More than a half-million Rohingya flee violence in Myanmar
- Since August, nearly 520,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from their homes in Myanmar into Bangladesh, and dozens—many of them children—have died attempting to reach Bangladesh by boat.
- Refugees spoke of attacks by the military and Buddhist vigilantes, including the burning of villages and physical assaults throughout the state of Rakhine.
- The U.N. has condemned the violence as “ethnic cleansing” on the part of the Burmese state, which targeted Rohingya communities following an attack by Rohingya militants on a military outpost.
“‘I can’t take this any more:’ Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar in new surge” (Reuters | October 2017)
“Rohingya crisis: Children die as boat capsizes off Bangladesh” (BBC News | October 2017)
“Bangladesh to build one of world’s largest refugee camps for 800,000 Rohingya” (The Guardian | October 2017)
Religious scholars in Afghanistan one of Taliban’s most frequent targets
- Over the last 16 years of war in the country, hundreds and perhaps thousands of ulema have been killed, although official numbers are difficult to track.
- Taliban members surveil sermons to monitor adherence to Taliban interpretations of sharia, both courting and threatening scholars to buttress their power across the nation’s provinces.
- Religious leaders note that the targeting of scholars is driven by anxiety over scholars’ influence on communities, a desire for ideological control, and the suppression of criticism.
“Taliban Target: Scholars of Islam” (The New York Times | May 2017)
“Religious scholar shot dead in eastern Afghanistan” (Andalou Agency | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
India passes nondiscrimination law securing rights for people with HIV
- The first of its kind in South Asia, the law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, healthcare, and public accommodations such as restaurants and calls for the establishment of an ombudsman to monitor violations.
- An estimated 2.1 million people live with HIV in India, with some 1 million currently receiving treatment.
- Some advocates for the positive community argued that the law does not go far enough to guarantee free treatment for the afflicted.
“Parliament clears landmark HIV Bill” (The Hindu | April 2017)
“What is HIV/AIDS Bill? All your questions answered” (The Indian Express | April 2017)
“India takes flawed first step towards ending HIV and Aids prejudice” (The Guardian | April 2017)
(Image Credit: Jayanta Dey/Reuters, via The Guardian)
Female students locked in hostels to avoid harassment during Holi festival in Delhi
- Two women’s hostels at the University of Delhi were put on lockdown over the Holi holiday out of safety fears.
- India’s minister for women argued the restrictions were necessary to defend against consequences of “hormonal outbursts.”
- Women have long reported being sexually assaulted during the festival, but some activists expressed outrage at women’s rather than men’s mobility being targeted as a response.
“Holi festival: Delhi women forced into lockdown amid sexual harassment fears” (The Guardian | March 2017)
“Delhi University hostels ‘lock up’ girls on Holi” (The Asian Age | March 2017)
“Delhi University hostels prohibit women students from playing Holi outside the premises” (International Business Times | March 2017)
(Image Credit: Reuters, via International Business Times)
Pro-choice advocates push to expand abortion window in India
- Indian women can currently obtain an abortion up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy, after which termination procedures are legally permissible only on a case-by-case basis in cases of danger to maternal health.
- Advocates argue that many victims of sex crimes do not report pregnancies until late, leaving a very small window of time to abort the pregnancy.
- Advocates are now pushing to extend the window to 24 weeks and to equip doctors with the legal power to grant abortions rather than forcing women to pursue permission through law enforcement and the courts.
“Victims of sex crime race strict Indian abortion deadline” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation | February 2017)
“India’s population surges as men remain reluctant to use contraceptive measures” (The Hindustan Times | February 2017)
“US abortion funding cuts hit Indian NGOs” (The Economic Times | January 2017)
The Poetics of Protest for Bengali Muslims in India
Named for the pejorative term used to describe Muslims presumed to be undocumented immigrants, Miyah poetry has emerged as a cultural protest against the marginalization and scapegoating faced by the Bengali Muslim community in the northeastern state of Assam. Its dissemination through social media channels has made it distinctly public and communal as opposed to more academic forms of cultural protest, bringing together the voices of the trained and untrained alike. Al Jazeera highlights the origins of the form and the social and political conditions that have shaped its evolution.
“Protest poetry: Assam’s Bengali Muslims take a stand” (Al Jazeera | December 2016)
“For better or verse: Miyah poetry is now a symbol of empowerment for Muslims in Assam” (Firstpost | September 2016)
“A state on edge” (India Today | October 2016)
#MiyahPoetry (The Sunflower Collective)
(Image Credit: Kazi Neel/Al Jazeera)
The Endless Labors of Pakistan’s Debt-Bound Women
A form of indentured servitude persists in the vast fields of Pakistan’s poorest regions, where families labor on lands to pay off debts whose balance never seems to decrease. But while men may find their “payments” limited to hard labor, women and girls find themselves vulnerable not only to physical labor, but to domestic, sexual, and even marital labor forced under conditions of extreme duress. Religious minorities are particularly vulnerable, with an estimated 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls trafficked as a result of these debts, sold off to predatory landowners and forced to convert to Islam. The Associated Press examines the conditions faced by the more than 2 million Pakistanis living in what human rights organizations have called modern-day slavery and the particular indignities to which women and girls are subjected.
“A Pakistani girl is snatched away, payment for a family debt” (The Associated Press)
(Image Credit: B.K. Bangash/AP)