Syrian Opposition Unites, Rohingya Groups Speak Out, and More Top News This Week

REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout


US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.

World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence

Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.

Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai

 

BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.

Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter

 

Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.

 

Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout

 
 

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Syrian Eid Truce Broken, Sudanese Arms Factory Bombed, and More News This Week

REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

 

Brahimi-brokered Eid al-Adha ceasefire quickly broken

New TV reported over the week that UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had been working with the Syrian government on a ceasefire for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a conditional truce on behalf of the Syrian regime, but armed opposition groups such as Ansar al-Sharia rejected the conditions and made their own demands. Sure enough, the ceasefire was broken on Friday, the first day of Eid.

Afghanistan: Dozens killed in Eid suicide blast

BBC Arabic reported on Friday that in the most violent attack in Afghanistan in months, 41 people were killed and at least another 50 were injured when a man blew himself up inside a mosque in the city of Maimana, the capital of the Faryab region in northern Afghanistan, during the early morning prayers for Eid al-Adha. The suicide bomber was reportedly wearing a police uniform. Many of the victims were government soldiers, and prominent local authorities were inside the mosque at the time of the explosion.

Sudan blames Israel for bombing of arms factory in Khartoum

Press TV reported on Wednesday that Sudan has blamed Israel for an air raid on an ammunition factory in Khartoum that killed two people. Sudanese Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman announced that evidence pointing to Israel was found among the remnants of the explosives, adding that Sudan reserved the right to retaliate. Hamas also accused Israel of orchestrating the bombing. However, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday that Israel denied the claims, and Israeli defense official Amos Gilad described Sudan as a "dangerous terrorist state."

More violence erupts against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Press TV reports that at least 112 Rohingya have been killed in Rakhine State, and homes of Rohingya Muslims have been torched all across Myanmar in a new round of sectarian violence perpetrated mainly by Buddhist extremists. The violence had died down after a spate of killings in August that drove a number of Rohingya to flee the country, but they are again forced to leave their homes in light of the new wave of attacks.

 

Image: A member of the Free Syrian Army talks on the radio during an operation in Haram town, Idlib Governorate, October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

 
 

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Myanmar's Unwanted Muslims: A Look at the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Myanmar's Rohingya population has been suffering greatly since sectarian violence broke out in the state of Rakhine, also known as Arakan, in June. The riots began with the alleged rape and murder of an ethnic Rakhine girl by men who were reportedly Muslim, triggering a backlash by Rakhine's Buddhist majority on the Rohingya, in the form of massacres and arson attacks on homes, mosques, and businesses.

Official reports from Myanmar's government have kept the death toll at about 80 since June, but estimates from rights groups say that hundreds, if not tens of thousands, have been killed, and the UNHCR estimates that 80,000 have been displaced, either internally or as refugees to Bangladesh and other countries.

Link TV's LinkAsia has covered the developments concerning the Rohingya since the unrest in June, but the plight of the Rohingyas has also garnered much attention in the Middle East, namely because the group suffering from persecution is historically Muslim. And although the violence in Rakhine State was targeted at Rohingyas, it was also directed towards Muslims in general.


Mosaic has focused on the Middle Eastern and Muslim angles of the conflict, such as Bangladesh's rejection of Rohingya refugees, protests by Iranian students in front of the UN office in Tehran, and the many demonstrations in Indonesia, where Muslim activists in Jakarta have called for Myanmar's suspension from ASEAN, the expulsion of the Myanmar ambassador from Jakarta, and more international action on the issue.

The Rohingyas have been considered foreigners in Myanmar for decades. In 1982, the government passed a law that effectively rendered them stateless. Myanmar considers the ethnic group of 800,000 to be British colonial-era illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, calling them "Bengali Muslims" in official releases. However, Bangladesh, a majority Muslim country itself, considers the Rohingyas to be Burmese, and has sent boatloads of refugees back to Myanmar, citing a dearth of resources. Bangladesh has also prevented humanitarian aid groups from continuing to work with the Rohingyas, fearing that the provisions would draw more refugees to the already-impoverished country.

Two of ASEAN's largest Muslim-majority countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, have offered to directly assist the Rohingyas. Indonesia, which boasts the largest Muslim population in the world, has also vowed to raise the topic of the Rohingya at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's next summit in Mecca next week. Saudi Arabia, which hosts the OIC and reportedly has a Rohingya population of hundreds of thousands, recently condemned Myanmar for what it called the Rohingyas' "ethnic cleansing," and the OIC's Turkish chief, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, has followed suit.

