On Sunday tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Yemen’s capital to call for an end to war in the country. The demonstration in Sanaa was organised by Houthi rebels and former authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who control the capital and much of the country’s north. The conflict, which has left more than 7,600 dead, originates from the failed political transition after Mr Saleh handed power to his vice president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi following a 2011 uprising. Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states initiated an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi’s government, and the situation has remained intractable ever since, despite UN-mediated peace talks.
Police arrested Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as he arrived to join anti-government demonstrations in central Moscow on Monday. According to a rights group, OVD Info, over 800 peaceful protesters were detained in the capital alone, where turnout was estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000, with arrests also being reported at rallies in Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and others. In the majority of cities, authorities did not give permission for the protests, which called for the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations. Alexei Navalny has announced his intention to run for president in 2018 against Vladimir Putin, but since he was found guilty in a case he said was politicised, he is barred from doing so.
A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters has captured a strategic airbase from ISIL. Tabqa airbase is 45km west of Raqqa, the so-called ‘Islamic State’ de facto capital in Syria, and close to an important dam on the Euphrates river which the Syrian Defence Force also aim to wrest control of. “Before the latest strikes by the Americans, the dam was working. Two days ago, the dam was functioning normally” Nejm Saleh, director of the Syrian government’s General Authority of Euphrates Dam said, “God forbid … there could be collapses or big failures that could lead to flooding.” The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said coalition air strikes had killed 89 civilians in Raqqa province in the past week.
Six aid-workers were killed in an ambush on Saturday on the way from the capital, Juba, to the eastern town of Pibor working for an unspecified organisation. It was the highest number of humanitarian workers killed in one incident since the world’s newest nation descended into conflict in 2013. After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, and tens of thousands of people have died with 3.5 million displaced, while a surge in fighting since July has devasted food production leading to widespread famine. At least 79 humanitarians have been killed in South Sudan since the conflict began. This month the government announced plans to levy a charge of $10,000 for each foreign aid worker visa, damaging efforts to help the hungry.
People from China to the Balkans celebrated the spring equinox on the 21st of March in the New Year festival known as Nowruz. This tradition, which dates back over 3,000 years to ancient Persia, has Zoroastrian religious origins but is now a secular holiday for most celebrants across diverse ethno-linguistic communities. Common observances include house cleaning, jumping over bonfires and decorative tables, known as Haft Seen, as well as lots of delicious food!