CRI Update: Indian government faulted on child sexual abuse, child soldiers in Mali, and more...
Feb 12, 2013 at 11:55 am
CRI in the Media
CRI Director Brooke Goldstein traveled to Chattanooga, TN on January 28 to speak to the Girls Preparatory Upper School where she previewed clips from her documentary The Making of a Martyr, which she also aired at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga's annual gathering. More information about the event can be found here and here. Ms. Goldstein also appeared on 3 Plus You (WRCBtv Chattanooga).
The New York Times
In the aftermath of the vicious gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi, more light is being shed upon prolific child sexual abuse in India, where the government needs to better shield its children from such atrocity and more adequately treat victims. Despite India's ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and domestic children's rights legislation, "[c]hildren are sexually abused by relatives at home, by people in their neighborhoods, at school and in residential facilities for orphans and other at-risk children." Many cases remain unreported largely because doctors, police, court officials, and other authorities tend to ignore children's accounts. For instance, a twelve-year-old girl, who reported being raped by a "politically connected" man, was imprisoned for two weeks and forced to change her statement. Activists are calling for more "comprehensive" and "holistic" reforms.
The 150,000 Palestinians of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus are fleeing at unprecedented rates, having been targeted and killed by both the Syrian and rebel regimes. Refugees within the camp do not just face outside terror but "internecine violence" due to conflicting ideologies and allegiances to Syrian sides. Further endangering these refugees is Palestine's refusal to "entertain a pragmatic solution" reached between Abbas and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that received Israeli approval to transport the refugees to Gaza and the West Bank so long as each refugee "signs a statement that he doesn't have the right of return (to Israel)." Such unrelenting Palestinian and Arab policy that "views all of Israel as Palestinian land" is "both the genesis and perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee 'crisis' in the first place." Overall, "Arab governments (many driven by Islamists) are still ignoring the needs of their own people while attempting to deflect all the region's troubles on the Israeli Palestinian conflict."
The situation in Yarmouk is just one of many conflicts taking place within Palestinian refugee camps throughout Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority. These crises highlight broad problems with Palestinian policy and, more specifically, the systematic failure of UNRWA, the UN organization that runs refugee camps. UNRWA has been accused of being "abysmally impotent at curbing the violence over the last decades, or blocking the permeation of radicalism within the camp" due to its lack of "budgetary support, education, and protection from infiltration by extremist[s]." Overall, UNRWA's failure has "created a culture of dependence and radicalism within its camps," preventing "the integration of refugees...even [into] the Palestinian Authority."
In war-torn Syria, children continue to be the most vulnerable victims. Since the rebels took hold of Aleppo, the city has degenerated into a "virtual twilight of dark stairwells and shuttered rooms" as civilians try to survive amidst artillery and bombs within battered apartment blocks. Inside a makeshift field hospital, a Sky News correspondent details a boy being treated for a shrapnel wound without painkillers; another awaits kidney-removal after being shot by a sniper while playing football. From severe body burns to gunshots, "children are being injured and killed in greater numbers now than the rebel fighters."
Malala Yousufzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani advocate of female education who was shot by the Taliban in October, appeared in a video on February 4 professing her continued commitment to female education. Malala, who continues to receive treatment at a British hospital, says she is "getting better, day by day." Although the left side of her face remains damaged, she was resolute in stating, "I want to serve. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated." As proof of this pledge she has set up The Malala Fund, a girls' education charity. A clip of the video can be found here.
Fayhan al-Ghamdi, a former drug addict from Saudi Arabia who became a famous Islamic television preacher, was spared severe punishment despite raping, systematically torturing, and murdering his five-year-old daughter, Lama, last October. A medical report says that Lama was tortured with "whips, electric shocks and an iron," suffering from "broken arms, a broken back and a fractured skull" as well as other injuries. Instead of imprisonment or a death sentence, al-Ghamdi has been ordered to pay diya (blood money or ransom) to his wife, who only just received court permission to bury her daughter. While people are publically executed in Saudi Arabia for for blasphemy, adultery, homosexuality, and prostitution, men cannot be executed for killing their wives or children under the nation's strict Sharia law. More information can be found here.
