Muslims in the Former Soviet Union Rally Behind Myanmar’s Besieged Rohingya

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Muslims in the Former Soviet Union Rally Behind Myanmar’s Besieged Rohingya

‘Rohingya’. Creative commons image by Flickr user Rockefeller.

Over the past few weeks, Russia’s North Caucasus republics and the ex-Soviet states of Central Asia have seen an explosion of interest in the plight of Myanmar’s besieged Rohingya minority, who share the Islamic faith dominant across the region.

According to the United Nations over 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state for Bangladesh amid a campaign of government-backed violence sparked in part by a standoff with militants during the last two weeks. Al Jazeera and aid agencies estimate almost a million members of the stateless minority have fled Myanmar since the late 1970s.

Several large, seemingly Whatsapp-fuelled rallies against the violence have already taken place in Moscow and Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. The rallies went ahead in spite of Russia’s seeming official position on Myanmar, that saw it block a UN Security Council resolution regarding state-sponsored violence against the Rohingya earlier this year. In ex-Soviet Central Asia, while no-one took to the streets, a football match featuring Myanmar’s international team was cancelled over security fears and Facebook posts, petitions and even poetry in support of the Rohingya flooded timelines.

A strongman takes a stand

The Moscow rallies that took place on September 3 and 4 were unsanctioned in a country where the right to protest is strictly controlled. The first Moscow rally didn’t result in any arrests, despite heavy police presence, but 17 people were briefly detained on Monday at a follow-up rally. According to reports in the Russian media, WhatsApp groups served as a the main hub for organizing the protests.

Chechnya’s controversial leader Ramzan Kadyrov has played a leading role in organising the response to a sudden surge of violence and state-driven persecution in the Southeast Asian country. Kadyrov, famed for gay-bashing and fiery tirades in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has used social media to strike out against world leaders for their inaction. On September 4 he staged a rally attended by tens of thousands — the official claim was a million people, or almost 80 percent of the republic’s total population — in the Chechen capital Grozny. On Thursday, three days after the Grozny rally, Kadyrov made another statement on Instagram, saying that no further protests will be necessary as enough awareness had been raised.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year. Russian government photo. Creative commons.

By that point Kadyrov had already hinted that Moscow should step up pressure on Myanmar, while claiming he would launch a nuclear strike against the Rohingya’s oppressors if he was able to.

He later said the comments — which analysts called alarming for his superiors in the Kremlin — had been taken out of context by his enemies. Russia’s foreign ministry warned against putting pressure on Myanmar on June 8.

Given Kadyrov’s uncompromising stance on Myanmar, it is no surprise that social media users from Chechnya have been among the loudest voices backing the Rohingya on Russian social media. Users from neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia have also been vocal even as citizens in Russia’s other majority Muslim federal republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, largely ignored the issue.

This North Caucasus bias was reflected in Yandex, Russia’s largest national search engine, reporting a sharp increase in searches about Myanmar (Мьянма in Cyrillic) coming from the region.

Support for the Rohingya cause across the region has a pop-up feel. Many long-standing Islamic-themed Vkontakte pages have transformed themselves into 24/7 pro-Rohingya advocacy channels overnight. Most are explicitly run by and aimed at residents of Chechnya.

Pro-Rohingya meme widely shared on Russian social media

One such online community, [V]Chechnye ([In]Chechnya), has posted at least 43 messages relating to the Rohingya crisis since September 1. Messages include video appeals informing Muslims of the atrocities against the Rohingya, calls to sign a Change.org petition, and allegations that anti-Muslim violence in traditionally Buddhist regions of Russia such as Kalmykia goes unpunished (incidents reported in the Russian media, such as a prayer room in Elista, Kalmykia’s capital, being torched by unidentified assailants, and a pig’s head thrown into a village mosque, were mentioned).

Some have gone as far as recruiting volunteers online to join a “holy jihad” to save their brethren in Myanmar.

One page, Overheard in Chechnyapublished a post bringing attention to the September 4 rally, adding bullet-pointed instructions on how to keep the online campaign alive.

They are experiencing what we cannot even imagine!
#Rohingyawearewithyou
ALLAHU AKBAR
Tomorrow (04.09), a rally near Grozny’s central mosque!!
Don’t be indifferent!!!!
Max repost!!

Let’s all hold a rally on social media!!! All! All of you! Everyone who opposes the genocide in Myanmar!!! Your faith, denomination or nationality don’t matter!!!
Replace your Instagram, What’s App [sic], Vkontakte etc profile picture with the following image (share both the text and the image)
DON’T LIKE IMAGES AND VIDEOS NOT RELATED TO THE CAMPAIGN! So that the genocide stays on top of most discussed posts!!! So that everyone knows!!!
DISSEMINATE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RALLY AMONG EVERYONE YOU KNOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA! Let the whole world know that we won’t just let the story go!!! We are prepared to go any length to save innocent people!!!
USE THE HASHTAG #ROHINGYAWEAREWITHYOU

Even My Private Aul, an anonymous online community for gay persons from Northern Caucasus — arguably one of the most marginalized and persecuted groups in Russia — posted an appeal to sign a petition addressed to Russia’s UN envoy.

The petition, which at the time of writing has over 160 thousand signatures, urges the the Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzya to support a UN Security Council resolution on violence in Myanmar, rather than vetoing it with China, as happened earlier this year.

