Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, February 24, 2006

Experts fear for the situation in Iraq

February 24, 2006

Baghdad – Analysts fear that the recent outbreak of violence in Iraq will spark a civil war. While the country has been close to the brink of such a conflict many times during the past three years, the last 48 hours since the mosque bombing on Wednesday, February 22nd, have been the most threatening; civil war is close to becoming a reality.

According to Reuters:
“The risk that a breakdown in authority leads to full-scale war is greatest in Baghdad and surrounding towns where there are mixed Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish populations.”

“In those areas Sunnis and Shi'ites have already been driven from neighbourhoods or whole towns in a process recalling ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan wars.”

One Iraq expert, Toby Dodge of London’s Queen Mary University, said, “This isn’t shaping up to be just a civil war – it’s worse than that. It’s a war of all against all.”

Click here to read the whole article.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Egypt’s Secular Paradox

February 23, 2006
Odayssat, Egypt – The Washington Post today featured a story exploring the relationship between Egypt’s growing openness and its increasingly tense Muslim-Christian relations.
In it, Post reporter Daniel Williams chronicled a series of sectarian battles between Muslims and Christian Copts, writing, “Repeated instances of violence have brought to light a persistent paradox of Egyptian life: Although officially a secular state, Egypt is in many ways an Islamic entity in which non-Muslims are accommodated but not exactly on an equal footing.”

Most recently, a mob of Muslims in Odayssat invaded a Coptic neighborhood where a church had been operating under the guise of a ‘guest house.’ Under a recently amended Egyptian law, construction of a church requires a governor’s approval – previously, President Mubarak himself had to sign off on any such building requests. Church construction is a primary source of strife between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

While sectarian violence has long plagued Egypt, the new political landscape has changed the way such incidents play out. Williams reported:
“If the tensions are not new, the willingness of the Copts of Odayssat to stand up is. In part, their reaction to the police inspection exemplifies an increasingly common byproduct of Egypt's two-year-long wave of openness and dissent. Such ferment is putting the quarter-century leadership of President Hosni Mubarak to a test at a time when he is also under pressure from the United States to democratize.”
For the full story, click here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

People’s Council Establishes Committees amid Criticism

February 21, 2006
Kabul – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Radio Free Afghanistan reported that the Afghan National Assembly’s People’s Council, or Wolesi Jirga, finished setting up 18 committees Tuesday, while some criticized the process and accused the newly elected government body of playing politics.

According to the report:

“Kabul Province representative Shokria Barakzai said that the selection process for the 18 committees was based on political maneuverings rather than on members' expertise. Hajji Mohammad Mohaqeq, head of the committee on religious, educational and cultural affairs, who also represents Kabul, said that the Afghan parliament suffers from a lack of specialists. He expressed the hope that the Afghanistan's international backers will help in raising the capabilities of the parliamentarians.”

Push to Reform Traditionalist Afghan Courts

February 21, 2006
Kabul – Head of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court and Islamic scholar Fazel Hadi Shinwari says that the country’s courts must be governed by Shari’a or civil war will break out, The Christian Science Monitor reported Tuesday in a piece about the growing call from the West to “reform and professionalize the judicial system.”

Shinwari has banned feminist Sima Samar from holding a cabinet position because she reportedly said she did not believe in Shari’a; he has banned an Afghan TV station for showing “half-naked singers”; he has discouraged co-education; and he has called for the arrest of a journalist who said that sometimes the Koran was open to interpretation.

Western leaders want Afghanistan to bring in judges who are versed in civil law as well as Shari’a, both men and women, but some fear that Shinwari’s prediction that such a move could lead to conflict may be right.

The Monitor reports:
“Instability has long been President Hamid Karzai's chief concern. But when a group of European diplomats brought a démarche, or diplomatic petition, to Mr. Karzai on Feb. 11, demanding reform of the Supreme Court, insiders braced themselves for the worst. European diplomats say the démarche was merely a friendly reminder, and Afghan spokesmen say they intend to abide by promises to professionalize the court - bringing in judges, male and female, who know as much about civil law as they do religious law. But privately, some officials worry that taking on religious conservatives like Shinwari could be severely destabilizing.”
To read the full story, click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vietnam, US resume talks on human rights after three-year break

February 20, 2006

The US Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Barry Lowenkron, told reporters Monday that the US will continue dialogue with Vietnam on human rights issues following the latest bi-lateral talks between the two. These talks have touched on subjects such as jailing practices and religious freedom.

According to Agence France-Presse, Vietnam and the United States resumed meetings in Hanoi on human rights after a three-year break.
AFP reported:

"There is a recognition that changes are under way in Vietnam, with efforts to reform the legal code for example," Lowenkron said. "Certainly, the release of Nguyen Khac Toan was an event that was noted and appreciated in Washington."

"We also had a very good discussion on religious freedom, building on the progress already been made and pointing out some other areas that we want, that we hope the Vietnamese government could address," he said.

Abused Women Fear Leaving Home

February 16, 2006
Cairo –
The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women’s (ADEW) "House of Eve,” a new shelter for domestic abuse victims is disappointed to report that it is not housing any women yet, Reuters and IRIN reported.

According to the report, a majority of the Egyptian women surveyed in a government study said a husband had the right to beat his wife if she talked to him disrespectfully, talked to another man, spent too much money or refused her husband sex. Women are beaten by their husbands over very small disagreements, those surveyed reported. Police often overlook such assaults because of a cultural perception that the man has a right to beat his wife.

The fundamental problem is that most women have nowhere to go in the event that they leave their husbands. They face the economic difficulty of supporting themselves and their children, as well as the social stigma of living without a man. Being the first shelter of its kind in Egypt, it has not been an easy start for the staff. To help speed the transition, ADEW has a staff ready to assist women on finding jobs, counseling, literacy classes and legal service. There are some women who come for those services; a step towards ADEW’s goal that soon women will ignore the taboo element and break free from their abusive homes. Click here for the full story.

Religious Clash Injures Eight

February 21, 2006
Al-Ayat –
Aljazeera.net news reported today that eight people, both Muslims and Copts, were wounded in a clash over construction of a local Christian community center. Police reported that Muslims believed the center was to become a Christian church. No one was seriously injured from the fighting.

Egypt's Copts, who account for around a tenth of the population, need special authorization to build churches, while the construction of mosques is virtually unrestricted. Click here for the full story.