Friday, July 29, 2005

Iran: Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison - recruiting now.

Date: Friday 29 July 2005
Subj: Iran: Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison - recruiting now.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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IRAN: LOVERS OF MARTYRDOM GARRISON - RECRUITING NOW
- initiated and sanctioned at the highest levels.

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Iran Focus reports from Tehran, "A military garrison has been opened in Iran to recruit and train volunteers for 'martyrdom-seeking operations', according to the garrison's commander, Mohammad-Reza Jaafari. (Link 1)

"Jaafari, a senior officer in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told a hard-line weekly close to Iran's ultra-conservative President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the new 'Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison' (Gharargahe Asheghane Shahadat, in Persian) would recruit individuals willing to carry out suicide operations against Western targets.

"The full text of the original interview in Persian can be seen on the weekly's website at www.partosokhan.ir/283/page08.pdf ." According to Iran Focus the interview is titled "Commander of Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison: Let America and Israel know, each of our suicide volunteers equals a nuclear bomb".

Jaafari told the weekly Parto-Sokhan, "The Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison has been activated and we will form a Martyrdom-seeking Division for each province in the country, organised in brigades, battalions and companies to defend Islam."

According to Iran Focus, Parto-Sokhan is published in the Shiite holy city of Qom by the Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute, whose chairman, hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, is regarded as the ideological mentor of President-elect Ahmadinejad.

Jaafari also said the martyrdom force was being implemented on the basis of instructions from the Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Armed Forces.

Iran Focus quotes Jaafari as saying, "In Tehran alone, there will be four martyrdom-seeking divisions", adding that "we are currently in the process of recruitment and organisation and soon volunteers will receive training in accordance to their assigned missions". Jaafari boasted that the 'Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison' had set up branches all over Iran and was presently working to convince youths to enlist.

Jaafari also said that the Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison would "spot martyrdom-seeking individuals in society and then recruit and organise them, so that, God willing, at the right moment when the Commander-in-Chief of the country's armed forces [Ayatollah Khamenei] gives the order, they would be able to enter the scene and carry out their missions".

This statement forces the question, what do "martyrdom-seeking individuals" look or act like? The strategy sounds reminiscent of various Palestinian terror groups, who don't just limit their recruitment to radicalised, militant Islamists who crave the glory of a martyr's death, but also seek out depressed and compromised youths and offer them the opportunity to escape their misery and redeem their honour through martyrdom for Allah. Considering the extent of Iran's social problems, with unemployment, homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution being rife amongst youth, this would not be too difficult.

Jaafari also said, "The Imam [Khomeini] said years ago that Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth, but so far practical steps have not been taken to achieve this. Our garrison must spot, recruit, organise and train martyrdom-seeking persons to be able to materialise this objective."

According to Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Al-Arabiya TV broadcast on 2 July the news that Iran had already recruited some 40,000 volunteers who were ready to martyr themselves for the liberation of Islamic lands. (Link 2)

As part of the recruitment drive, Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison's has a regular advertisment published in Parto Sokhan. The advertisment and application form, with English translation, can be found at Link 3.

AHMADINEJAD - MARTYRDOM IS THE MOST DIVINE "ARTMANSHIP"

On Monday 25 July, President Ahmadinejad met with a group of Iranian cinematographers. (Using the relative freedom they had under former President Khatami, Iran's cinematographers gained a reputation for cinematic brilliance and have been praised by critics worldwide.)

Ahmadinejad reminded the artists that "the Islamic Revolution is by nature a cultural revolution". Ahmadinejad said that Iranian and Islamic cultures are totally inseparable from one another, praising the Islamic Republic of Iran for its rich cultural background.

Ahmadinejad's assertion that Iranian and Islamic cultures are totally inseparable is of course totally false. Iran's rich cultural heritage does not result from Islam, but from the incredible intellectual and artistic richness of Persian culture. Persian culture and civilisation brought richness to Islam. Islam needs Persians far more than Persians need Islam. Iranian culture was far richer before the Islamic Revolution, which was indeed a cultural revolution, with tragic consequences for thinkers and artists.

