Showing posts from June 16, 2013

Colombian Peace Talks Move to FARC's Political Participation

Years of war in Colombia have established a political economy based on conflict and contributed to institutional erosion and the consolidation of anti-democratic practices undermining good governance. The deterioration of the democratic principles of the 1991 Constitution began under the administration of Cesar Gaviria (1990 to 1994) and only worsened under the administration of Alvaro Uribe between 2002 and 2010. Over the last decades, the dominant classes and the traditional political parties have managed to erode the democratic aspects of the constitution by incrementally circumscribing the independence of the judiciary and diminishing legislative power while increasing presidential authority and the autonomy and power of the security apparatus of the state. This has happened against the backdrop of the increasing influence of narcotrafficking political organizations (ie. the paramilitaries) over state institutions. Consequently, Uribe's amendment to the 1991 cons

The peace process and land rights

A Kachin refugee from Bhamo township waits with her daughter and a friend's child at a displacement camp near the Chinese/Burmese border. She fled her land in July 2011, one month after a ceasefire ended in Kachin state. (Edward Chung Ho) A recent report from the international NGO Displacement Solutions warns that the housing, land and property rights of Burma’s displaced ethnic people have been largely ignored during the ongoing peace process involving the central government and various armed ethnic rebel groups. The report notes that despite the fact there is a general understanding by all parties involved in the peace process about the importance of land and property rights, “all too little progress has thus far been made to address these issues in any detail, nor have practical plans commenced to resolve ongoing displacement of either refugees or IDPs (internally displaced persons).” After decades of civil war, Burma ha

Obama: Northern Ireland peace process is blueprint to solve conflicts

US president, on his way to G8 summit, says end to 'intractable conflict' gave others hope and calls on young people to tear down sectarian divisions Barack and Michelle Obama wave to the crowd in the Belfast Waterfront Hall, where the US president said: 'This little island … its best days are yet ahead.' Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP Barack Obama has made an impassioned plea for the walls dividing Belfast to come down, and described the Northern Ireland peace process as a blueprint for ending other conflicts around the world. In a speech at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast before the G8 summit, the US president urged politicians and the public to deepen the peace. "We need you to get this right," he said. "You set an example for those who seek a peace of their own, people gripped in conflict. They know something better is out there. To put aside the violence. "They are studying what you are doing and wonde

Karenni rebels and govt progress on peace talks

The Karenni National Progressive Party and government representatives met for landmark peace talks on 19-20 June 2013 (DVB) Karenni rebels and government peace negotiators have agreed to begin resettling some of the thousands of people displaced by years of ethnic conflict in eastern Burma, at a landmark meeting on Wednesday. The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and government representatives are currently in the Karenni state capital Loikaw for two-day peace talks aimed at strengthening the tentative ceasefire deal inked last year. A representative for the KNPP told DVB that the talks had yielded some positive results, including plans to begin resettling some of the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the conflict-torn state. “We agreed to cooperate [with the government] on regional development, resettlement of IDPs and to work together with [anti-narcotic] groups for drug elimination,” said Aung San M

Turkey faces pressure to advance Kurdish militant peace process

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey 's main pro-Kurdish party is pressing Ankara to advance a peace process with Kurdish militants before a parliament recess, drawing a government accusation on Friday that it was exploiting unrelated unrest to extract concessions. Kurdistan Workers Party ( PKK ) fighters began pulling out of Turkish territory to bases in northern Iraq last month under a deal between the state and the group's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan to end a conflict which has killed 40,000. In exchange for that withdrawal, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party ( BDP ) now expects the government to enact reforms to boost the rights of the Kurdish minority , which makes up some 20 percent of Turkey's 76 million-strong population. But there has been little evidence of progress on the issue this month with public attention focused instead on three weeks of often violent anti-government demonstrations in several cities across the country. With parliam

What is wrong with Islam today?

