Resources updated between Monday, April 03, 2017 and Sunday, April 09, 2017
April 9, 2017
Egypt's president called for a three-month state of emergency Sunday after at least 43 people were killed and more than 100 more were injured in two Palm Sunday suicide attacks at Coptic Christian churches, each carried out by the ISIS terror group. Sunday's first blast happened at St. George Church in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, where at least 27 people were killed and 78 others wounded, officials said. Television footage showed the inside of the church, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. A second explosion – which Egypt's Interior Ministry says was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to storm St. Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria -- left at least 16 dead, and 41 injured. The attack came just after Pope Tawadros II -- leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria -- finished services, but aides told local media that he was unharmed. At least three police officers were killed in the St. Mark's attack, the ministry told The Associated Press. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Aamaq media agency, following the group's recent video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, who the group describes as "infidels" empowering the West against Muslims. 'CHRISTIANS ARE OUR FAVORITE PREY,' ISIS SAYS The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi accused unnamed countries of fueling instability in the country, adding "Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt." El-Sisi ordered the immediate deployment of troops to assist police in protecting vital facilities across the country. El-Sisi did not immediately detail the legal measures needed to declare the state of emergency but according to the Egyptian constitution, the parliament majority must vote in favor of the state of emergency. ... President Donald Trump tweeted that he is "so sad to hear of the terrorist attack" against the U.S. ally but added that he has "great confidence" that el-Sissi, "will handle the situation properly." The two leaders met at the White House on April 3. The State Department issued its own statement condemning the attacks, which it called "barbaric." "The United States will continue to support Egypt's security and stability in its efforts to defeat terrorism," the statement said. "Either a bomb was planted or someone blew himself up," provincial governor Ahmad Deif told the state-run Nile TV channel, Sky News reported. The attack in Tanta was the latest in a series of assaults on Egypt's Christian minority, which makes up around 10 percent of the population and has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Egypt's Al-Azhar - the leading center of learning in Sunni Islam - condemned the attacks, calling them a "despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents." Across the street from St. George, neighbor Susan Mikhail, whose apartment has a clear balcony view of the church and its front yard, said the explosion violently shook her building midmorning, at a time when the church was packed. "Deacons were the first to run out of the church. Many of them had blood on their white robes," she told The Associated Press. Later, the more seriously wounded started to come out, carried in the arms of survivors and ferried to hospitals in private cars, she said. Pope Francis decried the bombings, expressing "deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation." Word of the attacks came as Francis was holding Palm Sunday services in St. Peter's Square. Both Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement ruling neighboring Gaza also condemned the bombings. Turkey also condemned the attacks. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted his condolences and said, "We strongly condemn the heinous terror attacks on churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday today." Mehmet Gormez, the head of religious affairs in Turkey, "cursed" the attacks and said they are the shared problem of all humanity. "The immunity of a place of worship, no matter the religion it belongs to, cannot be violated and the bloodthirsty killing of innocent worshippers cannot ever be forgiven," Gormez said in an official statement. Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also published a statement denouncing the attack on St. George Church. "We convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the whole people of Egypt," the statement said before a second attack hit an Alexandria church. The bombings add to fears that Islamic extremists who have long been battling security forces in the Sinai Peninsula are shifting their focus to civilians. A local Islamic State affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai Peninsula that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country. The group has threatened further attacks. A militant group called Liwa al-Thawra claimed responsibility for an April 1 bomb attack targeting a police training center in Tanta, which wounded 16 people. The group, believed to be linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood,has mainly targeted security forces and distanced itself from attacks on Christians. Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.
April 7, 2017
In a new report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres showers praise on and seeks additional funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) - while ignoring UNRWA's ties to Hamas and promotion of extremism. The report on "Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East," which was distributed on April 6, 2017, fails to mention Hamas at all or to acknowledge that UNRWA schools were used to store rockets to fire against Israel during the 2014 Gaza War.
In the words of the report:
"5...Between 13 February and 9 March, 54 Member States, intergovernmental bodies and international financial institutions were consulted in bilateral and multilateral settings and in written format.
15... An overarching theme was the indispensable role that UNRWA plays and its essential function on account of its impact in the context of the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. The Agency was described as 'unique' and 'special', and its contribution to political stability in a region experiencing significant volatility was highlighted by a broad cross section of Member States... Other features of the Agency that were highlighted included its mitigation of extremism, its stabilizing influence and its contribution to peace and security in the Middle East region.
44. I...call upon Member States:
(a) To provide greater financial support through voluntary contributions to UNRWA..."
The New Sheriff at the UN Article
April 6, 2017
"Power imbalances," not chemical imbalances, are the real priority for those suffering from depression according to UN "expert" on the "right to health," Dainius Pūras. In a statement released ahead of "World Health Day," Pūras used his platform to blame mental health illnesses on inequality and "power imbalances," while calling on states to shift investment from medications to addressing his prioritized social issues.
In his words:
"However, we should not accept that medications and other biomedical interventions be commonly used to address issues which are closely related to social problems, unequal power relationships, violence and other adversities that determine our social and emotional environment.
