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Resources updated between Monday, January 04, 2016 and Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 8, 2016

The killing was reportedly carried out in the Syrian town of Raqqa (AP)

Islamic State Terrorist 'Executes Own Mother' in Raqqa Document

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (File photo)(AP)

Iran to Receive Major Economic Windfall as Nuclear Deal Begins Article

Demonstrators holding portraits of Lee Bo call for an investigation into the disappearance of five members of a Hong Kong publishing house and bookstore. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

'Smear Campaign' Against Chinese President Linked to Disappearance of Hong Kong Booksellers Document

January 7, 2016

The Sharia Court in Kano, Nigeria (file photo)

An Islamic court has sentenced a Nigerian cleric to death by hanging for insulting the Prophet Muhammad in the northern city of Kano.

Abdulazeez Dauda, popularly known as Abdul Inyass, was convicted after a trial held in secret to avoid protests.

Five of his followers were also sentenced to death last year.

These are the first death sentences for blasphemy handed down by a Nigerian Sharia court; those delivered for other offences have not been carried out.

Mr Inyass is a preacher at a local faction of the Tijaniya sect, founded in Senegal by Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, which has a large following across West Africa.

He was reported to have said that "Niasse was bigger than Prophet Muhammad" during a lecture at an event in May, leading to violent protests in the city.

The BBC's Yusuf Ibrahim Yakasai in Kano says he then fled to the capital, Abuja, and nine of his followers were arrested for their alleged part in organising the event.

When they were arraigned in court, there were further clashes and the courthouse was set on fire, he says.

Anyone who is not satisfied with the judgement of a Sharia court can appeal to the Sharia Court of Appeal in the state within three months. From there the case can be taken to the federal Court of Appeal, which is secular and, finally, to the Supreme Court.

There are judges of the Court of Appeal who are learned in Islamic law and who would be convened by the court's president to hear the case.

The Sharia courts only try Muslims. If a case involves a Muslim and a non-Muslim, the non-Muslim will be given the option of choosing where he/she wants the case to be tried. The Sharia court can only hear the case if the non-Muslim gives written consent.

Amina Lawal, who was found guilty of adultery in 2002 and sentenced to death by stoning, was acquitted by a Sharia Court of Appeal.

Four of the followers were acquitted and the five sentenced to death are appealing against their conviction at the state's high court.

Kano has a predominately Muslim population and Islamic courts operate alongside secular courts.

Mr Inyass, whose five-month trial was held in secret for security reasons, will also be able to appeal against the verdict at the high court.

Several states in northern Nigeria introduced Sharia after the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.

Nigeria Court In Kano Sentences Cleric To Death For Blasphemy Document

An execution in Iran (file photo)

On Wednesday January 6, the Judiciary in the Iranian province of Alborz reported on the execution of three unidentified prisoners in the city of Nazarabad.

According to Mohammad Gheyomi, Nazarabad's Public Prosecutor, the prisoners were on death row on drug charges. The report does not mention the names of the prisoners, the date they were executed, or whether they were hanged in prison or in public.

On the same day, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network reported on the execution of four men and one woman at Tabriz Central Prison for murder and drug charges: a prisoner by the name of Mehdi Nasirtian was reportedly hanged on Tuesday January 5, and on Wednesday January 6, three unidentified men and one woman were hanged. The prisoners have been identified as: Tofigh Mohammadfar, Hossein Zadegan Eskandar, Amir Ali Zadegan Eskandar (Hossein's brother-in-law), and Zahra Nemati (Amir Ali's wife).

None of the executions on Tuesday and Wednesday at Tabriz Central Prison were reported by Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary.

Eight Prisoners Including Woman Executed in Northern Iran Document

House Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz was one of seven representatives to call for immediate punitive sanctions against Iran. (Reuters)

Pressure Mounts to Sanction Iran for Missile Tests Article

In October family members of detained Tamil detainees conducted a silent protest in Colombo calling for the release of their loved ones (AP)

Sri Lanka's Torture Machine Continues in Peacetime Document

January 6, 2016

Mohammed Assaf at UN event in Gaza (Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90)

UNRWA Youth Ambassador: 'I Spit on Israel' Article

UN peacekeepers in Bangui during elections last month. Last year UN troops were alleged to have forced children to perform sexual acts in exchange for food. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty)

UN Peacekeepers in Central African Republic Face Fresh Abuse Claims Article

Scene of the Hezbollah attack on January 4, 2016

After an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah against Israel on January 4, 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "expressed concern" over Israel's exercise of self-defense. In a press release dated January 5, 2016, the Secretary General said "all parties" should cease hostilities - equating the attacker, a terrorist group, and the target of attack, the democratic state of Israel.

