- The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a new report discussing the threat of the terrorist group Lashkare-Taiba (LeT) in South Asia. The report suggests that the group is the second most dangerous terrorist group in the region, after al-Qaeda.
- The United States named an Iranian General as a key figure in drug trafficking from Afghanistan on Wednesday. On Thursday, eleven people were wounded in a roadside bomb in the eastern city of Jalalabad; while American authorities announced they are looking into allegations that some Afghan Air Force officials have been using aircraft to transport narcotics and illegal weapons across the country. On Friday, the main US foreign aid agency in the country announced it is preparing to switch from private security contractors to Afghan government-provided security this month under a new policy mandated by President Karzai. On Saturday, the foreign minister announced he will visit Qatar to meet government officials to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban; five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have reportedly agreed to be transferred to Qatar, a move Afghanistan believes will boost a nascent peace process; four civilians were killed and one more wounded by a NATO air strike in the northeastern Kapisa province; Afghan and foreign troops killed two insurgents and detained 27 more during joint operations around the country; while Al Jazeera ran a report documenting the change over one in one district following the Afghan army taking control of the area. On Sunday, an American service member allegedly walked out of a military base in a rural district in the south and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 16 civilians, including several children, undermining stability and triggering angry calls for the immediate departure of American soldiers; the Pentagon’s chief spokesman announced that the basic war strategy in the country will not change despite the “isolated” incident; American President Obama offered condolences to the families killed by the American, calling the attack “tragic and shocking”; while President Karzai said he is nearly ready to sign a general Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US. On Monday, an American official leaked that the American Army member accused of Sunday’s massacre was treated for traumatic brain injury in 2010; while American President Obama said he was “heartbroken” over the massacre, called upon a thorough Pentagon investigation and expressed his determination to get American troops out of the country. On Tuesday, British PM Cameron arrived in Washington ahead of talks with American President Obama to discuss the transition of security in Afghanistan; gunmen attacked a senior Afghan government delegation investigating Sunday’s massacre, killing at least one soldier; hundreds of students took to the streets of Jalalabad in anger over Sunday’s killings; while a senior Afghan banking official said that wealthy Afghans are carrying an estimated $8 billion—almost double the state budget—in cash out of the country each year. On Wednesday, two bomb explosions in Helmand Province killed at least nine people; three Polish soldiers facing war crimes charges over the killings of civilians in Afghanistan were acquitted in Poland’s highest court, but will face a retrial in connection with the case; Afghan soldiers arriving at a meeting with the US Defense Secretary were told to disarm before arriving; and the US soldier accused with Sunday’s massacre was allegedly taken out of the country on legal recommendation.
- Lawmakers in Uzbekistan have reportedly declared war on toys that harbour foreign values, as they proposed a bill to protect the “moral health” of children and teenagers by limiting the import of foreign-made toys.
- Amnesty International accused Sri Lanka of illegally holding hundreds of detainees who are vulnerable to torture and execution and urged the UN to investigate allegations of serious abuses during and after the country’s 26-year civil war. On Monday, the Defense Ministry reportedly ordered news outlets to get prior approval before sending mobile phone alerts about the military or police, a move press freedom groups decried as another step towards greater censorship.
- Tens of thousands gathered in the capital of Bangladesh to demand the government step down and hold elections, in the biggest opposition demonstration since the Bangladesh Nationalist Party suffered a landslide defeat in 2008 polls.
- A village in western India reportedly hosted a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls on Sunday aimed at breaking a tradition of prostitution in the region.
- A former chief of the spy agency in Pakistan was forced to admit to spending millions of military dollars to influence an election during a court hearing on Thursday; one child was killed and a woman and a child injured when a mortar shell hit a house in the Bara area of Aka Khel in the northwest Khyber region; the interior minister announced that three of Bin Laden’s widows had been charged by authorities with illegally entering and living in the country; while militants allegedly attacked a Pakistan Army post in the Sarwakai area of the South Waziristan region, killing one soldier. On Friday, the PM named a new head of the ISI spy agency to take over for the outgoing spy chief who was due to retire March 18th; the Pakistani Taliban warned it will attack government, police and military officials involved if three of the late Bin Laden’s widows are not released from custody; a US drone fired missiles at a house in the Saraogha area of South Waziristan, killing at least 13 people; a militant shot dead the head of a local pro-government militia in the Kalaya area of the northwestern Orakzai region; the army announced it is in the process of handing over the Swat Valley to civilian leaders three years after 30,000 troops were sent to fight the Taliban; while security officials said that at least seven soldiers and eight suspected Islamist militants were reportedly killed in a clash in the North Waziristan region. On Saturday, six members of a pro-government militia were reportedly killed when they were ambushed by militants in Dera Bugti; a clash between Pakistan army troops and militants in the Bara area of Khyber killed two soldiers and three militants; a mortar shell landed on a house in Aka Khel of Khyber region killing three people and wounding two others; and Pakistani fighter jets bombed four militant hideouts in the Khadezai and Mamozai areas killing 21 militants and wounding 23. On Sunday, 15 people died after a suicide bomber attacked a funeral attended by an anti-Taliban politician on the outskirts of Peshawar; while a homemade bomb exploded in the North Waziristan region, killing two people. On Monday, two people were killed and another 17 others wounded when a homemade bomb exploded next to a bus on the outskirts of the northwestern town of Sadda. On Tuesday, two missile strikes by suspected US drone aircraft reportedly killed at least 15 suspected militants close to the Afghan border; while militants allegedly threw a grenade and then opened fire at a meeting of tribal elders and local officials in a town in the North Waziristan regions, killing at least 3 people. On Wednesday, at least four people were reportedly killed and two others injured in a roadside bomb explosion near the Afghan border; while the government announced that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has “no more interest” in funding a project to build a natural-gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.
- The authorities in Azerbaijan reportedly arrested 22 Azeri citizens on Wednesday suspected of spying for Iran and plotting to attack western embassies and companies; while an investigative journalist says she was allegedly blackmailed by authorities to stop her investigations into corruption and the financial dealings of the President and his family, and will not let the video released on the Internet purporting to show her engaging in sexual activities stop her.
- The Parliament of China unveiled legislation on Thursday solidifying police powers to hold dissidents in secret, prompting outcry from rights campaigners. A young Tibetan man died and two others were reportedly injured in a shooting at a police station in western China on Friday, after complaining about the arrest of another man for taking part in a mass protest; while a prominent Tibetan writer under virtual house arrest in Beijing plead for an end to self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule, saying such measures do nothing for the cause of Tibetan rights. On Saturday, reports suggested that police in western China had shot dead a Tibetan man and wounded two others amid protests against Chinese rule the previous Tuesday; another teenage Tibetan monk set himself on fire on the 53rd anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule; while three men started a hunger strike outside the UN headquarters in New York, calling for action over Tibet. On Sunday police announced they rescued more than 24,000 abducted women and children across the country in 2011 as nearly 3,200 human trafficking gangs were broken up. On Monday, it was reported that a controversial reality-TV show “Interviews Before Execution”, that interviewed death row criminals right before their death, was cancelled after 6 years on the air. On Tuesday, the outgoing Premier called for reducing growth to 7.5%, reportedly signaling that the days of GDP worship need to end; while authorities are reportedly set to pass a landmark legislation granting more rights to detainees and other political reforms, but human rights organizations and relatives of some of those already being held are concerned that it will have little effect on the activities of so-called secret “black jails”.
- Facebook and several independent new websites remained blocked in Tajikistan on Friday, and an official suggested the cut-off may be linked to potential national security concerns.
- Four soldiers were killed and one critically wounded when insurgents reportedly detonated a roadside bomb in the south of Thailand on Wednesday. On Thursday, a rubber farmer was shot dead and his wife seriously wounded when two unknown gunmen opened fire on them while they were working at their farm. On Friday, two soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in a series of insurgent attacks on military bases and checkpoints across the southern region, the latest outbreak of separatist unrest.
- The government of Myanmar/Burma announced that peace negotiations had reopened with Kachin rebels on Thursday in a bid to settle a stubborn conflict that could impact tentative Western efforts to lift sanctions on the country. On Sunday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that government censors are not allowing her party to criticize the previous military-run governments when it promotes its policies on state-run radio and television before next month’s elections. On Tuesday, a court sentenced a top leader of the ethnic Karen rebel group to life imprisonment for high treason, a move that could complicate a government-led peace process aimed at settling decades-old separatist conflicts.
- Some 1,500 people took to the streets to protest in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh on Wednesday to dispute local election results and demanding more seats for their political party on the city council.