There is a need of a shift in investments in mental health, from focusing on 'chemical imbalances' to focusing on 'power imbalances' and inequalities."
"...The whole affair is rather absurd. Living conditions in the "apartheid" state of Israel would seem like heaven to the Christians of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, where actual apartheid might constitute human-rights progress. Saudi Arabia is a member state of the UNHRC, as are Cuba, Iraq, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela - all repressive regimes that refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist. China and Egypt are also members. Russia lost its seat last year. Only the presence of Iran and North Korea would provide further moral clarity.
It should go without saying that in addition to their abysmal human-rights records, many of these countries have for decades actively or tacitly pursued campaigns of hostility and even violent extremism against America and Israel. The PLO, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and hosts of other terrorist and extremist organizations could never have sustained operations without active and tacit support for decades from oil-rich states across the Middle East. Most terrorist organizations receive funding through a highly intricate global support network, a mix of shell charities and black-market enterprises that can often be traced back to individuals or organizations in countries that sit on the UNHCR.
Palestinians have always been a political prop for oppressive Middle East regimes, a means by which to direct the hatred of citizens at enemies abroad, thereby consolidating power at home. Westerners have been among the last to catch on to the con...
The Obama administration had a policy of engagement with the oppressive members of the UNHRC. It is difficult to see how American interests and values, or those of authentic U.S. allies, were advanced by such an approach. The Trump administration appears to be contemplating the reversal of this policy, and larger changes to the way America engages with the U.N. as a whole.
At a minimum, the U.S.'s continued involvement with the UNHRC should be conditioned on a demand that all member states comply fully with the U.N.'s Universal Declaration on Human Rights...
Member states should also make a commitment to end support for violent extremism, to bring the sponsors and supporters of extremism within their borders to justice under the law, and to cooperate with the U.S. and its allies in the global fight against violent extremism. Lastly, to ensure that this terrible history is not repeated, member states should prohibit state-funded textbooks that deny recognized genocides and related crimes, or countenance terrorism as a means of pursuing justice.
That the UNHRC is filled with so many despicable actors is no accident. It is part of a campaign to undermine the advancement of human rights by dragging the institutions of the international system into disrepute. If this farce were neatly confined to Manhattan - where U.N. diplomats live in comfort, partly on the American taxpayer's dime - and if there were nothing real at stake, it would be merely another example of extravagant U.N. waste and corruption. But there is something of paramount importance at stake, as the Filipino, Indian, and African Christians who gather secretly in house churches across the Arab Gulf states each Sunday know.
The days of oppressive regimes playing moral jujitsu at the U.N., and of barbaric actors using the moral weight of the broader array of global institutions against the civilized, should be brought to an end."
April 5, 2017
A Coptic Christian father of two who was on a "kill list" and tracked for days by Islamic State militants in Sinai refused to renounce his faith in Christ when given a chance to "save" himself before being executed, his wife said.
The British news outlet The Sunday Times reports that the widow of 58-year-old Copt Bahgat Zakhar, one of eight Christians killed in the coastal town of Al Arish in just a three-week span in February, detailed the moment her husband met his fate.
Zakhar, who was a veterinary surgeon, was reportedly named on a jihadi "kill list" that was published online. As reported, jihadis have anonymously posted "kill lists" online that feature churches and prominent Christians across Egypt to target.
After days of trying to track down Zakhar, two militants with guns finally cornered him.
"Repent, infidel. Convert and save yourself," the witness recalled one of the jihadis saying.
According to the witness, Zakhar simply shook his head in refusal. The militants then responded by fatally shooting him and leaving him dead on the floor.
"They didn't even run," Fawzia Zakhar said.
Much like the hundreds of Christian families who have fled from their homes in the Northern Sinai region in recent months because of the increased persecution at the hands of radical extremists, Zakhar's family is no different.
Fawzia Zakhar told The Times that she and her children have fled to another town.
Christian families who have fled from Al Arish have told rights activists that the Egyptian security forces have shown a level of apathy when it comes to protecting Christians and others in the Sinai region.
In February, Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos issued a statement condemning the terror against Christians and others in Sinai and added that as many as 40 Copts had been killed in the previous three months. Last December, 29 people were killed and 47 injured by a bombing at a Christian church in Cairo claimed by IS.
In March, a 65-year-old Christian widow from Sinai told World Watch Monitor about how she witnessed IS terrorists kill her son and her husband. After they were finished murdering her loved ones, she explained that the militants asked her to identify the men they had killed. When she told them their names, she said one crossed their names off of a list.
In addition to kill lists, the IS affiliate in Egypt also released a video calling Christians their "favorite prey."
Egypt currently ranks as the 21st worst nation in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List.
In a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House on Monday, United States President Donald Trump vowed to support Egypt in its fight against terrorism.
"We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt," Trump said to Sisi. "You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me."
The stabbing of a Jewish woman in the city of Lod on Monday last week was a terrorist attack, committed by a Palestinian resident of the West Bank who was seeking to attack a Jewish woman, said the Shin Bet security service.
The assailant, a resident of the town of Halhul near Hebron, told interrogators that he decided to carry out the attack out of despair regarding his life, the Shin Bet said. He was arrested about a day after the attack on the woman, who sustained moderate wounds. The attack took place in a parking garage in the town southeast of Tel Aviv.
