Buhari's First Challenge: Military Mass Killings

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

nigerian soldiers riding in lorry, photo courtesy of dammex1

NIGERIA - Amongst the feeling of hope and a fresh start in the air from President Muhammadu Buhari's inauguration, Nigeria was slammed this week with a report from Amnesty International that claims the Nigerian military is tied to over 8,000 deaths in the country.

The research for the report has been conducted since 2009, in alignment with the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency. While the rise in violence by the military was driven by Boko Haram, the report finds that the majority of those 8,000 deaths have nothing to do with Boko Haram members.

This process was started through widespread rounding up of boys and young men, over 20,000 of them, based on often unreliable informants and poor intelligence. The report states that one could be arrested based on the word of a single unidentified informant. Upon arrest, the thousands of prisoners were placed in detention centers where they were commonly cramped into overcrowded cells in abysmal condition.

Many died from starvation, dehydration, suffocation and preventable diseases, as the prisoners were kept from adequate water, food and basic hygiene and sanitation. In one case, a detention center survivor told Amnesty, they were denied water for two days and 300 inmates died. In these dire situations, they were often forced to drink urine.

Those who were able to survive these terrifying living standards were still at risk of the brutal treatment by the military commanders, which included extrajudicial killings, torture, electrocution, and a myriad of other horrifying tactics. On March 14, 2014, after a Boko Haram attack on the Giwa barracks (and detention center), the military killed at least 640 men and boys who were imprisoned there. Satellite analysis has confirmed the presence of multiple mass graves in the area shortly after this date.

More worrisome is that this system of detainment and mass murder was widely known through all levels of the Nigerian military, including senior officials, Chief of Army staff and Chief of Defense Staff who regularly received reports of military activity in these regions of war-torn Northern Nigeria.

As stated in Amnesty's report, "A high ranking military officer...further said: '...people were not strong enough to stand...They keep them to die. They are deliberately starved. The effect is devastating. You have massive deaths. I believe close to 5,000 [in total] have died like that. It increased after the state of emergency.'" This behavior indicates that the Nigerian military's strategy to fight Boko Haram included murdering thousands of boys and young men without giving them fair trials or even the slightest confirmation that they were tied to the terrorist organization. Through this tactic, they managed to make the Boko Haram insurgency more detrimental to their country and its citizens.

Since the report has surfaced, the Nigerian military has rejected the findings as "concocted and biased," and even called Amnesty International an "irritant" in a Premium Times' article. Regardless of their response, the international community is up in arms over the findings and it is increasingly evident that new President Muhammadu Buhari must address these atrocities as soon as possible. If he wants to keep his promises of tackling human rights violations, it is imperative that he holds those who are guilty accountable and pave a new, morally upright pathway forward. The future of the country depends on it.

The entire report can be found here. 

Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols
LinkedIn: Jessamy Nichols

LGBT Progress Overshadowed by Abuses

United Nations general assembly hall

United Nations general assembly hall

NEW YORK - The second report ever released by the United Nations on protecting LGBT rights was published today by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report outlines steps for governments to take in stopping LGBT discrimination.

There are 80 countries in the world today that criminalize consensual same-sex relations. The punishments vary, including prison sentences, torture, and the death penalty.

The report represents the gradual progress being made by governments in protecting LGBT people around the world. Since the first report released in 2011, 14 countries have adopted or strengthened laws that protect LGBT rights. These changes often extended protection of sexual orientation, gender identity and introduced legal protections for intersex persons.

But it is clear that the progress is overshadowed by abuse. The report states that “since 2011, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more injured in brutal, violent attacks” because of their LGBT identity.

This violence is in part fueled by anti-LGBT rhetoric issued by regional, national, and international leaders.

In May the president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh at a rally said that he would “slit the throats of gay men” in the West African nation. In 2014, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, said that gay people were “disgusting” after being asked if he personally disliked homosexuals in a BBC interview.

Even in 2012, the Nobel peace prize winner and president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, defended the current law that criminalizes homosexual acts by saying, “We like ourselves just the way we are.”

Although these leaders have not changed their opinion on supporting legislation that criminalizes LGBT persons, the UN report published today is meant to outline international obligations that leaders like these have in protecting their LGBT citizens.

The report outlined five standards and obligations that every state has in protecting the human rights of LGBT persons.

The report calls on countries to protect LGBT individuals from violence, torture and ill-treatment. This includes condemning “conversion” therapy for LGBT persons, forced and otherwise involuntary sterilization and treatment performed on intersex children.

The report also demands states to “decriminalize homosexuality and to repeal other laws used to punish individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

States also have the “obligation to address discrimination against children and young persons who identify or are perceived as LGBT or intersex.” This means that states are obligated to protect children in schools from harassment, bullying, and in addition to protecting all LGBT people from lack of access to health information and services.

