The crackdown on growing gang violence, which resulted in the arrest of 36 thousand people, has brought the central American country of El Salvador to the watchlist of many international human rights organisations. The action was taken after the killing of more than 80 people over the weekend in March 2022. The killing had brought on to the country a state of exception and emergency.
According to the official press release by the government of El Salvador, from the total number of prisoners, 5000 are women who were found associated with gang crimes and activities. The country also claims to have a record drop in the number of homicides with May 2022 being the safest month in the country’s history. Since the country’s president Nayib Bukele took office, he has been very articulate about his policies toward the eradication of gang violence. With the initiation of a seven-phase Territorial control plan in 2020, Bukele challenged the gangs who had made the country world’s murder capital.
Addressing his country, Nayib Bukele called the recent actions a step toward a peaceful country and said that “The changes are there in plain sight, nobody neither the opposition nor the international lobbyists can deny that in three years we have taken the authority from the de facto powers and given it back to the Salvadoran people just as I promised.”
Responding to the critics from the international communities, Bukele exclaimed that “El Salvador is a sovereign country and here we will make the decisions that we believe are right for us”
The Security Minister, Gustavo Villatoro, on the extension of the state of emergency in the country, commented that “We are going to continue to confront this cancer, and we have said it before and we stand by it, this war will continue until the gangs are eradicated from the territory of El Salvador.”
But, while the homicide rate drops as low as 0.5%, the arrest of nearly 2% of the country’s population has left the world concerned. Human rights activists are concerned that these actions by the government are in direct violation as the torture has claimed the lives of around 18 people in the arrest. In a report issued by Amnesty International, Erika Guevara-Rosas declared that “the Salvadoran authorities are committing widespread and flagrant violations of human rights and criminalizing people living in poverty”. She also claimed that the arrest of kids under the ages of 15 and “The arrest and criminal prosecution without due process of more than 35,000 people in less than three months would not have been possible if the judicial authorities had fulfilled their mandate. ”Earlier a report by a human rights watch also claimed that the law enforcement agencies are abusing their power with “arbitrary arrests of innocent people, some of them subjected to short-term enforced disappearances, and worrying deaths in custody”.
US Operations in Afghanistan and Beyond: A threat to locals
The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows the US has still not given up on its operations in Afghanistan.
The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows that US operation in Afghanistan have still not ended.
The Al- Qaeda leader, wanted for his role in various terrorist attacks around the world and in the US, has not only left an empty place for a future successor but has also opened a place for the Taliban to calculate their moves against the US and the groups within the country.
The Twitter feeds of Afghan journalists are filled with various videos of clashes between Taliban militants and the Islamic States sympathizers of Khorasan Province (ISKP). The clashes have resulted from the former group’s attack on Shia gatherings and busses that has caused numerous casualties. These videos containing several graphic scenes of blood and bodies are just an insight into the state of Afghanistan after a year of America abandoning it in the hands of the Afghan Taliban.
Since the United States removed its forces from Afghanistan after 2 decades of controlling the country’s borders and shifting the political and social dynamics of the region, the country has been struggling to regain its identity and strength. While the Taliban forces are trying to imitate governance with an Islamic rule in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, extremist groups from the inside of the country are becoming a challenge for them. ISKP has already claimed the lives of more than 300 people between January 2020 and July 2021. The casualties from the Kabul airport attack and the recent attacks on Shia groups in the Holy month of Muharram hike the number up to around 600.
The recent killing of Al- Qaeda’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri in a drone attack orchestrated by the US in Kabul has further fueled the unrest. Zawahiri, who was leading Al-Qaeda’s operations since the killing of Osama Bin Laden, had been on the United State’s wanted list for years. His involvement in the infamous 9/11 plans had put a bounty of 25 million dollars on his head. The attack through which according to the US “justice has been delivered,”, has been called a violation of the Doha pact signed between the Taliban and US officials in 2020. While Al-Qaeda is deciding on a new leader, the group is also being prompted to respond to this loss. Several statements from ISKP’s telegram have been made to frame the Taliban for assistance in the attack, mocking the apparent alliance between Al-Qaeda and The Taliban forces.
The situation in Afghanistan keeps getting worse but it appears that America is using the savior narrative, to explain the US operations in Afghanistan, for its people to distract from the bigger changes that are taking place in the dynamics of foreign affairs, seeming to be a threat to locals. The narrative that aided its involvement in Iraq, sanctions on Iran, and 20 years long control over Afghanistan have not bore any fruitful results, but rather have overturned the sociological and international stature of the region.
US President Biden, in his remarks on the attack, assured the people of America of their safety and security, “We will always remain vigilant, and we will act. And we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.”