- Two NATO soldiers were reportedly shot dead in southern Afghanistan by two Afghans, including a man believed to be a soldier on Thursday. On Friday, the country’s top religious council demanded that those responsible for the burning of Qur’ans at the NATO base be put on public trial; negotiations between the US and Afghanistan on a potential long-term military presence has stalled over Karzai’s demands for Afghan control of prisons and an end to night-time raids on Afghan homes, two points the US say are impractical and compromise the effort; and the US government slapped sanctions on an Afghan national it says helped manufacture IEDs for the Taliban. On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed four civilians in a car in eastern Nangarhar province; while Afghan police reportedly killed six insurgents, with two insurgents killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb. On Sunday, a Western official reportedly released that the joint investigation by senior Afghan and US military officials determined that there was no intent to desecrate the Qur’an in the February 20th incident, but that it could lead to a disciplinary review of the American personnel involved, a move that Afghans apparently will never accept. On Monday, Afghanistan’s top clerics issued new guidelines in a statement that asserted that women are subordinate to men, should not mix in work or education and must always have a male guardian when they travel, and also called upon insurgents to join peace talks; a suicide bomber killed at least two civilians at a US military base where copies of the Qur’an was burned last month; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four alleged insurgents, wounding one and detained four more across the country; while two separate suicide attacks killed at least six people. On Tuesday, President Karzai endorsed the clerics’ guidelines that activists criticize as a giant step backwards for women’s rights. On Wednesday, the human rights director for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan urged the government to implement laws to eliminate violence against women on the eve of International Women’s Day; four alleged insurgents were killed by NATO air strikes in Kunar and a 12 year old killed by the insurgent’s gunfire; a roadside mine killed two civilians in Kunar; a homemade mine killed two insurgents and their two children in Kabul; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four insurgents, wounded one and detained 8 more around the country; while six British soldiers were reported killed by an explosion that hit their armored vehicle in Helmand Province. On Wednesday, four civilians were reportedly killed and some 10 others injured in an explosion near the Pakistani border.
- Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest rally in the northeastern city of Quba in Azerbaijan on Thursday, wounding four people; while authorities dismissed Iranian protests over its reported deal to buy arms worth $1.5 billion from Israel. On Friday, the Governor of the district of Quba was reportedly fired over the rioting.
- Authorities in Uzbekistan allegedly installed security cameras in about 30 mosques in the eastern city of Namangan to prevent “theft”, inflaming locals who insist it’s another move to curb Islamic practice in the country.
- The United States unveiled their new food aid program to North Korea in return for new nuclear moratorium agreement on Thursday, a move that China, South Korea and Japan welcomed and Reuters said helps to establish the credibility of Kim Jong-un. On Sunday, North Korea threatened “sacred war” against the South in a huge rally that reportedly attracted tens of thousands in the capital. On Monday, the UN nuclear watchdog announced it is preparing for a possible return to the country three years after it was expelled, a move welcomed by the United States.
- A Saudi diplomat was reportedly shot dead in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Tuesday. The circumstances are still unclear.
- The ruling Congress party in India suffered a major election setback in crucial state polls, winning clearly in just one of five states contested on Tuesday.
- Supporters of the former President of the Maldives clashed with police and stopped the new leader from opening Parliament on Thursday, three weeks after he says he was forced to resign in a coup. Police announced 14 officers were rounded in the clashes, and that at least 34 people were arrested.
- Thousands took to the streets in an opposition protest on Thursday in the southern city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan ahead of local elections in the city. On Sunday, polls closed and vote counting began in Osh to select members for the 45-seat city council, in an election that reportedly drew some 75.2% of voters. On Monday, the leading local NGOs recognized the municipal elections, citing that they were confident that reported electoral violations did not affect the general outcome of the election.
- Six mortar shells landed in North Waziristan in Pakistan on Thursday, wounding six people, four of them children; and fighter jets bombed five militant hideouts, killing some 18 militants and wounding 26. On Friday, at least 10 soldiers and 23 anti-state fighters were reportedly killed after militants attacked a security checkpoint in the northwest; a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at a camp of the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group in the northwest, killing seven militants and wounding five; Pakistani fighter jets bombed two militant hideouts in the Orakzai region, killing 15 militants and wounding 12 others; gunmen opened fire at a car in Peshawar, killing an intelligence official; three militants were killed and two soldiers wounded when militants attacked a paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province; while lawmakers voted for 45 new members of the Senate. On Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province, killing one policeman and wounding four others. On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwest, wounding one policeman. On Monday, the military announced that it had successfully tested a short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads; three militants from the TTP were killed in fresh clashes with another militant group Lashkar-e-Islam in the Tirah Valley; a soldier was killed by a homemade bomb during a clearing operation in Bara; a group of militants reportedly ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the Uch area of Baluchistan province, killing three militants; unknown gunmen shot and killed a former local politician in the Charsadda district; while the number two commander in the Pakistani Taliban was reportedly fired. On Tuesday, a homemade bomb exploded and another defused on the outskirts of Dera-Ismail Khan, wounding two children; one Pakistani soldier was killed and two others wounded in a homemade bomb explosion in Bazai; and seven alleged militants were killed and nine others injured in a gun battle after they ambushed a convoy of Frontier Corps troops in the Uch area of Baluchistan.
- Forty-seven people charged with terrorism are expected to face trial in Kazakhstan in relation to two explosions last October. On Tuesday, police said they arrested three activists of the unregistered opposition Algha party in Almaty in connection with violence last December. On Wednesday, the wives of two jailed leaders of the opposition Republican Social Democratic Azat Party led a protest outside the National Security Committee’s detention centre in Almaty to condemn a government crackdown on activists and also claiming they have not been allowed to see their husbands or send them clothes or food since they were detained more than a week ago.
- China’s top official in Tibet urged authorities to tighten their grip on the Internet and mobile phones on Thursday, reflecting the government’s fears about unrest ahead of its annual parliamentary session; while the village of Wukan gave up their violent standoff over corrupt land grabs to vote for a new village committee. On Sunday, a Tibetan woman set herself on fire in the south-west the latest to protest against Chinese rule; residents in the southern village of Wukan elected a reformist leader to run a new administrative authority that many hail as a model for greater democracy following an uncompromising standoff over land grabs and abuses of power; while China apparently announced it is boosting its defence spending by 11.2% in 2012. Another Tibetan youth burned himself to death in the southwest on Monday, the third self-immolation in three days. On Wednesday, the government dismissed those self-immolating Tibetans as “criminals”.
- Authorities in Tajikistan reportedly blocked access to Facebook and two Russian-language sites that published an article critical of the long-serving President on Saturday.
- President Sein of Burma/Myanmar urged government troops and Kachin rebels on Thursday to end hostilities and take part in talks, but ruled out independence for any ethnic minority groups.
- The Guardian ran an article on Sunday about a student facing 15 years in prison in Thailand for speaking out against the monarchy.
- The Philippines ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture on Tuesday by a unanimous resolution in the Senate.
- US Secretary of State Clinton announced she had a “constructive discussion” of common concerns with her counterpart in Pakistan on Thursday; new details about American drone strikes were revealed by Reuters; Pakistani jets bombed four alleged militant hideouts in the Mela area, killing at least 15 militants; while at least 15 people were killed and more than 30 injured in a bomb explosion near a bus station in Peshawar. On Friday, four police officers were killed and at least five others injured in a suicide attack on a police station in Peshawar; while seven militants were killed when Pakistani forces shelled their hideout in Bara. On Saturday, a mortar shell landed on a house in the northwestern Khyber tribal region, killing three people and wounding three others; fourteen small homemade bombs planted on railway tracks exploded in the southern Sindh province, disrupting railway traffic; an American drone reportedly crashed in North Waziristan, though the US denied Taliban claims that they had shot it down; while Pakistani forces began to demolish the house where Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in the city of Abbottabad. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded next to a military patrol in the South Waziristan region, killing two soldiers and wounding another; while militants fired RPGs at a military checkpost in the Sarwakai, killing two soldiers. On Monday, at least five people were reportedly killed and 15 others wounded in a bomb explosion at a political rally in the North West. On Tuesday, at least 18 people were reportedly killed after gunmen opened fire on a passenger bus in a northern village; a homemade bomb exploded in the Bara area of the Khyber tribal region, killing two people and wounding another three; while the Stratfor WikiLeaks email release suggests that Pakistani army officials may have known where Osama Bin Laden was hiding.
- Sri Lanka rejected UN involvement in probing allegations of army atrocities in the long war against Tamil rebels that ended in 2009 on Monday, saying UN calls to prosecute soldiers guilty of misconduct were “unwarranted incursions”. On Tuesday, Chatham House released a report on breaking the cycle of continued impunity for war-time abuses in the country.