Political football and poems of woe

Over on the other side of the Caspian Sea in the Central Asian states once part of the Soviet Union there has also been a strong reaction to violence in Myanmar. This was most apparent in Kyrgyzstan, where the government cancelled a scheduled Asia Cup football qualifying fixture with Myanmar, amid concerns over a potential terror threat and fan clashes with Burmese players.

Many Kyrgyz social media users thought this was an overreaction. But officials were clearly nervous in the build-up to the game, as social media users called variously for a boycott of the match, a peaceful protest outside the stadium and a minute’s silence in respect of the Rohingya victims prior to kick off.

The football federation, whose Facebook page was overwhelmed by criticisms of Myanmar and support for the Rohingya, posted a plea for order before the country’s Prime Minister eventually moved to cancel the game:

We position ourselves as a friendly and hospitable nation!!! Like all we condemn and mourn what is happening to Muslims in Myanmar! Nevertheless…let’s show on September 5 that we don’t give in to provocations. Let’s support our guys in a friendly fashion!

Not all Kyrgyz have been impressed by online pro-Rohingya messaging. One post in the group We are for a Democratic and Secular Kyrgyzstan (In Russian Мы за СВЕТСКИЙ, ДЕМОКРАТИЧЕСКИЙ КЫРГЫЗСТАН!) hinted at frustrations over pan-Islamic sympathies and posts written “stupidly for likes and comments”.

In this post a Facebook user criticizes another user for writing posts “stupidly for likes and comments”. The original post calls on Muslims to pray for the Rohingya and for God to punish their persecutors “in the harshest possible way.”

The violence in Myanmar also inspired a number of lyrical tributes. Here citizens of Tajikistan came into their own. One website focused on the country counted at least five Tajik poems on social media, themed on the unfolding tragedy in Myanmar.

A woman poet Shoira Rahimjon wrote:

I’ll go to Myanmar!
To tell Burma not to take hopes from
My poor pregnant sister,
Not to burn my nation,
Not to take my soul,

I’ll go right now!
To take Burma to the house of justice,
And to the home of forgiveness

Although the Grozny and Moscow protests may have played a role in drawing Central Asians towards the Rohingya cause, it is worth considering that the opportunity for solidarity presented to them by the conflict in Myanmar is also an opportunity for self defence.

While all five countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) have majority-Muslim populations, they also share aggressively secular authoritarian governments, who fear growing religious adherence is undermining their authority.

Tajik migrants gather on a Moscow street for Eid al-Fitr prayers. Praying on the street is banned in Tajikistan. Photo by David Trilling for Eurasianet.org. Used with permission.

Last week Tajikistan moved to ban the Islamic hijab covering from schools completely while mobile service providers mobbed citizens with SMS messages stressing the need to wear non-religious “national” clothes. Neighbours Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are routinely recognised by the US state department as “countries of particular concern” in regards to religious freedom. Kazakhstan is seemingly movingin a similar direction.

For citizens in these countries then, the plight of a geographically distant community whose religion they share has offered a chance to amplify concerns about injustices committed against Muslims the world over, without too much fear at the consequences of speaking out.

For Ramzan Kadyrov over in Chechnya, the Rohingya tragedy perhaps represents something even greater: a bid for power and influence across the Muslim world.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a “huge iceberg of misinformation” about the Rohingya crisis was being distributed to benefit “terrorists.”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has made her first public comments on the fate of her country’s persecuted Rohingya minority since new violence broke out almost two weeks ago.

Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar’s state counselor is the country’s defacto leader, claimed during a phone conversation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a “huge iceberg of misinformation” about the Rohingya crisis was being distributed to benefit “terrorists.”
According to a readout of the call, she added her government was fighting to ensure “terrorism” didn’t spread over the whole of Rakhine state.
Suu Kyi has come under fire in recent days for failing to speak out against the mass killings and displacement of Rohingya by her government, particularly given her previous image as a champion of human rights.
During the call, Suu Kyi said her government was already working to protect the rights of the Rohingya.
“We know very well, more than most, what it means to be deprived of human rights and democratic protection,” Suu Kyi said, according to a readout of the call.
“So we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights as well as, the right to, and not just political but social and humanitarian defense.”
At least 123,000 Rohingya refugees have poured across the Bangladeshi border in just two weeks after Myanmar’s military crackdown. The violence intensified after coordinated attacks on border posts which the government blamed on “terrorists.”
Refugees brought with them stories of death and destruction from inside the western Myanmar province. Satellite imagery released by Human Rights Watch allegedly shows entire villages razed to the ground.

International aid heads to Myanmar

Following Erdogan’s call with Suu Kyi, a spokesman for the Turkish presidency announced the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) would be allowed to deliver 1,000 tons of aid to Rakhine State.
“The aid will be delivered to the Maungtaw and Buthi Taung areas in the northern regions of Rakhine … to the hundreds of families displaced from their homes and villages as a result of attacks,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.
“The first stage of the aid which will be made to the Rohingya who fled to mountainous areas … includes the food staples of rice and dried fish as well as clothing.”
The spokesman added as the region was still unsafe, aid would be delivered via military helicopters in cooperation with Rakhine authorities.

Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic minority members walk through rice fields after crossing over to the Bangladesh side of the border, Friday, Sept. 1.

