South Asia
Mushtaq Ahmed

Bangladesh: protests erupt as writer dies in prison

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh’s controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
Chagos Islands

UN tribunal rejects UK rule of Chagos Islands

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled that the United Kingdom does not hold sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, allowing a maritime border dispute between Mauritius and Maldives to be adjudicated. The ruling follows an objection from the Maldives, which claimed the tribunal could not decide the matter due to the existing dispute between Mauritius and the UK. The decision confirms the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that the UK had unlawfully detached the archipelago from Mauritius when it incorporated the islands into the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965, during the decolonization of Mauritius. The UK has rejected calls for returning the islands to Mauritius, considering them strategic to its security interests. The Chagos Archipelago hosts a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia. (Photo: WILPF)

South Asia
ahmadiyya

Pakistan: crackdown on internet ‘blasphemy’

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for “disseminating sacrilegious content” through their platforms. The notices¬†accused the these sites of hosting “misleading” content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the “present khalifa of Islam.” Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an “unauthentic” version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms “to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action” under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. (Image:¬†Ahmadi Answers)

South Asia
kashmir

India extends internet restrictions in Kashmir

The government in the Indian union territory of Jammu & Kashmir issued an order extending the suspension of high-speed 4G internet services. The government said it received credible reports of terrorists attempting to infiltrate from across the Line of Control that separates the territory from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. The order ostensibly seeks to deter recruitment of youth into terrorist groups, and the circulation of provocative videos and “fake news” on social media. The restrictions are held to constitute the longest such outage ever imposed¬†by a “democratic” government. The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) called the outage a form of “collective punishment” against Kashmiris and accused New Delhi of “digital apartheid.” (Photo: Daniel Bachhuber/Flickr via Oxford Human Rights Hub)

South Asia
hazara

Pakistan: Hazara massacre sparks hunger strike

Members of Pakistan’s Hazara people have launched a sit-in and public hunger strike after a massacre targeted the Shi’ite minority at a coal-field in a remote area of Balochistan province. Hundreds have been blocking a major thoroughfare through the provincial capital, Quetta. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was sent in to meet with a delegation of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, the organization leading the sit-in, but his offer of compensation to victims’ families was rebuffed. In the attack, armed men rounded up miners from worker housing at the coal-field. Those determined to be Hazara, 11 in all, were marched into the hills and summarily shot. Many had their throats slit or were otherwise mutilated. The local franchise of the “Islamic State” claimed responsibility for the massacre. Families of the victims are refusing to bury their loved ones, but have brought the bodies to the site of the sit-in, demanding the Balochistan government either arrest the killers or resign. (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
Karima Baloch

Pakistani rights activist found slain in Toronto

Pakistani human rights activist Karima Baloch, 37, was found dead in Toronto, Canada. Baloch went missing the previous day. The Toronto Police stated that “officers have determined this to be a non-criminal death and no foul play is suspected.”¬†But Baloch, from Pakistan’s restive Balochistan region, fled her country¬†in 2015 because of threats on her life. As a campaigner with the Baloch Students’ Organization, she harshly¬†criticized the Pakistani military and state over ongoing rights abuses in the region. She continued to campaign for the rights of people in Balochistan while in exile, and the threats against her did not stop after she left Pakistan. Baloch’s close friend, Lateef Johar Baloch, told reporters that she had recently received anonymous threats. (Photo via TimesNowNews, India)

South Asia
Chalo Delhi

Farmers march on Delhi amid general strike

Thousands of farmers from across India’s north marched on Delhi despite efforts by police to block them with road barricades, tear-gas and baton charges. The cross-country march, which converged from Punjab and Haryana states, entered the capital one day after several Indian states were shut down by a general strike in support of the farmers’ demands. This was called by a newly formed Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions bringing together 10 of the country’s major organized labor federations. Leaders claimed 25 crore (250 million) workers participated in the strike. The “Chalo Delhi” (Go to Delhi) mobilization was called to protest a package of agricultural reform laws passed in September that lifts requirements for government purchases of grain at guaranteed prices. (Photo via @FightAnand)

South Asia
rohingya camp

Bangladesh rings Rohingya camps with barbed wire

Authorities in Bangladesh are surrounding the Rohingya refugee camps with barbed-wire fencing and watchtowers, turning them into what refugees and rights groups liken to a “prison.” Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights says construction on some 28 kilometers of fencing is nearly complete around¬†the camps, which are home to some 900,000 Rohingya pushed out of Burma. Humanitarian workers fear the fencing could hamper aid delivery and block access to medical clinics. Bangladeshi officials say the fencing is a response to growing concerns about crime and gang violence; humanitarian groups say any security measures must be proportionate. “The civilian and humanitarian character of the camps must be maintained,” the UN Refugee Agency¬†warned. (Photo: Dhaka Tribune)

South Asia
Kashmir

Himalayan border conflicts escalate

China has mobilized thousands of troops backed up by armored vehicles to a contested area along the border with India in the Himalayas, where troops last month hurled stones at each other across the unmarked boundary known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The area in question is in the Galwan River valley between Ladakh, in Indian-administered Kashmir, and Chinese-administered Aksai Chin. Top generals from both sides held talks in Moldo, on the Chinese side, but tensions remain high. India charges that Chinese forces are hindering patrols by its troops along the LAC in Ladakh and Sikkim, and refutes Beijing’s claim that Indian forces have crossed to the Chinese side. (Map via Wikipedia)

South Asia
Amphan

‘Super Cyclone’ Amphan deepens COVID-19 crisis

Tropical Cyclone Amphan unexpectedly intensified into a rare “Super Cyclonic Storm”‚ÄĒbecoming the northern hemisphere’s strongest tropical cyclone yet in 2020. Amphan left a trail of destruction along coastal areas both in India and Bangladesh, impacting tens of millions of people. At least 77 deaths in India and 25 in Bangladesh have been reported so far. Over three million people in both countries remain displaced from their homes, taking refuge in community shelters‚ÄĒobviously placing them at risk of contracting COVID-19. In India’s West Bengal state, thousands of people evacuated from their homes are crammed inside buildings that were being used as COVID-19 quarantine centers, because there is no other shelter available. (Photo via Wikipedia)

South Asia
Gujarat

India: paramilitaries deployed as clashes escalate

Unemployed migrant workers left stranded by the COVID-19 lockdown have repeatedly clashed with police in India’s industrial hub of Gujarat state, and the situation is fast escalating. Protesters demanding transport back to their homes were again attacked by police at a market on the outskirts of Surat; tear-gas canisters were met with pelted stones. Riots yet again erupted four days later in Ahmedabad, as security forces attacked residents defying stringent lockdown orders. At the request of state authorities, Delhi has dispatched to Gujarat seven companies of 100 troops each from the paramilitary Border Security Force¬†and Central Industrial Security Force. (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
bangabandhu

Bangladesh arrests fugitive in assassination of founder

Bangladeshi counter-terrorism authorities announced the arrest in Dhaka of Abdul Majed, who faces the death penalty for involvement in the 1975 assassination of the country’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Independence leader Rahman served as the country’s first prime minister from 1971 until the 1975 coup in which he was killed along with his family. Majed has publicly admitted his involvement in the massacre, but, like the others involved, faced no legal consequences during the 15-year period of military rule following the coup. In 1998, he was tried in absentia and sentenced to death. (Photo:¬†Bangabandhu Commission)