Week of February 25th

Here are some events happening on campus that may be of interest to you.

https://www.facebook.com/events/255575044895042/ Apartheid Divest Week

https://www.facebook.com/events/300584397011368/ New York City Fights Back

https://www.facebook.com/events/1767726683447957/ Naksa

http://europe.columbia.edu/events/russian-question-french-european-politics/ Russian Question in European and French politics

https://www.facebook.com/events/109348286253072/ Right to Speak:Dissent and Censorship in Pakistan and Turkey

https://www.facebook.com/events/767736343384884/ Challenges of Post Conflict Period in Colombia (in Spanish!)

On February 22nd, the Trump administration retracted the White House’s earlier policy of allowing transgender students at federally funded schools to use bathrooms that corresponded to their gender identities.While DeVos was reportedly hesitant to sanction this change, it seems that the incumbent party has managed to pursue this line of policy despite rifts from within. This retraction comes as one of many policy shifts enacted in the span of a single month, ranging from the executive order (termed as ‘the Muslim ban’ in popular media) to an interest in increasing US's nuclear arsenal. Despite major pushback from organizations like the ACLU, the frequency of policy change poses a huge challenge in protecting vulnerable minorities and causes - as with the near-completion of the Dakota Access pipeline and flares of xenophobia in the country.

Meanwhile, there have been multiple bombings in Pakistan within the span of a week, targeting a shrine as well as a shopping center. There appears to be an international lack of sympathy and coverage when compared to that afforded to the Paris attacks in 2015, though the death toll in Pakistan is significant. Further south, Kashmir continues to be an unsettled area; with the Indian army losing 3 men to an insurgency. The human cost associated with Kashmir is a question that is becoming more prominent for India given the injuries and deaths that the valley has seen. The question of human cost is also one the Iraqi government has to consider in its military offensives against ISIS. While there appears to be progress in pushing ISIS out of Mosul, the food shortage and danger to civilians is an area of concern for aid groups and the UN. There is also progress in reclaiming strategically important territory from ISIS in Syria. However, this progress lends the illusion of ISIS’s influence slowly crumbling even when there are Egyptian Christians fleeing from ISIS “killing sprees”.

The aftermath of terrorism and insurgency also provides a topic of concern for governments. This recent article illustrates the problems Tunisia faces with possible returning terrorists and suggests that the remainder of organizations like the Al-Qaeda can result in internal terrorism for nations, often provoking military involvement. It is not just terrorism that must be dealt with in some parts of the world. Governments themselves can be brutally oppressive. Holding them accountable internationally is fraught with problems, as the UN is experiencing with Qaddafi’s son.

The EU is currently considering the implications of Brexit, both economically and geopolitically. Internally, Brexit may be causing friction for the UK, with Scotland potentially revisiting the question of independence. Brexit is not the only political event to fear for the EU, since LePen is explaining her planning to analysts and businesses to rid France of the euro in favor of national currency. Whether this will come to pass is questionable but one only has to look to the US and the UK to find unexpected outcomes in elections and referendums. Merkel’s place in German politics, too, is to be decided in this volatile time. See this infographic for an interesting take on global political risk.

These political issues are as topical on Columbia’s campus as they are outside it. It can be easy to forget that the liberal bubble Columbia occupies has its fair share of transphobia, xenophobia and racism. The political mess is as much ours as it is the rest of the world’s. As Turkish media tycoon Vuslat Dogan Sabanci suggested in her recent talk, it is high time we start having better conversations about politics.

Akanksha Ashokweekly update