  The controversial Canadian author Irshad Manji discusses Islamophobia and the need to reform Islam. Is there really a problem with Islam today? Critics see Muslim women as downtrodden and sectarian conflict dominates the headlines, but for many Muslims this is a gross misrepresentation. In this episode of Head to Head at the Oxford Union, Mehdi Hasan challenges controversial Canadian author Irshad Manji, writer of The Trouble with Islam Today and also Allah, Liberty and Love on the need to reform Islam, the notion of Ijtihad, the problem of Islamophobia and what Muslims need to own-up to. Manji is an author and broadcaster, but also the director of the Moral Courage Project. She strongly believes that Islam needs reform. Mehdi Hasan challenges Irshad, asking where the problem lies, and whether critics sometimes encourage Islamophobia. “Muslims are the trouble with Islam today,” says Manji. “We have allowed tribal culture to colonise the faith of Islam. It’s the behavio

Rohingya at ‘significant’ risk of human trafficking: US report

An ethnic Rohingya woman living in Malaysia, cries during a rally against sectarian violence in Burma (Reuters) Human trafficking remains a significant problem in both Burma and Thailand, where the stateless Rohingya minority has become particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, a leading US report warned on Wednesday. The annual trafficking in persons (TIP) report released by the US state department accused the Burmese government of fuelling forced labour and trafficking among the Muslim Rohingya by denying them citizenship and stripping them of basic rights. More than 20,000 Rohingyas are estimated to have fled on rickety boats from Arakan state in western Burma, since two bouts of ethno-religious clashes with Buddhists last year. Many end up paying hundreds of dollars to “brokers”, who either abandon them en route, or sell them to traffickers. “There were reports that some Rohingya asylum seekers transiting Thailand

Suicide bomb, shootings kill 9 in northern Iraq

A suicide car bomb blast and other militant attacks killed nine people in northern Iraq on Saturday, officials said, the latest in a wave of violence that has killed nearly 2,000 Iraqis since the start of April. The deadliest attack was in al-Athba village near the northern city of Mosul, when a suicide car bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police patrol, a police officer said. Three civilian bystanders and one policeman died while six other people were wounded, he added. With violence spiking sharply in recent months to levels not seen since 2008, al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups have been gathering strength in the area of Mosul, some 360 km northwest of Baghdad. In the city of Tuz Khormato, 210 km north of Baghdad, gunmen on motorcycles riddled a civilian vehicle carrying four off-duty policemen with bullets, killing three and wounding another, a police officer said. Another group of gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in the city of Sam

It’s not the Tamils stalling settlement in Sri Lanka

Is Sri Lanka’s moderate Tamil leadership to blame for the absence of a political settlement to the island’s festering ethnic conflict? There is definitely enough blame to go around in Sri Lanka, but Dayan Jayatilleka takes the case too far in his article in The Hindu , “From devolution to the deep blue sea” (Op-Ed, June 18, 2013) . He argues that the Tamil Nationalist Alliance (TNA) has overplayed its hand, fails to understand the weakness of its position and asks for deals that are no longer on the table. They should instead, he asserts, embrace and vigorously defend the Indian-imposed 1987 settlement — contained in the 13th amendment to the 1978 constitution — which most Sinhala hawks would willingly either do away with or prune down to the point of irrelevance. All this may well have substance, but the absence of a political solution in Sri Lanka is not the result of a convention speech by the TNA leader, or because of their tactical incompetence. It is almost ent

FARC Urges Colombian Gov't to Stop Repression in Catatumbo

Havana, Jun 21.- The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) urged President Juan Manuel Santos in this capital today, to stop police brutality against farmers protesting in the Catatumbo region, northeastern of Norte de Santander department. Ivan Marquez, leader of the guerrilla delegation participating in the talks created in Havana on November, denounced the abuses of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squads (Esmad), "who attacked defenseless peasants" and claimed the administration to put an end to that situation. From the Conference Center in Havana, "venue of the talks," the FARC-EP supported the protesters, who are demanding the creation of areas of rural reserves, and the immediate suspension of the eradication of illegal crops. Marquez also talked about the call for a constituent assembly, one of the initiatives that are part of the 10 "minimum proposals" announced by the rebel delegation that will

