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Uprooted By War, Fearing Troops, Myanmar Ethnic Girls Learn Karate

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Jan 2017

FILE - 16-year-old Hkawn Ra, joins the karate training for self-defense in Je Yang village IDP camp, near China border in Kachin State, Myanmar, Nov. 29, 2016.


 Austrian Minister Calls for Headscarf Ban

 Free From Boko Haram, Nigeria's Chibok Girls Are Kept Silent

 Caught On Cam: Woman in Burqa Allegedly Molested In Bengaluru

 Balochistan: Pakistan Forces Abduct 9 Women, 8 Children from Sui Area

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Uprooted by war, fearing troops, Myanmar ethnic girls learn karate

January 06, 2017

More than 100,000 people in Kachin state, in Myanmar's north, have been forced from their homes by fighting between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels

Every afternoon, dozens of teenage girls at the school for displaced children line up on the grounds, dressed in white uniforms with belts of various colours- yellow, blue, white. They kick high and jump with glee before settling into their exercises, shouting in Japanese as they punch into the air.

The reason many of these girls are in this class is sobering- They want protection from their own country’s military.

Mostly between 13 and 16, they have lost their homes, and in some cases their families, to the long-running civil war in Myanmar’s Kachin state- a war in which soldiers have been repeatedly accused of raping girls and women, but rarely prosecuted. This karate class offers some small sense of power to the vulnerable.

More than 100,000 people in Kachin state, in Myanmar’s north, have been forced from their homes by fighting between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels who have sought greater autonomy for decades. A 17-year-long cease-fire ended in 2011.

Women organisations say the military has been long using rape as weapon of war. The Women’s League of Burma says it has documented more than 100 cases of rape and sexual violence against ethnic women by the military army since 2010. The government and the military have remained largely silent on the issue.

This fall, Muslim Rohingya and rights groups have said soldiers and police have repeatedly raped members of the ethnic minority in northwestern Rakhine state. Authorities have been conducting sweeps of the region since October. The government has blocked foreign media from the area, but Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh report rapes and murders by security forces, and satellite images back up their claims of village-burning. At a recent press conference, military spokesman Soe Naing Oo denied that soldiers in Rakhine were committing any human-rights violations or sexual violence.

The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand and the Legal Aid Network last year released a report on investigators’ lack of progress in the brutal 2015 rape and murder of the two Kachin volunteer teachers. Dozens of soldiers were housed closed to the rape scene, and several left shortly before the bodies were discovered, but no suspects have been identified.

Prosecutions have been few. In 2014, a soldier was sentenced to 7 years in prison for raping a 7-year-old Kachin girl in northern Shan state. Accused Myanmar soldiers normally face a military tribunal, but in that case lawyers successfully pressed for a civilian trial.

Ethnic minorities overwhelmingly voted for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy last year, helping it replace an elected but military-dominated government. But many are now disappointed with her government’s efforts to resolve a host of ethnic conflicts and what they see as the military’s impunity.

With little confidence that soldiers will be held to account for misdeeds, the girls in the karate class hope to at least deter them from committing any to begin with. They compete with each other, and some have dreams of fighting professionally.

“Our instructor said we can go abroad to learn more skills, and I want to go overseas and be a professional fighter,” said 14-year-old Nu Ja.

“When they know how to defend themselves,” said Hkun Naw, the instructor, “they will be able to protect their families, their people and their country.”



Austrian minister calls for headscarf ban

January 07, 2017

VIENNA: Austria's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz said on Friday he wanted to ban public servants, including school teachers, from wearing the Islamic headscarf.

Kurz, of the Christian Conservative People's Party (OVP), is working on a draft law with Muna Duzdar, a junior minister from the OVP's senior Social Democrat coalition partner who has an Arab family background and is Muslim.

If passed by parliament, the nationwide ban would be stricter than laws in France, where only the full body veil is illegal, or Germany, where the highest court in 2015 restricted lawmakers' scope to ban teachers from wearing the headscarf.

"Because there (schools), it's about the effect of role models and the influence on young people. Austria is religion-friendly but also a secular state," Kurz said, according to a spokesman.

Christian crosses, widespread in staunchly Catholic Austria, should be allowed in classrooms, Kurz said, referring to the country's "historically grown culture".

An adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in March companies should be allowed to prohibit staff from wearing the Islamic headscarf but only as part of a general ban on religious and political symbols.

Kurz is revamping Austria's integration laws and would also like to include a ban on full body veils and restrictions on the distribution of the Holy Quran by Salafist Muslims, Kurz's spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Austria's most prominent Muslim group, IGGIO, noted that discrimination in the workplace on religious grounds was illegal in Austria and said: "After such a statement, trust is badly shaken."

