HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Addressing an audience of Jewish Americans on Saturday, President Donald Trump clearly relished the chants of “four more years” and the peppering of red “Make America Great Again” hats throughout the crowded ballroom.
“The Jewish state has never had a better friend in the White House than your president, Donald J. Trump,” he proudly told thousands gathered at the Israeli-American Council National Summit before lashing Hillary Clinton, Democrats and the previous administration. Read more…
US says N. Korea is ‘horrible’ on human rights, religious freedom
The United States said Friday it will use sanctions against North Korea for its “horrible” record on human rights and religious freedom.
Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, told reporters that the situation in North Korea is “deplorable” and cited the example of a woman who was sent to a prison camp for having a Bible.
“North Korea’s horrible on human rights and religious freedom,” he said. “They’ve been a Country of Particular Concern for years.”
The U.S. State Department on Friday released its annual report on international religious freedom, which covers the period between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2018.
It notes that the U.N. Commission of Inquiry in 2014 concluded there was an “almost complete denial” by the North Korean government of the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and that in many instances, the government’s violations of human rights constituted crimes against humanity.
In the reporting period, North Korea released a detained American pastor in May. In December, the State Department identified three entities and three North Korean officials associated with serious human rights abuses or censorship.
“We’re going to continue to exert strong pressure,” Brownback said. “Unless they change radically, they’ll continue to be a Country of Particular Concern for us.”
The U.S. in November redesignated North Korea as a CPC for the 18th consecutive year.
“These carry sanctions with them as well, and we’ll use those in North Korea and other places that are particularly egregious cases of religious freedom violations,” the ambassador said. The U.S. in November redesignated North Korea as a CPC for the 18th consecutive year.”These carry sanctions with them as well, and we’ll use those in North Korea and other places that are particularly egregious cases of religious freedom violations,” the ambassador said.
Human rights groups slam draft UN plans to send Rohingya to barren island
Human rights groups have reacted with horror to reports of United Nations draft plans to help relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps to a barren, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.
A document drawn up this month by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN’s food aid arm, and seen by Reuters, has revealed how the agency supplied the Bangladeshi government with detailed plans of how it could provide for thousands of Rohingya being transported to the island on a voluntary basis.
Dhaka has long insisted that it is unable cope with the dramatic influx of refugees to camps in Cox’s Bazar since a brutal crackdown by the Burmese military in August 2017, said by UN investigators to have been conducted with “genocidal intent”, prompted some 730,000 Rohingya to flee their homes.
Relocation to the uninhabited, remote island of Bhasan Char has been touted as a solution to chronic overcrowding. But many Rohingya are fearful to go and human rights experts warn that the move to an island made of silt and vulnerable to frequent cyclones could spark another crisis.
The revelation of draft WFP plans, including a timeline and a budget for how the agency and its partners “may facilitate the identification, staging, forward movement, reception, and sustainment of refugees” on Bhasan Char, was met with outrage on Monday.
“What the hell is the WFP thinking? Bangladesh’s plan to move Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char looks like a human rights and humanitarian disaster in the making so UN agencies should be talking about how to stop this ill-considered scheme, not facilitate it,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
“The reality is the Rohingya don’t want that one-way ticket to Bhasan Char because it promises to be a Rohingya Alcatraz, with freedom of movement restricted, health and other services limited, and no guarantees of survival if a typhoon hits and submerges the island,” he told The Telegraph.
UN human rights chief: Every day 8 children in Yemen killed, hurt despite truce
Children living in 31 active conflict zones across the country witness ‘heavy, war-related violence,’ says Michelle Bachelet.
The UN human rights chief warned Wednesday that children in Yemen continued to be killed and maimed at an alarming rate, despite a three-month-old truce in a vital port.
“Since the Stockholm agreement on December 13, it is estimated that eight children have been killed or injured in Yemen every day,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Yemen’s beleaguered Saudi-backed government and Iranian-linked Huthi rebels agreed in Sweden on a truce that included a ceasefire in Hodeida, the lifeline port on the Red Sea.
But Bachelet said children were currently living in 31 active conflict zones across the country, and witnessing “heavy, war-related violence,” including in Taez, Hajjah and Saada.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said earlier this week that 348 civilians had been killed in Hajjah and Taez alone since the Stockholm accord was signed.
The UN rights chief voiced particular concern at the recent escalation in the northern province of Hajjah, where 22 people — 12 children and 10 women — were killed, and another 30, nearly half of them children, were hurt in strikes earlier this month.
