalists and health workers were reported in the area. Due to the pandemic, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal postponed the elections, previously expected to go ahead on 3 May, to a tentative date between 7 June and 6 September 2020.

In Brazil, tensions within the government rose after the Health Minister resigned on 15 May following less than a month in the position. The former minister disagreed with President Jair Bolsonaro by refusing to loosen up quarantine measures and rejecting the use of the chloroquine drug as a treatment for coronavirus patients without severe symptoms. Following the episode, several pot-banging protests against the President were recorded in the country’s main cities. Although the number of confirmed deaths in Brazil surpassed 15,000 last week, the President continues to openly oppose any sort of business restrictions during the pandemic. Protests and motorcades calling for an end to social distancing measures and the re-opening of business continued to be reported across the country.

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In Croatia, owners and employees of transport companies continued to protest over not being able to work due to the coronavirus measures.

In Bulgaria, the nationalist Revival party organized a series of anti-government demonstrations, with some demonstrators rallying around disinformation involving conspiracy theories that blame Bill Gates, George Soros, and 5G mobile networks for the spread of the coronavirus (RFE/RL, 14 May 2020; Sega, 14 May 2020).

In Greece, demonstrations increased with large events held against the government’s education reforms and against the recording of classes, which would allow for remote attendance during the coronavirus pandemic (Avgi, 13 May 2020; MAKEDONIA, 13 May 2020). Demonstrations were also held over a smattering of coronavirus-related issues fuelled by disinformation, including conspiracies linked to 5G mobile networks and vaccines. Demonstrators included members of nationalist and far-right groups, and were met by counter-demonstrations of anti-establishment groups (To Pontiki, 15 May 2020; ThessNews, 15 May 2020). In addition, members of a community in Larissa demonstrated after they were subjected to additional coronavirus restrictions due to a local spike in infections (The National Herald, 15 May 2020). Riots broke out at a migrant holding site near the Evros border after the pandemic caused weeks of delays in processing asylum claims (Ekathimerini, 12 May 2020).

In Cyprus, a small explosive targeting a Turkish Cypriot bakery in the bi-communal village of Pyla caused minor damage. Due to inter-communal tensions, the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus is highly concerned over the incident and has stepped up patrols (Cyprus Mail, 12 May 2020). Turkish Cypriots protested at various locations in the North demanding to be allowed to commute to their employment in the South through crossing points that are still closed due to coronavirus restrictions.

In Moldova, market workers protested in Chisinau and Balti for two days, demanding the opening of the markets despite coronavirus restrictions (Ziarul de Garda, 16 May 2020; Deschide, 15 May 2020). On 15 May, the state of emergency was replaced with a public health emergency and quarantine was lifted in most isolated localities, but many restrictions and recommendations remain in place (Moldova.org, 15 May 2020).

Protesters gathered in Bucharest, Romania, condemning the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and questioning information about the coronavirus (Agerpres, 16 May 2020). At least 100 people protested at the Nadlac checkpoint, complaining about the long waiting time at the Hungarian-Romanian border due to coronavirus measures (News.ro, 16 May 2020).

In Russia, medical workers staged protests at their workplaces, demanding to be paid the promised coronavirus-related emergency wage increases, which they claim failed to materialize despite President Vladimir Putin’s promises earlier this month (Interfax; 15 May 2020; Caucasian Knot; 16 May 2020; IRK.ru; 16 May 2020). 

In Ukraine, entrepreneurs and public transport workers staged more than a dozen demonstrations against coronavirus lockdown measures (KyivPost, 14 May 2020). 

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In the United Kingdom, a group known as the UK Freedom Movement called for nationwide protests against coronavirus lockdown measures on 16 May 2020. Although most locations reported no protests, there were several small demonstrations in or near cities including Sheffield (The Star, 16 May 2020); Nottingham (Nottingham Post, 16 May 2020), Glasgow ( Scotsman, 16 May 2020), and Edinburgh (Coventry Telegraph, 16 May 2020). The largest protest took place at London’s Hyde Park, where hundreds of people contravened the coronavirus lockdown in protest. Nineteen arrests were reported (MyLondon, 16 May 2020).

In Italy, the Tricolor Masks movement staged protests across the country for the third weekend in a row. Protesters gathered in around 80 locations. A particularly large protest occurred in Rome, where around 100 people participated. Business owners and self-employed workers also protested around the country to call for a resumption of business. Protesters additionally asked for clear guidelines regarding coronavirus containment measures at workplaces. There is concern that overly strict or unclear rules might arbitrarily limit activities or cause legal issues.

People continued to take to the streets in various cities across Germany to protest against measures taken to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. In several cities, these protests were met with counter-protests. (Reuters, 16 May 2020; Financial Times, 17 May 2020). Tourist guides, owners and employees of travel agencies and gyms, as well as travel coach operators protested to draw attention to their difficult financial situation during the pandemic and to demand government support.

Protests took place in half a dozen cities in Switzerland against coronavirus lockdown measures.

In France, several protests took place in front of hospitals calling for increased resources for health workers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. A small number of protests also took place over the extension of the state of health emergency law due to the coronavirus. Lawyers concerned about the effects on individual liberties were among the demonstrators. Multiple protests in Cote d’Armor called for the relaxation of lockdown measures prohibiting beach access in Normandy.

In Slovenia, protests calling for the government to step down have drawn thousands out on the streets for the third week in a row. The protesters are dissatisfied with the general state of the government, but also its response to the coronavirus, which the protesters claim was inadequate due to corruption (Total Slovenia New, May 15).

In Hungary, drivers and cyclists protested at a roundabout in Budapest against the emptying of the hospital beds and the government’s response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic (Index.hu, 11 May 2020). At least 60 people protested in Gyula in support of a local opposition party member suspected of “scaremongering” after posting on social media about the emptying of hospital beds (444.hu, 15 May 2020).

Apart from two protests about local issues, demonstration activity in the Netherlands revolved around post-coronavirus policies, with Greenpeace staging a stunt action on the tarmac of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam demanding the government tie environmental conditions to support provided to the aviation sector due to the crisis (Greenpeace, 14 May 2020)

In Belgium, workers protested over poor labor conditions related to the coronavirus. Public transport workers went on strike and protested in Brussels, while health workers symbolically turned their back to the Prime Minister while she was visiting the CHU Saint-Pierre (Euronews, 17 May 2020). 

In Spain, dozens of citizens protested for seven consecutive days in Madrid to denounce the management of the coronavirus crisis and call for the government to resign. By the end of the week, protests spread across the country, with events reported in Oviedo, Logroño, Valladolid, Zaragoza, Valencia, and Salamanca, among other locations. Health workers gathered for two consecutives days in the three provinces of the Aragon Region — Zaragoza, Huesca, and Teruel — to call for the resignation of the Regional Minister of Health. Members of Committees for the Defence of the Republic protested  at four different locations in Catalonia to denounce the presence of military forces deployed due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

 

New and adapted demonstrations 

The environmentalist group, Extinction Rebellion, staged a symbolic action by placing 100 shoes in front of the regional administration offices in Italy’s Lombardi region. Activists called for the ‘truth to be unveiled’ about both the coronavirus outbreak and the environmental crisis. 

In Switzerland, climate protesters in Zurich demonstrated from their windows, in compliance with lockdown measures.

In France, people organized a carnival in Lannion to protest against potential threats to freedom of expression posed by the extension of the state of health emergency law. People also formed a human chain in Saint-Denis, while respecting social distancing policies, to protest against increased police brutality during the enforcement of lockdown measures.In Belgium, the autocar sector staged a virtual protest to demand government support by driving up to 6,500 autocars to Brussels (ATV, 13 May 2020).

3-9 May 2020

In Poland, people continued to protest against the economic impacts of coronavirus-related restrictions. Protests were largely led by cross-border workers and business owners. Police intervention was rare. ACLED records an uptick in both public and online protests related to the upcoming presidential elections, with some activists requesting the vote not be held amid coronavirus-related restrictions.

In the United Kingdom, multiple anti-lockdown protests took place across the country, with demonstrators claiming that the coronavirus is a hoax, or that the government-imposed lockdown infringed on civil liberties. (Scotsman, 9 May 2020; Andover Advertise, 4 May 2020; Bristol Post, 3 May 2020; The National, 2 May 2020; Evening Standard, 2 May 2020)

In Italy, multiple protests occurred around the country as business owners and self-employed workers requested to resume their activities as soon as possible. Protests started to break out after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte postponed the resumption of businesses within the framework of the latest Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers. The newly-established Tricolor Masks movement also staged protests around the country for the second weekend in a row. The movement opposes what it calls the “healthcare dictatorship” imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The movement sharply criticizes the current government’s management of the coronavirus outbreak and calls for a return to polls. 

Despite a gradual easing of restrictions, people continued to protest against coronavirus lockdown measures in various cities throughout Germany, often defying social distancing regulations. (Deutsche Welle, 9 May 2020) A demonstration in Berlin against coronavirus measures turned violent when demonstrators threw bottles at police officers. In Dortmund, a journalist was assaulted by a member of the far right during a demonstration. 

Hundreds of people protested in different locations across Switzerland against the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

In France, parents of students protested against the reopening of schools after the government announced a de-confinement plan that prioritizes children’s immediate return. Farmers protested against restrictions on markets, while FedEx employees demonstrated in several different locations against the absence of a response to mitigate coronavirus risks faced by workers in their field.

In Spain, the Committees for the Defence of the Republic protested at five different locations to denounce what they view as excessive concentration of power in the government during the coronavirus crisis. The protesters wore masks and practiced social distancing. Labor protests also took place at four different locations. In Oviedo and Gijon, workers from the hostel and restaurant industry protested against the de-confinement measures adopted by the government. They wore black clothes, masks, and practiced social distancing. In Manresa, health workers of Althaia Hospital gathered to demand better labor conditions. In Cervo (Lugo), members of the works committee and representatives of the Galician Inter-Union Confederation of Alcoa Company protested in defense of employment during the coronavirus crisis.

In Portugal, fairground workers protested to call on the government to allow them to return to work. The protesters denounced the cancellation of fairground festivities due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely impacted their financial situation.

In Slovenia, thousands protested against the government on 8 May, mostly on their bikes. The protesters claimed that the government’s inadequate response to the coronavirus was the result of long-standing corruption (Total Slovenia News, 8 May 2020)

In Finland, a protest outside a maternity hospital in Helsinki criticized the government’s restrictions on attendance at childbirth during the coronavirus, particularly for partners of those giving birth.

Luxembourg saw multiple protests at border crossings with Germany on 9 May, Europe Day. The protesters rallied against the closing of EU borders in response to the pandemic.

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Owners and employees of small transport companies protested in nearly a dozen Croatian cities over not being able to work due to lockdown measures.

In Crete, far-left and far-right groups clashed over migration (Efsyn, 5 May 2020). In northern Greece, far-right activists rioted to prevent the housing of migrants in hotels in the area. In Athens, youth and anti-establishment groups rioted and clashed with police over the ban on public gatherings (Ekathimerini, 6 May 2020; Ekathimerini, 9 May 2020). 

In Russia, only several demonstrations took place amid the ongoing lockdown. Protests were held by relatives of inmates of a penal colony in Angarsk that was rocked by riots last month (RFE/RL, 4 May 2020), and by relatives of workers at a gas field in Yakutia where employees were diagnosed with coronavirus (Novaya Gazeta, 6 May 2020). 

In Ukraine, entrepreneurs continued to protest for permission to open their businesses during the coronavirus lockdown (Unian, 6 May 2020), while health workers demanded better pay for their work (24 Channel, 4 May 2020). Moreover, people staged demonstrations across the country against the possible arrest of an activist who had killed an attacker in self-defense in May 2018 (Ukrinform, 7 May 2020).

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Multiple coronavirus-related events were reported in Southeast Asia. Students in Thailand demonstrated to call for a more inclusive government-run financial program to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus. In Indonesia, while students were protesting an issue unrelated to coronavirus, they were arrested for violating measures to prevent gatherings due to the pandemic.

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Students in South Korea held demonstrations in Seoul, Busan, Jinju, and Chuncheon, among other locations, to call for a tuition refund due to the pandemic’s impact on their quality of education. Farmers, merchants, migrant workers, and refugees also gathered to criticize the government’s response to the crisis and call for better policies.

In Hong Kong, employees of a popular restaurant chain protested against delayed severance payment after they were laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Taxi drivers in China protested to call for the termination of their contracts and unconditional return of their rental vehicles. Taxi drivers’ incomes have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and they have demonstrated across China since February. The overall number of demonstration events remains low, though there was a slight increase through the start of May. 

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In Yemen, in the wake of the 26 April declaration of self-administration by the Southern Transitional Council (STC), instability has increased throughout the south. Following a week of widespread pro-STC demonstrations in Hadramawt governorate, the governor declared demonstrations illegal and deployed troops in Al Mukalla City to prevent their reoccurrence. However, pro-STC demonstrations proliferated in major cities of Abyan governorate. Two assassination attempts were reported in Aden, and anti-STC riots broke out over the government’s lackluster response to deteriorating health conditions and the poor provision of basic services like electricity. 

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Health workers continued to protest for greater protection against the coronavirus and improved working conditions in Mexico. In Honduras, Mexico, and Panama, workers continued to call for authorities to allow them to work or to provide financial aid. In Mexico, the difference between essential and non-essential businesses provoked discontent among some labor groups, with protesters demanding that restrictions on businesses be applied equally. In El Salvador, people detained within mandatory quarantine centers established by the government held two protests raising concerns over overcrowding, missing protection measures, and a lack of clarity as to when they will be released.

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Health workers continued to protest across South America, with events reported in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. The protesters call for better working conditions and proper protective equipment as they treat patients infected with the coronavirus.

In Brazil, workers and businessmen continued to protest against social distancing measures. While teachers, transportation drivers, and street vendors demanded financial aid during the crisis, businessmen called for the re-opening of business and downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic. On 3 March, protest events in support of President Jair Bolsonaro were held in several cities, despite reinforced quarantine measures imposed by municipal and state authorities. At several of these events, protesters publicly opposed the country’s democratic institutions, such as the National Congress and the Supreme Court of Justice. In Brasília city, demonstrators once again attacked journalists, forcing them to leave the venue under police protection. Press organizations denounced the increase in attacks against media workers in Brazil, and warned about a decline in press freedom (RSF, 5 May 2020).

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In Maktaraal district of Kazakhstan, a dam burst in the neighboring Syrdaryo region of Uzbekistan causing mass evacuations and triggering protests. Gathering in Orgebas, Atakent, Myrzakent, and Zhaylybaev towns of Maktaaral, evacuated villagers protested over the absence of government officials in the region and claimed that they could have saved their livelihoods had they been alerted earlier to the threat (RFE/RL, 3 May 2020). The Kazakh government later announced that housing will be provided for flood victims, although the downturn caused by the pandemic continues to strain the country’s economy (Eurasianet, 16 April 2020). Demonstrations calling for financial assistance have been ongoing since lockdown measures were first imposed in Kazakhstan in early March.

 

New and adapted demonstrations

Anti-government demonstrations continued to be held from balconies in several dozen cities in Serbia

In Greece, restaurant owners protested by setting up empty chairs symbolizing business lost to coronavirus measures (The National Herald, 7 May 2020).

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In the United Kingdom, environmental protesters targeted multiple construction sites of the UK’s high speed railway project by camping in trees for several days, demanding that construction halt and funds be redirected to the NHS to help fight coronavirus. (Nottingham Post, 6 May 2020; Coventry Telegraph, 5 May 2020; Evening Standard,4 May 2020).

In Hungary, around 100 people protested by driving at a roundabout in Budapest to condemn the government’s plan to empty more hospital beds, hold school exams during the pandemic, and takeover of the funds of certain local councils (HVG, 4 May 2020).

26 April-2 May 2020

Nearly 80% of all demonstrations recorded in Central America and the Caribbean last week were directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. In Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama, demonstrators called for the provision of food and financial support during coronavirus lockdowns. Groups of workers protested to resume their business activities, including truck drivers in Costa Rica, taxi drivers in Honduras, and workers from the tourism industry in Mexico. Health workers also demonstrated in Mexico over the lack of protective equipment and training to treat coronavirus patients. 

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In Colombia and Venezuela, demonstrations slightly increased compared to the previous week, as citizens continue to call for authorities to provide financial aid and basic goods. In Colombia, citizens protested in several neighborhoods of Bogotá city to demand food and the provision of emergency income payments for workers. In Venezuela, fuel shortages continued to drive citizens to the streets, with fishermen, merchants, and farmers claiming they are unable to transport their products.

In Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela, health workers protested demanding better working conditions and proper protective equipment as they treat patients infected with the coronavirus. In Brasília city, Brazil, during a silent protest to honor the dead, health workers were attacked by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro. Healthcare specialists have raised concerns that Latin America’s underfunded public health systems are at risk of collapse, as the region faces a rising number of confirmed cases and deaths (AS-COAS, 4 May 2020, Brookings Institution, 26 March 2020).

Also in Brazil, workers mainly from the tourism and transport sectors protested in several cities against financial losses due to social distancing measures adopted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Demonstrations significantly increased in Chile following President Sebastian Pinera’s call on public employees and private businesses to re-open the economy. On Labor Day, multiple protests were reported across the country to demand better working conditions and government support to mitigate the economic crisis worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. In the Metropolitan region, police officers opened fire on a group of protesters, injuring at least 10 people. Several clashes between demonstrators and state forces broke out around the country.

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In Kazakhstan, shop owners demonstrated at a market in Almaty city to call for management to suspend rent payments and reopen businesses. Similarly, cab drivers in Ust-Kamenogorsk city protested against administrative barriers that make it difficult for private taxis to operate. Quarantined Kazakh medics from the Central Clinical Hospital of Almaty city demonstrated against the perception that they were spreading the coronavirus due to misinformation circulated by the media. Additionally, quarantined patients protested at the regional infectious diseases hospital in Uralsk city to demand release, as they had not been discharged after the mandatory 14-day period. 

In Georgia, people demonstrated against the government’s response to the crisis and subsequent economic hardship. With markets closed due to coronavirus, traders organized protests last week in Rustavi and Tbilisi to call for reopening as well as government rent subsidies. A group of transgender women also organized a protest in Tbilisi on 1 May over the financial strain caused by the lockdown. One of the protesters attempted to self-immolate but, after police intervention, she was taken to hospital where she recovered. 

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In Thailand, labor demonstrations called for increased government assistance during the pandemic. In Myanmar, factory workers in Yangon protested calling for their salaries to be paid in full despite factory shutdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The leaders of the protest were subsequently arrested and charged with violating coronavirus-related orders (Irrawaddy, 5 May 2020).

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Although Japan remains under stringent social distancing measures, labor unions still organized protests to mark May Day. While large gatherings were canceled, most unions held smaller gatherings in multiple locations around the country’s major cities. Many of the issues raised this year centered on the coronavirus pandemic, including increased compensation, protections for workers affected by the crisis, and support for medical workers.  

In South Korea, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the largest labor unions in the country, organized May Day rallies in Seoul, Busan and Jeju, among other cities. Protesters took the opportunity to call on the government to take measures against massive layoffs amid the coronavirus crisis and to immediately provide stimulus checks to low-income workers. Other groups urged the government to provide support to migrant workers excluded from state benefits.

In Taiwan, health workers gathered in front of the Taiwan Center for Disease Control to protest the coronavirus subsidy amount, arguing that it is too low.

Ahead of Labor Day in Hong Kong, labor groups held several small-scale demonstrations calling for the government to add COVID-19 to the list of occupational diseases in order to provide greater protection to workers who became infected at their workplace.

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Labor protests took place across several different towns in Albania, where market vendors, manufacturers and fishermen called for government aid, requested compensation for unpaid salaries, or denounced high oil prices. The first trip of Prime Minister Edi Rama since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic was met with demonstrations by oil workers over the lack of promised government assistance (Albanian Daily News, 1 May 2020).

In Bulgaria, a group of residents staged a protest demanding the president resign over “dividing the nation” amidst the coronavirus pandemic, as he has frequently contradicted government measures and policies (Sega, 2 May 2020).

Protesters in Chisinau, Moldova, demanded lower lockdown violation fees and the resumption of regular economic activity (TV8, 29 April 2020).

Environmental protests continued in Brest, Belarus, with protesters demanding President Alexander Lukashenka’s resignation and the release of three protest leaders, but also warning about the similarities between the government response to the Chernobyl disaster and the coronavirus pandemic (Svaboda.org, 26 April 2020).

In Russia, disorder over the coronavirus crisis continues, with a smattering of small-scale protests over the government response, all dispersed by police on grounds of violating self-isolation and quarantine measures (Kommersant, 29 April 2020; OVD Info, 30 April 2020). Workers at a gas field in Yakutia staged a protest over the lack of coronavirus precautions and safety equipment (Novaya Gazeta, 30 April 2020).

In Ukraine, more than a dozen of demonstrations were staged by small business owners and farmers suffering financial losses due to coronavirus lockdown (Radio Svoboda, 28 April 2020). Health workers also protested in different cities demanding increased pay for the period of quarantine (ZIK, 30 April 2020). 

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In Spain, workers protested during International Workers’ Day while wearing masks and gloves in their cars in Zaragoza. Protestors rallied to denounce poor labor conditions during the pandemic. The High Court of Justice of Aragon allowed the demonstration to take place in accordance with hygiene and safety regulations as well as a maximum limit of 60 people protesting inside their cars. 

In the United Kingdom, multiple protests were reported against the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures (Somerset Live, 1 May 2020; Somerset Liv, 25 April 2020; Andover Advertiser, 27 April 2020; Metro UK, 2 May 2020).

Protests against government coronavirus measures continued in several cities in Germany. In Stuttgart, around 5,000 people protested against the restrictions (SWR, 2 May 2020). Caterers and owners of gyms and travel agencies protested over financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus lockdown, demanding government support. 

In Austria, around 400 people protested for the second time in Vienna against the coronavirus measures taken by the government.

Demonstration activity increased in Portugal around International Workers’ Day, with nearly three demonstrations called by labor groups to denounce increased austerity measures due to the coronavirus crisis, as well as the pandemic’s impact on workers’ rights.

In Italy, refugees hosted at an Emergency Reception Center (CAS) in Alpignano protested to call for the relocation of 16 migrants who tested positive for the coronavirus. 

In Latvia, a minor protest took place in Riga against quarantine measures that resulted in the arrest of three protesters. 

In Estonia, a small protest of approximately 10 people took place on the island of Saaremaa against quarantine measures that particularly impact the island, though hundreds more conducted individual protests in solidarity across the country.

 

New and adapted demonstrations

In Mongolia, approximately 500 people used the internet to coordinate a protest in which demonstrators separately placed unused equipment and tools outside the Sports Central Palace in Ulaanbaatar. The protest aimed to alert the government that the number of “owner-less tools” is increasing amid the economic shutdown.

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In Argentina, citizens performed pot-banging protests in several cities against a decision made by local judges to release prisoners during the pandemic. As of 29 April, more than 700 inmates from prisons in Buenos Aires have been released over concerns of poor hygienic conditions inside the facilities.

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In Serbia, nightly demonstrations against the government and anti-democratic policies surged, with citizens protesting from their balconies in over three dozen cities. 

In North Macedonia, truck drivers organized a vehicle procession in the capital against increased fuel tax and called for the government to support the transport sector (Macedonian Information Agency, 28 April 2020).

In Greece, labor groups protested without incident ahead of Labor Day and May Day in Athens and across the country despite the coronavirus lockdown. In Athens, protesters lined up carefully in rows to maintain social distancing (AMNA, 1 May 2020; The National Herald, 1 May 2020).

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In Hungary, several people protested in their cars and on their bicycles by driving and honking at a roundabout in Budapest, condemning the lack of unemployment assistance, insufficient wages for the healthcare workers, and the government’s decision to empty more hospital beds (24.hu, 27 April 2020). 

In the United Kingdom, a neighborhood action group in Wolverhampton staged a socially distanced march during the daily “clap for carers” to call on the government to provide more personal protective equipment for NHS workers (Freedom news, 1 May 2020). Extinction Rebellion in Cambridge used vandalism as an act of socially distanced protest during their daily exercise, targeting businesses that they dubbed as part of polluting industries (Cambridge News, 1 May 2020). 

In France, demonstrations took place in eight cities to mark International Workers’ Day while respecting social distancing rules. They mainly protested over government policies and the lack of funding for public hospitals, as well as the management of the coronavirus crisis. Students demonstrated from their windows and balconies to demand better public services. Employees of several stores protested, while respecting social distancing rules, over the payment of a bonus for working during quarantine.

Balcony protests by locked-down citizens decreased in Spain, with only three protests reported against the government’s management of the coronavirus crisis. 

In Slovenia, thousands protested on their bikes against the government and its approach to fighting the coronavirus (Total Croatia News, May 02, 2020).

Across Italy, the owners of bars, pubs, restaurants, and shops took part in a symbolic protest by switching on the lights of their premises to mark the last day of business before handing in the keys to their local mayors the following morning. The initiative was organized by a movement called MIO – Hospitality Business Movement (Movimento Imprese Ospitalità) and protesters gathered under the banner “Italy Rises Again.” Business owners also staged protests all around the country to complain about prolonged lockdown measures, which might lead to the closure of several activities. 

In Germany, doctors posed naked in an attempt to draw attention to shortages of protective clothing and equipment (Guardian, 27 April 2020). People also took to the streets for the traditional Labor Day protests on 1 May. While most protesters adhered to social distancing measures or protested online, more than 1,000 people gathered in Berlin-Kreuzberg defying the contact ban (Deutsche Welle, 1 May 2020; Al Jazeera, 2 May 2020).

19-25 April 2020

In France, health workers held social-distancing protests over the lack of beds in a psychiatric hospital. Factory employees also protested to demand financial compensation for their work during the pandemic.

Protests against government coronavirus restrictions continued in Germany. More than 1,000 people gathered in Berlin for the fifth consecutive Saturday to protest against the lockdown and infringements of constitutional rights. (Deutsche Welle, 25 April 2020; Reuters, 25 April 2020; Rheinische Post, 24 April 2020)

In Austria, around 200 people took to the streets of Vienna to protest against the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

Anarchists protested twice against quarantine measures in Italy. Other protests also held events in two cities calling on the national government and local administrations to implement more extensive measures aimed at helping people dealing with the coronavirus crisis. 

In Slovenia, two protests respecting social distancing guidelines were held in Ljubljana, claiming the measures imposed due to the pandemic are undemocratic. Also, staff from several nursing homes across the country protested against requirements that the facilities take in coronavirus patients, which puts residents and staff without proper protective equipment at risk. 

In Estonia, a small protest against potential government abuse of power during the crisis took place in Tallinn.

In Sweden, taxi drivers protested over the economic hardship caused by the pandemic by driving around the parliament in Stockholm.

Demonstration activity increased in Spain, with nearly two dozen demonstrations by labor groups demanding better and safer working conditions amidst the coronavirus crisis.

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In Bosnia and Herzegovina, citizens quarantined in Sarajevo went on a hunger strike after being detained for over two weeks without being tested for the coronavirus (N1, 20 April 2020).

The Albanian Parliament voted to extend the state of emergency due to the coronavirus until 23 June, thus allowing the government to restrict certain human rights and freedoms  (Exit Albania, 24 April 2020). Various labor groups, including traders, manufacturers, and farmers, held protests calling for government relief and the distribution of unpaid salaries, as their businesses face bankruptcy and economic hardship.

