Greater Middle East
The Simon Wiesenthal Center says it has evidence that Alois Brunner, the world's most-wanted Nazi fugitive, died a free man in Syria four years ago, protected by the regime. Brunner, right-hand man to Adolf Eichmann, was responsible for the deportation of over 120,000 Jews to death camps. The Wiesenthal Center said that Brunner lived in Damascus for decades under the pseudonym Georg Fischer. The Syrian government under Hafez Assad refused repeated requests to extradite him. The Center found that Brunner worked as a security adviser to Rifaat al-Assad—Hafez Assad's brother and uncle of the ruling Bashar Assad. In this capacity he schooled the Syrian regime in interrogation and torture techniques.
A Egyptian court on Nov. 29 dropped charges against former president Hosni Mubarak, dismissing the case. Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi, who read the decisiom for the three-panel court, stated that charges should have never been brought. Critics alleged that the postponed ruling is a political one, but Rashidi denies that the decision had anything to do with politics and encouraged critics to read the court's reasoning. Mubarak, his former security chief Habib al-Adly and six former government aides were being retried on charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of more than 100 protesters during the country's 2011 uprising. The charges against Mubarak's government aides were also dropped. The court's decision may be appealed.
Two men in Egypt were acquitted on charges relating to female genital mutilation (FGM) on Nov. 27. Since the law banning FGM was amended in 2008, this is the only case of FGM that resulted in trial. The charges stemmed from the death of a 13 year-old girl who died last year of an allergic reaction to penicillin, after her father took her to a local doctor for an FGM procedure. The prosecutor charged the doctor with manslaughter and committing the practice of FGM, and charged the girl's father with endangering her life and forcing her to undergo FGM. While FGM is banned in Egypt, the practice continues due to a lack of prosecutions and investigations, in part due to the belief among local authorities that FGM is a private, family issue. In response to the verdicts, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report calling for Egyptian authorities to take clear actions to end the practice of FGM by enforcing the law, prosecuting and investigating those who carry out the procedure, and undertaking measures to increase national awareness of the harms of FGM.
Syrian refugees are facing human rights abuses and destitution as they flee into Turkey, Amnesty International (AI) said Nov. 20. The report (PDF), "Struggling to Survive: Refugees from Syria in Turkey," charges that Syrian refugees have faced live fire at the Turkish border—and destitution inside Turkey, with the international community slow to take financial responsibility for the crisis. While Turkey has opened its borders to Syrian refugees, the Turkish government is struggling to meet the most basic needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees. Turkey is host to half of the 3.2 million women, men and children who have fled violence, persecution and other human rights abuses in Syria. So far Turkey says it has spent $4 billion on the refugee crisis. Only 28% of the $497 million pledged to Turkey in the UN's 2014 regional funding appeal for Syrians has been committed by international donors.
Hundreds of thousands from across Saudi Arabia attended a funeral for the victims of an attack earlier this week on a Shi'ite meeting hall in the village of al-Dalwa, Eastern Province. Mourners repudiated sectarianism, chanting "Sunnis and Shi'ites, we are brothers!" Calling the funeral march a "demonstration of national unity," marchers said they represent the "silent majority" that opposes sectarianism. Eight people—including three children—were killed in the Nov. 3 attack, when masked gunmen fired on a crowd of people celebrating Ashura. Saudi authorities responded with a huge security operation, arresting 15 in six cities across the country. Two security troops were killed in a raid in central Qassim province, and three suspects shot dead. Authorities say one of the attackers had recently returned from fighting (presumably for ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. (Middle East Eye, Nov. 7)
A joint force of Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and Free Syrian Army (FSA) units have launched a new offensive at the besieged border town of Kobani, driving back ISIS fighters from villages west of the city. The ISIS positions also continue to be targetted by US-led coalition warplanes, with the last air-strike reported Nov. 3. Peshmerga Commander Ahmed Gardi told BasNews: "Coalition airstrikes shelled the militants in the southern part of Kobani in order to prevent them from taking control of the strategic Murshid Penari gate." The joint force, now consisting of some 2,000 fighters, is now said to be fighting in the villages of al-Badour, Manaze, Arbosh and Chigor. Grad missiles brought by the Peshmerga force have also helped turn the tide. However, the Kurdish-led force is still outnumbered two-to-one by the ISIS fighters besieging Kobani, who have tanks and heavy artillery. And even as ISIS is driven back at outlying villages, fighting still continues within the urban area of Kobani. (Rudaw, Bas News, Kurdish Question)
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga troops have entered the battle for the ISIS-besieged Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria, after having been allowed to pass through Turkish territory to approach the town from the north—the only remaining access. The sound of heavy weaponry the Peshmerga fighters brought with them from Iraq echoed across the Syrian-Turkish border, according to a team from the independent Kurdish news agency Rudaw on the Turkish side. And US-led coalition planes coninued to strike ISIS positions outside Kobani in the most intense bombing in weeks, with local witnesses counting between five and seven air-strikes overnight. Peshmerga forces are now fighting alongside the PKK-aligned People's Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia that has been leading the defense of Kobani.
Saudi Arabian rights activists on Nov. 1 said that authorities had arrested Suad al-Shamari, a prominent women's rights advocate, for insulting Islam. The arrest, they said, was part of an effort to eliminate dissent. Suad al-Shamari is a founder of the Saudi Liberal Network, a liberal human rights group. Last month, in a reference to religious or tribal leaders, Shamari posted on Twitter that she had been called "immoral and an infidel" for her criticisms of "their sheiks." Another founder of the rights group, Raef Badawi, was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, a conviction upheld by an appellate court in September. His wife said Oct. 31 on Twitter that Shamari is in Jeddah prison for the same charge. One of the activists reporting her arrest, who wished to remain unnamed, stated that this charge is commonly used against those who work to defend human rights.