The Jerusalem Post
Hamas continues to offer an elective military training program throughout high schools in Gaza. On January 24, as Sunni Muslims celebrated Muhammad's birthday, Gaza's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh held a ceremony in which the 3,600 participants graduated from this Al-Futuwwa ("Youth") program, "displaying mock weapons, crawling commando-style on the ground and taking up fighting positions for thousands of cheering supporters." One graduate, a fifteen-year-old, described how the program taught him to love jihad, commending its result: "[Now] I can do for real what I do in video games." Haniyeh also announced Hamas's plans for a more permanent academy to train children solely in military affairs. This proposed academy sparks worry given that senior Hamas commander Zaher Jabarin stated in a recent interview with Al-Quds TV that Hamas tirelessly educates Palestinian children to become suicide bombers.
Mynamar struggles to monitor child recruitment, despite signing a UN agreement to end the use of child soldiers and enacting several democratic reforms in its transition from military oppression. The army, along with border guard forces and opposition groups, continues to target children en route to school and work or in public places such as train stations, bus terminals, and markets, coercing them into their ranks. These groups often tell children without national identity cards that they can either go to prison or enlist. While minor efforts have been taken -- the army released 42 children last spring and allegedly rejected over 400 underage recruits in 2011 -- child recruitment remains a prominent issue. As for Mynamar's actions, hundreds of officials have been disciplined for child recruitment practices since 2007 and nine were imprisoned. On January 24, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) released 8 children who were being held as prisoners of war. Unfortunately, since the army is still fighting Kachin rebels and dealing with a high level of desertion, it continues to target its youth.
Two armed groups – the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) and the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) – that are part of a rebel alliance called "Séléka" in the Central African Republic have started to recruit children again, despite their agreement to a UN action plan to end the use of child soldiers in November 2011 and 2007 respectively. Prior to the CPJP's refusal in December to release two girls in Aigbando, approximately 2,500 children were fighting for both groups. The CAR government's concern for children's rights was further put into question when security forces detained 64 former child soldiers claiming they were rebels before blindly releasing them without protection. In addition, the government allegedly encouraged children in Bangui to fight.
66 rescued child soldiers reside in a safe complex in Bangui, Central African Republic, after enduring forced conscription and sexual abuse. They risk facing the danger of re-recruitment once released and live in fear of death threats from government troops and local residents who suspect them of persisting enemy ties. After being rescued from armed rebel groups, the children were taken to a transit camp in Bria before being moved to a safer, police-protected location to avoid angering locals. A video report can be viewed here.
Women News Network
Islamist groups occupying Northern Mali since April have been using hundreds of child soldiers to fend off French troops. The Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have recruited children from Mali and Niger to training camps where they study the Koran and learn to use weapons before being employed to guard prisoners, patrol, prepare food, and, most dangerously, staff checkpoints close to combat zones. The child soldiers are mostly boys from highly conservative Muslim villages that practice Wahabism. A witness from Konna recounted seeing "the Islamists [arrive] in about 10 land cruisers" with "about a dozen children among them, several…only 12 or 13 years old, all armed with big guns." Another witness near Gao recounted how "in Boré it was the children who came into our bus to ask[ed] for our papers and check[ed] our luggage."
The 2,500 French troops deployed to Mali have to contend with killing child soldiers in their quest to prevent Islamists from taking over the south. One 16-year-old boy, Adama Drabo, reveals the tragic existences of such child soldiers. Like many young recruits, Adama is an uneducated rice-grower from a poor village close to the frontlines that practices Wahabism, a conservative form of Islam. Reassured that they would find employment in Sevare, Adama and his friends travelled there. They were hired to cook for a group of men who spoke Arabic and Tamashek, which they did not understand. Adama did not know that the men were members of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad (MUJAO) and was happy to be making $200 per month – a much higher rate than his village wage. After learning that his employers were rebel fighters from a shop owner, Adama escaped to an adjacent village. There, a motorcyclist recognized his Islamist uniform and handed him over to the Malian army for violent interrogation and threats of death before putting him in prison, where he remains. Adama's case is just one of many in Mali, where hundreds of children are often purchased for $1,000 to $1,200 from poor parents. Rebels have attempted to justify the recruitment by quoting the Koran's description of children as "the purest apprentices."