Monday, September 22, 2014
Not content with endangering the physical safety of children, terrorist organizations are putting children who fall in their grasp through psychological torture that violates the very basics of human rights principles, with these organizations training children to bear arms and fight, forcing them to witness beheadings and mutilations, and brainwashing them to force their poisonous extremist views upon them. Mohammad, a child from the town of Ein al-Arab in Aleppo’s northern countryside, is a survivor of the terrors brought forth by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organizations which had abducted him along with other children from the town in 29/05/2014. Now, he relates the tale of how he escaped the horrors of ISIS. Mohammad told SANA that after he and his fellow nine-graders finished their exams, they headed to their hometown at noon on the aforementioned date in a bus convoy, and on the way the convoy’s supervisors decided to stop at midnight so that the children can sleep and then continue in the morning. “At around 1:30 in the morning, a group of terrorists attacked us. They were in SUVs equipped with machineguns. They separated boys and girls, sending the girls to Aleppo in the same buses we were using and taking the 148 boys to al-Fateh Mosque in the town of Manbej,” he said. “On the next day, we were taken to a school in the same town where we were tortured in various ways by terrorists calling themselves Abu Shahid al-Shami and Abu Anas who were under the command of a man with a Saudi accent called Abu Hashem al-Jazrawi. “Our hands were bound and we were suspended with ropes from the roof, and they whipped us. They made us watch videos of members of the terrorist groups attacking areas, beheading people, torturing people, and executing captives,” Mohammad said, adding that he and the other boys saw crucified and beheaded people in the town’s square. He also said that the terrorist gave the children aliases similar to their own and gave them intensive “sharia courses” to brainwash the boys and force their beliefs upon them. “We saw a lot of Kurds who were kidnapped by the terrorist organizations. They were students, teachers, and children of known social figures and the area who were kidnapped to pressure their parents and to exchange them with terrorists captured by the public protection forces, including some of their emirs and women working with them,” he said. Mohammad went on to say that after a week of their capture, they were interrogated by the terrorists, and based on that 30 children were charged with being members of the Kurdish public protection forces, and they were sent to a prison. These 30 boys were returned just before the month of Ramadan began and were isolated in rooms, noting that these boys were tortured more than the others. He said that after a month of captivity, 15 of the children were released because they couldn’t bear the captivity due to their young age, as these boys were no older than 13, while the ones who were between 14 and 16 were kept in captivity. “Before Eid al-Fitr holiday, 13 kids escaped by jumping over the school’s wall, and at 5 in the morning three of them were captured in Jarablos and returned to the school. They kept a close eye on them and tortured them twice as much as the other kids. After that, there were repeated escape attempts, and a total of 18 kids managed to escape,” Mohammad said. He said that several negotiation attempts between the public protection forces and the terrorists to release the children in exchange for captured terrorists failed because the terrorists didn’t abide by the deals, adding that ISIS terrorists in that area still have 102 children in captivity, and that he learned that these kids were sent to Iraq to be trained for carrying out suicide operations. Mohammad concluded his tale, electing to leave some details unmentioned in fear for his life and for the lives of his family. It remains to be seen if his tale and the tales of dozens of other children who went through similar ordeals will ever reach the ears of the slumbering international community and rouse it from its hibernation. http://www.sana.sy/en/?p=13168
It cannot be right that a state such as Qatar can support extremist Islamic groups while enjoying a lucrative partnership with the West.Enough is enough. One British hostage has been killed by the savage Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and we now know of two more being held captive. Getting them back is, of course, a complex task fraught with moral dilemma. Britain is committed not to pay ransoms. The refusal to do so sends a clear message to political gangsters that kidnapping UK citizens and trying to extort money in return for their release is a waste of time. The UK’s stance is a principled one but, obviously, the actions of terrorists can still end in violent tragedy. The Government has to do all it can to make sure that such kidnappings do not happen in the first place. Finally, politicians are starting to ask who is financing the people who do these terrible things. Vernon Coaker, the shadow defence secretary, has called on ministers to press states in the Arab region to cease sending funds to the “brutal” jihadists. “These are dangerous people and we have to defeat them and one of the ways to do that is to cut off their source of funding,” Mr Coaker told this newspaper. Indeed, an investigation for The Telegraph discovered that while oil-rich Qatar denies ever financing Isil, it did become the main patron for an extremist group fighting in Syria called Ahrar al-Sham and that Qatari weapons and money may have reached the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate. Meanwhile, Western diplomats believe that Qatar supplied arms to the Islamist coalition that captured Tripoli in Libya last month. And Qatar is a longstanding backer of Hamas, the radical Palestinian movement in Gaza. In 2012, Hamas’s political leaders moved their headquarters from Damascus in Syria to Doha, the Qatari capital. Stephen Barclay, a Tory MP, has suggested that British diplomats might be unwilling to confront the Qataris for fear of frightening away their cash investments in the UK. But speak up they must. Security and the safety of British citizens is priceless – and it cannot be right that a state such as Qatar can, on the one hand, support radical groups and, on the other, enjoy such a lucrative partnership with the West. It should be compelled to do the right thing. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/qatar/11110430/Funding-terrorists-is-not-what-friends-do.html
