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Resources updated between Monday, January 11, 2016 and Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17, 2016

A handout picture released by UNICEF and taken Jan. 14, 2016, shows a UNICEF employee measuring the arm of a malnourished child in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, as they assess the health situation of residents of the famine-stricken town.

More Starvation Deaths of Besieged Syrians Reported Document

January 16, 2016

The train station where the stoning unfolded

Three young men from North Africa sought to stone two transgender women in the western German city of Dortmund on Sunday.

According to a report on Friday on television station SAT1.NRW, the men attacked Yasmine und Elisa, two transgender women, near the city's main train station.

"Within seconds we were tossed around...and they took stones from a gravel bed on the corner and threw them at us," said Elisa.

A police car at the train station appeared as the stoning attack unfolded and arrested the men.

The German media as a general rule do not disclose the last names of victims to protect their privacy. The three men are between 16 and 18 years-old and are known to the authorities because of theft and assault arrests.

The Dortmund police official Kim-Ben Freigang said the suspects told the police that "such persons must be stoned." German media reported that one suspect said "You whores must be stoned." Yasmine installed a security camera at her residence where she lives with Elisa after the attacks. "That was barbaric what they did. They are barbarians," Yasmine said.

She added that she could not believe that such an act of shamelessness occurred. "In 2016, in Germany with stoning!" According to the SATI.NRW report, Yasmine said it was the first time in 30 years she felt unsafe as a transgender woman.

The three men, according to Yasmine and Elisa, propositioned them. After the men realized that Yasmine and Elisa are transgender women, the men launched their assault with stones.

Stoning people to death is a penalty used in Muslim-majority countries.

In November, a criminal court in Iran's northern province of Gilan sentenced a woman to be executed by stoning for alleged complicity in the murder of her husband Arash Babaieepour Tabrizinejad.

The stoning penalty of the woman, who was only identified by the initials "A.Kh," was first reported on the Persian-language Iranian website LAHIG.

According to the LAHIG report, the court imposed the stoning penalty on the woman along with lashings and a 25-year prison sentence. The criminal court in the city of Rasht in Gilan issued the sentence.

Lethal homophobia is widespread in the Arab world and Iran. A 2008 British Wikileaks dispatch noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran executed "between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians" since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has murdered dozens of gays by tossing the men off buildings. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Qatar, to name just some of the most anti-gay countries, persecute LGBTs with the death penalty and imprisonment.

North African men suspected of stoning transgender women in German city Document

Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson vanished during a trip to Iran in March 2007.

Jewish Captive Robert Levinson Not Among Those Freed by Iran Article

A refugee camp in Lebanon (AP)

Lebanon regulations 'put Syrian refugees at risk of abuse' Article

January 15, 2016

Russian and British warplanes. Iran is rushing to purchase weapons systems in spite of sanctions. Photo: Wikipedia.

Iran Rushing to Acquire Military Planes, Weapons Despite Sanctions Article

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has severely criticised the signatories and called on the judiciary to act against their alleged treachery. (Kayhan Ozer/AP)

Turkey Rounds Up Academics Who Signed Petition Denouncing Attacks on Kurds Document

January 14, 2016

The first panel of a photo exhibit on "International Decade for People of African Descent" at UN headquarters, New York, January 14, 2016

UN's "International Decade for People of African Descent" Hijacked by Palestinians Development

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (File photo)

In a press release issued January 13, 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon unequivocally condemned a terror attack at a polio eradication center in Pakistan - but his message was very different a month ago when the victims were Israelis.

According to the January 13 press release: "The Secretary-General reiterates that nothing justifies terrorism."

In contrast, in a message delivered on December 14, 2015, at a conference convened by the UN's Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jakarta "On the Question of Jerusalem," the Secretary General attempted to justify terror attacks committed by Palestinians. In the Secretary General's words:

"I also underlined the urgent need ... for Israeli security forces to ensure a calibrated use of force in response to incidents... [T]he violence cannot and will not be addressed by security measures alone. The anger we are witnessing is bred from nearly five decades of Israeli occupation. It is the result of fear, humiliation, frustration and mistrust. It has been fed by the wounds of decades of bloody conflict, which will take a long time to heal. Palestinian youth in particular are tired of broken promises and they see no light at the end of the tunnel."