Turkey isn’t the only one sending aid to the troubled province either — the Migrant Offshore Aid Station Foundation (MOAS) announced Monday it would relocate to Myanmar to help fleeing refugees.
MOAS is the organization that has been working since April 2014 to rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe on often unsafe vessels.
They claim to have already helped more than 40,000 people, including children.
“Building on MOAS’ long-standing dedication to alleviating the plight of the persecuted Rohingya minority, MOAS is therefore undertaking a strategic shift of its operations to South East Asia,” the organization announced on their website.
“MOAS said they were following a direction from Pope Francis, who on August 27 publicly called for an international response to the Rohingya crisis.”
“From there, MOAS will deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance and aid to the Rohingya people, and will work to provide a platform for transparency, advocacy and accountability in the region.”

Muslim anger grows worldwide

Myanmar has faced a growing chorus of outrage from across the Muslim world following the most recent outbreak of violence inside Rakhine State.

Thousands in Chechnya rally for Rohingya Muslims

Thousands in Chechnya rally for Rohingya Muslims 00:49
Leaders of several Muslim majority countries, including Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, have issued strong statements calling out the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Monday expressed “deep anguish” at the continuing violence, which he termed “deplorable.”
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi flew to Myanmar on Monday for talks for state councilor Suu Kyi, after her president Joko Widodo said real action was needed to stop the conflict.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to hold talks with Suu Kyi during a state visit to Myanmar on Wednesday.
Multiple countries have also seen large protests in support of the Rohingya people, including a mass march in the Chechnyan capital of Grozny and outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres led Western states in condemning the violence, releasing a statement Tuesday saying he is “deeply concerned about the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.”

Today is the “Tishaa Beav”. I wish everybody easy fast.

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE WEBSITE OF ‘SEELISTENUNDERSTAND’)

 

seelistenunderstand.wordpress.comx
[email protected]
162.158.89.156
Post Aug. 1st 2017
1. Today is the “Tishaa Beav”. I wish everybody easy fast.
2. There is a very noisy debate in Israel. The subject is the killing of a terrorist that tried to stab Israeli soldiers. He was shot by Israeli soldiers and while he was lying on the ground, came another soldier and made “confirmation” of death of the terrorist. If you doubt/ask why to confirm the terrorist death? Here is the answer: It happened in the past that “Killed/dead” soldiers “waked” up and caused casualties to the soldiers. It happened in many places. Actually it happens in every war/battle. During the fight the soldiers run and look for shelters. They don’t watch if there are fake dead enemies. This, many times, enabled the “dead/injured” enemies to get organized/prepared to attack the soldiers from their back. So, in order to eliminate such unpleasant surprises the order is to confirm the death of those that pretend to be dead.
3. In the case in debate the Israeli soldier killed the terrorist. Couple of journalists took pictures of the confirmation. They published it and ignited the surface. The soldier tat “confirmed” the death was called to court. After many, too many, court meetings he was sent to jail for 1.5 years.
4. I think that the judges behaved to him in the most serious way. He, and his colleagues, the Israeli soldiers are exposed every day to attacks by terrorists. Attacks means stabbing and/or shooting and of throwing homemade bombs and/or fireworks. Everything is usable for their purposes to kill Israelis/Jews/Christians/Druze/civilians/soldiers/children/ adults/ men/women and people of any other nation in the world. Even Arabs/Muslims. Their purpose is to see blood and as much as possible.
5. Israel fights them because of this reason. But this is not the only reason. Israel was occupied by Jews all history long. Since the time of the bible. Even when the land of Canaan was conquered by foreign armies, and it happened several time, Jews were sitting, keeping the land by making agriculture. After the 2nd world war Jews Holocaust survivors returned to Israel and established the best and most wonderful/blooming/successful state in the world. The Arabs can’t admit to the flourishing of Israel so they want to destroy us. They failed. So they established their “Small warfare” which is called, in another words, terror. They hope that it will help them. So this is the story of the confirmation of the death of the terrorist in subject.
6. In the same breath, while we discuss this subject, I want to tell all of you that if you look for a pure fight and pure army that keep strictly the pure arms you won’t find one like the IDF. We don’t kill civilians and/or even soldiers, like the Arabs do, if it is not necessary for the safety and security of our soldiers/army. If you check all history long you can find that all armies killed many prisoners. You can’t find even one prisoner that was killed by Israeli in a cold blood. If it should have been happened the soldier would have have been sent to jail for the entire of his life. This is the degree of honor that we give to other soldiers although they are our enemies and that they are in danger.
7. The Israeli law order very strictly not to pour blood, whoever it will be, of innocent people. This is the charter of the Israeli army.
8. But there are cases that the soldier is in a dilemma what to do. This is up to him. To leave a live enemy that can attack him from behind or to make sure that he and his friends, Israeli soldiers, keep living and fight for our lives/state. This is not a easy decision, especially during war when you see your best friends getting killed.
9. All of this is to differ from the Arab/Muslim/Palestinian way to kill everybody that they see on the way and if they didn’t find such one to kill Jews, on Friday night, while they celebrating the entrance of the queen Shabat=”Shabat Hamalka”.
10. “Even if he would be sentenced to life imprison it would not revive our son”. This sentence was said by the terrorist that was killed by the soldier that confirmed his death. Just read it carefully. They complain about the killing of their son who was killed because he was educated, and tried to implement his education, to kill Jews. Killing innocent Jews is, from their point of view-ok, but he got killed. They blame the others. This is part of the Muslims culture. It must be learned in every school in the world to show the level of art that the Muslims reached in lying by using religion.
11. Israel, as a social state, thinks that everybody is equal so one must contribute to the state by fulfilling his duties. One of the duties is the army service. Most of the youngsters do join the army after high school. “Most” does not mean all. The balances of the people that don’t serve in the army are the extreme right wing religious parties and the most leftists. The right wingers don’t recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people and they support the Arabs. Some of them even meet with Palestinian leaders and have very good relations with them, not with Israel. Most of them live in America. Not very many live in Israel but contribute nothing to the social life and the economy. The next group of extremists is the day and night Torah learners. Just next to them there is another group that don’t serve in the army, but they recognize Israel and even have government members. They also give some kind of social service. After them there are still none Zionist group that don’t recognize Israel, but they serve in the army. They suffer very much from the more right wingers, because of their contribution to the state in different ways. After them we have the group of Zionist religious people that fulfill all duties that an average Israeli citizen do. Afterwards there is the center, the main group of the Israelis that carry the state on their shoulders. These people can be found everywhere and they, together with the Zionist religious people, are the ones that lead the state. The next group is the leftists that don’t serve in the army as they are pacifists and they claim that the debate/war with the Palestinians is because of Israel’s position. They claim that if we fulfill all Arab claims the peace, between Arabs and Jews, will prevail. My feeling is that this is a wishful thinking. Why? See next.
12. In the Quran is written that all none Muslim people, from all over the world, must convert to the Islam. The none believers in the Islam will be killed. This is what happened just lately between Daesh and Muslims that were not of their group/stream. They just beheaded them. This is how they behave among/between Muslims. What will be the verdict and the execution between Muslims and Jews if they get all the requested by them, by the Muslims/ Arabs, I don’t want even to think of.
13. Yes, that’s right that not all Arabs are the same. They have different opinions. There are pacifists that look for common lives. I know many of them and we are friends. They have the same blood color, like mine and work very hard for their income. The problem with them is that they are not war people and they can’t fight the extreme Muslims. They are afraid of the extremists. Therefore they stay in the shed looking for better time.
14. In spite of all the above written I hope that somebody, Muslim leader, like Ata Turk of Turkey, will take the lead of the Islam, will overrule the orders in the Quran and lead the Islam in different way, more friendly. I am sure that it will happen. The question is when?
Please share/reblog the posts.
In friendship……………………………….Amir

