World in Review, Week of 11/26/13

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Scott Bob/VOICE OF AMERICA NEWS
Destruction in Syria, where the civil war has left an estimated 11,000 children dead.

Syrian Civil War has killed over 11,000 children, reports reveal
An announcement by a London institute Sunday revealed more than 11,000 children have been killed as a result of the Syrian Civil War, which has raged for 32 months.

The Oxford Research Group, a policy think tank, concluded 11,420 children have been reported dead, some of whom were killed by explosions, bullets or being tortured to death. The figures come from casualty lists compiled from March 2011 to August 2013 that list only identified victims.

“What is most disturbing about the findings of this report is not only the sheer numbers of children killed in this conflict, but the way they are being killed,” said co-author Hana Salama.

The war, which pits the forces of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels hoping to end Assad’s reign, has caused a great deal of controversy in the west, with nations like the United States debating whether or not to enter the clash. The Syrian government has been accused of using chemical weapons, causing additional debate on how the United States should respond.

In September, the United Nations said over 120,000 people had been killed. It also revealed in excess of 2 million individuals have left the country.

—Matt Bittle / Copy Desk Chief

Women held against their will for 30 years

Three women were rescued from a London home by British police Thursday after an investigation into slavery and domestic servitude led to the discovery of the three women who had been held against their will for up to 30 years. One man and one woman, both 67, were arrested Thursday morning in connection with the incident, which is being described as one of the most severe instances of domestic servitude in Britain.

The London Metropolitan Police Service human trafficking unit said their investigation began in October when the Freedom Charity, a charity that gives support to the victims of forced marriages and violence against women, received a phone call from one of the women being held after she watched a documentary on forced marriages. Between further investigations into the claims and the charity’s efforts to earn the women’s trust, the three “highly traumatized” women were taken to a safe location, police officials said.

While police did not find evidence of sexual abuse, officials said the women—a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old British woman—were brainwashed as well as being physically and emotionally abused.

The two arrested in connection have been bailed until January, and they are described as foreign nationals with prior arrests from the 1970s.

—Kelly Flynn / Managing News Editor

North Korea confirms detention of American citizen

North Korea is holding an American citizen, the U.S. State Department revealed Friday. Though the identity of the individual was not given, the family of a California man said he has been held in the country since last month.

Merrill Newman, 85, visited North Korea with a friend last month, Newman’s family said. As Newman’s plane was preparing to leave the country, North Korean officials took him off the flight and have held him since.

Newman, who served in the Korean War in the 1950s, is one of two American citizens currently detained in North Korea. Kenneth Bae was arrested last year and in May was sentenced to 15 years of labor for plotting to overthrow the government. At least seven Americans in total have been detained in North Korea, according to the State Department.

Because the United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, the American government has been working with Sweden to free the prisoners.

In recent years, former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have visited North Korea in successful attempts to secure the release of Americans being held there.

The United States last week warned travelers against visiting North Korea, which recently removed some restrictions on international visits.

—Matt Bittle / Copy Desk Chief

Iran and West make nuclear deal

A three-decade long diplomatic gridlock between the west and Iran dissolved Sunday as diplomats from Iran and six world powers came to an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.

The deal comes back to Iran’s ability to work toward nuclear weapons while loosening the hold of international sanctions on Iran’s economy. The nations have six months for the preliminary agreement, which was created in Geneva by Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, knowns as P5+1.

The agreement is intended to give Iran and the P5+1 time to come to a more comprehensive agreement. However, it is an opportunity, not a guarantee, for the powers.

The diplomatic agreement represent a budge in an almost 35-year-old lock between the U.S. and Iran, after diplomatic relations were broken off in 1979 after Iran’s revolution. This is the first agreement in 10 years of attempts at negotiation over the nuclear program.

The announcement is reported to be popular with Iranian citizens, many of whom believe it to be an opportunity to improve relations with the West.

—Rachel Taylor / Copy Desk Chief

Ukraine distances from EU, considers trade ties with Russia

An estimated 50,000 Ukrainians swarmed to country’s capital square this weekend following an announcement that the former Soviet state would suspend talks to officially join the European Union.

President Viktor Yanukovych is inching toward Russia instead, initiating closer trade agreements with Russia President Vladimir Putin. Opposition members who demonstrated in Ukraine’s capital Kiev are protesting his change in position, stating they have a strong, European identity.

Those who participated in the rally were seen carrying banners with slogans such as “I want to live in Europe” and “Ukraine is part of Europe.”

Western powers, including the United States, have expressed their disappointment with Ukraine’s decision, with Secretary of State John Kerry canceling his planned early December trip the the Eastern European country.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele posted on Twitter yesterday that he would still welcome Ukraine to the EU.

“Our commitment to modernization of Ukraine remains firm, door remains open, benefits 4 neighbours too, despite rhetoric,” Fuele tweeted.

Putin responded to the controversy by criticizing the EU of creating a trade pact that would be unfair to Russia, and urged Ukraine to resist the EU’s “blackmail.” For Russia, Ukraine is a massive transit route for exported Russian oil.

—Cady Zuvich / Managing News Editor

 


A version of this post appeared in the print edition of The Review on Nov. 26, 2013 on the “World in Review” page.

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