- The government of India clarified on Tuesday that it accepts a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that would legalize gay sex in the country; while millions of workers reportedly staged a 24-hour strike to demand improved rights for employees and to protest over rising prices.
- China is reportedly softening on its strict family planning laws, as older threatening slogans are being replaced by more upbeat ones. On Tuesday, at least 12 people reportedly died in riots in Yecheng County, with police allegedly killing two of the attackers. The cause of the riots was unknown at the time of reporting. On Wednesday, twenty people were reportedly killed when a group of men wielding axes and knives attacked a market in the western Xinjiang Uyghyr Autonomous Region.
- The Atlantic ran a report on the worsening violence in Tibet, as at least 22 people have self-immolated in protest at the Chinese government’s rule.
- A group of villagers in the south of Myanmar/Burma are speaking out against a massive industrial estate that is reportedly being built on their land, in a way that would have been unthinkable for years, for fear of consequences; while the Guardian reported that the censors are in retreat and that a new era of a (partly) free press and (some) freedom of expression is now permissible. On Friday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that developing the country will be impossible without peace in the restive Kachin regions.
- A court in Kazakhstan reportedly sentenced two opposition leaders to 15 day prison terms on Saturday for organizing a rally for democratic change. Around 300 protesters were vastly outnumbered by riot police, who detained a handful of speakers and later blocked a group that attempted to march to a police station where six activists were being held.
- The Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from its democracy and human rights watchdog on Wednesday, calling upon elections to be held before the end of the year.
- A court in northern Tajikistan gave jail sentences to seven people for being members of the banned Islamist Tablig-i-Jamaat organization on Thursday. On Wednesday, the ambassador to Russia announced his country expects Russia to start to pay rent for bases it uses on Tajik territory.
- The UN Security Council extended the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste on Thursday to the end of 2012 so that it can continue to help promote peace, stability and development.
- Protests continued over the burning of copies of the Qur’an at a NATO base in Afghanistan, with demonstrators setting fire to part of a housing compound used by foreign contract workers on Wednesday; the US Embassy in Kabul announced it was on lockdown and all travel suspended; while Pakistan announced it will give its full support to any clear effort by the Afghan government to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban, but does not want to lead a peace process that would impose a solution. The Attorney General alleged on Thursday that a female Senator has links with a criminal group involved in kidnapping in the country; Amnesty International released a new report about displaced people living within the country; at least 2 US soldiers and 2 Afghans were killed in separate incidents after the Taliban urged Afghans to target foreign troops in retaliation over reports that copies of the Qur’an were burnt at a NATO airbase; an Afghan soldier reportedly shot dead two American soldiers; US President Obama sent a letter of apology to the President, stating that the incident was not intentional; while protests continued reportedly killing some 5 Afghan protesters. On Friday, Pakistani PM Gilani publicly called on the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan to join peace talks with the Afghan government; while protests over the burning of the Qur’an at the US-led base in the country were held in several regions, resulting in the death of at some 23 people. Protests continued on Saturday, resulting in at least six deaths; a remote controlled mine killed six Afghan army members and wounded some 12 others; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed some 12 alleged insurgents and detained six more in several provinces across the country; while two American officers were reportedly shot dead at close range in the Afghani Interior Ministry allegedly by an Afghan police intelligence officer, and another seven US military trainers were wounded in protests, resulting in NATO pulling all of its advisors out of ministries across Kabul and the US Defense Secretary calling on the Afghan government to protect NATO forces. On Sunday, President Karzai renewed his calls for calm, after protests continued for a fifth day; the Canadian department of foreign affairs suspended all meetings with Afghan ministries; while France announced it is making preparations to withdraw non-military personnel from the country and condemned the fatal shooting of the two Americans. On Monday, the American Obama administration announced it has no plans to accelerate their withdrawal from the country in the wake of violent attacks against their countrymen; the UN announced it is temporarily relocating its international staff from its office in the northern Kunduz province which was attacked over the weekend; nine people were reportedly killed in a car-bomb explosion at the airport in Jalalabad, with the Taliban claiming responsibility; the Taliban claimed to have infiltrated an international military base in the east and poisoned food supplies; Afghan security forces and foreign troops reportedly killed six insurgents and detained three more near the Pakistani border; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed another five insurgents and detained some 22 in eight separate operations; while the Atlantic reported that the recent anti-American protests and violence suggest that Afghans see Americans more as occupiers than liberators. On Tuesday, an explosion at a residential compound in the southern Helmand Province killed four women and three children. On Wednesday, the top American military transport commander said that overland cargo routes through Pakistan must be reopened to NATO for the US to complete its pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014; Afghan police killed four alleged insurgents during operations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces; while at least 20 people were injured in two explosions, one targeting a NATO supply convoy and the second targeting a bank in the northeast. The Atlantic ran an article on how Afghanistan hasn’t changed since the invasion of Western forces eleven years ago.
- Israeli defense officials confirmed a deal to sell drones, antiaircraft and missile defense systems for some $1.6 billion to Azerbaijan. The deal has reportedly been in the works for some time and is not in response to Iran’s nuclear development program.
- The former President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo plead not guilty to charges of electoral fraud on Thursday. The charges include rigging the results of 2007 congressional polls to favour her candidates.
- The Atlantic ran an article about the how Thailand is looking increasingly fragile and prone to conflict again, as the military and civilian governments clash.
- The United States and North Korea reportedly met for their first talks on the North’s nuclear program since the death of Kim Jong-Il. On Friday, the American co-ordinator for policy on North Korea said that there was some progress, but that he had a “better understanding” of the North’s position on its controversial nuclear programme after the talks. On Saturday, North Korea threatened to wage a “sacred war”, launching a powerful retaliatory strike against the South if provoked, a day before the start of annual South Korean-US military drills. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their military exercises, despite the threats from the North of possible retaliation. On Tuesday, South Korean activists gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul to protest against the country’s policy of repatriating North Korean defectors. On Wednesday, North Korea reportedly agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, implement a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and allow IAEA inspectors in to verify and monitor in exchange for American food-aid shipments.
- Three state-owned television channels in Uzbekistan removed Turkish soap operas because the material was deemed “inappropriate” by authorities. The soap operas are widely popular across Central Asia and the Middle East. On Tuesday, the British Defense Secretary arrived in Tashkent to reportedly discuss facilitating the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan via other Central Asian states.
- The media-freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called upon the government of Kyrgyzstan to immediately lift its block on the fergananews.com news website to ensure Internet freedom in the country. The sites were blocked in mid-2011 by the Kyrgyz parliament over their coverage of the June 2010 violence in the south of the country. On Monday, the Russian defense minister says that Russia will fully pay overdue rental fees for a military facility in the Kyrgyzstan by the end of February; and the PM announced he decided to fire all customs officials, border guards and police at the country’s two international airports in a bid to tackle corruption. On Tuesday, the Atlantic ran a report about a previously unheard-of group allegedly declaring jihad against the Manas Transit Center in the country. Security measures are reportedly being increased in the southern city of Osh ahead of a planned demonstration on March 1st and weekend local elections.
- President Karzai of Afghanistan confronted the Pakistani leadership on Thursday during a visit to Islamabad, accusing Pakistani officials of harbouring the Taliban; he also was quoted as saying there were secret contacts between the US, Afghan governments and the Taliban, and that the militant group was interested in ending the war; while the Pakistani President publicly pledged efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban with hopes of ending the Afghan war. On Saturday, the two days of high level talks ended in acrimony with Afghanistan saying it was “preposterous” to think that Pakistan could deliver the Taliban chief Mullah Omar to the negotiating table. On Sunday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that education in the country would be taking a big step backward, as new textbooks would cut out much of the country’s post-1973 history since none of the major groups can agree on a basic set of facts. On Monday, a prominent female lawmaker repeated her intention to run for the presidency when Karzai’s term runs out in two years time; while a car bomb in Kandahar killed one policeman and wounded four other people. On Tuesday, US and NATO forces rushed to apologize for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of angry Afghans protested outside the Bagram military airbase; Chatham House released a new report on how the withdrawal of international forces will affect the country; Afghan officials reported that Taliban militants beheaded four Afghan civilians who they believed had been spying for the government; President Karzai reportedly invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while urging Pakistan to help with negotiations; a man wearing an Afghan police uniform killed an ISAF service member in southern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb killed four civilians including a child in southern Kandahar; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two insurgents, wounded three and detained one more in Kabul and Logar provinces; and Pakistan announced it will not support an American-driven initiative to start Afghan peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar until it is clear that they have backing from Kabul. On Wednesday, Georgia’s Defense Ministry announced that three of their soldiers were killed in Helmand province while serving alongside NATO forces; while President Karzai appealed for calm as demonstrators protesting over the burning of copies of the Qur’an clashed with security forces, resulting in at least seven deaths.