UN Secretary General: Nothing Justifies Terrorism- Unless It's Against Israel Development

Suspected assailant shot and killed near Nablus. (ARAB MEDIA)

Palestinian Stabbing Attack Injures Israeli Officer Document

A drawing submitted to a Holocaust denial cartoon contest sponsored by Iran in 2015.

Israeli Officials Urge UN to Condemn Iran Holocaust Cartoon Contest Article

January 13, 2016

Hamas terrorists prepare to execute a man in Gaza (File photo)(Reuters)

Gaza: Hamas Sentences Four to Death for 'Spying for Israel' Document

Human rights lawyer Wang Yu talks during an interview with Reuters in Beijing in this March 1, 2014 photo. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

China Has Arrested a Group of Lawyers Already Being Secretly Detained Document

Samar Badawi received the 2012 International Women of Courage award for her efforts to promote equality of women in Saudi Arabia. (Twitter)

Sister of Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi Arrested and Jailed in Same Prison Document

UN Peacekeepers (file photo)

The United Nations has been grappling with so many sexual abuse allegations involving its peacekeepers that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently called them "a cancer in our system."

Now, officials have learned about what appears to be a fresh scandal. Investigators discovered this month that at least four U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic allegedly paid girls as little as 50 cents in exchange for sex.

The case is the latest to plague the U.N. mission in the Central African Republic, whose employees have been accused of 22 other incidents of alleged sexual abuse or sexual exploitation in the past 14 months. The most recent accusations come in the wake of Ban's efforts to implement a "zero tolerance" policy for such offenses.

The United Nations maintains nine peacekeeping operations in Africa, employing more than 100,000 people on the continent, and the abuses threaten to erode the organization's legitimacy. Other sex-crime cases have occurred in Mali, South Sudan, Liberia and Congo in recent years.

Last month, the United Nations published a damning independent investigation that said that poor enforcement of policies in place to deter and report abuse meant that "the credibility of the U.N. and peacekeeping operations are in jeopardy." Experts and officials say systemic problems still hinder the investigation and prosecution of alleged abusers, leading to a perception of impunity.

The abuse "undermines everything we stand for," said Anthony Banbury, the U.N. assistant secretary general for field support.

The mission in the Central African Republic, where U.N. troops and civilians were sent in 2014 to help end a civil war and support a fledgling government, stands out for its record of sexual abuse and exploitation.

"They are preying on the people they've come to protect," said Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the top U.N. official in the country.

The most recent allegations involve at least four peacekeepers who are accused of paying girls as young as 13 for sex at a camp for the internally displaced next to the international airport in Bangui, the capital. The site, known as M'poko camp, is home to 20,000 people, mostly Christians. It is a vast agglomeration of white tents surrounding old, decaying airplanes, just yards from the airport runway.

The United Nations has not publicly released the nationalities of the accused troops or provided details of the alleged abuse. But in interviews, U.N. officials said the peacekeepers were from Gabon, Morocco, Burundi and France. The prostitution ring they allegedly used was run by boys and young men who offered girls "for anywhere from 50 cents to three dollars," according to one official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Some officials say there may be many more cases of exploitation by peacekeepers that have gone unreported. Because there is no regular U.N. presence in M'poko, it has been difficult to gauge the scale of the problem.

M'poko had already had a problem with sexual abuse before the recent cases were reported. Its population had grown sharply since September, when violence erupted between the warring ­parties in the Central African Republic.

Human Rights Watch documented nine cases of sexual violence between September and December in and around the displacement camp. In several instances, Christian women were raped by members of the mostly Christian "anti-balaka" militia after being accused of interacting with Muslims. Across Bangui, the conflict has fallen largely along religious lines.

"M'poko is a lawless zone run by anti-balaka thugs a few hundred meters away from the international airport. The camp is not being protected, and women are being raped," said Lewis Mudge, a Human Rights Watch researcher focused on the Central African Republic. But this marks the first time that the United Nations has acknowledged the involvement of its employees in the camp's underworld of commercial sex work, which is driven by abject poverty and a lack of law enforcement.

"The M'poko camp is unfortunately a place where horrible, unacceptable things happen to women and children," said Banbury, the assistant secretary general. "In some cases, we have credible allegations that there are U.N. personnel that have committed these crimes."

Banbury said U.N. troops plan to begin patrolling M'poko more frequently and will attempt to dismantle the prostitution ring.

