The Girl On The Schoolbus

Malala Yousafzai

Pakistanis protest against the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai in Islamabad on October 11, 2012.© AFP/GettyImages

Malala Yousufzai got on the bus on Tuesday morning to go to school. With her, were two of her school friends, also bound for Mingora, the largest town in Pakistan’s Swat District, where their school is located. It was an ill-fated journey. Before the girls could get to school that morning, Tehreek-e-Taliban gunmen accosted the bus.

One of the girls, Shazia Razaman confirmed that they were specifically looking for Malala. She was easy to find, and when they did find her, they shot her in the head. Hours, later as Pakistanis and the world, watched, aghast and stunned at yet another act of inhumane violence, the spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban, specifically took responsibility for the attack saying:

“She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban.”


Disturbing Video Reported to Show Taliban Execution of Afghan Woman

An appalling video has surfaced that shows what news reports have said is the execution of an Afghan woman in Parwan province by Taliban commanders for alleged adultery.  The video shows a woman who has been identified as a 22 year old woman named Najiba, sitting in the dirt as a man walks up behind her and shoots her multiple times.

In the video, a crowd of men has gathered to watch the execution.  As the woman is shot once, then three times, and then eventually nine times, the crowd cheers.

Amnesty International is seeking further information about the facts of the case but multiple news sources have reported that the woman was accused of adultery by two Taliban commanders who staged a fake trial and may have used the charge as a way to “save face” as they fought about the woman.


Attack on Afghan Minority Group Leaves Over 60 Dead

Suicide bombers struck Shiite (mostly Hazara) pilgrims on December 6, killing over 60 people in Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif during holy holiday of Ashura. I was moved by a photo of a woman crying out in horror at the carnage around her. It was also a cry of helplessness and a cry of sorrow. I couldn’t help but feeling that sense of helplessness and sorrow.

The attack seemed timed to coincide with the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan 10 years after the first conference held in the same city. Amnesty International has a delegation in the city monitoring the conference. We have been arguing that human rights must not be sacrificed as the US winds down its security presence in the country. This bombing is an example of need for the international community to maintain its commitment to protect human rights in Afghanistan.


Going to School and Being Ambushed By Gunmen

Pakistani rescue personnel collect evidence from a similar bombing in Matani ©AFP/Getty Images

My daughter just started kindergarten but for us it’s just a 2 minute bike ride to the school. In some places however, going to school can be a death sentence.

The BBC is reporting that gunman opened fire on a school bus south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtukhwa province (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province) killing 5 school children between the ages of 9 and 14.


Act Now or Gitmo Never Ends

© US DoD

When Congress returns from its summer recess in September one of the first tasks on its agenda will be hammering out a final draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Unless we take action now this bill will lay the foundation for a permanent military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

As things currently stand, both the House and Senate have both produced language in their respective drafts of the NDAA that seeks to redefine the authority under which the President conducts the ‘war’ on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ‘associated forces’.

One lingering concern in Congress is that the original Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks failed to create a framework under which to detain private individuals captured during military operations. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Taliban Send 8-Year Old Girl To Her Death

While targeting civilians in Kabul, the Taliban allegedly tricked an eight-year old girl into carrying a package containing a remote-control detonated bomb.

Only the girl was killed in the blast, which occurred Sunday morning in the village of Uwshi in the Char Chino District, said Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, the police chief of Oruzgan Province.

The scene after a Taliban suicide bombing in Pakistan in May, 2011 © Hasham Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images

Mr. Shirzad said he believed the girl was unaware that the bag she had been given by Taliban insurgents held a bomb. Her body was “taken to a nearby security check post, and the police called her relatives,” he said.

As I write this I think of my two daughters and wonder what kind of people would find that acceptable?


Afghan Couple Stoned to Death

“We love each other no matter what happens.” Those were some of the last words of Khayyam and Siddiqa before they were stoned to death for ‘eloping’. This was the first stoning in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Surrounded by many of the victims’ neighbors and even their family members, the couple received this gruesome punishment handed down by an Islamic Council.

In fact, the execution was carried out two days after the Council of Ulema called on the Afghan government to implement harsher shari’a punishments, which included public stoning, lashing and amputations.

In an interview with MSNBC’s ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’, Asia Pacific director T. Kumar, recently spoke on the implications of the stoning in Afghanistan (see video above).

© Amnesty International

Amnesty International called on the Afghan government and the Council of Ulema not to abuse human rights by renouncing the use of stoning as a punishment. In addition, we recommended that the International Criminal court investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in light of the “increasing brutality of the Taliban and other insurgent groups” towards Afghan citizens.

Despite continuous efforts by international human rights groups and governments, the method of execution by stoning still remains a legal punishment in several other countries. They include Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.