In Bulgaria, Romani citizens in Sofia held another protest against the quarantine of their neighborhood, which had been set up last week due to the coronavirus. Amnesty International criticized stigmatizing quarantine measures that disproportionately target Romani settlements (Amnesty International, 21 April 2020).

Teachers and students protested across Greece against an education reform, which they believe was proposed during the coronavirus pandemic to circumvent public scrutiny (Greek Reporter, 24 April 2020).

In Moldova, the separatist Transnistrian authorities prolonged the state of emergency until 15 May and began to enforce censorship restrictions to prevent false information regarding the availability of medical supplies (Ziarul de Garda, 22 April 2020; Novosti Pridnestrovya, 21 April 2020). Locals of a quarantined village in the Edinet district protested over the lack of access to their agricultural land (TV8, 23 April 2020).

In Belarus, the arrests of three protest leaders led to increased attendance at the weekly environmental protest in Brest, where some demonstrators also called for President Alexander Lukashenka’s resignation (Viasna, 20 April 2020). Merchants protested in Minsk, demanding lower rent prices from a market hall as their income was affected by the coronavirus crisis  (Svaboda.org, 24 April 2020).

Several demonstrations related to the coronavirus crisis were reported in Russia. The largest took place in Vladikavkaz, where reportedly up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered. Some denied the existence of the pandemic and others decried the lockdown measures, which left them without a source of income. Demonstrators clashed with police, causing light injuries to at least 13 police officers, with police eventually dispersing the demonstration and detaining at least 69 participants (Vedomosti, 24 April 2020; RFE/RL, 21 April 2020).

Entrepreneurs held protests in several cities across Ukraine, demanding the right to open their businesses amidst the coronavirus lockdown (Radio Svoboda, 22 April 2020).

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The majority of protests in Japan remain linked to the coronavirus outbreak. People gathered in Okinawa and Tokyo to demonstrate against the Self-Defense Forces’ handling of infected soldiers. Other protests focused on rising discrimination and xenophobia resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as compensation for those whose jobs have been affected by the outbreak. 

In South Korea,  protests calling for immediate government measures to support groups suffering from the economic downturn continued. Labor groups, farmers, students, teachers, and people with disabilities led the demonstrations. Civic groups and labor unions urged the government to provide sanitation supplies to contract health workers, including private caregivers, who have been excluded from government benefits.

In Taiwan, demonstrators gathered at the Ministry of Labour to protest against companies that allegedly took advantage of the pandemic to dismiss pregnant employees.

Demonstrations doubled in Hong Kong compared to the previous week, and event sizes also grew. The rise in demonstration activity may be partially linked to the successful management of the coronavirus outbreak, as Hong Kong reported three days without new cases during the week. While there were still a number of demonstrations about coronavirus-related relief measures, this week marked a shift away from protests held by labor groups to protests over broader political issues unrelated to the pandemic. The “anti-extradition bill” demonstrations  — previously brought to a halt by the pandemic — made a small comeback, with the first “Lunch with You” rally in over a month. Pro-establishment groups also demonstrated to call for the prosecution of 15 prominent individuals arrested for their involvement in anti-extradition bill demonstrations last year.

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Workers demonstrated to call for the closure of two medical equipment factories in the Bago region of Myanmar to prevent the spread of the virus. 

In Thailand, students at Chiang Mai University protested to call for reduced tuition in light of the economic hardship brought about by the pandemic.

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The coronavirus crisis remains a key driver for demonstrations in Central America and Caribbean. Over 75% of all demonstration events recorded in the region last week were related to the pandemic. 

In Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama, demonstrators demanded state subsidies to counteract the economic fallout from coronavirus-related restrictions, as well as the provision of basic necessities such as water and food. 

Several protests against the burial of coronavirus victims were reported in Guatemala and Honduras

In Mexico, health workers protested over the lack of adequate equipment to treat coronavirus patients. In Yucatan state, mistrust of the security forces managing checkpoints prompted residents to break the quarantine and take over a municipality building.

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In Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, health workers protested demanding better working conditions and proper protective equipment as they treat patients infected with the coronavirus. 

In Chile, workers from local factories also demanded safety equipment and hygiene protocols to carry out their functions.

In Brazil, several protests and motorcades took place on 19 April as people celebrated Army Day. Some protests advocated for a military intervention and rejected quarantine measures. President Jair Bolsonaro spoke at the protest in Brasília, enflaming political tensions in the country, as open denial of democratic institutions is considered to be a crime under the national security law (Exame, 20 Apr 2020). On the other hand, pot-banging protests continued for the sixth consecutive week across multiple cities in opposition to the president’s remarks minimizing the coronavirus pandemic. The number of pot-banging protests increased significantly on 24 April, as Sérgio Moro, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, resigned, claiming the president was interfering in Federal Police activities. Moro became popular for leading the investigations of the “Car Wash Operation,” which uncovered a large scheme of corruption directly benefiting high-level political figures. Moro’s accusation against Bolsonaro has intensified the political crisis, which could lead to formal impeachment proceedings led by the judicial institutions (The Guardian, 24 Abril 2020).

In Colombia, demonstrations were reported in several cities, including in the capital, Bogotá. In Cesar department, citizens rioted to demand access to food, and one person was shot dead by Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (Esmad) officers. 

In Venezuela, protests over gas and food shortages continued, as fishermen, merchants, and farmers claimed they are unable to transport their products. Looting events in supermarkets were also reported in the states of Bolívar, Monagas, Portuguesa, and Sucre. One person was killed by security forces during looting in Bolívar. Recently this year, a report from the UN World Food Programme revealed that one in three people in Venezuela is moderately or severely food insecure, meaning they are unable to meet basic dietary needs (The Guardian, 24 February 2020). This situation will likely deteriorate as the coronavirus outbreak intensifies the country’s food shortage.

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The pandemic continued to underpin demonstration activity across Africa, as demonstrators pushed back on a range of issues from international travel restrictions to police enforcement of coronavirus measures. 

In Cameroon, several youths were stabbed to death during a brawl over the distribution of bags of rice donated by a footballer in Douala city. Associated demonstration activity was also reported in Nigeria, Gabon, Uganda, Tunisia, and Mauritania.

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After a sharp decline following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrations increased in many countries across the Middle East, indicating the potential for a new wave of mass protests. Many of the core factors driving the protests – such as corruption, unemployment, and poor living conditions – have been further exacerbated by lockdown measures and economic losses.

In Iraq, following weeks of inactivity due to the coronavirus outbreak, the October 2019 protest movement resumed demonstrations on 21 April in Nassriya calling for the release of detained activists. In Baghdad, conflicting reports emerged regarding an attack on demonstrators that left at least one killed and others injured (Al Jazeera, 21 April 2020). Protesters claimed they were attacked by an unknown armed group, casting blame on supporters of specific parties and militias, while other reports indicated that clashes broke out between demonstrators and shop owners (Rudaw, 21 April 2020). At the same time, some news outlets also reported that riot police had perpetrated the attack in an attempt to disperse the demonstrations (Shafaaq News, 21 April 2020). The demonstrations likely presage increased unrest in the coming weeks. As the government eases lockdown restrictions – and the protest movement continues to reject Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al Kazimi – demonstrations may slowly return to key cities like Baghdad and Nassriya. For more on the latest trends around demonstrations in Iraq, see this recent ACLED analysis piece.

Anti-government protesters took to the streets yet again in Lebanon, together with other demonstrators defying the stay-at-home order. Unrest spiked after a sudden increase in the dollar exchange rate. 

Around 30 labor protests were reported in Iran, approximately one-third of which were related to financial problems caused by the spread of the coronavirus and related restrictions. 

In Israel, ‘Black Flag’ protests increased last week against the unity deal signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz. Protesters say that the agreement violates the Basic Laws of Israel (Jerusalem Post, 26 April 2020). The coronavirus pandemic is a major reason for the formation of the unity government, and protesters fear that the state of emergency is being used to enable corruption. In Beit Shemesh and Mea Shearim, ultra-orthodox residents demonstrated against coronavirus restrictions, as they affect the orthodox education system.

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In Pakistan, doctors and paramedics demonstrated against the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available for frontline medical staff. 

In India, health workers, paramedics, and prison staff demonstrated to demand safety equipment and protective gear.

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Kazakhstan’s nationwide quarantine – and the resultant slowdown in administrative processes – has negatively impacted the rural population, who are grappling with various seasonal challenges. Villagers in Koktal town in East Kazakhstan region protested after an animal disease killed scores of livestock in the area, claiming that the authorities overlooked the problem because of the pandemic. 

Similarly, in Kyrgyzstan, villagers and farmers of Jany-Jer village in Batken district protested against the lack of irrigation water supply and its harm to their crops. Villagers gathered at a nearby police quarantine roadblock and asked authorities to prioritize their needs. 

Farmers also protested in Georgia  by blocking the road connecting Marneuli and Shulaveri village and asking the government to help them sell their agricultural products during the lockdown. A similar protest took place in Aghmamedlo town of Marneuli on 23 April, as farmers claimed that they could not sell their products due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Marneuli municipality is one of the main agricultural production areas in Georgia, and it has been under lockdown since 25 March (Agenda.ge, 22 April 2020). Moreover, with the Georgian government extending the lockdown until 25 May (JAM News, 24 April 2020), the opposition held protests in Tbilisi and Batumi throughout the week to demand less restrictive measures in light of the economic downturn. Police intervened in the demonstrations in Tbilisi due to the violation of social distancing rules, unlike in Batumi where the protesters stood apart from each other wearing masks.

 

New and adapted demonstrations

In Russia, a fully digital protest movement using the map function of the popular Yandex platform spread across several cities (Meduza, 20 April 2020).

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In Brazil, pot-banging protests continued for the sixth consecutive week across multiple cities in opposition to the president’s remarks minimizing the coronavirus pandemic. The number of pot-banging protests increased significantly on 24 April, as Sérgio Moro, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, resigned, claiming the president was interfering in Federal Police activities. 

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In the United Kingdom, new forms of protest activity took place amid coronavirus lockdown measures. Residents on a road in Bristol placed signs in their windows to protest the lack of protective equipment for healthcare workers (Bristol Post, 21 April 2020), and members of Extinction Rebellion in Cambridge used their daily exercise time outside to chalk-spray graffiti the BP headquarters to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon spill. They claim to have adhered to social distancing guidelines while doing so (Cambridge News; 21 April 2020).

The Fridays for Future movement in Italy protested online to mark the Fifth Global Climate Strike due to coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings.

In Lithuania, two small protests against the government’s pandemic response were held in participants’ personal vehicles in Vilnius and Klaipeda.

More than 230,000 people joined online Fridays for Future protests in Germany on Friday due to coronavirus restrictions. Still, some activists took to the streets to call for action to address climate change. Caterers protested by setting up empty chairs in public spaces in many German cities to call for government support during the crisis.

In Hungary, around 200 people protested with cars at a roundabout in Budapest over the government’s decision to free more than 30,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

Balcony protests increased in Spain against the government’s management of the coronavirus crisis, with up to 10 protests reported at different locations. People also protested by banging pots from their balconies to denounce measures allowing children to accompany adults to supermarkets, pharmacies, and banks. Some hours later, the government changed the initial relief measures for children and allowed them to go outside to the street for walks.

In Finland, several environmental groups organized a large virtual demonstration to protest against the fossil fuel investments of a Finnish energy company. Weekly online protests demanding climate action have occurred in Finland and Norway since the start of the pandemic (Dagsavisen, 24 April 2020). 

The Nordic Resistance Movement’s branches in Denmark and Finland resorted to vandalism and spray painting protest messages related to the coronavirus. In Marum, the group protested the Danish government’s plans to house refugees who have tested positive for the coronavirus in a former military camp. In Turku, the movement criticized political elites and banks for exacerbating the economic crisis during the pandemic.

12-18 April 2020

In Thailand and Indonesia, demonstrators protested over the locations selected for use as quarantine facilities for coronavirus patients.

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In South Korea, protests continued to focus on government measures to support groups suffering from the economic downturn, including students, contract workers, artists, school drivers, and pilots, among others.

Overall disorder levels remained low in China but were dominated by labor demonstrations. For the fourth consecutive week, taxi drivers across China have held demonstrations over the economic impact of the coronavirus, with at least three events reported last week. According to CLB, 25 taxi driver demonstrations have been reported since the start of 2020, compared to a total of 54 in all of 2019 (CLB, 15 April 2020). Similarly, merchants — another group hit hard by the pandemic’s economic fall-out — protested for a reduction in rent for the third week in a row.

Labour and political groups in Hong Kong also continued to protest and call on the government to increase financial assistance for industries affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Though demonstrations remain small due to the ban on public gatherings of more than four people, there was a slight rise in events last week.

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In Iran, dozens of protests were held by farmers and labor groups over a range of issues, including unpaid salaries and benefits as well as farming water supplies. At least eight labor protests were related to problems for workers and businesses caused by the spread of the coronavirus. 

In Lebanon, last week saw the highest number of demonstrations since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. Protesters gathered in defiance of the stay-at-home order and called attention to the country’s worsening economic, health, and living conditions.

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The perception that governments have taken inadequate measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus sparked protests in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and El Salvador. In Honduras, Mexico, and Panama, workers from a variety of sectors demanded financial and food support to compensate for the economic fall-out from coronavirus-related restrictions. In Mexico, health workers called for additional protective equipment and supplies to treat coronavirus patients. 

Demonstrations significantly increased in Colombia and Venezuela last week, despite reinforced quarantine measures imposed by authorities. In Colombia, health workers protested to demand resources and adequate protection equipment to treat infected patients. Protests were also reported in multiple cities as citizens called for the government to provide food parcels and basic goods. In Antioquia department, dozens of people from vulnerable areas looted vehicles with food, claiming they have not received sufficient aid from authorities. In Venezuela, citizens continued to demand access to potable water, food, and medicine. In addition, farmers and fishermen demonstrated across the country to demand the distribution of fuel, as they have not been able to transport their products. Protests against the chronic fuel shortage are not uncommon in Venezuela, as the country has been dealing with a prolonged collapse of its oil industry. However, demonstrations are expected to increase as the coronavirus pandemic leads to the rationing of reserves (OilPrice, 13 April 2020).

In Brazil, pot-banging protests continued for the fifth consecutive week and intensified across multiple cities in opposition to President Jair Bolsonaro and his remarks minimizing the coronavirus pandemic. On 16 April, Bolsonaro fired the Health Minister after a weeks-long standoff over the President’s push to reopen businesses in spite of health concerns from state governors (G1, 16 April 2020). Following the episode, several motorcades against quarantine measures were reported in multiple cities, marking a significant increase compared with the number recorded during the previous week.

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In Kazakhstan, ambulance workers continued to protest in Nur-Sultan and Aktau cities, demanding equal wage increases for all paramedics. Additionally, in Almaty, the country’s largest city, almost 200 patients and medical personnel tested positive for coronavirus in the Central Clinical Hospital last week (RFE/RL, 17 April 2020). As the Ministry of Health and regional governments exchanged accusations over the crisis, the head of the hospital was forced to resign, leading doctors to protest on 14 April and call for his reinstatement (Informburo.kz, 14 April 2020). Economic problems caused by the crisis also triggered protests in eastern Semey city and northern Kushmurun town, with workers accusing employers of withholding their salaries. While small enterprises are struggling due to the economic downturn, workers are unable to claim government aid despite the lack of income because they officially remain on payroll (Eurasianet, 17 April 2020). Especially in Kushmurun, where aid is distributed according to wage records, some families can hardly meet basic needs (Ng.kz, 10 April 2020).

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In Croatia, a rally was held to support a priest who invited worshippers to Easter mass. Those attending were later arrested for violating measures against the coronavirus and displaying fascist insignia. Two journalists were also physically attacked while trying to report on the same mass. (Balkan Insight, April 14 2020). 

Protests increased in Albania with demonstrations by market traders as well as the Romani community demanding government assistance to fulfil basic needs. Human rights organizations criticized Prime Minister Edi Rama for his social media comments regarding the Roma minority protests as fake and politically motivated (Exit Albania, 16 April 2020).

In Bulgaria, Romani residents clashed with police while demonstrating against the quarantine of two Romani neighborhoods after coronavirus cases were discovered. Residents also held an unauthorized protest in Sofia against the national emergency measures and were dispersed by police.

In North Macedonia, protesters held a demonstration to support members of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia who were detained for violating the coronavirus lockdown.

In Greece, members of the Romani community in Xanthi protested over their unfair portrayal in the media and over being quarantined as a coronavirus risk. Orthodox Christians also demonstrated against the closure of churches due to the pandemic. A demonstration outside a Piraeus church on Orthodox Good Friday, led by a Golden Dawn member and former MP, resulted in 13 arrests. Although Orthodox Christian Churches were displeased over the measures preventing them from congregating, Orthodox Easter passed without incident (Ekathimerini, 19 April 2020).

In Russia, the largest protest took place in Chelyabinsk, where taxi drivers demanded higher pay and government assistance in light of the social isolation measures (Znak, 17 April 2020). 

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In Italy, a protest took place outside a prison in Rome over bad conditions linked to coronavirus measures. Demonstrators called for the release of prisoners.

Protest activity in Germany was relatively high for the second week, with over 30 protests reported. Many protests were directed against government coronavirus measures restricting fundamental rights, in particular the right of free assembly. In Berlin alone, several hundred people gathered for the fourth consecutive Saturday to express their dissatisfaction with the tightening of their basic rights. Other protests drew attention to difficult living conditions for refugees in Germany as well as in Greece in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Hungary, at least 100 health workers protested at a hospital in Budakeszi against the government’s decisions to forcibly free at least 200 hospital beds amid the coronavirus pandemic and to remove the previous hospital manager (Index.hu, 13 April 2020).

In Denmark, members of a far-right group, the Nordic Resistance Movement, staged a protest in Aarhus condemning mass immigration as a greater threat than the coronavirus. Similar protests were held the week prior by the Nordic Resistance Movement’s branches in Finland (Kohti Vapautta/Towards Freedom) in Oulu and in Sweden in Uddevalla.

Up to 100 youth disregarding social distancing measures rioted against law enforcement in Pori, Finland.

 

New and adapted demonstrations

In Georgia, the Orthodox Church drew criticism when it moved forward with Easter gatherings despite the risk of coronavirus and the ongoing state of emergency, which was extended just before the holiday with a ban on all private vehicle traffic throughout the country (RFE/RL, 16 April 2020). The cancellation of mass religious gatherings and some Orthodox traditions in Georgia first became an issue at the start of the pandemic (RFE/RL, 17 March 2020). However, the Easter celebrations provoked particularly strong criticism of the Orthodox Church due to the clear risks, despite taking place under strict police supervision (Eurasianet, 16 April 2020; 20 April 2020). One of the country’s opposition groups, ‘Shame Movement,’ held an online protest criticizing the government for exempting the patriarchate from complying with the emergency measures. 

In Russia, demonstrators held one-person protests in support of inmates involved in a prison riot in Angarsk (Activatica, 18 April 2020).

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Protest activity in Poland increased significantly last week, as women gathered in streets in various cities to protest against a legal proposal on restricting abortions. They circumvented coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings by pretending to stand in line near shops holding protest posters (Reporting Democracy, 21 April 2020).

Protesters adhering to social distancing rules in the United Kingdom used a projector to display a video on the side of the Palace of Westminster. The video depicted healthcare workers pleading with the government to provide more personal protective equipment to fight the coronavirus (Glasgow Times ,16 April 2020).

5-11 April 2020

While the total number of demonstrations in Japan has declined, protests have continued over the government’s slow response to the crisis as well as in opposition to the state of emergency, which is seen by some as an opportunity to push through controversial constitutional revisions. The government has declared a state of emergency in six prefectures in response to the pandemic, and a number of additional prefectures have declared their own states of emergency. The declaration gives those prefectures extra powers to control the congregation and movement of residents, and to set restrictions on businesses.

In South Korea, protests have mostly focused on urging the government to take specific measures to support various groups affected by the pandemic, such as low-income workers, migrant workers, teachers, students, medical staff, and farmers.

Taxi drivers and merchants held at least four protests in China to call for rent reductions or waivers in response to the coronavirus crisis. This marks the third consecutive week that taxi drivers have demanded reductions in vehicle rental fees, and the second consecutive week that merchants have protested for rent waivers from their landlords.

In Hong Kong, a legislative councillor reportedly attended a gathering with more than 40 people in a bar on 2 April, violating current coronavirus restrictions and sparking a number of small-scale demonstrations calling for the authorities to take action against him.

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In Indonesia, a demonstration was held against the use of a public building to quarantine coronavirus patients. 

In Myanmar, factory workers staged a protest calling for protective equipment to guard against the spread of the coronavirus. 

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In Bahrain, people stood on their balconies chanting “God is Great” in solidarity with political prisoners who remain incarcerated despite concerns that the virus will spread in the country’s detention facilities.

Protesters criticized the implementation of new restrictions in Lebanon, particularly in Tripoli. 

Coronavirus-related restrictions also led to a protest in Turkey, while other demonstrations  were held in opposition to the release of prisoners and against government legislation that would allow employers to propose unpaid holidays for their workers during the outbreak.

In Iran, most protests were held by workers against the closure of factories, while others called for financial support due to lost income.

In recent weeks in Yemen, protests have taken place outside medical centers against the hosting of coronavirus patients. 

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The economic fall-out from coronavirus-related restrictions continued to trigger protests across Central America. In Mexico, labor groups from different sectors protested demanding financial aid or calling for government guarantees that they would not be dismissed due to the suspension of business activities. In Honduras, protesters in several cities called for food supplies in order to endure the lockdown imposed by the government. In Panama, for the third consecutive week, protests took place demanding economic subsidies.

In Venezuela, citizens demanded access to potable water, food, and medicine. The Wayuu indigenous community demonstrated to call for access to basic goods during the quarantine, leading to a clash with the Venezuelan National Guard. In Chile, residents demanded more rigorous curfew measures to limit movement in several different areas around the country.

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In Nigeria, growing economic hardship resulting from coronavirus measures led to demonstration activity and clashes between rioters and police. In particular, demonstrations were staged at a number of locations against perceived inadequacies in the distribution of foodstuffs and cash transfers. 

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In Serbia, manufacturing laborers protested over having to work without protective health equipment.

In North Macedonia, police dispersed a protest of several hundred citizens in Skopje. Protesters demanded exceptions to coronavirus measures for women and children that would allow them to leave their homes when exposed to domestic violence (MakFax, 9 April 2020).

In Greece, the union of state hospital workers, supported by the Communist Party of Greece and various labour organizations, held protests to demand more staff, medical equipment, and the requisition of resources from the private sector to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. Small-scale rallies were held outside hospitals and healthcare centers across the country (Ekathimerini, 7 April 2020).

Healthcare workers in Bulgaria and Romania also protested over working conditions amidst the coronavirus crisis.

In Russia, several protests were held against the government’s coronavirus measures. 

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Demonstrations over government responses to the pandemic were held in Germany, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

In Germany, multiple protests, including several criticizing poor conditions in Greek refugee camps, were dispersed by police as they violated the ban on large gatherings.

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In Kazakhstan, healthcare workers held protests in Aktobe and Atyrau cities last week over deteriorating working conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak. On 10 April, ambulance paramedics protested in Aktobe because they could not benefit from the additional compensation provided to other health workers, despite their frequent exposure to the virus. The paramedics claim that they are at constant risk of infection in the course of their work addressing medical emergencies. Healthcare workers in the regional hospital facility in Atyrau city also protested after they were informed that the hospital was being quarantined on short notice. They raised concerns over how the authorities were handling the coronavirus crisis, as some of the staff and patients are now to be transferred to another facility outside the city that is reportedly in poor condition. In a separate development, activists expressed concern over the government’s enforcement of strict measures to fight the pandemic after members of the opposition were detained for criticizing the emergency legislation and sharing related protests on social media channels (RFE/RL, 8 April 2020). 

 

New and adapted demonstrations

Adapting to coronavirus restrictions in South Korea, some protesters continued to hold demonstrations from their cars.

In Taiwan, a Taichung council official live-streamed a protest against the government with nearly 10,000 online participants. 

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Iraq’s protest movement launched an online campaign entitled “We Promise The Revolution Will Return” on Facebook in an attempt to keep up momentum for its demands, including the call for an independent prime minister.

Protesters in Bahrain took to their balconies to call for the release of political prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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In Brazil, pot-banging protests continued for the fourth consecutive week across multiple cities in opposition to President Jair Bolsonaro and his remarks minimizing the coronavirus pandemic, as he called for the reopening of businesses. Tensions within the government rose after the Health Minister publicly defied Bolsonaro’s position by supporting the ongoing quarantine measures (The Guardian, 13 April 2020).

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Citizens in a neighborhood of Tirana, Albania, demonstrated from their balconies against the lack of financial support from the government during the coronavirus crisis and demanded the resignation of President Edi Rama.

29 March-4 April 2020

Protests were reported in Japan calling on the government to do more to combat the COVID-19 crisis.  Multiple protests focused on the new plan to distribute two masks per household, which is viewed as an ineffective policy measure.

In South Korea, various interest groups, including labor unions and students, protested against the effects of specific pandemic response measures.

In Hong Kong, several protests were also held by various labour unions/groups to urge the government to increase financial support for workers and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

A protest was reported in the Philippines over the location of a coronavirus quarantine, as well as over the lack of government aid during the lockdown in Luzon.

In Myanmar, factory workers demonstrated in the Yangon region, calling for full pay and the closure of factories to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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The economic impacts of coronavirus restrictions are increasingly reflected in disorder across Africa. In a number of countries, labor groups actively contested those restrictions, particularly measures involving personal transportation and trade. Riots broke out in Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, where authorities have enforced restrictions with violence.

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In Kyrgyzstan, measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus continued to cause public unrest over the past week. On 25 March, the Kyrgyz government introduced curfews in Bishkek, Osh, Jalal-Abad, Suzak, Kara-Suu, and Nookat cities and installed checkpoints along the city perimeters. Residents who work in other regions are obliged to produce a document proving their residency when returning home, a process which has faced criticism as inefficient (RFE/RL, 25 March 2020). On 31 March, residents of Novopavlovka village in Sokuluk district of Chui region blocked the road that passes through the town, claiming that some drivers use it to evade police roadblocks on the nearby highway to Bishkek city. Another protest took place on 1 April in Mayak village of Tup district in eastern Issyk Kul region, against plans to establish a quarantine facility for potential coronavirus patients. On the same day, the windows of the building designated for the proposed facility were smashed, leading regional authorities to roll back the decision.

In Uzbekistan, a hike in food prices triggered demonstrations in local markets as residents accused food distributors of illegally price gouging amid the coronavirus crisis. On 28 March, quarrels broke out between a vendor and shoppers in the town of Koshkupyr in Khorezm region over the doubling of potato prices. In another instance, a group of residents in Muzrabot district protested against the vendors at a local bazaar over a sharp increase in prices. Further reports from across the country included long queues and sporadic brawls in marketplaces that hindered social distancing measures (RFE/RL, 30 March 2020). Authorities have blamed vendors for the price hikes, claiming that offenders received hefty fines.

Meanwhile, in Turkmenistan, on 4 April, a group of women staged a demonstration in the city of Mary due to food shortages and rising prices, which have already caused significant problems despite the lack of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country (RFE/RL, 4 April 2020).