- The military in Pakistan rejected criticism by Human Rights Watch concerning the murder of a Pakistani journalist that suggested the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was beyond the reach of the criminal justice system, as “derogatory, biased and contradictory”; while intelligence officials said two suspected US drone missile attacks killed more than 10 people in the North Waziristan region near the Afghan border. On Thursday, a suspected US drone aircraft reportedly fired two missiles at a car in the North Waziristan region, killing ten people; a homemade bomb planted in a vehicle exploded in the city of Quetta; a militant threw a hand grenade at police officials in Peshawar, injuring three people; one soldier and eight militants were killed in clashes between Pakistani forces and a group of militants in Wana; a suicide bomber killed two people and wounded five others in the Upper Dir district; and a suspected US drone aircraft killed six and wounded two others as it fired two missiles at a house in Miranshah. On Friday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that the Americans should “suck it up” and apologize to Pakistan for the “friendly fire” incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last fall; a homemade bomb exploded, killing three Pakistani soldiers in Tirah; three militiamen were killed when Pakistani forces and a pro-government militia attacked a militant base in Bara; a clash between two militias left five militants and three members of a government-sponsored militia dead; while a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed up to 32 people and injuring at least 60 in a market in a town close to the Afghan border. On Saturday, the death toll from Friday’s suicide bombing rose to 39; and militants ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded in the northwestern Khyber region, killing seven pro-government militia members and critically wounding five others; while militants reportedly attacked a military checkpoint, killing a soldier and wounding three others in Wana. On Tuesday, the Interior Minister announced that the government in Islamabad intends to ask Interpol to arrest the former President and military chief Pervez Musharraf in connection with the assassination of former PM Bhutto; a homemade bomb exploded outside a hospital in Peshawar with no reported casualties; a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the Bagzai area with no casualties; and policeman was killed when militants attacked a police checkpoint in Panjgur.
- The International Crisis Group released a new report on Timor-Leste’s upcoming elections, and the possibility of a more peaceful future.
- The President of Kyrgyzstan announced on Friday that he plans to demand overdue fees for Russian military assets on Kyrgyz soil during upcoming talks in Moscow. On Monday, the President announced at a meeting with visiting US State Department officials that “no foreign troops” should remain at the Manas airport after 2014, which the US pays to use as a transit centre for operations in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, a state-controlled Internet provider blocked access to a leading independent news website.
- Activists suspected of playing a role in December’s violence in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan are reportedly still being rounded up by authorities and detained. On Tuesday, five men were reportedly sentenced on terrorism charges for creating an illegal armed group and of organizing and conducting a bombing in the northwest, to jail terms varying from 5 to 13 years; while the former VP of the Kazakh national nuclear company was arrested in Canada for violating immigration laws.
- Human Rights Watch criticized the authorities of Azerbaijan for the alleged forcible eviction of hundreds of residents to demolish the last standing building in the neighbourhood of Baku where the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is to be held. On Saturday, security forces allegedly arrested and jailed an Iranian journalist within the country without any specific charge. Authorities announced on Tuesday that they had busted an alleged terrorist group working for Iran’s secret services.
- The government of Myanmar/Burma announced it expects to reach a ceasefire deals with all of the ethnic minority rebel armies within three months time before starting a process of political dialogue towards “everlasting peace”. The Bangkok Post ran an article that suggested that the recent ceasefire deals are driven by a desire of the army and politicians to capitalize on the booming narcotics business and not a real desire for change. On Thursday, the World Bank said it was in the process of returning to the country after 25 years, but the nation must first clear its arrears to global financial institutions before the bank resumes lending. On Friday, the EU announced it was lifting travel restrictions and sanctions against the country, in the first step towards rewarding the government for democratic reforms. On Sunday, a dissident monk who helped lead the 2007 anti-government uprising is facing fresh legal action for “squatting” illegally in a government-sealed monastery and breaking into two others. On Monday, the Guardian reported that a monk jailed for his role in the 2007 protests and then released in an amnesty in January now faces action by the authorities because he has “repeatedly broken Buddhist monks’ code of conduct and the law” by rejoining the religious order without requesting authorization and joining a monastery that has been sealed off by the government. On Wednesday, Karen rebels, who have been fighting for autonomy in the country for the last six decades, outlined their demands for peace with the government, including a complete withdrawal of government troops from posts near villages along the Thai border.
- Recent re-elected President Berdymukhammedov in Turkmenistan vowed to lay the foundations for a multiparty system and a free media on Thursday, after being elected with some 97 percent of the vote.
- Radio Free Europe reported that articles in the Uzbek language on Wikipedia have not been accessible in Uzbekistan for weeks, though no official statements have been released by authorities about the blockage. On Wednesday, it was reported that prominent cleric Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov survived an attempt on his life in a Swedish city where he was granted political asylum in 2006.
- The government of China reportedly detained several hundred Tibetans who were returning from teaching sessions by the Dalai Lama in India and is forcing them to undergo political re-education. On Wednesday, Chinese police reportedly detained a Tibetan writer in a western area. On Thursday, the exiled Tibetan PM said that the plight of Tibetans has deteriorated since a wave of deadly protests in 2008, stressing that Tibetans live in a “lockdown”. On Saturday, another Tibetan Buddhist monk reportedly set himself on fire in western China. On Sunday, the 21st Tibetan monk this year set himself on fire after shouting slogans in favour of Tibetan independence and the exiled Dalai Lama.
- The new President of the Maldives agreed to hold early elections on Thursday to break the political impasse brought on by the allegations that the former President was forced to resign in a coup. On Friday, thousands of supporters of the former President rallied peacefully in the capital as Commonwealth ministers arrived to investigate the circumstances of his exit from power.
- Two fishermen in India were reportedly shot dead in a confrontation with an Italian oil tanker off the southern Indian coast on Wednesday, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries. Indian police detained the entire Italian crew.
- North Korea threatened to launch “merciless” strikes against South Korea over its planned regular live-fire drills near their disputed sea border on Sunday. On Monday, South Korea conducted live-fire military drills from five islands near its disputed sea boundary with the North, despite their threat of retaliation; while North Korea’s state media announced that the ruling Worker’ Party will hold a key conference in April where it will likely make official the succession of power to Kim Jung-un.
- The family of two young brothers in Indonesia have blamed police brutality for the death of their two boys, aged 13 and 17, who died in police custody. A new poll on Monday suggested that the ruling Democrat Party has lost major support, to the point that it could be pushed out in the next election. On Wednesday, security forces reportedly stormed a prison on Bali following a riot by inmates, injuring several people.
- A criminal court on the island nation of the Maldives issued an arrest warrant for the first democratically-elected President, Mohammed Nasheed, who awaited arrest in his home on Thursday, following last week’s alleged coup attempt. The ousted President was still walking free on Friday despite the arrest warrant and called upon new elections and vowed mass street protests if the new government did not relent. On Sunday, the new President Mohamed Waheed told a visiting American diplomat that he would be willing to cooperate with a probe into the circumstances of the transition of power; while he expanded his cabinet to strengthen the new coalition government, swearing in six members from four political parties as ministers; and the Commonwealth announced it would send a team to investigate the circumstances surrounding the President leaving power. On Monday, a senior UN official called on all sides to urgently reach agreement on forming an inclusive government of national unity and for a credible and independent probe into recent events, though said that it was up to the local population it is up to them to resolve violent divisions. On Tuesday, the new President pledged “peace and order” in the country and assured the visiting European delegation that he would form a “fully inclusive” cabinet.
- The Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency in Pakistan is facing charges in the courts over the case of 11 men who were allegedly abducted and tortured; while a US drone missile strike is reported to have killed Taliban leader Badar Mansoor and three others in the North Waziristan region on Thursday. On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from PM Gilani, upholding that he must appear before the court next week to answer contempt-of-court charges; a second US drone attack in two days in the North Waziristan region killed at least four people, including a senior militant commander with alleged links to al-Qaeda; militants fired two RPGs at a military airport in Miranshah near the Afghani border; unidentified attackers threw two hand grenades and opened fire on a police vehicle after a political rally in the northwest, wounding some 12 people; a homemade bomb planted in a donkey cart exploded in the Khuzdar area, killing one person and wounding another; and Pakistani forces fired artillery shells at three militant hideouts in the Mamozai area of the northwest, killing some 11 militants and wounding another 19. On Saturday, a homemade bomb exploded in a house in the outskirts of Peshawar, killing some seven people and wounding another three; while PM Gilani said that corruption charges against the President were “politically motivated” and that the President had immunity as head of state. On Monday, PM Gilani was formally charged with contempt at the Supreme Court, accused of failing to reopen old corruption cases against the President; and a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the southwest, killing two and wounding 14. On Tuesday, militants opened fire on a group of labourers in the southwestern town of Turbat, killing seven. On Wednesday, the Atlantic ran an article that claimed that the US Special Forces have infiltrated Pakistan, the CIA entering after the 2005 earthquake under the guise of construction workers and aid workers, others slipping in through the Afghani border.
- A young man was killed late on Friday in Kashmir when a soldier reportedly accidently fired his rifle as security forces combed the area for militants. Angry demonstrators blocked the main highway to protest the killing the following day, with police using batons and tear gas to disperse them.
- The Atlantic ran an article about the razing of historic neighbourhoods in Beijing, China and the subsequent displacement of often-resistant families. On Sunday, a teenage Tibetan nun reportedly set herself on fire in the latest protest against treatment of Tibetan regions it rules.
- Exiled students from Myanmar/Burma are reportedly returning home for the first time since a failed student uprising in 1988 after receiving visas from the government, a further sign of political reconciliation; though reports will still coming out of refugees facing violence as they flood across the Chinese border. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has reportedly been greeted by cheering crowds on Friday as she began her campaigning in the constituency where she is standing for Parliament for the first time.
- One person was killed and 13 others wounded when a truck bomb exploded on Thursday in south Thailand that police blamed on ethnic Malay rebels.
- President Karzai of Afghanistan strongly condemned a NATO air strike that reportedly killed at least 8 children in the eastern part of the country on Wednesday and called for an “all-out probe” into the details of the incident. On Thursday, Karzai extended the unilateral deadline for the transfer of full control of Bagram Prison to the Afghan authorities until March 9th and suspended all legal and judicial operations at the prison; two policemen were killed and one wounded when they tried to defuse a mine in Lashkar Gah in southern Helmand; while two alleged insurgents were killed and more than 30 detained in joint operations of Afghan security forces and foreign troops across the country. On Friday, the French Defense Minister said that using the route through Uzbekistan to withdraw NATO troops from Afghanistan was too costly, and that Pakistan was the better option. On Saturday, an ISAF soldier died in an insurgent attack in Kabul; while a roadside bomb killed five policemen while they were traveling in their car in the south. On Sunday, gunmen burst into a family home of a provincial judge in the east, killing him and his niece. On Monday, NATO conceded that several children died during a recent military operation in the northeast, but that it’s not clear if NATO was actually to blame for the events as the children might have been carrying weapons; and the Afghani Taliban says the militia’s former defence minister died two years ago in a Pakistani jail; six Taliban insurgents and two policemen were reportedly killed in fighting in the Ab Band district; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed 10 insurgents in several operations across the country; and an ISAF service man was killed in an insurgent attack in the south.
- The Prosecutor-General’s Office in Kazakhstan announced on Thursday that a group of suspected religious extremists were arrested in the northwestern city of Oral and were found with explosives and extremist literature in their apartments. On Monday, the wife of the jailed chairman of the unregistered opposition Algha party said her husband’s rights as a prisoner are being violated, as he has not had access to a lawyer, she has not been allowed to meet with him and the National Security Committee officers refused to accept food and clothes she has been trying to pass him since arrest.
- Authorities in Turkmenistan closed the Turkmen-Kazakh border on Thursday, citing the February 12th Presidential elections as the cause of the closure. On Sunday, incumbent President Berdymukhammedov was reportedly leading at the polling stations, defeating seven other relatively unknown candidates running against him. On Monday, reports claimed Berdymukhammedov had won a new term with more than 97 percent of the vote, with a more than 96 percent turnout.
- The State National Security Committe in Kyrgyzstan said its forces captured a member of the Zhayshul Mahdi terrorist group on Friday. On Monday, a jailed former policeman was found hanged in his cell, prompting some 200 protesters to block the Osh-Batken highway in the south the following day.
- A rumour of the assassination or coup of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un during a visit to Beijing went viral this week after a couple of posts on a Chinese website Weibo that was then forwarded onto Twitter. A senior American envoy is set to hold nuclear talks next week in Beijing with North Korea, resuming a dialogue put on hold by the death of Kim Jong-il last year.
- Officials in China clamed separatist plots to attack police and public buildings for clashes that recently led to Tibetan deaths on Wednesday; while residents of a small southern village held a symbolic election that allegedly had a turnout over 80 percent in protest against land grabs and corruption. Officials reportedly cut off mobile and internet connections on Friday to areas where Tibetans were shot dead in unrest last month; while Wang Lijun, a gang-busting police chief who is set to be immortalised on film, was abruptly transferred to more general duties, causing massive online speculation. On Saturday, American Senator John McCain warned China that “the Arab Spring is coming to China”, highlighting the recent spate of Tibetan self-immolations, though authorities dismissed it as “no more than fantasy” and condemned foreign interference in their internal affairs. On Sunday, three Tibetans in the south-west reportedly set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule, the latest in a series of self-immolations over the past year. On Wednesday, the Atlantic ran an article about the massive land grab epidemic in the country and how it is causing more Wukan-style protests; while another ethnic Tibetan reportedly immolated himself protesting against Chinese rule.
- The civilian death toll for the war in Afghanistan reached a record high last year of 3,021, and a further 4,507 civilians wounded, according to the UN; while the Atlantic ran an interesting article discussing why American President Obama is right to withdraw from the country early. The United States Institute of Peace released a report on Traditional Dispute Resolution and Afghanistan’s Women; while the UN released an opinion survey showing that 8 in 10 Afghans do not think the Afghan National Police are ready to take charge of law and order, with 68 percent allegedly saying foreign troops should stay for now. An editorial in the Guardian suggested the public is repeatedly being told lies when they are told that the Taliban is being pushed back in the country when the truth is that they show no sign of being bombed to the peace table. On Wednesday, the US announced they plan to wind down their war in the country a year or more earlier than scheduled, ending their combat role in 2012; a NATO report suggested that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, vows to retake Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, a suggestion Pakistan vehemently denies; the Afghan Taliban said they would not agree to American demands for a ceasefire as a condition for peace talks; joint Afghan and coalition forces reportedly killed three armed insurgents during operations; and a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform killed an ISAF service member in Kabul. On Friday, NATO defense ministers discussed plans to balance security needs with budgets cuts that could potentially reduce the envisaged national army and police force by two-thirds. On Saturday, the White House announced it had received a letter last year purported to come directly from Taliban leader Mullah Omar asking the US to deliver militant prisoners. On Sunday, a car bomb exploded at a police headquarters in Kandahar, killing at least seven people; an American soldier reportedly shot and killed an Afghan guard at a base in the north he allegedly thought was about to attack him. On Monday, NATO forces announced that one of their helicopters crashed in eastern Afghanistan, with no casualties; and Afghan and foreign forces killed six alleged insurgents and detained 19 in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Daikundi and Khost provinces. On Tuesday, an employee of a private security firm reportedly killed three of his colleagues and two Afghan police officers and injured another five security guards in Kandahar. On Wednesday, a top American commander said that only one percent of Afghan police and soldiers were capable of operating independently raising further doubts about whether their forces will be able to take over security after the West withdraws.
- Leaders of an unregistered opposition party in Kazakhstan were summoned to face the National Security Committee on Tuesday for unknown reasons, just a month after another one of their leaders was detained pending trial on charges of fomenting social hatred in Zhanaozen. On Thursday, police reportedly interrogated the deputy editor of an opposition newspaper and raided its offices in Almaty over her support for an arrested journalist.
- The President of the Maldives resigned on Tuesday, after nearly three weeks of opposition-led protests ended in police mutiny. Protests were led by supporters of the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. On Wednesday however, President Nasheed claims that his so-called “resignation” was forced at gunpoint, causing rioting, attacks on police stations and sparking a potentially fierce power-struggle coup.
- Pakistan rejected a leaked NATO report that claimed Pakistani security forces were helping the Taliban and suggesting the group believes it is poised to regain power on Wednesday; while Pakistani fighter jets reportedly bombed militant hideouts near the Afghan border, killing dozens. On Thursday, the top court summoned PM Gilani to appear later this month over his refusal to pursue corruption cases against the President, announcing it intends to indict him on contempt charges; while the Foreign Minister said her country is ready to push the Taliban and other insurgent groups to enter negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan. On Friday, government officials alleged that militants opened fire on a security checkpoint, killing at least seven soldiers and wounding three more before Pakistani forces killed 18 militants in retaliation near the Afghan border; a homemade bomb exploded next to a house killing at least three people in Peshawar; another homemade bomb exploded outside a house in the Khyber region, killing one person and wounding two others; militants attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in Khyber region, killing a soldier, two militants and wounding two soldiers; and militants set off explosives at a girls’ school in the town of Dera Ismail Khan with no reported casualties. On Saturday, the Foreign Ministry announced that PM Gilani would be travelling to Qatar in the upcoming week for talks with leaders there on a peace deal to end the Taliban’s 10 year war in Afghanistan. On Sunday, a military convoy struck a roadside bomb in Islamabad, killing one soldier and wounded another 12. A suspected US drone has fired missiles near the Afghan border, killing 10 alleged Taliban insurgents on Wednesday; police in Peshawar reportedly detained more than 100 in raids on unregistered madrasahs or religious schools, with many local residents protesting their actions; PM Yusuf Raza Gilani appealed his summons by the Supreme Court to face indictment on contempt-of-court charges; unidentified attackers threw a hand grenade at a shop in Quetta wounding four people; gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed a local politician in the town of Chaman; militants set off a homemade bomb next to a police patrol in the village of Chinari, killing two policemen and wounding one; while officials in the military leadership announced they were holding talks with NATO and Afghan commanders to improve coordination along the Afghan border.
- The United Kingdom is set to try and persuade the government of India to rethink its plans to buy Rafale fighter planes from France rather than UK-backed Eurofighter Typhoons on Wednesday. The most populous and politically important state, Uttar Pradesh, voted on Wednesday in the first of seven-phase elections for state assembly constituencies, with around a 62% turnout; while authorities decided to buy 126 fighter jets from France, received the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia and prepared for its first aircraft carrier as it modernizes its military to try and keep the pace with China’s.
- For the first time in 15 years, the ethnic Mon community in Myanmar/Burma was permitted by authorities to publicly celebrate their national day, just a week after a peace deal was struck between the Mon State party and the government. On Sunday, the election commission gave opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi approval to run in the upcoming parliamentary by-elections.
- Gunmen seized a Dutch and Swiss tourist and their Filipino guide, holding them hostage in the southern Philippines on Wednesday. On Thursday, military force reported they had killed 15 alleged al-Qaeda linked militants in air strikes, including three leaders of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and Jemmaah Islamiyah. On Friday, the military said it was stepping up security as it was expecting revenge attacks for its airstrikes of the previous day.
- Maoist former rebels in Nepal reportedly shed their uniforms on Friday and began to rejoin their families in the first step to their reintegration nearly five years after the official end of the civil war. The rehabilitation of more than 19,000 former rebels is seen as crucial for the stability of the country.
- The United States temporarily waived a ban on providing military assistance to Uzbekistan because of their crucial role in transiting supplies to forces in Afghanistan, despite Human Rights Watch’s recent report calling the human rights situation in the country “appalling”.
- North Korea backed away from an earlier vow to never deal with South Korea on Thursday, but demanded several preconditions for resuming talks, including the cancellation of US-South Korean military drills. Although some called the preconditions “unreasonable” other analysts suggested that they may actually be a good thing, showing that diplomacy may actually be possible under the new leadership. Kim Jong Un is allegedly followed by an inner circle of aging military advisors, as he steps into the role of “supreme commander” less than two months after the death of his father.
- Human Rights Watch released a report accusing Myanmar/Burma and its army of continuing a “systematic repression” of citizens, including the use of anti-personnel landmines, child soldiers, forced labour, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and the use of human shields, despite the government’s promise of reform and ceasefire agreements with some ethnic armed groups. On Wednesday, the EU lifted travel restrictions on the top leaders after they freed certain political prisoners and eased some sanctions. On Sunday, thousands of supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi lined the roads of several southern towns on her first political trip since announcing a run for parliament.
- Protests continued in the Maldives over the military arrest of the Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. The country is now facing a judicial crisis, with the Vice President calling upon his own government to release the judge. On Sunday, the country asked the United Nations to mediate in the standoff with the opposition.
- US drone aircraft fired missiles in the northern Waziristan region of Pakistan on Monday, killing at least four alleged militants. On Tuesday, a blast occurred near a religious procession of minority Shi’ite Muslims in Lahore, killing three and wounding five. On Wednesday, gunmen on motorcycles reportedly shot dead three lawyers and wounded another in Karachi; gunmen killed a local politician in Peshawar; while at least 23 people were killed in clashes between soldiers and militants in the Kurram region near the border. On Thursday, gunmen reportedly attacked a military checkpoint in southern Balcuchistan Province, killing six soldiers. On Friday, an aide to former President Musharraf, who is facing arrest in connection with the killing of former PM Bhutto, says he called off his planned return to the country, but will be returning in the near future; border guards in Iran reportedly shot and killed six Pakistanis and wounded two others after they strayed across the Iranian border; RPGs struck a top military academy in Abbottabad with no reported injuries; gunship helicopters attacked two militant camps in the Kurram region, killing seven militants; and a paramilitary soldier was killed in a landmine explosion in the southwest during mine-clearing operations. On Saturday, at least three people were injured in a hand grenade attack in Karachi; and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers in the Kurram region. On Sunday, a car bomb blast killed five people and wounded 15 in Kohat; security forces, backed by helicopter gunships, killed nearly a dozen militants near the Afghan border; a car bomb outside the residence of a senior police officer wounded eight people in Quetta; and two people were killed and six wounded after security forces opened fire following a rocket attack on a military convoy in Khyber. On Monday, three people were killed and eight others wounded in an alleged suicide bombing at a house of a pro-government militia leader in Peshawar; while the Supreme Court lifted restrictions barring the country’s former envoy to the US, who was forced to resign amid allegations of drafting a secret memo to American officials to help curb the power of the military, from leaving the country.
- Troops in Thailand killed four suspected insurgents during a gunfight in the south over the weekend. Both Thailand and China have apparently welcomed the social media network Twitter’s controversial new censorship policy.
- More than 1,000 detainees in prisons in Kyrgyzstan sewed their lips together after they were force fed to break a hunger strike in protest at their conditions, though most had ended their protest by the end of the week after the government agreed to look at their living standards. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry announced that three Kyrgyz citizens were rescued from de-facto 10-year slavery in neighbouring Kazahstan.
- A court in Kazakhstan ordered the arrest and detention of three opposition activists on Saturday for holding an unauthorized rally condemning the recent election as fraudulent and demanded the release of their colleagues. President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced that he does not plan to prolong the curfew in the restive town of Zhanaozen beyond its scheduled end at the end of January. On Tuesday, the leader opposition issued a call for the country’s leadership to halt “political repression” following a series of raids the day before that resulted in the arrest of an opposition leader and editor of an independent newspaper. On Wednesday, the former leader of a political party barred from taking part in the parliamentary elections earlier this month fled the country, fearing possible pressure and arrest by authorities. On Thursday, the authorities announced a whole slew of charges against government critics and police in connection with deadly violence last month.
- Some 15 fishermen were killed by gunmen who opened fire on them in the southern Philippines over access to lucrative fishing waters.
- A high-profile political ally of the President of South Korea quit on Friday over his alleged involvement in the latest corruption scandal to hit the government. On Monday, authorities raided the foreign ministry offices as part of an investigation into claims that officials were share-rigging.
- Some 676 rebel fighters reportedly lined up to surrender their weapons on Tuesday as several local insurgent groups formally joined a cease-fire with the government in northeastern India. On Wednesday, a bus driver reportedly went on a rampage in central India killing at least nine and injuring about two dozen people. On Sunday, 485 young boys dressed up as Gandhi at a peace rally in Calcutta on the eve of the anniversary of Gandhi’s death to create a new Guinness World Record and promote non-violent protest. A report in the Times of India this week quoted that one bride is killed, often by being burnt alive, every hour in the country as a result of demands for dowry.
- Food prices have skyrocketed in Afghanistan since the border shutdown with Pakistan last November. On Monday, a negotiator with the outlawed Hizb-i-Islami group said that the US and Afghan officials have shown great flexibility in secret talks with the insurgent group; and reports suggest that the winter weather has forced a lull in fighting along the Pakistani border, while the east has emerged as the new frontline. On Wednesday, an ISAF service member died following a homemade bomb attack in Kabul; joint Afghan and coalition forces killed 12 alleged insurgents during operations in Kabul, Laghman and Kapisa provinces; and several insurgents were killed during a combined Afghan and ISAF operation. On Thursday, at least four people were killed and another 31 injured in a suicide bomb attack in Helmand province. On Friday, senior Afghan peace negotiators said they believe the Taliban are willing to significantly soften past hardline ideologies and possibly enter into peace talks; and a British soldier was shot dead by alleged insurgents in Helmand province. On Saturday, UK PM Cameron confirmed that he was sticking to the 2014 deadline for withdrawing combat troops from the country while meeting with President Karzai; France called upon a speedier NATO exit, a move Afghan lawmakers sharply criticized; joint Afghan and ISAF operations killed five alleged insurgents in Kabul; and two insurgents were killed by their own explosives while attempting to plant a roadside mine in Ghanzi. On Sunday, the Taliban reportedly kidnapped a member of the Afghan peace council in a bid to promote talks in the east; four armed insurgents were killed and one wounded during security operations in several provinces; and an Afghan-led combined force killed a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Takhar province. On Monday, officials announced they were planning direct peace talks with Taliban militants in the upcoming weeks; and reports of an Afghan man who killed his wife because she gave birth to a daughter instead of a son made major headlines.
