Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, April 21, 2006

Vietnam News Update

Vietnamese Journalists Harassed While En Route to Attend Freedom of Expression Seminar in Philippines

April 20, 2006

Two journalists were arrested on the Monday morning after Vietnamese authorities claimed that they had violated departure laws, an eyewitness told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who saw the arrest by plainclothes officials.

Duong Phu Cuong, a veteran journalist with the Vietnamese-language Tuoi Tre daily, and Nguyen Huy Cuong, a freelance journalist, were scheduled to depart for a freedom of expression seminar in the Philippines when they were apprehended. They were later released and it is unclear if they will be charged.

According to CPJ:

“We call on Vietnamese authorities to stop harassing journalists such as Duong Phu Cuong and Nguyen Huy Cuong said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. The Vietnamese government should strive to uphold rather than undermine the press freedom rights detailed in Article 69 of the constitution.”

Click here to read the article.

Rare Flora and Fauna Discovered in Central Highlands

April 18, 2006

Scientists have found rare animals and plants in the Chu Yang Sin National Park in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.

According to VietNamNet:

“The International Birdlife Programme in Vietnam, in collaboration with the Global Environment Fund and the World Bank on April 17 announced their discoveries at the Chu Yang Sin National Park.”

“There they have found two kinds of pine, black-shanked Duoc langurs, red-face monkeys, long-tail monkeys, a community of Bos Gaurus cattle, and a mole which is believed to be a new species. The plants and animals have been confirmed as rare and must be preserved.”

“The national park is the home for many species of rare plants and animals, and some especially valuable herbs. With an area of over 58,900ha, Chu Yang Sin ranks fifth of 102 forests for ‘special purposes’ in Vietnam and it is also considered an ecological areas of international significance for its biodiversity.”

Click here to read the article.

Foot-mouth disease infects pigs in Vietnam's Central Highlands

April 17, 2006

Over 1000 pigs in the Central Highlands have been infected of an outbreak of foot-mouth disease, officials said Monday. The outbreak was first detected in Duc Trong district of Lam Dong province in the country's Central Highlands where 400 pigs already have died in the past week.

According to Canadian Press:

“Transporting and selling pigs from the infected district has been banned. Checkpoints have been set up along the major roads, [head of provincial animal health department Pham Van] Chau said.”

“‘We have to ensure minimum chance for the disease to spread,’ he said, adding infected pigs that died were burned.”

However, local media outlets have reported that motorbikes carrying caged pigs have been seen coming and going daily from the provincial capital of Dalat.
“Foot-mouth disease, which also affects sheep, cows and goats, is a highly contagious viral illness that can spread through minimal contact with infected animals, farm equipment or meat. The disease can be fatal in animals but does not harm humans.”

Click here to read the article.
Kurds’ Struggles Span Generations

For many decades the Kurdish people have suffered from assimilation and genocide campaigns. Kurdishmedia.org chronicled the long history of persecution of the Kurds in a recent piece, “The Kurdish resistance to Southern Kurdistan annexing with Iraq.”

According to Kurdishmedia.org:

“Kurds learned the lesson of betrayal and, to this day, remain doubtful of the intentions of the West on the Kurdish issue. Now, as Iraq goes through a transitional stage in its history, and its government is overshadowed by the insurgents, the Kurdistan Regional Government is perhaps the only functional government in Iraq. Almost a hundred years since the start of the British Mandate, Kurds find themselves with yet another opportunity to break away from Iraq to form an independent nation. History has repeated itself. What should not be repeated, however, is a betrayal of the Kurds by US-British forces in the 21st century.”

The British occupied the Basra and Baghdad provinces during World War I and encouraged the Kurds to rise up against the Ottoman Empire. Colonel Sir Arnold Wilson, the British Civil Commissioner in Iraq, declared that Britain's intention was the formation of a Kurdish independent state in Southern Kurdistan under the tutelage of the British. This statement was proven false when the Kurds in this region declared their independence, however.

