Abuses Rise Along with Pro-Government Militias

Afghan militiaman

by Bethany Matta, IRIN

KUNDUZ — When 30 Kalashnikov-toting men came to Mohammad Miakhil's house demanding he donate a large sum of money and three tons of wheat to their Afghan government-aligned militia, he knew it was time to leave. "They gave us two hours to pay," said Miakhil. "If not, they would set our house on fire and kill my family."

Miakhil could not afford to hand over such a large portion of his harvest and 120,000 afghanis (about $1,000), so his family joined the exodus from Khanabad, a district in northern Kunduz province that has become a frontline in the war between the Taliban and government forces.


Central American refugee

by Philippa Garson, IRIN

NEW YORK — Fleeing gang violence in his hometown near San Pedro Sulas in Honduras, 14-year-old Gredys Alexander Hernández tried to reach safety in the United States, only to be intercepted in Mexico and sent back. Two days later, just as he was about to re-attempt the journey, masked gangsters burst into his house and shot him dead.

Honduran police say Hernández was murdered because he had witnessed gangsters killing his sister's boyfriend. The authorities in Honduras say he failed to tell staff at the migrant processing center there that his life would be in danger if he was sent home.

Hernández's story illustrates how mechanisms put in place to stop an unprecedented influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America to the southern US border—which peaked last summer—are failing scores of children fleeing violence in their native countries.


How an EU Asylum Rule 'Results in Death'

Syrian refugees

by Kristy Siegfried, IRIN

OXFORD — On Aug. 27, Austrian police opened the back of a truck abandoned on the side of a motorway to find the bodies of 71 migrants. They had suffocated after paying smugglers to transport them across the border from neighboring Hungary. The bodies were so decomposed it took a day to determine the number of dead.

Some, perhaps all, were Syrian refugees, most likely trying to reach Germany. Despite having made it into the EU's passport-free Schengen zone, they still felt the need to travel clandestinely to avoid being fingerprinted and registered for asylum in Hungary, which would have offered them few opportunities to work or integrate.

"This tragedy comes as a cruel reminder that the Dublin Regulation results in death," commented Hungarian NGO Migszol in a blog posted shortly after the news broke. "What we need is a safe passage through our country, and for that, we need to fight the European legislation."



by Anneliese Mcauliffe, IRIN

BANGKOK — Despite Thailand's recent deportation of 109 ethnic Uighurs to China where they could face torture, about 60 members of the persecuted minority who remain in detention are refusing to register with the United Nations as asylum seekers.

Uighur activists say the detainees are likely reluctant to apply for asylum because they do not trust that the UN will be able to prevent their deportation, and they are afraid that personal information provided during the registration process could fall into the hands of Chinese authorities and endanger their families.

Seven weeks after Thailand deported the group of 109 to China, the future is uncertain for the remaining Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from China's western region of Xinjiang. Their forced removal sparked protests in Turkey against the Chinese embassy and the Thai consulate, as well as Chinese-owned businesses.


Fighting on Amid Reactionary Retrenchment


by Kevin Anderson, Logos

Despite the resurgence of military authoritarianism and fundamentalism in Egypt and Syria, several more positive outcomes of the Arab revolutions are seen in the Tunisian constitution, the rise of the Syrian Kurds, and continuing ferment in Turkey. This analysis by Kevin Anderson of The International Marxist-Humanist appeared in the Summer issue of Logos. 

The Present Moment
Over the past year, the outlook for revolutionary change, for democracy and social justice in much of the Middle East and North Africa has become bleak. Egypt has experienced authoritarian military rule at a level that exceeds the repression of Mubarak, thus rolling back the 2011 revolution, even as the US has restored military aid. Libya has descended into chaotic war between rival factions, both of them marked by warlordism. Bahrain continues under lockdown, with the US maintaining both its imperialist naval base and its support for the sectarian Sunni monarchy. Yemen’s democratic opening has given way to a sectarian civil war with massive bombing of civilians by the US-backed Saudis. And most tragic of all, Syria has seen its grassroots democratic opposition shrink as jihadists gain more and more power, sometimes with the collusion of the murderous Assad regime, which itself projects a Shia-oriented sectarianism amid massive backing from Iran. To cap it all, the ultra-fundamentalist ISIS (so-called Islamic State) has maintained most of the territory it seized last year in Iraq and Syria, visiting horrors upon women, religious minorities, and any who dare to express any reservations about its retrograde worldview.

However, this is not the whole story.


An Interview with Brant Rosen

Brant Rosen

by Eli Ungar-Sargon, JewSchool

If you've heard of Rabbi Brant Rosen, chances are that you know about his vocal and principled stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rosen has been on a personal journey ever since Israel's 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, the brutality of which compelled him to question his beliefs about the State of Israel and Zionism. Much of this journey unfolded in public as Rosen courageously wrote about his evolving views on Israel/Palestine in his well-read blog, Shalom Rav. These blog posts and some of the responses to them formed the basis for his 2012 book Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's Path To Palestinian Solidarity. Rosen is the founder of the Jewish Voice For Peace Rabbinical Council and for 17 years he was the Rabbi of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston. He stepped down from this pulpit in September and took a position as the Midwest Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee. On July 5, he announced the founding of a new community called Tzedek Chicago. I contacted Rabbi Rosen earlier this week to learn more about his politics, identity, and new community.


Yemen destruction

by Joe Dyke and Almigdad Mojalli, IRIN

BEIRUT/SANAA — As ceasefires go, the latest one in Yemen might go down as one of the most irrelevant ever. It was supposed to be in place for 10 days but, depending on who you ask, it lasted for somewhere between 30 seconds and two hours.

Its dismal failure, analysts said, leaves the United Nations weak and immediate hopes for a peace deal dashed. But it also further illustrates how Yemen's civil war—which began when Houthi rebels seized the capital Sana'a last September, and eventually forced President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile—is fracturing rapidly out of control.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition has been bombing the Houthis to try to return Hadi to power, but new groups have risen to prominence on both sides with only loose loyalties and distinct local agendas. Convincing them to agree to any peace deal will only get harder with time.


Iraqi Christian

by Florian Neuhof and Louise Redvers, IRIN

ERBIL/DUBAI — A month after fleeing his home in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in northern Iraq's Nineveh province, to escape the advance of militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS), Basim Mansour Yohanna received a telephone call. It was a former colleague, a Sunni Arab, who told the Assyrian Christian he was standing inside his family's apartment, preparing to ransack it.

"I won't go back with Sunnis there," the 55-year-old said angrily. "When I see them, it's like they are stabbing me in the stomach. They all betrayed us, we cannot trust any of them."

Huda Salih Marky, a member of the Yazidi religious community from Kocha, also in Nineveh, told IRIN how she was captured by IS and forced to work as a domestic servant in Mosul for a militant for several months, before being sold for ransom. "Yazidis will not be safe here in future, they can't stay in Iraq, the best thing is to emigrate to a country where there are no Muslims," she said.

These views may be extreme, but they are not uncommon.

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