Saturday, July 21, 2018

Ethiopia & Eritrea Sign Deal - what next?

As Ethiopia & Eritrea Sign Deal to End 20 Years of War, Will Political Prisoners Be Released Next?
A historic peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea ends 20 years of a “state of war” that saw 70,000 killed and thousands of families separated. We get response from Ethiopian writer Awol Allo, a lecturer at the Keele University School of Law in the U.K., and Vanessa Berhe, an Eritrean human rights activist. She founded the group One Day Seyoum, which campaigns for the release of her uncle, Eritrean photojournalist Seyoum Tsehaye, who was imprisoned in 2001 amid a crackdown on free expression.
To read more on this issue, click here.

PBS Report from Yemen

PBS Report from Yemen: As Millions Face Starvation, American-Made Bombs Are Killing Civilians.
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen is incredibly difficult to cover on the ground, with many obstacles for journalists hoping to access the capital Sana’a and other areas affected by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition bombings. We speak with a reporter who smuggled herself into northern Yemen to report on the widespread famine and devastation there in an exclusive three-part series for ”PBS NewsHour.” Special correspondent Jane Ferguson is a Beirut-based special correspondent. Her pieces are titled “Yemen’s spiraling hunger crisis is a man-made disaster,” “American-made bombs in Yemen are killing civilians, destroying infrastructure and fueling anger at the U.S.” and “Houthis deny U.S., Saudi claim that they are Iran’s puppets.”
To read the interview at Democracy Now, click here.

Pakistan election: Who's who and why it matters

Source: BBC
Tens of millions of Pakistanis are preparing to vote in a general election on Wednesday after a campaign tainted by violence and dominated by political controversy.
What happens in this South Asian country of nearly 200 million matters: it is a nuclear-armed rival to India, a key developing economy and one the world's largest Muslim-majority nations.
Here's what you need to know about the election, which has been called the dirtiest in Pakistan's history.

Why it's important

Since independence in 1947, Pakistan has oscillated between civilian and military rule. This election will mark the second time that one civilian government has handed power to another after serving a full term - a historic landmark.
But few in Pakistan are celebrating the strength of its democracy. The run-up to the vote has been marked by tensions between the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and the military.
The PML-N complains of a targeted crackdown against it by the powerful security establishment, with the alleged help of the courts. Nearly 17,000 party members are facing criminal cases over breaking unspecified election rules.
The media, meanwhile, have faced virulent censorship and intimidation. Another concern for some Pakistani democrats is the participation in the vote of militant groups.
Many believe the military is up to its old political machinations in favour of its preferred candidates. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says there have been "blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts" to manipulate the polls, with "alarming implications for Pakistan's transition to an effective democracy".
Pakistan election by the numbers
The campaign has also been marred by violent attacks - including an IS-claimed attack in Balochistan on 13 July that killed nearly 150 people.

Who are the key players?

Key players graphic with pictures of Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Nawaz Sharif (PML-N), 68
The three-time prime minister was disqualified from office last year after a corruption investigation prompted by the Panama Papers. He went to London to spend time with his ailing wife, but made a dramatic return with his daughter Maryam in early July, despite having been sentenced to 10 years in prison. The pair, convicted for their family's unexplained ownership of luxury London flats, are now behind bars.
He blames the military for conspiring against him because he has openly criticised them and seeks better relations with India. The military denies any role. Nawaz's brother, Shehbaz Sharif, has led the PML-N campaign and will be looking to become the next prime minister.
Key quote: "What credibility will these elections have when the government is taking such drastic action against our people and this crackdown is taking place all over the country?"
Current seats: 182
Imran Khan (PTI), 65
The former star international cricketer entered Pakistani politics more than two decades ago, but he has never run the government. This time, many observers are convinced that he is the military's preferred candidate and that they are working to undermine his rivals. Mr Khan and the military deny any collusion but he told the BBC that the current military chief, Gen Bajwa, "is probably the most pro-democratic man we have ever seen". The PTI is supported by controversial groups, including one linked to al-Qaeda.
Key quote: "Pakistan's issue is nothing to do with liberalism or fundamentalism. Pakistan has an issue of governance."
Current seats: 32
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (PPP), 29
Oxford-educated Mr Bhutto Zardari is the latest political candidate from a long political dynasty. Both his mother, Benazir Bhutto, and his grandfather Zulfilqar Ali Bhutto, served as prime ministers. Both were also killed - Ms Bhutto by an assassin and her father by an executioner. The 29-year-old PPP leader, who is standing for parliament for the first time, says he wants to implement his mother's vision of a "peaceful, progressive, prosperous, democratic Pakistan". Polls predict the party will finish third.
Key quote: "If all you have to criticise me on is my age or my accent then you really can't defeat me on the issues."
Current seats: 46

