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Human Rights

India playing the “All religions matter” card in the UN

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India violence

In a recent event that marked the first anniversary of the International Day of Countering Hate Speech, Ambassador Tirumurti from India urged the UN that fighting religiophobia should not be a “selective exercise” that involves only one or two religions but one that should be applied equally to phobias against non-Abrahamic religions as well. He had also addressed terrorism concerns that have been plaguing India due to the cross-border tensions that are on the rise.

It is ironic that such statements were made during an event whose sole purpose is to counter hate in a country where religiophobia against people practising Abrahamic religions is at an all-time high. Last week, India was in the news for all the wrong reasons due to comments made against the Prophet Muhammad (saw) by the official spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), one of India’s major political parties. Clashes erupted around the country in retaliation and houses that belonged to Muslim activists were bulldozed and razed to the ground simply because they had raised objections against the ruling party for the hateful comments made. Even though the cause for all that is happening in India is predominantly Islamaphobia, it is surprising how the religion of Islam was not mentioned anywhere in the list of Abrahamic religions given by Mr Tirumurti[1] . Leaving out the religion of Islam takes us back to the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and The National Register of Citizens (NRC) bill that was passed but not implemented yet required Muslims living in India to submit documents showing that they are indeed the citizens of India.

Mr Tirumurti also mentioned that India follows pluralism as it was recognised by the UAE and Egypt to promote fraternity on the International Day of Fraternity[2] . He defines Pluralism as “where every religion is respected, is a sine qua non of tolerance and harmony,”. However, what happened in India a few days prior is a stark contrast to the definition that he read out during the event.

“Till this is done, such international days will never achieve their objectives. There cannot be double standards on religiophobia,” stated the Ambassador. His remarks on how all religions must be treated equally to combat religiophobia are similar in nature to the “All Lives Matter” slogan created for the sole purpose of undermining the ‘Black Lives Matter movement. India needs to look back at itself to understand the definition of double standards as the country itself has become the epitome of the word by denying the extremist allegations while executing the same on minorities.[3] 

Regarding the statement given by Mr Tirumurti in the UN, Mahmooda, a Muslim citizen of India, living in Chennai said, “This is yet another flag of insignificance being pinned upon the Muslims”. This is a testament to the fact on how the government of India and the majority is still undermining and undervaluing the lives of Muslims who have made India their home for several decades now. 

“Fascism is always denied when it’s being perpetrated. Furthermore, there’s a convenient narrative orchestrated through different avenues to justify the hostility against the persecuted” remarked Aslam who is a 35 year old non-residential Indian living in the UAE.

Safura, a Muslim in her mid-20’s said that she understands that all religions must be considered equal in the religiophobia narrative and that “one cannot value one’s human life more than the other”, but it baffled her that Islam was left out of the conversation in an event that strives to fight against religiophobia despite the fact that Muslims are the most persecuted around the world. 

This makes us wonder if India believes that Muslims are the reason why religiophobia still exists and hence all the other religions must be saved from it? Unfortunately, the answer to this question can be provided by Mr Tirumurti alone.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Human Rights

Indian National Security Adviser Encourages Religious Tolerance

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Ajit Doval

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. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

‘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

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“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.

Afghanistan abandoned


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.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

No Justice in Sight for Assassinated Palestinian American Reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh

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Protesters carring photos of Shireen Abu Akleh Lod may 22

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.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

US House of Representatives Passes Respect for Marriage Act

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Marriage Equality Act vote in Albany NY on the evening of July 24 2011 photographed by the Celebration Chapel of Kingston NY

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. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Abortion Laws in Kenya ensure Women’s Right to Privacy

Abortion Laws in Kenya.

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Kenya Abortion Laws

          Kenya’s upcoming elections and the US Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v Wade legislation bring the debate on abortion to the forefront. As right-wingers launch online campaigns to block acces to healthcare for women, AnalsytNews spoke to Dr. Anne-Beatrice Kiharaabout abortion laws in Kenya, her country.

More than 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 in 2010, PAK, a victim of sexual assault and her clinical health provider, Muhammad Saleem, were released from charges in 2020 by the High Court in the Kenyan city of Malindi. They were detained officials under the accusation of performing an illegal abortion for PAK, who was a minor. 

 Their release orders by the court came in at sixty-five pages long. The case also mentions the US’s Roe v. Wade case as a foundation for, “protecting access to abortion effectuates vital constitutional values, including dignity, autonomy, equality, and bodily integrity,” thus providing women with the freedom of decision. 

