Ahwazi Arabs charge Iran with 'ethnocide'
The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), seeking autonomy for the Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran's southwest, held its third annual conference in Copenhagen last week—drawing attendance this time from George Sabra, former leader of the opposition Syrian National Council. Sabra told the conference, "What unites our two nations is our joint path and destiny in the struggle to gain our freedom and human dignity." ASMLA chairman Habib Jabor charged that "the mullahs' savage regime has enforced ethnocide policies against the Ahwazi Arab people and other non-Persian peoples... Several million Ahwazi Arabs are denied equal rights by the Iranian regime under a system of apartheid, defined as a deliberate policy of racial or ethnic segregation... [T]he international community's lack of reaction concerning the state of human rights in the Ahwaz region...has given the Iranian regime and its elite a right of life and death over entire communities. Ahwazi Arabs...are victimized, robbed and plundered because of their ethnicity."
Rights groups criticize arms sale to Saudi Arabia
Human Rights Watch is calling on the Obama administration to cancel a pending arms sale to Saudi Arabia in the absence of serious investigations into alleged laws-of-war violations in Yemen. On No. 17, the Pentagon announced that the State Department had approved a sale of $1.29 billion worth of air-to-ground munitions such as laser-guided bombs and "general purpose" bombs with guidance systems. "The purchase replenishes the Royal Saudi Air Force's current weapons supplies, which are becoming depleted due to the high operational tempo in multiple counter-terrorism operations," the Pentagon statement said. But HRW's Joe Stork countered: "The US government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition's indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen since March. Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the US will be partially responsible."
Bahrain sentences political activist to prison
The Bahrain Court of Appeals convicted rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja on charges related to her ripping up a photo of the Bahraini king during a court hearing in 2014, Amnesty International said Oct. 21. Her appeal reduced her charges for insulting the king from three years to one year in prison. She has also been fined 3,000 Bahraini dinars ($7,953.34), and if she fails to pay the fine her prison term may be extended by a year-and-a-half. She previously spent almost a year-and-a-half in prison and has been arrested and released three times since December 2011. Presently she is appealing three separate convictions against her, including a four-sentence for two charges of "destroying public property" and a one-year sentence for "insulting a police officer" while visiting her father in jail. Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of prominent activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, currently in prison for life for his participation in pro-democracy protests in 2011.
Yemen: Amnesty demands halt to arms transfers
Damning evidence of war crimes by the Saudi-led coalition highlights the urgent need for independent, effective investigation of violations in Yemen and for the suspension of transfers of certain arms, said Amnesty International in a new report published Oct. 7. "'Bombs fall from the sky day and night': Civilians Under Fire in Northern Yemen" examines 13 deadly airstrikes by the coalition in Sa'da, northeastern Yemen, which killed some 100 civilians, including 59 children. The report documents the use of internationally banned cluster bombs. "This report uncovers yet more evidence of unlawful air-strikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes. It demonstrates in harrowing detail how crucial it is to stop arms being used to commit serious violations of this kind," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty's senior crisis response adviser who headed the organization's fact-finding mission to Yemen. "The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorize are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law."
Bahrain releases ailing rights advocate
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on July 13 released the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, citing health reasons. Despite the release, the US State Department and Rajab himself expressed concern over continued efforts to limit free speech in the country. The State Department said recent events, including the re-arrest of opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif, detention and prosecution of Bahraini opposition figure Majeed Milad, and reopening of a case against Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq political opposition group, all threaten the "universal right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party."
ISIS coordinated attacks from France to Kuwait?
Seemingly coordinated attacks left over 140 dead across four countries June 26, in what social media users are dubbing "Bloody Friday." In France, an assailant drove his van into a factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, outside Lyon, causing an explosion that killed 37 and wounded a similar number. His boss, the owner of a delivery firm, was found beheaded alongside flags containing Islamic inscriptions in Arabic. (BBC News) At least 39, mostly foreigners, were killed and nearly as many injured as a lone gunman opened fire on a beach in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse before being gunned down himself. (BBC News) In Somalia, dozens of soldiers were killed as al-Shabaab overran an African Union base in the village of Lego, northwest of Mogadishu, (The Guardian) And an explosion tore through a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait City after Friday prayers, killing at least eight and wounding several others. (Al Jazeera) The attacks come amid the holy month of Ramadan, and days before the anniversary of the declaration of a "caliphate" by ISIS.
Bahrain sentences Shi'ite opposition leader
A Bahraini court June 16 sentenced prominent Shi'ite leader Sheikh Ali Salman (official profile) to four years in prison for insulting the Interior Ministry, inciting others to break the law, and inciting hatred against Sunnis. Salman, secretary-general of al-Wefaq political opposition group, was arrested in late December for speeches made between 2012 and 2014. Salman was found not guilty of inciting violence and calling for the overthrow of the monarch. Had he been convicted for those offenses, Salman could have faced a life sentence in prison.
Kuwait upholds sentence against opposition leader
Kuwait's Supreme Court on May 18 upheld the two-year prison sentence against activist Musallam al-Barrack for insulting Kuwait's ruler. Al-Barrack, a former lawmaker, was originally sentenced to five years in prison, but that sentence was later shortened on appeal to two years. The case against al-Barrack began after he gave a speech in October 2012 in which he urged Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah not to "drag the country into a dark abyss" while charging that Kuwait risked becoming an autocratic state under new electoral laws. In March 2013 a protest in Kuwait City consisting of hundreds of al-Barrack's supporters turned violent as it marched toward the parliament building. Police used batons against the protesters and arrested at least a dozen. Al-Barrack was also arrested in 2014 after he revealed documents showing large sums of illegal financial transfers made to senior officials, including judges. After his arrest, more violent protests ensued. Al-Barrack's lawyer stated that his client will surrender to authorities once court paperwork is complete.
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