She said such a ban would send the wrong signal, not least because working women wearing the headscarf could help overcome deep "patriarchal prejudices".

Duzdar also told Reuters a person cannot be discriminated against in the workplace on the grounds of their religion and said she wanted to wait for a final ECJ ruling on the issue before sending the law to parliament.

"I'm open to discussions about this but in reality one cannot pick individual religions. If you discuss religious dress and symbols, you have to speak about all religions. We work on a dialogue with all religious communities," she said.

The coalition has not set a deadline for the draft to be finished.

In a hardening of her stance on migrants' integration in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel last month called for a ban on full face veils "wherever legally possible".



Free from Boko Haram, Nigeria's Chibok girls are kept silent

January 6, 2017

LAGOS, Nigeria — She was found wandering in a forest, the first of the nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram to escape on her own and reach freedom. That was in May. Since then, Amina Ali Nkeki has been sequestered by Nigeria's intelligence agency, embraced just once by her family months ago.

Some say Nigeria's government is keeping the young woman silent because it doesn't want her telling the world about military blunders in the fight against the Islamic extremist group, and about her desire to be reunited with the father of her child — a detained former Boko Haram commander.

"I worry, sometimes, that I don't know if she is alive or dead," her mother, Binta Ali Nkeki, sobbed during an exclusive telephone interview with The Associated Press from her remote northeastern village of Mbalala. She said she hasn't seen her daughter since July.

Sunday marks 1,000 days since the mass kidnapping, and most of the Chibok schoolgirls remain in captivity. The few who have been freed, like Amina, have found themselves not completely free.

The mass abduction horrified the world and brought Boko Haram international attention. The failure of Nigeria's former government to quickly act to free the schoolgirls sparked a global Bring Back Our Girls movement, with even U.S. first lady Michelle Obama posting a photo with the logo on social media.

Amina was the first to escape on her own. Months later, in October, the government negotiated the release of 21 Chibok girls. Another girl was freed in November in an army raid on an extremist camp in the Sambisa Forest. On Thursday, yet another girl was found during military interrogations of Boko Haram suspects, along with her baby.

In December, when Amina's mother heard that "freed" Chibok girls would be allowed to come home for Christmas, she borrowed money for transport to reach the town where the girls were kidnapped from a government boarding school in April 2014.

When Binta reached Chibok, she was welcomed by the 21 girls, who tried to reassure her that her daughter was "fine, in good health," even though she had not been allowed to accompany them.

Human rights groups and lawyers have criticized Nigeria's treatment of the freed girls, who are held in Abuja, the capital, nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Chibok. The government says the girls are getting medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation.

Map shows details of the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok, Nigeria.

Officials in the government and the presidency did not respond to requests for comment, following a familiar pattern.

People who have spoken to the freed girls say they have stories that the government does not want told, including that three Chibok girls were killed last year in Nigerian Air Force bombings of Boko Haram camps.

Amina has said she wants to be home with her mother, and she has insisted that the father of her child is a victim, like herself, who was kidnapped by Boko Haram and forced to fight for the insurgents.

Her mother says that when her daughter was rescued — hunters found her, the father of her child and the 4-month-old baby in a forest — she said she didn't want to go back to school. But her mother and brother, Noah, persuaded her to take up Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's promise to give her the best education possible.

"They told her that soon she will be starting school," Noah Ali Nkeki told the AP in an interview. He got the news in a rare phone call from his sister on Thursday, the first time he had heard from her in three months.

He cannot call her. Officials call him using a blocked number and then put his sister on the line. The girl's mother doesn't get to speak to her because she doesn't own a cell phone and reception in her village is poor.

"I don't know what the government is trying to do. They have had her now for seven months," Noah said.

Binta, a gaunt woman whose eyes mirror the pain of a hard life and whose hands are rough from farming, was widowed five years ago. Eleven of her children have died, in childbirth or soon afterward. The only survivors are her son and only daughter.

"I wonder how my only grandchild is doing," she said of Amina's daughter, Safia. "Do you think she's walking by now?"

Binta was suicidal after her daughter's kidnapping, community leaders have told the AP, after hearing reports of Boko Haram's threats to sell the kidnapped girls into slavery, marry them off to fighters and force them to convert to Islam. Chibok is a Christian enclave in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.

Binta rallied after she got a message from Amina in 2015, when Boko Haram attacked Chibok again. Two male fighters accompanied by a girl carrying ammunition came across an elderly woman too feeble to flee. The girl, speaking the Chibok language that the fighters could not understand, asked the woman: "Do you know who I am? I am Amina. My mother's name is Binta in the village of Mbalala. Please tell her you saw me."

