HRW: Afghanistan Hazara community at risk

Inadequate protections by the de facto Taliban authorities in Afghanistan continue to leave the Shi’ite Hazara community at risk of being targeted in atrocities that may amount to war crimes, according a report by Human Rights Watch. The report emphasizes the threat from the self-declared Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), which continues to carry out attacks targeting Hazara mosques, schools and neighborhoods. In the most recent such attack, a presumed ISKP militant opened fire on worshippers at a Hazara mosque at Guzara, in western Herat province, killing six, including a child. (Photo: Hazara of Daykundi province in 2011. Credit: Karla K. Marshall/USACE via Wikimedia Commons)


Syrian refugees face illegal ‘push-backs’

The Cyprus spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency, Emilia Strovolidou, has urged the country to stop forcibly pushing away Syrian refugee boats arriving from Lebanon, a practice that violates international human rights law and the principle of non-refoulement. Strovolidou accused Cyprus authorities of using “violent” tactics to “destabilize” boats in order to thwart refugees from arriving on the island’s shores. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says Lebanese authorities have “arbitrarily detained, tortured, and forcibly returned Syrians to Syria in recent months.” (Photo: Syrian refugees arriving in Lesvos, Greece. Greek authorities have also been accused of push-backs. Via Wikimedia Commons)


Germany: ISIS suspect arrested for war crimes

The German Federal Criminal Police arrested a suspect identified as Sohail A, said to be a former member of the Syrian insurgent group Liwa Jund al-Rahman and the Islamic State. Both are designated “terrorist organizations” by the German government, making membership an offense under the Criminal Code. Sohail A is also accused of participating in war crimes including forced displacement. Liwa Jund al-Rahman, or Brigade of the Soldiers of the Merciful God, carried out a 2013 “cleansing operation” in Deir ez-Zor province, in which Shi’ite residents were forcibly expelled. According to the German Prosecutor General, Sohail A glorified the operation on social media platforms as part of the group’s propaganda department. (Photo via Syria Call)


Iran: insurgents strike in Baluchistan region

The insurgent Sunni Baluch group Jaish al-Adl carried out simultaneous attacks on bases of the security forces in Iran’s southeastern Sistan & Baluchestan province, leaving five troops dead. The attacks targeted a Border Guard post in Chabahar, and a Revolutionary Guards base in Rask. Troops gave pursuit, and skirmishes in the areas continue, with several more reported dead on both sides. Jaish al-Adl, or Army of Justice, is largely made up of followers of the banned militant organization Jundullah (Soldiers of God), and claims to “defend the rights of the Sunni Baluch people.” (Map: PCL)

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso: drone strikes on civilian targets

Human Rights Watch released a report bringing attention to three military drone strikes conducted by Burkina Faso’s government, supposedly targeting Islamist fighters. The strikes took place between August and November 2023 and resulted in significant civilian casualties at crowded markets and a funeral, according to the report. A minimum of 60 civilians are found to have lost their lives, with numerous others injured. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)


Afghanistan: UN report details Taliban abuses

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report holding the ruling Taliban regime responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and inhumane punishments in the first 10 months since they seized power. In total, UNAMA found that Taliban forces engaged in 239 extrajudicial killings, 313 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 46 cases of incommunicado detention, and 73 instances of torture. Most of the incidents targeted former soldiers and officials from the previous government, ISIS members, or National Resistance Front fighters. UNAMA also identified an additional 217 instances of degrading punishments and 118 uses of excessive force against civilians. Finally, Taliban forces also engaged in at least 163 rights violations targeting journalists and 64 targeting human rights defenders. (Photo: VOA via Jurist)

Central African Republic

ICC takes CAR war crimes suspect into custody

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that former militia leader Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, who is suspected to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic, was surrendered by the Republic of Chad. A warrant for Mokom’s arrest was issued in December 2018, when the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II determined that Mokom was the “National Coordinator of Operations” for the Anti-Balaka militia. In this capacity, he is believed to have committed murder, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution and other crimes against humanity. He also allegedly committed war crimes by targeting Muslim civilians. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Greater Middle East

Yemen: Biden warned against Houthi ‘terrorist’ tag

President Joe Biden is said to be considering re-designating Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization following the group’s missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates, which leads the anti-Houthi military coalition with Saudi Arabia. Aid groups—part of a successful lobbying campaign that saw Biden remove the label shortly after he took office last January—warn that a redesignation would have “catastrophic consequences for Yemeni civilians.” Not only would it hit the economy hard, making it even more difficult to import food, fuel, and medicine, but it would also decrease the flow of much-needed aid to Houthi-controlled territory. Violence is meanwhile escalating, and not just around the battlefields of the contested province and city of Marib. Between early October and early February, 1,535 civilians were reportedly killed or injured, more than double the figure for the previous four months. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Marib by Mohamed Ghazi/TNH)

South Asia

India: hijab at issue in Karnataka unrest

Protests for and against the right of young women to wear the hijab in classrooms have swept across the Indian state of Karnataka, with incidents of stone-pelting and “lathicharge” (police baton-charge). The dispute began when hijab-wearing Muslim students were denied entry at colleges, or segregated from the main student body. Muslim students challenged this before the Karnataka High Court, which denied injunctive relief while the matter is pending. The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Basavaraj S. Bommai of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), meanwhile ordered the closure of all schools and colleges. The National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) condemned the exclusion of the Muslim students, saying: “It is deplorable that instead of upholding constitutional values and fundamental rights, the administration of these institutions have become willing participants in an agenda set by Brahminical forces.” (Image: Counterview)


Afghanistan: Taliban repress women’s protest

Taliban fighters—now acting as the security forces of the self-declared “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”—used tear-gas to break up a protest by women in Kabul, called under the banner of “Rights and Freedom Now.” The small demonstration in the vicinity of Kabul University especially called attention to two incidents in recent days—the detention of three women activists at a protest in the northern city of Balkh, in Mazar province, who have yet to be released; and the slaying of two young women of the Hazara ethnic minority by Taliban gunmen at a checkpoint in Kabul. In the continuing protests since the Taliban seizure of power, women have been in the vanguard. (Photo: TOLO News)

South Asia
jesus in india

War on Christmas (yes, really) in Modi strongholds

Hindu militant groups disrupted Christmas celebrations and vandalized decorations in parts of India this season. The most serious incident was in Silchar, Assam state, where apparent followers of the Bajrang Dal “manhandled” Hindu youth who attempted to join observances at a Presbyterian Church on Christmas Day. Bajrang Dal is the youth arm of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing organization allied with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The VHP has been named as one of the groups involved in the 2002 Gujarat genocide. So it turns out that in one country on Earth where there really is a “War on Christmas,” it is being waged by followers of Donald Trump’s good friend and ally Narendra Modi. Life’s little ironies. (Photo via Article 14)

Iraq mass grave

UN team delivers report on ISIS atrocities in Iraq

The United Nations team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq delivered its report to the Security Council, accusing Islamic State (ISIS) actors of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant (UNITAD), uncovered evidence of massacres including the deaths of at least 1,000 Shi’ite prisoners at a prison in Mosul in June 2014. The executions had been planned in detail by senior ISIS members. The team also carried out an analysis of battlefield evidence that showed ISIS developed and deployed chemical weapons as part of a long-term strategic plan. The team identified more than 3,000 victims of ISIS chemical attacks to date. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)