Indiana Muslims Appalled By Accurate List of Muhammad’s Deeds

 

US

Indiana Muslims Appalled By Accurate List of Muhammad’s Deeds

GRACE CARR
06/07/2017
A billboard on the east side of Indianapolis is catching the attention of many drivers and angering lots of Muslims.

“The Perfect Man” poster references the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam and was put up by Truthophobes — a website dedicated to “exposing the truth about Islam.”

The billboard lists six boxes below things the prophet did or beliefs he espoused during his lifetime, according to Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

The billboard’s facts check out except for its first box stating Muhammad married a 6-year-old. In fact, his wife was 6-years-old when she became engaged to the prophet Muhammad and 9-years-old when they were married. The billboard signs off with “Educate Truthophobes.”

“I was a little disappointed when I saw that … We do support free speech, but we do realize this is also rooted in bigotry,” said Farial Khatri of the Islamic Society of North America, according to Fox59. “We’ve seen them in New York and several others cities on billboards as well as other transit ads,” he added.

Some groups spoke out against the display as disparaging to Muslims while other groups want to do more. The Muslim Alliance of Indiana plans to raise money to put up its own billboard nearby to spread a message of peace and kindness.

Rima Shahid, executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, said she was “heartsick” when she saw a photo of the billboard, especially since it appeared at the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. She strongly condemned the billboard for spreading lies and misinformation about Islam and its prophet. “These are completely false statements,” Shahid said, according to NBC news.

“It perpetuates hate. It perpetuates misconceptions about Islam, and it makes our neighbors think we believe things that just aren’t true … they’ve been misinformed,” she said. “This billboard is garbage,” Shahid added.

Shortly after the giant board went up, the Muslim Alliance of Indiana reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett and Congressman Andre Carson about ways to challenge the billboard. It is important to note that the board was put up shortly after three separate terrorist attacks executed by Muslim extremists – Westminster Bridge, Manchester, and Borough – rocked the the UK.

FOX59 emailed “Truthophobes” to ask if the site’s operators are responsible for the billboard but they received no response.

Follow Grace on Twitter.

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From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run

One of Baghdadi’s main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him ‘to justice’.

WORLD Updated: Jun 12, 2017 22:05 IST

Islamic State
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would have been his first public appearance, at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul.(Reuters File)

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is on the brink of losing the two main centres of his ‘caliphate’ but even though he is on the run, it may take years to capture or kill him, officials and experts said.

Islamic State fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group’s territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and officials say Baghdadi is steering clear of both, hiding in thousands of square miles of desert between the two.

“In the end, he will either be killed or captured, he will not be able to remain underground forever,” said Lahur Talabany, the head of counter-terrorism at the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. “But this is a few years away still,” he told Reuters.

One of Baghdadi’s main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him “to justice”, said Hisham al-Hashimi, who advises Middle East governments on Islamic State affairs.

“With no land to rule openly, he can no longer claim the title caliph,” Hashimi said. “He is a man on the run and the number of his supporters is shrinking as they lose territory.”

Iraqi forces have retaken much of Mosul, the northern Iraqi city the hardline group seized in June 2014 and from which Baghdadi declared himself “caliph” or leader of all Muslims shortly afterwards. Raqqa, his capital in Syria, is nearly surrounded by a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab groups.