An army of 1,500 Kurds then revolted in a fierce battle with British forces in the Baziyan region, near Sulaimaniya. "Shari Darbandi Baziyan" is a national pride in the Kurdish history. Kurdish forces were defeated by the superior numbers and technology of the British force, and 'The great Sheikh was injured and arrested; he was then exiled to India.' This treatment of a religious leader was seen as a great insult to the Muslim Kurds, and left a deep mistrust between Kurds and Britain for generations to come.

Even today this memory of betrayal remains and the Kurdish people continue to be doubtful of the intentions of the West on the Kurdish issue.

To read more about the Kurds and their struggles click here.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Secretary Rice and Turkey—Tactical and Strategic Errors

Please note: The following piece has been reprinted with permission from the American Hellenic Institute.

Washington, DC — The following Op-Ed by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the April 8, 2006 issue of The National Herald, page 15 and the April 12, 2006 issue of The Hellenic Voice, page 5.

Secretary Rice and Turkey—Tactical and Strategic Errors

By Gene Rossides

Secretary Condoleezza Rice visited British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s hometown of Blackburn, in England’s industrial northwest on March 31, 2006 in return for Straw’s visit in October 2005 to Birmingham, Alabama, Rice’s hometown.

Following her remarks in Blackburn and in response to a question:

“Ms. Rice acknowledged that the Bush administration had made ‘tactical errors, a thousand of them, I am sure’ in Iraq and perhaps elsewhere. She was speaking figuratively, her spokesman said later.

Ms. Rice asserted that whatever tactical failures there may have been, the strategic decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power had been right. ‘Saddam Hussein was not going anywhere without a military intervention, she said.’” (New York Times, 3-31-06; A7; col.1.)

She also said that history would be the final judge; that there would be many PhD dissertations on the Bush administration’s strategic and tactical decisions regarding Iraq; that when she returns to Stanford she would probably be reviewing some of those dissertations.

I submit that Ms. Rice, first as National Security Advisor to President Bush from January 20, 2001 and then as Secretary of State from January 26, 2005 to the present time, has made not only tactical errors regarding U.S. relations with Turkey but also fundamental strategic errors regarding Turkey to the detriment of U.S. interests.

U.S.-Turkey policy obviously predates the present Bush administration and goes back to the Truman Doctrine of 1947. However, U.S.-Turkey relations for the Bush administration started on January 20, 2001. The normal situation for a new administration, particularly one that ousted the other political party from the White House, is to review each program in domestic and foreign affairs to determine what changes, if any, to make.

Bush’s defeat of Gore in November 2000 would have, as a matter of course, resulted in a review of the Clinton administration’s foreign policy regarding U.S. relations with Turkey. This was done and, unfortunately, no substantive changes were made.

Indeed, neoconservatives, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and then chairman of the Defense Advisory Board Richard Perle, all spoke of Turkey’s alleged importance to the U.S. with glowing comments about its strategic importance, its reliability as an ally and its value as a bridge between the West and the East with the approval of National Security Advisor Rice and then Secretary of State Colin Powell. Their comments and speeches were overblown and Wolfowitz’s included blatant falsehoods and misleading statements regarding Turkey which the American Hellenic Institute documented in a letter to President Bush on September 4, 2002.

The Bush administration’s continuation of Clinton’s overall policy towards Turkey was a “strategic error” and its other actions towards Turkey since January 20, 2001 encompass “strategic” and “tactical errors,” all to the serious detriment of U.S. interests.

The Clinton policy which Bush adopted was that Turkey was of significant strategic importance to the U.S., that Turkey was a reliable ally and that Turkey, a 99% Muslim state, was a bridge between the East and the West. All three propositions are strategic errors and should have been challenged by the Bush administration.

Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The U.S. and its allies working through the UN and with UN authorization removed Iraqi military forces from Kuwait by military force. The Persian Gulf War started on January 16, 1991 and ended on February 27, 1991. Turkey was basically not involved. It proved that Turkey was of minimal strategic value to the U.S. in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

The second war against Iraq in 2003, in which Turkey refused to allow the use of a base in Turkey for U.S. troops to open a northern front against Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, demonstrated Turkey’s unreliability as an ally when it counted most. It also demonstrated Turkey’s minimal value as a strategic ally in the region because the U.S. defeated Saddam Hussein without Turkey’s help.

