OURs - News piece

Egypt’s Christians flee Sinai amid Islamic State killing spree

Christian families and students fled Egypt’s North Sinai province in droves on Friday after Islamic State killed the seventh member of their community in just three weeks.

Sectarian attacks occur often in Egypt but are usually confined to home burning, crop razing, attacks on churches, and forced displacement.

Arish residents said militants circulated death lists online and on the streets, warning Christians to leave or die.

Islamic State released a video on Sunday threatening Egypt’s Christians and vowing to escalate a campaign against them after it bombed a chapel adjoining Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic papacy, in December, killing 28 people.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told military and police chiefs “to completely eradicate terrorism in northern Sinai and defeat any attempts to target civilians or to undermine the unity of the national fabric”, in reference to the killings, his office said on Thursday.

Egypt is battling an insurgency that gained pace in 2013 after its military, led by Sisi, overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed.

Read the full article from Reuters.

Editor of Bangladesh LGBT magazine killed

The editor of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine has been killed in the latest of a series of horrific murders of bloggers and activists.

Xulhaz Mannan was one of two people hacked to death in an attack in the capital, Dhaka, police said, by a gang posing as couriers in order to gain access to his apartment in the Kalabagan district.

Mohammad Iqbal, the officer in charge of the local police station, confirmed that about six people had entered the apartment building and hacked Mannan and his friend to death in a first-floor flat. Two other people were seriously injured.

“A person came with a box identifying himself as courier service personnel. Xulhaz took him upstairs to his flat,” Iqbal said.

Mannan, 35, was the editor of Roopbaan, the country’s only magazine for the LGBT community and also worked at the US development agency USAid. The magazine had been launched in 2014 to promote greater acceptance of LGBT communities in Bangladesh.

Read the full article on the Guardian now. 

India: extremists leave no room for beef eaters

A series of murders in India, linked to the slaughter of cattle and consumption of beef, is raising questions about whether the Hindu-dominated country is becoming less tolerant of minority religious groups.

Dawn has broken and Manjesh Prasad is preparing for his daily puja. He’s dressed in an orange dhoti, a length of cloth wrapped around his legs and waist and knotted under his bulging belly, ready to perform the ancient Hindu ritual.

Mr Prasad disappears into a small shrine on his uncle’s 15-acre farm to make his spiritual connection with the divine. He returns a quarter of an hour later, changed into a collared shirt and pants and ready for his day job. More holy work, as he sees it, managing a “gaoshala”, or cow shelter in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

“We have protected 650 cows with the help of the public,” says Mr Prasad.

Gaoshalas are common in India, run by Hindus like Mr Prasad in an attempt to protect cows from being slaughtered for meat.  “The cows are like a God to us,” he explains.

Mr Prasad walks among the cattle – patting one here, another there.  But his gentle disposition dissolves when asked about people who slaughter cattle.

“We should kill them,” he says.  “We should kill them because there is no other way.”

And what about Christians and Muslims who eat beef?

“Killed,” he says firmly.

Read the full article at SBS.com.au. 

OURs - News piece

Liberal Bangladeshi blogger killed by machete-wielding attackers

Attackers in Bangladesh wielding machetes killed a liberal blogger, police said on Thursday, the latest in series of murders of secular activists by suspected Islamist militants.

Postgraduate law student Nazimuddin Samad, 28, was attacked as he was returning from a class at his university in the capital, Dhaka, late on Wednesday, police said.

Last year, suspected militants killed five secular writers and a publisher, including a Bangladeshi-American activist. A banned Islamist militant group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, claimed responsibility for some of the attacks.

Police officer Tapan Chandra Shaha said three or four men attacked Samad with machetes and then shot him after he fell to the ground.

People heard the attackers shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is Greatest) as they fled, he said.

Imran H. Sarker, convener of the BOAN online activist group, said Samad was an outspoken critic of injustice and militancy.

“We found him always a loud voice against all injustice and also a great supporter of secularism,” Sarker told Reuters.

Bangladesh has seen a wave of militant violence over the past year or so, including a series of bomb attacks on mosques and Hindu temples.

Read the full article on Reuters now.

Debunking Stereotypes: Which Women Matter in the Fight Against Extremism?