Damaged cars are seen stacked in the middle of a road in western Mosul’s Zanjili neighbourhood on June 9, 2017, during ongoing battles to try to take the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. (AFP Photo)

The last public video footage of him shows him dressed in black clerical robes declaring his caliphate from the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque back in 2014.

Born Ibrahim al-Samarrai, Baghdadi is a 46-year-old Iraqi who broke away from al-Qaeda in 2013, two years after the capture and killing of the group’s leader Osama bin Laden.

He grew up in a religious family, studied Islamic Theology in Baghdad and joined the Salaafi jihadist insurgency in 2003, the year of the US-led invasion of Iraq. He was caught by the Americans who released him about a year later as they considered him then as a civilian rather than a military target.

Read more

Bounty

He is shy and reserved, Hashimi said, and has recently stuck to the sparsely populated Iraq-Syria border where drones and strangers are easy to spot.

The US Department of State’s Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program had put the same $25 million bounty on Bin Laden and Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein and the reward is still available for Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Neither Saddam nor Bin Laden were voluntarily betrayed, but the bounties complicated their movements and communications.

“The reward creates worry and tension, it restricts his movements and limit the number of his guards,” said Fadhel Abu Ragheef, a Baghdad-based expert on extremist groups. “He doesn’t stay more than 72 hours in any one place.”

Baghdadi “has become nervous and very careful in his movements”, said Talabany, whose services are directly involved in countering Islamic State plots. “His circle of trust has become even smaller.”

His last recorded speech was issued in early November, two weeks after the start of the Mosul battle, when he urged his followers to fight the “unbelievers” and “make their blood flow as rivers”.

US and Iraqi officials believe he has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battles of Mosul and Raqqa, to focus on his own survival.

It is not possible to confirm his whereabouts.

Baghdadi does not use phones and has a handful number of approved couriers to communicate with his two main aides, Iyad al-Obaidi, his defence minister, and Ayad al-Jumaili, in charge of security. There was no confirmation of an April 1 Iraqi state TV report that Jumaili had been killed.

Baghdadi moves in ordinary cars, or the kind of pick-up trucks used by farmers, between hideouts on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, with just a driver and two bodyguards, said Hashimi.

The region is well known to his men as the hotbed of the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces that invaded Iraq and later the Shia-led governments that took over the country.

Read more

At the height of its power two years ago, Islamic State ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

It persecuted non-Sunnis and even Sunnis who did not agree with its extreme version of Islamic law, with public executions and whippings for violating strict controls on appearance, behaviour and movement.

But the group has been retreating since in the face of a multitude of local, regional and international forces, driven into action by the scores of deadly attacks around the world that it has claimed or inspired.

A few hundred thousand people now live in the areas under the group’s control, in and around Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, in Syria’s east, and in a few pockets south and west of Mosul. Hashimi said Islamic State was moving some fighters out of Raqqa before it was encircled to regroup in Deir al-Zor.

Displaced Iraqi children gather behind a fence at the Hasan Sham camp for internally displaced people on June 10, 2017. (AFP Photo)

Mosul, with pre-war population of 2 million, was at least four times the size of any other the group has held. Up to 200,000 people are still trapped in the Old City, Islamic State’s besieged enclave in Mosul, lacking supplies and being used as human shields to obstruct the progress of Iraqi forces by a US-led international coalition.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, made of Kurdish and Arab groups supported by the US-led coalition, began to attack Raqqa last week, after a months-long campaign to cut it off.

The militants are also fighting Russian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels backed by Turkey.

The last official report about Baghdadi was from the Iraqi military on Feb. 13. Iraqi F-16s carried out a strike on a house where he was thought to be meeting other commanders, in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, it said.

Overall, Islamic State has 8,000 fighters left, of which 2,000 are foreigners from other Arab states, Europe, Russia and central Asia, said Abu Ragheef.

“A small number compared to the tens of thousands arrayed against them in both countries, but a force to be reckoned with, made up of die-hards with nothing to lose, hiding in the middle of civilians and making extensive use of booby traps, mines and explosives,” he said.

The US government has a joint task force to track down Baghdadi which includes special operations forces, the CIA and other US intelligence agencies as well as spy satellites of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

It will take more than that to erase his influence, Talabany said. “He is still considered the leader of ISIL and many continue to fight for him; that hasn’t changed drastically,” he said, using one of Islamic State’s acronyms.

Even if killed or captured, he added, “his legacy and that of ISIL will endure unless radical extremism is tackled.”

Read more

Inciters in Egypt should be Pursued Internationally

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Inciters in Egypt should be Pursued Internationally

The repeated crimes targeting Egypt are an evil act that requires regional and international actions, as its causes and consequences are no longer an Egyptian matter.

What happened on Friday in Minya is part of a series of terrorist attacks linked to the Egyptian armed opposition as well as to the opposition factions that are openly inciting violent attacks.

It is imperative to demand that all the incitement and actions against Egypt be considered as international crimes as is the case today with terrorist organizations like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia and others.

Governments and media outlets allowing the incitement against Egypt must be held accountable because they are directly responsible for what is happening in the country.

We must accuse these governments and media outlets of taking part in what is happening in Egypt because the government apparatuses are no longer targeted as they used to justify themselves earlier and consider their actions as a war between the regime and the opposition.

The majority of the crimes now are directed against civilian facilities, leading to civilian victims and inciting religious sectarianism between Copts and Muslims.

We support the Egyptian people and we cannot stay neutral in the face of these repeated crimes. Keeping mum on the incitements justifying such hideous terrorism attacks, coordinated with opposing political forces, cannot be tolerated anymore.

