Iran

Iran: women’s rights activists get 16 years

Three women in Iran received prison sentences of at least 16 years, for offenses such as not wearing hijab and handing out flowers on a Tehran subway train on International Women’s Day. Civil rights activists Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz were condemned by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Each was given 10 years for “encouraging and promoting corruption by de-veiling,” five years for “collusion and assembly to act against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.” Keshavarz was given an additional seven years and six months for “blasphemy.” The attorney for the women said lawyers were not allowed to attend the trials, which were scheduled without notice. The court said no attorney access would be granted until an appeal is scheduled. (Photo via HRANA)

South Asia

Sri Lanka dissidents reject Buddhist fascism

As Sri Lanka marks the 10-year anniversary of the end of its long internal war, a new wave of communal violence has erupted following the Easter Sunday  terror attacks. In days of anti-Muslim riots, mobs have ransacked mosques and attacked shops with petrol bombs. The Buddhist militant group Bodu Bala Sena, which has been repeatedly linked to such pogroms since its founding in 2012, is named as having instigated much of the violence. But just as many Sri Lankan Muslims have held peace vigils to repudiate the Easter attacks and declare their solidarity with Christians, some Sinhalese Buddhists have repudiated the pogroms and declared their solidarity with Muslims. (Photo via SriLankaTweet)

South Asia

Pakistan: Taliban target Sufi shrine —again

At least 10 people were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide blast that targeted security forces guarding a famous Sufi shrine in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The attack, which came during the holy month of Ramadan, was apparently aimed at a police vehicle, and five officers are among the dead. The Data Darbar shrine, where Sufi saint Ali Hajveri is buried, was the target of a 2010 suicide attack that killed more than 40 worshipers, and has since been under heavy security. The new attack was claimed by the Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. (Photo: Wikipedia)

South Asia

Muslim leaders had warned of Sri Lanka terror

ISIS claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka that left over 300 dead, and released a video purporting to show the militants behind the attacks pledging allegiance to the terror network’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But Sri Lankan authorities had named a little-known militant group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath as behind the attacks. Leaders of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said they had warned military intelligence officials about National Thowheeth Jama’ath three years ago, saying the group was planning attacks on non-Muslims. (Photo: Sahad Shady via Twitter)

Iran

Iran: lawyer convicted for representing protesters

The Center for Human Rights in Iran announced that rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh had been convicted in absentia by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Iran's Revolutionary Court, described as a "hardline" jurist. She refused to appear in court because she was denied the right to choose her own lawyer. Sotoudeh was charged with crimes including "collusion against national security," "propaganda against the state," "encouraging corruption and prostitution," "appearing before the judiciary without Islamic hijab," "disturbing public peace and order," and "publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion." Prosecution cited her membership in the Center for Human Rights, the Legam group against capital punishment, and the anti-militarist National Peace Council. (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)

Afghanistan

Afghan women advocates wary of ‘peace’ talks

Direct talks between US officials and the Taliban are advancing in Qatar, aimed at ending the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. But advocates for Afghan women view the talks with increasing skepticism, voicing their concern that hard-won rights could be bargained away. Afghan Women's Network is calling upon the Taliban to take trust-building measures such as the re-opening of girls' schools in areas they control, So far, the group sees few signs of improvement. Forced displacement, indiscriminate violence on civilians, stoning of women and men, closing of schools and the erasure of women from public life are common in Taliban-controlled areas, according to the AWN. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Iran

White House exploits Iran democracy struggle

As in the Venezuela crisis, Donald Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, is making a cynical pretense of concern for democracy in Iran. Fortunately, his latest bit of exploitation of the Iranian protesters has blown up in his face. Noting the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, he issued a tweet featuring a meme with an image of a student protester from the 2017 anti-austerity uprising and the words: "40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure." Now, the courageous photographer who snapped the image at the University of Tehran in December 2017, Yalda Moayeri, comes forward to express her outrage at its co-optation by Trump. Alas, Masih Alinejad, the Iranian-American feminist who last week met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, seems not to get how she is endangering opposition activists in Iran, allowing the regime to paint them as pawns of imperialism. (Image via @realDonaldTrump)

Afghanistan

Report: Afghan government control lowest yet

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, the US watchdog for Afghan reconstruction finds that the security situation is at an all-time low since monitoring began. Since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) began tracking district control in 2015, Afghan government-controlled or "influenced" districts have declined 16% to 55.5%. In the same period, areas of insurgent control or influence rose 5.5% while "contested" districts increased 11%. As of late July, the US military assessed that the Kabul government controls or influences 226 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, while the Taliban controls/influences 49. The remaining 132 districts are identified as "contested." Since the prior quarterly report, Operation Resolute Support downgraded eight districts from "government influenced" to "contested." SIGAR said Afghan security forces "made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban" in the period covered by the report. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

South Asia

Pakistan overturns blasphemy death sentence

The Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned the 2010 blasphemy conviction and death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic woman, citing failure to proffer enough evidence that Bibi indeed committed the offense. Bibi's conviction stemmed from an altercation with her Muslim co-workers at a farm in Punjab province, who said they would not drink water fetched by Bibi after she sipped from it because she was impure. Heated words were exchanged, and the account of the incident was later apparently exaggerated to incriminate Bibi. The trial court convicted her of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad. Bibi initially made what the high court called an "extra-judicial confession" to the crime at the scene, but claimed at trial that the confession was made under coercion and threat of death. The Asia Bibi case has polarized Pakistan over the past years, leading to waves of protest and even deadly violence. The Supreme Court decision has triggered angry demonstrations across the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed for calm. Bibi, a mother of four, has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement. (Photo: Pakistan Express-Tribune)

Central Asia

China fast expanding detention camp system

With China accused of detaining hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims without trial in its western province of Xinjiang, a BBC investigation analyzed satellite data to determine that the detention camp system in the region is rapidly expanding. Reviewing images from the European Space Agency's Sentinel satellite service, the BBC finds at least 40 such facilities across Xinjiang, half built within last two years—with a big thrust of construction just in the past six months. Among the largest is a "massive, highly secure compound" still being built at Dabancheng, about an hour's drive from the provincial capital, Urumqi. It is enclosed within a two kilometer-long exterior wall punctuated by 16 guard towers. (Photo via UNPO)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: US to groom Taliban to fight ISIS?

Taliban leaders confirmed that long-planned direct talks with the US took place in Doha, capital of Qatar. The Taliban said in a statement that their delegation met with US special adviser for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. The statement said the two sides discussed the prospects for an end to the presence of the foreign forces in Afghanistan, and the return of "true peace" to the country. These overtures come as the US is stepping up operations against ISIS in Afghanistan. In an August air-strike in Nangarhar province, the US claimed to have killed Abu Sayed Orakzai, top ISIS commander in Afghanistan. Earlier in August, more than 200 ISIS fighters and their two top commanders surrendered to Afghan government forces in Jowzjan province to avoid capture by Taliban insurgents, after a two-day battle that was a decisive victory for the Taliban. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Iraq

Wave of femicide in Iraq, vocal women targeted

Four prominent Iraqi women had been assassinated over the past weeks, including Tara Fares, a model and social media star, and Souad al-Ali, a feminist and leader of the recent popular protests in Basra. Other outspoken women are receiving threats and have been forced to flee the country—including Yanar Mohammed, leader of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the killings, but Mohammed is skeptical, saying, "The police are collaborating with the murderers and covering up. for them. We never get the exact story." (Image via Gulf News)