But Turkey’s unreliability as an ally is not new! During the Cold War, Turkey actively aided the Soviet military on several occasions to the serious detriment of U.S. interests.

Further, the Iraq war of 2003 exposed Turkey as an “extortionist” state when Prime Minister Erdogan tried to get $6 billion more over the $26 billion shockingly offered to let the U.S. use bases in Turkey. A senior U.S. official called Turkey’s negotiating tactics as “extortion in the name of alliance.” (Lead article New York Times, Feb. 20, 2003; A1; col.6)

The idea that Turkey, a 99% Muslim country can be a bridge between the West and East is nonsense and borders on the ridiculous. The U.S. and the West do not need Turkey as an intermediary with other Muslim nations in the Middle East or other parts of Asia. And Turkey, the former harsh colonial master of the Arabs and oppressor of its 20% Kurdish minority and human rights violator, is hardly welcome by Arab nations as an intermediary or as a model for the Arabs.

In 1990 at the end of the Cold War, Turkey, in order to justify U.S. military and economic aid, floated the idea that she was even more important to the U.S. because Turkey could be a bridge to the countries of Central Asia. That idea was a complete failure but it got Turkey U.S. military and economic aid for several more years.

U.S. policy towards Turkey also involves the overriding issue of Turkey’s illegal invasion of Cyprus in July and August 1974 when it grabbed over a third of northern Cyprus.

The European Commission on Human Rights issued a report on July 10, 1976 on the charges made in two applications by the Cyprus government. On January 23, 1977 the London Sunday Times published excerpts of the report (page 1, col. 1) and stated:

“It amounts to a massive indictment of the Ankara government for the murder, rape and looting by its army in Cyprus during and after the Turkish invasion of summer 1974.”

Clinton did not press Turkey to remove its illegal armed forces from Cyprus. Instead he allowed Turkey to use that issue in negotiations for a settlement which in effect supported Turkey’s aggression.

There is no legal distinction between Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and Turkey’s invasion and occupation of over a third of Cyprus by Turkey in July-August 1974.

The Bush administration’s decision to continue the Clinton policy towards Turkey regarding Cyprus, instead of calling for the immediate withdrawal of Turkey’s 40,000 armed forces and its 120,000 illegal settler/colonists, was a strategic and tactical error.

Additional tactical errors by the U.S. regarding Turkey include supporting the following Turkish positions in the UN Annan Plan: the undemocratic provisions giving the 18% Turkish Cypriot minority veto rights over all major legislative and executive actions, forcing the Greek Cypriots to pay for their losses caused by the Turkish army, absolving Turkey of responsibility for its invasion, preventing the 170,000 Greek Cypriots refugees forcibly cleansed from the north from returning to their homes and properties, and preventing proper resort to the courts by Greek Cypriots.

The tactical error by the Bush administration in failing to support normal democratic provisions in the Annan Plan is most damaging to Bush’s democracy initiative in the Middle East and worldwide.

Several articles in 2005 and 2006 by leading journalists have documented Turkey’s virulent anti-American and anti-Semitic views and attitudes.

Call and write to Secretary Rice and urge her to critically review U.S.-Turkey relations and correct the strategic and tactical errors made and to change U.S. policy of a double standard on the rule of law for Turkey and appeasement of Turkey. Tell her that Turkey is an unreliable ally, that Turkey is of minimal strategic value to the U.S., that Turkey is a virulent anti-American and anti-Semitic state, that Turkey is not a bridge for the U.S. to Muslim countries and that Turkey should remove its armed forces and colonists/settlers from Cyprus now. Contact Secretary Rice as follows and also President Bush:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
The State Department
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Phone: 202-647-4000 (Main Switchboard)
Fax: 202-647-2283

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Tel. 202-456-1111 (Comments)
202-456-1414 (Main Switchboard)
Fax: 202-456-2461
E-mail: comments@whitehouse.gov


For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or at georgia@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Widows Learn to Prevent Bird Flu and Keep Chickens
April 16, 2006
Kabul –

The women of Kabul raise around 12.1 percent of Afghanistan’s chickens. For many illiterate widows who have lost their husbands in war, chickens are their only source of income. However, a severe threat to their livelihood came six months ago – bird flu.

