Monday, July 20, 2009

Minority Plights

Countries on the front line in the "war on terror" are using the battle against extremists as a smokescreen to crack down on minority groups, according to an international human rights group. While this may come as little surprise to some seasoned observers it is rare enough to find a report that methodically documents the evidence and puts a convincing case forward.

For the fourth straight year, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan topped an annual index compiled by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) of countries where minorities are most at risk of genocide, mass killings or violent repression.

"You see governments who have faced a genuine threat, but the point is the actions they have taken against the wider civilian population, including minority civilians, has been justified as part of the 'war on terror,'" according to MRG director Mark Lattimer.

"It has included disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions." A two-year insurgency in Somalia led by al Shabaab militants, who have links to al Qaeda and include foreign Islamists among their ranks, has killed some 18,000 civilians.

The insurgency has put historically oppressed minority groups such as the Bantu, Gabooye and Yibir at particular risk, the chairman of Somali Minority Rights and Aid Forum, Mohamed Hassan Daryeel, said.

"If the Yibir go with the government, they will be attacked by the radical Islamists. At the same time, if they go with the Islamists, they will be considered terrorists, and if they are neutral they'll be targeted by all sides."

Daryeel said recent amputations carried out by al Shabaab fighters were performed on child soldiers forcibly recruited from minority groups. "They are at the bottom of society, the most disadvantaged," he said.

Despite a decline in violence in Iraq, the report said civilian deaths from violence were still estimated at 300-800 a month over the past year. It said minorities continued to bear the brunt of the violence, especially in the Nineveh area, home to the Shabak people.

"The Shabak community has suffered a lot at the hands of the terrorist groups and at the hands of the Kurdish 'Assayish' (secret police)," says head of Iraq's Minorities Council, Hunain Al-Qaddo. He said around 10,000 Shabak families had fled parts of Mosul to their homeland in the Nineveh plains for fear of being killed because of their ethnicity.

The rest of the top 10 list was comprised of Myanmar in fifth place, followed by Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Israel/Palestinian territories.

Pakistan rose on the list due to an escalating conflict against different Islamist groups, combined with growing violence in national politics and suppression of dissidents.

Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen were assessed as under greater danger than a year ago with their governments' involvement in regional conflicts compounding the risk of repression at home.

African states make up half the report's top 20 list.

Source: Alertnet

Go here to access the full report: Peoples Under Threat 2009


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