The Muslim Brotherhood, and the governments supporting the group, must be aware of the gravity of what they are doing because they are responsible for these terrorist operations that are the outcome of their irrational political actions.

These groups and their supporting governments will be targeted through international curbs, prosecution and isolation, holding them accountable for the crimes committed in Egypt.

The conflict with the Egyptian government has gone too far. The political, organizational, media, and financing campaign against the Egyptian government has gone too far after failing to create a peaceful civil opposition movement.

After the failure in repeating the Egyptian Spring scenario, they started advocating and justifying attacks against the government.

As the world is fighting together against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, it will be angered by what is happening in Egypt.

It will not be difficult to hold accountable the governments that support the Egyptian terrorist groups whether in terms of funds or media exposure.

More than 90 persons were killed in four terrorist sectarian attacks in Cairo, Alexandria, Tanta, and the last one in Minya.

The new international approach does not only pursue terrorist organizations but will also point the fingers at the governments that allow extremist ideologies or accept their political discourse as well as the governments that promote extremism, both in the media and political levels.

There is no doubt that there is an interrelation between these groups claiming to be peaceful but at the same time agreeing on terror ideologies. They are now considered as a political entities. This applies to the Muslim Brotherhood, with its Egyptian branch in particular.

The attack in Minya, similar to the crime in Manchester few days ago, is part of the cycle of violence, following justification of terrorism, media propaganda and indirect funding. Terrorism has become an international crime, and it is no longer an internal problem that can be limited to solidarity and acts of consolation.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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Jakarta Indonesia’s Muslim’s Make Tomorrows Election About Religion And Race, Not Issues

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Indonesia’s capital is on edge one day before a vote that has become a test of tolerance in the world’s most populous majority-Muslim nation.

The incumbent governor of Jakarta, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, is facing a challenge by a Muslim former government minister backed by hard-line religious groups.
“There’s been quite a lot at stake, mostly because of how the election has been framed, (not) issues about how Jakarta will be run itself but rather questions of identity politics,” Ian Wilson, research fellow at Australia’s Murdoch University Asia Research Center, told CNN.
Tensions have risen since the first round of voting on February 15, when Ahok came in first with almost 43% of the vote, just ahead of former Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan.
Religious groups determined to see Baswedan take the governorship have been accused of stoking religious discord in the city ahead of the second round, analysts say, a startling turn in a country with a secular constitution and a long tradition of pluralism.
“I think a lot of Chinese Jakartans are feeling anxious about what will happen regardless of the outcome,” Wilson said.

Anies Baswedan (2L) and his running mate pray during an event in Jakarta on March 4.

Mass protests against Ahok

Tensions began to build in November 2016 after Ahok made comments during a campaign speech, which were interpreted by some as an insult to the Quran and Islam.
Now Ahok is on trial for blasphemy and Islamic conservative groups are pushing hard against him. In March, during the campaign, large crowds of thousands of protestors massed in Jakarta’s streets to call for his imprisonment.
“(The vote) is being framed in these semi-apocalyptic terms — that if Baswedan loses it means this infidel, conspiratorial Chinese group will be in power and it will be a disaster,” Wilson said.
While Baswedan himself has taken a step back from the aggressive rhetoric of the first half of the campaign, analysts say, conservative Islamic groups have picked up the slack.

Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial on April 11.

“There was this grandma who died and she voted for Ahok and she was (reportedly) denied Muslim funeral rights,” Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an Indonesian think tank, told CNN.
“(Islamist groups) are using a lot of very blatant religious messages. Very blatant. There are various messages showing people … making oaths in communities saying you cannot vote for a non-Muslim and so on.”
With polls showing a tight race between the two candidates and religious tensions running high, both camps have reasons to be anxious.
Wilson said there is a possibility things may descend into violence.

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims protest against Ahok on March 31 in Jakarta.

Anies for president?

It isn’t just religious tolerance that’s at stake though.
The eyes of Indonesia’s national leaders are fixed on the vote as well, and who will be in the powerful position of Jakarta governor during the next national election in 2019.
Ahok is an ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi — in fact, he was his running mate during Widodo’s own successful run for the governorship in 2012.
After Widodo’s 2012 win quickly led to a successful run for the presidency in 2014, Indonesian political insiders now see the Jakarta governorship as a step to the highest office in the land.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) with Anies Baswedan (L) at the presidential palace in Jakarta on October 24, 2014.

A Baswedan win will be seen as a major blow to Jokowi.
“It would be a major political win for (former 2014 presidential candidate) Prabowo Subianto, who has been very transparent in his support for Anies,” Wilson said.
Whether Baswedan runs for the presidency in 2019, or supports a second run by Prabowo, Basuki said a win by the former minister in Jakarta would embolden Islamic groups.
“If Anies (is elected), the peddling of influence by these Islamic groups will be greater, and use of religion will be much more in vogue in local elections heading towards the 2019 vote,” he said.

Jakarta’s poor turn on Ahok

But despite the high religious and racial tensions in the Jakarta governor race, they aren’t the only reason Ahok is in trouble.
Greg Fealy, an associate professor in Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, told CNN in February Ahok’s blunt, combative style of governing put a lot of Jakartans off.
“He’s a very combative, outspoken, reckless kind of character who has achieved a lot for Jakarta, but he’s a character who has created a lot of antipathy toward him,” he said.

Ahok flanked by his wife Veronica (R) and son Nicholas (L) show off their first-round ballot papers in Jakarta on February 15.