Where will the vote be won?

Map showing Pakistan's electoral provinces
The PML-N's stronghold is Punjab province - Nawaz Sharif's homeland and the country's richest and most populous province. It has more than half the 272 directly-elected seats in the National Assembly and will be the key battleground.
Mr Khan's PTI will have to make serious inroads here in order to win. In the 2013, the party performed well in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Analysts say Mr Bhutto's PPP is popular among the "rural class" and its voter base is concentrated in the southern province of Sindh.
Inforgraphic showing civilian and military periods since 1947

So what might happen?

In the context of an election where two of the three main parties have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the vote, analysts expect a tight race between the Sharifs' PML-N and Mr Khan's PTI. If neither party wins a clear majority, the support of Mr Bhutto Zardari's PPP and other parties could be crucial to forming a governing coalition.
If the PML-N wins, India and the US may breathe a sigh of relief, given Mr Khan's perceived closeness with the military and accusations that he is soft on Islamist extremism. Although Pakistan is a longstanding partner in the US war on terrorism, it's alleged protection of militant groups active in neighbouring Afghanistan has long irked Washington and President Trump has cut off security aid.
If the PTI wins, the PML-N could lead its supporters into the streets - especially if Mr Sharif remains behind bars.
No matter who wins, however, the military will seek to maintain its extremely powerful role in Pakistan.

Israel's controversial laws

Israel has passed a law characterising the country as principally a Jewish state and putting Hebrew above Arabic as the official language, much to the anger of Israeli Arabs.
The law describes Hebrew as the "state's language", effectively prioritising it above Arabic which has for decades been recognised as an official language alongside Hebrew.
In which other countries has the choice of language proved politically controversial?


Protest in Riga over the Latvian language policy in schoolsImage copyright AFP
Image caption Plans for Latvian to be the teaching medium in secondary schools also led to protests
This Baltic state and former Soviet republic has a sizeable Russian-speaking minority, but the government recognises only Latvian as the official state language. A referendum held in 2012 rejected a plan to accord Russian the status of a second official language. The authorities also have plans to promote Latvian as the language of instruction in all secondary schools, although for the moment, teaching in Russian and other minority languages will still be allowed at primary-school level.


Post office sign in CroatiaImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Croats use Latin rather than Cyrillic script
After its independence in 1991, Croatia abolished the Cyrillic script, which had been used when Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia. Croats write using Latin script and Serbs use Cyrillic. However, when Croatia joined the EU in 2013, it did allow signs in both Cyrillic and Latin script in areas with a significant Serb minority, leading to angry protests by some Croats.


Fish selling in Tamil NaduImage copyright AFP
Image caption Tamil Nadu state has its own distinctive culture and traditions
Plans to make Hindi the sole official language of India in place of English after independence met resistance from non-Hindi-speaking states in a country with a multiplicity of languages. Tamil Nadu - with its own ancient language and traditions - suffered riots over the issue. The central government continues to use English as well as Hindi for official purposes, and individual states have largely been left to decide their own language policy.