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Last week in Iraq, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in Nassriya while calling for financial compensation to mitigate the effects of the lockdown and curfew imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Security forces tried to disperse the demonstrators using live fire, reportedly killing one demonstrator and one police officer in the clashes.

The coronavirus outbreak continues to impact demonstration trends in Iran: while there were few demonstrations in total last week, all were related to coronavirus. Coal miners held two protests over the lack of protective equipment. 

In Mexico, despite the government’s declaration of a health emergency and the suspension of non-essential activities, demonstrations over the coronavirus response continued. For the third week, health workers protested in 12 Mexican states against the lack of supplies and proper protocols to treat coronavirus patients. Service sector workers continued to protest as well, calling for financial support to deal with the pandemic. While most events were peaceful, in Michoacán state, police intervened in a demonstration started by avocado sellers who were evicted from their markets after the suspension of non-essential activities, leading to violence. Three demonstrators and a journalist were reportedly injured by police gunfire. 

In Honduras, demonstrations continued in the country’s main cities calling for food and water in light of the health emergency. Demonstrators in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula used burning tires and other obstacles to block the streets. Similar protests took place in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Panama demanding measures to counteract the economic fallout from the coronavirus quarantine. In El Salvador, hundreds of people gathered in different parts of the country in hopes of receiving an economic subsidy promised by the government with vague eligibility criteria. At news of the high turnout, President Nayib Bukele ordered the distribution centers to shut down, prompting at least two demonstrations in the San Salvador department that were dispersed by the police.

Health workers in Panama protested over the lack of adequate protection against the coronavirus in the country’s hospitals.

In Trinidad and Tobago, local residents demonstrated against the decision to transport recovering COVID-19 patients to a former elderly home in Sangre Grande, burning tires along the road.

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In Colombia, protests were reported in multiple cities calling for the government to provide financial aid and basic goods. Workers and informal merchants claimed their income has decreased due to the quarantine.

In Chile, labor groups protested over the lack of hygienic and safety measures taken by employers to protect their workers.

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Demonstrations were also reported across South Asia against government failures in the provision of protective equipment and facilities to contain the spread of coronavirus. In Pakistan, doctors and paramedics demonstrated to call for protective equipment to treat coronavirus patients. In Bangladesh, hundreds of tea garden workers demonstrated demanding protective equipment for work. In India, ward volunteers responsible for delivering government-sanctioned rations demonstrated to call for the provision of masks and sanitizer. Additionally, doctors and nurses protested in Jammu and Kashmir over being provided substandard Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). In India and Nepal, migrant workers, stranded due to movement restrictions, demonstrated demanding food, water, and transportation to return to their homes.

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In Kosovo, villagers of Podujeva protested against the quarantine of the entire town. In Greece, Romani Christian Orthodox protesters rallied against the closure of churches. In Romania, healthcare workers in Botosani demonstrated over lack of equipment to handle the coronavirus patients transferred to them. In Ukraine, medics demonstrated for increased hazard pay and protests were held by people forced to quarantine in hotels.

 

New and adapted demonstrations

In Brazil, pot-banging protests continued for the third consecutive week across multiple cities in opposition to President Jair Bolsonaro and his remarks about the coronavirus pandemic. 

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In Russia, multiple demonstrations against the constitutional amendments allowing President Vladimir Putin to remain in power after 2024 all took the form of coordinated one-person protests, though they were still dispersed by police (RFE/RL, 3 April 2020; 7×7, 3 April 2020).

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Due to the pandemic, protesters in South Korea held demonstrations using their cars rather than gathering in a crowd.

Due to the pandemic, protesters in South Korea held demonstrations using their cars rather than gathering in a crowd. 

22-28 March 2020

Demonstrations over measures to address the coronavirus were reported in Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, and Cambodia during the last week of March. The pandemic has particularly impacted the region’s factory workers, who are facing a slowdown in production and lost wages.

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In Hong Kong, ACLED’s preliminary data show multiple reported protests over government decisions to address the outbreak. This marks a shift in trends from previous weeks, when demonstrators primarily protested against the government’s plan to establish designated coronavirus clinics. At the same time, plans to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law relating to national security measures are gaining steam, with supporters hoping to seize the opportunity while pro-democracy demonstrations are still suppressed due to COVID-19.

With the South Korean government still considering whether to provide relief checks to those suffering from the crisis, civic and labor groups staged demonstrations to call for the immediate provision of relief to address the current economic breakdown.

In Mongolia, some groups took to the streets to raise concerns that the coronavirus was continuing to spread.

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In Lebanon, clashes broke out when security forces attempted to remove demonstration tents in Beirut. The country also registered a number of protests calling for the release of prisoners in light of the pandemic.

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Quarantines aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak have triggered demonstrations across Central America and the Caribbean.  In Honduras, protesters called for the right to work and for food rations promised by the government. Similarly, in Guatemala, bus drivers protested to demand work or economic support. In Mexico, fear of a financial crisis prompted protests by workers from a range of fields, including the medical, tourism, commercial, and informal sectors. While some labor activities and school classes were suspended in Mexico, the federal government has not yet ordered a curfew (Milenio, 26 March 2020). The overall number of demonstrations remained below average, but the majority of protests were motivated by the government’s response to the pandemic. For the second consecutive week, health workers in 15 states protested to call for medical supplies and additional protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Many Caribbean countries and territories imposed curfews or border closures over the past week, in some cases leading to unrest. After a journalist was arrested and fined for breaking the curfew in Aruba, fellow journalists protested by disrupting a press conference given by the island’s prime minister. In Haiti, doctors in Port-au-Prince refused to take any news patients and held protests after a hospital director was kidnapped.

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Similar demonstrations were recorded in South America. In Chile, demonstrators across the country called for tougher safety measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Public transport and sanitation workers went on strike, citing a lack of safety equipment to carry out their tasks. 

In Brazil, pot-banging protests continued for the second consecutive week across multiple cities in opposition to President Jair Bolsonaro’s remarks minimizing the seriousness of the pandemic. On 24 March 2020, in an official announcement broadcasted on TV, the president questioned measures adopted by state governors, such as the closing of schools and non-essential businesses, claiming it would cause an economic recession that would be worse than the pandemic itself. He also criticized the press, claiming that the coverage of the pandemic was “alarmist” (Correio Braziliense, 25 March 2020). Following the announcement, motorcades demanding the re-opening of business were reported in several regions of the country. In some cities, protesters were fined or arrested for civil disobedience, as municipal and state laws now prohibit public gatherings during the outbreak.

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In various cities across Spain, residents protested from their balconies to criticize the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Multiple protests over restrictive government measures and material shortages resulting from the pandemic were also reported across Southeastern and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, particularly in Albania, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia.

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The coronavirus crisis has especially impacted Kazakhstan in Central Asia and the Caucasus, with the national currency plunging against the USD amid falling global oil prices, leading the government to announce a new economic plan last week (New Europe, 26 March 2020). Controversially, former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, using the title of ‘Leader of the Nation’, also made a nationwide call for donations to a special crisis fund (RFE/RL, 20 March 2020, 26 March 2020). However, many of these efforts to address the economic fallout of the outbreak have faced consistent criticism. Women’s groups have led protests in Nur-Sultan, Almaty, and Shimkent cities for the last two weeks after the government re-introduced state subsidies, for example, which the demonstrators claimed were insufficient. Protesters also demanded to meet with officials to address claims that the subsidies were not paid as promised. Lack of effective financial assistance for working women was already a significant issue in Kazakhstan (ACLED, 22 January 2020) and economic stagnation is likely to only aggravate the situation. 

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Demonstrations were reported across South Asia over government failures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. In India, quarantined coronavirus patients demonstrated against poor medical facilities. In Bangladesh, labor groups demonstrated demanding the closure of factories in the wake of an outbreak. In Nepal, health workers protested to call for better protective gear and facilities to treat suspected coronavirus patients. And in Pakistan, pilgrims placed in isolation after their return from Iran demonstrated to demand better quarantine facilities. Demonstrations against price gouging for essential food and energy products were also reported in India and Nepal.

15-21 March 2020

Despite an overall drop in demonstration activity in Mexico, efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic triggered multiple protests. Even though the federal government has not announced national quarantines nor measures toward social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, different states have canceled school activities and closed tourist areas. In several cities, health workers protested demanding medical supplies and protocols to treat patients infected with the coronavirus. In Coahuila state, the owners and workers of at least 10 bars demonstrated against the closure of their businesses by the government in reaction to the virus. In addition, prisoners in Morelia state staged a protest rejecting the decision of canceling family visits to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The pandemic also sparked protests in other Central American countries. In El Salvador, two protests took place over concerns about insufficient measures being taken to mitigate the spreading of the virus in judicial courts, which remain open and functioning.

In Costa Rica, for the second week in a row, family members of students staged a protest asking a school to suspend classes as the number of confirmed cases increased around the country.

In Brazil, from 17 March on, pot-banging protests have become a frequent sign of political dissatisfaction, with such protest events recorded in all regions of the country. Most pot-banging demonstrations expressed opposition to the President Jair Bolsonaro and his remarks downplaying the severity of the pandemic.

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In Georgia, minibus drivers protested in Gujaani on 19 March and in Tbilisi on 20 March, asking the government to develop a subsidy plan to address their potential losses during the crisis. Similarly, on 16 March, open market traders held a protest to demand they be exempted from rent payments. 

In Kazakhstan, with the largest cities, Nur Sultan and Almaty, under lockdown, bulk-buying and increasing prices caused problems in some stores, pushing the government to take measures to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis (Eurasianet, 18 March 2020). A protest was reported on 21 March in northeastern Pavlovdar city, where tenants of the shops in a fair complex were not able to reach their products because it remained closed during the coronavirus outbreak, stopping them from making sales online. Tenants also complained that they had to pay rent during the time the complex remained close, causing them further financial struggles. 

In Kyrgyzstan, on 21 March, quarantined Kyrgyz citizens protested at the observation facility near Manas airport in Bishkek city as a regulation change turned against them. Authorities allowed people who arrived in the country after 21 March to stay quarantined at their home while the protesters were detained in the facility even though they reportedly tested negative for the coronavirus.

Protests over the government response to the coronavirus outbreak also took place in Uzbekistan. On 19 March, a group of quarantined Uzbek citizens protested against poor conditions at the quarantine facility in Samarkand city, claiming that there was a shortage of food. A similar protest was reported in Tashkent on 18 March, with a group quarantined upon their arrival from Russia demonstrating against poor conditions at the quarantine building in Khujakent town outside Tashkent city.

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Several demonstrations were held by residents of cities in Bangladesh and India against the establishment of quarantine facilities and isolation wards for people suspected of coronavirus infections in their neighborhoods. In Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan, demonstrations were reported against the lack of proper measures to contain the spread of the virus. In Bangladesh, students demonstrated demanding suspension of academic activities in the wake of the virus outbreak. In Nepal, students demonstrated expressing dissatisfaction with the authorities for not using proper equipment to test people for coronavirus symptoms. In Pakistan, health workers demonstrated in several provinces demanding safety kits and basic hygiene products, like hand sanitizer and safety masks. Additionally, demonstrations against artificially increased prices amid panic-buying due to the coronavirus outbreak were recorded in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.

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In Ukraine, several protests and violent demonstrations broke out over government measures enacted to limit the spread of coronavirus (KMU, 17 March 2020). Demonstrations increased in Russia, where no significant country-wide limits on public gatherings were in place. A handful of demonstrations were reported in the Balkans and Southeastern Europe over the government response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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With the majority of African countries now reporting cases of coronavirus (WHO, 19 March 2020), the outbreak prompted demonstrations and mob violence in various countries. Government preparedness was a source of discontent in Algeria, Tunisia, and eSwatini, as health workers demonstrated against a lack of resources to combat coronavirus. Contrastingly, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, and Kenya experienced protests against and in defiance of government restrictions announced in response to coronavirus. In Egypt, prominent female activists were arrested after protesting for the release of detainees to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prisons.

17-30 May 2020

No reports of demonstration activity declining as a direct result of the pandemic during this two-week period, though in some countries event counts remain low.

10-16 May 2020

After a recent resurgence, demonstrations came to a halt in Lebanon when a four-day lockdown was imposed at the end of the week. See this CDT Spotlight for more information on demonstration activity in Lebanon amid the pandemic.

3-9 May 2020

No reports of demonstration activity declining as a direct result of the pandemic this week, though in some countries event counts remain low.

26 April-2 May 2020

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, traditional May Day demonstrations were limited across Southeast Asia, with many labor groups taking their protests online. 

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In past years, Labor Day demonstrations mobilized tens of thousands of workers in South Korea. Participation significantly decreased this year amid the pandemic.

Likewise in Japan, participation in demonstrations throughout May Day week was significantly more limited than in previous years.

In Hong Kong, the number of demonstration events fell slightly, though sizes have increased, with some gatherings reportedly including more than 100 participants. With Hong Kong reporting four consecutive days without any positive COVID-19 cases last week, calls to resume anti-ELAB demonstrations have been gaining momentum ahead of the upcoming anniversary in June.

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Due to lockdown measures in Russia the typically numerous Labor Day rallies were not held. 

19-25 April 2020

The overall number of demonstration events remained low in Japan and China. Compared to previous weeks, demonstrations by Chinese labor groups have declined. Demonstrations also continued to decrease in Taiwan.

12-18 April 2020

The number of protest events in Japan reached a record low last week. Nearly all of the protests still taking place are related directly to the outbreak itself and the government’s response. All Okinawa Council, the largest anti-base protest group in Okinawa, has announced it will not hold events until 6 May, when the state of emergency is set to expire. Previously, the group had conducted a sit-in at Henoko airbase every day for five years and nine months.

Demonstrations continued to decline in Taiwan amid fears of the coronavirus.

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In Russia, coronavirus-related self-isolation measures continued to limit protest events.

5-11 April 2020

As the coronavirus crisis has escalated in Japan, cancelled protest events have reached record numbers. 

Demonstrations continue to decrease in Taiwan due to fears over the spread of coronavirus.

In Hong Kong, demonstrations remain depressed in both size and number, likely due to the ban on public gatherings of more than four people. The prohibition, which was originally due to expire on 11 April, has now been extended for an additional 14 days.

29 March-4 April 2020

The total number of demonstration events decreased sharply across South America last week, although some protests related to the pandemic were reported.

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In Russia, authorities imposed new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus across most of the country (Meduza, 30 March 2020), limiting public gatherings and travel. These restrictions led to a significant reduction in demonstration events. Protest movements opted to cancel planned events, or the authorities cancelled events by revoking protest authorizations. 

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A high number of protest events were cancelled in Japan last week, with many groups responding to the call of local governments to stay indoors except for essential activities. 

Demonstrations continued to decline last week in Taiwan, most likely due to fear of the coronavirus.

The number of demonstration events remained low in China. Two coronavirus-related events were reported last week: the first involved taxi drivers calling for waived/reduced car rental fees, the second time they have protested for this in two consecutive weeks; and the second involved merchants in Zhuzhou City, Henan Province demanding lower rents for their businesses.

Demonstrations decreased slightly in Hong Kong, likely due to the 14-day ban on public gatherings of more than four people, which came into effect on 29 March 2020. Fifty-four demonstrators were arrested on 31 March for violating this ban when they gathered for the seven-month anniversary of an incident where police allegedly used indiscriminate force against anti-extradition bill demonstrators in a metro station.  

22-28 March 2020

Government restrictions on movement appear to have slowed demonstration activity across Southeast Asia. Student-led pro-democracy protests in Thailand, for example, have largely come to a halt. 

In China, protests over loss of income from the crisis continue, though reported cases are relatively few. 

In Japan, a high number of protests were cancelled again last week, with far fewer events reported than during previous weeks. Nevertheless, several sizeable protests were recorded, though organizers instructed attendees to keep their distance and wear masks. Few protests were directly linked to the pandemic itself.

In Taiwan, ACLED’s preliminary data show a decrease in demonstrations, most likely due to increasing concerns over the coronavirus.

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In Iraq, the popular movement that began in October 2019 held a demonstration in Baghdad in an effort to keep up momentum during the coronavirus outbreak, while minor clashes were reported between demonstrators and police after authorities attempted to remove tents left in the demonstration squares.

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In South America, ACLED records a sharp decline in overall demonstration activity across Chile compared to the previous week. 

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Small local protest events were reported in Western Europe — approximately 1-2 per country — and particularly in Italy and Germany.

In Eastern Europe, overall demonstration activity declined significantly as restrictive measures to limit the spread of coronavirus prevented many protest gatherings. 

In Russia, the government stepped up measures to limit the spread of coronavirus for various cities and regions. Public gatherings were limited or banned, and in some cases, such as Moscow and Chechnya, a complete lockdown was imposed  (RFE/RL, 30 March 2020; Kommersant, 24 March 2020). As a result, protest activity plummeted: some protests were cancelled while others reduced their crowd-size to comply with the limitations Approximately two dozen protests were held, the majority against the proposed constitutional reforms that would allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in office after 2024 (News.ru, 22 March 2020; Tayga.Info, 28 March 2020). The referendum on the reforms, set for 25 April, is now postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak (RFE/RL, 25 March 2020).

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In India, ongoing demonstrations across the country against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) were shut down following the imposition of a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus (BBC, 25 March 2020).

15-21 March 2020

Last week in Iraq, President Saleh named Adnan Al Zurfi as prime minister-designate in an effort to end months of political deadlock. Zurfi was rejected by both the demonstrators, who believe he belongs to the political elite and does not represent their hopes for an independent candidate, and the main Shiite political parties (BBC, 17 March 2020). However, by the end of the week, demonstrators in Baghdad and across the country’s southern and central regions announced they would return to their homes until the coronavirus threat subsides (Asharq al-Awsat, 22 March 2020). While this may provide a brief reprieve for the Iraqi government, the demonstrations will likely return to the streets if authorities continue to fail to meet the movement’s demands.

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The total number of demonstration events in the Balkans, Southeastern Europe, and Eastern Europe decreased sharply to no more than a dozen. This is a three-quarter decrease compared to the weekly average this year. The decline comes after governments across the region enacted measures banning public gatherings, including demonstrations, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In Kosovo, citizens took to their balconies to make noise and show their dissatisfaction with how the already fragile government is handling the crisis (RFE/RL, 20 March 2020).

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In Chile, the number of demonstration events decreased significantly compared to the previous week after student groups and social organizations announced a temporary suspension of protests due to the coronavirus outbreak. Tensions within the government rose after several mayors pressured for a countrywide quarantine amid allegations that federal officials were taking insufficient steps to address the crisis. Citizens across the country set up road blockades and staged protests, demanding regional lockdowns and tougher safety measures for stores and factories.

The number of demonstration events also decreased in Colombia and Venezuela compared to the previous week. The government of Ivan Duque Marquez in Colombia announced a 19-day quarantine to contain the coronavirus pandemic, while President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela ordered an indefinite lockdown in at least seven states.

17-30 May 2020

In Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, protest activity is on the rise again. Apart from a continuation of protest events related to coronavirus lockdown measures and their consequences for working conditions, economic activity, and post-coronavirus political agendas, protests unrelated to the pandemic have also increased.

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During demonstrations in Hong Kong, reports indicate that participants have shifted their slogans away from the anti-ELAB messages, or the five demands, toward calling for “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” (RFA, 27 May 2020). Compared to previous weeks, the police also appeared to stop using COVID-19 restrictions in order to intervene in or stop demonstrations. In the demonstrations on 24 May, participants hurled umbrellas and bricks at the police and smashed windows of pro-Beijing businesses in Causeway Bay. Pepper balls and tear gas were fired by the police to disperse the crowd. On Wednesday, students from several secondary schools held small-scale protests in solidarity with the broader “three strikes” campaign on the same day. Nearly 200 people demonstrated in Wan Chai District and nearly 1,000 in Central and Western District. Demonstrators also gathered in Yau Tsim Mong District in the series of events held on Wednesday. The number of arrests made during the demonstrations also increased significantly during the week – 193 people were arrested during the events on 24 May 2020, and 396 people were arrested on 27 May 2020 (including 180 students and 80 minors).

Protest activity continues to increase in Japan as the country comes out of the state of emergency and the infection rate remains low. Some protesters opposed the state of emergency declared in response to the pandemic and voiced discontent over its perceived use to push the government’s agenda. Others opposed the early termination of the emergency state. Protesters also called for increased compensation for individuals affected by the crisis. Notably, the government has been forced to postpone deliberations on the public prosecutor retirement age bill due to the sustained public outcry, and the public prosecutor has since been forced to resign after it was revealed that he broke lockdown restrictions. On 25 May, the state of emergency was lifted across all of Japan, leaving no prefectures under emergency measures.

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In Kazakhstan, during the past two weeks, paramedics, civil activists, women, and labor groups continued to protest as the country eases coronavirus restrictions, despite a possible second wave of infections (Tengrinews, 27 May 2020).

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Demonstrations relating to the coronavirus pandemic and government responses decreased slightly in Southeastern and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, while demonstrations over issues unrelated to the coronavirus picked up.

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A recent upswing in demonstration activity continued in Tunisia. During the last two weeks, ACLED records the greatest number of demonstration events in Tunisia since early April 2019, when fuel hikes prompted nationwide protests. Demonstrations coalesced around a number of labor-related issues, including demands for the reversal of a government decision to halt public sector recruitment amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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There was an increase in demonstrations in Lebanon last week mainly related to the rationing of electricity and the general amnesty draft law. Families of prisoners demanded that the law be passed and implemented, while others demonstrated against the law due to a provision that would pardon ex-militants that collaborated with Israel (Middle East Eye, 29 May 2020).

In Iran, in addition to a number of labor and economic protests over the last two weeks, one violent demonstration was held in Gheyzaniyeh against frequent water shortages. Protesters blocked a road with burning tires and attacked the police with stones and sticks. Police shot tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, injuring several people (RadioFreeEurope, 26 May 2020).

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Countrywide protests against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – also known as AMLO – led to a sharp increase in demonstration events in Mexico last week. The protests took place in at least 61 cities in 29 states and were organized by a new movement called ‘National Front against AMLO,’ which is led by businessmen and private sector leaders. The movement defines itself as a non-political organization with the objective of forcing the President to resign. ACLED recorded major protests against the President throughout his first year in power in 2019, but last week’s demonstrations occurred in even more cities.

10-16 May 2020

Last week in Iraq, demonstrations returned in full force as thousands of protesters affiliated with the October revolution took to the streets to reject the new government and call for elections. Demonstrations took place in several cities including Baghdad, where clashes were also reported between demonstrators and security forces. While the demonstrations in Baghdad were violent, most were less bloody than past demonstrations. The reduced level of violence follows an announcement by the new Prime Minister (PM), Mustafa Al Kazimi, emphasizing human rights and calling on security forces to practice self-restraint and refrain from using live ammunition on demonstrators (National Iraqi News Agency, 10 May 2020). The only incident with a reported fatality took place in Basra following a demonstration outside the headquarters of the Iranian- backed militia Thar Allah, where the party’s private security shot demonstrators, reportedly killing one and injuring four (The National, 11 May 2020). However, in a surprising move, Al Kazimi ordered police to detain those responsible for shooting at the demonstrators. Security forces raided the offices of the group, arrested members of the militia, confiscated weapons and ammunition, and launched an investigation into the shootings (The National, 11 May 2020).

Protests continued in Iran against unpaid salaries and unfavorable contracts. Multiple protests were related to the coronavirus pandemic, as drivers, hair salon owners, and gym owners demanded to either be allowed to re-open businesses or receive financial aid. There was also one report of a prison riot, but officials have denied that the incident took place.

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In Serbia, several protests by opposition and government supporters were held after opposition and government-aligned MPs fell out and went on a hunger strike. The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) MPs have since given up on the strike, but two members of the opposition right-wing Dveri Movement are still striking (Balkan Insight, 11 May 2020). Mass anti-government balcony protests during prior weeks subsided after coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

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With the coronavirus threat apparently on the decline in Japan, the government lifted the state of emergency in 39 of 47 prefectures, leading to a slight uptick in protest activity. Although the total number of demonstrations remains low, there was a noticeable increase in the number of participants at events. 

In Hong Kong, anti-ELAB demonstrations have made a comeback, with nearly 20 events held throughout the city during the week. Major rallies were held on 10, 13, and 16 May, where people sang popular anti-ELAB protest songs and called for the Five Demands to be met. Tensions continued to escalate, with police using pepper spray to disperse protesters in at least one event for the third consecutive week. Additionally, 230 arrests were made in a single night – the largest mass arrest in months – for a series of demonstrations held on Mother’s Day (SCMP, 11 May 2020).

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Demonstration activity continues to rise in Tunisia, with levels now higher than before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Labor groups have been at the forefront, demanding greater government assistance in the face of ongoing economic hardship. The demonstrations came as the government continued to relax coronavirus restrictions during the week, reducing curfew hours (Al Jazeera, 13 May 2020). Similar protest activity occurred in Morocco.

In Kazakhstan, the number of recorded demonstrations continued to increase as the government eased coronavirus restrictions (The Diplomat, 12 May 2020). Residents of Karazhar village in Aqmola region, Shieli town in Kyzylorda region, and Shymkent city organized protests demanding the removal of the remaining measures, especially roadblocks, as many need to travel to nearby towns for work. Similarly, small retail business owners protested in Almaty, Nur-Sultan, and Kostanay to call for the reopening of clothing bazaars. Paramedics and health workers continued their demonstrations in Shymkent, Aqmola, Nur-Sultan city, and Aktobe requesting extra pay during the coronavirus emergency. The gradual exit from quarantine also revived broader labor movements. On 11 May, municipal workers protested in Aktau, and on 16 May, employees of an oil company protested in Zhanaozen city demanding a pay raise and better working conditions, underscoring the issues suppressed due to the pandemic.

3-9 May 2020

Protests appear to be re-surging  in Japan, with demonstrations over potential constitutional revisions marking Constitutional Memorial Day on 3 May. Most protests opposed the constitutional revisions, with civil society groups arguing that the government is taking advantage of the pandemic to push the changes through. Though limited, coronavirus-related protests appear to be increasing in size and frequency, with demonstrators calling on the government to provide compensation for workers affected by the lockdown measures.

In Hong Kong, anti-ELAB demonstrations are making a gradual comeback as social distancing measures loosen up. Multiple anti-ELAB protests were held in malls throughout the city. In response, pro-establishment groups took to the streets to protest against the “violence” caused by anti-ELAB demonstrators, and to show support for the police force. Police monitored demonstrations closely, arriving at the scene of many events as soon as they began. They also issued fines to demonstrators for violating the ban on public gatherings, the limit of which was raised from four to eight participants on 8 May. 

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Protests are on the rise in Belgium as the government eases coronavirus restrictions. Antwerp saw the country’s first anti-lockdown protest, and health workers demanded better working conditions in Liège. There were also at least two small-scale farmer protests against low milk prices. 

Protest events have significantly increased in the Netherlands. While Den Haag, Utrecht, and Groningen saw anti-lockdown demonstrations with hundreds of participants, people also took to the streets over a wide range of additional issues, from local concerns to support for Moluccan protesters in Indonesia. Dutch authorities allowed most protests to take place as long as participants adhered to social distancing rules.