Afghan diplomat shot at in Pakistan

An Afghan diplomat was injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire at him in the Pakistani capital, officials said on Friday. Naqeebullah Ibrahimkhel, a third secretary in the Afghan Embassy, was wounded when the men fired at him while he was returning from a market in Sector F-10 of Islamabad late on Wednesday, Afghan Embassy spokesman Shams Zardasht said. Mr. Ibrahimkhel, in-charge of education and student affairs at the Afghan Embassy, was hit by a bullet in the leg. He was taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment. Doctors described his condition as stable. “We are not aware of the motives behind the incident and we demand that the Pakistani government should investigate it,” Mr. Zardasht said. The armed men robbed Mr. Ibrahimkhel of his cell phone and money and tried to drag him into their car, he said. Police officials claimed Mr. Ibrahimkhel was the victim of an attempted robbery.  Source:

2 Afghan policeman killed in Taliban attack

Afghan authorities say Taliban fighters attacked security checkpoints in a northern provincial capital, killing two members of a community-based security force. The officials claim 18 attackers died in the assault. Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, spokesman for Kunduz provincial police, said on Saturday that the initial Taliban attack on Friday in the provincial capital of the same name killed one member of the Afghan local police and wounded two. NATO formally handed over control of Afghanistan’s security entirely to local forces on Tuesday. The transition comes as violence reaches levels matching the worst in 12 years.  Source:

Removal of sign at Doha office threatens talks: Taliban

AP This June 20, 2013 photo shows the new office of the Afghan Taliban in Doha. A Taliban spokesman says that some within the Afghan militant movement want to suspend a nascent peace process with the government over a disputed sign in their newly opened office. Shaheen Suhail told The Associated Press on Saturday that the movement is infuriated over Kabul’s demands that they remove a sign that identifies their new office in Qatar as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Qatar removed the sign on Wednesday. Suhail said the Taliban have negotiated for three years under that name and were blindsided by the objections. “There is an internal discussion right now and much anger about it but we have not yet decided what action to take,” Suhail said in a telephone interview. “But I think it weakens the process from the very beginning.”  Source:

Hasan Rowhani: The Moderate Extremist

Debunking the ‘moderate’ myth of the new Iranian president. Hasan Rowhani: A man who can be reasoned with, who will sit down at the negotiating table and rein in Iran from its extended isolation from the international community. Do you believe that? Analysts and governments across the world have been holding their breath in eager anticipation of where this “moderate” leader will take Iran. Unable to hold in their excitement, some burst forth with praise for the newly-elected Iranian president. Many of these hopeful people come from Iran, where a desire for change is fueled by an economy in ruins and biting sanctions. “After eight years of darkness, the clouds of extremism could soon begin to part,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst with the  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace . While hopeful, such words reveal dangerous naivety. At a glance, Rowhani seems to be the best hope for moderation in the Iranian government. Among his eight contenders, Rowhani campaigned from the most m

Myanmar Imposes 2-Child Limit On Muslims In Rakhine

Myanmar has imposed a two-child limit on   Rohingya Muslims in the country’s western Rakhine state, near Bangladesh. The decision was made in an effort to reduce tensions with the Rohingya’s Buddhist neighbors. Local officials stated that the new child limits will be applied to two townships in Rakhine, Buthiadaung and Maundaw. The two townships border Bangladesh and have the highest Muslim populations in the state at 95 percent. Along with a two-child limit, the latest measure also  bans polygamy for Rohingya  Muslim families. The measure was enacted a week ago and follows a government-appointed commission’s recommendations. The commission issued proposals to ease the nation’s sectarian violence that included family planning programs to slow down the population growth of minority Muslims . The commission also recommended doubling the security force presence in Rakhine, according to state spokesman Win Myaing. Myaing added, “The population growth of Rohingya Muslims is 10 times higher

Qatar 'expels Lebanese after GCC Hizbollah decision'