Not only that, but a lot of the poor Jakartans who voted for the joint Widodo/Ahok ticket in 2012 in hopes of a new style of government have been the target of large-scale evictions under the governor’s administration.
“They have very specific material grievances against the governor, they feel there was a betrayal of a political contract … I think that magnified feelings of injustice against those neighborhoods,” Wilson said.

There Is A Video War Being Played Out In Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Video vs Video: The other war playing out in Kashmir

INDIA Updated: Apr 17, 2017 07:39 IST

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kashmir unrest

Protesters clash with police and paramilitary soldiers during a protest after Friday prayers in Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

A grainy short video shot with a cellphone shows Wali Mohammed Bhat, a supporter of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), apologising profusely and shouting anti-India slogans at gunpoint.The petrified Kashmiri man is heard saying he has long quit all political activities.

In another similar video, a group of security men are seen pinning a youth in a red vest to the ground. His hands are tied behind his back, and the men are beating his legs with sticks.

He screams: “Paani … maafi (water… mercy).”

Read more

The two clips were uploaded on social media on Sunday and quickly became the most shared, watched and commented items online in militancy-riddled Jammu and Kashmir as well as the rest of India.

These are from a long line of videos showing the two stark realities of Kashmir — alleged atrocities of a hardnosed establishment trying to bulldoze the insurgency, and the threats, brickbats and stones that people on the non-separatist side of the political divide face in the Valley.

This is Unacceptable ! Cant do this to our CRPF jawaans .This rot has to stop. Badtameezi ki hadd hai.

The troubled region’s pro- and anti-separatist battle is fought through videos — a quick-reaction psychological weapon that is exploding on social networks more often lately, especially after the protest-blighted by-elections to the Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9.

At least eight people died in the unrest and hundreds were wounded as security forces fired at and caned crowds that tried to disrupt the bypoll in response to a separatist call to boycott the democratic process.

The video of an armed CRPF trooper being kicked and booed by a group of youth when he was returning from bypoll duty with his colleagues became a nationwide television debate.

Another Socking & Outrageous Video from occupied . Indian Brutality & oppression on its peak

The men in uniform do nothing to the hecklers. They walk on. Their action is peddled on the loop in national television as an epitome of restraint shown by the armed forces.

Read more

The tide turns on April 13 as another explosive clip surfaced. It shows security forces firing at a group, mostly children, throwing stones. The soldiers are seen moving behind a wall, bending, locating the position of the stone-throwers, and firing at a boy. Netizens called it targeted killing.

A day later, a video showed a Kashmiri youth tied to the bonnet of a military jeep as a human shield against stone-throwers. The background audio warns people that “this will be the fate of stone-pelters”.

Here’s the video as well. A warning can be heard saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry & follow up NOW!!

The video was supposedly shot in Budgam district on April 9 during the bypoll.

Another clip emerged, showing Kashmiri youth protecting a security man who allegedly fell behind from the rest of his troop.

It rained videos last Saturday. One of them shows a child screaming his lungs out as four men in army fatigues beat him mercilessly with sticks. Another one has three Kashmiri youth shouting “Pakistan Murdabad”, allegedly at the behest of a security man, half-visible in the video.

Hindustan Times could not authenticate where and when these videos were shot. But these are having an effect.

Iraqi Christians Return To Ransacked Town With Fear And Hope

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Iraqi Christians return to ransacked town with fear and hope

A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica SEARCH
By Ulf Laessing | QARAQOSH, IRAQ

With Islamic State expelled, Iraqi Christians are trickling back to the ransacked town of Qaraqosh, beset by anxiety for their security and yet hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions.

The town, about 20 km (12 miles) from the battlefront with Islamic State in the northern city of Mosul, shows why Christians have mixed feelings about the future of their ancient community.

In the desecrated churches of Qaraqosh, Christians are busy removing graffiti daubed by the Sunni Muslim militants during two and a half years of control – only for new slogans to have appeared, scrawled by Shi’ite members of the Iraqi forces fighting street to street with the jihadists in Mosul.

But nearby a shopkeeper is doing a brisk trade selling Dutch beer, Greek ouzo and several whisky brands to Christians, Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds alike, with this kind of commerce perhaps offering a glimpse of how Iraq’s fractured communities could again live together peacefully.

Encouraged by security checkpoints and patrols by a volunteer force, up to 10 Christian families have returned to what used to be the minority’s biggest community in Iraq until Islamic State seized it in 2014.

Iraqi forces pushed the group out of Qaraqosh in October, part of a six-month offensive to retake Mosul. But residents are worried that the Shi’ite slogans signal a new kind of sectarian division.

“Oh Hussein” is daubed in red on the wall of a church torched earlier by Islamic State, praising the hero of Shi’ite Muslims who was martyred 1,300 years ago.

“We are afraid of this, of tensions,” said Girgis Youssif, a church worker. “We want to live in peace and demand security,” said Youssif, who returned after fleeing to Erbil, about 60 km away in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Shi’ites in the Iraqi government forces and paramilitary groups, mostly from further south in the country, have scribbled such slogans on buildings all over Mosul too.

Soldiers have also hoisted the flag of Ali in the city and on their on military vehicles. Shi’ites regard Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and the prophet’s grandson Hussein as his true successors.

Two Shi’ite flags also fly over Qaraqosh.

Most Sunnis, who are the dominant community in Mosul, have shrugged off the Shi’ite slogans as the work of a handful of religious zealots but Christians take them as a signal that their future remains uncertain.