The government was pushing to destroy flocks and women were frightened they would not be able to feed their children, reports the Washington Post. According to a recent Post article, “I am too old to do hard work, and my eyes are too weak to embroider,” said Abida, a 50 year old women who lost seven male relatives, including her husband, “I would rather die than kill my chickens.”

In response to the dilemma, a few nonprofit groups forward and taught the women how to properly take care of themselves and their chickens. They were given sanitary instructions on how to avoid the flu.

Serge Verniau, Afghanistan director for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said that with the help of CARE and other organizations teaching women the importance of bird sanitation, success has been made because “the women themselves have taken action.” The FAO official has reported the avian flu is now contained in Afghanistan. There has been no report on human infection. Click here for the full story.

The Afghan Court
April 12, 2006
Kabul –

In Afghanistan it is not uncommon to witness a judge taking a smoking break or talking on his cell phone during a trial. It is also common to have an illiterate judge, or at least one who is barely literate. Some think it is because judges earn just $60 a month; but whatever the reasons, most are Islamic clerics with no background of secular laws.

The Economist explains Italy’s part in the mess, saying how their justice system is not without flaws either, making the nation less than qualified to address problems in Afghanistan’s system. Italy “has not been wholly useless,” according to the report, but has made “little improvement.”

Apart from problems with Afghan judges’ qualifications, Afghanistan has acquired a few new laws in recent years. Many are set up to secure a “business-friendly” society. Others are aimed at the drug trade.

In rural areas, courts are ruled by tribal and religious leaders who can easily order executions if they want. For the most part, trials are settled unilaterally. Drug lords, with their heavy amount of ammunition, are seldom bothered by the courts.

Other states, like Malaysia, have founds ways of balancing civil and religious law, yet the Afghan court employs a confusing mix of Western and Islamic Shari’a laws. Currently, more reform lawyers have been nominated to join the court, giving hope to many for the future of Afghanistan.

Terrorists Reportedly Trained in Pakistan, Sent to Afghanistan
April 19, 2006

Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) Newsline reports that an Afghan leader has accused Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of being involved in terrorist trainings. Asadullah Wafa, governor of a Northeastern Afghan Province said Monday that neighboring Pakistan has been training terrorists to send into Afghanistan. The Konar government also claimed that a rocket that killed six Afghan students had come from Pakistani territory.

World Net Daily reported in related news that the money for the Taliban is coming from Iran and Russia. Hamid Mir, the only journalist to conduct face-to-face interviews with Osama bin Laden, has told both the President of Afghanistan and Pakistan that the Taliban has experienced a resurgence and is ready to take on the regime of Hamid Karzai.

Temporary Marriages in Afghanistan
April 19, 2006
Mazar-I-Sharif –

The idea of marriages lasting for a few days to a few years was recently adopted in Afghanistan from Iran. Though the Sunni Muslims ban temporary marriages or ‘feghas’, Shiites accept them.

Rather than paying a dowry, which is expensive and unaffordable to many, a couple will take an oath in front of a mullah. “Short marriages have a lot of benefits for women whose husbands have died,” Nazira says, adding “It helps them look after their children better and they don't need to go out for sex. Also, we don't have to pay for a wedding party because with a short marriage we just go to a mullah.” The dowry can often exceed $3,000.

Some, such as Mullah Azizullah Mofley, a Sunni cleric, believes the marriages are just a way for young people to have sex, only to end the marriage a few hours or days later. Others say it is just a way to see how compatible a couple is. Nader Nadery, from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, says the contract marriage is not a way to legitimize sex but an attempt to find a practical solution to difficult circumstances like poverty, AFP reports. Click here for the full story.
Anfal Widows' Sad Fate

April 14, 2006

Zaineb Faris is one of many widows in Iraq, whose husband was taken away from her only three days after their wedding. He was taken away to join the Iraqi army and never came back. Faris is today 34 years old and lives with her family. Her father refuses to let her get remarried and she is not allowed to talk to other men, not even her cousins. The interview she gave was done in secret.