In the meantime, the US continues aid to Ukraine against Russia, and its visit to Taiwan amid growing tensions between China and Taiwan is signaling a threat that is potentially greater than Al-Qaeda.
As Biden pledges to “continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond”, it remains unclear how the US plans to address the impact of these operations on the lives of the people in Afghanistan and beyond where people are already living under a threat of a humanitarian crisis.
Indian National Security Adviser Encourages Religious Tolerance
On Saturday, the Indian National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, spoke at a conference organized by the All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council (AISSC). Mr. Doval’s message promoted religious tolerance and unity among Indians: “To counter religious animosity we have to work together and make every religious body feel like they are a part of India. We sail and sink together.” Mr. Doval further added, “We have to make every sect of India feel that we are a country together, we are proud of it and that every religion can be professed with freedom here.”
The AISSC interfaith conference resulted in the passing of a resolution, which called out radical “anti-national” organizations. “Organizations like the Popular Front of India (PFI) and any other such outfits that have been indulging in anti-national activities and creating discord among our citizens must be banned and action must be initiated against them as per the law of the land,” reads the resolution. It also says, “Targeting any God/Goddesses/Prophets in discussions/debates by anyone should be condemned and dealt with as per law.”
The intention behind the conference was a noble one, and Mr. Doval’s message is important for Indians. Nonetheless, these words must be accompanied by actions that reflect similar sentiments. In March of this year, for instance, a court in the Indian state of Karnataka upheld a school’s ban on hijabs. Such a ban prevents Muslim girls from upholding their basic religious practices, and it belies the notion “that every religion can be professed with freedom” in India. On a larger scale, the Indian national parliament has increasingly been marginalizing Muslims. In December of 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which enables expedited access to citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan — notably, Muslims are excluded.
Now, the AISSC conference and Mr. Doval’s remarks are yet another important reminder for the Indian government to supplement words with action and support all its people.
‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis
International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet
“Winter is coming.”
That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.
“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”
Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.
After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.
A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.
On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet.
“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”
And there are thousands of children like them.
“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”
A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior.
“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.
“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.
A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”
“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”
The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families.
“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.
Prospects of famine remain
With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.
“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.
“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.
Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.
“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”
The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.
Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.
Need for international aid
At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”
“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.
“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.”
He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”
The question of frozen assets
Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.
Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.
The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.
Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.
“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”
Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis.
“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington.
She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.
“Don’t forget them,” she said.
No Justice in Sight for Assassinated Palestinian American Reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh
In May, renowned Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered in a targeted assassination by the Israeli military. People around the world mourned her death and called for justice against the atrocity committed by Israel. However, months later, there has been no justice awarded to the family of Abu Akleh. In fact, the US, who should have been actively investigating the death of an American citizen, have white-washed the entire incident and stated the shooting was probably unintentional.
All independent investigations led by either Palestinians or human rights groups, concluded that the Israeli military was responsible for the targeted assassination. Furthermore, the units sent into Jenin were not regular infantry or even marines, they were special unit forces. Those special forces are known to some as “assassination units” according Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, Marian Bishara.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden visited the Middle East, including Israel and the occupied West Bank. As most suspected, the visit did nothing to help aid the Palestinians, killing any hope that Biden would reverse at least a few of the drastic changes made by Trump to US foreign policy in regards to Israel occupied Palestine. Some have gone to the extent of saying that Biden’s administration is sustaining the status quo of apartheid.
In advance of his visit to the Middle East, Shireen’s family requested to sit down and discuss with President Biden on ensuring accountability for Shireen’s murderer. The request was rebuffed, and as with all killings of Palestinians, Biden’s administration has seemed to quickly sweep the assassination under the rug.
One might ask why it is necessary for the US government to intervene and speak to the assassination of a palestian journalist by Israeli forces, but the answer is quite simple. Not only was the journalist an American citizen, but the weapon used to kill her was paid for by US taxpayers.
Nearly $3.8 Billion of American money goes to Israel in the form of aid and military weapons, which the Israeli government will gladly use to demolish more Palestinian homes and kill Palestinian civilians without impunity.
US House of Representatives Passes Respect for Marriage Act
The United States House of Representatives passed a bill titled the Respect for Marriage Act, which gives federal protection towards same-sex marriage. The bill calls on overturning the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The action comes after arguments that same-sex marriage should also be overturned like Roe V. Wade, which was recently struck down by the Supreme Court.
The Respect for Marriage Act will now move on to the divided Senate, with the White House urging they pass. Press Secretary Karin Jean-Pierre stated that President Joe Biden “believes [the bill] is non-negotiable and that the Senate should act swiftly to get this to the president’s desk.”