Cafe in Diyarbakir cityImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kurdish areas of Turkey have long had restrictions on the use of their language
Turkish is the only official language and there have long been restrictions on the Kurdish minority regarding the use of their language. In 2002, under pressure from the EU, Turkey allowed some teaching and broadcasts in Kurdish. University-level language courses in Kurdish and other minority languages were introduced in 2009 as part of reforms.


Canada flag and US flagsImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption French speakers in Canada worry about the dominance of English
Canada is officially bilingual, with the constitution stating that English and French have "equality of status" in all government institutions and the parliament. However, historically there's been concern in largely French-speaking Quebec about the dominance of English, given Canada's proximity to the US. In 1974, Quebec made French the official language in the province. It's also taken measures to promote the use of French, for example, policing restaurants which use non-French words on their menus.

Another Muslim lynched in India by Hindutvadi vigilantes

India has become today the lynching hub of our time. Shame on Modi's Hindutvadi government that has festered such a level of bigotry that it is simply criminal and shameful. Read the report below:
A 28-year-old was lynched by villagers on suspicion of cow smuggling in Alwar on Friday night, the police said. The victim Akbar, along with Aslam, were transporting cows on foot when they were questioned by villagers in Ramgarh police jurisdiction, Ramgarh police station Sub Inspector Subhash Chand said.
“They were taking two cows on foot sometime between 12 -1 am last night when villagers stopped them. However, they tried to run away and the mob chased them and caught them. While Akbar was assaulted, Aslam managed to escape,” Chand said, adding that “Akbar succumbed to his injuries.”
“We retrieved two cows and sent to a nearby gaushala. We have also registered an FIR under IPC Sections 302 (murder), 143 (unlawful assembly), 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention),” he said.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje condemned the incident and assured strict action against the perpetrators. She tweeted, “The incident of alleged lynching of a person transporting bovines in Alwar district is condemnable. Strictest possible action shall be taken against the perpetrators.”
No arrests have been made in the case.
Shame on India!!!!!

“Please Tell the World What They Have Done to Us”

