Africa
Somalia

Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game

In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that “government-controlled” Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the “recognized” Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite fo everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Afghanistan
afghanwomen

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)

Africa
ASWJ

Somalia: Sufi militia takes up arms against regime

Fighting in Somalia’s central Galmudug state has killed 120 people and displaced 100,000 in recent days. Two hospitals were shelled, presumably by government forces, in the town of Guri-El, causing aid groups to suspend operations in the area. The conflict pits government forces against the regional militia group Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ)–former allies in the fight against the jihadist al-Shaabab insurgency. A moderate Sufi sect, ASWJ has been fighting the Shaabab since 2008, and forged a pact with the government two years later. But Mogadishu is now denying the group’s bid for a regional power-sharing deal, and demanding that the militia be integrated into the national armed forces. (Photo via Strategic Intelligence)

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)

Iran
Tabandeh

Iran on edge following death of Sufi leader

The death of 92-year-old Noor-Ali Tabandeh, also known as Majzoub Ali Shah, leader of Iran’s Gonabadi Sufi order, prompted the regime to take pre-emptive measures against a new outbreak of protests. Riot police took over all streets leading to the hospital where he was held. Tabandeh was a harsh critic of Velayat-e Faqih (Guardianship of Islamic Jurists), the system by which Iran’s orthodox Shi’ite establishment has final say over all laws. He had been under effective house arrest since February 2018, when a wave of protests by Gonabadi dervishes against persecution of their Order led to hundreds of arrests. Since Tabandeh’s death, his followers on social media have been speculating that he was poisoned by the authorities. His passing comes as Iranian authorities have restricted mobile internet use in response to a new call for mass demonstrations. (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: pilgrims slain in Kandahar attack

In the latest of mounting attacks across Afghanistan, an bomb blast near Kabul University left eight people dead and some 30 wounded. Days earlier, a roadside bomb killed at least 11 pilgrims riding a truck in the southern province of Kandahar, headed for the shrine that houses the tomb of Sufi Shah Agha, a companion and relative of the Prophet Mohammad. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Kandahar authorities blamed the Taliban, which often uses roadside bombs to target security forces in the province. Days before that, at least six people were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide bomber targeted a wedding celebration in Nangarhar province. Paradoxically, the escalating violence comes just after Afghan officials met face-to-face with Taliban leaders as well as US negotiators at the peace talks in Doha, Qatar. (Photo of Shah Agha shrine via Geoview)

South Asia

Pakistan: Taliban target Sufi shrine —again

At least 10 people were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide blast that targeted security forces guarding a famous Sufi shrine in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The attack, which came during the holy month of Ramadan, was apparently aimed at a police vehicle, and five officers are among the dead. The Data Darbar shrine, where Sufi saint Ali Hajveri is buried, was the target of a 2010 suicide attack that killed more than 40 worshipers, and has since been under heavy security. The new attack was claimed by the Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Iran

Iran: Sufi bus driver executed after ‘unfair trial’

Amnesty International issued a statement protesting the execution of Mohammad Salas, a 51-year-old man from Iran’s largest Sufi order, the Gonabadi Dervishes, saying it "was carried out despite serious unfair trial concerns." Salas was arrested outside a police station where thousands of Gonabadi followers had gathered to protest persecution of the dervish community. He was convicted of killing two police officers during the protest—on the basis of a "confession" coerced through torture and threats, and despite the fact that he had already been detained when the killings took place. Witnesses in his defense were barred from testifying. Gonabadi dervishes consider themselves to be Shi'ite Muslims, but are rejected as heretical by Iran's orthodox establishment. (Photo: Amnesty International

South Asia

Pakistan: death penalty in slaying of Sufi singer

Pakistan's army high command approved the death penalty for 10 condemned jihadists who were convicted by a military tribunal of attacks that claimed over 60 lives—including the assassination of Amjad Sabri, one of the country's most revered singers of qawwalii, traditional Sufi devotional music. Sabri was on his way to a televised Ramadan performance in Karachi when his car was attacked by gunmen, and his many followers hailed justice in the case. But in the two years since Sabri's death, attacks on Sufis in Pakistan have continued, with suicide blasts and horrific massacres at shrines and mosques. (Photo via PTI)

North Africa

ICC takes Mali war crimes suspect into custody

The International Criminal Court announced that al-Hassan ag-Abdoul Aziz was surrendered to the court's detention center in the Netherlands by Malian authorities. He is accused of crimes against humanity in Timbuktu  as de facto leader of the "Islamic police" force after the city was taken over by jihadists in 2012. He allegedly took part in the destruction of the mausoleums of Muslim saints. He is also accused  of participating in forced marriages involving Fulani women, which resulted in the reduction of women and girls to sexual slavery. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Greater Middle East

Egypt: Sufis targeted in Sinai mosque massacre

At least 235 were killed and over 100 wounded in a suicide attack as people gathered for Friday prayers at a mosque in Egypt's North Sinai. Women and children are among the dead. The mosque is said to be run by adherents of a local Sufi order, and includes a zawiya—a lodge used by order members for prayer and chanting. Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the massacre, followers of Sufi Islam have faced numerous attacks by ISIS cells operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

North Africa

Reparations for destroyed Timbuktu shrines

The International Criminal Court found that a former Malian jihadist militant is liable for 2.7 million euros in reparations for overseeing the destruction of Muslim shrines in Timbuktu. In its order, the ICC stressed the importance of cultural heritage, calling the destruction of the shrines “an irreplaceable loss that negates humanity.”