What Our Analysts Are Reading – September, 2022

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.

Gender and International Conflict

The authors use statistical analysis of conflict initiation by democratic heads of state to challenge the conventional wisdom that female heads of state are less likely to initiate conflict. They argue that a leader’s identity is both performed and interpreted, and that political leaders are incentivized to perform gender by adopting more hawkish positions regarding security. The authors find that women leaders are more likely to initiate conflict when they are more vulnerable to recall and are less likely to initiate conflicts in societies with greater degrees of women’s empowerment, supporting the authors’ hypothesis that the likelihood of a leader initiating conflict is context-dependent and tied to performance of gender, rather than gender itself.


Feminist activist Liridona Sijarina gave a firsthand account of protesting in Pristina over women’s rights and justice for a rape victim in Pristina-based outlet Kosovo 2.0. She explains how she and other activists received fines from the Kosovo police for disturbing public order during the peaceful protest – a move she sees as an infringement on their rights. She connects the incident to what she views is a larger historical pattern in Kosovo of public institutions’ holding a sexist interpretation of correct conduct.


The World Organisation Against Torture, partnered with the Libyan Anti-Torture Network, released a report documenting and analyzing 581 cases of extrajudicial and unlawful killings against civilians, including migrants, in Libya from 2020 to early 2022. Broadly, the findings speak to the environment of impunity that has developed in Libya’s security sector since 2011. State-linked militias, integrated into law enforcement structures without any effective civilian control, routinely commit human rights violations against civilians (often including migrants) and exploit loopholes in Libyan legislation to avoid accountability.


Russian President Vladimir Putin announced partial mobilization on 21 SEP 22, one of several attempted escalations recently made by Russia in the face of Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive. Experts analyze this move to be a break of Putin’s social contract or tacit agreement with the Russian people.  This choice was a gamble with consequences that have not fully formed, though there are reports of protests and a mass exodus of mobilization-aged men from Russia. Novaya Gazeta Europe, the European edition of the lauded Russian independent outlet, collected and analyzed recruitment plans in 18 regions to determine the potential proportion of conscripts from mobilization-aged men, finding that some regions are slated to be disproportionately affected, including Buryatia and Russian-annexed Sevastopol. Reports have already emerged about mobilization also disproportionately targeting ethnic minorities, as well as villages and small towns, where the true levels of mobilization are allegedly being hidden. The Levada Center, an independent Russian polling firm that has openly acknowledged that its polling cannot fully reflect opinions due to Russians’ fear of reprisal for dissenting opinions, has found that mobilization has caused anxiety, fear, and horror in nearly 50 percent of respondents, with additional 23 percent reporting to feel shock and 13 percent anger and indignation. Mobilization’s impact on Russia’s war, on Russian society, and on the countries accepting those fleeing mobilization are still to be seen.


Bellingcat’s far-right monitor Michael Colborne spoke to Program Director Sofija Todorovic of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Belgrade about Europride, the pan-European LGBT+ event that Belgrade hosted this September. They provide a detailed overview of the political and societal obstacles organizers faced in the weeks leading up to the event – for example, President Vucic claimed to “cancel or postpone” the event at the end of August and a leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church threatened pride-goers. Furthermore, Colborne and Todorovic interestingly demonstrate how anti-LGBT+ rhetoric in Serbia gets exploited for political benefit and intertwined in heated issues such as the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Serbian support of Russian President Putin, and the Orthodox religion.


In August 2022, Al Shabaab conducted the longest hotel siege in the group’s history, which lasted 30 hours and began with the detonation of two suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) outside the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu. This was the group’s first hotel attack since January 2021, and demonstrated the group’s capability to enter a highly secured area of Mogadishu, and to stave off security forces for a prolonged period of time. At the same time, this attack unveiled the Somali security forces’ shortcomings, taking over a day to end the siege, and showcased the challenges that the U.S., which recently restarted operations in Somalia, continues to face.


The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan for its 22nd Summit from 15-16 September 2022. The summit was the first in-person meeting between member states’ leaders since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and was occasion enough for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first trip abroad since 2020. In total, 13 world leaders attended, the largest attendance since the organization’s inception. While the joint statement issued at the end of the conference sets out little in terms of concrete collective policy goals, the one-on-one meetings that occurred were very telling. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a face-to-face meeting, the first since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and while the exact agenda of the meeting was not publicized, Putin’s comments afterwards which acknowledged that Xi and China had “concerns” about the Russian invasion suggest the meeting was not as rosy as previous gatherings of the strongmen. Furthermore, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s involvement in a sequence of bilateral meeting, to include Russia and China, hint that India will continue to look to Russia and China for economic relations despite military dust-ups between India and China within the past year. The robust attendance and bilateral meetings on the sidelines suggest that the organization will continue to grow in importance over the coming years.