BEIRUT // At least 18 Lebanese citizens have been expelled from Qatar, a government source in Beirut said yesterday, after the Gulf Cooperation Council pledged to act against members of Lebanon's Shiite Hizbollah movement. "Eighteen Lebanese have been expelled from Qatar, in the wake of the GCC decision," the source told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity, saying it was not clear if they were Hizbollah members. On June 10, the GCC said it would implement measures affecting the "residency permits and financial and commercial transactions of Hizbollah" in response to the group's involvement in the conflict in Syria. The GCC statement urged the Lebanese government to "assume its responsibilities towards the behaviour of Hizbollah and its illegal and inhumane practices in Syria and the region". The bloc backs the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Awwad Assiri, was asked on Thurs

Combined Force Arrests 2 Extremists in Nangarhar Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release KABUL, Afghanistan, June 21, 2013 – An Afghan and coalition security force arrested two extremists during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Khugyani district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province today, military officials reported. The sought-after Taliban leader is a subordinate to one of the highest-ranking Taliban leaders in Nangarhar province, officials said. He is responsible for planning, coordinating and executing multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces using large groups of extremist fighters. The sought-after insurgent also directs the movement of weapons, ammunition, money and other military equipment to Taliban cells operating in Nangarhar province, officials said. The security force also seized a shotgun and 30 pounds of opium as a result of the operation. In other Afghanistan operations today: -- A combined force arrested a Haqqani facilitator and five other extremists in the Pu

Syria’s rebel leader urges extremist fighters to unify in return for weapons

Istanbul // The Free Syrian Army has offered powerful Islamist rebel groups a share of advanced new weapons if they unify under the FSA banner. General Salim Idriss, commander of the FSA, the name under which moderate rebel units fight, appealed to leaders of independent Islamist brigades - which are currently not part of the alliance he leads - to join its ranks, according to a leading figure from one of the armed Islamist factions involved in the talks. "Idriss offered to support the Islamist factions by sharing the weapons he expects to receive, if they joined an alliance with the FSA and agree to certain conditions," the Damascus-based rebel said yesterday. He was briefed on the summit of anti-regime forces that took place in the Turkish capital Ankara on Thursday but declined to say what conditions Gen Idriss had set, adding that the militant Islamist groups had responded and would consider a deal but had their own set of conditions to be met before an agreement is reach

Buddhist Extremist Described As ‘Burmese Bin Laden’ Says His Movement Is Rising

Buddhist extremism   is growing in the Asian nation of Myanmar where an outspoken monk is leading an increasingly violent spiritual movement. Known as Ashin Wirathu, the Buddhist spiritual leader has been gaining a large, devout following in Myanmar, a nation historically known as Burma, over the past year. Advocating  heavy handed tactics to dealing with the “enemies” of Buddhism — namely, Muslims — Wirathu proclaimed to a reporter, as reported by  New York Times , that he is “proud to be called a radical Buddhist.” Westerners are most accustomed to thinking of Buddhists as peaceful, calm monk-types who practice strict pacifism. The most popular image might involve some variation on a bald man or men clothed in loose robes participating in silent meditation. Wirathu’s followers, however, provide a stark contrast to this stereotype. Bearing sharpened swords and shouting religious, anti-Islam vitrol, reports of Buddhists forming lynch mobs and attacking Muslims have been streaming out o

Iraqi Shiite Cleric: 'Extremism in Iraq Is Transitory Phase'

Shiite cleric   Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr is known as a moderate religious voice in Iraq, thanks to the initiatives he has launched for bringing together points of view between various religious and sectarian schools in and outside the country. About This Article Summary : In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Iraqi Shiite authority Hussein al-Sadr shares his perspective on the state of affairs in Iraq 10 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Original Title: Shiite Religious Authority Hussein Al-Sadr to Al-Monitor: Terrorism in Iraq Will Only End Through a Cultural, Economic and Educational Revolution Author:   Mustafa al-Kadhimi Translated by:  Pascale El-Khoury and Steffi Chakti He established the  Humanitarian Dialogue Foundation , and he believes that religion is a point of convergence, not divergence, and that terrorism is a dangerous phenomenon that can be stopped by a true cultural revolution. In an interview with  Al-Monitor , Sadr asserted that federalism in Iraq will o