In the words of the press release: "The Secretary-General expresses his concern at the retaliatory strikes by the Israel Defense Forces across the Blue Line in southern Lebanon, in the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).... The Secretary-General calls on all parties to maintain the cessation of hostilities and to ensure full respect for Security Council resolution 1701 (2006)."

UN Secretary General Equates Hezbollah Attack and Israeli Self-Defense Development

Photo Illustration (The Daily Beast)

ISIS murdered a 15-year-old accused of being gay but spared the life of his 'rapist,' a senior jihadi commander. What lies behind the brutal double standard?

The murder of a 15-year-old teenager, thrown to his death by ISIS for being gay, not only reveals-yet again-the terror group's murderous homophobia, but also the hypocrisy that exists alongside it.

A senior commander of the so-called Islamic State, named in reports as Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi, was having some kind of relationship with this as-yet-nameless 15-year-old, but the more senior man was not killed.

Instead, al-Jazrawi was reportedly flogged, and forced to leave Syria and join the fighting fronts in northwestern Iraq.

The boy, killed in Deir ez-Zor, Syria's seventh-largest city, is not the first to be murdered in such a manner: the images of men, accused and suspected of being gay, being thrown to their deaths from tall buildings has become brutally familiar.

On Tuesday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, told The Independent that at least 25 people have been killed by ISIS for being gay: six stoned, three shot in the head, and 16 thrown from high-rise buildings.

Of the 15-year-old's killing, "The horrific execution took place in front of a large crowd," a local media activist and an eyewitness told Syrian news agency ARA News.

"The boy was accused of being engaged in a homosexual relation with the prominent ISIS officer Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi," media activist Sarai al-Din told the agency.

"Culturally, post the formation of Islam, people related homosexuality to pedophilia," said Nahas, now an activist with the Organization For Refuge, Asylum & Migration (ORAM). "No distinction is drawn between the two. If somebody raped a boy they called him a homosexual, not a pedophile. Maybe this commander had a kind of waiver given to him by his peers. They think, 'He does great things for people. We cannot kill him, but we need a scapegoat, the boy.'

The Sharia Court in Deir ez-Zor reportedly said that Abu Zaid should, like the boy, die for being gay, but ISIS commanders demanded he be sent to fight in Iraq instead.

Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian who escaped the country fearing for his life, and who in a history-making speech addressed the United Nations last year about LGBT persecution in Syria, told The Daily Beast that there were possible cultural reasons behind the murder of one young man and the reprieve of his older sexual partner, described as the teen's "rapist" in some reports.

"A tradition in which adult males engaged in sexual pleasure with pre-pubescent boys--ghelman--including hermaphroditic boys, has existed before the creation of Islam," Nahas said. "Because these encounters didn't result in pregnancies, they became more commonplace after Islam had taken root."

The descriptions of the 15-year-old's relationship with the commander are contradictory: It has been variously described as a "sexual relation" and "rape." How consensual or coercive the relationship was is unclear, as is the nature of the relationship between the older and younger man.

"They don't call this relationship or [these] men 'gay,'" said Nahas. "If a man has sex with another man, the two parties are the receptive one and the 'inserter.' If you're the receptive party, you're doomed. You're seen as sodomized, someone has done this to you, you're the abomination. If you're the inserter, you are in control, you're functional, you can reproduce."

Nahas said the case was also puzzling: He had heard that while ISIS was sparing effeminate gay men "for the pleasure of older men," the "masculine" men suspected of being gay were being killed.

In this case, it appeared to Nahas that the ISIS commander's seniority possibly protected him. "They needed a scapegoat, they needed a boy to kill. There should be another part to this story, but people are not willing yet to give us any information because it's very sensitive."

Michael Luongo, editor of Gay Travels in the Muslim World, told The Daily Beast that the murder of the 15-year-old showed ISIS's hypocrisy. "It goes to the idea that in some parts of the Middle East and other cultures being the penetrator is OK ‎because that is not unmanly."

Luongo added, "If the sex was with a 15-year-old boy I would be certain he was the one who was penetrated, who was raped. The hypocrisy would also be added to in that it would be started by the desires of the guy who was not harshly punished, by the commander.

"We have seen this type of hypocrisy in other so-called religious groups such as the Taliban. The horror is added to by the sense the 15-year-old was essentially raped and then murdered for his having been raped."

Nahas told The Daily Beast that gay men joined ISIS to protect themselves and their families, sometimes reporting on fellow gays to conceal themselves more effectively. "Some new recruits report friends they used to have sex with, because they believe it's the right thing to do."

Nahas said that ORAM was still trying to establish the veracity of a website that appeared last year that purported to show members of ISIS engaged in gay sexual acts and poses.