PHR Medical Evaluations of Rohingya Survivors Point to Crimes Against Humanity

A body of forensic medical evidence released today clearly indicates that Rohingya Muslims suffered grave human rights abuses at the hands of Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist civilians. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which issued the evidence in a new report, said the actions should be investigated as crimes against humanity.
Entitled, Please Tell the World What They Have Done to Us” - The Chut Pyin Massacre: Forensic Evidence of Violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar,” the report reveals the findings of forensic medical evaluations of 22 Rohingya survivors of a bloody August 2017 assault on the village of Chut Pyin in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.
The carnage in Chut Pyin was part of a wave of attacks on Rohingya villages that reportedly killed thousands of people and pushed at least 720,000 Rohingya refugees over the border into neighboring Bangladesh from August 2017 to June 2018. PHR’s report, part of an expansive forensic study covering 25 villages and more than 100 cases, contributes to the growing international effort to document and investigate allegations of atrocities against the Rohingya so that those who committed the crimes can be held accountable. 
The report features in-depth testimonies and analyses of injuries sustained by surviving residents of Chut Pyin. The various injuries, including gunshot wounds, blunt-force trauma, lacerations and more, serve as medical evidence to corroborate the survivors’ accounts of shootings, beatings, stabbings, and other forms of violence which occurred on that day.
“We saw multiple gunshot wounds that are consistent with people having been shot while fleeing, and heard numerous accounts of rape and other sexual violence. We rigorously and meticulously analyzed the injuries, first-hand testimonies, and eyewitness accounts, and all our forensic examinations were highly consistent with the events that the survivors described,” explained Homer Venters, MD, PHR’s director of programs, who led the team of doctors who conducted the forensic medical evaluations in Thangkali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area.
“The power of science, of medicine, is that injuries do not lie. Each laceration, blunt-force trauma, burn, and gunshot wound tells a story, and we use this forensic medical evidence to shed light on what likely happened on that day,” Venters added.
The survivors’ testimonies are compelling, with victims recounting similar experiences, or corroborating others’ accounts. Some used maps to indicate exactly where they were at the time of the attack and where they were injured or hid until neighbors or relatives rescued them.
“It hurt so much. I had so much bleeding and the place was flooded with blood,” said a 12-year-old girl who was shot along with her two younger brothers. The three lost their parents and two other siblings in the attack. Another survivor, a 35-year-old woman, told PHR: “I saw they threw a two- or three-month-old baby into the fire. When the mother cried aloud, they shot the mother dead.” A 19-year-old man said: “Parents were killed. Brothers and sisters were killed. Even small children were burned in the fire.”
Seventeen of the 22 survivors evaluated by PHR suffered at least one gunshot wound and nine of them had their mobility severely affected as a result of being attacked.
“The ordeal didn’t stop when the massacre ended. These survivors had to make their way to safety – many of them traveling up to 12 days on foot to get across the border to Bangladesh, where they are now living in refugee camps under very challenging conditions. They suffered infection and other medical complications on the way that likely only exacerbated the injuries and further increased the impact that the violence had on their lives,” Venters explained.
Survivors also reported that, in the wake of the attacks, soldiers searched for doctors in neighboring villages in order to arrest wounded Rohingya survivors. “They looked for people with bullet wounds in order to erase the evidence. We are the witnesses to reveal their crimes, so they wanted to kill those survivors,” said a 20-year-old woman whose baby was shot dead in her arms.
PHR’s report brings a unique medical and forensic voice to accounts of the August 2017 wave of attacks on Rohingya communities in Myanmar. The report concludes that not only did a range of human rights violations take place in the village of Chut Pyin – including killings and executions; detentions and disappearances; physical assault; rape and other sexual violence; ethnic and religious discrimination; and forcible displacement, followed by looting and burning of homes – several of the survivors, among them many women and children, faced multiple violations during a six-and-a-half hour gruesome attack.
Taking the history of the Rohingya in Myanmar into account, PHR was able to marry its forensic examinations with credible information from local sources, as well as the consistent and detailed testimonies of survivors, to come to one conclusion: that Chut Pyin is a prime example of a brutal campaign of violence carried out by Myanmar authorities against the Rohingya people, and that what happened in Chut Pyin, and elsewhere in Rakhine state, should be investigated as crimes against humanity.
“The international community must support an impartial and independent investigation into crimes against humanity to bring those accountable to justice. The government of Myanmar must immediately cease all human rights violations against individuals and communities in Rakhine state and throughout Myanmar, as well as investigate and prosecute all violations in accordance with international human rights law. Adequate safeguards to prevent future discrimination against ethnic minorities must be put into place and sustainable conditions need to be created to allow for a safe, dignified, and voluntary return for Rohingya refugees before any repatriation can even be considered,” Venters said.
Read the full digital report here.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Muslim Father of 2 Parkland shooting survivors fatally shot during armed robbery

The father of two students who survived the Parkland high school shooting in February was fatally shot during an armed robbery at his own convenience store on Tuesday afternoon.
Ayub Ali, 61, was working at Aunt Molly’s Food Store in  North Lauderdale, Florida, when an unidentified man wearing a black vest, reddish-orange shorts and a skull cap with 'Miami' stitched on the front entered the shop, CBS Miami reports. Surveillance footage shows the suspect follow Ali behind the counter and place what appears to be a gun against his back.
In the video, Ali can be seen putting his hands up and allowing the man to take cash from the register, after which the suspect seemingly flees the scene.
Deputies with the Broward Sheriff's Office said that the suspect returned to the store moments later and shot Ali.
The victim was rushed to Broward Health  Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Ali, a native of Bangladesh, lived in Parkland’s Meadow Run community with his wife and their four children, two of whom, a son and a daughter, survived the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Miami Herald reports.
The February attack left 17 students and faculty members dead and reignited the nation's interest in the fight for stricter gun control laws.