However, a large majority of Republicans oppose the bill, with an outcome of 267-157. Republican representatives have voiced their support for Justice Clarence Thomas, that same sex marriage should be overturned, stating that Democrats will delegitimize the Supreme Court. That being said, surprisingly 47 Republicans within the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill, indicating a possibility of further bipartisan support. This could be due to the fact that 70% of Americans support same sex marriage, according to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, which could be a potential indication towards the gradual shift of opinion in Republicans.
But the overall outcome of the bill ultimately remains unknown. In order for the bill to pass within the Senate, Democrats would need the support of ten republicans to avoid a delay. If provisions allowing same-sex marriage are to be overturned by the Supreme Court, states will be allowed to restrict same-sex marriage.
Abortion care-A Fundamental Right Under the Kenyan Constitution
Abortion care – A fundamental right under the Kenyan Constitution.
By making abortion legal for victims of sexual abuse and women with pregnancy complications, Kenya is making health care accessible for women. AnalsytNews spoke to Dr. Anne-Beatrice Kihara about abortion laws.
Over a decade ago, Kenya set out on a course to provide constitutional reproductive rights to women. By replacing the colonial constitution with a new democratic text, it secured the rights of privacy and abortion for women in the constitutional framework. Although the country is still a long way from translating the articles into a legal language of implication, they are helping to save the lives of women.
The long struggle for the right to abortion in Kenya yielded results when a minor, PAK and her health care provider, Muhammad Saleem, were released of charges by the High Court in the Kenyan city of Malindi after Saleem was detained by the officials along with PAK under the accusation of performing an illegal abortion for the said minor.
The ruling in the PAK and Saleem Muhammad case established abortion as a legal right for women experiencing pregnancy complications and has been hailed as a victory for women’s rights to privacy in the country.
According to Article 26(4) of the constitution of Kenya, Abortion is permitted if in the opinion of a medical expert, “there is a need for emergency treatment”.
Similarly, if the pregnancy complications are putting the “life or health of the mother in danger,” the mother can undergo a procedure with the assistance of a certified care provider.
Kenya also provides post-abortion treatment for women under Article 43 (2).
With 41% of Kenyan women experiencing sexual violence, in 2019 the high court in the FIDA- Kenya case gave the victims of assault the Right to Abortion.
As elections are fast approaching in Kenya, the issue of abortion is once again making headlines. The recent Roe v Wade ruling, and organised online campaigns against the Reproductive Health Care Bill and Surrogacy Bill by the right-wing are shaping up to become a growing threat to women’s right to abortion in the country.
According to the President of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (FIGO) Dr Anne-Beatrice Kihara (obgyn), although the laws in Kenya do not provide “abortion on demand,” they do take into consideration the “life and health of the mother”. She told The Analyst in an interview that “The foetal viability in Kenya is after 20 weeks of conception.” Thus, safe abortion services can be provided in the 2nd trimester at gestation when the fetus is not viable,” she added.
“Although the laws in Kenya do not provide ‘abortion on demand,’ they do take into consideration the “life and health of the mother.”
The lack of safe abortion options could lead mothers to opt for unsafe choices. The consequences could be dire, Dr Kihara explains. There are short-term effects on a mother’s health such as “hemorrhage, sepsis, fistula formation, etc.” In the long-term they also develop “chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and mental illness.”
A mother who has had an unsafe abortion could develop “chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility or mental illness.”
As Dr. Kihara sees it, the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision could create issues for health care providers who are ethically and morally obligated to provide healthcare to patients in need. They might face “stigma, discrimination, and criminalization for supporting the provision of information and services.” Resultantly there will also be more referrals of patients to other US states for abortion services. This will result in failure to access emergency treatment, possibly more pregnancy related complications that will increase morbidity/mortality, she adds.
She argued that the issue should not only be dealt with at a medical level but at a social level with special attention paid to the “education, counselling of the girls with health promotion and prevention strategies; access to family planning and contraception programs”.
Dr Kihara further said there is need to “reduce the politicizing” of sexual and reproductive health services.
Instead we need to focus on what could be the outcome of investing in comprehensive, quality and safe health services on individuals, the health system and society at large. She suggested there is also need for “engagement of boys/ men taking responsibility for fatherhood and as agents for change”.
She further urged legislators to ponder over the “serious ramifications related to access, affordability, acceptability, quality and safety of services rendered” after the overturning of RoeVsWade.
While the US navigates it way through the confusions and controversies involve in the matter, abortion policies in Kenya can help them find a common ground that can ensure the safety and health of the mother and child.
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