The site, Nahas said, was established by an asylum seeker now in Europe, and while some of the photos had been Photoshopped, other details-men wearing a certain kind of camouflage and with ISIS flags in the background-suggested some of the pictures were real, "but people cannot confirm this because they are afraid. We do know of reports that gay people are in ISIS, or having sex with members of the militia.

"In doing so, they secure protection for themselves, and a safe haven for their families and-if they have them-their children. At the same time they can have sex in the background. They know they are protected. They are not investigated.

Now the message of this latest incident is, 'If you are senior enough with us and having gay sex, you will not be executed.'"

Speaking for ORAM-founded in 2008 as "the only international organization devoted solely to advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) refugees fleeing brutalization due to sexual orientation or gender identity"-Nahas said Syria remained "very dangerous" for gays.

"We hear from people within Syria looking for any way they can get out, or find a way to get resettled. They are too afraid to report what is going on. Lots are being kidnapped, lots are being killed. They are either scared for their life, or have no idea what to do to escape and how to do it."

Nahas emphasized that the danger to LGBT people in Syria did not just come from ISIS, but from the government, and other groups-extreme and not.

Another militant Islamic group, Ahrar ash-Sham, also targeted gays-and a third group, which Nahas called the Judicial Court in Aleppo, executed seven people accused of being gay and of being drug users, by shooting them in their heads. The group also killed a 17-year-old boy, accused of being gay.

"The targeting of gay people in Syria is escalating, even by groups who say they are secular," said Nahas. "They believe that gay people are one of the main reasons there is war in Syria, and they need to be killed so the war can be won."

Just as the 15-year-old in the most recent killing might have been a scapegoat, so are LGBTs being treated as such more generally.

Nahas said he knew of between 100 and 125 LGBT Syrians in Turkey, awaiting resettlement abroad, as he himself eventually secured last year after a perilous and terrifying escape from Syria.

Of watching the unfolding events for LGBT people in his home country, Nahas, who now lives in the U.S., said, "It's devastating. You feel paralyzed. You feel like you cannot do anything. And you feel like, 'How and why is this happening and what led to it?' You cannot do anything about it, and I need to do something and want to do something, but there's nothing I can do.

"I always put myself in their shoes and always think, 'That could be me, that could have been me at any moment.' There are not enough resources, and gays are afraid and scared, and they're being targeted and killed." Nahas paused. "It's just too much."

The Secret, Hypocritical Gay World of ISIS Document

Police sent 143 local officers and 70 federal officers into the area in a large-scale operation to clear the area.

Crowd of 'Arab Origin' Blamed for Mass Sexual Assaults in Cologne on NY Eve Document

January 5, 2016

Scene of stabbing

A soldier serving in reserve duty was lightly wounded Tuesday morning in a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank. The Palestinian assailant was shot and killed at the scene.

At about 8:50 A.M. first responders received a call saying a man aged 34 had been stabbed. Magen David Adom ambulance services arrived at the site and treated the man before evacuating him to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, in Jerusalem.

According to an initial Israel Defense Forces investigation into the incident, the assailant got out of a vehicle at the junction, approached a group of reserve soldiers who were stationed there, and stabbed one of them in the face and hand. The soldiers shot at the assailant, killing him on the spot.

The army said the soldiers may have also struck a civilian when shooting at the assailant.

The Palestinian Red Crescent identified the Palestinian man as 21-year-old Wissam Deraya from Beit Fajjar, in the Bethlehem area.

Since the wave of terror began over three months ago, there have been several terror attacks at the Gush Etzion Junction. In one such attack, which occurred in November, three people were killed and four others wounded in a shooting and car ramming attack there. The terrorist opened fire from a vehicle as he drove through the junction, before hitting another car. He was arrested and taken in for questioning. It was in this attack that American teenager Ezra Schwartz was killed.

In December, an Israeli citizen was lightly wounded in an attempted attack at the junction. A terrorist tried to stab the man, aged about 40, and was shot dead by IDF forces stationed in the area. The man was likely wounded by shrapnel from the soldiers' bullets.

Israeli Stabbed In Face & Hand By Palestinian Assailant Document

Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, with President Hassan Rouhani in 2014. (Getty Images)

U.S. Sanctions Delay Could Open Door for Iranian Weapons Violations Article

January 4, 2016

A military truck carrying a missile and a picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a parade marking the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) in Tehran, on September 22, 2015. (Reuters/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA)

Defiant Iran Pledges to Ramp Up Missile Program in Violation of Security Council Resolution Article

Activists holding a sign that reads “Don’t kill” protest against the execution of a Lebanese man in Saudi Arabia. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Saudi Arabia: Beheadings Reach Highest Level in Two Decades Document