According to Institute for War & Peace Reporting:

“Human rights groups estimate that 182,000 civilians were killed in the Anfal campaign in 1986 to 1989, but most of the victims have never been found. Many of the bodies removed from the mass graves across the country are thought to be Kurds or Shia Arabs - whom Saddam also persecuted - but the process of identifying them has been fraught with problems.”

“As horrific as the Anfal campaign was for victims, the widows must live with its aftermath every day. According to the Germyan human rights directorate, just one local town called Rizgary is home to 700 Anfal widows.”

“According to Islamic law, if a woman's husband disappears she must wait for four years before remarrying to ensure that he will not return. Iraqi legislation states that a woman cannot remarry until her husband's fate is determined.”

“In 1999, the Kurdistan parliament passed a law declaring that those who disappeared during the Anfal operations were officially dead. But the decision was not made public until the fall of Saddam's government three years ago. Most widows said they were not aware of it.”

Click here to read the article.

Of Promised 140 Health Clinics, Only 20 Completed

April 18, 2006

Two years ago the U.S. promised to build health clinics in areas outside the big cities in Iraq where they are badly needed to provide residents, especially children, with the basic care. The expected number of clinics to be built was 140, but recent reports show that only around 20 clinics have been completed.

According to The New York Times editorial page:

“America's good intentions should not be allowed to expire with so pathetically little achieved. America's three years in Iraq have been a cavalcade of squandered opportunities and unanticipated outcomes. Many of those are now, sadly, beyond retrieval. The health clinics are not.”

“Recent decades have been cruel to the children of Iraq, which was a regional leader in health care 30 years ago. Then came Saddam Hussein's diversion of Iraq's wealth into weapons, wars and palaces, 12 years of crushing international sanctions and, finally, the invasion, occupation and insurgency. More children have probably died from lack of clean water and sanitation, malnutrition and lack of health care than from the missile, bomb and rocket attacks of invading armies and insurgent militias.”

“That terrible history cannot be undone. But Iraqi children and their parents can still be helped to overcome some of the enduring health consequences. Let it not be said that thousands more Iraqis died needlessly because America walked away from its promise of health clinics with less than 15 percent of the job done.”

Click here to read the article.

Iraq News Update

Women’s Rights Situation in Iraq: Better or Worse?

April 17, 2006

Women’s Freedom Organization, a Baghdad NGO, has reported after completing a survey that there are new threats to women’s rights in post-Saddam Iraq.

According to FreeMarketNews.com, citing a piece in Iran News:

“Senar Muhammad, president of the Women's Freedom Organization, said, ‘We interviewed women in the country and met with local NGOs dealing with gender issues to develop this survey ... The results show that women are less respected now than they were under the previous regime, while their freedom has been curtailed.’”

“The survey shows that during Hussein's regime, the constitution itself guaranteed women's basic rights, and the regime respected them, and even employed women in a number of important government positions. Women's groups point to the essentially conservative view of the new government leadership: ‘When we tell the government we need more representation in parliament, they respond by telling us that, if well-qualified women appear one day, they won't be turned down,’ said Senar. ‘Then they laugh at us.’”

Click here to read the article.

Thousands of Iraqis are Displaced and the Number are Increasing

April 14, 2006

The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration said on Thursday that the number of people fleeing to get to the safer parts of Iraq has reached 65,000 people. That figure has doubled from the number reported just two weeks ago. Most of the Iraqis fleeing are women and children, and the Iraq Red Crescent Society is concerned about the risk of communicable diseases in the camps like cholera and typhoid.

According to an article on CNN.com:

“‘People are receiving warning leaflets. “Leave now, without taking any of your belongings. Take only your clothes,” these warnings say,’ according to Said Hakki, chairman of the Iraq Red Crescent Society. “

“An elderly woman at a camp in Falluja said she knows a family whose door was recently pushed in. The perpetrators were wearing black outfits or National Guard uniforms, the woman said.”

“‘They all had masks on,’ she said. They dragged her husband. They handcuffed him and took him away.”