The report also outlined the obligation that countries have to “protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and to take part in the conduct of public affairs.” This means that states must protect the rights of LGBT persons and LGBT allies to assemble and advocate for their rights.

In much of the world these standards and obligations are not followed and support for LGBT rights is often cited as a western construct meant to destroy autonomy and “traditional cultural values” that exist in sovereign nations.

However the United Nations has made it clear once again that this view is not acceptable.

The report states that “All human beings, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity, are entitled to enjoy the protection of international human rights law.”

Contributing Editor: @AustinBryan
LinkedIn: Austin Drake Bryan

Saudi Arabia Grapples with Women's Right to Drive Within Existing Restrictions

SAUDI ARABIA - A common Western activity such as driving has been an issue for women in Saudi Arabia for ages. Although women over thirty have been allowed to drive, this right has been curtailed by the stringent restriction to which they are forced to adhere.

Currently, "Saudi Arabian laws" limit their freedom to drive outside of a proscribed schedule which prohibits them driving after 8:00 p.m. Also, an additional restrictive and seemingly punitive issue is that women who are driving are forbidden to wear make-up while operating the vehicle. One would presumably understand the restriction against distracted drivers using cell phones and other communication devices thus taking their attention away from the road, but the wearing of make-up does not seem to fall into this category as women are allowed to wear it in all other instances.

This matter came to the attention of the world because the consul of Saudi Arabia has put on the table for discussion the possibility of removing the time constraints, and also considering the option of allowing women older than 30-years-old to operate a vehicle during restricted hours. Though, these discussion are not open to the public, it seems that this is a growing necessity for a society that is increasingly mobile and where the use of a vehicle would greatly enhance the performance of such mundane duties such as grocery shopping, picking up children from school, etc.

Although the decision to reassess the restrictions imposed on women drivers seems precipitous, in fact women have been actively campaigning for this basic right to drive for years. The consul stated that there is the necessity to create a “female traffic department" in order to bring precise control over the matter, in case a car suffers some damage while being utilized by a woman. There are also restrictions when it comes to women interacting with men while driving. Though these discussion seem to be a recognition of the need for equal rights for women in terms of driving, the additional restriction makes us wonder if this response is a ploy to seemingly comply with women's rights group while in fact devaluing the struggle in which many women defied the laws, boldly driven their cars, and consequently suffered punishment.

Additionally, the existing restriction have resulted in a culture of families hiring drivers to transport women. But, what happens when the traditional family does not have the economic resources to hire someone? Women then are directly dependent of spouses, siblings, parents and even their children in order to accomplish their daily activities, and such restriction are unduly punitive for women who are in the lower classes. Thus, the current debate is considering the possibility that under certain conditions women might drive more days of the week during the hours between 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Restrictions regarding wearing make-up and interacting with men during the driving are not up for discussion and will likely remain in place.

According to The Associated Press, "There have been small, but increasingly bold protests by women who took to their cars in open defiance....over the past year despite the restrictions. The driving ban, which is unique in the world, was imposed because the kingdom's ultraconservative Muslim clerics say "licentiousness" will spread if women drive.”

A protest occurred last October when Saudi women drove around their neighborhoods and recorded themselves on videos which they then posted on social networks such as YouTube as a means to publicize their plight and reinforce their belief in the right to protest this unjust situation. Although there isn't a written law that limits schedules or outlines formal details on restrictions imposed on women driver, these unwritten cultural restrictions have been ubiquitously enforced, and punishments have varied between jail time or other sanctions.

In 2011 forty women protested against the driving ban and as a consequence one of them was sentenced to 10 lashes; however this barbaric punishment was subsequently overturned by the king. The revocation of this sentence can be viewed as an improvement since the situation has been discussed for years over what type of judgement should be meted out for women who break the de facto "driving ban" laws, and corporal punishment of women who are considered disobedient is actively practiced in other traditional cultures.

Since the consuls' discussion are private and there has been no indication of when an announcement of their decision will be made, women who have been demanding their right to drive continue to peacefully protest by driving despite these anachronistic traditions.

Inside Uttar Pradesh Station, Woman Raped by Four Policemen

silent_protest_at_india_gate.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 02:50 a.m. DST, 14 June 2014

"Policeman facing women in a protest march, Calcutta Kolkata India" Photo by: Jorge RoyanUTTAR PRADESH, India -- This past week has been a treacherous time for the safety of women living in the most populous state in India, Uttar Pradesh. The most unthinkable of these events occurred late Monday night, 9 June 2014, inside a police station in Hamirpur district.

When a woman entered the police outpost after dusk, she intended to leave with her husband. After explaining her connection to the detained man and asking for his release, the officers told the woman she would need to pay a bribe in order to see him freed. When she refused, four policemen proceeded to rape her inside of the police facility.

