Tag Archives: world news

Political Sectarianism in the Middle East

Sectarian violence in middle east has been on the rise in the past 12 months. This has been particularly obvious  in Iraq has been escalating in the past 12 months, with over 21 people killed in bombings around the capital Baghdad in the last week and in the neighbours of Syria.

The Sunni/Shia divide is often pitched as conflict of religion, leaving out the deep political history that governs the tensions. The creation of these two streams of Islam were themselves created over a disagreement over the choice of political leader.

The divide is used to political advantage by those who benefit from creating animosity between communities. . For instance in Syria were the majority of rebels are Sunni Muslim, and Saudi Arabia the most powerful Sunni country is a major source of support. But in Bahrain, where the majority of the population in Shia, and the political elite is Sunni, Saudi in that case protects the political establishment.

On Tuesday (21st Jan) a Shia delegate, Ahmad Sharafeddin in Yemen was shot dead on his way to reconciliation talks. According to Reuters, Sharafeddin who was dean of law at Saana University was a member of the Houthi Shia separatist group that opposing the current pro-American Yemeni government. Another Houthi leader accused Sunni militants.

On the same day, a bomb exploded in a Shia dominated neighbourhood in Beiruit in Lebanon, killing at least 4 people and injuring many others. Sectarian tensions have been heightened because of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian crisis.

Hezbollah, a Shia militant group, has been supporting Syrian president Assad. Iran, the largest Shia majority country, also supports Assad. Assad’s government is dominated by a small Islamic minority sect, Alawi, but the majority of the country are Sunni and supported by Saudi Arabia. The regional involvement in Syria is inflaming sectarian tensions in the already dividing Lebanon.

The cold war played a huge role in exacerbating the conflict as the Americans and Soviets manipulated tensions in order to gain support in the region. Shia majority countries such as Iran have Russia (post-revolution 1979), while Saudi Arabia and other Sunni majority countries allied with America.

Sunni Islam is hugely in the majority and is now very divided in its relationship with the US. Sunni Muslims make up it’s closest allies (Saudi, Egypt, Yemen) and those it believes to be its greatest threats, Al-Qaeda and similar groups. How America’s foreign policy has created enemies from allies is a topic for a different article but there long political history in play is often ignored not only in journalism but in academia as well. The post-colonial aspect also receives insufficient attention.

By portraying conflict between Sunni and Shia communities in the Middle East as a purely religious one presents a flawed picture without context. It is a sectarian issue, but also a nationalistic one, a class-based one and one of old political loyalties. Conflict is meaningless without context.

But much of mainstream media wishes to do just that, to portray Muslims as inherently, religiously fundamentalist and bigoted and ignore the blame that lies without outside actors’ political manipulation.

World News 24/9/2012

13:30 GMT

PAKISTAN: An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude has hit south-west Pakistan with tremors being felt as far away as New Delhi. US Geological Survey has issued a “RED” alert which means estimated fatalities of over 1,000 and damages costing over $1 billion. Updates will follow via Twitter.

WALES: Welsh police have arrested 4 men in connection with a slavery ring in the UK. The investigation followsedthe discovery of Darrell Simester, 43, who had been missing for 13 years and had apparently been living and working in the area.

UNITED NATIONS: The UN meet today in New York. President Obama will give a welcome address followed by a statement by new Iranian President Rouhani.

The 24th Regular session the Human Rights Council are meeting in Geneva today to raise issues of international human rights in relation racism, racial discrimination or xenophobia. There has been much heated debate so far which will be discussed further here.

KENYA: The Westgate situation continues. On Saturday a group of up to 20 militants attacked the shopping mall in the capital Naiobi with guns and grenades. At least 62 people are dead and another are missing and may either have been killed or are being held hostage inside the centre.

There are mixed messages being release by multiple news sources regarding whether any Americans or British citizens were involved. There are also questions asked about how many hostages are still being held inside.

A British security source says it is “a possibility” that Samantha Lewthwaite, a UK citizen, was involved with the militants, but Kenyan President has denied this, saying that all the attackers were men. 

GREECE: New strikes have begun all over the country following further threats of public sector job cuts. The strike of public sector workers has effectively shut down schools and left hospitals with a skeleton staff. 

SYRIA: Spanish journalist, Marc Marginedas, has gone missing from the city of Hama in Syria. His newspaper, the Barcelona-based El Periódico revealed that he was kidnapped by Islamist fighters but that no group has taken responsibility yet.

RUSSIA: Edward Snowden’s lawyer gave an exclusive interview to RT today, which can be viewed here.

CHINA: 14 baby panda cubs were shown to the public today. 14 cubs were artificially bred in the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base in south-west China’s Sichuan province.

World News 21/9/2013

21:50 UTC

The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has released a statement saying that at least 39 people were killed and 150 injured in the attack on Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi by a Somali militant group with ties to al-Qaida. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter two hours ago.