Unfortunately, countries and organizations willing to help are finding the refugees difficult to reach. Myanmar and Bangladesh have both restricted aid to their Rohingya populations, leaving the displaced people to fend for themselves. Some Burmese groups have skirted the issue by collecting money for the Rakhine "fire victims," without mentioning the sectarian violence that led to the fires. However, with a severe dearth of food and medical services, Rohingya refugees and internally displaced persons are currently struggling to survive. This scene is sadly all too similar to the persecution they have suffered for years, with a similar lack of international empathy.


Image: Amena Akter, a Rohingya from Myanmar cries as she holds her six-day old son, Sangram in the office of the Bangladesh Coast Guard in Teknaf June 19, 2012: REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

 
 

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Syrian Rebels Close in on Regime, and More of This Week's Top News

Syrians officers carry the coffins of former Syrian Defence Minister General Hassan Ali Turkmani, Defence Minister Daoud Rajha and Assef Shawkat, the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, during the national funeral at the unknown soldier monument in Damascus July 20, 2012: REUTERS/Sana/Handout

 

Al-Assad's regime suffers major blow as blast kills top Syrian officials

New TV - A severe blow to security in the heart of the Syrian capital Damascus led to the death of the chairman of Syria's "crisis cell," General Hassan Turkmani, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha, and his aid Assef Shawkat, the Syrian president's brother-in-law. In addition, top military and security officials were injured. According to reports, one of the security leaders' guards was wearing an explosive belt, and he blew himself up inside the hall as a meeting of the group, also known as "Syria's Generals," was taking place. An opposition group called "Liwa al-Islam Brigades" claimed responsibility on its Facebook page. Syrian leadership hurried to avoid the consequences of these deaths by appointing Brigadier Fahad Jassim al-Freij as the new defense minister.

Russia and China veto Western-backed UN resolution on Syria for the third time

New TV - Russia and China blocked the West-backed resolution on Syria for the third time at the UN Security Council in defense of the Syrian regime. The American, French, and British ambassadors to the UN condemned the move, with US ambassador Susan Rice calling it shameful for the council not to seek a solution to Syria's crisis. In response, Syrian ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari accused the council of failing to support a political solution and of restricting the Annan plan, adding that those who "sympathized with the terrorists and gunmen" should host them in their own countries.

Early elections loom as Kadima quits Israeli ruling coalition

Dubai TV - Israel's Kadima party withdrew from the Israeli government coalition amid disagreement over a new alternative to the current draft law, a move that may lead to early parliamentary elections in Israel, most likely in February. Kadima's main goals in the coalition were to revive the peace process with the Palestinians, and to expand the draft law to include ultra-Orthodox Jews. However, experts say that the Likud party is bowing more and more to pressure from the Israeli right and far-right, and if Israel is heading towards early elections, Netanyahu has a better chance to win with their support, while Kadima head Shaul Mofaz seeks to secure a secular stance.

US navy kills fisherman after firing at boat off coast of UAE

Press TV - A US warship opened fire on a fishing boat in the Persian Gulf on Monday. US officials say the small motorboat ignored repeated warnings to halt its approach before the navy vessel opened fire, but survivors of the attack said they received no warning, and that their boat attempted to avoid any contact with the ship. India calls the killing and injuring of its nationals by the US navy "unfortunate." Indian Minister for External Affairs S.M. Krishna says that India is in contact with the US and the UAE regarding the incident.

International community remains silent on ethnic cleansing in Myanmar

Al Jazeera - Amnesty International has accused Myanmar's authorities and Buddhist groups in the state of Rakhine of raping, killing, and ethnically cleansing members of the Muslim Rohingya minority, classified by the United Nations as the world's most persecuted race. The Rohingyas say they account for around 5 million people, with the UN indicating that over 800,000 Muslims live in Myanmar. Many have fled nearby locations, but some countries have turned them away, notably Bangladesh, which has decided not to allow them enter the country in fear of what it called serious environmental and social problems. But even worse is that there is local and international silence on the issue. Western countries that have lifted their economic sanctions on Myanmar after it entered a "democratic transformation," leading many to view the country as an investment paradise.

Image: Syrians officers carry the coffins of former Syrian Defence Minister General Hassan Ali Turkmani, Defence Minister Daoud Rajha and Assef Shawkat, the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, during the national funeral at the unknown soldier monument in Damascus July 20, 2012: REUTERS/Sana/Handout
 
 

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An 'Uneasy Calm' in Rakhine State: LinkAsia Follows Burmese Ethnic Violence

 
 

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