Central Asia

Tibetan language rights activist goes on trial

Relatives of Tashi Wangchuk waiting outside Yushu Intermediate People's Court in China's Qinghai Province. The trial of the educational rights activist ended with no verdict, and Tashi remains behind bars. He faces charges of "inciting separatism" for speaking to the New York Times about his work to advocate for Tibetan-language education, as guaranteed by China's constitution. Tashi told the Times that the lack of general instruction in the Tibetan language is "destroying our ethnicity's culture." The charge against him, dismissed as "ludicrously unjust" by Amnesty International, carries a 10-year sentence. (Photo: NYT via Phayul)


by Ruchi Kumar, IRIN

In a cafe in Kabul, Mohammad Elham’s eyes dart back and forth between a steaming cup of tea and the front entrance: the months since his return to Afghanistan have been spent in a state of constant fear.

Elham left Afghanistan on a cold night in 2010, he says, after the Taliban killed his wife and two children. Last year, he returned to the country he fled — this time, in handcuffs, one of a surging number of Afghan deportees ousted from Europe.

"It was hurtful and humiliating," Elham said of his journey from Germany, where his asylum application was rejected, to Afghanistan, where he says his presence may again jeopardize his family's safety. The 36-year-old says he fears for his life because of his previous work with Afghanistan's intelligence agency.

As European countries tighten borders and asylum policies, the number of Afghan asylum seekers pushed out of Europe has soared. But returnees like Elham are being forced back to a volatile country, where conflict has uprooted more than one million people over the last two years and civilian casualties are at near-record levels.