It is most interesting however, that in concluding his message to the cinematographers, President Ahmadinejad turned his focus to what he referred to as Iran's "Culture of Sacred Defense". The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quotes Ahmadinejad as saying that this "Culture of Sacred Defense" is not the culture of war, but the culture of "living more appropriately and dying the best possible death". IRNA reports, "He [Ahmadinejad] said that martyrdom is the 'most gracious, most divine and longest lasting kind of artmanship'." (Link 4)


Links

1) Iran opens garrison to recruit suicide bombers against West
Iran Focus, Fri. 22 July 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2944

2) Special Dispatch No. 929 - Iran/Jihad & Terrorism
Al-Arabiya TV Report: Iranian Volunteer Suicide Bomber Organization of 40,000 "Time Bombs" Recruited to Target Americans in Iraq and Israel. 6 July 2005
http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD92905

3) Iran weekly advertises "application form" for suicide operations
Iran Focus, Sat. 23 July 2005
http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2949

4) President elect meets a group of country's cinematographers
Islamic Republic News Agency, Tehran, 26 July 2005
http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/menu-235/0507260075032204.htm

ALSO
JUST RELEASED – MEMRI
Special Dispatch No. 945 - Iran/Jihad & Terrorism Project
Iran's New President Glorifies Martyrdom. 29 July 2005
http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD94505

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pakistan: Hasba Act - a tool for incitement.

Date: Tuesday 26 July 2005
Subj: Pakistan: Hasba Act - a tool for incitement.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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PAKISTAN: HASBA ACT – A TOOL FOR INCITEMENT
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The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six hard-line, pro-Sharia, pro-Taliban Islamic parties, rules Pakistan's western provinces (Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP)) with an absolute majority. It also holds the balance of power in Pakistan's federal parliament.

On 14 July, the MMA passed the North-West Frontier Province Hasba Act 2005, in the NWFP Assembly, 68 votes to 43. If enacted, this draconian Act would complete the "Talibanisation" of NWFP.

The bill is pending with the NWFP governor, who has until 17 August to approve the Act or return it to the NWFP Assembly. President Musharraf however, immediately invoked the Supreme Court's advisory jurisdiction and directed the attorney-general of Pakistan to file a reference against the Hasba Act under Article 186 of the 1973 Constitution.

The NWFP Governor Khalilur Rehman has promised to take "every constitutional step to prevent the province being 'Talibanised' by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government."

The Act went before the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Monday 25 July, but the court adjourned the hearing after the NWFP government requested more time to mount a defence. The reference against the Act will now be heard on 1 August 2005.

NWFP Law Minister Malik Zafar Azam, has charged that the constitutional right of democratically elected provincial assemblies to legislate will also be on trial. The Constitution does, however, clearly state that Provincial Assemblies may legislate "Subject to the Constitution" and "subject to, and limited by, the executive authority expressly conferred by the Constitution or by law made by [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] upon the Federal Government or authorities thereof." (Articles 137 and 142.) So the constitutionality of the Hasba Act is the issue.

While the MMA has vowed to defend the Hasba Act in the Supreme Court, it has also promised to respect the Court's decision. The fact is, while the MMA is determined to "Talibanise" NWFP, it is also playing a political game. Whether they win or lose in the Supreme Court, the MMA will use the Hasba Act to gain political mileage before the August/September provincial elections.

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NWFP HASBA ACT
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The full text of the North-West Frontier Province Hasba Act 2005 can be found at .

The Hasba Act opens by establishing that the "implementation of Islamic way of life revolves around Amer-Bil-Maroof and Nahi-Anil-Munkir [forbidding that what is not proper and practicing that what is good] and to achieve this objective it is necessary, apart from other steps, to establish an institution of accountability, which could keep a watch on securing legitimate rights of various classes of the society, including females, minorities and children and to protect them from emerging evils and injustices in the society..."