Executive warns that even managing temperatures in the stadium would be insufficient as the cup 'does not take place only there'Qatar should not host the 2022 World Cup because of the scorching temperatures in the Gulf country, FIFA Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger said on Monday. "I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar," the German told Sport Bild on Monday. "Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions," said the former German football (DFB) chief, who is now a member of the world football's governing body FIFA that awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010. Although Qatar has insisted that a summer World Cup is viable thanks to cooling technologies it is developing for stadiums, training areas and fan zones, there is still widespread concern over the health of the players and visiting supporters. "They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there," Zwanziger said. FIFA is also looking into shifting the tournament to a European winter date to avoid the scorching summer where temperatures routinely rise over 40 Celsius. Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa chaired a meeting to discuss the matter earlier this month with the options of January/February 2022 and November/December 2022 being offered as alternatives to June/July. However, talk of a potential change away from the usual June-July dates has resulted in plenty of opposition from domestic leagues around the world, worried the schedule switch would severely disrupt them. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in May that awarding the World Cup to Qatar was a "mistake" and the tournament would probably have to be held in the European winter. "The Qatar technical report indicated clearly that it is too hot in summer, but the executive committee with quite a big majority decided all the same that the tournament would be in Qatar," he added. Both FIFA and Qatar World Cup organisers have come under the spot light for corruption allegations since they were awarded the tournament back in 2010. An expose by The Sunday Times newspaper revealed that millions had been paid to FIFA decission makers by a Qatari official, an allegation the Qatari's deny. Qatar has also been harshly criticised for the conditions provided for migrant workers' in the tiny but wealthy Gulf state. Several commentators on social media have referenced human rights violations in Qatar as a more significant reason for the country not to be allowed to host the World Cup. - See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/fifa-executive-qatar-will-not-host-2022-world-cup-1590603379#sthash.WWanQXGV.dpuf
Hundreds of protesters marched through New York City's financial district on Monday and blocked streets near the stock exchange to denounce Wall Street's role in raising money for businesses that contribute to climate change. Protesters stopped traffic on Broadway south of the New York Stock Exchange. Occupying about two blocks, some were standing while others sat. Two were arrested after trying to cross a police barricade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed with his Security Council on Monday potential cooperation with other countries on fighting against Islamic State, Russian news agencies cited the Kremlin's spokesman as saying. Russia, whose ties with Washington are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, has not yet responded to calls from the United States to build an international coalition to destroy the radical Sunni Muslim group, which has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. "Permanent members of the Security Council exchanged opinions on possible forms of cooperation with other partners on a plan to counter Islamic State in the framework of international law," Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. He did not say who the other partners were. Islamic State could potentially threaten Moscow as it includes in its ranks a number of Muslims from Russia's North Caucasus region, who have been waging their own insurgency in the mountainous region following two wars between Moscow and separatists in Chechnya in 1994-96 and 1999-2000. U.S. and French warplanes have struck Islamic State targets in Iraq and on Sunday the United States said other countries had indicated a willingness to join it if it goes ahead with air strikes against the group in Syria to
A number of politicians and commentators on Monday said that Abdullah Abdullah is the best person for the Chief Executive position, and that if he does not fill the role, the national unity government could face problems. The analysts stressed that Mr. Abdullah, who became the runner up in this year's election after the announcement of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's victory on Sunday, is an experienced politician and diplomat. There have been some reports that Abdullah wants to designate another person for the position. But MPs on Monday spoke out in favor of Abdullah filling the role. "The candidates must abide upon their commitments as they made in the formation of the national unity government and the leaders of the two teams must endorse their responsibilities they accepted," MP Shukria Barakzai said. Because of Abdullah's leadership among those who were most distraught with this year's election and opposed a Ghani presidency, legislators suggested his serving in the chief executive role would be critical to keeping the power-sharing arrangement intact. "Dr. Abdullah had offered the plan for a parliamentary system, he has the capability to move forward the responsibilities of the post of chief executive," MP Nahid Farid said, referring to the deal made between the two candidates in which the chief executive serves as in a kind of prime minister-type role. Even members of Abdullah's own camp expressed support for him taking on the new role. "Dr. Abdullah in the position of the chief executive is the only option that could ensure the success of the national unity government," Abdullah camp member Fazlurrahman Orya said.