The elderly woman described the encounter to community leaders, who deliberated, worrying that the "proof of life" message might be too much for her mother to bear.

Then human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogede stepped in. "I suggested that they pass on the message. If I had a daughter who was missing, and she tried to send a message to me, l'd be very upset if someone withheld it. Amina tried to reach out, let's help her complete the effort," he counseled.

Ogede is upset about the politicization of the freed Chibok girls.

When Amina was freed, she and her family were flown to Abuja, where TV cameras and photographers documented Buhari welcoming her at the presidential mansion. That happened again with the 21 freed girls.

The girls needed trauma counseling and medical care, not exposure to the media, Human Rights Watch said at the time.

On Christmas Day, the freed girls visiting Chibok did not get to see their parents. They were kept in the house of a local legislator until Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima arrived to "present" them to their parents the next day. Witnesses said the girls were angry that they were kept from going to their homes and to their church's Christmas Day service.

Shettima's spokesman, Isa Gusau, denied that version, which came from some of the parents. "I am not sure they were denied access to their parents because that was the essence of them being taken to Chibok in the first place," he told the AP. "If you say their movements were restricted for security reasons and for their safety, I think that makes sense."

Yakubu Nkeki, chairman of the Chibok association of parents of the kidnapped girls and who is not related to Amina, said the Department of State Security intelligence agents who accompanied the girls deemed it was unsafe for them to visit parents in outlying villages. But those with homes in Chibok town were not allowed to stay with their parents, either.

Amina's mother, despite her tears, still has some faith in Nigeria's actions.

"Anything that the government wants to do with Amina, I have no problem with that," she said. "But I just want to see my daughter with my own eyes."



Caught on cam: Woman in burqa allegedly molested in Bengaluru

January 7, 2017

The attacker reportedly grabbed her and pinned her to the ground as she raised a cry for help.

Amid continuing outrage over mass molestation of women by wayward revellers in Bengaluru, another incident of alleged molestation has surfaced.

According to an NDTV report, a woman wearing a burqa was attacked by a man on Friday morning in North Bengaluru's KG Halli residential area.

He reportedly grabbed her and pinned her to the ground as she raised a cry for help. The attacker ran away as street dogs barked raising an alarm, reports NDTV.

The victim, who is said to be in her early 20s, was rushed to the hospital with abrasions on her legs, arms and her tongue.

The suspect is still at large.

According to Bangalore Mirror, the incident was captured by a CCTV camera, showing the incident took place at 6:25 am.

"We have collected the footage from the CCTV installed by the owner of the gas agency. The victim is shocked. The search is on for the accused," the KG Halli police said, reports Bangalore Mirror.

Meanwhile, in connection with the molestation incident that took place on New Year's Eve, four persons were arrested on Thursday. A woman was groped and assaulted by two scooter-borne men near her home, a shocking incident caught on camera that caused a national outrage.

The accused had been stalking the victim for four or five days and molested her when she was returning home after celebrating New Year, Bengaluru Police Commissioner Praveen Sood told reporters, amid growing public anger over delay in nabbing the culprits.

"This is a plan prepared by six of them. One of them groped. Others assisted," the Police Commissioner said.

He gave the names of the arrested as Aiyappa, the main culprit who molested the woman and Leno, Sudesh and Somashekar.

Aiyappa and Sudesh are delivery boys, Leno was a helper and Somashekhar a driver, Sood said, adding, a bike had been seized from them. "They have confessed (to the crime)," he said.

The arrest came three days after a CCTV footage surfaced showing two scooter-borne two men accost a woman, zoom past her, take a U-turn and halt the vehicle before one of them jumps off, gropes her and escapes even as bystanders watch without coming to her help.



Balochistan: Pakistan forces abduct 9 women, 8 children from Sui area

January 6, 2017

Pakistan conducted military operation in different areas of Sui and abducted 9 women and 8 children. Many houses too were burned down and several people were reportedly tortured.

According to Baloch Republic Party (BRP) Media Cell, Pakistani forces conducted a heavy military operation in different areas of Sui and Naseerabad including Matt, Darenjan, Uch, Shari Darbad, Chattar and Sheerani, earlier in the morning.

Seventeen people including women and children of Mitta Khan Bugti and Saeed Khan Bugti were taken by Pakistani army in Chattar.

Some of abductees have been identified as Naaz Khatoon, Roz Bibi, 3-year-old Hameed, 9-month-old Ramzan Bugti, Bakhto Bugti, and Zarnaz Bugti.

Shah Nawaz Bugti from the BRP Media cell further detailing about the operation said that the women were brutally tortured before being abducted.

"Earlier it was Baloch political activists, now women are abducted, beaten up and detained by Pakistan army. Human rights group should take immediate notice of the situation," he said.




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