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Demonstrators began to return to the streets after the coronavirus curfew was lifted in Serbia. In one case, demonstrators clashed with the Health Minister and several MPs from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party outside parliament (Balkan Insight, 8 May 2020). Demonstrators accuse the government and ruling party of forming a dictatorship under President Aleksandar Vucic and oppose the new election date set for 21 June, which they consider to be too soon.

Demonstrations increased in Albania to nearly a dozen, with various labor groups demanding government aid and the reopening of businesses. On two occasions, police intervened with force when demonstrators turned against Prime Minister Edi Rama, calling the extension of the state of emergency authoritarian and dictatorial (Exit Albania, 8 May).

Demonstrations in Greece increased in the wake of eased coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings. Various labor groups affected by coronavirus measures protested for government support. Other protests were held against a controversial environmental bill and over education reforms.

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Protest activity continued and remained largely peaceful in Lebanon, with sporadic riots involving Molotov cocktails thrown at banks, particularly in Tripoli. As Lebanon’s poorest city, Tripoli is hardest hit by the current crisis, and is the site of the most violence. The anger directed at banks is linked to their perceived role in precipitating the crisis. As Lebanon turns to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for funding, the government must contend with a largely unemployed and increasingly impoverished population, which could turn to violence as the situation deteriorates. The current economic crisis constitutes one of the greatest threats to Lebanon’s stability since the country’s civil war (VOA, 11 May 2020). For more, see this recent CDT Spotlight on demonstrations in Lebanon.

In Iran, workers across various sectors protested over unpaid salaries, unfavorable contracts and unemployment, culminating in a 30% increase in demonstrations compared to the week prior. The spike comes as the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities continues to fall, possibly portending a return to widespread protest activity. Concern with the perceived mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak along with lingering anger over both the violent suppression of demonstrations in November 2019 and the accidental downing of a passenger plane in January 2020 could all lead to escalating unrest in the coming months, if not weeks. For more, see this recent CDT Spotlight on riots and protests in Iran.

In Iraq, Mustafa Al Kazimi officially became Prime Minister after the parliament gave him its vote of confidence along with all but five ministerial nominees for his proposed cabinet (Kurdistan24, 7 May 2020). This comes after a five-month-long political deadlock that followed the resignation of the former prime minister due to pressure from the country’s mass protest movement, which began in October 2019. On the day of the vote, three rockets fired by an unidentified armed group struck near Baghdad airport. After gaining the approval of the parliament following weeks of negotiations with various parties and coalitions, Prime Minister Al Kazimi’s attention turned to the demonstrators and efforts to quell the unrest. Al Kazimi proposed to release detained anti-government protesters and both reinstate and promote Lieutenant General Abdul Wahab Al Saadi (Al Jazeera, 10 May 2020). The general’s mysterious demotion last year was viewed as one of the main sparks for the protest movement. While these proposals are a promising start, they may not be enough to keep the demonstrations from re-erupting, as the government is still made up of the same political class that the movement originally rose up against. Already last week protest activity rose to its highest numbers since the start of the coronavirus curfew. Protests took place in Baghdad for the first time since their suspension in March, as well as Nassriya and Najaf cities. For more on Iraq’s protest movement, see this recent ACLED report.

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Last week in Africa, demonstration activity rose to its highest levels since mid-March amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions in some countries.

Demonstrations in Tunisia rose to pre-coronavirus levels as the government began the first phase of easing restrictions. The demonstrations, largely organized by labor groups, centered on demands for greater government assistance during the pandemic.

Demonstration activity was multifaceted in Mali. Unrest over the contested results of recent legislative elections merged with ongoing opposition to the imposition of a nightly curfew to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Violence was reported in the Bamako and Sikasso regions, where demonstrators vandalized police stations and authorities reportedly used live rounds to disperse protesters. Following sustained demonstration activity, the administration lifted the nightly curfew on Saturday (VOA, 11 May 2020).

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The long-expected recount of votes from the 2 March elections kicked off in Guyana. In Georgetown, protesters picketed outside the President’s residence after international observers were denied entry into the country due to coronavirus. A few days later an altercation between Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (ANPU+AFC) supporters and a member of the ‘Guardians of Democracy’ led to one arrest (iNews Guyana, 5 May 2020, Kaieteur News, 10 May 2020).

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A group of women demonstrated in Kyzylorda city in Kazakhstan, claiming that they did not receive any aid promised by the government. Women have protested over the unfair distribution of social aid prior to the coronavirus emergency, and now that the government has mostly lifted the lockdown measures (The Diplomat, 12 May 2020), unrest will likely continue.

26 April-2 May 2020

More demonstrations were reported across the Middle East than in any week since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early March.

Though the spike in demonstrations was fueled in part by region-wide protests marking International Workers’ Day on 1 May, the increase was largely driven by a surge of activity in Lebanon, where labor protests were held in addition to large demonstrations over the poor dollar exchange rate. The dollar exchange rate increased significantly in the past week, now constituting a 50% loss in value compared to the Lebanese pound in October 2019. In Tripoli, demonstrations turned violent when Molotov cocktails and firecrackers were used against security forces. One demonstrator was reportedly killed by authorities (Reuters, 28 April 2020). Banks were targeted by rioters throughout Lebanon, as demonstrators blame the dollar crisis on the governor of the central bank, Riad Salameh.

Demonstrations also spiked in Iraq for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown, as authorities began easing restrictions. The increase also coincided with the formation of a government by Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Al Kazimi. As the parliament gears up to vote on the proposed government, the October 2019 protest movement appears to be remobilizing. The continued use of force by authorities, which reportedly left at least four demonstrators injured in Al Rifai in Thi-Qar province last week, is likely to fan the flames of unrest (Al Mirbad, 27 April 2020).

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Across Central Asia and the Caucasus, demonstrations continued with a slight increase as some states began to ease coronavirus-related restrictions (RFE/RL, 30 April 2020; JAM News, 24 April 2020).

17-30 May 2020

Violence against alleged drug suspects appears to be picking back up after a lull in the Philippines. Over the past two weeks, 18 drug suspects were killed in police raids.

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In Turkey, there were multiple reports of violence by Turkish security forces against civilians in Ankara, Istanbul, Tekirdag, and Burdur provinces for violating the coronavirus curfew order. Health workers held several demonstrations to protest their working conditions during the pandemic and salary disparities, particularly between those who work in departments treating coronavirus patients and those in other departments.

10-16 May 2020

Against the backdrop of sustained gang violence, the Mexican government enacted a decree expanding the role of the military in public security affairs, a move that raises concern among civil society groups who fear that the measure lacks proper mechanisms to restrict military authority (Animal Politico, 12 May 2020).

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In China, there were reports that two petitioners were suspected to have been detained by the authorities ahead of the annual parliamentary sessions, which are due to start on 21 May 2020. Similar to last week, a petitioner was placed under “compulsory quarantine”– possibly a pretext to prevent the petitioner from entering Beijing during the parliamentary sessions. 

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In Algeria, the arrest of leading Hirak activists prompted further demonstration activity. The anti-government Hirak protest movement held weekly demonstrations for more than a year until the beginning of March, when the coronavirus pandemic brought them to a halt. The Algerian government has been accused of exploiting coronavirus restrictions to suppress political dissent (Amnesty, 27 August 2020).

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In Hungary, the police have actively enforced the law on punishable “scaremongering” regarding the coronavirus pandemic, leading to at least 86 investigations. Critics say the law is meant to silence opposition, even when it comes to criticizing the prime minister or voicing concerns about the emptying of hospital beds. (Politico.EU, 14 May 2020).

3-9 May 2020

No reports of state repression directly related to the pandemic this week.

26 April-2 May 2020

During anti-ELAB protests in Hong Kong, police warned protesters to disperse on the grounds that they were violating coronavirus restrictions. While police did not intervene beyond issuing fines to protesters in most cases, they used pepper spray to disperse one anti-ELAB demonstration inside a mall. Pro-democracy lawmakers have criticized the police for abusing the coronavirus restriction order as a pretext to curb freedom of assembly.

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Authorities have continued to use force to impose lockdowns in Central America and the Caribbean. In Cuba, a disabled man was beaten for wearing his coronavirus face mask improperly. In Mexico, police shot at indigenous demonstrators who were protesting against movement restrictions placed on their community. In Panama, the police used teargas to disperse a protest over poor medical attention in a penitentiary center.

19-25 April 2020

In the Philippines, a man was shot dead by the police for apparently violating quarantine measures. The incident comes after President Rodrigo Duterte instructed security forces to shoot and kill anyone who defies the lockdown in early April (CBS, 2 April 2020).

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Three people running a volunteer-led website archiving news reports related to the pandemic were detained in China under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location, a form of secret/incommunicado detention — indicating that the government is still cracking down on individuals reporting on the coronavirus. 

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In Palestine, clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians increased in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as Israeli personnel launched arrest raids and other security operations. While settler attacks against Palestinians decreased, Israeli military attacks against civilians increased. There were multiple reports of Israeli forces injuring Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank and firing at fishermen and farmers in Gaza. Following the attacks in the West Bank, on 22 April, a Palestinian assailant rammed his car into a border police officer at a checkpoint in East Jerusalem and then attacked the officer with a pair of scissors (Times of Israel, 22 April 2020). Border Police opened fire on the attacker and reportedly killed him.

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In Sint Maarten, a person was beaten by a police officer for violating curfew. 

In Haiti, the police used teargas to disperse a protest against the closure of markets.

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Police personnel assaulted health workers for violating the coronavirus lockdown in India’s Uttar Pradesh and Nagaland states, even though the medical teams were providing approved essential services.

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Concerns over excessive force used by police to impose coronavirus restrictions were reported in Romania, especially against Romani communities (Digi24, 23 April 2020).

12-18 April 2020

Police used violence to enforce coronavirus measures in multiple countries across Central America and the Caribbean. In Jamaica, police opened fire on a group of men who were violating the country’s curfew. Police officers in Cuba beat a man and left him unconscious after he resisted arrest for standing in the doorway of his house without a face mask. In El Salvador, a man was shot and injured by a police officer after refusing to pay a fine that the police demanded in exchange for not sending him to a containment center for violating the quarantine. The police officer claims the shooting was an accident and an investigation is ongoing (El Salvador.com, 13 April 2020). At a health checkpoint in Mexico, a member of community police shot at a family in a car for not wearing protective masks.

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In Africa, state forces used  lethal violence  to enforce coronavirus measures in Nigeria, Uganda, Togo, and Cameroon. In Uganda, Local Defence Unit personnel opened fire on a boat in Jinja district, injuring a student and killing a colleague in an apparent case of friendly fire. The boat was reportedly carrying more than the number of passengers permitted under coronavirus restrictions.

5-11 April 2020

In Uganda, state forces continued attacks on civilians under the guise of coronavirus containment measures. In a number of incidents, police reportedly attacked civilians in their homes. Police violence during the enforcement of coronavirus measures turned fatal in Nigeria, Kenya, Mali, and Ghana.

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In Azerbaijan, the government is accused of using the tight quarantine regime to target the opposition. A number of political activists have been charged with spreading false information on social media accounts. Some activists claim the police arbitrarily visited them at their homes, and a member of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party was sentenced to 30 days in prison on account of “violating the quarantine rules” – details of which were not provided (OC Media, 24 March 2020; JAM News, 9 April 2020). 

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In the Philippines, amid mass arrests of violators of coronavirus lockdown measures, the police destroyed protest signs outside a community kitchen run by Kadamay, an organization that has often been “red-tagged” — targeted by the government for alleged links to communist rebels (Bulatlat, 6 April 2020).

29 March – 4 April 2020

In Malaysia, the police caned teenagers in Sabah for defying the Movement Control Order in place due to the coronavirus.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines ordered state forces to shoot dead anyone “causing trouble” during the lockdown (Amnesty International, 2 April 2020).

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In Kenya, several fatalities were reported after security personnel employed lethal force against civilians during the enforcement of a national curfew. In one case, a boy was killed by live ammunition on the outskirts of Nairobi. Fatal attacks on civilians were also reported in Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa. Although the majority involved state forces, non-state militias also took an active role in enforcing coronavirus restrictions. In Burundi’s Kirundo province, Imbonerakure cadres killed a father and son for allegedly violating the coronavirus quarantine after returning from Tanzania.

In Uganda, journalists covering coronavirus restrictions faced multiple attacks by police. In Wakiso, police and local residents also carried out a raid on a homeless shelter servicing the LGBT community, beating and arresting shelter residents. Although ostensibly related to the enforcement of coronavirus measures, these attacks highlight the opportunity for these restrictions to be abused.

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The government in Turkmenistan has preemptively introduced new restrictions related to the crisis, reportedly including a “ban” on using the word ‘coronavirus’ (Reporters Without Borders, 31 March 2020) — though there are countering reports as to whether this “ban” is official (the level of transparency of the Turkmen government tends to be quite low) (Eurasianet, 1 April 2020). In an application of this “ban”, there were claims last week in Lebap province that authorities detained offenders for 10 days over mentioning the virus.

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In Hungary, in light of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s new powers to rule by decree with no end date (Reuters, 30 March 2020), there are reports of restrictions being placed on the press (DW, 7 April 2020). In addition, the government has submitted a bill to parliament viewed as a ban on legal gender recognition for transgender people. “This attack on a vulnerable minority group comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when, instead of focusing on ways to protect public health from the virus, the government used the crisis as a pretext to grab unlimited and indefinite power by proclaiming a state of emergency, enabling it to rule by decree,” observed Human Rights Watch (Human Rights Watch, 3 April 2020).

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Reports of security personnel using force to impose coronavirus related lockdowns increased across several countries in South Asia last week. In several states of India, including Odisha, Bihar, Gujarat, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh, security personnel assaulted locals for violating the lockdown. In Manipur state, police personnel reportedly assaulted a doctor while he was returning home from work. In several states including Rajasthan, Bihar, and Arunachal Pradesh, police personnel also assaulted migrant workers, despite some having valid travel permission to return home during the lockdown. In Uttar Pradesh, an army officer confronted and killed a woman who had prepared a list of persons in her village from other cities, to be used in health examinations, after he took offense to his name being on the list. 

In several districts of Nepal, including the capital Kathmandu, police personnel reportedly assaulted locals, migrant workers, and farmers for failing to abide by the ‘stay at home’ order enforced by the government. In Sri Lanka, police personnel fired at a vehicle, injuring three people, for failing to stop at a barricade while enforcing a curfew.

22-28 March 2020

State forces violently enforced new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus across Africa,  including in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Uganda

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Journalists covering the restrictions were specifically targeted, with attacks by state forces reported in Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya.

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Meanwhile, Guinea experienced widespread and violent demonstrations over a controversial referendum on presidential term limits held on 22 March. The demonstrations were the latest in an ongoing campaign launched by the opposition FNDC in October 2019. The referendum, which provisional results suggest was successful, ushers in increased presidential terms, allowing president Alpha Condé to run twice more. Following several days of clashes between demonstrators and state forces in the aftermath of the referendum, the government announced a state of emergency, allegedly in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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In India, security personnel used excessive force to impose the nationwide lockdown. In Maharashtra state, an ambulance driver died after he was assaulted by security forces, who suspected him of transporting passengers illegally in the ambulance during the lockdown. Police assaulted and killed a man in West Bengal for allegedly violating the lockdown. In the state of Bihar, a vegetable trader was injured after police personnel fired at traders demonstrating against restricted entrance to the vegetable market.

Also in Maharashtra state, vigilantes impersonating police officers assaulted locals and attempted to enforce the lockdown.

15-21 March 2020

In Venezuela, a journalist was detained after releasing information about the spread of the virus. There were also accounts of state forces intimidating and threatening journalists who were reporting on the streets during the first day of quarantine. Press organizations fear that the lockdown may lead to further authoritarian measures and restrictions on individual liberties.

17-30 May 2020

In Gujarat, around 200 migrant workers attacked police personnel after trains arranged to repatriate them were rescheduled by the local administration (Indian Express, 17 May 2020). In Bihar, hundreds of migrant workers vandalized office property, government vehicles, and attacked police personnel demanding that they be allowed to return home. In Bihar and Assam, people kept in coronavirus quarantine facilities vandalized the facilities and clashed with security personnel, alleging mismanagement by the authorities and demanding better conditions. In Nepal, locals attacked government representatives after authorities attempted to set up coronavirus quarantine facilities in local schools. 

In Pakistan and India, frontline health workers battling coronavirus continued to be targeted with violence. In Pakistan, doctors and staff working at hospitals in Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces were assaulted by relatives of patients who died of coronavirus. In India’s Gujarat state, locals attacked a nurse and prevented her from going to work, fearing that she would spread coronavirus. In Bihar state, quarantined migrant workers attacked a local village head and held a nurse hostage due to poor conditions at the quarantine center. Similar incidents were reported in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. 

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In Kyrgyzstan, a group of people rioted in a quarantine facility near Manas airport, Bishkek, and attempted to turn an ambulance over after rumors circulated that potentially infected patients were being sent home. On the next day, the Kyrgyz authorities allowed the majority of patients to observe home quarantine (24.kg, 19 May 2020).

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Social unrest stemming from coronavirus fears again led to multiple attacks on healthcare workers in Central America and the Caribbean. In Haiti, a quarantine facility for coronavirus patients was destroyed and set on fire. In Mexico’s Hidalgo state, a group of people attacked doctors and nurses inside a hospital, accusing them of not providing proper care. The attack prompted protests by hospital workers calling for the presence of security forces to prevent attacks inside medical centers. In Yucatan state, a group of people set fire to the vehicle and house of a nurse fearing that she could be infected with the coronavirus. In Oaxaca state, residents of the Santa Maria Jacatepec municipality detained a group of health workers, and days later also detained the mayor and police officers who were ordered to rescue the health workers. In total, the community detained 12 people, who they blame for the death of a man infected with the coronavirus. In Oaxaca and in Chiapas states, residents destroyed vehicles and public buildings and looted stores, rejecting alleged sanitation operations. The residents rioted after misinformation had been circulated on social networks about the use of chemical products that are toxic and could cause injury.

Elsewhere in Mexico, the enforcement of coronavirus prevention measures also generated unrest. In Ocosingo and Tuxtla Gutierrez of Chiapas state, merchants clashed with police after the latter tried to enforce the closure of stores that failed to comply with the lockdown. In Veracruz state, city hall workers were attacked by a group of people who were at a cemetery attending a funeral. The government employees intervened in the gathering to demand the participants respect sanitation measures. Police officers in Chihuahua state were shot at while guarding the establishment of a health module.

Similarly, in Guatemala, three men shot a group of police agents enforcing the curfew imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

10-16 May 2020

Violent demonstrations and mob violence over coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions were reported in India and Bangladesh. In several states across India, including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, locals clashed with security personnel enforcing the lockdown. In Maharashtra, an armed mob attacked a police patrol, injuring three police personnel, after the patrol interrogated them about lockdown and social distancing violations. In Jammu & Kashmir, a mob pelted stones at police personnel as they attempted to disperse religious gatherings at mosques. Across India, migrant workers clashed with security forces, demanding they be allowed to travel back to their home states. In Gujarat, around 1,000 migrant workers pelted stones and clashed with the police after the local administration was not able to make arrangements to repatriate them (Times of India, 14 May 2020). Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, hundreds of migrant laborers pelted stones at police after finding out there were no more buses to repatriate them to their home states. 

Communal violence was also reported in India and Bangladesh. In India, Hindu and Muslim groups clashed for several days in West Bengal state, after Muslims were barred from using public toilets following reports of coronavirus cases in their neighborhood. Reports indicated that the violence was coordinated and systematically targeted at the Muslim community (Wire, 16 May 2020). Police filed cases against two members of parliament belonging to the ruling Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for allegedly inciting violence during the incident (Indian Express, 18 May 2020). The BJP has been known to incite inter-communal conflict between Hindus and Muslims, which has led to incidents like the deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in Delhi earlier this year (Al Jazeera, 11 March 2020). In Bangladesh, locals attacked a shop belonging to a Hindu owner and clashed with police in Barisal division during a demonstration against an anti-Muslim social media post attributed to the shop owner. At least 10 people were injured during the incident. In recent years, social media posts and fake online news have triggered several clashes in Bangladesh (Deutsche Welle, 1 November 2019). In October 2019, four people were killed in a clash with police when hundreds of people demonstrated against a derogatory, anti-Muslim Facebook post, allegedly written by a Hindu individual (Deutsche Welle, 1 November 2019).

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In Mexico’s Sinaloa and Mexico states, police officers were attacked as they enforced a prohibition on gatherings and sports events. Health workers continued to face violence and discrimination due to the popular perception that they are potential sources of infection. In Michoacán, residents blocked several roads for two consecutive days demanding the relocation of security officers and health workers. In Hidalgo, a group of residents protested against the presence of health workers in nearby hotels. In San Luis Potosi state, two families attacked health personnel who were in charge of contract tracing to stop coronavirus transmission.

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In Spain, a bank ATM was set on fire in Ea (Bizkaia). Seven neighbors were evacuated as a consequence of the fire. Additionally, the headquarters of the Basque Socialist Party (PSV) and the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV) were covered in paint with the words “jailers” and “Total Amnesty” displayed at different locations in Basque Country such as Algorta, Berango, Izarra, Portugalete, and Getxo. The events are linked to a hunger strike started by a former member of Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA) incarcerated at the Murcia II prison facility. The strike is meant to denounce the prison’s response to the coronavirus crisis. People gathered in Pamplona and Vitoria-Gasteiz to call for the release of the prisoner, but organizations representing victims of ETA violence condemned the gatherings.

3-9 May 2020

In India, the government announced in late April that it would allow interstate movement of stranded migrant workers across the country following restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. Despite the announcement, several states sealed their borders and restricted movement, leading to unrest and clashes between migrant workers and security forces. About 7,000 migrant workers blocked the Mumbai-Agra highway and pelted stones at police personnel as they were prevented from entering Madhya Pradesh (Times of India, 3 May 2020). Mob violence and violent demonstrations were also reported in other states including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, and Punjab. 

In Bangladesh and Nepal, violence was reported over the distribution of ration and relief materials provided to those affected by coronavirus lockdowns. In Bangladesh, a local leader of Bangladesh Awami League (AL) died after he was assaulted following an altercation over alleged irregularities in relief distribution. In Nepal, local government representatives were assaulted by mobs and locals clashed with the police over dissatisfaction with malpractice and  the lack of transparency in the purchase and distribution of relief materials. 

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Social unrest stemming from coronavirus fears again led to violence in Mexico. In Mexico state, residents attacked police officers and accused them of putting a village at risk of infection. Despite a regulation threatening punishment for perpetrators of violence against health workers, attacks continued. In Coahuila state, three women who worked as nurses and administrative staff for a hospital were found dead in their house. In Tabasco state, a nurse was killed in a drive-by shooting. 

Mistrust towards health workers led residents in Honduras to attack several medical professionals with stones, preventing them from conducting tests. Some demonstrators also tried to prevent the burial of coronavirus victims. 

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Afghanistan was the scene of a violent demonstration last week that reportedly left four civilians and two policemen dead. Demonstrators, angry over what they perceive as unfair food aid distribution during the coronavirus pandemic, clashed with police in Ghor province. The government has launched an emergency relief program to distribute aid to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. But residents in Ghor claim that aid was given mainly to people with political connections, rather than those most in need (RFE/RL, 9 May 2020). According to a local economic think tank, coronavirus-related restrictions have caused six million people in Afghanistan to lose their jobs (Al Jazeera, 8 May 2020). Partial border closures with neighboring countries have also disrupted imports, increasing essential food prices (VOA, 9 May 2020). In a country where more than half the population lives below the national poverty line, the coronavirus pandemic will likely continue to exacerbate socio-economic instability in Afghanistan.

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In the United Kingdom, several police officers were attacked when they approached a group of men contravening the coronavirus lockdown measures in London’s Finsbury Park. (Evening Standard, 7 May 2020). This is reflective of the trend of attacks on frontline workers across the country, which often include coughing or spitting. (Met Police, 5 May 2020; Scotsman, 10 May 2020).

In Spain, three members of Arran claimed responsibility for setting fire to a toll facility on the AP-7 highway, in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Barcelona). Arran accused the Abertis company of doing business during the pandemic after the firm requested an extension of administrative concessions for the highway to compensate for economic losses.

Two cases of violence against law enforcement were reported in the Netherlands after disputes about coronavirus lockdown regulations.

In Belgium, Brussels saw another anti-police riot in Saint-Gilles amid rising tensions due to the coronavirus lockdown and increased police presence on the streets.

26 April-2 May 2020

In India, frontline health workers and members of the Muslim community continued to be targeted with violence. Fear over the possibility of large-scale transmission from health workers and Muslims have fueled routine attacks against both groups. Health workers collecting information and tracing potential coronavirus patients were assaulted in several states including Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. In Punjab, a Muslim shopkeeper and his family were assaulted by a mob fearing the spread of coronavirus. The latest attack came as a legislator belonging to India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made a call to boycott Muslim vendors as “a precautionary measure to protect people from getting infected”, in a video that went viral (Al-Jazeera, 29 April 2020). Locals also continued to use violence to defy lockdown measures in India. In several states, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Assam, Muslims gathered at mosques to perform rituals associated with the holy month of Ramadan, leading to clashes with police personnel who attempted to enforce social distancing and prevent large congregations.

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In Romania, the police clashed with several rioting mobs that had gathered in violation of the coronavirus lockdown (News.ro, 2 May 2020; Digi24, 30 April 2020; Agerpres, 28 April 2020).

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General defiance of coronavirus lockdown policies and demonstrations violating social distancing measures led to clashes with security forces in Central America and the Caribbean. In Guatemala, merchants beat a policewoman when she asked businesses to close. In Haiti, a group of people clashed with police officers who tried to violently disperse a crowd in Jeremie. In Mexico, several riots and attacks against police enforcing coronavirus prevention measures were reported in Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Puebla.

The management of coronavirus treatment facilities also fueled tensions in Mexico: relatives of patients demonstrating against the lack of transparency over treatment conditions broke into a hospital and attacked nurses and doctors, injuring four. Attacks targeting health workers over fears of coronavirus transmission were reported in the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, and Nuevo Leon, while members of a community in Oaxaca detained two individuals who tried to bypass a sanitary cordon. In Haiti, paramedics and emergency workers vandalized a coronavirus facility as they protested over the delayed payment of their salaries.

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In France, several incidents of mob violence took place around the country during the week in response to police enforcement of coronavirus quarantines. Several persons were injured but no fatalities were reported. 

Police forces intervened in a mass fight in an asylum center in Drachten, the Netherlands, while in Eupen, Belgium, police officers were attacked after an intervention. 

 

Food riots

In Nepal and India, violence continued over distribution of ration and relief materials provided to those affected by coronavirus lockdowns. In Nepal, local government representatives continued to be assaulted by mobs over malpractice and the lack of transparency in the purchase and distribution of relief materials. In India, villagers vandalized ration shops and assaulted dealers over irregularities in the ration distribution system.

19-25 April 2020

In Indonesia, a mob beat a man to death after he tried to remind them to adhere to social distancing practices. 

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In Nigeria and Guinea, reports of xenophobic violence targeting African students in China prompted demonstrations outside the Chinese embassies in Lagos and Conakry.