“Some camps are run by Sunnis, others by Shiites. Some are even run by militias. In Baghdad, at least two camps are operated by Mehdi militias, loyal to cleric Muqtada al Sadr.”

“Asked to describe the camps, Hakki had nothing positive to say.
‘I saw the fear in the children's eyes, the uncertainty in the mothers' eyes and the pathetic look of the men that they are hopeless and helpless to do anything,’ he said.”

Click here to read the full story.

In a separate story on this massive migration, The Christian Science Monitor reported:

“Around Baghdad, Shiites coming in from outlying villages are living in tents provided by the Iraqi Red Crescent Society. IRCS President Said Hakki says the agency is preparing to aid some 50,000 families, and has requested aid from the US military to build sanitation facilities for camps and provide rations. Other Shiites are going south to predominantly Shiite cities such as Basra, Najaf, and Karbala.”

“The people in Chikook say they have received no assistance from the Iraqi government, which remains in a state of limbo. Iraq's Shiite politicians, meeting Wednesday, failed to resolve the deadlock over their nominee for prime minister, an issue that has stalled the formation of a government following December's national elections. Instead, acting parliament speaker Adnan Pachachi said that he would convene the parliament next week, hoping to force the issue.”

“But few in Chikook are expecting much help; Fed up with security forces they said were unable to make them feel secure in their homes. Umm Thair (meaning mother of Thair) arrived in Chikook a year ago from Mosul after her husband was assassinated for selling cars to the government, she says. Her house, larger than most, overflows with families waiting for their own dwellings to be built.”

“"We ask the Iraqi government to find a solution for those who are suffering instead of arguing about seats," says Abdullah al-Rikaby, a spokesman for the Sadr office in Shoala.”

Click here to read the whole article.

Cultural Tourism Could Become Iraq’s Second Biggest Industry

April 14, 2006

The famous ancient city of Babylon ruled by King Hammurabi from 1792 to 1750 B.C., and the site of the first sets of codified law, is known by people around the world. One of the world’s seven wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens, once existed there. Today, however, it is hard to tell what are ancient ruins of the city and what is just ruined.

According to an article by Jeffrey Gettleman from The New York Times:

“Signs of military occupation are everywhere: trenches, bullet casings, shiny coils of razor wire and blast walls stamped "This side Scud protection." “

“Babylon, the city with the million- dollar name, has paid the price of war. It has been ransacked, looted, torn up, paved over, neglected and roughly occupied. Archaeologists said American soldiers had even used soil thick with priceless artifacts to stuff sandbags.
But Iraqi leaders and UN officials are not giving up on it. They are working assiduously to restore Babylon”

“No one is saying it is going to happen any time soon, but what makes the Pollyannaish project even conceivable is that the area around Babylon is among the safest in Iraq, a beacon of civilization once again in a land of much chaos.”

“The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is pumping millions of dollars into Babylon and a handful of other sites. It has even printed a snazzy brochure to give to wealthy donors. "Cultural tourism could become Iraq's second biggest industry, after oil," explained Philippe Delanghe, a United Nations official helping with the project.”

George who is a field director in 1986 says "One day millions of people will visit Babylon.” "I'm just not sure anybody knows when."

Click here to read the article


Knife Attacks on Egyptian Coptic Churches
April 14, 2006

During mass on Good Friday, Coptic churches were invaded by men with knives around 9am, just after mass had started. One person died, twelve were injured. BBC News reported three men in custody.

According to news reports, each man held two knives and began slashing at the Copts randomly. Before attacking, the invaders shouted, “There is no God but Allah,” and “Allah is the greatest.”

“We closed the doors of the church as soon as he started attacking the worshippers and we fought back with sticks but he tried to flee through one of the church's underground passages,” said one Copt.

Father Augustinos, who heads one of the churches attacked Friday, believes the attacks were caused by Islamic activists. Click here for the full story.

Extremist Muslims or ‘Deranged Man?’April 15, 2006

Although the knife attacks on Friday were believed by most of Egypt’s church goers to have been the plot of Muslim extremists, the government has stated that no such plot exists.

The government has said a "deranged" man was arrested for carrying out all the attacks at the three churches, but some Copts believe they were carried out simultaneously as part of an anti-Christian plot by extremist Muslims reports the BBC.

