As Ramadan Begins, Arab Militaries Strike Back

“While they were hitting me I told them I’m pregnant, they shouted: who’s the father, then hit my stomach with his stick”

— Egyptian woman in Tahrir Square Aug. 1.

Egyptian demonstrators rally in downtown Cairo's Tahrir square on July 29, 2011. © Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

This was a weekend Arab armies struck back.  In Syria, tanks attacked protesters in Hama, killing at least 100 according to Amnesty International reports.  The military was back in action Monday as well.

In Egypt, reports are coming in from Egypt that the military is clearing out activists from Tahrir Square after more than a week of protests calling for a faster pace of reform. All morning reports from Tahrir Square painted a picture of mobs of people picking out protesters, surrounding them, provoking scuffles and then turning the activists over to soldiers nearby.

Unlike in Syria, the violence doesn’t appear to involve shooting, and no deaths have been reported, but there have been reportedly large number of arrests and social media was reporting eyewitness accounts of several injuries.

Will UN Finally Act On Syria Atrocities?

© Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

The situation in Syria further escalated over the weekend. Yesterday alone, more than 100 people were reportedly killed across the country and the death toll is feared to be increasing.

In a by now familiar pattern, Syrian authorities used tanks and snipers to attack civilians. We believe that the crimes committed in Syria constitute crimes against humanity.

I just learned that the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Syria later today and I urge you to sign our online petition to call on Brazil, India and South Africa to end their opposition to a Security Council resolution condemning the grave human rights violations.


Were US missile and cluster munitions used in a fatal attack in Yemen?

The 17 December 2009 attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen killed 55 people including 14 alleged members of al-Qa’ida.

Amnesty International has today released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following an attack on an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children.

Yemen munitions

Unexploded BLU 97 cluster bomblet - the Tomahawk BGM-109D cruise missile would have carried 166 of these.

The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions.

The Yemeni government has said its forces alone carried out the attack on al-Ma’jalah, the site of an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in al-Mahfad district, Abyan Governorate. But shortly after the attack some US media reported alleged statements by unnamed US government sources who said that US cruise missiles launched on presidential orders had been fired at two alleged al-Qa’ida sites in Yemen.

“Based on the evidence provided by these photographs, the US government must disclose what role it played in the al-Ma’jalah attack, and all governments involved must show what steps they took to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.


Aid Organization Under Attack In Northwestern Pakistan

This morning, suspected Islamist militants attacked World Vision, a Christian-based relief agency operating in the Manserha district of Pakistan. Six aid workers, all Pakistani, were murdered and seven others were wounded. Witnesses said 10 gunmen walked into the office building wearing military-style clothing with grenades and machine guns and asked employees “why are you doing this job?”. Some witnesses said that the gunmen singled out aid workers from the laborers before they began shooting.

Those who kill humanitarian workers must be reminded that they are not only killing their own country’s residents, but also people seeking to improve the lives of victims of poverty and injustice.
World Vision Statement

Insurgency attacks on civilians or civilian institutions, for example against schools, hospitals or NGOs, are a common human rights violation in northwestern Pakistan. According to our own research based on publicly available sources, 448 insurgency attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure have occurred between 2005 and 2009 (196 in FATA, 252 in NWFP).

However, today’s attack against World Vision happened in the relatively peaceful district of Mansehra. Our research recorded four attacks against civilian targets over five years in this district, which is close to the capital Islamabad. Most of the past insurgent attacks happened in the neighboring SWAT districts (56 attacks), the place of a major military offensive by the Pakistani army in the spring of 2009. It is too early to tell if today’s attack confirms the fear that the militants might have been pushed into Mansehra following last year’s offensive, but it is something worth closely following.