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In India, panic over the possibility of mass community spread via health workers has led to increased attacks on medical professionals (Bloomberg, 14 April 2020). In Haryana state, a mob attacked a doctor working in the coronavirus ward of a local hospital over fear of transmission. In Karnataka state, at least 54 people were arrested after they attacked health workers who attempted to shift secondary contacts of a coronavirus patient to quarantine centers. Similar incidents were also reported in other states including Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu. 

In several states of India, including Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, people gathered at mosques and clashed with police personnel who attempted to stop them from congregating in large numbers for Friday prayers. In Bihar state, armed locals fatally shot a man for reportedly advising them to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus lockdown. Rioters also clashed over the distribution of free rations and assaulted the ration dealer for failing to provide the correct amount of food grain as promised by the state government.

In Bangladesh, Jubo League activists assaulted and injured at least seven policemen and two journalists when the police attempted to disperse their gathering and enforce the coronavirus lockdown.

In Nepal, local government officials were assaulted by mobs over malpractice and the lack of transparency in the purchase and distribution of relief materials. 

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In Kazakhstan, on 19 April, workers at an oil project in the eastern town of Tengiz smashed the windows of a building where the company was housing other workers possibly infected with coronavirus. Another riot took place in Kaskelen town near Almaty city, where residents rampaged through a local clinic hosting possible coronavirus patients and smashed the windows. 

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Riots erupted in several cities in Romania, where police and gendarmerie patrols enforcing coronavirus lockdown measures faced mobs armed with garden tools (RFE/RL, 20 April 2020). 

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In France, several incidents of mob violence took place around the country in response to the use of excessive force by police imposing coronavirus restrictions.

12-18 April 2020

In Mongolia, a group of miners attacked policemen who were trying to enforce coronavirus-related social distancing rules. 

In South Korea, Christian congregants violently resisted the government’s social distancing rules and gathered at churches, calling the restrictions ‘suppression of religion.’

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Multiple events involving violence targeting health workers were recorded in Mexico. In Jalisco state, a group of people threw chlorine at a doctor over fears that she could infect them with coronavirus. Elsewhere, in two separate incidents, groups of people attacked an ambulance carrying a coronavirus patient as well as the house of a health worker.

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Continued acts of violence by state forces in Uganda have prompted violent responses from the community. In Kisoro district, rioters pelted security forces with stones as they attempted to enforce coronavirus measures. The targeted stone pelting of state forces was also reported in the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Guinea.

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In India, frontline health workers battling coronavirus continued to face targeted violence. Widespread panic over the transmission of coronavirus from health workers, and of being stigmatized after contracting the virus, spurred the increase in violence against medical teams (Deccan Herald, 14 April 2020). In Bihar state, locals assaulted health workers who were gathering information and creating awareness to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In Jharkhand state, locals demonstrated and vandalized ambulances as health workers tried to transfer three coronavirus patients to the hospital. Similar incidents were also reported in other states including Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

In Nepal and Bangladesh, violent demonstrations were reported over the distribution of ration and relief packages. In Nepal, several violent clashes broke out between locals, police, and political party activists over alleged malpractice and lack of transparency in the purchase and distribution of aid. In Parsa district, locals assaulted the Chief Administration Officer claiming that the relief packages contained inedible foodstuffs. In Bangladesh, locals vandalized an aid truck and looted 600 sacks of rice. The incident occurred amidst widespread reports of misappropriation of coronavirus relief by local representatives and political leaders (Dhaka Tribune, 12 April 2020). 

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In Greece, riots broke out in the migrant camp on Chios after rumors circulated that a woman had died of COVID-19. 

In Hunedoara and Brasov counties of Romania, police and gendarmerie were attacked by groups objecting to the lockdown measures (Digi24, 14 April 2020; News.ro, 18 April 2020).

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In the United Kingdom, several attacks were reported in which mobs targeted people of Asian descent, accusing them of spreading coronavirus.

In Italy, migrants hosted at a reception center in Rome rioted against quarantine measures by starting a fire at the facility. Migrants hosted in Airuno staged a protest to complain about the lack of individual protection devices.

In Slovakia, scuffles were reported between law enforcement and members of the Romani ethnic minority over violations of coronavirus measures.

5-11 April 2020

In Thailand, a village chief shot and killed a monk and another person as they broke a curfew imposed due to the coronavirus.

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Across South Asia, ACLED records continued violent resistance against security forces implementing coronavirus lockdowns. In several states in India, locals attacked and clashed with security personnel enforcing the nationwide lockdown. In Madhya Pradesh state, two police personnel were injured when a mob attacked them with knives. In Pakistan and Nepal police officers were injured while attempting to prevent large numbers of people from gathering for prayers at mosques. In Bangladesh, four police personnel were injured by Bangladesh Awami League (AL) activists when they attempted to enforce the closure of shops. 

India’s Muslim community faced targeted violence over coronavirus fears after Indian authorities linked dozens of COVID-19 cases to a conference organized in Delhi by Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group (Time, 3 April 2020). In Jharkhand, a Muslim man died after a mob assaulted him over allegations of deliberately spreading coronavirus among locals. In Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, several Mosques were vandalized, and members of the Muslim community were assaulted over suspicion of spreading the virus. In the capital, Delhi, a Muslim youth was assaulted over the suspicion that he was responsible for spreading coronavirus.

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In Israel, settler youth — who were suspected of having been exposed to coronavirus — smashed the windows of a bus that was sent to take them to a quarantine shelter in the country’s south. Settlers in Modiin Ilit also protested lockdown measures, provoking clashes with residents who called them “murderers” for not adhering to the social distancing rules. Clashes were reported between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces in Jerusalem as authorities closed the main intersection of Anata.

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In Mexico, rioters set fire to the doors of a hospital due to the facility’s treatment of coronavirus patients. 

In Costa Rica and Mexico, residents blocked roads or entries to their communities.

In Guatemala, several men broke into the property of a mayor and attacked the mayor’s son to express their opposition to the new prohibition on alcoholic beverages – a measure taken by the government to prevent coronavirus transmission. In another department, people attacked police officers who were patrolling the area to ensure compliance with the prohibition. 

In Haiti, a crowd armed with sticks and machetes prevented the burial of a person who died from coronavirus. The crowd – allegedly backed by local authorities – called for the body to be cremated to reduce the risk of the virus spreading (Alterpresse, 10 April 2020).

Violence broke out in Peru amidst fears of the virus. In Ancash department, members of a Ronda Campesina – an autonomous peasant patrol – captured and whipped the district mayor, who was found drinking alcohol with other people, in violation of the countrywide lockdown. In two distinct events in Huancavelica and Lima departments, locals attacked state forces and health workers who were burying the dead infected with coronavirus.

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In Nigeria, in Kaduna, rioters and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force clashed at a food distribution point. Market traders also demonstrated and clashed with state forces in multiple locations as they attempted to resist coronavirus measures. At a market in Kaduna, multiple fatalities were reported when traders clashed with police during a demonstration against the Civilian Joint Task Force’s closure of the market.

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Violent incidents related to resistance against government coronavirus measures were reported in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Spain

29 March-4 April 2020

Locals assaulted migrant workers in India’s Arunachal Pradesh, while in several states including West Bengal and Jharkhand, migrant workers seeking to return home were refused entry to their villages. In the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Kerala, locals attacked and injured health workers who were performing contact tracing and screening suspected coronavirus patients. The attackers feared being screened and kept under quarantine. A man was also lynched to death by locals in Bihar for informing the authorities about people who had returned back home after the lockdown. 

22-28 March 2020

A mass riot broke out at the Hubei-Jiangxi border in China last week when Hubei residents attempting to return to work, following a relaxation in mobility restrictions, were prevented from crossing into Jiangxi by border police. Hubei residents and police perceived this to be part of ongoing discrimination, and thousands clashed with Jiangxi police. Some sources claim that the incident reflects growing distrust of “official figures” reporting low infection rates. 

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In Trinidad and Tobago, private security forces of San Fernando hospital clashed with journalists who attempted to film a viral tent at the facility.

In a migration station in Chiapas state in Mexico, migrants from Central America, Cuba, and Africa demanded to be able to return to their country of origin due to the coronavirus crisis. Rioters burned mattresses, and several scuffles with National Guard officers were reported.

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Across South Asia, ACLED records multiple cases of local groups violently resisting lockdown orders. In several Indian states, including Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Assam, locals attacked and clashed with security personnel enforcing the lockdown. In Rajasthan state, a police officer was stabbed and injured by a mob. In Assam, a mob lynched and killed an officer after he attempted to enforce the lockdown order. Nepali migrants attempting to return to Nepal clashed with security personnel enforcing a nationwide lockdown as a preventative measure to minimize the spread of coronavirus.

In Bangladesh, locals injured three laborers and vandalized the construction site of a hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

15-21 March 2020

In Panama, rioters built rudimentary roadblocks using rocks and branches to halt people living in Panama City from traveling to other regions and thereby spreading the virus to as yet unaffected areas.

In the Caribbean, while some island states have seemingly managed to prevent infections by closing their borders to tourists, other countries in the region reported their first infections last week, leading to unrest. In Haiti, a group of individuals armed with machetes attempted to lynch the country’s first confirmed case of the virus after finding out that the infected individual lived in their neighborhood in Nord-Est Department.

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In Bangladesh, a man was killed, and 10 others injured, in a clash after arguments over coronavirus.

In India’s Maharashtra state, a man was assaulted for sneezing in public without covering his face.

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Community fears prompted several cases of mob violence targeting suspected carriers of the virus in Africa. One person was attacked and killed in Kenya, while violence took on a xenophobic form in Ethiopia and Uganda, where foreigners were attacked on suspicion of carrying coronavirus. 

17-30 May 2020

No prison unrest directly related to the pandemic was reported during this two-week period.

10-16 May 2020

Nearly 30 inmates were injured in two prison riots in Mexico’s Colima and Mexico states following the suspension of family visits. 

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In Norway, prisoners in Sem Prison, Tønsberg rioted in response to limited supplies and changes in the process for procuring goods.

3-9 May 2020

In France, prisoners demonstrated against visiting regulations during the deconfinement phase, due to enter in force on 11 May. The measures include limiting each prisoner to one visitor and prohibiting physical contact.

In the Netherlands, prisoners in Sittard staged a protest after they were deprived of their outside walk, although the specific reason for this prohibition was not related to the coronavirus.

26 April-2 May 2020

In Cyprus, a riot broke out at Limassol police headquarters with prisoners setting fire to their mattresses after an inmate was diagnosed with coronavirus.

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In Venezuela, at least 41 prisoners were killed by prison guards during an armed clash after an escape attempt in Portuguesa state. In Peru, prisoners demanded the implementation of hygienic measures to avoid the spread of infections inside a detention facility in Lima city. Nine prisoners were killed during a clash with police forces. In Lambayeque province, six prisoners were killed by other inmates following an escape attempt involving more than 4,000 detainees.

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In Sierra Leone, the confirmation of a coronavirus case at the Pademba Road Prison in Freetown prompted a prison riot. Rioters set fire to buildings and clashed with prison guards. A dozen fatalities were reported during the violence, with large numbers injured. Demonstration activity was also reported in prisons in Nigeria and Morocco. In Nigeria’s Delta state, a new policy curtailing visitation rights over concerns about the spread of coronavirus resulted in rioting and violent clashes that left several prisoners and guards injured.

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In France, prisoners set projectiles on fire to demand to be released due to the coronavirus crisis.

19-25 April 2020

In Indonesia, a prison riot was reported in West Papua as prisoners demanded to be released so as to avoid catching the coronavirus.

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In El Salvador, the president declared a state of emergency in penitentiary centers after a spike in violent deaths culminated in 24 homicides in one day (La Prensa Grafica, 26 April 2020). 

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A prison riot occurred at Horserod Prison in Helsingor, Denmark over detention conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.

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In Spain, prisoners protested in the detention facility of Picassent, Valencia by refusing to go back to their cells until their demands were met. They raised concerns over medical services and coronavirus confinement measures.

In France, prisoners protested against detention measures adopted during the crisis.

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In South Africa, rioters looted food trucks in Cape Town, while prisoners burnt mattresses in a number of the country’s prisons, demanding toiletries and better food during the national coronavirus lockdown. 

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Prison riots and peaceful demonstrations were reported in detention facilities in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru due to poor conditions and fear of the pandemic. In Corrientes province, Argentina, inmates peacefully demanded house arrest, probation, or early release after the confirmation of a coronavirus case inside the prison. One inmate was shot dead as state forces intervened using rubber bullets. In Buenos Aires province, one inmate was also shot dead after a clash with prison guards, following a demonstration demanding prisoners be released.

12-18 April 2020

Protests were reported in prisons in both Panama and Mexico: in the former, prisoners called for the release of inmates with chronic diseases, while in the latter, prisoners demonstrated over the limitation of family visits.

Prison riots were reported in Colombia, Chile, and Peru due to poor detention conditions and fear of the pandemic. In Lambayeque department, Peru, prisoners burned mattresses and clashed with the police over fears of a possible coronavirus case inside the prison. Two prisoners were killed.

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Prison riots and protests over conditions imposed due to coronavirus were reported in France, the Netherlands, and Norway.

5-11 April 2020

In Lebanon, a prison riot broke out as inmates demanded a general amnesty during the pandemic.

Dozens of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons began a hunger strike over the lack of protection against coronavirus (Middle East Monitor, 3 April 2020).

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In Panama, prisoners exchanged gunfire with prison guards after authorities revealed that two prisoners tested positive for coronavirus. The prisoners had previously protested to call for further safety measures.

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In Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani also ordered the release of 10,000 non-combatant prisoners amidst concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. A prison riot was reported on 30 March in the province of Herat, where female inmates, excluded from the pardon list, injured at least five prison guards (Afghanistan Times, 30 March 2020). A second prison riot took place in Paktia province, during which two prison guards were reportedly killed and a number of inmates were wounded. A member of the Paktia provincial council suggested that some high profile members of the Taliban were among the rioters and had escaped from the prison, although this has not been confirmed (TOLOnews, 11 April 2020). It is unclear if the latter prison riot was also triggered by coronavirus fears. 

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In Russia, a large prison riot erupted at the high-security Penal Colony No 15 in Angarsk on 10 April after an inmate was allegedly beaten by a guard. At least one inmate was killed and a further 300 were injured after security reinforcements intervened with the use of water cannons and stun grenades (BBC, 11 April 2020; Meduza, 11 April 2020), leading to protests in support of the inmates (MBK Media,  11 April 2020)

29 March-4 April 2020

A prison riot broke out in Thailand after a rumor spread that one of the inmates had the coronavirus.

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Although there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Yemen as yet, a number of governorates have braced for its likely arrival. This includes the release of thousands of prisoners by pro-Houthi and anti-Houthi forces alike (Mareb Press, 4 April 2020).

Prison riots also continued in Iran, with seven riots reported amidst fear over the spread of the coronavirus. Three of the riots reportedly resulted in fatalities.

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In Mexico, riots inside migrant shelters were reported in Sonora, Tabasco, and Coahuila states over overcrowding and poor sanitation conditions.

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Peaceful protests were reported in prisons in Chile, as inmates called on authorities to take steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Human rights activists urged the government to grant quick trials for inmates awaiting court judgments due to the risk of contagion inside overcrowded detention facilities. In Puente Alto prison, located in the Metropolitan Region, a riot broke out after the confirmation of five coronavirus cases, including four inmates and one prison guard.

22-28 March 2020

In an apparent response to the coronavirus pandemic, Bahrain released thousands of prisoners last week. While the release included approximately 300 people incarcerated for political offenses, it excluded the country’s most prominent political prisoners (Human Rights Watch, 23 March 2020). While the partial release is largely seen as a positive step, many activists do not view the move as a significant concession, particularly because many of the most prominent political prisoners are elderly and in ill health – making them among the most susceptible to the virus. If the situation continues to deteriorate, there could be renewed demonstrations calling for the release of these prisoners.

In Iran, ACLED records three additional prison riots over fears that the facilities will not be able to control the spread of coronavirus. In Saqqez city, more than 75 prisoners escaped from prison during a riot.

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Prison riots were reported in multiple countries throughout South America due to poor detention conditions and fears of coronavirus. In Colombia, a riot broke out in La Modelo prison, located in Bogotá city, in which prisoners called for better sanitary conditions inside the overcrowded facility; 23 inmates were left dead after clashes with the police. Riots were also reported in prisons in Tolima, Valle del Cauca, Meta, Antioquia, and Norte de Santander departments. In Peru, prisoners of El Milagro, in La Libertad department, started a fire and clashed with the police after claims emerged that an inmate was infected with the virus; two prisoners were killed. Conversely, prisoners held peaceful demonstrations at facilities across Argentina in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Entre Rios, Córdoba, and Chaco. Inmates called for the implementation of a disease prevention protocol promised by the authorities.

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In Western Europe, prison riots were reported in France, Italy, Belgium, and Luxembourg over new restrictive measures imposed on inmates.

15-21 March 2020

In Trinidad and Tobago, around 250 prisoners in the Tunapuna–Piarco region started a riot, beating and taking two prison guards captive, while other prisoners attempted to escape. The event was live-streamed from inside the prison and prisoners cited a number of reasons for the riot, including fears over dying from coronavirus while incarcerated.

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Prison riots were reported in Iran, Lebanon, and Jordan over coronavirus fears amidst poor prison conditions and new restrictions. As a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus, Iran temporarily released 85,000 prisoners as of Tuesday last week (Al Jazeera, 17 March 2020), though two prison riots took place in Lorestan province. One of the riots reportedly resulted in the escape of 23 prisoners, while another was shot and killed by prison guards. Iran also released a number of international prisoners, including French researcher Roland Marchal, in a prisoner swap, and has temporarily released a US navy veteran and a female British-Iranian dual national, both incarcerated on charges of espionage. In Jordan, two inmates were killed in a prison riot in Irbid after visits to inmates were banned to contain the spread of coronavirus. Riots also broke out in at least two overcrowded prisons in Lebanon as inmates feared the spread of the disease. Lebanese relatives of prisoners also held demonstrations calling for their release.

Meanwhile, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) called on the UN to pressure Israel to release Palestinian detainees following reports of Palestinian prisoners testing positive for coronavirus in Israeli prisons. Some 500 Israeli prisoners were released to house arrest amid the crisis. Palestinian prisoners are planning to launch a hunger strike (Al Jazeera, 23 March 2020). This increasing trend of prison riots is likely to continue across the Middle East as prisoners have little reason to believe that the state is protecting them.

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In Sri Lanka, two inmates were killed and six others injured as guards fired at demonstrating prisoners after they attempted to escape, demanding release due to the threat of coronavirus.

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In Brazil, in the state of São Paulo, more than 1,300 inmates rioted and escaped from prisons after a decision to suspend visits due to the coronavirus pandemic; 700 escapees have reportedly been recaptured. In Peru, prison riots were also reported in Lambayeque and Piura departments, as inmates demanded testing for the virus and condemned mistreatment from prison officials. Authorities in South America fear the spread of the virus might cause a crisis in the already overcrowded penitentiary system.

17-30 May 2020

Deadly clashes in the Philippines between state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) continued over the past two weeks. There was also an uptick in clashes between state forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an Islamist group operating in the Bangsamoro region. 

Separatist violence against civilians was reported in Indonesia. Members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) attacked health workers carrying medicine for coronavirus patients in Papua, resulting in one reported fatality. Disorder in the region has been on the rise this year (The Interpreter, 20 May 2020).

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In India, security measures and lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus were extended for two more weeks. Despite the extension of the lockdown, armed clashes between security forces and rebel groups continued across the country. In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), 14 fatalities including four security personnel, seven militants, and three civilians were recorded in seven different armed clashes between security forces and rebel groups. In Srinagar, the summer capital of J&K, a commander of Kashmir’s largest rebel group, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), and his aide were killed in a 12-hour-long battle. Following the incident, violent anti-India demonstrations were held in the region. While armed clashes between rebel groups and security personnel are a common occurrence in areas bordering Pakistan, this incident marks the first such incident in Srinagar in two years (Al Jazeera, 19 May 2020). Reports suggest that security forces have used the lockdown to expand their network of sources and to gather actionable intelligence (New India Express, 7 May 2020). In Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra states, armed clashes between Naxal-Maoist rebels and security personnel continued with 10 fatalities recorded in six different armed clashes.

In Pakistan, the recent resurgence of violence by armed Baloch ethnic groups continued during the past two weeks. In Balochistan province, six military personnel were killed and at least four others were wounded in a roadside bombing. The United Baloch Army (UBA) claimed responsibility for the attack (Gandhara, 19 May 2020). The UBA is a Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) splinter group and is among several other armed Baloch groups battling the state to establish an independent Balochistan (Diplomat, 24 June 2015). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, at least three people were killed in an attack by suspected Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants.

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Heavy intercommunal fighting erupted in South Sudan’s Jonglei state. Two days of clashes between Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic militias were reported in multiple locations across Uror county, resulting in hundreds of fatalities, including three aid workers. The violence follows earlier raids by Lou Nuer militiamen on Murle populations in late February and early March.

In Somalia, Al Shabaab militants assassinated the governor of the Puntland-controlled Mudug region. The governor was killed, along with a number of his security guards, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden rickshaw in Gaalkacyo town. The assassination comes less than two months after another Al Shabaab suicide bombing killed the governor of Nugal region.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congolese military forces (FARDC) staged successful operations against Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) militants in the north of Ituri. The FARDC regained control of a number of villages in Djugu territory. Meanwhile, ADF militants consolidated recent moves into the south of Ituri province, establishing a base at Kamambou in Irumu territory. The base underlines a concerted push by the group into Ituri province. ADF militants staged several attacks on civilian populations in Irumu territory throughout the past two weeks, including simultaneous attacks on the villages of Samboko and Tikamaibo, which left dozens dead. The ADF also remains active in its traditional area of operations in North Kivu’s Beni territory.

In northwest Nigeria, state forces launched a series of airstrikes targeting alleged militants in Zamfara and Katsina. In neighboring Sokoto state, dozens of civilians were killed when gunmen attacked five villages in the Sabon Birni area. Elsewhere, in the northeastern state of Borno, Nigerian forces continued recent operations against Boko Haram. Clashes in Kukawa, Gwoza, Dikwa, and Bama local government areas left dozens of Boko Haram militants dead.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram launched significant attacks on military targets in Cameroon and Niger. In Niger, militants attacked an army position in Diffa’s N’Guigmi commune. In Cameroon’s Far-North, militants attacked and temporarily occupied a marine military camp in Fotokol subdivision. The latter attack was claimed by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

In Libya, GNA forces took control of the strategic Al Watiyah airbase near the border with Tunisia. The capture comes after nearly two months of operations to seize the airbase and follows recent GNA gains in the west of the country. The GNA also regained control of a number of suburbs in the capital of Tripoli, in a further sign of the LNA’s diminishing successes in their year-long offensive on the Libyan capital. Meanwhile, Islamic State (IS) militants launched attacks on LNA forces in Murzuq district and Tamanhint in neighboring Sebha district. Despite once controlling the strategic city of Sirte, IS has had an operationally unimportant presence in Libya in recent times.

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Fatalities stemming from cartel violence continued to increase, hitting levels not seen since February 2019 (for more information on how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced gang activity in Mexico and the Northern Triangle, see this recent ACLED analysis piece). In Mexico, turf wars in Michoacán, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas continued. In Michoacán, near Los Reyes, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) clashed with the so-called ‘Carteles Unidos’, a partnership of several cartels, including the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, and the Sinaloa Cartel to stop the advances of the CJNG (Infobae, 30 October 2019). In Huetamo, members of La Familia Michoacana left a vehicle with 12 bodies of alleged CJNG members who were killed in revenge for the death of the nephew of a member of La Familia Michoacana. The dispute between CJNG and Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel also intensified. Several deadly attacks on civilians were registered in Guanajuato, and threats were circulated against supporters of the rival cartels. In Salvatierra, five human fetuses were found, allegedly left by members of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. In Guerrero state, a conflict between criminal groups and self-defense groups resulted in 12 fatalities. A clash in Chichihualco between Cartel del Sur and members of the Tlacotepec communal militia, also known as Policia Comunitaria Heliodoro Castillo, caused the displacement of around 200 people.

In Honduras, inter-gang battles and violence targeting civilians continued to increase after several weeks of low numbers during the coronavirus lockdown. In particular, fatalities stemming from battles between gangs spiked. In Copán department, an unidentified armed group killed a former congressman for the National Party, Hugo Pinto Aguilar, on 16 May in his house in El Paraiso. While the motive is still under investigation, the killing is likely linked to his ties with drug trafficking. Pinto was involved in the Los Pinto clan, one of the main groups controlling drug trafficking routes connecting the south of Honduras and the border with Guatemala, and an ally to the Valle Valle group (InSight Crime, 25 May 2020). Western Honduras, including Copán department, became even more violent due to a power vacuum caused by the arrest of several leaders of the Valle Valle clan in 2014 (InSight Crime, 10 September 2019).

National authorities in Guatemala declared a State of Emergency after territorial disputes escalated in Nahualá, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan and Santa Lucia Utatlan of Solola department. Clashes between residents of Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán resulted in at least four deaths and eight injuries. The land dispute has persisted for more than 100 years and according to some has recently intensified due to the lack of dialogue between the communities (La Hora, 30 May 2020).

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Political killings continued in Colombia, largely matching the weekly average for the year, with eight killings reported over the past two weeks. Between 17 May and 30 May, three social leaders were killed in separate events in the departments of Bolívar, César, and Vichada. Two former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were also killed in the departments of Cauca and Huila. And iIn Cauca department, a former member of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and two traditional doctors and members of an indigenous group were killed by unidentified armed men in two separate events. For more, see ACLED’s CDT Spotlight on attacks against civilians in Colombia.

The number of clashes between armed groups and state forces slightly declined in Brazil. Still, police operations conducted in Rio de Janeiro state continued to be in the headlines. Two civilians were shot dead during different Military Police operations in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro city, and in São Gonçalo city. Locals claimed that in both events the victims were distributing food in coordination with non-governmental organizations in vulnerable communities. In another event, a 14-year-old boy was shot dead inside his house during a joint Federal and Civil Police operation in Salgueiro Complex, São Gonçalo city. Witnesses claimed that the officers had been warned that only children were inside the house. Human rights groups criticized police conduct in the favelas, as civilians continue to be caught in the crossfire during operations aimed to curb drug trafficking groups (G1, 23 May 2020).

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In Yemen, conflict along major frontlines continued despite the spread of the coronavirus (Time, 28 May 2020), with fighting between Houthi and joint anti-Houthi forces along the Marib-Al Bayda border and the Marib-Sanaa border, as well as in Al Hodeidah, Al Jawf, and Ad Dali. Likewise, conflict continued in the area to the north and east of Zinjibar city, capital of Abyan governorate, between pro-Southern Transitional Council (STC) and pro-Hadi forces, despite a three-day truce for Eid Al Fitr (Middle East Monitor, 26 May 2020). Although infighting has escalated among anti-Houthi forces, the Houthis have not been able to capitalize on the divisions and seize significant territory elsewhere. Notably, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have significantly increased, hitting over 100 separate locations throughout Houthi-controlled territory and frontline positions over the past two weeks. While the ceasefire unilaterally declared by the Saudi-led coalition ended over the Eid holiday, this did not mark a dramatic increase in the number of airstrikes because they continued to occur throughout the ceasefire.