The highest ranking police officer has been detained, and authorities are now searching for three additional security officers still on the loose.

Several similar tragedies have occurred throughout the various rural villages that form the state of Uttar Pradesh. On Thursday, 12 June, a 19-year-old woman was hanged by a mob of men in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. This episode followed the rape and hanging of two teenage sisters in the early morning hours of 29 May, and another similar incident on Wednesday, 11 June, in the Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. In this horrific crime, a 45-year-old Indian was raped and hanged below a tree.

Therefore, since the 29 May attack, four women have been killed by the brutalities of mob sexual assault in Uttar Pradesh alone. Many are claiming that the prevalence of these attacks are nothing new, only that the reporting and discussion of such crimes are increasing.

In many Indian states, rape goes under-reported because of a stigma against the victims of sexual assault. As the number of formal charges against perpetrators rises, so too does the awareness of the problem.

The aforementioned rape and hanging of two teenage sisters generated international outrage as reports emerged, both with regard to the atrocious act as well as the failure of police to investigate initial reports that a group of men had been seen accosting the young women. The indignation of Indian and international advocates was emphatic, but did little to discourage future cruelties of the same nature.

A final note. On Thursday, June 12, two preteen girls were raped by a group of men inside a hostel in Tamil Nadu state. The hostel is affiliated with a local church, but the offenders had no apparent connection to the congregation. An undoubtedly monstrous act, the attackers held the two girls at knife point while proceeding to violate them.

While the incident in Tamil Nadu took place on the opposite side of the country when taken in conjunction with the crimes throughout Uttar Pradesh state, the faraway communities seem in closer proximity because of these paralleled events.

The first step in addressing the brutality towards women is creating an environment where women feel safe to disclose the crimes committed against them. This process is already underway, and the people of India have protested in favor of increased legislation, and seen positive results. Safeguards against such terrible acts have increased since 2012.

But when policemen are perpetrators in the crime, as in the Hamirpur case, or when officers are complicit in murder, such as the double hanging in May, the shortcomings of these individuals signal a step backward for the movement as a whole.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Woman Stripped Naked, Beaten by Mob in Tahrir Square

5388980100_3c45fda9ea_z.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 07:45 p.m. DST, 11 June 2014

"حسنا" Photo by: Andrea Volpini

CAIRO, Egypt -- The inauguration of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday, 8 June, was a cause for celebration and excitement throughout much of Egypt. But hours after the commencement of al-Sisi's presidency, the festivities turned violent. Several women were sexually assaulted and battered in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo.

Since Sunday, nine men have been arrested in connection to the string of assaults. The mob targeted at least five women, surrounding and sexually assaulting them. The torture proved extremely serious; four of the women were transported to the hospital after the vicious attacks.

The violent crowd of men surrounded a range of women, including one pregnant Egyptian, and a mother who had been enjoying the Tahrir Square scene with her daughter before the mob encircled and violated her.

The criminals moved through the square with relative impunity, stripping one woman completely naked and lacerating her. The attack went on far too long before police were able to separate her from the mob. According to reports, the security officers threatened to discharge their weapons, but no shots were fired.

Today, 11 June, women responded to the series of attacks that followed Sunday's inauguration, gathering in Tahrir Square as a statement of solidarity and resilience. Sexual assault has become commonplace in Tahrir Square, especially during the massive protests in 2011 and 2013 that saw President Mubarak and President Morsi removed from office. Women who demonstrated during this pivotal political time were often silenced through sexual assault, which at the time was not a punishable crime in Egypt.

A study published by the United Nations finds that 9 out of 10 Egyptian women have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or raped.

Thursday of last week, 5 June, new legislation was implemented by the provisional government to protect women from sexual assault, and hold perpetrators responsible for the first time in Egyptian history. Advocates of the measure hope that it will curtail the growing problem.

Tahrir Square has become very much a symbol of Egyptian liberty and self-determination, as men and women took to Tahrir Square during instrumental demonstrations in 2011 and 2013, to speak out against governments that did not represent their best interest.

It is my hope that the continuing protests, aimed at promoting gender equality and safeguards for Egypt's women, will be as revolutionary as the demonstrations for political reform in 2011 and 2013.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Posing as Nigerian Soldiers, Boko Haram Slaughters Hundreds

violence-photo-by-skelspics.jpg

BORNO, Nigeria -- Boko Haram militants continue to spill blood throughout Nigeria. Reports are now surfacing that on Monday, 2 June 2014, the terror group carried out their latest attack in three small villages in Borno State, located in northeast Nigeria.

The rural nature of northeast Nigeria coupled with changing numbers of displaced and missing persons makes an exact body count hard to tally. But officials estimate that as many as 500 Nigerians were murdered during the attacks.