Violent extremism is the topic du jour, as government officials are busy developing plans of action on “preventing or countering violent extremism” (P/CVE). In these plans there is dutiful reference to engaging “women”. The more progressive mention gender sensitivity.

But scratch the surface, and it is clear there is widespread misunderstanding of what this means or how to do it. So they tend to slide back into an age-old axiom: women are victims, perpetrators, or mothers.

But this perception misses some of the most important women involved in P/CVE: women human rights defenders and peace activists working in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria not only countering extremism but providing positive alternatives and challenging state actions.

The simplification of women to victims and perpetrators is akin to the virgin/prostitute dichotomy that has littered history for centuries. The Yazidi girls epitomize the horrendous victimhood of women, while the teenagers in the UK joining ISIS, and the girls implicated as Boko Haram ‘suicide’ bombers, personify the perpetrator. It seems that, in the male-dominated world of security experts, men determine which women matter.

Their real fascination is with the women fighters especially ‘jihadis’. They are either evil because they have transgressed unsaid but deeply riven norms of femininity and joined ISIS. Or they are the ultimate symbols of self-empowerment, brave enough to fight, and heroic, like the women in the Kurdish militias. Yet women becoming fighters is neither news nor shocking.

Throughout history, a minority of women have joined armed liberation movements (and national armies). Like many men, they are attracted by the larger cause or vision, or for revenge and justice (as with some Kurds and now Yazidis), to feel the sense of belonging and protection. Daesh promises respect, agency and responsibility for women feeling stifled in traditional homes.

There is little discussion of the complexity of women’s experiences who may be simultaneously victims and perpetrators. For example, research on young women (many under 18) traveling to Syria, reveals a strong dose of online sexual grooming in the communications between them and their recruiters.

Read the full article on the IPS News Agency now. 

Iraq: Women Suffer Under ISIS

The extremist armed group Islamic State should urgently release Yezidi women and girls they abducted in 2014, Human Rights Watch said today, following new research with recent escapees who were raped and traded between members before they fled. Islamic State (also known as ISIS) also routinely imposes abusive restrictions on other Iraqi women and girls and severely limits their freedom of movement and access to health care and education in areas under its control.

In January and February 2016, Human Rights Watch interviewed 21 Sunni Muslim Arab women from the Hawija area of Iraq and 15 women and girls from the Yezidi minority ethnic group, all of whom had fled ISIS-controlled areas, most in late 2015. Several of the Yezidis,abducted by ISIS in mid-2014, had spent more than a year in captivity. They described being forcibly converted to Islam, kept in sexual slavery, bought and sold in slave markets, and passed among as many as four ISIS members. Human Rights Watch first documented systematic rape of Yezidi women and girls in early 2015.

“The longer they are held by ISIS, the more horrific life becomes for Yezidi women, bought and sold, brutally raped, their children torn from them,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Meanwhile, ISIS’s restrictions on Sunni women cut them off from normal life and services almost entirely.”

The Sunni women Human Rights Watch interviewed had fled areas under ISIS control since June 2014 in western Kirkuk governorate and had arrived in areas controlled by forces of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). All of the Sunni women and girls reported severe restrictions on their clothing and freedom of movement in ISIS-controlled areas. They said they were only allowed to leave their houses dressed in full face veil (niqab) and accompanied by a close male relative. These rules, enforced by beating or fines on male family members or both, isolated women from family, friends, and public life.

Read the full article from Human Rights Watch now. 

Counter-terrorism: Egyptian-led resolution sends wrong message at wrong time

A new counter-terrorism resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council is not a green light for states to widen the scope of law and policies to target and shut down civil society space in the name of preventing terrorist activity. States must ensure full consideration and respect for international human rights laws when adopting measures to combat terrorist groups and engage with NGOs and human rights defenders who have a key role in preventing violent extremism.

Introduced by Egypt, and co-sponsored by states including Algeria and Saudi Arabia – states often leading the hostile global crackdown on civil society space and human rights defenders – UN resolution A/HRC/31/L.13/Rev.1 ‘The effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of all human rights’ was adopted on the final sitting day of the 31st session of the Council, with 28 states voting in favor and 14 voting against, with 5 states abstaining.