In Saudi Arabia, Houthi forces fired at least two ballistic missiles at Riyadh and Jizan on 26 May 2020. Both missiles were reportedly intercepted by Saudi air defenses, though the missile in Jizan fell on a house and reportedly injured three of its occupants. These attacks represent the first Houthi attempt to strike deep into Saudi Arabia since 28 March 2020, when the same locations were reportedly targeted.

Following a month of high IS activity, there was a relative decrease over the past two weeks. The lull may be linked in part to anti-IS operations launched by Iraqi military forces as well as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), in addition to the total nationwide lockdown and curfew imposed during Eid, which could have prevented IS from carrying out major attacks on civilians. Moreover, the global coalition against IS launched an airstrike in Syria that reportedly killed Mutaz Numan Abd Nayif Najm Al Jaburi, known as the ‘governor of Iraq’, and the foreign operations head of IS. It also captured Abd Al Nasser Qirdash, the reported candidate to succeed Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi as the group’s leader. These blows could significantly impact the group’s capacity to launch attacks, but only time will tell if IS can regroup and once again intensify their operations in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, instability in opposition-held areas in northern Syria increased, with fighting among various opposition factions on both banks of the Euphrates, from Afrin to Ras al Ain. Elsewhere, IED attacks and assassinations by IS and unidentified groups continued to target regime and Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) elements in eastern Syria. In the south, assassinations targeting regime forces and former opposition fighters continued despite military reinforcements in the area.

Engagements between the Turkish military and the PKK intensified in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. On 26 May, Turkish military forces also conducted a drone strike targeting a car carrying Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) militants in the village of Safra in Mawat, Sulaymaniyah (Rudaw, 29 May 2020). Turkish military engagement with PJAK is uncommon, and the strike took place further south than the military usually operates. This could signal an expansion in Turkey’s military activity in Iraq.

10-16 May 2020

In India, armed clashes between Naxal-Maoist rebels and security personnel continued last week. One police constable was killed and another injured during encounters in the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Reports indicate that Naxal-Maoist rebels are strengthening in numbers and have launched massive recruitment campaigns in several districts of Madhya Pradesh. The recruitment campaigns are targeting jobless laborers who have returned home due to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown (Times of India, 16 May 2020).

Elsewhere in India, a civilian was killed when military personnel shot at National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) cadres in Arunachal Pradesh. Human rights organizations disputed the claim and the Arunachal Pradesh government has ordered a judicial inquiry to investigate the incident. The NSCN-IM is the largest militant group in the northeast, where a ceasefire agreement has been in effect since 1997. The government of India and NSCN-IM signed two subsequent agreements in 2015 and 2019, but a final peace agreement has been stymied by disputes over several issues including a separate flag and a constitution (India Today, 5 May 2020). Meanwhile, in Jammu & Kashmir, armed clashes between security forces and domestic rebel groups decreased last week. A police constable was killed when militants attacked a security patrol in Kulgam district.

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The conflict between the military and United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) continued in Myanmar last week. Civilians continue to be harmed by the ongoing violence (for more on information, see this recent ACLED report). In Buthidaung township, two Rohingya children were killed by a landmine likely leftover from previous fighting in the area. The recent unilateral ceasefire declared by the military does not cover the ULA/AA, as the group has been designated a “terrorist” organization. 

Despite the ceasefire declaration, a clash between the military and the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) was reported in Mogoke township in the Mandalay region, an area supposedly covered by the ceasefire. The PSLF/TNLA and the ULA/AA are both members of the Brotherhood Alliance, which has declared its own unilateral ceasefire.

Clashes continued in the Philippines last week between state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA). The clashes were particularly deadly in Northern Mindanao, where more than four days of fighting resulted in 15 reported fatalities. The fighting comes as President Rodrigo Duterte announced a monetary bounty for information leading to the arrest of any NPA leaders (CNN Philippines, 12 May 2020).

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In Yemen, the coronavirus has spread throughout the country, stifling conflict in recent weeks. Aden has been hit particularly hard (Sky News, 18 May 2020), while doctors have repeatedly accused Houthi authorities in Sanaa of covering up the outbreak in areas under its control (Associated Press, 16 May 2020). As the outbreak worsens, fighting between Houthi and pro-Hadi forces has decreased. At the same time, tensions between pro-Southern Transitional Council (STC) and pro-Hadi forces have broken into open conflict, with the central focus being the city of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan governorate. Daily clashes occurred along the northern and eastern outskirts of the city as pro-Hadi forces fought to gain control, with conflicting reports on the outcome of the battles. The STC remains in control of the city itself. These clashes represent another sign of the complete failure of the ‘Riyadh Agreement,’ which initially offered some hope that conflict would abate in southern Yemen.

On 15 May, the Islamic State released a video announcing a new campaign against security forces in Iraq, citing several incidents over the last week (Iraq Newspaper, 15 May 2020). This announcement comes during the second consecutive month of heightened IS attacks on Iraqi forces and civilians.

In Syria, the string of attacks against the Syrian regime and Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) by IS and unidentified gunmen continued unabated, with numerous reported fatalities. In particular, IS expanded its area of operations to the southern governorate of Dara’a, where they targeted regime troops. Regime forces also brought more military reinforcements to Dara’a, increasing tensions between the regime and former opposition fighters in the area. Elsewhere, Israeli airstrikes continued to target pro-Iran militia positions for the fifth consecutive week, conducting airstrikes in the outskirts of Aleppo city.

In Palestine, on 9 May, a new Israeli restriction came into force that criminalizes asset transfers intended to “facilitate, further, fund or reward a person for carrying out terror-related offenses” (Jerusalem Post, 11 May 2020). The Palestinian Authority sends money to those it considers to be political prisoners, many of whom are facing terrorism-related charges. The same day, rioters set fire to a bank in Jericho after discovering that the accounts of prisoners were frozen. Other demonstrations took place against banks throughout the week. Masked gunmen from the Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah – the ruling party in the West Bank – joined demonstrations in several West Bank cities (Jerusalem Post, 11 May 2020).

Furthermore, clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli forces intensified after the killing of an Israeli soldier. The soldier was reportedly killed by a heavy stone thrown at him during an arrest raid in the West Bank town of Yabad, marking the first Israeli soldier killed in action so far this year  (New York Times, 12 May 2020). Arrest raids and clashes intensified as a result. The next day, a Palestinian teen was reportedly shot and killed in the al Fawwar refugee camp during clashes with Israeli soldiers. Another Palestinian was reportedly shot and killed south of Hebron after carrying out a car-ramming attack that injured an Israeli soldier (Reuters, 14 May 2020).

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Clashes involving gangs remained high last week in Mexico. In Veracruz state, the police exchanged fire with members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) as they were delivering pantry goods to support populations affected by the coronavirus crisis. 

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In the Central African Republic, the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (RPRC) and the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC) clashed at Ndele, the capital of Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture. The latest clash follows heavy violence at the end of April, which left dozens dead, amid ongoing ethnic tension between rival ex-Seleka groups. The violence prompted state forces to establish a base in the area, marking the first time that the military has had a presence in the region for eight years (Corbeau News, 13 May 2020).

In Niger, state forces increased operations against Boko Haram in the Diffa region. Dozens of militants were reportedly killed during operations targeting the village of Gogone and the island of Tumbun Fulani. Nigerien forces also launched a raid across the border into Nigeria’s Borno state as part of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). Several clashes were additionally reported between Nigerian state forces and Boko Haram in Borno state.

Dozens of Islamist fighters were killed as military forces carried out targeted anti-insurgency operations in the districts of Mocimboa Da Praia and Quissanga in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. The operations come amid an ongoing escalation of militant activity in the region. Militants staged more than a dozen attacks on villages across Mocimboa Da Praia, Nangade, and Muidumbe districts. For more information on the conflict in Mozambique, see our new Cabo Ligado project.

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The number of clashes between armed groups and state forces declined in Brazil, although Military Police operations continued to be carried out at similar rates in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In the North zone of Rio de Janeiro city, a joint Military and Civil Police operation to seize a drug trafficking group cache in the Alemão Complex led to 13 deaths, including civilians. The intense shooting reported during the incursion, which lasted for six hours, sparked outcry across the country over state violence in impoverished neighborhoods (Ponte Jornalismo, 15 May 2020). According to the Police, one officer was injured and five drug trafficking suspects were killed – indicating that the remaining eight fatalities were civilians. Locals reported that police officers refused to retrieve the bodies, leaving the task to the residents. The event sheds light on the challenges communities affected by violence face amidst the pandemic. As citizens follow authorities’ orders to stay indoors, favela residents face a double threat of violence and disease. They are still at risk as state forces incursions on their communities have not been halted (The Guardian, 18 May 2020).

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Last week was particularly deadly for civilians in Afghanistan. On 12 May, 32 people were reportedly killed and more than 130 wounded in a suicide bombing that targeted the funeral of a pro-government militia commander in Nangarhar province. On the same day, three gunmen stormed the maternity ward of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul, reportedly killing 24 people, including infants and mothers in labor, and injuring more than 16. As Afghanistan’s former representative to the UN put it, last week was a reminder that “the entire cycle of life is being attacked – from cradle to grave” (Foreign Policy, 14 May 2020). While the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the first attack, the second attack has remained unclaimed. The Taliban has condemned both attacks, vehemently denying any involvement. Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul is home to the minority Shiite Hazara community, a frequent target of IS in the past, and US officials have blamed the attack on IS militants (AP, 13 May 2020). Afghan officials, however, have insisted that the Taliban and its affiliates are responsible for both attacks. They argue that the Haqqani network, a close affiliate of the Taliban, is cooperating with IS (TOLO News, 13 May 2020). In the week prior to the two deadly attacks, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency announced the arrest of eight members of a network that included IS and Haqqani militants, which it blamed for recent attacks on Sikh worshippers (Reuters, 11 May 2020). In the wake of last week’s violence, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered the resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban and other insurgent groups (CNN, 12 Mat 2020).

At the same time, Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah finally signed a power-sharing agreement last week, breaking eight months of political deadlock following a controversial presidential election marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities. The agreement stipulates that Ghani will stay on as the president, while Abdullah will choose 50% of the cabinet and chair the High Council for National Reconciliation, charged with leading peace negotiations with the Taliban, should they get underway (Al Jazeera, 17 May 2020). In reaction to the power-sharing agreement, a Taliban spokesman denounced “that which is taking place in Kabul is only a repetition of the past failed experiences” and stressed that “Afghan sides should focus on the real and sincere solution to the issue … The prisoners’ release process should be completed and the intra-Afghan negotiations should start” (Al Jazeera, 19 May 2020). The Afghan government has paused releasing Taliban prisoners since last week, demanding that the Taliban reduces violence and brings the total number of security personnel released up to 200. So far, Kabul has released approximately 1,000 Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban claims to have freed more than 260 captives. However the government asserts that only about 100 of those released by the Taliban are members of Afghanistan’s security forces (TOLO News, 11 May 2020).

3-9 May 2020

In India, security forces conducted a series of operations last week in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), following the death of five security personnel during an encounter the previous week. At least five militants were killed during the operations, including the senior commander and operational chief of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM). The death of the HM commander sparked demonstrations and clashes between locals and security personnel across J&K. During the unrest, at least one person was killed and more than 30 were injured, some with bullet wounds. Over the past month, organized violence by militant groups has been on the rise in J&K. The killing of the HM commander is likely to spark more unrest between locals and security forces in the aftermath of the encounter (Al Jazeera, 6 May 2020). Meanwhile, the relatively new militant outfit, Resistance Front (RF), continued attacks on security personnel. Three security personnel were killed in an attack on a security check post in Kupwara district of J&K. Elsewhere in India, four Naxal-Maoist rebels and a police officer were killed during an intelligence-based operation in the state of Chhattisgarh. Reports indicate that Naxal-Maoist rebels are strengthening in numbers along a new “red corridor” situated at the tri-junction of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh states (Hindustan Times, 9 May 2020). For more on continuing conflicts in India despite the coronavirus pandemic, see this recent CDT Spotlight as part of ACLED’s COVID-19 Disorder Tracker.

In Pakistan, organized violence by domestic rebel groups was reported in the restive provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). In Balochistan, six security personnel were killed in an IED explosion. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the explosion as well as blowing up a railway track in Quetta city earlier last week. The province is home to several armed Baloch nationalist groups, including the BLA, which have been battling the Pakistani security forces for over a decade, demanding independence and control over the province’s natural resources. In KP, two security personnel were killed in a militant attack at a security check post.

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In Yemen, anti-Houthi forces regained territory in As Sawadiyah, As Sawmaah, and Mukayras districts following significant battles. Intense clashes were also reported on the Qaatabah front in northwest Ad Dali, the Sirwah front in western Marib, and the Qaniyah front on the Marib-Al Bayda border.

In Turkey, clashes between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish military continued with 12 battles and attacks reported in Hakkari, Bitlis, Agri, Batman, Tunceli, Adiyaman, and Sirnak provinces.

Islamic State (IS) attacks in Iraq and Syria continued to rise, indicating that instability and anti-coronavirus measures in both countries are likely allowing the group to consolidate resources and prepare for new offensives.

In Syria, IS attacks against both the Syrian regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) increased in April, with more than double the number of attacks reported in March. Attacks last month were mainly concentrated in eastern Syria. The two-fold increase could mean that IS has carved out breathing room to regroup amidst the unstable security situation and the coronavirus outbreak. During the first week of May, five IS attacks against regime and QSD forces were reported. These attacks are likely to continue in the coming weeks.

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Despite curfews, cartel violence continued across Mexico. In Michoacán state, a clash between rival groups left at least six people dead, while in Jalisco state 10 people were killed in a series of related attacks. In Ciudad Victoria of Tamaulipas state, eight people were reportedly killed in an attack perpetrated by a criminal group at a store, days after the publication of threatening messages signed by El Cartel de Noreste and Los Zetas. As in other states during previous weeks, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) distributed pantry items to a Nahua indigenous community in Michoacán state. Criminal groups and community police are engaged in an ongoing territorial struggle in the area (El Proceso, 05 May 2020).

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Escalating  intra-jihadi fighting in Mali and Burkina Faso entered a new phase. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) took an unprecedented step in formally acknowledging and publishing reports on ongoing clashes with its Al Qaeda-affiliated counterpart, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) (BBC, 11 May 2020). Neither side had previously acknowledged the violence. ISGS also accused JNIM of having a tacit agreement with French and regional African forces, exerting pressure on oil supply lines and ISGS civilian sympathisers to coincide with military operations targeting ISGS forces (BBC, 11 May 2020). Tensions between the jihadi groups have been high since early April, when massive clashes between JNIM and ISGS forces at multiple locations were reported in the Mopti region.

In Libya, the Government of National Accord (GNA) launched an intense campaign on the Al Watiya airbase in An Nuqat Al Khams. Although Libyan National Army (LNA) forces were able to repulse an attack early in the week, GNA forces continued to exert pressure on the strategic position with sustained airstrikes. Al Watiya airbase is an important base of LNA operations and a launching point for airstrikes on the capital, Tripoli (France 24, 14 April 2020). Meanwhile, sustained shelling by LNA forces resulted in a number of civilian deaths in Tripoli, drawing condemnation from the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) (UNSMIL, 8 May 2020).

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congolese military forces (FARDC) captured a key Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) stronghold in the Djugu territory of Ituri. The successful operation came after a new CODECO leader called for the FARDC to negotiate a ceasefire to allow peace talks with the government. He announced that CODECO would cease operations against civilians and the FARDC, without providing a specific timeframe for their demobilization (Reuters, 4 May 2020). Although overtures by CODECO are an important development, the security situation in Ituri will remain complex and fragile. This was highlighted last week by a Patriotic and Integrationist Force of Congo (FPIC) attack on a FARDC camp in Irumu territory. FPIC is the most recently formed group in the region, having only become active this year.

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In Afghanistan, clashes between Taliban and Afghan government forces continued across the country, leading to between 350 and 500 reported fatalities. Although the Taliban launched the majority of attacks, the group suffered heavy casualties as pro-government forces repelled dozens of assaults and conducted multiple airstrikes. Meanwhile, the prisoner exchange has continued, with the Afghan government freeing approximately 1,000 Taliban prisoners, and the Taliban releasing over 100 security personnel. However, in light of the Taliban’s refusal to reduce violence, government officials are raising concerns about the wisdom of the exchange. The caretaker director of the National Directorate of Security told Afghan senators last week that the insurgent group was likely using the peace deal with the US to ensure the release of its fighters in order to boost its battlefield performance (Afghanistan Times, 11 May 2020). Also, two top members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement that the Taliban’s continued violence was an “unacceptable violation” of the US-Taliban peace agreement (RFE/RL, 9 May 2020).

Along the disputed border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, a fresh round of clashes led to the involvement of armed border patrols. On 8 May, Tajik and Kyrgyz villagers hurled rocks at each other and claimed the rights to a plot of land in a non-demarcated territory near Kok-Tash village in Batken region. Kyrgyz border guards intervened by firing warning shots, reportedly injuring two Tajik citizens. In response, Tajik border troops fired mortar shells on the area, injuring three Kyrgyz border guards (Reuters, 8 May 2020). Officials in both countries have provided different accounts of the incident, and the event has stalled ongoing diplomatic engagement on the border dispute (Kabar, 9 May 2020). The escalation on the border comes amid a newly emerging coronavirus outbreak in Tajikistan, with reports of overwhelmed hospitals and malfunctioning administration in the country (RFE/RL, 6 May 2020). 

26 April-2 May 2020

In Libya, Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar began the week by claiming a “popular mandate” to rule the country (Reuters, 28 April 2020). It is unclear what this will mean for the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which has so far acted as a form of democratic legitimation for the LNA. Haftar also declared a unilateral humanitarian truce for Ramadan, which was rejected by the Government of National Accord (GNA) (Reuters, 30 April 2020). Continued shelling of Tripoli was reported throughout the week. Meanwhile, GNA and LNA forces clashed several times in southern Tripoli and Garabulli.

In Burkina Faso, French Operation Barkhane forces launched a series of airstrikes in the Sahel region. Targeting Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) fighters, French forces focused their attacks on the department of Tin-Akoff. An airstrike was also reported across the border in the neighbouring Gao region of Mali.

In Cameroon, the military conducted a week-long operation against Ambazonian separatists in the North-West’s Bamenda subdivision. A local separatist commander was reportedly killed during the operations, which focused on Bafut town. A number of civilian fatalities were also reported.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), violence continued in Ituri province, as Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) militia clashed with Congolese military (FARDC) and peacekeeping forces (MONUSCO). CODECO militia also killed a number of civilians during attacks on villages in the Bule area, prompting demonstrations in Bule town. The attacks came despite the establishment of a temporary MONUSCO base several days prior in nearby Djaiba.

Meanwhile, Burundian military forces along with Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia and aligned Mayi Mayi clashed with Resistance for the Rule of Law in Burundi (RED-Tabara) militants in the DRC’s South Kivu. The fighting coincided with the first official week of campaigning for the upcoming elections in Burundi (RFI, 27 April 2020). The RED-Tabara group grew out of the opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) and are opposed to the current National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) government (New Humanitarian, 7 June 2016).

In the Central African Republic, the Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (RPRC) led an attack on Ndele, the capital of Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture. RPRC fighters, in coalition with the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and Party of the Rally of the Central African Nation (PRNC) clashed with Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC) forces, which exercise de facto control over the town (Al Jazeera, 6 October 2017). Significant civilian fatalities were reported despite the intervention of peacekeeping forces (MINUSCA). The attack is the latest in an ethnically charged conflict that has split ex-Seleka fighters along ethnic lines, with Kara and Gula ethnic groups pitted against members of the Runga ethnic group (Al Jazeera, 30 April 2020).

The ongoing Islamist insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province focused operations in Quissanga district. Dozens of civilians were killed during attacks on the villages of Nacoba and Natugo. Meanwhile, Dyck Advisory Group helicopters carried out strikes on militant targets in Metuge, supporting Mozambican military forces on the ground.

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In Mexico, criminal groups have enforced a parallel coronavirus curfew by conducting street patrols, installing checkpoints, and threatening reprisal for violators. The number of confrontations between gangs and with state forces remained high last week, culminating in a deadly clash between the CJNG and Los Viagras in Aguililla municipality in Michoacan that resulted in 21 reported fatalities. In the state of Veracruz, three attacks against police stations were registered following the arrest of a member of the CNJG.

In El Salvador, a large-scale operation led to the arrest of over a hundred gang members accused of extortion as part of a state crackdown. Last week, the president of El Salvador authorized security personnel to use lethal force for self-defense or “defense of El Salvadoran citizens.” He further ordered that imprisoned members of rival gang factions be held in the same cells, raising the risk of both violence and the spread of the coronavirus. This takes place against a backdrop of rising homicide rates. While some experts believe that gangs might be delivering a message to the government through this rise, others suggest that the surge in gang activity is linked to coronavirus lockdown measures, which are putting a strain on the ability of gangs to engage in extortion, which is their primary source of income (Insight Crime, 30 April 2020). 

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In Colombia, the number of political killings increased compared to the previous week. Three people were killed and four injured by members of a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident faction, and a social leader and three members of his family were shot dead by unidentified armed men. Both events occurred in Cauca department, a highly militarized area where several criminal groups dispute coca production territories. “Armed groups as well as criminal groups appear to be taking advantage of the fact that most of the people [there] are in lockdown to expand their presence and control over the territory” (OHCHR, 24 April 2020).

The number of armed clashes remained constant in Brazil, as authorities continued to conduct operations aimed at curbing the advance of drug trafficking groups and police militias in several communities. At least 40 people were killed in clashes with police forces, and 12 people were killed in clashes between gangs. In Vila Kennedy, a neighborhood in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro city, five suspected members of the criminal group Red Command (CV) were killed during a Military Police operation. In the city of Ourinhos, São Paulo, an intense shootout took place between Military Police officers and a criminal group after a bomb attack on a bank branch. At least 40 armed individuals in 10 cars were involved in the clash. The group had advanced weapons including an anti-aircraft machine gun, which they used to attack Military Police bases. The attack is particularly notable for its use of military weapons and high-level strategic planning, such as the use of a drone to monitor Military Police operations and target the bases (G1, 2 May 2020). The number of attacks on civilians perpetrated by drug trafficking groups and police militias remained steady compared to the previous week, with 35 reported events across the country.

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In Afghanistan, the Taliban launched dozens of daily attacks on Afghan forces. The spokesman for Afghanistan’s Office of the National Security Council said in a press conference that Taliban forces have conducted an average of 55 attacks per day since the signing of the peace deal with the US on 29 February 2020 (TOLO News, 25 April 2020). US military officials warned the insurgent group that further attacks would provoke a response. Acknowledging that the Taliban has kept its pledge not to attack metropolitan areas and US-led coalition forces, an American military spokesperson revealed in an open letter that there was a “spoken commitment” under the US-Taliban peace agreement for all sides to reduce violence by 80%. Adding that the US “has not conducted a single offensive strike or operation” in recent months, the letter stressed that coalition forces would support Afghan troops should Taliban attacks continue at their current rate (USFOR-A, 2 May 2020). The warning comes despite reports suggesting that US President Donald Trump is pushing for a quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, as well as his impatience with the slow progress of peace talks (NBC, 27 April 2020). The US is currently ahead of its withdrawal schedule, with fewer than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. According to a US defence official, the coronavirus pandemic has likely accelerated the process (CNN, 30 April 2020). With intra-Afghan peace efforts stalled, there are concerns that government forces will be left to fight an emboldened Taliban with less US support (RFE/RL, 5 May 2020).

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In India, security forces intensified cordon and search operations amid reports of local recruitment and infiltration attempts by militant groups at the India-Pakistan border in J&K (Economic Times, 28 April 2020). At least nine militants, including the Deputy Emir of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGuH), were reportedly killed during the operations. The AGuH is a known Al Qaeda cell in the region. Five security personnel were also killed when they attempted to storm a house to rescue hostages held by militants. Special forces reinforcements later fatally shot two militants and rescued the hostages (New York Times, 3 May 2020). Additionally, an increase in fatalities was reported during cross-border clashes between Indian and Pakistani forces in the Kashmir region. Fourteen fatalities, including Indian and Pakistani security personnel as well as civilians, were reported during the exchanges. Routine cross-border clashes have continued despite nationwide lockdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus in both countries. Over 60 fatalities have been recorded since the beginning of lockdown.

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IS activity has also continued to increase throughout Iraq, with events moving closer to Baghdad. In a particularly prominent recent operation, IS launched two simultaneous attacks in Saladin province on 2 May, reportedly killing 10 Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters. This was part of a three-day string of attacks on security forces, the PMF, and the Tribal Mobilization Forces (TMF). The group also bombed power lines in rural Diyala province (Kurdistan 24, 4 May 2020). In response, operation ‘Desert Lions’ was launched by Iraqi security forces targeting IS sleeper cells in the outskirts of Saladin province and the west of Diyala and Anbar provinces (Asharq al-Awsat, 4 May 2020). While this operation is expected to at least temporarily contain IS, the resumption of demonstrations, particularly in the south, may soon preoccupy the security forces.

There have also been an increasing number of clashes in northern Iraq between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). A total of 12 airstrikes were carried out by the Turkish air force last week. Clashes with the PKK also increased on the other side of the border in Turkey, with a total of eight engagements reported in Sirnak, Kars, and Bitlis provinces.

In Yemen, the declaration of self-administration by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) has been greeted by a mixture of official rejection and general local approval throughout South Yemen. Governors of Al Mahrah, Abyan, Shabwah, Hadramawt, and Socotra reportedly issued rejections within hours of the STC declaration (Aden al Ghad, 26 April 2020), whereas the governor of Lahij did not reject the declaration until 27 April 2020 (Al Masdar, 27 April 2020). Despite the official rejection in Hadramawt governorate, the STC led public protests in support of the declaration in six different cities, including two in Al Mukalla City. Likewise, in a number of the governorates that rejected the declaration, local security forces and tribal coalitions announced support for STC, in contrast to the official response (Aden al Ghad, 27 April 2020). Clashes over the island of Socotra broke out between pro-STC forces and joint pro-Islah and pro-Hadi forces until a Saudi intervention allowed the pro-Hadi and pro-Islah elements to regain control. Saudi aircraft conducted flashbomb strikes on the island, marking the first time aircraft attacked Socotra during the civil war.

In Syria, regime shelling continued in the Greater Idleb area. Along the new frontlines, Turkey and Russia conducted joint patrols on the M4 highway, prompting protests by locals against these joint measures. Turkish forces reportedly opened fire at protesters killing two. Clashes between Turkish forces and Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) took place on one side of the highway, leading to reported HTS fatalities. Furthermore, infighting among groups of Syrian National Army troops broke out in several locations, triggered by various disputes. Intra-regime clashes only further exacerbate insecurity in these areas.

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In France, a man with reported ties to IS hit two police officers on their motorbikes. Both officers were injured, no fatalities were reported.

19-25 April 2020

In Yemen, on the evening of 25 April, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) announced a state of emergency in the south and declared self-administration in Aden and other governorates under its control, effective at midnight (STC South Arabia, 25 April 2020). The ‘Riyadh Agreement,’ designed to bring pro-Hadi and pro-STC troops together to combat the Houthis as a combined force, is now effectively void after months of insecurity and alleged violations by both parties (Al Monitor, 6 April 2020). The night before the STC’s announcement, widespread rioting occurred throughout Aden city. In every district except Al Buraiqeh, which hosts the Saudi-led coalition’s headquarters, demonstrators blocked streets and burned vehicle tires in response to ineffective governance. The rioters highlighted the poor government response to massive flooding in Aden and inadequate provision of services and utilities like electricity. 

In Iraq, Islamic State (IS) activity has continued to increase since the implementation of the country’s coronavirus lockdown in March, with at least 12 attacks last week in Diyala and Kirkuk provinces. Whereas in the beginning of the year IS activity mainly consisted of attacks targeting villages in disputed areas and small-scale attacks on civilians, over the past month the group’s attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and focused on targeting security forces. At the same time, a coordinated state response is hampered as the battle to secure a government rages on, as Prime Minister-designate Al Kazimi contends with rival voices in parliament. 

Last week in Syria, Israeli forces launched strikes from Lebanese airspace targeting Syrian regime, Hezbollah, and pro-Iran militia positions near Palmyra, reportedly killing 12 fighters (New York Times, 20 April 2020). Elsewhere, sporadic clashes continued in northwest Syria along with shelling barrages by regime forces. Turkish forces established yet another observation outpost in the area of Bsames in Idleb after bringing in additional reinforcements.

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Over the past few weeks in Mexico, multiple gangs have begun handing out care packages to communities dealing with the pandemic. Members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), Los Viagras, Familia Michoacana Cartel, and the Cartel del Noreste, among others, delivered financial aid and food boxes to families and imposed parallel curfews. Meanwhile, Los Chapitos, a cell of the Sinaloa Cartel, punished people found to be violating quarantine measures. Although some gangs have suspended their criminal activities to support the local population during the coronavirus pandemic, clashes and roadblocks continue to be reported. Battles among gangs, and between gangs and state forces, as well as violence targeting civilians, increased last week in Mexico compared to weeks prior. The dispute between Los Viagras and the CJNG over the control of the Tierra Caliente continued and armed groups set up roadblocks at 11 points between the Michoacán and Guerrero states. In the Gambara municipality in Michoacán, the local population supported roadblocks aimed at preventing the intervention of state forces. For more on the impact of the coronavirus on violence involving Mexican cartels, see this recent CDT Spotlight as well as our new resources page and interactive dashboard.

Security was boosted in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of an expected surge in gang violence following the killing of two gang members involved in weapons trafficking.

In Haiti, in response to recent intense gang activity at the southern entrance to Port-au-Prince, particularly in Village de Dieu, the justice minister Lucmanne Delile announced that local residents had 72 hours to leave the area. The announcement suggests that the government plans to launch a major operation against the gangs. Following the power vacuum left by the arrest of Arnel Joseph, leader of Village de Dieu, in July 2019, Grand-Ravine and Baz Pilate have been fighting over the reinstatement of a new leader of the territory (Loop, 19 June 2019). 

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In Libya, the Government of National Accord (GNA) continued operations in the Tarhuna area, with clashes between GNA and Libyan National Army (LNA) forces in nearby villages. GNA forces also carried out airstrikes on the town. Tarhuna has served as a major base of operations for the LNA during its ongoing Tripoli offensive (Reuters, 14 September 2019).

In Nigeria’s Zamfara state, state forces reportedly killed more than a hundred ‘bandits’ during two separate clashes in the Zurmi local government area. Despite negotiations between the state government and armed actors last year, as well as a reduction in violence (Punch, 19 July 2019), there has been a re-escalation in the last month.

In the DRC’s North Kivu, an attack by a militia in the Virunga National Park in Rutshuru territory resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen park rangers and civilians. The attack came amid ongoing clashes between Congolese military forces (FARDC) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in Rutshuru province. Heavy fighting also continued between the FARDC and Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) militants in Ituri province. CODECO militants continued to target civilian populations in Djugu and Mahagi territories. Meanwhile, police launched an operation to arrest the leader of the ethno-religious organisation Bundu dia Kongo in the Ngaliema commune of Kinshasa. The operation resulted in a lethal clash with his supporters. The operation followed recent violence in Kongo-Central, including a number of clashes between state forces and members of Bundu dia Kongo. Earlier in the week, a group of people burned down a Bundu dia Kongo church in Songololo in response to their activities in the area. The Bundu dia Kongo movement has been campaigning for a restoration of the Kingdom of Kongo and the removal of non-Bakongos from Kongo-Central province (BBC, 24 April 2020).

In Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado, state forces were implicated in an attack on a civilian boat in Ibo, resulting in a number of civilian fatalities, following another fatal attack the previous week. Worryingly for the state, reports suggest that Islamist militants currently exercising control over a number of towns in the neighbouring district of Quissanga have begun imbedding themselves in local communities and engaging in social outreach activities (Zitamar, 24 April 2020). Further south in Cabo Delgado’s capital Pemba, close police surveillance of the local community prompted violent demonstrations and clashes with police in the Paquitequite neighbourhood. Meanwhile, militants staged multiple attacks on civilians in Meluco district, reportedly beheading four civilians attending a funeral in Imbada village.

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In Chile, tensions in the Biobío region continued to increase. Armed men clashed with a police patrol during an investigation of an attack carried out by a Mapuche indigenous militia the week before. Social organizations urged the government to declare a state of emergency in the region over the growing violence against logging companies and police forces in the municipalities of Contulmo, Tirua, and Canete (Biobio Chile, 23 April 2020).

The number of armed clashes remained constant in Brazil, as authorities continued to conduct operations aimed at curbing the advance of drug trafficking groups and police militias in several communities. At least 32 people were killed in clashes between state forces and organized criminal groups. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, Military Police operations slightly increased. In the cities of Niterói and São Gonçalo, 11 operations took place, resulting in at least four fatalities. In Jacarei city, state of São Paulo, a mass shooting was reported during a funk party. Members of a gang shot at least 30 times at the crowd, killing five individuals, mainly teenagers. A gang dispute is being investigated as the reason behind the attack. The number of attacks on civilians perpetrated by drug trafficking groups and police militias slightly increased compared to the previous week, with 36 reported events across the country. For more on continued disorder in Brazil, see our recent CDT Spotlight.

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In India, armed clashes between security forces and domestic rebel groups continued last week. In Jammu and Kashmir, domestic rebel groups made several attempts to target security personnel. A police constable was abducted in Shopian district while three security personnel were injured in a grenade attack in Budgam district. Nine militants affiliated with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGuH), and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were killed in several clashes with security forces. An increase in violence is expected in the coming weeks, as competing militant groups, including the newly formed Resistance Front, vie for greater influence in the region (Outlook, 26 April 2020). 

Additionally, in Assam state, security forces killed two cadres of Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA). The DNLA is a relatively new ethnic militant group representing the Dimasa tribe with the stated aim of fighting for an independent Dimasa nation (News 18, 16 April 2019).

In Pakistan, several clashes were reported between security forces and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, four security personnel and 10 TTP militants were killed during security operations and attacks on security check posts. Despite claims by Pakistani security forces that militancy has been largely rooted out, frequent clashes have continued in the former TTP strongholds along the Afghanistan border (Gandhara, 20 April 2020). At least six security personnel and 16 militants have been reported killed in April.

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In Afghanistan, fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces continued at similar levels to weeks prior, though overall violence has declined slightly since March. The deadliest clashes took place in Kandahar, Takhar, Balkh, and Urozgan provinces, with reports of civilian casualties (AP, 20 April 2020; Al Jazeera, 27 April 2020). Afghan forces regained control over six villages in the Qaysar district of Faryab and three villages in the Sholgara district of Balkh, a strategic location at a crossroads between multiple districts. The Taliban, on the other hand, overtook the Kamanj village in Shahrak district of Ghor province. Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani released 55 more Taliban prisoners and called for a ceasefire ahead of Ramadan, stating that local authorities are working to tackle the coronavirus crisis even as the Taliban continues to launch frequent attacks targeting Afghan forces (Al Jazeera, 24 April 2020). The Taliban rejected the call, requesting the release of more prisoners and arguing that its agreement with the US entails a ceasefire in later stages (Voice of Jihad, 25 April 2020; Reuters, 24 April 2020). 

The number of ceasefire violations reported by the Azerbaijani MoD in April 2020 is currently lower than in March 2020, possibly due to international efforts to decrease the level of violence on the Armenia-Artsakh-Azerbaijan Lines of Contact amid the coronavirus emergency (OSCE, 19 March 2020). During the past few weeks, the UN Appeal for Global Ceasefire (UN, 23 March 2020) and OSCE’s call to both parties to refrain from provocative actions during the pandemic resulted in a meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers. They renewed their intentions to continue with the peace process, which was considered a positive step (OSCE, 21 April 2020) as it may potentially lead to refreshed diplomatic engagement between the leaders of the two countries, which has so far failed to materialize (ACLED, 20 February 2020; Eurasianet, 23 April 2020). 

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In Donbas in Ukraine, after two relatively calm weeks leading up to the exchange of prisoners on 16 April (AP, 16 April 2020), fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels sprung back up last week, with 116 armed clashes and 147 shelling incidents resulting in one reported fatality.

12-18 April 2020

In Indonesia, a deadly clash between state forces and the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) was reported in Central Sulawesi. It was the first recorded clash between the groups since the start of the year.

In the Philippines, 11 soldiers were reportedly killed in a clash between state forces and Abu Sayyaf. The Philippine government subsequently announced it would pursue Abu Sayyaf “relentlessly,” meaning fighting will likely continue in the coming weeks (BenarNews, 20 April 2020).

In Myanmar, a clash broke out between the military and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) while medics affiliated with RCSS/SSA-S were carrying out coronavirus awareness activities.

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Islamic State (IS) activity continued to increase in Iraq. The group intensified attacks in Diyala province, with at least four in just two days; launched at least two other attacks in Kirkuk province; and additionally mounted a rare attack on the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) in Ninewa province. IS seems to be reorganizing its ranks in territories that are disputed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government in Baghdad (Kurdistan24, 18 April 2020). These disputes, along with measures being taken to contain the coronavirus outbreak, are compounding the challenges faced by the Iraqi government in curbing IS activity in the country.

Turkey’s operations in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have intensified in recent weeks. Last week, however, a Turkish drone strike hit a refugee camp for Turkish Kurds in Makhmour, reportedly targeting PKK members but instead killing three refugee women (Rudaw, 15 April 2020). This attack further complicates the issue of Turkish operations and their violation of Iraqi sovereignty, raising tension between both countries.

In Syria, assassinations by IS and unidentified gunmen targeting Syrian regime elements in Dar’a and Deir Ez Zor highlight continued instability in its areas of control as well as the capabilities of militant groups to conduct major attacks beyond the frontlines.

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In the state of Michoacán in Mexico, the turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and Los Viagras continued. Eleven people were arrested following clashes between the two groups and military forces in the municipality of Aguililla, where several confrontations were reported since March. Since the decline of the Knights Templar cartel, multiple gangs have fought for control of Michoacán state, which is viewed as a strategic point of entry for imported foreign goods (Insight Crime, 28 November 2017). For more on the impact of the coronavirus on violence involving Mexican cartels, especially as a result of the impact on disrupted access to resources, see this recent CDT Spotlight

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In Mali’s Mopti region, deadly violence between Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants continued for a second week. Whilst the previous week’s hostilities centered around Dialloube in the Inner Niger Delta, the latest fighting was reported near the border with Burkina Faso, in the Mondoro area. In the nearby area of Tin Tabakat, ISGS fighters also killed an unspecified number of civilians during attacks on villages perceived to be loyal to JNIM. Meanwhile, the Malian army was accused of carrying out summary executions and forcibly disappearing members of the Fulani community. Soldiers reportedly perpetrated extrajudicial killings in Mopti’s Kounari commune and forced disappearances in Mopti commune. For more on continued violence in Mali, see this recent CDT Spotlight.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congolese military forces (FARDC) launched operations against the Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) in Ituri province. The operations came as CODECO militants killed dozens of civilians during attacks in Ituri’s Djugu and Mahagi territories. Meanwhile, clashes between state forces and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) Hutu ethnic militia were reported in North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory. FARDC soldiers also clashed with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants in Beni territory, with 26 civilian hostages released following heavy fighting at Abakamba.

Finally, the GNA recorded significant victories against the LNA in the ongoing conflict in Libya. Early in the week, GNA forces captured a series of towns to the west of Tripoli, including Sabratha and Surman. The GNA subsequently launched a concerted push towards the town of Tarhuna, to the southeast of Tripoli. Meanwhile, in one of the most significant clashes of the week, GNA forces successfully repelled an LNA attack, supported by Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries, on the town of Abu Grein, south of Misrata city. Despite the GNA’s successes, Tripoli remains the epicenter of the conflict, as LNA forces continued the heavy bombardment of the capital. For more on the ongoing conflict in Libya, see this recent CDT Spotlight.

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In India, armed clashes between security forces and domestic rebel groups continued in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) last week. Four security personnel, two militants affiliated with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), and two militants affiliated with the Resistance Front (RF) were killed during various encounters. RF, a newly formed group suspected to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has claimed responsibility for two attacks on security personnel in the past two weeks (India Today, 18 April 2020). In Pakistan, security forces continued operations against Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, four TTP militants and two security personnel were killed during security operations. Reports of cross-border clashes between Pakistani and Indian security forces sharply increased last week. Four Pakistani security personnel, one Pakistani civilian, and three Indian civilian fatalities were reported during the cross-border exchanges. Additionally, the use of heavy artillery to target civilian settlements was reported for the first time this year (Al-Jazeera, 13 April 2020).

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In Colombia, 12 members of FARC dissident groups were killed in battles with military forces in Antioquia and Cauca departments. Colombian authorities continue to lead operations against armed groups despite the general quarantine imposed in the country. (Deutsche Welle, 15 April 2020).

In Chile, the conflict between Mapuche militias and Chilean authorities intensified, as a group of at least 30 armed men ambushed a police patrol and detonated explosives in Bío-Bío region. The armed group’s declared aim is to target state forces and Mapuche activists who engage in negotiations with logging companies present in the region. The Mapuche community is the largest indigenous group in Chile. Several Mapuche militias are active in the country’s south, where they demand restitution of their land rights in areas controlled by forestry companies (Minority Rights Group International, 2020)

The number of armed clashes remained steady in Brazil, as authorities continued to conduct operations aimed at curbing the advance of drug trafficking groups and police militias in several communities. At least 30 people were killed in clashes between state forces and organized criminal groups, including a military police officer in Aracaju city, Sergipe state, who was suspected of belonging to a police militia. While many drug trafficking groups in Rio de Janeiro imposed curfews and instructed citizens to wear masks, police militias, on the other hand, echoed the President’s instructions and obliged people to return to work (G1, 17 April 2020).

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In Afghanistan, fighting continued between Afghan forces and the Taliban at a slightly lower level compared to the week prior. While Afghan forces conducted airstrikes in northern Jowjzan and central Urozgan provinces, the Taliban continued to launch frequent attacks targeting the government, especially in Logar province, where nine soldiers were killed in a Taliban assault (Anadolu Agency, 16 April 2020). The attack followed President Ashraf Ghani’s call on the Taliban to commit to a complete ceasefire in light of the coronavirus crisis. The Taliban denied the request, stating that the group was not fighting in areas with confirmed cases. The group also asked the government to release more Taliban prisoners to facilitate an effective peace process (Arab News, 16 April 2020). Alarmed by the breakdown in peace talks, the US envoy to Afghanistan earlier this week asked the government to accelerate the prisoner exchange and to complete it before the Taliban’s springtime offensive (Reuters, 21 April 2020). This led to the additional release of 71 Taliban prisoners (TKG, 22 April 2020). US officials are reportedly concerned that Afghanistan’s under-developed healthcare infrastructure will be unable to address the coronavirus crisis, particularly amid continued fighting. Although the number of confirmed cases remains just above 1,000, dozens of administrative workers in the presidential palace tested positive last week, indicating that the spread of the virus may be underestimated due to the country’s limited testing capacity (New York Times, 19 April 2020). The government increased security measures this week and imposed a lockdown in Kandahar city and banned commutes on public streets in Kabul (Khaama Press, 9 April 2020). For more on the impact of the coronavirus on violence involving the Taliban, see this recent CDT Spotlight.

In a separate development, in Afghanistan, on 17 April, six people working in the key US military base at Bagram were killed on their way home. Although the government claimed that the attackers were Taliban-affiliated, the group rejected the accusation and stated that it stopped attacking US forces as part of the recent peace deal. On 9 April, the base also came under a rocket attack by Islamic State (IS) militants (TOLO News, 10 April 2020). While IS has been largely subdued in Afghanistan, some observers warn that the group may mount a resurgence (Washington Post, 9 February 2020). 

5-11 April 2020

IS militants attacked Houthi forces in Ad Dali governorate of Yemen for the first time last week (AEI Critical Threats, 10 April 2020). Previously, IS had mainly operated in the Qayfa region of Al Bayda governorate, although they had claimed some attacks in Aden, Ibb, and Taizz.

In Iraq, while residents and business owners feel the financial strain of the curfew, IS has taken advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to increase activity. Further compounding the situation is the suspension of coalition operations and the withdrawal of coalition forces, which has prompted Iraqi forces to launch preemptive operations in an attempt to cut off IS supply routes and weaken their combat capabilities (Al Monitor, 9 April 2020).

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With the entire island of Luzon — which includes regions known to be hotspots for drug-related violence (see this ACLED press release) — under lockdown in the Philippines, drug-related violence has become concentrated elsewhere in the country, particularly in the south. Police raids and vigilante attacks on drug suspects were reported in Soccsksargen and Central Visayas.

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Cross-border clashes increased between the military forces of Pakistan and India. Ten Pakistani security personnel were reportedly killed during exchanges last week. Indian officials claim that heightened border activity is intended by Pakistani security forces to enable militant infiltration into Indian territories while security resources are stretched due to coronavirus (Al-Jazeera, 9 April 2020).

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The number of reported armed clashes remained steady in Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro state, despite quarantine measures, the authorities continued to conduct operations aimed at curbing the advance of drug trafficking groups and police militias in several communities. In two distinct events, members of the Red Command (CV) attacked police officers, with no reported fatalities. The number of attacks on civilians perpetrated by drug trafficking groups and police militias slightly increased compared to the previous week, with more than 40 reported events across the country.

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The conflict in Libya continued to escalate last week. The Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) clashed several times in Tripoli, notably around Wadi a Rabie, Ayn Zarah, and Mashru al Hadhba. The clashes came amid the continued shelling of Tripoli by LNA forces, as the GNA employed Turkish drones to target LNA lines of supplies in Taruhna and Beni Walid. Civilian infrastructure was also repeatedly targeted during the week. LNA forces shelled the Al-Kadhra Hospital in Bani Salim on three separate occasions. The hospital was widely known to be treating coronavirus patients at the time of the shelling (New York Times, 13 April 2020). Tripoli and several other western cities also suffered water interruptions during the week. An unidentified armed group stormed a control station of the Great Man Made River Project at Shwerif and blocked water from being pumped to Tripoli and the western region.

In Mali, JNIM militants carried out a successful attack on an army camp in the Gao region, killing dozens of soldiers and seizing vehicles, arms, and equipment before burning the camp. JNIM militants also expanded their activity in the Kayes Region, overrunning gendarmerie and ranger stations. Meanwhile, more than a hundred were killed as JNIM and ISGS forces clashed at multiple locations around Dialloube in the Mopti region. ISGS was forced to withdraw from the area following the clashes. Although ongoing tensions between the rival groups have previously manifested in small clashes, fighting of this magnitude had not previously occurred.

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In Afghanistan, violence continued at a slightly higher level compared to the week prior, with the Taliban launching the majority of attacks. However, pro-government forces also carried out approximately two dozen attacks targeting Taliban militants, following several weeks of a mostly defensive posture. According to the Taliban, the US military also conducted several air and drone strikes, although these reports have not been confirmed. Amidst fears that the continued fighting could derail the peace process, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan met with Taliban leadership in Doha on 10 April, reportedly to discuss the need to reduce violence (Reuters, 11 April 2020). Specific details about the meeting have not been disclosed. However, in a potential breakthrough following the meeting, the Taliban released 20 Afghan prisoners. This came only a week after the insurgent group walked out of talks with the government over a comprehensive prisoner swap and initially dismissed Kabul’s piecemeal release of captives as “unacceptable.” The government started to release Taliban inmates in groups of 100 on 7 April, and has released approximately 400 prisoners at the time of this writing. According to Afghan officials, Taliban prisoners were released “based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence as part of our efforts for peace and containment of COVID-19” (Khaleej Times, 10 April 2020).

29 March-4 April 2020

Fighting in Myanmar between the military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) reportedly led to multiple civilian deaths last week. As civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in Rakhine and southern Chin states, the UN appeal for ceasefires due to the coronavirus has been met with differing responses by state forces and ethnic armed groups. The Brotherhood Alliance, of which the ULA/AA is part, announced that it had extended its unilateral ceasefire until the end of April, framing this decision in the context of the coronavirus. The military, on the other hand, made it known that it would not announce a ceasefire (The Myanmar Times, 2 April 2020).

In Thailand, amid a rise in coronavirus cases in the deep south, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN), the main separatist group, announced a de facto ceasefire. The announcement notably avoided acknowledging the UN appeal and did not use the term “ceasefire” (Asia Times, 6 April 2020). It remains to be seen what affect the announcement will have on conflict trends in the deep south region.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, as the country moves to address rising coronavirus fatalities, the separatist group West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) attacked workers at the Freeport mine in Papua province, reportedly killing a New Zealander and wounding many others. The mine has been the target of Papuan rebels fighting for self-determination, who view business and development projects as encroaching on Papuan land (Asia Times, 1 April 2020).

In the Philippines, despite the unilateral ceasefires declared by both the government and the New People’s Army (NPA), clashes between the two groups continued. The government claimed the clashes occurred as the military was engaged in missions related to coronavirus prevention (GMA News, 2 April 2020). For more on the impact of coronavirus on conflict in the Philippines, see this recent CDT Spotlight.

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In the face of continued fighting in Libya, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) issued a plea for the cessation of hostilities on the first anniversary of the Tripoli offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). Despite the plea, LNA forces carried out a sustained bombardment of Government of National Accord (GNA) targets in Tripoli. The GNA countered with airstrikes in Sirte province, claiming significant LNA fatalities.

In Somalia’s Puntland, Al Shabaab assassinated the governor of the Nugal region in a targeted suicide bombing in the administrative capital of Garowe. Militants also publicly executed six men on the allegation of spying for foreign countries in Jubaland’s Bu’aale town. Al Shabaab is ignoring UN calls for a global ceasefire in response to the coronavirus pandemic, instead remaining operationally active across the country.

In Niger, presumed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants staged a large scale attack on a Nigerien army position in the Tillaberi region. Military forces suffered only minor losses, but dozens of militants were reportedly killed. Similarly, an attack by presumed Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) militants on a Burkinabe army base in Burkina Faso’s Boucle du Mouhoun region resulted in significant militant fatalities. Meanwhile, suspected JNIM fighters and Fulani militiamen continued their recent offensive in central Mali. Fulani militiamen attacked multiple Dogon in ongoing intercommunal violence in the Mopti region, as JNIM militants clashed with state forces and executed a number of IED attacks. Finally, Boko Haram maintained active operations in the border region between Gwoza in Nigeria’s Borno state and Mayo-Sava and Mayo-Tsanaga in the Far-North of Cameroon. Militants staged a number of raids on Cameroonian villages, also clashing with Nigerian military forces, Civilian Joint Task Force fighters, and local hunters in the Pulka area of Gwoza. Nigerian state forces launched airstrikes on Boko Haram targets in Gwoza, the Sambisa forest, and the Lake Chad region. Nigerian airstrikes came amid the launch of Operation Boma’s Wrath by Chadian forces in the Lake Chad region. As part of the coordinated effort, the Chadian government announced the deployment of five companies to Niger and Nigeria. Operation Boma’s Wrath was launched in response to the previous week’s attack by Boko Haram militants, which left almost a hundred Chadian soldiers dead.

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In Afghanistan, although the Taliban previously indicated that they would “stop fighting” in areas under their control if those areas were affected by the coronavirus (AP, 1 April 2020), the suspension of peace talks raises concerns over a new escalation of violence.

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Despite the UN call for a ceasefire to fight the coronavirus on 25 March, hostilities between Houthi and anti-Houthi forces increased throughout Yemen last week. The majority of armed clashes took place in Ad Dali, Hodeidah, Al Jawf, and Marib governorates. Territory was taken by anti-Houthi forces in eastern Al Jawf and in western Marib governorates. The territories in the Sirwah district of Marib, among them parts of the strategic Jabal Haylan, had been under Houthi control for years. On the other side, Houthi forces took over the Labinat military camp in al Jawf governorate and some adjacent areas threatening Marib city from the North. For more on the impact of coronavirus on conflict in Yemen, see this recent CDT Spotlight. 

Additionally, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed three attacks against Houthi forces in the Dhi Naim district of Al Bayda. These attacks represent a significant uptick in activity as AQAP had previously claimed only five attacks throughout Yemen in 2020.

In Iraq, IS engaged in at least 17 armed clashes primarily with the Iraqi military forces as well as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), continuing the upward trend reported since the beginning of the year. IS is eager to take advantage of the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of US and allied coalition forces over reported coronavirus fears (Foreign Policy, 6 April 2020). 

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In Mexico, gang violence continued even as the coronavirus spread across the country. A shoot-out between two criminal groups, La Línea and Gente Nueva, over a disputed area in the northern zone of Chihuahua state left 19 gang members dead. The turf war between La Línea and its rival cartels also led to the notorious attack on an American Mormon family in November 2019 (El Universal, 6 March 2020). In Veracruz, a journalist was shot dead in a drive-by incident. Her death spurred multiple demonstrations by members of the media demanding justice and greater security. Recurrent attacks against journalists make Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous places to work for the press.

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In India, security forces continued operations against domestic rebel groups despite the ongoing nationwide lockdown to minimize the spread of coronavirus. In Jharkhand, four Naxal-Maoist rebels were killed in two separate encounters with security forces. Security forces have reportedly intensified security operations in following intelligence reports of Naxal-Maoist activities in the state (Avenue Mail, 4 April 2020).

22-28 March 2020

In response to the UN appeal for peace during the coronavirus pandemic, the communist New People’s Army (NPA) announced a unilateral ceasefire in the Philippines last week (The Diplomat, 31 March 2020). This came after President Rodrigo Duterte had announced a unilateral ceasefire with the NPA the previous week. Despite these ceasefire declarations, state forces and the NPA have continued to clash.

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In Yemen, local and regional forces initially responded positively to the UN’s call for a ceasefire during the pandemic (Al Monitor, 27 March 2020). Though no coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Yemen as of yet, the truce would allow the country’s devastated healthcare system to brace for a potential outbreak. So far, fighting has continued.

Last week in Iraq, the Green Zone was once again the target of a rocket attack, with no reported casualties. The withdrawal of American and other coalition troops continued as the US moved to consolidate its forces in two locations, possibly to curb the impact of repeated attacks on bases hosting US personnel (Bloomberg, 29 March 2020). Other members of the coalition, such as France and the Czech Republic, suspended training operations for Iraqi troops over coronavirus concerns (Rudaw, 25 March 2020).

While IS has so far only claimed two attacks in Iraq last week, violence has continued to rise, likely due to the security vacuum caused by the county’s political crisis. The situation has been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, as security forces focus on implementing the nationwide curfew. 