The militants targeted Danjara, Agalpawa and Antagara villages on Monday, dressed as Nigerian military members. Their appearance provided residents with momentary relief. Village leaders had asked for help from the Nigerian military amidst rumors of an impending attack, and when armed men dressed in Nigerian fatigues entered the three communities, many mistakenly felt that their concerns had finally been heard and validated by President Goodluck Johnathan.

At least 200 Nigerians are dead according to conservative estimates, while other sources claim as many as 500 men, women and children were killed during Monday's attack.

The terrorist organization is a collection of unapologetic murderers that toggle between kidnapping and outright mass murder. Since the abduction of 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, Boko Haram has targeted Christian and Muslim communities alike, pretending to be clergy members or Nigerian military service members.

After fraudulently gaining the trust of local Nigerians, Boko Haram offensives follow a similar pattern. The terrorists assemble Nigerians together for a public service announcement or a religious sermon, and outside of the mosque, church or community building, Boko Haram members open fire.

President Goodluck Johnathan has pledged to put an end to the mounting violence, but that promise has proved difficult for the Johnathan administration and security forces. Allegations of corruption and negligence have poured out after last month's kidnapping of the young female students. The families of the missing girls have blamed the government for their non-interventionist response. When Boko Haram strikes, there is little to no return fire coming from military squads.

Often, locals are left to their own devices to ward off their attackers. When Boko Haram assailed a Christian church in Antagara last month, four insurgents were killed. Across the country, community members are learning that they themselves are the last, and often only, line of defense against the antagonistic terrorists. But the episode outside of the church in Antagara did not discourage Boko Haram extremism.

In fact, it appears that the opposite is true. The militants have increased the number and scale of assaults in the weeks since they stormed Christians in Antagara, as retaliation against the vigilantes. It seems that Nigerians are caught in a dangerous double jeopardy, where inaction enables the terror group to kill without repercussion, and defensive efforts only increase future Boko Haram strikes.

While Nigeria is the most powerful economy on the African continent, northern Nigeria is less oil-rich and more rural. Residents face a significantly higher incidence of poverty. Great distances separate many of the village communities, and as a result, the Nigerian military has been powerless against the premeditated and nefarious activities of Boko Haram. Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, is separated from the northeast targets both culturally and geographically, and this disconnect is exploited by the terrorists.

Operating under a deranged understanding of Islam, the Boko Haram militia has strengthened their available firepower in recent months, and continue to build media notoriety through suicide bombings.

As the wealth of Nigeria continues to grow, the understaffed and underfunded military programs become less and less excusable.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Related articles

Teen Sisters Raped, Hanged in Rural India

kashmir-protests-photo-by-burhaan-kinu.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 02:50 p.m. DST, 30 May 2014

"casa el purgatori" Photo by: Scott Clark

UTTAR PRADESH, India -- Two teenage girls were brutally raped, strangled, then hung by a group of men in the rural Katra Shahadatganj village of Uttar Pradesh.

Two men have been charged in the crime, and two police officers are being held for failing to file a report of the missing teenagers. Further arrests could be forthcoming.

The 14 and 16-year-old sisters went outside on Tuesday night, 27 May 2014, to relieve themselves in a nearby field. The majority of homes in the Katra locale have no indoor plumbing, which affects women in particular.

To avoid public humiliation, females in the community must restrict their bodily functions to nighttime hours. Tragically, while dusk provided the girls with privacy, the darkness also concealed the perpetrators during their heinous acts. The field is a 15 minute hike from the family's residence.

According to the family of the young girls, the tragedy could have been prevented if police had taken action. Tuesday night, a neighbor warned the parents that he saw a group of men surround the sisters. When the young women were slow to return, the father went directly to police.

The man's plea to officers was met by mockery and condescension. As a member of the 'untouchable' caste, his report meant little to those working in the police outpost. In the eyes of the police, the import of the two missing teens is conditional on their caste status.

An unbelievable image -- the father was literally on his knees in front of police, who continued to ridicule his social rank.

Since the crime, two officers have been jailed. But members of the Katra village aren't encouraged by the punishments. According to locals, the issue is far deeper than a few officials, and like patrolmen will almost certainly take the vacant positions.

At the heart of the tragedy is the intersection of class and gender in India. Had the father held an elevated caste position, perhaps his appeal would have prompted quick police intervention.

The idea of policemen who disregard crimes against women is nothing new in the world's largest democracy. In recent years, police have come under fire for overlooking claims of rape and sexual assault, and in extreme cases, minimizing the culpability of the perpetrators thus further victimizing the women who are brave enough to report abuse.

It is unfortunate that in recent weeks victimization of women across Asia seems to have increased with alarming frequency, but perhaps the converse is true; these crimes against women have always occurred, but now with access to the internet, what was formerly a "dirty" little secret, is now being revealed for what it is - a systemic human rights abuse against women.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom