struggle within Islam
An Iranian government entity enforcing Islamic rules says the Intelligence Ministry has arrested 300 anti-hijab activist "ringleaders" working "for the enemy." A spokesman of the Enjoining Good & Forbidding Evil Headquarters said Sept. 11 that the activists were arrested in accordance with the new Hijab & Chastity Regulations, which officially extend the mandatory hijab to social media posts. This is to be monitored by the government's facial recognition software that was previously used during the pandemic to track if people were wearing face masks.
It has been a year since the Taliban took back power—a year since desperate images at Kabul airport went around the world. Over those 12 months, Afghanistan has seen a reduction in conflict, but its economy has collapsed, record numbers are facing hunger, and it's projected that most of the population will soon be below the poverty line.
A large-scale incursion by the Somali jihadist group al-Shabab into eastern Ethiopia has been defeated. The government claims to have killed more than 800 militants in heavy fighting that began at the end of July. The attempt to open a new front in Ethiopia was not only a military defeat for al-Shabab, but also a political failure. Although some of al-Shabab's leaders are from the area, ideologically the Somali region of Ethiopia is known for its religious tolerance. Local community and religious leaders rallied to oppose the group, and have pledged to resist future infiltration.
Security forces laid siege to a village in northern Iran on Aug. 2, demolishing houses and farms belonging to members of the persecuted Baha'i faith. Over 200 troops were deployed to Roshankouh, in Mazandaran province, blocking the road into the village and confiscating residents' cell phones before commencing demolition of several properties. However, video footage of heavy machinery demolishing buildings was posted to social media by the Baha'i International Community. The organization reports that six homes were destroyed and over 20 hectares of land were confiscated. Troops used tear-gas and fired shots in the air to disperse residents who gathered to protest the demolitions.
The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on July 20 released a report holding the ruling Taliban regime responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and inhumane punishments in the first 10 months since they seized power. In total, UNAMA found that Taliban forces engaged in 239 extrajudicial killings, 313 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 46 cases of incommunicado detention, and 73 instances of torture. Most of the incidents targeted former Afghan National Defense & Security Forces (ANDSF) soldiers, officials from the previous government, ISIL-KP members, or National Resistance Front fighters. UNAMA also identified an additional 217 instances of degrading punishments and 118 uses of excessive force against civilians. Finally, Taliban forces also engaged in at least 163 rights violations targeting journalists and 64 targeting human rights defenders.
At a May 7 press conference in Kabul, the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue & Prevention of Vice released an order from Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, stating that women outside the home must cover their faces. The all-encompassing blue burqa, or chadari, which became a global symbol of the Taliban's previous extremist rule from 1996 to 2001, was proposed as a suitable covering. The text of the decree calls such covering "obligatory" for all "mature and noble" women. The mandate is imposed "in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram," or immediate family. Tellingly, the order does not impose penalties on women themselves but on their male guardians. The fathers and husbands of women accused of going barefaced are to be summoned and, on repeat offenses, fired from government jobs or imprisoned.
In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Protests for and against the right of young women to wear the hijab in classrooms have swept across the Indian state of Karnataka, with incidents of stone-pelting and "lathicharge" (police baton-charge). The dispute began Jan. 1, when hijab-wearing Muslim students were denied entry at PU College in Udupi. Protests erupted this week at Udupi's Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College, where students organized by the right-wing Hindu Jagarana Vedike (youth arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS) demanded that school authorities either allow them to wear saffron shawls or call upon Muslim students remove their headscarves. The college acceded to the latter demand. In other schools, students wearing the hijab were made to sit in separate classrooms.