Mr Kenyatta also told Reuters that he had lost close family members in the attack but that Kenya would defeat these terrorists.

Al-Shabab had threatened an attack on Nairobi in revenge of Kenyan presence in Somalia. Kenyan troops were serving as peacekeepers in Somalia. Seven hostages are said to be being held in a supermarket that five gunmen have barricaded themselves into.

In Scotland, there is said to have been at least 20,000 people at a pro-Independence rally in Edinburgh today. Scotland’s First Minister said that an independent Scotland would disarm nuclear weapons and keep Royal Mail public.

19:20 UTC

The Somali militant group al-Shabab claims that it is responsible for today’s Nairobi Westgate shopping mall attack. The group had threatened action against Kenya earlier in the year and is known to have links to al-Qaida. It confirmed its involvement via Twitter.

The Kenyan President says that at least one of the gunmen from the attack has been arrested.  Kenya’s Red Cross are saying that at least 30 people are being reported dead and 60 injured. US state departments says that this includes some Americans.

18:15 UTC

It is now thought that up to 51 people were killed in the funeral bombing today and as many as 70 injured.

17:15 UTC

A suicide bomber has crashed into a funeral tent full of mourner in the Sadr area of Baghdad. The victims were Shia and police are saying that up to 30 people were killed and up to 50 injured.  This attack comes only hours after 7 police officers were killed in Baiji.

More than 400 people have been killed so far since September began in the rising levels of violence in Iraq.

Todays violence comes as northern Kurdish Iraqis vote for greater autonomy in local elections for the Kurdistan Regional Government’s 111-seat legislature but there is no evidence as of yet that the events are connected.

15:55 UTC

There is confusion over what caused armed clashes in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja yesterday. The official story is that state armed forced moved in to investigate a tip about weapons cache for the Islamic militant group the Boko Haram.

Gunshots began around 3am local time and BBC’s Mohammed Kabir Mohammed in Abuja says the shooting took place at a two-storey building that was not finished construction that young men had been sleeping in at night.

However six witnesses told Reuters that the building was owned by a military man who wanted to move squatters off the property. If this was the Boko Haram than it is the first time they will have attack Abuja this year. Nigerian security forces are sometimes accused of executing suspects and then claiming afterwards that they were Boko Haram members.

State Security Services would not give any details of fatalities but a witness told BBC that he saw 9 bodies.

15:15 UTC

NAIROBI UPDATE: News agencies are now placing the dead up to 22 according to Red Cross. 

Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Guled earlier stated that: “I would say so far we have at least 15 dead. The casualties are many, and that’s only what we have on the outside. Inside there are even more casualties and shooting is still going on”.

The number of assailants seems to have settled on five armed with AK-47s and grenades. Police are currently engaged in an ongoing shop-by-shop sweep of the complex. “They have seven hostages, confirmed,” an officer told AFP.

13:56 UTC

A number of gunmen have attacked with gunfire and grenades in an upscale shopping-mall in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Witnesses report as many as 20 attackersElijah Kamau said “attackers with AK-47s and grenades” asked Muslims to leave as only non-Muslims would be targeted around noon local time.

AP reporters about 10 dead and dozens more wounded with matches with Reuters reporters of 9 bodies seen by a Reuters photographer and an ex-British soldier on the ground. Officials will not give a current casualty figure and police are currently combing the shopping centre.

13:45 UTC

6 Iraqi SWAT police officers were killed this morning in an attack by 4 suicide bombers who stormed police headquarters in Baiji, north of Baghdad. It is not currently clear who was behind this attack but the army and police have been targets for Sunni militants in the past who have been gaining more support against Iraq’s now Shia majority government.

Edinburgh saw a large turnout with flags to a pro-Independence parade with marching bands today.

World News Roundup: 20/9/2013

There have been clashes in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja today between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram militants who allegedly opened fire on security forces when they followed a tip about a suspect Boko Haram weapons cache. “The State Security Service did not give any details about casualties. A witness told the BBC that he saw dead bodies.”

The Boko Haram are an extremist, separatist group seeking to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria. Nigeria is evenly divide between Muslim and Christians.  At least 87 people were killed Boko Haram fighters attacked a town in Borno, a northeastern state in Nigeria whose governor Kashim Shettima described the attack as “barbaric and un-Islamic.” Approximately 3,600 people have been killed by the Boko Haram since 2009. Earlier today the bodies of 143 civilians were recovered by environmental agency workers according to the AP. 

Two bombs went off in a Sunni Mosque in the city of Samarra in Iraq today killing up to 18 people during Friday midday prayers. An official of the municipal council, Mizhar Fleih, said the explosion also wounded at least 21 people. Samarra is 95 km north of Baghdad and while largely Sunni it is home to a sacred Shia shrine. There has been a rise in attacks on Sunni mosques in Iraq in the last few months. Sunni extremist are widely blamed, however it is also possible that Shia militias, that had been mostly active in recent years could also have been to blame.  Fleih also added:

“We are worried that the attacks on Sunni and Shiite mosques aim at reigniting the sectarian strife in this country”.