According to investigators, the 19-year-old assailant, Malak Bassem Ismail Sa'ada, took a knife from the bakery in Lod where he had been employed without a permit to work in Israel, and looked for a Jewish woman to stab.
He allegedly entered the parking garage of a building, where he saw another woman, but she quickly entered the building. He then found his victim standing near her car and began chasing her with his knife out and then stabbed her.
He is accused of fleeing the scene and was arrested the following day while trying to reenter the West Bank. The Shin Bet called the incident "another case in which a Palestinian chooses to carry out a terrorist attack as a solution to his personal despair."
April 4, 2017
April 3, 2017
The five-year prison sentence against Christian convert Ebrahim Firoozi for his alleged missionary activities has been confirmed by the Appeals Court in Tehran, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
The ruling, issued on January 15, 2017, also requires Firoozi to spend two years in exile in the village of Sarbaz in a remote part of Sistan and Baluchistan Province, according to an informed source who spoke to CHRI on the condition of anonymity.
The 32-year-old welder has been held in Ward 12 for political prisoners in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, 32 miles west of Tehran, since 2014. He has been prosecuted three times since 2010 for converting from Islam to Christianity and allegedly organizing Christian religious meetings.
When he was first arrested in January 2010, interrogators offered Firoozi freedom if he declared himself a Muslim. He chose prosecution and was convicted by the Revolutionary Court in Karaj of "propaganda against the state" for his religious conversion and alleged missionary activities and sentenced to five months in prison with an additional five-month suspended prison sentence.
Firoozi was freed on June 8, 2011, but on March 8, 2012 he was arrested again for allegedly "attempting to create a website teaching about Christianity" (in order to convert people) and again charged with "propaganda against the state."
He was sentenced to one year in prison and two years in exile by Judge Hassan Babaee of the Revolutionary Court in Robat Karim, 16 miles southwest of Tehran. The decision was upheld on appeal.
The third arrest took place on September 16, 2014. During interrogations in Evin Prison's Ward 240, Firoozi was put under intense pressure to issue a false confession in return for freedom, but refused, according to an informed source.
In April 2015, Firoozi was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly "creating a group with the intention of disturbing national security" by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court.
Based on the decision by the Appeals Court, Firoozi will remain incarcerated until 2019.
Despite President Hassan Rouhani's pledges during his election campaign in 2013 that "all ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice," the targeting of Christian converts has continued unabated under his administration.
More than 20 girls and women have been abducted in two raids by Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, according to reports in Nigeria.
The jihadists launched a dawn raid close to the border with Cameroon, grabbing the women and children as they attempted to flee.
In a separate raid a herdsman was killed and 50 of his cattle were shot dead, while a further four women and girls were taken by the group.
Eighteen girls were abducted from the village of Pulka, close to the border with Cameroon, on Thursday morning.
The first raid saw 18 women seized at 6am on Thursday in the village of Pulka, near Nigeria's border with Cameroon.
A community leader told AFP: 'Boko Haram fighters from Mamman Nur camp arrived in pickup vans around 6am and seized 14 young girls aged 17 and below while residents fled into the bush.
'They picked four other girls who were fleeing the raid they came across in the bush outside the village.'
n April 2014, Boko Haram sparked worldwide outrage after kidnapping 276 female students from a secondary school in Chibok, eastern Nigeria.
According to the official, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, the attackers were loyal to the Boko Haram faction headed by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, son of the terror group's founder Mohammed Yusuf.
Barnawi was appointed last year by ISIS to replace leader Abubakar Shekau, who had pledged allegiance to the Middle East jihadist group in 2015.
Another resident confirmed the raid and said the girls were likely to end up as brides for the fighters.
'They didn't harm anyone during the raid and they made no attempt to shoot people running away from the village,' said the resident.
Boko Haram released 21 of the seized schoolgirls in October last year, but nearly 200 remain missing after the April 2014 raid which shocked the world.
In the second incident outside the village of Dumba, close to Lake Chad, the jihadists killed a herdsman who had tried to escape after refusing to pay protection money, said Adamu Ahmed, a member of an anti-Boko Haram militia.
'When the Boko Haram gunmen came for the money they realised he had left with everything and they decided to go after him on their motorcycles,' Ahmed said.
'They caught up with him near Dumba where they slaughtered him and shot dead 50 of his cattle.
'They took four women from the man's family and the rest of the herd,' he said.
The promotion of Barnawi had revealed divisions in the group, as Shekau had been criticised for mass killings and suicide attacks against civilians.
Barnawi and his right-hand man Mamman Nur, who is seen as the real leader, had promised residents in areas under their control would not be harmed as long as they did not cooperate with Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram.
But in recent weeks the Islamist fighters have intensified raids in areas near Lake Chad, stealing food from residents.
They have also killed several civilians they accused of cooperating with the military.
In April 2014, Boko Haram sparked worldwide outrage after kidnapping 276 female students from a secondary school in Chibok, eastern Nigeria.
In October 21 of the girls were released, but nearly 200 of them remain missing.