Kanchan Lakshman, a Research Fellow with the Institute for Conflict Management explains, "The Hisba (Accountability) Act, which will come into force only after the Governor signs it, will establish a new department to 'discourage vice and encourage virtue,' and will set up a new office akin to that of an ombudsman which is to be headed by a cleric called Mohtasib (one who holds others accountable) whose main function would be to 'protect/watch the Islamic values and etiquettes at the provincial level'." (Link 1)

Lakshman comments, "While it is clear that the Act sets out to legitimize the MMA's agenda of radical Islam, what has astounded the critics is the extent of powers that may accrue to the Mohtasib, something that prompted the poet Kishwar Naheed to say, 'This is more than the Taliban.'"

Lakshman continues: "A Mohtasib is to be provided with the 'requisite police force' called Hisba Police for enforcement. The Hisba Act, akin to the Taliban's moral policing, is also an attempt to form a parallel judicial system. Ironically, the Hisba force, in acting as the Inquisition-like 'chief prosecutor', is itself not accountable to anyone, since 'no court or authority shall be competent to question the legal status of the proceedings before a Mohtasib.'

"According to the Act, 'No court or authority shall have the power to pass any injunction or any interim or a stay order with regard to any matter under consideration of the Mohtasib' and only the Chief Minister can hear an appeal against his recommendations. The Mohtasib's office, which would only duplicate administration, is estimated to cost Pakistan Rupees (PKR) 10 billion annually, while the total provincial development fund is PKR 40 billion.

"The MMA intends, through this institution, to influence in its favor the local level elections scheduled for August-September 2005. The alliance has moreover, time and again, declared that it would stop at nothing to bring 'real Islam' to the Province."

Daily Times (26 July) reports, "Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar criticised the Act for lacking a right to appeal, pointing out that a political appointee [Mohtasib] would be given an unchallengeable right to interfere in people's lives.

"Khurshid Nadeem, head of the Organisation for Research and Education, said it was a common mistake in Pakistan to assume that the laws could effect the necessary Islamisation. He contended that the concepts of 'Amr Bil Maroof' and 'Nahi Anil Munkir' were not religious duties and questioned the purview of the Hasba Act, saying that it empowered the ombudsman [Mohtasib] to do anything in the name of Islam." (Link 2)

You will note in the full text of the Hasba Act that the Mohtasib will "monitor adherence of Islamic values" and "discourage un-Islamic customs". Presumably when the Hasba Act states that the Mohtasib shall "protect the rights of minorities, particularly to regard the sanctity of their religious places and sites where they perform their religious ceremonies", it means that Mohtasib is to preserve the "rights" of religious minorities according to Islam, that is, as dhimmis: submissive, second class citizens. This is quite different from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights definition of religious liberty.

The Act also states that those who do not cooperate with the Mohtasib or his staff during investigations may be charged with interfering with the smooth functioning of government.

SHREWD POLITICAL STRATEGY

Pakistani commentator Irfan Husain, in a piece entitled "In the name of faith", (Kjaleej Times (UAE) 21 July 2005), highlights the problem facing the MMA. "I recently met an old friend who has served as a senior police officer in the NWFP for many years. According to him, the rule of the mullahs has been a huge disaster for the province. No development activities are going on, corruption is rampant, and ordinary people are miserable. ... whatever their expertise in theology, [the mullahs] are hardly trained in economics and administration."

The fact is the MMA's popularity is in decline and the provincial elections are fast approaching. (The first phase of Local Bodies polls will be held on 18 August.)

If the Supreme Court declares the Hasba Act constitutional and the governor signs it into law, the MMA will have won a great victory that will provide legal precedence and leverage to demand the total Islamisation and Talibanisation of all Pakistan.

However, if the Supreme Court cuts down the Act by declaring it unconstitutional, the MMA's victory will be just a great as they will become martyrs for Islam. The MMA would use a defeat in the Supreme Court to demonise the federal government and Pakistan's judicial system as anti-Islamic while whipping-up anger and stoking Islamic zeal. The MMA would use the heightened Islamic zeal to restore their popularity and fame as Pakistan's defenders of Islam, increase their majority at the provincial elections, and then boast a "democratic" mandate for complete Islamisation and Talibanisation of NWFP. It truly is a win-win situation for the MMA – a masterful stroke of political genius – at least in the short term.