The U.N. mission in the Central African Republic has been plagued by sexual abuse allegations. The previous U.N. special representative there, retired Senegalese general Babacar Gaye, was fired in August over his team's handling of the accusations. The organization has dispatched special investigators to Bangui to better understand what has gone wrong.

The United Nations was also strongly criticized for failing to react to offenses by peacekeepers in the country. As many as 14 troops from France, Chad and Equatorial Guinea allegedly raped and sodomized six boys between the ages of 9 and 15 in 2013 and 2014, before the U.N. mission formally began. The United Nations took no action after learning about the cases until a whistleblower leaked an internal U.N. investigation to French authorities, according to U.N. officials.

Last month, the report by a panel including former Canadian Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found that U.N. staff in Bangui had "turned a blind eye to the criminal actions of individual troops" in that case.

In August, two women and one girl accused three U.N. peacekeepers of rapein the war-torn town of Bambari. That same month, a U.N. police officer allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl during an operation in Bangui's main Muslim neighborhood. She had been hiding in a bathroom while peacekeepers searched her house, according to Amnesty International.

"When I cried, he slapped me hard and put his hand over my mouth," the girl told an Amnesty International researcher.

Fractured enforcement

For years, the United Nations has been trying to stop the sexual abuse perpetrated by its employees and troops under its command. It has ordered a series of reports to identify weaknesses in enforcement and mandated that a component on sexual exploitation and abuse be included in training for peacekeepers. Ban has also encouraged harsher penalties for the peacekeeping units to which the abusers belong.

But the slow pace of investigations into abuse has "severely undermined enforcement," according to a report last year from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services. Even more problematic, some experts say, is that the prosecution of alleged offenders falls to the governments of the countries that provide the peacekeepers. In many cases, those governments conduct halfhearted investigations and fail to convict offenders.

"To say that it is immensely frustrating is a tremendous understatement," said Banbury.

"The U.N. should stop tiptoeing around, trying not to offend governments, and instead put the victims of sexual exploitation and abuse at the heart of their policy," said Sarah Taylor, an advocate in the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch.

Some argue that the lack of enforcement encourages a sense among U.N. employees that they can commit sexual crimes with impunity while based overseas.

"They think 'We're in a special class,' that sexual abuse is not that serious," said Paula Donovan, who leads Code Blue, an advocacy campaign working to expose the issue of sexual abuse by U.N. personnel.

The number of alleged cases of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by U.N. personnel declined from 2008 to 2014, dropping from 83 to 51, which U.N. officials say is evidence of increasingly effective intervention. But critics say that those numbers are incomplete and that many cases go unreported.

"The data is not just porous. It's a joke," Donovan said.

Other analysts say that getting civilians to report sexual crimes in war-torn environments, where there is a mistrust of authority and a lack of law enforcement, is an enormous challenge. The victims might "fear retaliation by the perpetrator, who in some cases carries a weapon," said a report last year on U.N. abuses by the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a Washington-based research organization.

In many other cases, impoverished girls and women accept food and money in exchange for sex.

"This is already a society whose social fabric has totally collapsed, with youngsters left to fend for themselves," said ­Onanga-Anyanga. "This is putting salt into an open wound."

U.N. says some of its peacekeepers were paying 13-year-olds for sex Document

January 12, 2016

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference, November 18, 2015 (AP/Susan Walsh)

Obama Vows to Veto Bill to Restrict Iran Sanctions Relief Article

Iraqis gather at the site of an attack in eastern Baghdad on January 11, 2016. (AFP)

Islamic State Kills at Least 51 in Attacks in Iraqi Capital, Eastern Town Document

Iran arrested poet Hila Sedighi on January 7, 2016 (File photo)

Poet Arrested as Iran Targets Free Speech: Rights Group Document

Hassan Rouhani (AP)

Iran: U.S. to Lift Sanctions in a 'Few Days' Article

January 11, 2016

The stabbing victim (Twitter)

Youth Attacks Jewish Man with Machete at Marseille Synagogue Document

Smoke rises following airstrikes allegedly carried out by the Saudi-led alliance (EPA)

Hospital Bombing Amid Saudi-led Airstrikes in Yemen Kills Four Document

Since 2011, more than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria while millions have been displaced (File photo)

12 Children Dead After Russia Strike Hits Syria School: Monitor Document