Three people were arrested on Friday, but only one remains in custody; Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-Raziq.

“Certain papers speak of a madman. I don't believe a word. It is propaganda to silence us and to make us believe it is an individual incident,” said Karim, a 78-year-old Copt. Click here for the full story.

Sectarian Riot during Copt Funeral
April 15, 2006

Nushi Atta Girgis, a Coptic Egyptian, died in a knife attack on his church Friday. During his funeral, Muslims and Christians threw stones and sticks at each other. Fifteen people, Copts and Muslims, were arrested. To separate the two groups, police used tear gas.

Around 3,000 people attended the funeral, some shouting anti-government slogans. In the past, the Christians have accused the Egyptian government of improperly protecting their rights and safety. Many say past attackers were let off easy, or were not punished at all.

The BBC reports 15 people injured and four vehicles burned out. Click here to read more.

Day 3: More Sectarian Violence
April 16, 2006

Still seared by fresh memories of the knife attacks on Friday, Alexandria residents turned to riots Sunday, which took place near St. Maximus Church, in Egypt’s second largest city.

One man died Sunday and a total of 40 people had been injured and 80 people were arrested during the weekend. On Sunday alone, there were an estimated 2,000 police on the scene. A Coptic priest was seen urging peace and composure of the Copts.

Police were seen beating a young Coptic boy, who was among the crowd that fled. Later, a huge mob of what appeared to be Muslim protesters charged the police cordon from the other side, reports AP. A Muslim lawmaker beaten on Saturday, later died on Sunday.

Acts of violence were seen on both sides. "We were afraid so we locked ourselves inside our houses, but they broke in and destroyed everything," Sami Aziz, a Muslim who said about eight Copts stormed his home Saturday night.

Ehab Sami, a Copt said, “It was the Muslims, and the police were collaborating with them. I asked the police to help me, but they didn't lift a finger.” Click here for the full story.

An Egyptian Priest Speaks Out
April 18, 2006

“I cannot say where this hatred comes from,” Father Bejimey said about the recent Sectarian riots, “We have coexisted for generations.”

His church windows were broken, and a door was unhinged. Among the vandalized cruch property were the church library, the anteroom for baptisms, and the offices of the priests.

The New York Sun reported on the condition of the church. It smelled faintly of smoke, and was barely fit for worship. But Father Bejimey's flock turned out every night for the evening service between the Coptic Palm and Easter Sundays to recite lines from the Gospel and remember Christ's last week before the crucifixion. A few members of the congregation had bandages on their arms and legs from the clashes two days before.

The attacks are said to be the worst in a decade. Click here for the full story.

Bird Flu Affects Egypt’s Poor
April 14th, 2006

There are many Egyptians who are dependent on poultry, as it is all they have to survive on. But with the threat of the bird flu rising in Egypt, there is a push for the country to rid itself of potentially hazardous chickens and ducks.

It was only two months ago when the flu arrived in Egypt, killing some and contaminating an estimated twelve. There is not enough bird flu vaccine available in the country.

Telling poor Egyptians in the countryside they cannot raise poultry at home for food and extra income would cut off not only a crucial source of nutrition, but also a lifestyle that has deep cultural roots, reports the New York Times.

As long as cages were kept decently sterile, the government allowed the ownership of poultry. In some cases, such as the Nile Delta region where the flu is most rampant, the government offered to compensate the loss of each bird they killed with a dollar. Doubtful of the promise and with the certainty that their birds are worth more, the citizens refused.

Across the railroad tracks and a four-lane highway that cuts through the farmland, the village of Rateb sits on the bank of a canal. It is an area thick with white feathers and rotting bird carcasses.

"I think it's a rumor,” said Sayed Abu Tahon, who cannot believe people have thrown their birds out, “I've not seen any infected birds.” Click here for the full story.

A Call to Protect Muslim Reformers
April 14, 2006

On Wednesday an organization calling itself “Supporters of God's Messenger” (“Al-Munasirun li Rasul al Allah”) announced it would kill ‘atheists,’ ‘polytheists’ and their supporters unless they repented. They emailed their statement and a list of Muslim reformists and their family members to over 30 political and religious reformers.