IMPORTANT DEBATE

The debate in the Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the Hasba Act will be interesting and important.

The Constitution of Pakistan states in its Preamble, "Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures..."

Also: Part II, "Fundamental Rights" Chapter 1, 20a) states, "every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion."

These statements should give us confidence that Supreme Court will quickly declare the Hasba Act to be unconstitutional.

Hamid Khan, Chairman Executive Committee Pakistan Bar Council said that the Hasba Bill is unconstitutional and is repugnant to the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and the institution of Mohtasib and the sweeping powers given to him would undermine the freedom of religion protected under constitution. He further opined that the citizens of NWFP, particularly the minorities, would feel themselves as second class citizen and would remain under constant threat of insecurity. (Link 3)

However, the Constitution of Pakistan also contains the standard Islamic loophole: Part IX "Islamic Provisions", 227 (1) "All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, in this Part referred to as the Injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions."

While the Supreme Court will be told that the Hasba Act contravenes constitutional guarantees, in particular the fundamental right to religious freedom, the MMA will doubtless argue that it is the Hasba Act, rather than the Constitution, that is in conformity with Islamic injunctions.

Pakistani Commentator Irfan Husain comments on the problem this presents: "Modernists maintain that the interpretation of Islam being upheld and enforced by the religious parties is far too literal and removed from the modern world. Here, they are on slippery ground because mullahs can quote chapter and verse to prove that the words of God as expressed in the Holy Book are immutable and timeless." ("In the name of faith", Khaleej Times, 21 July 2005)

HASBA ACT: A TOOL FOR INCITEMENT

Without a doubt, the MMA is using the Hasba Act to gain political mileage, to complete the "Talibanisation" of NWFP, and to widen the divide between the federal government and NWFP.

But most seriously, the MMA is using the Hasba Act to destabilise society by widening the divide between (in Musharraf's words) "orthodox Islamic thought... and those that are enlightened and educated". (Link 4)

Coming, as the Hasba Act now does, on top of a nation-wide government crack-down on pro-jihad imams, madrassas and militants, the MMA is likely to have little difficulty convincing many of Pakistan's pious poor, as well as many trained militants, that the Pakistani government is apostate and an enemy of Islam.

After Friday prayers on 22 July, the MMA led a nation-wide Protest Day to protest the government crack-down on extremism and militancy, and "to condemn the global conspiracy against Islam". Protest rallies were staged in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.

Interestingly, the protest rallies were not at all well attended. Islamabad saw the biggest and most violent rally, with some 700 Islamists, mostly youths (madrassa students), chanting anti-Musharraf and pro-bin Laden slogans. It is estimated that a sum of only 2,000 Islamists nationwide turned out to protest, indicating that most Pakistanis are not as beholden to the MMA and not as displeased with the crackdown on Islamic militancy and sectarian hate as the MMA believe.

The prayer of the Christian Church must surely be that the MMA strategy will backfire, resulting in widespread disgust and a rejection of divisive, repressive, barbaric Islamic mediaevalism, in preference to national unity, progress, development and complete religious liberty.


- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) London Bombings and Pakistani Connection: An Indian View
By Kanchan Lakshman. South Asian Tribune. 20 July 2005.
http://www.satribune.com/archives/200507/P1_kl.htm

2) Hasba Bill contrary to Islam and Constitution
Daily Times, Staff Report, ISLAMABAD. 26 July 2005
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_26-7-2005_pg7_31

3) SC has jurisdiction to nullify any law
http://www.pakistanlink.com/Headlines/July05/18/11.htm

4) Musharraf looks two ways in extremist fight
By Aamer Ahmed Khan, BBC News, Karachi, 21 July 2005
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/4705379.stm

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Uzbekistan: Karimov's war for the status quo.