- The US has placed terrorist designations on two members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and one member of the Uzbekistan’s Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). On Thursday, the brother of the self-exiled Erk (Freedom) party leader Muhammad Solih was expected to be released from a labour camp, but was reportedly sentenced to five more years on terrorism charges.
- Two Uyghurs deported from Cambodia to China have been reportedly jailed for life. The two were among a group of around 20 who had sought asylum in Cambodia following ethnic riots between Muslim Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese in Xinjiang in 2009. Much ado was had this week over abusive working conditions in the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen province in China after several hundred workers threatened mass suicide in recent weeks. A video also went viral that appears to show six Chinese soldiers playing a game similar to “hot potato” with some sort of explosive. On Wednesday, reports emerged of deadly clashes between Chinese security forces and ethnic Tibetans spreading to new areas, with at least two Tibetans shot dead, though China accused Tibetan activists and Western governments of “distorting truth”. On Monday Chinese authorities announced they would boost police forces in the western Xinjiang region, recruiting up to 8,000 new officers to help control “ethnic strife”.
- A nearly 5-hour riot at a prison in Sri Lanka on Tuesday injured at least 28 people. The inmates were allegedly protesting a move to curtail drug smuggling into the prison, though the inmates said they wanted better food and conditions. Police in the country announced that former Tamil Tiger fighters are free to apply to join the force in the latest efforts to recruit Tamil speaking police officers.
- A man was arrested this week in Indonesia for his purported atheist blasphemy, after he wrote that “God does not exist…” on Facebook.
- A US citizen was jailed by authorities in Thailand for translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the King and posting them online. On Friday, the former PM was being questioned by police in connection with a deadly military crackdown on the “Red Shirt” mass opposition protests that occurred while he was in office.
- On Thursday, assailants set fire to more than 20 NATO fuel tankers in Pakistan after firing rockets at a terminal for the tankers near the city of Quetta; while armed men gunned down the coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in the northwest while driving his motorbike to his office; and four militants were reportedly killed after they attacked a check post and killed a paramilitary soldier. On Friday, President Zardari told a journalist in a phone interview that he was “fine” and would return home soon amid rumours of his death and possible coup plots; a roadside blast killed three paramilitary soldiers and wounded four in Karachi; a senior military officer said the NATO air strike that killed Pakistani troops last month was pre-planned and warned of more attacks; and Pakistani security forces reportedly killed 5 militants in a clash in South Waziristan. On Saturday, security forces reportedly killed five militants in an exchange of fire in the Swat valley; security forces killed four militants and wounded three others in a clash that erupted after insurgents attacked a military check post in the northwest; while the deputy chief for the Taliban in Pakistan announced that they are in peace talks with the government, though by Monday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, the PM and a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban all denied the peace talks, with the government saying they would only do so if the militants first disarmed and surrendered and the Taliban saying it would only talk if the government agreed to impose Sharia law. On Monday, it was reported that President Zardari would need two weeks rest in Dubai following his medical treatments; gunmen in the south west attacked a NATO supply convoy, killing one truck driver; while the PM announced that the blockade of NATO supply lines into Afghanistan is likely to stay in place for weeks and warned that further retaliatory action, such as the closing of airspace to the US, is possible amid the withdrawal of US forces from Shamsi Air Field in the south. The Senate gave final approval to two bills containing new laws that would stiffen the punishment for acid attacks against women and criminalize practices such as marrying off young girls to settle tribal disputes and preventing women from inheriting property. On Tuesday, police in the south found and released dozens of students chained and held in the basement of an Islamic seminary, some of who claimed they had been tortured and were being trained as jihadist fighters; while a US Congressional panel froze $700 million in aid to Pakistan until it could give assurances that the country is tackling the spread of homemade bombs; and one soldier was killed and seven others wounded when militants reportedly fired RPGs at a military camp in the Shawal area. On Wednesday, the government began drawing up plans to tax NATO for using its territory to supply troops in Afghanistan in retaliation for the “friendly fire” incident last month.
- On Monday, Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit reportedly amid concerns over North Korea’s missile program and to monitor natural disasters in the region. The radar satellite will be able to capture images at night and in cloudy weather and cost about $512 million to develop.
- On Thursday, British PM Cameron announced that up to 4,000 British troops could leave Afghanistan early, before the end of 2013; one of three options to be considered by the PM. On Friday, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least five people outside a mosque in Kunar province; and unknown gunmen killed three civilians in the north. On Saturday, a bicycle bomb exploded in Kunduz city, killing two people and injuring 16; while three civilians were killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province. On Monday, the National Army and coalition forces reportedly killed 14 armed insurgents while police arrested 11 others during three joint operations in Kunar and Zabul provinces. On Tuesday, it was reported that the Afghan government has made a deal with the Taliban to end attacks on state schools in return for a more conservative religious curriculum and the hiring of Taliban-approved mullahs as teachers; six civilians were killed in a homemade bomb explosion in Helmand province; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed 18 alleged insurgents, wounded six and detained 55 in eight separate operations across the country; Afghan police killed a would-be suicide bomber near an airport in Badghis; and unknown gunmen killed some six civilians in Nangarhar. On Wednesday, the government recalled its Qatari ambassador for “consultations” amid media reports of the opening of a Taliban office in the country.
- The Time of India reported on Wednesday that inequality in earnings has doubled in the country over the last two decades, making it one of the worst performers in terms of salary disparities from all emerging economies.
- A former cabinet member in Turkmenistan has criticised the ruling party for being an “unlawful institution” and for the absence of democracy and human rights within the country. Upcoming Presidential elections scheduled for February 12th have only one legal party, that of the incumbent.
- A militant group Jund al-Khilafah confirmed that five of its fighters were killed in a shootout with security forces in Kazakhstan last week. The group has been posting messages threatening the government since October, when the country adopted a new, restrictive law on religion. On Saturday, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said he would refuse to accept the “People’s Hero” award, but had no objection to December 1st being marked as the “Day of the First President of Kazakhstan”. On Tuesday, officials at a university in the northwest lifted a hijab ban for students after eight female students threatened to sue the school. On Wednesday, twelve men were jailed for up to 15 years after being called “associates of Kazakhstan’s first-ever suicide bomber”.
- Buddhists in Tibet are burning themselves alive in China as a plea for freedom, with as many as 12 self-immolations since March. Workers’ unrest continued in China this week, as hundreds of factory workers staged a mass rally and faced off against riot police. China said its armed police have begun a joint patrol of the Mekong river with forces from neighbouring Myanmar/Burma, Laos and Thailand in response to the deaths of 13 Chinese sailors who were attacked in October. On Monday, it was reported that a man accused of rioting over land-grabs in a southern Chinese village died while in police custody, allegedly of cardiac failure, a claim his family rejects; while police in central China detained two men for spreading a rumour and video online that thousands of police were called out to guard a wedding convoy. The government said the police being there was a coincidence, as officers were returning from a training drill when the coincided with the wedding convoy. On Wednesday, villagers barricaded themselves in front of a ring of riot police calling upon the government to intervene in their land dispute after one of their activists died in police custody earlier in the week; while a commercial US satellite company said it had captured a photo of China’s first aircraft carrier in Yellow Sea off the Chinese coast.
- On Monday, it was reported that a retired French colonel had killed himself in protest against “indifference” to the plight of the Hmong minority in Laos in October who he fought alongside in the 40s and 50s. Ethnic Hmong have been complaining of discrimination in Vietnam and Laos.
- A human rights group has called upon the government of Sri Lanka to investigate the disappearance of two activists who disappeared sometime last week from a northern city. The two men were organizing protests to highlight the desperation of the families of those missing from the civil war. At least nine other men were reportedly abducted within the past couple of months.