“Of course we are afraid of such signs,” said Matti Yashou Hatti, a photographer who still lives in Erbil with his family. “We need international protection.”

Those families who have returned to Qaraqosh – once home to 50,000 people – are trying to revive Christian life dating back two millennia. However, most stay only two or three days at a time to refurbish their looted and burnt homes.

“We want to come back but there is no water and power,” said Mazam Nesin, a Christian who works for a volunteer force based in Qaraqosh but has left his family behind in Erbil.

By contrast, displaced Muslims have been flocking back to markets in eastern Mosul since Islamic State’s ejection from that part of the city, despite the battle raging in the Old City across the Tigris river which is the militants’ last stronghold.

ALCOHOL SHOP

Numbers of Christians in Iraq have fallen from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand since the violence which followed the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. Many Baghdad residents who could not afford to go abroad went to Qaraqosh and other northern towns where security used to be better than in the capital, rocked by sectarian warfare after the U.S.-led invasion.

But with the arrival of Islamic State, residents abandoned their homes with some applying for asylum in Europe. Germany alone took in 130,000 Iraqis, among them many Christians, in 2015 and 2016. But most ended up in Erbil with relatives or in homes paid for by aid agencies.

Supermarkets and restaurants remain closed in Qaraqosh, with windows smashed and burnt furniture strewn across floors.

One of the few businesses to have reopened is Steve Ibrahim’s alcohol shop in the town center; in the absence of cafes it has become a meeting point for local people. “Business has been good so far. Everybody comes here to stock up,” said Ibrahim, who has just reopened the store with his father.

They lost everything when Islamic State, known by its enemies as Daesh, wrecked their business. Now they have invested about $400 to refurbish the shop – new tiles shine on the walls – and customers are coming from beyond the town and from across the communities.

“I sell drinks to Christians and Muslims alike,” he said. “Many people come from Mosul or other towns.”

Many of Ibrahim’s customers ignore Islam’s forbidding of alcohol consumption. While he was talking, a Sunni Muslim from eastern Mosul drove up to buy a bottle of whisky and four cans of beer, packed in a black plastic bag to hide his purchase from the eyes of more religiously observant Muslims.

“You couldn’t drink during Daesh. I am glad this shop is open again,” said the man who gave his name only as Mohammed, shaking hands with Christians enjoying an afternoon beer. “I still only drink at home.”

Later a Shi’ite from a village south of Mosul arrived to pick up drinks. “I come here twice a week. It’s the only shop in the area,” he said, asking not to be named, before driving off.

Even Ibrahim comes every day from Erbil, bringing by car supplies and fuel for the generator to power the fridges filled with cold beer. Then he drives back at night.

Whether more Christians can live permanently in Qaraqosh depends on whether the security forces win their trust.

Army and police have tried to ease fears by stationing soldiers in front of churches, and even helping Christian volunteers to set up a massive cross at the town’s entrance.

On Palm Sunday last weekend, soldiers escorted a procession in preparation for Easter, Christianity’s most important festival, and provided chairs for worshippers during Mass.

Some Christian policemen joined in, singing “Hallelujah” with civilians. But walking along rows of burnt out homes and supermarkets, others were still afraid.

“The security measures are not sufficient,” said Hatti, the photographer. “We want security to surround the town.”

(Click here, reut.rs/2ordbfj for a Photo essay on this story)

(Editing by David Stamp)

Germany dismisses ‘Islam law’ as integration debate resurfaces

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Germany dismisses ‘Islam law’ as integration debate resurfaces

By Paul Carrel | BERLIN

Germany has no plans to introduce an ‘Islam law’ codifying the rights and obligations of Muslims, a government spokesman said on Monday, dismissing an idea floated by allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of federal elections in September.

Merkel, who will seek a fourth term in what is expected to be a close-fought ballot, has come under fire for opening Germany’s doors to refugees, more than one million of whom – mostly Muslims – have entered the country over the past two years.

Seeking to boost support for the chancellor’s conservatives, senior Merkel ally Julia Kloeckner stoked the integration debate at the weekend by calling for stricter rules for Islamic preachers and a ban on foreign funding of mosques.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert dismissed the idea, which Kloeckner – who is deputy leader of the chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) – and other senior party members want to enshrine in an Islam law.

“Such a law is now not an issue for government business,” Seibert told a news conference, stressing the high regard Merkel’s ruling coalition has for religious freedom in Germany.

While stopping short of calling for an Islam law, Merkel said in her weekly podcast on Saturday that refugees in Germany must respect tolerance, openness and freedom of religion.

The message backed up a less compromising tone on integrating migrants that Merkel set at a CDU party conference in December, when she called for a ban on full-face Muslim veils “wherever legally possible”.

By talking tougher on integration, Merkel is also seeking to reclaim support her party lost last year over her refugee policy to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which punished the CDU in regional elections in 2016.

The AfD has lost voter support this year, hurt by infighting that has sent its ratings down to around 8 percent from a high of 15.5 percent at the end of 2016.

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte used a similar tactic to win re-election this year, seizing back the initiative from anti-Islam populist rivals by matching some of their tough rhetoric on immigration.

He told the country’s half-million ethnic Turks that they should integrate and accept Dutch views on freedom of speech or “get lost” after some had been filmed behaving aggressively toward a reporter during a demonstration.

“Our norms and values are all or nothing: you can’t pick and choose,” he said in response to the footage in an interview last September.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; editing by John Stonestreet)