struggle within Islam
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term Oct. 20 amid an official ban on protests, and Jakarta's streets flooded with 30,000 police and military troops. The inauguration was preceded by a wave of mass protests in September, mostly led by students. The demonstrations were sparked by a new law that weakens Indonesia's anti-corruption agency, and another that instates such moralistic measures as a ban on extramarital sex—the latter a play to cultural conservatives who accuse Widodo of being insufficiently Muslim. But protesters' anger was also directed at plans for a tough new criminal code, at troops mobilized to put down the unrest in Papua region, and at the failure to stem forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo that are causing toxic haze across Southeast Asia.
Saba Kord Afshari, a 21-year-old rights activist and an opponent of Iran's mandatory hijab law, has been sentenced to 24 years in prison, according to her lawyer, who was informed of the verdict by Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court on Aug. 27, a full 20 days after her trial. She received 15 years for "spreading corruption and prostitution" (appearing in public without hijab), seven years and five months for "conspiracy to act against national security," and one year and five months for "propaganda against the state."
Three women in Iran have been given prison sentences of at least 16 years, for offenses such as not wearing hijab and handing out flowers on a Tehran subway train on International Women's Day. Civil rights activists Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz were condemned July 31 by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Each was given 10 years for "encouraging and promoting corruption by de-veiling," five years for "collusion and assembly to act against national security," and one year for "propaganda against the state." Keshavarz was given an additional seven years and six months for "blasphemy." The attorney for Aryani and Arabshahi, Amir Reissian, said lawyers were not allowed to attend the trials, which were scheduled without any notice. The Revolutionary Court said no access by attorneys would be granted until an appeal is scheduled. Reissian said that, if the verdict is upheld, his clients will serve at least 10 years behind bars.
As Sri Lanka marks the 10-year anniversary of the end of its long internal war this week, human rights groups are demanding accountability in the mass atrocities that marked the final stages of the conflict, in which many thousands were displaced or "disappeared." The International Committee of the Red Cross says 16,000 people are still missing. (The New Humanitarian, Amnesty International) Ominously, the commemoration comes amid a new wave of communal violence following last month's terror attacks that targeted Christians on Easter Sunday. In days of anti-Muslim riots that started May 12, mobs moved through towns in the northwest, ransacking mosques and attacking shops with petrol bombs. The riots came amid the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Buddhist militant group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which has been repeatedly linked to such pogroms since its founding in 2012, is named as having instigated much of the violence. (Sri Lanka Campaign, Al Jazeera)
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 May 8. 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 Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. (RFE/RL, Pakistan Today) Hizbul Ahrar appears to itself be an offshoot of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction, which has particularly targeted Sufis. (TRT World)
After claiming responsibility for the Easter Sunday bomb attacks in Sri Lanka that killed over 320 people, ISIS has released a photo and video of the supposed mastermind of the attack and other of the alleged suicide bombers. The video and the photo released through the terrorist network's Amaq News Agency purport to show the Sri Lankan militants pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his presence. (Colombo Page) Sri Lankan authorities had named a little-known militant group called National Thowheeth Jama'ath as behind the attacks—a name roughly translated as "group in the name of the oneness of God." Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that his security services had been tipped off that the group was planning attacks, admitting that the "information was there." (Al Jazeera, Gulf News, Time)
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) announced March 5 that human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh had been convicted in absentia by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Iran's Revolutionary Court, described as a "hardline" jurist. She refused to appear in court because she was denied the right to choose her own lawyer. Sotoudeh had been charged with crimes including "collusion against national security," "propaganda against the state," "encouraging corruption and prostitution," "appearing before the judiciary without Islamic hijab," "disturbing public peace and order," and "publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion." Prosecution cited her membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center, the Legam group against capital punishment, and the anti-militarist National Peace Council.
Direct talks between US officials and the Taliban are advancing in Qatar, aimed at ending the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar for the first time met the US special representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, on March 4. (Al Jazeera) In a parallel process being brokered by Russia, Taliban representatives and Afghan politicians opposed to President Ashraf Ghani met in Moscow last month. The Taliban refuse to recognize Ghani's government, calling it a "puppet" of the US. (Al Jazeera) But advocates for Afghan women view both these sets of talks with increasing skepticism, voicing their concern that hard-won rights could be bargained away.