In Palestine, attacks by settlers and Israeli security forces have been on the rise. As the PA has taken steps to contain the spread of the coronavirus, tensions have risen with nearby settlements and Israeli forces. In Nilin, a village mostly in area C of the West Bank — where the Israeli military has sole authority — PA forces were deployed to the entrance in an effort to enforce movement restrictions. Last Sunday, a man from the village was reportedly shot and killed by Israeli forces. Though Israeli authorities claim he was throwing stones, Palestinian media reported that he was driving in his car at the time (Middle East Eye, 23 March 2020). Israeli police were also accused of abuse after they left a Palestinian laborer from the West Bank who was exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus on the side of the road without coordinating with Palestinian medical authorities (Times of Israel, 24 March 2020). These events raise serious concerns that Israel is not only failing to effectively coordinate with the PA on a coronavirus response, but also actively limiting the PA’s ability to deal with the outbreak. With confirmed coronavirus cases in the West Bank and Gaza, the situation is likely to become increasingly dire if the outbreak is not controlled. 

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Targeted political killings have continued in Colombia despite the pandemic. Activists have raised concerns that armed groups will take advantage of lockdown measures to increase attacks on social and indigenous leaders in remote rural areas. With authorities focusing their attention on efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, state forces and the justice system may prove unable to protect vulnerable communities and properly investigate targeted killings (The Guardian, 23 March 2020).

In Brazil, drug trafficking groups have taken it upon themselves to establish regulations to address the pandemic. In Mato Grosso state, the Red Command (CV) issued a warning imposing a curfew and advising people to stay home (Gazeta Digital, 28 March 2020). In Rio de Janeiro state, gangs and police militias also imposed curfews on several communities and favelas in an effort to curb the spread of the virus (The Guardian, 25 March 2020). Despite these restrictions, the number of recorded armed clashes remained steady last week around most of the country.

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Battles between state forces and gangs continued at similar levels to the weeks prior in Mexico. However, with more people presumably staying indoors during the coronavirus outbreak, violence targeting civilians decreased last week to the lowest number of reported events since the beginning of the year. 

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Fighting continued in Afghanistan despite national and international appeals for a ceasefire to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Taliban officials have promised safe passage for health workers in areas under their control to address the outbreak (Al Jazeera, 18 March 2020). However, experts warn that tackling the epidemic will require that all of the country’s resources be diverted to the health sector rather than the war (New York Times, 25 March 2020). Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, as well the provinces of Herat, Farah, and Nimruz, which share a porous border with Iran – an epicenter of the coronavirus – have gone under partial lockdown (VOA, 26 March 2020). Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health has warned that 25 million people in the country could become infected, with the virus already having reached at least 12 provinces (Al Jazeera, 25 March 2020).

15-21 March 2020

Violence continued to rage in Afghanistan as the Taliban steadily increased their attacks on Afghan pro-government forces. In one of the deadliest assaults since the signing of the US-Taliban peace agreement, at least 25 Afghan soldiers and policemen were killed by eight Taliban infiltrators in an insider attack on a checkpoint in the province of Zabul. Afghan officials have warned that security forces will end their current defensive posture, as there has been no sign that the Taliban is willing to reduce violence against the government (TOLOnews, 20 March 2020). The US-Taliban agreement offers no explicit protection to Afghan forces, though the Taliban has pledged under the accord to prevent threats to the “security of the US and its allies.” In return, the agreement calls for the withdrawal of foreign troops in 14 months, a process which started the first week of March. However, there are concerns that the coronavirus could slow down the departure of troops. Last week the commander of US operations in Afghanistan announced a temporary pause in the movement of personnel due to quarantining (US News, 19 March 2020). On 24 March, it was announced that four service members in the US-led NATO coalition have tested positive for coronavirus, and 38 others are showing flu-symptoms (The Hill, 23 March 2020); this may further delay withdrawals. Returning from a visit to Afghanistan on 23 March, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US would continue to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan as the Taliban was honoring its commitments to refrain from attacking US targets. But he did not address continued Taliban attacks on Afghan forces (BBC, 24 March 2020). Pompeo’s visit was aimed at brokering a political power-sharing deal between internationally-recognized Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah. However, as no progress was made, Pompeo announced that the US government will cut $1 billion in aid to the country, effective immediately, and will reduce its assistance to Afghanistan by another $1 billion in 2021 if no inclusive government is formed. Pompeo said that Washington, however, will continue to help Afghanistan fight the spread of the coronavirus by providing $15 million in assistance (CNN, 23 March 2020). A total of 42 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported in Afghanistan already. The true number is likely much higher as testing is very limited, with just one lab able to analyze tests in the country (The Hill, 23 March 2020). The spread of the virus has also made the prisoner swap between the Taliban and Afghan government more urgent, a provision under the US-Taliban agreement that remains particularly contentious. On 22 March, the Afghan government and the Taliban held their first talk about the prisoner swap via Skype amid the coronavirus pandemic, and future negotiations are planned for the following week (RFE/RL, 22 March 2020).

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Pro-Houthi forces prevented people from entering Houthi-controlled territories amid fears of the coronavirus, forcing thousands to live without shelter or basic provisions. No cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Yemen, as of yet.

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The US-led coalition fighting IS suspended training of Iraqi forces citing fears of spreading coronavirus. This move coincides with an overall reduction of coalition activity in Iraq following recent rocket attacks reportedly carried out by Iranian-backed militias targeting bases hosting foreign forces (Reuters, 19 March 2020). This may also represent a move towards de-escalation with Iran, which could inadvertently give Iran more sway in Iraq while also providing IS with an opportunity to launch further attacks. The risk of a power vacuum is most apparent in disputed areas such as Tuz Khurmatu, which has become the site of repeated attacks by unidentified groups over the past two weeks, as well as areas in Diyala province.

17-30 May 2020

Failed ceasefire/continued fighting

In Myanmar, the unilateral ceasefires declared by both the military and the Brotherhood Alliance have failed. Clashes were reported between the military and two groups in the Brotherhood Alliance, the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) and the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA). In Rakhine state, the ULA/AA attacked a border guard police station in Rathedaung township on 29 May, reportedly killing four guards and abducting several others. Meanwhile, on the same day, in Shan state, the PSLF/TNLA attacked a military convoy in Kutkai township (Irrawaddy, 29 May 2020).

10-16 May 2020

Failed ceasefire/continued fighting

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) fighters carried out attacks on several villages in Ituri’s Djugu and Mahagi territories, displacing local populations. Demonstration activity was reported in response to the attacks in Mahagi territory. The attacks came despite calls by CODECO leadership for a ceasefire during the previous week (Reuters, 4 May 2020). Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants also made a deadly incursion into Ituri amid sustained attacks on villages in the border region of neighbouring North Kivu.

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In Colombia, in Norte de Santander department, one ELN member was killed during an armed clash with military forces. In Bolívar department, soldiers and police officers bombed an ELN camp, killing one suspected member. Despite calls for an extension from the Colombian government, the ELN refused to prolong its one-month unilateral ceasefire amidst the pandemic (Colombia Reports, 30 April 2020). For more, see ACLED’s recent report on COVID-19 ceasefires.

3-9 May 2020

Failed ceasefire/continued fighting

In Myanmar, clashes continued between the Myanmar military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) last week. The clashes come as the military declared a unilateral ceasefire until the end of August. The ceasefire leaves out the ULA/AA, claiming that the group’s new “terrorist” designation prevents its inclusion in the ceasefire. The military’s ceasefire is unlikely to have an impact on ongoing fighting in Rakhine and Chin states, and it may in fact lead to greater conflict as the military focuses its resources on fighting the ULA/AA (Irrawaddy, 11 May 2020).

Prior to the ceasefire announcement, in Kayin state, the military burned down a hut being used by the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) for coronavirus prevention efforts. This led to clashes between the two groups. Tensions have been on the rise in the Hpapun area since the beginning of the year as the military continues to construct a road in KNU/KNLA controlled area (Karen News, 8 May 2020).

After a clash with state forces the previous week, separatists in Thailand carried out a retaliatory attack last week in the deep south. A military ranger was reportedly killed when separatists attacked a coronavirus checkpoint in Pattani. The violence ends a period of calm in the region after the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) announced in early April it would cease all activities in order to allow for a focus on coronavirus prevention efforts (Benar News, 4 May 2020).

Similarly, in the Philippines, two soldiers were reportedly killed in a clash with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) while manning a coronavirus check point. There was also an uptick in clashes between clans (rido) in the Bangsamoro region last week. Islamist violence and clan feuds have threatened the current peace process aimed at transitioning the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) into a governing role in the region (International Crisis Group, 14 April 2020).

 

For an overview of responses to the UN call for a global COVID-19 ceasefire, see our new brief, also featured in the Financial Times.

26 April-2 May 2020

Refusal to declare ceasefire

In Myanmar, fighting between the military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) continued. The Brotherhood Alliance, of which the ULA/AA is a part, announced the extension of its unilateral ceasefire until the end of May (Myanmar Times, 5 May 2020). The military has continued to dismiss calls for a similar ceasefire. The beginning of 2020 has seen intense fighting between the two groups. For more information, see recent ACLED analysis.

 

Failed ceasefire/continued fighting

Following a month without separatist-related violence in Thailand, last week marked a return to clashes between state forces and separatists. A battle between the two sides in Pattani led to the reported deaths of three separatists. Despite the main separatist group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN), declaring a de facto ceasefire in early April, separatist violence is likely to increase in the coming weeks following last week’s clash (Benar News, 4 May 2020). 

In the Philippines, amid ongoing clashes between state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA), the communist rebels announced that they would not extend their unilateral ceasefire which expired on 30 April. The failed ceasefire has dampened any talk of negotiations between the government and the rebels (Rappler, 3 May 2020). For more information, see this recent CDT Spotlight.

19-25 April 2020

New ceasefire

Gang members signed a peace agreement in Belize as a result of police-led mediation in a Belize City prison. The gang members involved in the agreement were released from prison, where they were detained as part of a state of emergency launched by the government last month (Amandala, 22 April 2020). The peace process began after a dramatic increase in gang violence during the first week of March.

 

Refusal to declare ceasefire

In India’s Odisha state, security forces continued intelligence-based operations against Naxal-Maoist rebels. On 5 April, Malkangiri–Koraput–Visakha Divisional Committee (MKVDC) of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) announced a unilateral ceasefire in view of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (Telangana Today, 5 April 2020). However, intelligence reports indicate that Maoists are regrouping, holding meetings with villagers, and digging lanes to police camps to plant landmines (The Print, 20 April 2020).

 

Failed ceasefire/continued fighting

In the Philippines, there was an uptick in clashes between state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA). The government’s unilateral ceasefire recently expired, while the NPA extended its own unilateral ceasefire until the end of April. In a speech last week, President Duterte threatened to declare martial law as a result of the ongoing conflict (CNN Philippines, 27 April 2020). Many of the recent clashes have occurred as state forces were aiding in coronavirus relief efforts.

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In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition announced the extension of its unilateral ceasefire for the entire month of Ramadan (Al Jazeera, 24 April 2020), though it continued to conduct significant airstrikes in Houthi-controlled territories. Ground clashes centered on major frontlines in Ad Dali, Al Bayda, Marib, and Sanaa governorates. Anti-Houthi forces claimed to have regained significant ground in Al Bayda, while Houthi forces claimed to have overtaken some areas in Al Jawf governorate. Along the Marib-Sanaa border region, Houthi and anti-Houthi forces exchanged territory throughout the week as frontlines shifted back and forth.

 

Ceasefire holding

No separatist violence was reported in Thailand as the de facto ceasefire declared by the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) continues to hold.

12-18 April 2020

Failed ceasefire/continued fighting

In the Philippines, the unilateral ceasefire declared by the government in its fight against communist rebels expired last week. While the communist New People’s Army (NPA) announced it would extend its own unilateral ceasefire until the end of April (Rappler, 16 April 2020), clashes between the groups continued. Notably, two of the clashes occurred as the military was assisting with coronavirus relief efforts.

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Although Saudi Arabia announced a two-week unilateral ceasefire in Yemen on 9 April, fighting on the ground has continued unabated, and the Saudi-led coalition soon resumed airstrikes throughout Houthi-controlled areas (The Independent, 18 April 2020). Clashes last week were especially intense in northwestern Ad Dali governorate and western Marib governorate as Houthi forces reportedly initiated large-scale offensives and sent reinforcements to both fronts. Additionally, the 17 April death of a pro-Hadi liaison officer to the Stockholm Agreement (who was injured in an 11 March attack leading to the partial withdrawal of pro-Hadi forces from the agreement) resulted in renewed calls for the pro-Hadi government to remove itself from the agreement entirely (Middle East Monitor, 20 April 2020).

 

Ceasefire holding

For a second week, no separatist violence was reported in Thailand. The main separatist group, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN), recently declared a de facto ceasefire in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The deep south region of the country, where the separatists operate, accounts for a significant portion of Thailand’s coronavirus cases (BenarNews, 16 April 2020).

5-11 April 2020

Refusal to declare ceasefire

As occurs almost weekly, civilians in Myanmar were killed during clashes between the military and the United League of Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA). In Paletwa township in southern Chin state, seven civilians were reportedly killed by a military airstrike on a village. Clashes were also reported in Shan state between state forces and the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA), an ally of the ULA/AA. The Myanmar military has remained resistant to calls for a ceasefire declaration in response to the UN’s global appeal (The Diplomat, 7 April 2020).

Separatist violence was reported in Indonesia as state forces pursued Papuan rebels in the wake of an attack during the previous week on employees of the Freeport mine. The separatist West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) floated the idea of a ceasefire last week, predicated on Indonesian state forces withdrawing from the region. The Indonesian government has not responded to this offer (Benar News, 10 April 2020).

 

Failed ceasefire/continued fighting

Despite the declaration of unilateral ceasefires by the New People’s Army (NPA) and state forces in the Philippines, clashes between the groups have continued for the second week. See more in our recent CDT Spotlight feature.

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The Saudi-led coalition announced a unilateral two-week ceasefire in Yemen on 9 April to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Yemen (BBC, 9 April 2020). Houthi forces welcomed the ceasefire, but clashes continued at the same frequency as before on the major frontlines in Al Jawf, Marib, and Al Bayda governorates. Pro-Hadi forces regained territory towards the Labinat military camp, while Houthi forces took over the Khanjar military camp, both situated in the north of Marib city. Meanwhile, pro-Hadi forces launched new offensives in neighboring Al Bayda governorate in order to divert Houthi attention from Marib and relieve pressure on the city.

 

Ceasefire holding

No separatist violence was reported in Thailand last week after the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani (BRN) declared a de facto ceasefire in light of the pandemic (Benar News, 7 April 2020). 

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In Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN) recently declared a unilateral ceasefire amidst the coronavirus outbreak. However, clashes were reported between ELN members and the Gulf Clan in Chocó department, as the groups continue to fight for control of territories and criminal markets in the region. The ELN declaration emphasized that, while they would refrain from carrying out attacks, they reserved “the right to defend ourselves” against raids carried out by opponents (Colombia Reports, 20 March 2020). No clashes were reported with the government.

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In Syria, IS launched an attack against Syrian forces in the town of Sokhneh in the Homs desert. Russian airstrikes were reported in the area. Elsewhere, sporadic clashes took place in the Greater Idleb region between Syrian regime forces and opposition and Islamist factions. Nevertheless, the ceasefire that began at the start of March largely holds.

17-30 May 2020

The Netherlands saw another transmission tower set aflame in Roosendaal amid a series of similar arson attacks during the month of April and the beginning of May. The attacks are linked to the widespread suspicion of 5G network technology and its impact on public health and the spread of the coronavirus, fueled by disinformation. 

10-16 May 2020

The government of Turkmenistan has been in the spotlight for suspiciously claiming that it is the only coronavirus-free country in Central Asia, but the absence of independent media and the lack of government transparency casts doubts on official information.

3-9 May 2020

In Somalia, non-AMISOM Ethiopian forces were allegedly responsible for the shooting down of an African Express flight carrying humanitarian supplies in the town of Bardale. Military sources suggested that the soldiers shot down the plane over fears that it might bomb soldiers who were stationed at the airport (VOA, 12 May 2020).

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In the Netherlands, the rate of arson cases against telecommunications towers is slowing down, with only two cases this week in Den Haag. In Bemmel, one woman climbed a transmission tower for unclear reasons on 9 May. Attacks are apparently linked to conspiracy theories circulated on social media linking 5G technology to the coronavirus pandemic.

26 April-2 May 2020

In Yemen, the coronavirus has continued to spread since the first case was confirmed in Hadramawt on 10 April. Last week, an additional five cases were confirmed in Aden including two deaths, prompting a number of hospitals to close due to the lack of protective equipment for health workers (Asharq Al Awsat, 2 May 2020). In response to the outbreak, Aden governorate imposed a curfew and closed all ports of entry as well as public gathering places. Other regions in western Yemen and its western coast have imposed limitations on travel, especially to and from Aden governorate. At the same time, the World Food Programme announced that it halved food aid distribution to areas mostly under Houthi control starting 1 May as funding sources have dried up (Mareb Press, 29 April 2020).

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In Mexico, multiple gangs continued to hand out care packages to communities dealing with the pandemic as part of a strategy to expand their support base among local populations and emphasize their control over certain territories. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) delivered food boxes mainly in the Jalisco state but also in Baja California, Colima, Mexico, and San Luis Potosi. Similar activities were conducted by the Gente Nueva gang in Chihuahua, the Gulf Cartel in Tamaulipas, El Senoron in Morelos, Gupo Sombra in Veracruz, and Los Zetas in Veracruz. 

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In Spain, tension increased in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, where many migrants are being held at temporary facilities during the coronavirus crisis. In Melilla, around 600 migrants of Tunisian origin started a hunger strike and protested inside the Centre for Temporary Stay of Immigrants (CETI), calling for a transfer to the Spanish Peninsula. In Ceuta, migrants stuck in Spain due to Moroccan border closures denounced the low quality food they have received in confinement. On 25 April, a riot was reported at the facility in Melilla as migrants began to insult and throw food at workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who then left the facility citing safety reasons. (El Faro de Ceuta, 26 April 2020; Levante-EMV, 27 April 2020).

In Cyprus, telecommunications antennas were sabotaged after disinformation was circulated about links between 5G technology and the spread of coronavirus (Ekathimerini, 29 April 2020). 

In the United Kingdom, an attack on a 5G communications site was reported in Glasgow, likely related to disinformation connecting 5G mobile networks to the coronavirus (Herald Scotland, 27 April 2020). 

In the Netherlands, three more transmission towers were set on fire amid widespread suspicion of 5G technology.

19-25 April 2020

In Myanmar, a vehicle of the World Health Organization carrying samples to be tested for the coronavirus was attacked, killing the driver of the vehicle. The military and the ULA/AA traded blame for the attack (Frontier Myanmar, 27 April 2020).

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The Netherlands saw three more cases of arson attacks targeting telecommunications towers.

12-18 April 2020

In Lebanon, clashes were reported between Lebanese residents and Syrian refugees that led the government to dissolve a refugee camp in Ghazze (Euro-Med Monitor, 18 April 2020). While the clashes themselves were not related to the coronavirus pandemic, closing a refugee camp during the pandemic poses significant added risks to the refugees.

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The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the flow of migrants across South America as border controls and shutdowns are reinforced. In Venezuela, more than 3,500 Venezuelan refugees have returned from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. In Chile, Peruvian citizens demonstrated in Arica y Parinacota region over the lack of support for migrants stranded at the border crossing. Near the city of Arica, Chilean security forces clashed with Peruvian state forces after Chilean police tried to stop a person from illegally crossing the border and entering Peru.

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Attacks on 5G telecommunications towers continued in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Cyprus after conspiracy theories connecting 5G and the spread of coronavirus circulated on social media. (BBC 14 April 2020). On the Isle of Man locals protested over the installation of a 5G tower.

5-11 April 2020

In Yemen, the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Hadramawt governorate (Supreme National Council for COVID-19, 10 April 2020). Yemeni hospitals are ill-prepared to deal with an outbreak. Making matters worse, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced it would soon cut food rations to Houthi-controlled territory in half. This comes after donors, including the US, reduced funding due to concerns that the Houthis are impeding aid deliveries (BBC, 10 April 2020). The WFP feeds over 12 million Yemenis each month — 80% of whom are in areas under Houthi control (Reuters, 9 April 2020). Beginning in mid-April, aid will be reduced from every month to every other month in Houthi-controlled areas.

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The coronavirus pandemic also triggered border controls that have impacted the flow of migrants across the region. In Chile, in the border city of Colchane, Bolivian military forces clashed with a group of at least 500 Bolivian migrants who attempted to re-enter their home country. Bolivian authorities claimed the group was composed of supporters of former President Evo Morales and his political party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS), who intended to take advantage of the pandemic to attack quarantine centers and destabilize the country (La Nacion, 7 April 2020). In Venezuela, authorities imposed a curfew in two cities of Táchira state, the main crossing point for the large influx of migrants returning from Colombia. Authorities claimed the measure is intended to prevent the entrance of armed groups.

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In the contested Republic of Artsakh, public unrest over the disputed presidential election continued despite the risk of coronavirus. Since early March, opposition protesters gathered in Stepanakert demanding the cancellation of the elections over monitoring and transparency concerns. On March 31, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Masis Mayilyan and the former Prime Minister Arayik Harutyunyan became the leaders of the first round, but Mayilyan withdrew from the second round expressing his concerns about the elections taking place during the coronavirus pandemic. This led to Arayik Harutyunyan winning the second round as the only candidate running, casting more doubt on the fairness of the elections. The election was particularly important because the incoming president will hold expanded powers as a result of the country’s recent shift to a fully presidential system (JAM News, 13 April 2020). Critics also claim that a democratically elected government in Artsakh is especially important for Armenia, which plans to bring the de facto government into peace negotiations to contest Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the region (Eurasianet, 6 April 2020). 

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Dozens of arson attacks targeting 5G telecommunications towers were reported in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom after disinformation was spread via social media over a supposed link between the coronavirus and 5G mobile networks.

29 March-4 April 2020

On 31 March 2020, in an official announcement broadcast on TV, the President of Brazil recognized the seriousness of the pandemic, which he had minimized in his previous week’s announcement. The following day, however, he once again questioned the quarantine measures adopted by state governors. Several motorcades demanding the re-opening of business were reported in some cities, but less than the number recorded in the previous week.

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In other developments, the Indian government issued a notification introducing a new set of laws for the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The region’s limited autonomy, which protected the region from demographic changes, was revoked in August 2019, and new domicile rights now provide the modalities for Indian citizens from other areas to settle permanently in the region. According to the new set of laws, several categories of Indian citizens, including those who have resided in the region for a period of 15 years, will be eligible to become permanent residents (Al-Jazeera, 3 April 2020). The opponents of the law, including the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, claim that the timing of the announcement amidst a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak was aimed at preventing public outcry against the law (Hindustan Times, 4 April 2020).

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The government of Serbia was criticized after it limited the source of information on the coronavirus to the crisis headquarters and arrested a journalist for reporting on hospital conditions. The decision was later retracted a few days later, following public backlash (Balkan Insight, 2 April 2020). 

Protection of ‘local communities’

In Costa Rica, for the second consecutive week, locals constructed roadblocks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection in Puntarenas. Members of the Ngobe indigenous group were among those instituting such measures, as the community decided to close all access points to their territory in an attempt to curb the outbreak.

In both Suriname and French Guiana, indigenous communities blocked access points to their territory in order to curtail incoming visitors who could spread the coronavirus.

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Locals in several villages in India have reportedly erected barricades and armed groups of villagers guard entry points to prevent outsiders from entering their villages (Al-Jazeera, 30 March 2020). 

In India and Sri Lanka, several demonstrations were recorded by locals against the burial and cremation of patients who died of coronavirus, fearing contamination of local communities.

Fighting with state forces

Violent resistance against security forces trying to enforce coronavirus related lockdowns was reported in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. In several states of India, including Gujarat, Assam, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh, locals attacked and clashed with security personnel enforcing the lockdown. In Gujarat, hundreds of migrant workers clashed with security personnel in a bid to return to their native villages despite restrictions on movement across state boundaries during the lockdown (Hindustan Times, 30 March 2020). Clashes erupted as police attempted to disperse religious gatherings at several mosques in Bihar and Maharashtra. Similar clashes were reported in Pakistan, where police personnel attempted to enforce a complete curfew to prevent people from congregating during Friday prayers at local mosques. In Nepal, locals clashed with police personnel after they were prevented from opening a flea market in defiance of the lockdown orders. Hundreds of Nepali citizens, including migrant workers, clashed with Nepali security personnel close to the Nepal-India border, in a bid to force their way into Nepal from India. The complete lockdown imposed in India, and the enforcement of a border lockdown by the Nepali government to reduce the spread of coronavirus, has left thousands of Nepali citizens stranded at the Nepal-India border (Al-Jazeera, 1 April 2020).

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In South Korea, bans on large gatherings have led to clashes between groups of people, such as church goers, and the police.

22-28 March 2020

Thailand’s deep south has seen an increase in coronavirus cases, prompting the main separatist group, the BRN, to release a statement calling for locals to cooperate in efforts to stem the spread of the virus (Khaosod, 27 March 2020).

Amid growing concerns over a resurgence of COVID-19 in South Korea, local groups took steps to prevent gatherings. Despite the risks of being infected, some citizens blocked Christians from congregating at churches, for example. Still, large numbers have attended church services in recent weeks, sometimes violently resisting police inspections. 

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In Hungary, the parliament granted emergency powers to Prime Minister Victor Orban last week. Those the move was justified as a necessary measure to address the pandemic, observers warn that Orban will use the powers to impose authoritarian restrictions and cement his control of the country (Human Rights Watch, 23 March 2020). 

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On 22 March, presidential elections were held in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, months after the resignation of the previous leader following riots in January (ACLED, 16 January 2020). While the opposition candidate declared victory, the elections were criticized for the limited participation of international observers due to coronavirus measures (Eurasianet, 23 March 2020). The de facto government of Artsakh also held elections on 31 March, drawing critical reactions from Azerbaijan over the region’s disputed status (Asbarez, 31 March 2020) as well as from local opposition groups over coronavirus risks. Since 23 March, the opposition has held rallies calling for the resignation of Artsakh’s current leader (Caucasian Knot, 26 March 2020). 

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The coronavirus has now arrived in Syria, with 10 confirmed cases across the country. No cases have so far been reported in the northwest, where preparedness and response planning is underway to develop effective prevention strategies, reduce transmission risk, and ensure the continued provision of humanitarian assistance. However, the spread of the disease could quickly become critical, especially in camp settings, if additional measures are not put in place (OCHA, 27 March 2020).

15-21 March 2020

At the end of last week, Syria confirmed its first case of coronavirus (The Guardian, 23 March 2020). The current situation in northwest Syria and in other parts of the country makes the catastrophic spread of the virus more likely in the absence of functional healthcare infrastructure. Even in regime-held areas, the health system may not be able to detect and respond to the pandemic. As such, a high number of undisclosed cases is to be expected.

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The outbreak also prompted violent interventions by state forces in Senegal, Uganda, and Kenya, as governments enacted laws restricting public assembly. In Senegal, the gendarmerie clashed with people attending a traditional ceremony. In Tanzania, police detained Ethiopian and Somali migrants over fears that they were infected with coronavirus.