Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, July 10, 2008

U.S. intelligence official calls for engagement with Iran

In a Thursday entry in his blog in the online edition of The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss recounts statements on Iran made the previous day by U.S. intelligence official Thomas Fingar.

Fingar, whom Dreyfuss calls America’s “top intelligence analyst,” spoke to an audience at the Center for National Policy and apparently made the case for diplomacy. “It argues for engagement,” he said. “From bilateral to multilateral to using international institutions.”

Fingar also drew an explicit connection between energy supplies and the Iran issue, saying that “the competition for energy” would fuel future instability.

For the full piece, click here.

Afghanistan, U.N. ask for $400 million in food aid

Afghan and U.N. officials on Wednesday urged the international community to contribute over $404 million to feed the country’s poor and vulnerable, Reuters reported the same day.

The article notes that Afghanistan has been “hit hard by rising food prices, poor harvests and drought,” adding that the country’s “wheat harvest this year is expected to be 36 percent lower than 2007.”

“We really appeal to donors to continue their generosity and support of the Afghan people because really, through no fault of the people or the government, the situation has really become exacerbated since January,” U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan Bo Asplund told a news conference in Kabul attended by diplomats and donors.

In May, Afghanistan received international pledges amounting to some $20 billion in development aid, but officials say much of that money has already been put into long-term agricultural investment. The new appeal is intended for more short-term needs.

For the full article, click here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Egypt’s Christian-Muslim divide growing amid recent tensions

In an article in Monday’s Washington Post, Ellen Knickmeyer describes the increasingly strained relationship between Egypt’s Coptic Christian and Muslim communities.

Knickmeyer notes that sectarian attacks and the rise of fundamentalist Islam have driven Copts to isolation, while adding that the efforts of Pope Shenouda III, the faith’s current leader, have made the church a center for “schooling, sports and socializing, as well as religion” and also contributed to the separation.

Among those interviewed for the article was Brother Viner, a monk attacked by Arab Bedouins in a May 31 incident at the historic Abu Fana monastery. “When he was a boy,” Knickmeyer writes, “[Brother Viner] and his neighbors played together without paying attention to who was Muslim and who was Christian. But recently, he said, his niece came home from her first day at school with tales of Muslim and Christian first-graders refusing to share desks with children of the other faith.”

For the full article, click here.

Egypt says Shiite mosques not allowed, as government cracks down on rise of sect

A leading Egyptian official has said that the government will reject any Shiite presence within the country’s mosques, the independent daily El-Masry El-Youm reported Monday.

Minister of Religious Endowments Mahmoud Hamid Zaqzouq told a press conference that Egypt “won’t allow the existence of a Shiite tide in Egyptian mosques,” adding “Nobody applied for a mosque for Shiites and we won’t approve that.”

Zaqzoug’s declaration comes in the wake of an El-Masry El-Youm report alleging that the government has begun to use religious officials to train state security officers on how to combat the rise of Shiite beliefs. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The report quoted a prominent scholar as saying that the state security apparatus is concerned about the creeping influence of Shiite Islam since the influx of thousands of Shiite Iraqis to Egypt.”

For the full El-Masry El-Youm article, from Monday, click here.
For the full Los Angeles Times article, click here.

Government interference expected in funeral of Viet Nam’s top dissident monk

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged the Vietnamese government not to interfere in the funeral of the country’s leading dissident Buddhist monk, Agence France-Presse reported the same day.

Since the passing last week of Thich Huyen Quang, head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), UBCV members have been attacked in state media as “extremist elements disguised as Buddhist monks.”

While the UBCV has announced plans to have UBCV deputy and likely successor Thich Quang Do preside over a ceremony on Friday, Hanoi has moved to ensure that the funeral will be a government-controlled affair, saying that the state-sanctioned Buddhist church will run the event.

“Thich Huyen Quan gave up his liberty for 30 years in a quest for greater human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “His followers should be allowed to pay their last respects without government interference.”

For the full article, click here.

Cairo schools bar Baha’i students

Baha’i students have been refused enrollment in some Cairo schools on the basis of their faith, The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights said on July 1, citing the independent daily Al-Masri al-Yom. According to the article, the schools are under orders “not to accept applicants who are neither Muslim nor Christian.”

Ministry of Education officials have not responded to parents’ complaints.

Yousef Labib, the parent of one of the affected children, told Al-Masri al-Yom: “I went to admit my daughter to a school, but its administration refused to accept students who do not state their religion in their birth certificates.”

The Egyptian government does not recognize Baha’is as an official faith group, blocking access to the full slate of identity documentation needed to obtain basic citizenship rights.

For the full article, click here.