An estimated 10,000 people have been killed since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — with the logistical and political backing of the United States — unleashed air power against the Huthi rebels.
Rights groups say the death toll could be far higher. Save the Children has estimated that 85,000 Yemenis under five years old may have died of starvation.
Bachelet said it was unclear how many children had starved to death in Yemen but warned that “Yemeni civilians, including children, are now more vulnerable and hungrier than at any time since March 2015.”
She said more than two million children were suffering from acute malnutrition, including 360,000 with severe, acute malnutrition, meaning they are wasting away and risk starvation.
Bachelet also voiced deep concern at reports that both the government-backed forces and the Huthis were continuing to enlist children as fighters.
“In most cases, the children are between 11 and 17 years old, but there have been consistent reports of the recruitment or use of children as young as eight,” she said.
Source: Times Of Israel
Trump troop reversal
NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Kurdish-led forces in Syria said they would complete the evacuation of thousands of civilians from Islamic State’s last redoubt in the area on Friday, and welcomed a White House reversal of President Dona
With Washington’s allies poised for victory against Islamic State fighters making a final stand in a pocket near the Iraqi border, the White House announced plans on Thursday to keep “a small peacekeeping force” of 200 troops in Syria.
The announcement partially reversed Trump’s abrupt decision in December to withdraw the entire 2,000-strong U.S. contingent, which had alarmed Washington’s Kurdish allies and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to quit.
Although the U.S. contingent would now be small, Kurdish leaders suggested it could have a major impact on the fate of the area, preventing a security vacuum. Washington could retain control of the air space and its European allies could complement the force with more troops.
The planned assault on the final Islamic State redoubt in the area, Baghouz, would effectively end the territorial rule of the jihadist group, which ruled around a third of both Iraq and Syria at its self-proclaimed Caliphate’s height four years ago.
Reporters near the front line at Baghouz saw dozens of trucks leaving loaded with civilians, and empty ones driving inside accompanied by fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia.
Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman, said the evacuation would be completed on Friday, with thousands of civilians still inside the pocket from an estimated 7,000 at the start of the day.
More than 20,000 civilians have left Baghouz in recent weeks, according to previous SDF estimates.
The U.S.-led coalition which supports the SDF has said Islamic State’s “most hardened fighters” are holed up inside.
“If we succeed in evacuating all the civilians, at any moment we will take the decision to storm Baghouz or force the terrorists to surrender,” said Bali.
Though the fall of Baghouz would mark a milestone in the campaign against Islamic State, the militant group is still seen as a security threat, using guerrilla tactics and still holding some territory in a remote area west of the Euphrates Rive
The battle against Islamic State in the area has taken place since December in the shadow of Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw all U.S. troops, which raised doubt about the future of the fighters that had served as U.S. allies on the ground.
Trucks loaded with civilians ride near the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said
The Kurdish-led authorities in the north welcomed the White House reversal. They had feared that a total U.S. withdrawal would leave their area exposed to attack by Turkey, which sees the main Kurdish militia as a national security threat.
“We evaluate the White House decision … positively,” Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations in the region held by the U.S.-backed SDF told Reuters.“This decision may encourage other European states, particularly our partners in the international coalition against terrorism, to keep forces in the region,” Omar added. “I believe that keeping a number of American troops and a larger number of (other) coalition troops, with air protection, will play a role in securing stability and protecting the region too.”
The SDF’s top commander earlier this week called for 1,000 to 1,500 international troops to remain in Syria to help fight Islamic State and expressed hope Washington would halt Trump’s plans for a total pullout.
A Western diplomat said it remained to be seen whether European allies would contribute troops, or whether the force would be able to secure the area. Read more…
UN Expert Calls for End to ‘Serious Violations’ Against Baha’is in Iran
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran has raised concerns regarding “serious violations” against the Baha’i community in Iran.
Presenting a major report on the situation of human rights in Iran at the UN, Javaid Rehman expressed concerns of “substantial violations” against the religious community- the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran.
The concerns were echoed by representatives from Germany, Norway and the United States whilst representatives from the UK and Switzerland also raised the issue of discrimination against “unrecognized religious minorities.”
“The Special Rapporteur is concerned by the substantial violations of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities…in particular the serious violations of rights consistently documented of members of the Baha’i community within Iran,” the UN report reads.
