As China, Eritrea, Iran and more extend repression beyond their own borders, we must do better

In November last year, Ken McCallum, the Director General of the UK’s Security Service known as MI5, claimed that his agency had identified “at least ten” potential threats to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime. He added that the Iranian intelligence services “are prepared to take reckless action” against opponents in the West, including by luring individuals to Iran.

Coming at a time of intense civil unrest in Iran following the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for incorrectly wearing her hijab, McCallum’s comments highlighted a concerning issue that applies to several of the countries CSW works on: repressive regimes are becoming increasingly unafraid to reach beyond their borders.

China

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples is China, a global superpower which regularly uses its economic and geopolitical influence to shape decisions in international fora such as the Human Rights Council, and routinely metes out sanctions against Western parliamentarians and others who openly condemn the widespread violations taking place in the country.

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Another terrorist attack reminds us of the Taliban’s failure to protect Afghan citizens

This piece was originally published on 14 October 2022 in Sight Magazine.

This time last year saw two shocking attacks on Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim community. First, on 8 October 2021, a suicide bomber affiliated with the Islamic State – Khorasan Province targeted a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz with an attack timed to coincide with Friday prayers which claimed at least 50 lives and injured 100 others. Some estimates placed the death toll as high as 100.

Then, exactly one week later, terrorists bombed another Shia mosque, again timed to coincide with Friday prayers, in the southern city of Kandahar. Estimates of those killed range between 47 and 65, while at least 80 others were said to have been injured.

CSW wrote at the time that the attacks “raised questions about the Taliban’s ability to offer security to citizens of Afghanistan, which they had presented as a key benefit of their rule.” And then, last month, with the anniversaries of both attacks on the horizon, the Shia community was targeted once again.

Continue reading Another terrorist attack reminds us of the Taliban’s failure to protect Afghan citizens

A helicopter’s alleged involvement in Kaduna terrorist attacks could mean one of two things

5 June brought with it familiar agony for four villages in southern Kaduna state, Nigeria. According to local reports, attackers of Fulani ethnicity are said to have descended on the villages of Dogon Noma, Maikori, Ungwan Gamu and Ungwan Sarki at around noon, with violence continuing for approximately six hours.

In consistency with previous reports of militia attacks in the region, the assailants were reportedly grouped three to a motorcycle, with one man to drive, and two others to shoot to the right and left respectively.

At least 32 people were killed across the four villages, while an unknown number remain missing following the latest attack to specifically target the Adara people, who have suffered violence at the hands of Fulani assailants for several years now.

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Her name was Deborah Emmanuel – blasphemy accusations claim another life in Nigeria

Her name was Deborah Emmanuel – a second-year Christian student of Home Economics at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto state, Nigeria. She should have been safe from harassment and violence at an academic institution. But she wasn’t.

On 12 May Ms Emmanuel was brutally beaten and stoned to death by a predominantly male mob who proceeded to immolate her in a pile of tyres whilst chanting “Allahu Akbar”. She was buried just two days later.

Deborah Emmanuel is buried on 14 May

Ms Emmanuel was killed after she was falsely accused of blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed in a WhatsApp group chat in which she reportedly expressed exasperation at members posting religious articles and asked them to focus on issues relevant to course work, as it was a departmental group.

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Remembering the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief

There have been numerous case examples of acts of violence based on religion or belief from every corner of the world – but one that repeatedly stands out for me is the incident that occurred back in 2008, in Kandhamal district, Odisha, India.

Kandhamal is home to some of the poorest and most marginalized communities in Odisha. On 25 August 2008, it was the epicentre of widespread communal violence targeting the Christian community. Local monitoring groups estimate that over 90 people were killed with at least 54,000 displaced, over 300 churches destroyed, and unknown numbers of women brutally sexually assaulted by groups belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that espouse Hindutva ideology. More than a decade on, and most of the victims are yet to receive justice. In addition, attacks on religious minorities and on freedom of expression continue, and a lack of official condemnation towards acts of intimidation and violence has further empowered these groups. 

International Day Commemorating Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief

In 2019, in an effort to recognise, respond to and prevent such acts from occurring, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), designated 22 August as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.

The resolution establishing the international day does not highlight any specific religion or belief group, but refers to all victims, regardless of creed. It strongly deplores all acts of violence against persons on the basis of their religion or belief specifically, and “any such acts directed against their homes, businesses, properties, schools, cultural centres or places of worship, as well as all attacks on and in religious places, sites and shrines that are in violation of international law”.

Remarkably, the resolution received broad support and recognition from UN Member States across the world. It was tabled by Poland alongside Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan and the USA, and subsequently cosponsored by over 80 states, including the UK. However, with global recognition comes global responsibility; both the responsibility to commemorate victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, and the responsibility to protect and promote the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all.

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