The news of the couple stoned to death is a tragic and ironic remainder of ongoing abuses of human rights in Afghanistan. The Council of Ulema and the Afghan government must denounce stoning as a punishment and cease from using it.

Taliban Leaders Should Be Prosecuted for War Crimes

Sanam Gul was a widow, 35 years old and pregnant.  According to news reports she was kept in captivity for three days before being shot to death in a public trial by the Afghan Taliban.  The execution took place in the Qadis District of the rural Baghdis province in Western Afghanistan.

The “court” that ordered the punishment, found Sanam Gul, also known as Bibi Sanubar, guilty of having an illicit affair, proof of which was her pregnancy.  She was sentenced to 200 lashes and then executed.  The punishment was carried out by Mohammad Yousuf, the area Taliban commander amid a crowd of onlookers.

Sanam Gul’s death comes soon after the chilling Aug 7 executions of ten medical aid workers who had been returning from a trip to provide free medical care to remote regions of Afghanistan.

These barbaric theatrics meant to intimidate and terrify local populations are not novel tactics for the Taliban.  In the time that they controlled Afghanistan, from 1998-2001, such public floggings and executions were frequent occurrences in towns controlled by the group.   In addition to such tactics of terror which misuse concepts of Islamic law to instate a reign of terror, the Taliban are also guilty of increasingly bloodthirsty killing campaigns that kill hundreds of Afghan civilians.

A U.N report released on August 10 revealed that civilian casualties caused by the Taliban have increased nearly 31% in the first six months of 2010.  This means that over 3,000 Afghan civilians have died in the shootings, killings, suicide bombings that the Taliban carry out with impunity in areas which they control.

In the first half of 2010, the executions and assassinations of civilians by the Taliban and other insurgent groups increased by over 95% to 183 recorded deaths compared to the same time last year. The victims were usually accused of supporting the According to Staffan De Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the U.N “Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict; they are being killed and injured in their communities in greater numbers than ever before”.


While We Read About Drones, Civilians Are Suffering in Pakistan

Amnesty International recently released a new report and website on human rights abuses in northwest Pakistan. This posting is part of our Eyes on Pakistan blogging series.

We have written extensively on this blog about the human rights crisis in northwest Pakistan over the last few weeks. The northwest region of the country is covered on a daily basis in the mainstream media. However, the focus in reporting is on counter-terrorism issues, and no attention is given to the impact of the conflict on civilian communities who live in the area. You just have to check today’s news to find that the top stories in regard to Pakistan are on a new drone strike and the five Americans who were recently convicted on terrorism charges.

To counter this trend and to change the debate about northwest Pakistan in the US media, we are launching the Eyes on Pakistan Writing Contest. Since this is such a frequent topic, we encourage you to challenge the current media reporting and raise human rights concerns in northwest Pakistan by writing op-eds, letters to the editors, blog entries or news stories on the human rights crisis in northwest Pakistan (Take a look at this example). The best entries will receive a Flip HD camera and get a chance to be re-published on this blog and the Eyes on Pakistan website!

We are providing enough resources to get you started, and you should especially check out our new website Eyes on Pakistan. Through the Eyes on Pakistan project, we have a powerful new tool to track and monitor the human rights situation on the ground. Policy makers from Islamabad to Washington would be well advised to heed the alarming trends it demonstrates. Eyes on Pakistan reveals the human toll of a conflict that is all too often described in the abstract. The site presents irrefutable proof that northwestern Pakistan has become the scene of a grave human rights and humanitarian crisis.

Change the debate now: Start writing and send us your published piece.

Terrorists Kill Civilians in Lahore

Update: Juan Cole, a blogger on the Middle East and South Asia has a good analysis of this bombing.

Suicide bombings are human rights violations.

Normally I don’t cover Pakistan (I cover India, Bangladesh and the Maldives for Amnesty USA).  But, I just want to do a quick post here to condemn unequivocally the wanton killing of innocent civilians in Lahore, Pakistan today.  Suicide bombings that kill or injure civilians are human rights violations and must be condemned.

Lahore is the cultural capital of Pakistan and it has been subjected to repeated suicide bombings by folks who apparently think that killing innocent civilians can be a justified response to the war that they are fighting in Waziristan against Pakistani and US soldiers.  It’s not. Here is a description of the scene from the BBC World Service:

“I sensed real danger and started running. There were scenes of destruction in nearby restaurants and shops.

“There were broken chairs and tables and other items lying everywhere on the ground.”

Another eyewitness, Afzal Awan, said he had seen wounded people with limbs missing lying in pools of blood.

“I saw smoke rising everywhere,” he told reporters. “A lot of people were crying.”

Exactly what do these people have to do with the operations going on in the northwestern part of the country?  Nothing.  They are innocent civilians, women, children and men going about their lives.  The world must condemn these mass murders unequivocally.  Nothing can justify it.