Afghans got a new president on Sunday, following a bitter fight over the fraud-plagued runoff election on June 14. The outcome was a brokered political accommodation that was far from democratic, but it nonetheless set the stage for an important milestone: a transfer of power that gives the government a fighting chance of containing the Taliban and mending a nation scarred by decades of war. Shortly before election officials declared Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official, the winner, he and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, shared a tepid embrace at the presidential palace, where the two men signed a power-sharing agreement negotiated by the United States. Under the deal, Mr. Abdullah will assume a newly created post that will be similar to that of a prime minister. Supreme power will rest with the presidency.
The agreement appears to have narrowly averted, for now, further violence and a disastrous conclusion to America’s longest war. For the deal to hold, Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani will have to formalize the details of an agreement that is subject to interpretation on many fronts. For instance, under the deal, the president will have to issue a decree outlining the specific administrative powers of the new position, according to the four-page document. The president also has final say over the scope of that position’s authority.Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah will also have to work to prevent some power brokers from undermining the compromise deal. Western officials rightly worry in particular about the governor of Balkh Province in the north, Atta Muhammad Noor, who was among those urging Mr. Abdullah not to concede.
The first sign of how rocky the path forward will likely be emerged just after the election commission pronounced Mr. Ghani the victor. The candidates had agreed, at Mr. Abdullah’s request, that election officials would announce the winner on Sunday but not the tally of audited votes. Mr. Abdullah had asked that the numbers be disclosed at a later date, believing that their immediate release would legitimize a hugely fraudulent process, possibly stoking unrest. But election officials leaked the results to Afghan media outlets anyway, giving the new governing partnership a bitter start.At the end of the day, the millions of Afghan voters who defied Taliban threats to cast ballots are now left wondering if their votes counted. Mr. Ghani’s presidency was not, by any reasonable measure, the result of a fair and credible election. Even so, Secretary of State John Kerry and his team in Kabul deserve recognition for formulating a power-sharing plan that gave the Afghans a way out of a crisis that could easily have plunged the country into a disastrous cycle of violence. If it works, this will mark the first peaceful transfer of power in the country’s history.
Mr. Ghani’s victory will mark the end of the decade-long tenure of President Hamid Karzai, who was supported by Washington but whose years in power were tainted by tolerance of corruption and marked by growing antagonism toward Washington. His refusal to sign a bilateral agreement with the United States to allow a small international military contingent to remain in the country for a couple of years — a precondition for continued foreign aid — deepened anxiety in Afghanistan unnecessarily. Both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah support the agreement.It is a relief to see Mr. Karzai hand over the reins of power. But the change of leadership in Kabul is dampened by serious concerns over whether the power-sharing deal will prove durable.
Pakistan todayA report in local English daily, Express Tribune, Monday claimed that disgruntled members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will prove before the speaker of the National Assembly that their resignations were forced. The report quoted a PTI MNA, who wished to remain anonymous, that NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had asked PTI lawmakers to appear before him on Tuesday and verify signatures on their resignation letters. “Things will be made clear as MNAs will meet the speaker one on one,” said the report. While a majority of the party MNAs submitted their resignations, some including Gulzar Khan, Musarrat Ahmedzeb and Nasir Khattak refused to step down from the public office. The report also quoted a founding member of PTI, Akbar Babar who said that Imran Khan needs to take a look at the recent intra-party polls instead of demanding transparent elections in the country. “The party elections were ‘nothing more than a farce’,” he claimed, adding that party tickets were sold just like “fish in a market”. Some founding members met with disgruntled party lawmakers to discuss the ongoing situation. Babar said the meeting will discuss ways to release the party from the clutches of those who “hijacked it”. “It has become a one-man show and the party constitution does not allow that.”
Despite frequent outbreaks of the crippling polio virus in recent months, polio vaccinators in four districts of Balochistan have not been paid for three months. Vaccination campaigns in the high risk districts of Quetta, Qila Abdullah and Pishin have been adversely affected as a result. “Two polio cases were reported in Balochistan this year. As cases multiplied, more campaigns were launched to prevent the virus from spreading. Despite this increase in our workload, we haven’t been paid for the past three months,” Shaista Razzaq, a health worker who supervises several polio teams in Quetta, told The Express Tribune. One field worker is paid Rs2,000 for a single campaign—Rs1,000 each by the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO). “The payments have never been made on time,” Shaista said, adding that the government and the WHO still owed her Rs7,000. She said the field workers who go door to door to inoculate children are too poor to pay for their own transport to health centres and hence many don’t show up at the campaigns. When contacted by The Express Tribune, both WHO and the government blamed each other for the delay. “There is an issue with the payment but it is being addressed. Payments have been released by the government and the polio workers will get their salary soon,” Balochistan Health Secretary Arshad Bugti told The Express Tribune. “The government makes direct payments [which does not get delayed], while the WHO uses Direct Distribution Mechanism (DDM) cards. The health workers send their data from far-flung areas, which causes the delay in the WHO payments,” he added. Conversely, the regional coordinator of the WHO, Anwar Bugti, maintained while speaking to The Express Tribune that the WHO makes payment within 12 days upon receipt of the DDM cards. “The delay is due to the district health officers. The WHO is yet to receive the DDM cards for the August 18 anti-polio campaign, and the money will be transferred as soon as government officials send in the DDM cards,” he said. Poliovirus has crippled many children this year, as total number of polio cases reported in the country rose to 166 on Friday. Around 118 of those cases were reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), 27 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 14 from Sindh, three from Balochistan and two from Punjab. There is a need for immediate action by the government to curb this menace as soon as possible.
As the sit-in of Imran Khan enters its 40th day outside the Parliament House, Senator Afrasiab Khattak views the activity as nothing but a warm-up by PTI for election campaign. In an interview with The Nation on Sunday, Senator Khattak said Imran Khan’s speech at his Karachi gathering unveiled the intentions of Khan arguing that PTI’s countrywide sit-ins were nothing but aggressive election campaigns. “But ‘mobocracy’ cannot replace the genuine national consensus. The joint session of National Assembly and Senate that reposed confidence in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is much bigger national consensus than demonstrations of any political party,” said Senator Khattak who is known for his wisdom not inside his Awami National Party (ANP) but is also respected by other political forces for his in-depth knowledge. Pakistan, he said, was a nuclear state where decisions should be made by state institutions and not by a political mob adding that Imran Khan, even if elected prime minister, would further isolate the country like he has detached himself from other political forces. “Just imagine the temperament of Imran Khan. He does not want to meet leaders of other political parties. He has run out of ideas. How can he head a country where he has to face opponents too,” the Senator wondered. He said the stubbornness demonstrated by Imran Khan will result in his political death. “Just like football is the game of rules, politics has some rules too. You can’t conquer the whole nation with might,” he observed. To a question, Khattak observed that the agitation unleashed by Imran Khan was not the issue of smaller provinces regretting that the sin-ins have further marginalized the issues of smaller provinces. “Two million Pashtuns have got displaced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and we have totally ignored their plight as the country and Parliament are over-occupied with discussing the demonstrations of PTI,” he added. To a question how does he see the outcome of the prolonged sit-ins, Khattak argued that the political agitation of Imran Khan and Dr Qadri was not bigger than the movement launched by Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) in seventies. “This country suffered the movement of PNA for 11 years and Imran Khan wants to repeat this,” he said. However, Senator Khattak equally sounded disappointment with the government’s response to tackle the marchers adding that the Parliament should not be used for interfering into the affairs of the executive. Khattak, who had taken asylum in Afghanistan in 1980s, said that Afghanistan had emerged as a stable country adding that Pakistan being located in a strategically important place should not let mobs decide the future of the country. But he agreed with some demands of Imran Khan including election reforms, which, he said, should be achieved after taking all stakeholders on board. “This is no way to pressurize the entire mandate of people by hurling threats at Parliament from a shipping container,” the ANP leader said. He said that many political parties would have agreed with what Imran demands but regretted that Khan did not spare time to consult any single parliamentarian except the non-elected Qadri.
There has been a systematic attempt by the state since the 1980s to drive non-Muslim Pakistanis into oblivionFor those of us who are still free of cynicism towards this country of ours and those who believe sincerely in the much battered idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan, it is a solemn duty to ensure that whatever little we can contribute we should work towards that ideal of a humane and inclusive Pakistan for all its citizens. When I was growing up, one was accustomed to a much more diverse and multicultural Pakistan despite the fact that General Zia’s poison had begun to take effect. Bear in mind that I did not go to a missionary school but a regular private school called Bloomfield Hall in Lahore. Yet my first Islamiat teacher was an extremely learned man by the name of Innocent Joseph. I was taught seventh grade geography by an elegant Christian lady, Mrs Alam. My art teacher was a tall sari clad Hindu lady — I forget her name — who seemed like she was right out of an art film. The stern Mr Joseph Felix taught me Mathematics and it turned out that he was my father’s classmate at Don Bosco High School in Lahore, a fact that made my life hell. Mrs John, who later became the principal of another school chain, taught me English literature in eighth grade. I remember her attending the Khatm-e-Quran event of a fellow student. That she was Christian did not preclude her from being invited but I feel that this may not be possible today. These Pakistani teachers gave me, thankfully, a very different understanding of Pakistan, its history, its founder and its national identity from what I find today. None of them were cynical about the country, a sharp contrast to even those self-styled liberals today who revel in bashing the country and lying about its origins. While the non-Muslim Pakistani teachers drummed in me a sort of humanistic patriotism, Muslim teachers were another story; the less said the better. The fact of the matter is that these faces and names have receded. You do not see them around anymore. Sure, the missionary schools have them but now it is unheard of for other schools to have non-Muslim teachers. Even if they are there, they are hidden or too scared to speak up. They are too scared to voice opinions. There has been a systematic attempt by the state since the 1980s to drive non-Muslim Pakistanis into oblivion. I was recently approached by a delegation of the Church World Services, Pakistan, who opened my eyes to how systematic this state-driven process of driving minorities into hiding is. Their biggest gripe was the non-implementation of the job quota for minorities in Punjab province. There is a five percent quota in all government jobs that is mandatory by law. Unfortunately, the way the quota takes effect is at the interview stage, which means that very few non-Muslims actually make it past the entry test. The entry test itself is designed to keep non-Muslims out, with questions about Islam and the Holy Quran. So, in any event, the barriers to entry have been kept too high for non-Muslims. However, on top of this, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s ‘Modi-esque’ Punjab government has, through a notification dated March 27, 2010, stated that if the “qualified candidates” were not available for the reserved quota, these would automatically be unreserved and filled “on merit”. This notification is ultra vires the spirit of the constitution of Pakistan and the quota system that has been implemented under it. It is sheer injustice to the minorities and nothing else. No reasonable person, no matter what his political affiliation or ideological bent of mind, can find this ridiculous notification by the Punjab government justifiable. The tragedy that non-Muslims face is multilayered: first, their numbers are downplayed and were in any event fudged in the 1998 census. This is done to keep the quota question under wraps. A fair census, in my estimate, would show that the total population of non-Muslims in Pakistan far exceeds the four to five percent estimate at present. For example, 500,000 Hindus living in south Punjab are completely absent from this calculation. In Lahore alone, the population of Christians is more than one million according to the most conservative independent estimates. The overall population of Christians in Pakistan may well exceed 15 million. Add to this the Hindu population, close to five million in Sindh and a million more elsewhere, and the total population of non-Muslims begins to cross the 20 million mark. We are, for obvious reasons, not even counting the Ahmedi population because, principally, they reject the minority status forced upon them. There are other smaller minorities like the Sikhs who have historically migrated from the northwest to Punjab. In most cases, they are denied registration and national identity cards. Next the quotas they are given are not implemented as above. Whether federal or provincial, the numbers of non-Muslims decline rapidly as we go from lower pay grades to higher ones. Grade four and above, the percentage of non-Muslims employed falls below one percent. The number of non-Muslims in the higher bureaucracy today can be counted on one’s fingertips. They are all subject to the annual confidential reports, the format of which was amended by General Zia’s illegal regime to include a section on “Islamic Knowledge”. The woes do not end there. Union councils do not issue marriage certificates to non-Muslims. The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) only accepts the certificates of a handful of churches and a select few Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship). A significant section of the Christian population that follows the Pentecostal tradition and the Episcopal tradition cannot therefore get their spouses registered. Hindus do not even have a marriage act to this date, which pretty much makes their marriage registration impossible! Consequently, the spouse of a Hindu legislator was denied a UK visa recently because she failed to prove her marriage to her husband. Speaking to Parsis in Quetta after partition, Jinnah famously said that a country founded to safeguard a minority could not be unmindful of minorities in its own midst. Yet that vision has been lost to expediency and the shortsightedness of our rulers. The key to returning to that vision and reclaiming Pakistan lies in the socio-economic empowerment of Pakistani minorities. Too much time has been wasted in raising and fighting ideological battles. Economically empower Pakistani minorities and they will be the greatest soldiers in the cause for a progressive and prosperous Pakistan. Is our ruling elite listening?
Despite routine target killings and instances of ethnic cleansing, there are many other ways in which we are making our country’s minorities suffer. The devil is in the detail and can be seen when we closely scrutinise the ‘rights’ we have granted our religious minorities. Let us start with the draft bills that have finally been prepared by legislators to amend the Christian Marriage Act 1872 and Divorce Act 1869, although they have yet to be passed. First of all, one cannot help but comment that it is about time lawmakers are looking into the trials and tribulations faced by the country’s Christian community when it comes to the simple act of getting married. As can be seen by the dates, these are colonial acts and should have been amended decades ago. According to the Divorce Act, a husband can only seek divorce if he accuses his wife of adultery; as can be guessed such an outdated law stipulates that all manner of lies and deceit may be employed to seek a divorce. In the same vein, solemnisation of Christian marriages can only take place if the Roman Catholic Church, Church of England and Church of Scotland play a role. This creates difficulties having marriages registered at the Union Council level making it impossible for them to get the rights associated with recognised marriage. Imagine the misery they go through when married women in their community cannot get national identity cards with their husband’s name on them. Imagine the trouble they face when they need to attain a divorce. Hindus have it far worse: no law exists for their marriages to be registered and recognised. Even if they do get married, there is no proof. This anomaly makes it very easy for forced conversions to take place as has been happening with young Hindu women who, despite being married, are kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam by their captors. In a court of law these poor women cannot prove their marriages and cannot reconvert because that would be considered apostasy. There is no end to the sufferings minorities are subjected to. The job quota system has woefully underrepresented the minorities. Quota numbers are abysmally low and even the law for these seats is not implemented. This results in our minorities languishing in unemployment and not given the opportunities they are due. In addition to this gross negligence by the state, minorities are routinely subjected to terror attacks and a slow, steady genocide; the Ahmedis, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus are frequently killed for their faith. Our sensitivity to their needs is astoundingly low and the rights a nation state should offer its most vulnerable are close to non-existent. Is this our legacy?
At least 23 suspected terrorists were killed on Monday in precise aerial strikes on terrorists hideouts in the Bangidar area of Ghulam Khan in North Waziristan Agency, said a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). However, this information could not be independently verified as the access of media is restricted in the region. Military operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched by the Pakistan Army on June 15 following a brazen militant attack on Karachi's international airport and failure of peace talks between the government and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) negotiators. The Taliban and their ethnic Uzbek allies both claimed responsibility for the attack on Karachi airport, which was seen as a strategic turning point in how Pakistan tackles the insurgency. Nearly a million people have fled the offensive in North Waziristan, which is aimed at wiping out longstanding militant strongholds in the area, which borders Afghanistan. North Waziristan has been isolated by deploying troops along its border with neighboring agencies and Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (Fata) regions to block any move of terrorists in and out of the Agency.
Turkey accused of colluding with Isis to oppose Syrian Kurds and Assad following surprise release of 49 hostages
Having failed to persuade Bashar al-Assad to make changes, they assumed he would be overthrown by the rebels. They made little effort to distinguish jihadi rebels crossing the 560 mile long Syrian-Turkish border from the others. Some 12,000 foreign jihadis, many destined to become suicide bombers, entered Syria and Iraq from Turkey. Only at the end of 2013, under pressure from the US, did Turkey begin to increase border security making it more difficult for foreign or Turkish jihadis to pass through, though it is still possible. A Kurdish news agency reports that three Isis members, two from Belgium and one from France, were detained by the Syrian Kurdish militia at the weekend as they crossed into Syria from Turkey. The hostages had no idea they were going to be freed until they got a telephone call from Mr Davutoglu. While treated better than other hostages, they were still put under pressure, being forced to watch videos of other captives being beheaded “to break their morale” according to Mr Yilmaz. He said that Isis did not torture people though it threatened to do so: “The only thing they do is to kill them.” The Turkish government may not be collaborating with Isis at this moment, but Isis has benefited from Turkey’s tolerant attitude towards the jihadi movements. As with other anti-Assad governments, Ankara has claimed that there is a difference between the “moderate” rebels of the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda-type movements that does not really exist on the ground inside Syria.