The ruling in the PAK and Salim 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. 

While the Roe v. Wade case ruling has been overruled, Kenya still holds its position as one of the few countries that legalises abortions under certain conditions.

According to the President of African Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, Anne-Beatrice Kihara, although the laws in Kenya do not provide, “abortion on demand,” they do take into consideration the “life and health of the mother”. She tells AnalystNews: “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 foe is not viable,” she adds.

Article 26(4) of the constitution of Kenya says, 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). 

These articles were further translated into laws by the Kenyan High Court in 2019 to provide the right to life to the victims of sexual assault. With 41% of Kenyan women experiencing sexual violence, the high court in the FIDA- Kenya case gave the victims of assault the Right to Abortion.

            While the pressure from the anti-abortion sections forces women to seek fast yet unsafe abortion services through untrained and underqualified abortion providers, the laws in the country ensure the cooperation of trained medical professionals for abortion. 

But 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 “haemorrhage, sepsis, fistula formation, etc. ”A mother who has had an unsafe abortion may also develop “chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and mental illness.”

            As elections are fast approaching in Kenya, the issue of abortion is once again making headlines. The recent Roe v Wade ruling, anorganised 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.

            As Dr. Kihara sees it, the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision could create issues for health care providers in Kenya for they might face “stigma, discrimination, and criminalization for supporting the provision of information and services”.

            Dr. Kihara 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 program sand their integration with other health requirements for girls or women of reproductive age.”

Dr. Kihara recommended that there is a need to “reduce the politicising of sexual and reproductive health services. Instead we need to provide a development lens on what would be the outcome of investing in comprehensive, quality and safe health health services to the individuals, the health system and society at large. She suggested there is also a need for the “engagement of boys/men taking responsibility for fatherhood and as agents for change.”

Dr. Kihara urged legislators to ponder over the “serious ramifications related to access, affordability, acceptability, quality and safety of services rendered” after the overturning of Roe v Wade.

 Like many from the developing countries, Dr Kihara also fears that the new ruling in Roe v Wade case can show serious impact on the ongoing related projects in the countries like Kenya. According to her various health programs that are being financed by the US, including social protection service, safe motherhood can face serious reifications.

   While the US navigates its way through the confusions and controversies involved 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. 


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

Guantanamo Bay Still Open Despite International Condemnation

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Guantanamo Bay

The infamous U.S detention centre known as Guantanamo Bay is still open despite repeated international calls for its closure. Founded under the Bush administration in January 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the consequent U.S invasion of Afghanistan, Guantanamo bay was the intended prison for those suspected to be linked to the terrorist groups Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

However it soon gained notoriety for being a place where those of Afghan or Middle Eastern identity were held without trial for years, denied access to lawyers, humiliated, beaten and tortured – in direct contravention of international law.

According to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Further, the June 1987 UN Convention Against Torture declares that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.”

To sidestep this legal small print, the Bush administration chose Cuba as the destination for Guantanamo Bay, arguing that it rendered the convention inapplicable and that prisoners belonging to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda groups were exempt from reprieve. This justification was rejected by the Supreme Court many years later.

Just two weeks ago, the last of two Afghan nationals held in Guantanamo without trial was released after talks between the U.S and the now-Taliban-headed Afghan government. Asadullah Haroon Gull was released from the facility after being held there for the last 15 years. He was first detained in Afghanistan, Jalalabad by American forces before being sent to Guantanamo bay.

According to the UK based rights group Reprieve, Gull’s family feared him dead for many years and he was blocked access to a lawyer for the first nine years of his captivity. Eventually in 2016 Reprieve worked with the law firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss to obtain his release by citing habeus corpus – a writ aiming to dispute the legality of the defendant’s imprisonment before the court. In October 2021, the firm won its case and Gull’s was released after the District Court of Clumbia ruled that he was unlawfully imprisoned since he had not been a member of Al-Qaeda but Hezb-e-Islami (HIA) which had formally been at peace since 2016. Gull is the first detainee in Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade to win a habeus corpus case.

Former U.S President Barack Obama tried to have Guantanamo Bay closed down by signing an order for its closure when he took the presidential seat in 2009. However this was reversed by President Donald Trump in 2018 who signed an executive order to keep it open. Since its inception in the Bush era, around 800 Muslim men and boys have passed through the gates of Guantanamo Bay. Currently 36 prisoners remain, of which 27 have never been charged of any crimes, and it remains open despite its existence being ruled unlawful by the world’s ruling legal bodies.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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