Last week, a similar attack on a Sunni mosque in northeast of Baghdad killed 33 worshippers.

There was a fresh wave of anti-India protesting in the contested region of Kashmir today. At least seven people have been killed in main city of Srinagar. Officials say that two photojournalists and two police officers were injured. Police officer Abdul Gani Mir said the clashes began after troops stops hundreds of people from marching south to the town of Shopian.

At least 30 killed in bombs attacks in Yemen that local official believe were the work of al-Qaida.

A man stands in front of where Pavlos Fyssas died, the graffiti on the door reads “Revenge” (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)

The Greek police’s anti-terrorism division has been given the investigation into the murder of rapper Killah P (Pavlos Fyssas) which has been blamed on a supporter of the far-right party the Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn, which grew in the face of the economic crisis, has condemned the rapper’s murder and denies any involvement in the attack. It has been noted that the Golden Dawn has many supporters within the Greek police force.

Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc is strongly favored for a majority win of the vote in Germany’s general election on Sunday though it will almost certainly result in a coalition.

Pakistan have freed the co-founder of the Afghan Taliban is an effort to improve relationship with Afghanistan.

World News Roundup 19/9/2013

Philippine forces have claimed to have won back 80% of the led held by rebels after 11 days of conflict. The conflict began with a stand off between the army and fighter from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) a separatist group that wants an independent state for Moro people. The MNLF opposed a peace deal being struck with a rival rebel faction the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who broke away from the MNLF because they felt they had lost a Muslim spiritual focus. The southern city of Zamboanga became a battle group between the MNLF and state forces. 

Riots have broken out in Greek cities of Athens and Thessaloniki following public sector strikes. Anti-fascism protests and anarchist groups joined the protests calling for the banning of far-right group the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn was a lot of support within the Greek police force.

This follows on from the murder of anti-racist rapper Killah P (Pavlos Fyssas) who was stabbed to death on Tuesday by an alleged member of the Golden Dawn.

Photo: RT Lucy Kafanov via Twitter

A well known Sri Lankan journalist has left Sri Lanka after her family were threatened at knifepoint. Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema is the associate editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper and led a trade union for journalists. She has received death threats in the past. Sri Lanka’s reputation for intimidating journalists has only gotten worse in recent months and we have covered some of those cases here before.

Abeywickrema receiving the Investigative Journalist of the Year award in 2009/ Photo: The Sunday Times.lk

US poverty rate remains at 15%. That’s 46.5 million people and 16.1 million of them are children. Which is 1 in 3. 1 in 3 of America’s poor are children.

Jordan is constructing a new Syrian refugee camp which will be able to hold more than 100,000 people. More than half a million people have crossed into Jordan since the conflict began.

World News Roundup: 12/Sep/2013

Who are the journalists of 2013?

“Thou shall not think having a blog makes you a journalist” – Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

That’s an important thing to remember. It’s something remind myself if I get to big headed. But then again, I would also argue that having a big corporate contract doesn’t necessarily make you a journalist either. I haven’t seen anyone I’d call a journalist on FOX News or writing for The Daily Mail any time recently and yet all these news outlets pull greater respect than online news-breakers, with twitter and blogs.

Press credentials are not the necessity they once were and neither is working for a big media company or ever having your name in paper and ink print.

Photo from UN - Sec Gen briefs Journalists
Photo from UN – Sec Gen briefs Journalists

Modern social media has blurred the lines between the people telling and making the news and those who consume it. This has led to a lot of regurgitation of news stories from one agency to another but it also opens up the possibilities of looking at breaking news from several perspectives. Podcasts have taken the place of political talk radio for much of the younger generation. Shows like Citizen Radio, because they are produced by the hosts they have the freedom to push more boundaries than many in more traditional medias.

Twitter in recents years has been particularly influential in breaking stories and live updating as events unfold. The bombing of the Boston marathon and the subsequent confusion and manhunt saw Twitter really rise to the forefront of the news with Twitter-focused news outlets like Anonymous’ @YourAnonNews being an hour ahead of CNN or FOX for most of the night.

But expediency does not a journalist make either. The speed information can travel has increased dramatically but ultimately it is still the job of journalists to examine information in its context and supply considered analysis. Which is a challenge we here at Global Echo hope to undertake.

So perhaps journalists in the modern world are not defined by their credentials or their medium but rather the quality of their work.

Our world is still as huge and diverse as ever but the information age has made it seem smaller. This is a challenge, to avoid homogenous reporting, but also an opportunity to engage with a wider and more diverse audience than ever.

— Orla-Jo