Parents, educators and civil society groups have decried the move as another attack on Turkey’s secular principles by the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing the government of imposing religion on students. “My child will be forced to wear a long skirt. She will be forced to put a headscarf on her head too. It is not mandatory for now, but who knows it won’t be one day?” said Beyhan, 49. “I am a practising Muslim, I fast, I say my prayers and read the Quran, but I still want my daughter to be educated in a normal school,” he said. As part of a new nationwide exam introduced this year, some 40,000 students have been assigned to religious high schools either because they did not select any school, scored low marks or due to a technicality. Most of them have been placed in schools nearest their home, but since so many religious schools have opened in recent years, it was difficult for some to avoid Imam Hatips — schools specialising in religious education combined with a modern curriculum. Erdogan himself was educated in Istanbul at an Imam Hatip, beginning an education that saw him gain a place at university and then climb the ladder of Islamic politics. The name of the schools openly describes their religious vocation — hatip being derived from the Arabic for sermon. ‘Violation of human rights’ Parents raced against the clock to pull their kids out of the schools by Monday (today), the first day of the new academic year in Turkey. But it turned into an ordeal for many of them, like Beyhan, who could not find a slot in another school. His 14-year-old daughter Hacer, who has just started at Guzeltepe Imam Hatip High School in Istanbul’s conservative Eyup district, fears she may have to put off her dream of becoming a doctor. “My dreams have been shattered. I woke up this morning and didn’t feel like going to school. Because this school thing frustrates me so much,” she said, her eyes welling up with tears. “Since they want all the girls to wear a headscarf in this school, those who don’t wear one may face discrimination. This is my biggest fear,” she said. A new report by the Education Reform Initiative (ERG) at Sabanci University revealed that the number of Imam Hatip schools in Turkey has increased by 73 per cent in five years. In recent months, parents have demonstrated outside schools which have been turned into Imam Hatips. In one them, some 200 demonstrators stormed a government building in Istanbul’s secular Kadikoy district. “The government is limiting the supply of mainstream education while expanding the supply of religious education. In the end, more and more children will find themselves in a situation where they will have to go to a religious school,” said Batuhan Aydagul, the director of ERG. “Even if one child is enrolled in an Imam Hatip school against their will, it is a violation of human rights,” Aydagul said. He added that there was a “systematic campaign” by public institutions, mosques and a number of NGOs around the country to persuade parents to send their children to religious schools. Critics say that efforts to expand religious schooling undermines the quality of education in Turkey, which already compares poorly with OECD averages. A quarter of the 40 hours Imam Hatip students spend learning a week is dedicated to religious education, which includes subjects like the Quran, Arabic and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Combining them with the normal curriculum means a heavy workload for students. Erdogan, who was elected president last month after ruling Turkey as premier for over a decade, is accused by his critics of betraying the secular principles of the Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who based post-Ottoman Turkey on a clear division between religion and state. Erdogan once famously said he wanted to raise a “pious youth” and made efforts to ban mixed-sex dorms at state universities. An education reform introduced in 2012 scrapped a ban on Imam Hatip schools signing up pupils under the age of 15 and allowed them to study subjects other than theology at the university. ‘Huge demand’ Turkish officials say there is a “huge demand” for the schools, which have been increasingly sought by conservative families anxious to keep their children away from secular state schools. “Imam Hatip schools have always played an important role within the Turkish education system. They should not be portrayed as schools that no student wants to attend,” said Muammer Yildiz, Istanbul director of National Education. “Most of their graduates have moved into high positions. Recently, one of them have become the president,” he said, referring to Erdogan. “They are less likely to commit crime or engage in illegal activities. It is scientifically proven,” he argued At a male-only Imam Hatip high school in Carsamba, one of Istanbul’s most conservative neighbourhoods, students like 17-year-old Mahmut are not complaining. “In addition to religion, they teach us history, geography, maths and physics here. They teach these subjects at other schools too, but not the religion. I think that’s a good thing for us,” he said, smiling beneath his thin moustache.