Among those on the list was Egyptian sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a popular human-rights and democracy activist in the Arab world, who was previously imprisoned by the Egyptian government for his advocacy of Coptic Christian rights and free elections in his native country. Ahmad Subhy Mansour, also on the list, is an imam who fled Egypt and now lives in Virginia. He has published works arguing against the death penalty for apostasy. Wafa Sultan, also threatened, is a California psychiatrist who has been quite open with her criticism of Muslim extremism. She is worried because the threat is from a group, not just an individual, not too mention the list of family members they have on record.

Those three mentioned and the rest of the targets were pronounced “guilty of apostasy, unbelief, and denial of the Islamic established facts” and were given three days to “announce their repentance and disavow their writings in denial of the traditions of our prophet and to repent their support of the countries of unbelief and their rulers.” They are to do so publicly.
Paul Marshall, senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, calls for protection, saying, “Now is the time to ensure not only that those on these and similar lists are protected, but that their voices are heard and amplified. If even Western democracies cannot provide the political space for Muslims to debate these critical questions concerning the meaning of Islam, then all hope of an Islamic reform movement will be lost.” Click here for the full editorial.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

UN Renovation from the inside, out

New York-Along with the internal restructuring of the United Nations, there is a need for a complete renovation of the current headquarters building that stands in Manhattan. There has been a great deal of interference in the process, mostly stemming from the United States and the State of New York. According to Newsday, the state legislature in New York has blocked the use of parkland next to the current headquarters, which has set back the renovation process. Now, Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, is leading the push to allow the United Nations to use the land next to the current building. This has been much to the dismay of many in the legislature, who believe that the United States should not help out the United Nations for various reasons, including not going with the U.S. into Iraq. Bloomberg has made it his goal to convince the state legislative body to allow the United Nations to expand onto the adjacent land. To read more on this story, click here.

Recently the United States officially announced that it will not seek election to the new Human Rights Council at the United Nations. The are many theories as the why the Bush administration made this decision, but according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the most plausible reason is that this is a continuation of the policy that led to voting against the creation of the new council. The United States was one of only four countries to vote against the creation of the new council, and despite calls to support the new council; the administration has distanced itself from it, even after calls by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the United States to run for membership in May. If the United States thinks that some work still needs to be done it should take this opportunity to change things from the inside out.
According to the article
“The U.S. decision to not seek election to the Human Rights Council exemplifies the way Bush has shunned international organizations and ignored treaties since he has been in office.”
To read this article, click here.

The faces of human trafficking in Southeast Asia

Independent journalist Scott Carrier explores the harsh realities of human trafficking in Cambodia and greater Southeast Asia in his firsthand account, "In a Brothel Atop Street 63." In unflinching and brutal detail, Carrier describes the horrors of modern day slavery and the reasons it exists:

"The causes are said to be exploding populations, increasing power differentials between the rich and the poor, corrupt governments, failed states...and television, which functions like a huge suction machine, a black hole, pulling people away from shrinking farms and into swollen cities. It starts as migration, a children’s crusade for some of that stuff to bring back home. They leave the village and give themselves up to the great sky of luck; they take a chance. And it ends, too often, with young people being bought and consumed and thrown away like a candy bar and its wrapper. And this is also a cause: the desire, the pull for more cheap bodies, whether they are put to work in garment factories and paid 15 cents an hour for 90 hours a week, or thrown onto Thai fishing boats and fed methamphetamines for a few years then shot and thrown overboard, or sold into prostitution or domestic service in Sweden, the United States, or Saudi Arabia. The supply and the demand, the push and the pull, are inseparable."

Heartwrenching and painful to read, Carrier's account presents the issue of trafficking from every side - he even goes inside Cambodian brothels where trafficked girls from Vietnam, all elementary school aged, are held in debt bondage. He interviews a mother who has sold her daughter because the family needed the money, and a man who pay for sex with underage trafficked girls because he believes it has 'healed' him. Though shocking and at times hard to believe, the stories woven together here are excruciatingly real.