Date: Tuesday 19 July 2005
Subj: Uzbekistan: Karimov's war for the status quo.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Uzbekistan is poised on the brink of disaster. President Islam Karimov is fighting a war for the status quo. The status quo however, involves government corruption and repression, resulting in poverty and absolutely misery for most of Uzbekistan's 88% Muslim population. Meanwhile, radical Islamic groups, both socialist and jihadist, entice disgruntled, disenfranchised, poverty-stricken Uzbeks with the promise that an Islamic state would provide them with justice. In the absence of any other option – there is no viable secular political opposition – Uzbek citizens are increasingly aligning themselves with radical political and militant Islamic groups which they see as their only hope as they rise up against their government. This is fast becoming a war between Islam and the status quo.

The only path likely to circumvent an Islamic revolution or a drawn-out and bloody civil war, the path of reform, is not on the agenda. While Uzbekistan's Islamic groups have demonstrated that they are prepared to use lethal force to advance their agenda, the Karimov regime has likewise demonstrated that it is prepared to use lethal force to crush dissent. (Link 1)

None of this bodes well for Uzbekistan's Christian minority who are unfortunately caught up on the edge of the whirlwind as Karimov represses all religion indiscriminately.

In 1999, the USA used its Freedom from Religious Persecution Act (which links religious liberty to trade and aid) to positive effect in Uzbekistan. Today however, Karimov's regime is finding support for its indiscriminate heavy-handed repression in the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) which was formed in 2001 to enable Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan to co-ordinate activities, in particular security. The SCO has since extended observer status to India, Pakistan and Iran. So why should Karimov be concerned with Western condemnation of its lack of transparent democracy, openness, free media, human rights and religious liberty? The SCO, which one commentator describes as "a huddling of harried elites", will support Karimov as he represses religion as violently and pervasively as he sees fit.

Christians in Uzbekistan are experiencing escalating persecution due to increasing Islamic zeal and increasing government repression of religion. Forum 18 has extensive coverage of the escalating persecution of the Church in Uzbekistan.

As the totalitarian Karimov finds supportive allies in Russia and China, Uzbekistan's Christians may find that their allies, Western advocates of religious liberty, are increasingly without leverage.

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THE POST-SOVIET STATUS QUO

Adolat Najimova, a EurasiaNet partner from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) writes, "The lives of ordinary Uzbeks are extremely difficult, with high unemployment, particularly in rural areas; there are villages in the country that are virtually devoid of males, in part a result of forced migration in pursuit of wages. Local observers cite widespread corruption, accusing government officials of enriching themselves at the expense of the public.

"The majority of Uzbeks try hard to make ends meet despite Uzbekistan's huge potential; it is among the largest producers of cotton and gold in the world. Meanwhile, most sectors of the economy are controlled by a small circle of people who might best be categorized into clan-like structures. The middle class has all but disappeared in Uzbekistan over the course of the past decade."

Najimova writes that human rights abuses are widespread, torture is systematic, and there is "no secular opposition in the country, and international observers have dismissed last December's parliamentary elections as a farce. The country's parliament remains firmly subordinate to the president. There is no truly independent media..." (Link 2)

Uzbekistan has clearly not yet lifted its roots out of the Soviet system.

UZBEKISTAN'S ISLAMIST THREAT: ISLAM vs STATUS QUO

The two main Islamic movements threatening the status quo in Uzbekistan are the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU; which is linked to al-Qaeda and fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001) and Hizb ut-Tahrir (which blends Wahhabi theology with Leninist structures and strategy).

The IMU, which has waged considerable terror in Uzbekistan, enacted its first suicide bombings in Uzbekistan, in the capital Tashkent, in March 2004. While Hizb ut-Tahrir claims to be non-violent, its strategy does aim to culminate in Islamic revolution. Some socialist Islamists have grown impatient with Hizb ut-Tahrir and have split to follow jihadist methods.

The finer details of Uzbekistan's Islamist movements are intensely complicated and information is conflicting. But the Islamist threat is not to be underestimated. These groups aim to establish an Islamic state across Central Asia and they thrive on instability and discontent. President Karimov is within reason to fear an Islamic revolution or a IMU coup in Tashkent. However, at the same time he is doing much to accelerate the likelihood of such an event.

President Karimov refuses to acknowledge (or does not care) that his policies are fueling social anger. In the absence of any openness or liberty, there is no opportunity to discuss, let alone vent. The regime's injustices, corruption, elitism, brutality and repression are catalysts for radicalisation within the majority Muslim population.

