International News Recaps

Catch up on recent developments around the world


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Schoolgirl Poisonings in Iran

November saw the first reports that Iranian schoolgirls were falling ill in mass numbers in the city of Qom. In the past 4 months, the Iranian media has reported that an unspecified number of Iranian girls across the nation have reportedly fallen ill, experiencing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, heartache and dizziness. 

The Iranian government began investigating in December, and on March 10, Iranian state media reported that suspects were arrested and aired alleged confessions from the perpetrators, confessions that were almost immediately cast into doubt by media outside the nation. The BBC made note that the Iranian government has used torture to get false confessions out of suspects before. 

Several theories have been proposed by experts. Psychology Today proposed the “poisonings” are actually a Mass Psychogenic Illness (MPI), otherwise known as mass hysteria. An anonymous doctor who studies poisonings accused the Iranian government of poisoning the girls as revenge due to the presence of schoolgirls and young women at the Masha Amani protests that have been occurring for months. Some Iranian officials have also said that hardline terrorist groups, who are against the education of women, committed the attacks. 

The Iranian government is still investigating the alleged poisonings and looking for possible motives while Western media remains hesitant on taking the government’s word as fact.


Georgian Protests Force Parliament to Withdraw Controversial “Foreign Agents” Bill

Last Week on March 7, the Georgian Parliament began to push along a draft bill that would require all organizations within Georgia that received more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as “foreign agents” or face massive fines. The bill has been criticized by both domestic opposition and large swaths of the international community who denounced the bill as both a product of Russian meddling and a means of suppressing opposition within the country. Opponents even say that the bill was modeled after a Russian bill used to silence their opposition.

The situation in Georgia is characterized by two features: the Russian Invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the domination of the government by the ‘Georgian Dream’ Party since then, which has been known to preach ‘pragmatic’ foreign policy with the Russian Federation. For a while now, this party has faced accusations of being little more than a proxy to Russian interests within the small country.

Tens of thousands of protestors came out in force over two days, which saw the deployment of the Georgian army and special forces, the disruption of these protests with tear gas and rubber bullets, and the death of at least one of these protestors. Following a second night of intense protests, the Parliament withdrew the controversial bill from consideration, as an attempt to calm tensions.

As these protests occurred, there was a mobilization of Russian Military elements to the border, prompting many to compare Georgia’s precarious situation to Ukraine’s. 

The official twitter of Russia’s Foreign Ministry in Crimea voiced their opinion on the matter: “Protests against ‘foreign agents’ bill, erupted in #Tbilisi, resulting in demands for the resignation of the government. We recommend to the georgian people to recall a similar situation in Ukraine in 2014 and what it finally led to! #ThinkTwice.”

The Prime Minister of the country, also a member of Georgian Dream, would go onto television interviews in the days afterward, saying, “I saw the pictures of several youths, I was left astonished – they were wearing Satanist Uniforms.”


Moldova Police Work to Combat Russian-backed Unrest Plot

A similar situation has unfolded in Moldova, another small Eastern European country in the grip of Russia, that has also been accusing Russian-backed actors of plotting to cause mass unrest against the pro-western government there. The head of their police forces said in a news conference that Russian citizens were being promised tens of thousands of dollars as paid protestors – with a specific purpose of organizing “mass disorder.”

In this wave of unrest, organized by the Pro-Russian ‘Shor Party’, four bomb threats were called, US intelligence officials have determined that actors within Russian intelligence are trying to create an insurrection in the country, using these protests. Moldova’s interior minister, Ana Revenco, said in a facebook post that the protests “aim to shake the democracy and stability” of the country and warned “the traitors of our country that they will soon be brought to justice, no matter how much money and assistance they receive to destroy our country.”

Moldova’s situation is especially dangerous to Russian involvement, due to the breakaway territory of Transnistria – an area occupied by a large contingent of Russian troops since the fall of the Soviet Union and the ongoing war in neighboring Ukraine.