“Allegations of discriminatory policies and practices have been received with respect to the denial of the right to work and to earn a decent living; restriction of access to higher education; the closure of shops; and discrimination in policy owing to the fact that Baha’is do not constitute one of the three constitutionally recognized religious minorities in the country.”
Around 60 Baha’is currently remain imprisoned in Iran while tens of thousands more experience educational, economic and cultural persecution on a daily basis for merely practicing their faith.
Baha’i homes are routinely raided and members of the community are arbitrarily arrested and detained. Baha’i run businesses are shut down and sealed, depriving them of earning a decent living and thousands of young Iranian Baha’is are denied access to higher education or are routinely expelled from universities for practicing their faith.
Genocide against Rohingyas still ongoing, UN investigators say
Genocide is still underway against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, a U.N. fact-finding team said Wednesday as it presented a report at the Security Council calling for the matter to be referred to the International Criminal Court.Marzuki Darusman, chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said thousands of Rohingya are still fleeing to Bangladesh, and the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 who have stayed following last year’s brutal military campaign in the Buddhist-majority country “continue to suffer the most severe” restrictions and repression. “It is an ongoing genocide that is taking place at the moment,” he told a news conference Wednesday.
Darusman said the requirements for genocide, except perhaps for killings, “continue to hold” for Rohingya still in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state. These include causing serious bodily harm, inflicting conditions designed to destroy the Rohingya, and imposing measures to prevent births, he said.
Myanmar U.N. Ambassador Hau Do Suan called the fact-finding mission “flawed, biased and politically motivated” and said the government “categorically rejects” its inference of “genocidal intent.”
Nearly 1 million Rohingya Muslims, driven away from their homes in neighboring Myanmar, are living in squalid camps in the southeastern Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar. Of them, more than 700,000 crossed the border into Bangladesh after Myanmar launched a brutal military crackdown in August 2017 in response to insurgent attacks on security posts in northern Rakhine State.
Myanmar has rejected accusations that its military committed atrocities in the crackdown last year that forced 720,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh. The conflict has also seen some 390 villages destroyed and 10,000 Rohingya killed, said Darusman. “The conditions are not in place for a safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh,” to Myanmar, he warned, adding any attempt would just risk more deaths. He added Myanmar’s internal inquiries have “proven to be ineffective failures” so far.
The U.N.-backed investigators presented a report last month that painted a grim picture of crimes against Rohingya. The report found that certain members of the Myanmar army have participated in genocide against Rohingya Muslims, many of who fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The 444-page United Nations fact-finding report has called the crimes committed by the Myanmar army “the gravest crimes under international law.” Referring to previous U.N. reports, the report listed similar actions taken by the Myanmar army and government in the past against the Rohingya.
Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted minority in the world according to U.N. figures and continue to suffer from oppression under the Myanmar government, the army and Buddhist extremists. Over the past decade, thousands of Rohingyas have been killed since violence broke out in 2008, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homeland for Bangladesh, Malaysia and other countries in the region. Although the numbers are contested, it is known that thousands of people have been killed in last few years, while more than a million had to flee. The Myanmar army has set Rohingya villages on fire, bulldozing many of them and even uprooting trees and farms to make the area uninhabitable.
How Iran Discriminates Against The Baha’i Minority
On 2 November international civil society alliance Civicus hosted an event that showcased the persecution faced by the Baha’i people by the Islamic theocracy in Iran. The event hosted IranWire citizen journalist Saleem Vaillancourt, Wits University law professor Salim Nakhjavani and director of the office of public affairs of the Baha’i community in South Africa, Peter Mputle. It featured a showing of the IranWire documentary The Cost Of Discrimination which parallels the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran with apartheid in South Africa. The panellists then discussed South Africa’s role in defending the Baha’is and in promoting human rights. The Daily Vox explains.
Who the Baha’i people are
The Baha’i follow the teachings of religious messenger Bahá’u’lláh whose teachings include principles of essential oneness of humankind, the elimination of prejudice, the unity of all religions, the equality of women and men, the centrality of justice, the importance of education, and the true life as the life of the soul.
The Baha’i faith also does not bestow power upon a single priest or a clergy but rather supports an independent search for truth Mputle explains. “In the Baha’i faith, instead of clergy we have structures like a national spiritual assembly of nine members who are voted in every year and administers the affairs of the Baha’is in the country. There is a local spiritual assembly that works in the same way,” he said.