The resolution has been critiqued by leading NGOs such as ARTICLE 19 as ‘providing potential justification for abusive “counter-terrorism” measures’. The resolution ‘fails to meet the needs of the victims of terrorism, and instead instrumentalises their suffering to distract international scrutiny from the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt and elsewhere,’ ARTICLE 19 said in a statement.

Read the full article from ISHR now.

ISIS Central Asian Recruitment Drive A Family Affair

Faced with growing competition and rising battlefield casualties, the Islamic State (IS) militant group has taken a family-friendly approach to its efforts to draw fresh recruits from Central Asia.

Two videos released last week by the extremists’ Russian-language propaganda wing make use of fatherly — or grandfatherly — militants to sell recruits on fighting for IS.

One 30-minute video, in Uzbek with Russian subtitles, features a veteran Uzbek militant in his 60s urging Uzbeks of all ages to come to IS-controlled territory.

A second, shorter, clip shows two Kazakh militants and their sons calling on Muslims to leave Kazakhstan and join them in Syria.

Recruitment Drive

The videos produced by Furat Media are part of an intensified drive by the IS group to recruit Central Asian militants.

This move is likely an attempt to replenish numbers after heavy battlefield losses in both Syria and Iraq.

It is also likely a response to increased competition in the recruitment of Central Asian militants from Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front.

Though IS and Nusra share similar ideologies, they have demonstrated different strategies in Syria: while IS has declared a “caliphate,” Nusra has focused on cooperating with other groups to defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The focus on fighting Assad is a powerful recruitment message for Central Asians, including those already in Syria. Nusra absorbed a major Uzbek militant group, Katiba Tawhid wol-Jihod, in September 2015.

The drive also comes as IS recruitment of Central Asians is getting tougher amid security crackdowns, including one in which a group of 16 Uzbeks allegedly involved in recruiting for IS were arrested in Moscow on March 30.

Uzbeks living in Turkey, meanwhile, have reported being interrogated after flying home to Uzbekistan as part of heightened counterterrorism measures.

A Family Affair

Each of the new videos emphasizes that families can and should move to IS-controlled territory.

The Kazakh recruitment video opens with shots of militants with their children: a young teen, a toddler, and a baby. Both militants featured in the video say they moved to Syria with their families.

Read the full article on Radio Free Europe now. 

Nigeria: A Year On, No Word on 300 Abducted Children

The Nigerian government should take urgent steps to secure the release of about 400 women and children, including at least 300 elementary school students, abducted by Boko Haram from the town of Damasak in Borno State a year ago. It is unclear whether the Nigerian government has made any serious effort to secure their release.

Damasak is the largest documented school abduction by Boko Haram militants. Yet it has drawn far less public attention than the group’s widely condemned abduction of 276 school girls from a government secondary school in Chibok in April 2014. While 57 of those girls managed to escape, 219 remain captive almost two years later.

“Three hundred children have been missing for a year, and yet there has been not a word from the Nigerian government,” said Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to wake up and find out where the Damasak children and other captives are and take urgent steps to free them.”

On November 24, 2014, Boko Haram attacked Damasak, a trading town about 200 kilometers northwest of Maiduguri, near the border with Niger, blocking all four roads leading into the town and trapping residents and traders. The insurgents quickly occupied Zanna Mobarti Primary School, shutting the gates and locking more than 300 students, ages 7 to 17, inside, according to a teacher at the school and other witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed. The Boko Haram militants then used the school as a military base, bringing scores of other women and children abducted across the town there as captives.

Read the full article from Human Rights Watch. 

The year of ‘enormous rage’: Number of hate groups rose by 14 percent in 2015

America is getting angrier, according to one watchdog.

For the first time in five years, the number of hate groups in the United States rose in 2015, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal and advocacy organization known among other things for monitoring extremist activity.

The number of such groups spiked 14 percent in 2015, a year characterized by levels of polarization and anger perhaps unmatched since the political turmoil of 1968, the center said in the report on hate and extremism released exclusively to The Washington Post on Wednesday.


Swelling numbers of Ku Klux Klan chapters and black separatist groups drove last year’s surge, though organizations classified as anti-gay, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim saw small increases, too.

“It was a year marked by very high levels of political violence, enormous rage in the electorate and a real significant growth in hate groups,” said Mark Potok, author of the report.


By Niraj Chokshi

Read the full article From the Washington Post