- A campaign group on Friday warned that the continued military offensive against ethnic Kachin rebels in the north of Myanmar/Burma has sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes and threatens a humanitarian crisis, as fighting intensified this week. Aid agencies estimate that between 30,000 and 40,000 people are living in makeshift jungle camps, inaccessible to most aid organizations. On Monday, the President ordered commanders of the security forces not to launch offensives against the Kachin Independence Army, but only defend from attacks, though on Wednesday, UN bodies reported several clashes between the two armed groups. Myanmar/Burma denied this week that it had been cooperating with North Korea on nuclear weapons technology, instead saying it had merely signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two armed forces.
- The Philippines re-launched an old US Coast Guard cutter (warship) on Wednesday to guard potentially oil-rich waters that are at the centre of a dispute with China and is potentially seeking used fighter jets from the US during a visit next year. Territorial defense has reportedly become increasingly important to the country amid renewed tension in the South China Sea.
- On Monday a coastguard from South Korea was fatally stabbed while trying to seize a Chinese fishing boat, in the latest in a series of deadly clashes over diminishing fish stocks in the Yellow Sea that is forcing Chinese fishermen to go further and further from their own shores. South Korea has seized about 470 Chinese ships for illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea so far this year. North Korea warned South Korea of “unexpected consequences” for the “psychological warfare” created if it lights up a Christmas tree-shaped tower near the border.
- Around a thousand protesters picketed outside the mayor of Osh’s office in Kyrgyzstan on Monday to demand that it stop blackmailing a Parliament speaker for his alleged criminal links and for the resignation of the party leader, though the former Parliament speaker persuaded them to end the protest on Wednesday. On Tuesday, hundreds of inmates in seven prisons started a hunger strike to demand better living conditions and meals. On Wednesday, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture said that police, investigators and prison guards in the country still use torture during their investigations and is expected to present his full report to the government with recommendations on how to eliminate it by next month; while the former chief of the State Committee for National Security was put under house arrest in Bishkek after he unexpectedly showed up in court where he was being tried in absentia for alleged abuses during anti-government protests in April 2010.
- Human Rights Watch condemned Uzbekistan over its rights record in a new 104-page report titled “No One Left to Witness: Torture, the Failure of Habeas Corpus, and the Silencing of Lawyers in Uzbekistan”. A chairwoman of the Committee of Legislation and Judicial Issues of the Uzbek Senate suggests that although some abuses do take place, that reality is a far cry from the systemic abuses alleged in the HRW report.
- The deposed PM of Papua New Guinea was reinstated by the governor-general on Wednesday in an effort to resolve months of deadlock in the government after an earlier court ruling that the current PM had taken power illegally. O’Neill toppled Somare in August while he was overseas seeking medical treatment, and is now refusing to accept the governor-general’s decision. Police are calling for calm amid fears of unrest in the streets. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over the political tensions and called upon all sides to “exercise maximum restraint”.
- A three-month old strike at a giant gold and copper mine in Indonesia owned by American Freeport-McMoRan was reportedly settled after a wage deal was reached with the workers’ union. Nine people were killed during violence since the walkout began.
As I read through the list of countries profiled in the report, I found myself disappointed that Canada, the UK, Australia or any Western European countries had not made the list. I have read reports of almost all of these governments committing human rights violations or allowing their companies to do so and the populations of these nations do still experience routine violations against human rights. In fact, considering these countries have signed numerous conventions and incorporated human rights laws more thoroughly into domestic laws than most of the rest of the world, their breach of them is all the more abhorrent and worthy of reporting. I thoroughly respect the work that organizations like Human Rights Watch do and I understand that Human Rights Watch is limited in their scope and resources as indicated in the end of the first report; so in no way do I mean to undermine the work that has been done to compile this report. I simply wish that it would cover the entire world and not just pieces of it.
The main violations of concern in the report this year are described in four sections followed by individual country reports. These sections are as follows:
1) The Abusers’ Reaction: Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations and Institutions
2) Civilian Protection and Middle East Armed Groups: In Search of Authoritative Local Voices
3) Abusing Patients: Health Providers’ Complicity in Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
4) In the Migration Trap: Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Europe.
I will cover the details of the report over the next little while in a series of posts. The first post will address the first section of the report.
Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations and Institutions.
Putting a spotlight on human rights violations can be risky, and often those who defend human rights face extreme abuse, imprisonment, harassment, intense intimidation and even death. Organizations fighting this fight have been suppressed, denied funding, shut down and worse. Russia received a great deal of attention for its attacks on human rights defenders. Many victims reported cases of arson, arbitrary detention, disappearances of loved ones, torture, and brutal executions in Chechnya and other parts of the country. Also specifically mentioned in this section was Kenya, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia, India, and Uzbekistan. Several states were also listed as completely closed or restricted for activism. At the top of this list are Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. Burma and Iran bar international human rights groups completely. Saudi Arabia will not acknowledge NGO supporting human rights promotion and clamps down tightly on any who speak out. Danger in Somalia makes human rights monitoring essentially impossible. Libya allows international visits but completely suppresses any independent civil society. Syria will not license any human rights groups and prosecutes those who push for registration. Indonesia prohibits international human rights groups to visit to certain areas of the country, as has Israel into the Gaza strip. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam all refuse to allow access to UN special procedures, including on torture and human rights defenders. As does Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Zimbabwe and Russia have also prevented the special rapporteur on torture from entering their respective countries. Sudan has shut down human rights organizations and expelled several international humanitarian NGOs working in Darfur. China closed the Open Constitution Initiative (a legal aid organization) because of controversy over Tibetan protests and melamine-poisoned milk that sickened hundreds of thousands of children.
Other governments have been accused of openly harassing, detaining or attacking human rights defenders including Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Syria, and Yemen. The governments of Columbia, DR Congo, Sri Lanka, and Nicaragua have been accused of using threats of violence to deter or punish human rights defenders. Russia, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Jordan, Uganda, Turkmenistan, Libya, Venezuela, Peru, Cambodia, Rwanda, Kyrgyzstan and Egypt have all been accused of creating restrictive laws on NGOs and associations in an attempt to restrict the monitoring of human rights. China, Iran and Syria have all disbarred lawyers, refusing to renew their professional licenses to prevent them from representing victims of human rights abuses. China, Uzbekistan, Rwanda, Iran, Morocco, Serbia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka have been accused of trumping up criminal charges to silence human rights defenders.
The report then details the efforts made by some leaders to silence or curtail the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC). After the ICC issued an arrest warrant for sitting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the African Union (AU) adopted a resolution urging African states to not cooperate with the arrest proceedings. The AU accused the court of unfairly targeting Africans, even though no objections were raised when the court indicted several warlords and the African governments themselves had requested the court to open the investigations. The ICC has also been hampered by the lack of ratification in the areas it is most needed, namely Sri Lanka, Iraq, Gaza, and Chechnya and a seeming double-standard that allows major Western powers and their allies to escape impunity.
The UN Human Rights Council is also described as problematic. The report demonstrates the bias and subjective nature of inquiries into human rights violations. Regional solidarity reigns in voting procedures over human rights principles, with members convinced to ignore their domestic principles for their allegiances to repressive neighbouring governments. Repressive leaders at the Council seemed determined to silence voices of dissent whenever possible. Similar problems have occurred within the UN NGO Committee, who has the power to decide which NGOs are able to gain “consultative status” and the right to speak before UN bodies. Several governments who are extremely restrictive towards NGOs seem to actively seek membership within the Committee to ensure that certain voices are silenced. For example, a Christian group from China was rejected for refusing to provide a list of its Chinese members, an action that would have severely endangered the lives of those involved. Another group, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, was denied the right to speak because it had not complied with Ethiopia’s new stringent civil society laws.
The European Court of Human Rights has repeated issued rulings against Russia (more than 100) for the abduction, torture, and execution of the people in Chechnya, and failing to properly investigate the crimes. Russia has refused to implement structural reforms ordered by the Court, as well as share relevant documents with the court in over 40 cases. The Russian government continually postpones visits by the rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on human rights situations in the North Caucasus and has so far faced little consequence.
The ASEAN Commission on Human Rights was highlighted as a potentially positive new institutional development in the eastern world. Launched in late 2009, the 10-member Association vowed to adopt a “constructive”, “non-confrontational” and “evolutionary” approach to human rights, however, its non-interference policy ensures that member states cannot be monitored and investigated properly, giving each state the right of veto. Engagement with civil society remained repressive as each state was allowed to chose the civil society organization it wished to be part of an “interface meeting” on human rights.
More vigorous governmental defense of human rights activists and institutions is necessary, even in the face of abuse by allies. The attack on those who would defend human rights is an attempt to silence. The world cannot sit silent in the face of abuse. Voices must be heard. Human rights is a relatively new concept on the earth, but is one that must be vehemently defended if our rights and freedoms are to be respected.
Please read through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is there anything written there that you wouldn’t want for you and your family?