Reporter Adolat Najimova told EurasiaNet, "Some observers assert that the lack of avenues for grievances or participation in political and social life pushes many young Uzbek men and women to join the ranks of radical Islamic groups; the result can be a vicious circle: increasing numbers of people attracted to such religious groups promising to deliver justice, and increasingly harsh responses by the government." (Link 2)

REFORM IS THE ONLY VIABLE OPTION

Only reform, in particular openness and economic reform that eases social pain, offers any hope that civil war or Islamic revolution can be prevented in Uzbekistan. It is widely believed that that the genuine pro-Western reforms implemented in Kyrgyzstan after the "Tulip Revolution" (24 March 2005) will circumvent the Islamist threat there.

But unlike Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan was ripe for "revolution" (regime change). As Christopher Walker writes in a EurasiaNet Commentary (14 July 2005), "Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in many ways represent the region's 'low hanging fruit' for political change. Each featured a comparatively open political environment, in which opposition parties could build popular support and agitate against the respective governments. In comparison, other states in the region -- most notably Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which have stifled all forms of domestic dissent -- present far stiffer challenges for those seeking change." (Link 3)

This is why the situation in Uzbekistan is so diabolical. Uzbeks are highly agitated by increasing totalitarianism, repression and entrenched corruption, and by the lack of justice, human rights, freedoms, employment, information and well being. Uzbeks are desperate for change, but there is no viable secular opposition, only radical Islamists who are actively winning hearts and escalating their efforts.

Tanya Malcolm, a Central Asia analyst with the Eurasia Group, and Ganijon Kholmatov, an independent political analyst based in Osh (Kyrgyzstan) both told RFE/RL that escalating authoritarianism is fueling the extremism in Central Asia. Kholmatov believes a lessening of religious restrictions, and an opening up of public debate has lessened the appeal of banned, extremist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kyrgyzstan. (Link 4)

Unfortunately, while Karimov needs to implement economic reforms in Uzbekistan urgently to circumvent civil war or Islamic revolution, it appears he is determined to wage his war for the status quo. Karimov is bolstered by the fact that he has found Russia's President Vladamir Putin and China's President Hu Jintao (both using similar methods to fight the same war in their own nations) to be strong allies.

And Russia and China are bolstered by having the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan as an ally. As NATO has expanded to incorporate the Baltic states, and as the US has set up bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to fight the "War on Terror", Russia has become encircled. Russia and China are both unhappy about Washington's presence in their backyard. There will probably be some quid pro quo here – Russian and Chinese support for Karimov's authoritarian, human rights-abusing regime in exchange for Uzbek pressure to remove US bases and influence from Central Asia. And Uzbekistan does not need to fear that a US withdrawal from the region might leave a power vacuum for Islamists; Uzbekistan will appeal to the Shangai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) for support or assistance in dealing with any problem stemming from religion.

Most analysts believe that Karimov cannot win this war, as the protests will eventually get beyond the scope of government control. Chris Seiple writes for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, "If these demonstrations [as in Andijan, 12-13 May] were coordinated, possibly by extremists, they would be almost impossible for the government to put down. It required the presence of both the president and the interior minister to restore order in Andijan, and they cannot be everywhere at once." (Link 5)

The question is, how far will Russia or China go to preserve the status quo in Uzbekistan?

Uzbekistan is poised on the brink of disaster. A worst case scenario could have the Ferghana Valley looking like Chechnya. The stage is set for Christians in Uzbekistan to be facing an increasingly difficult season. We must pray for the Church, and pray for God to intervene and keep Uzbekistan from going over the edge.

- Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) 'I don't know why they opened fire. They killed the unarmed citizens of Andijan'
Rustam Iskhakov in Andijan, Uzbekistan, 16 May 2005
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1484703,00.html

2) UZBEKISTAN: PRESIDENT KARIMOV’S LIMITED OPTIONS
EURASIA INSIGHT. By Adolat Najimova, 21 May 2005 http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/pp052105.shtml

3) THE FORMER SOVIET UNION’S NEXT WAVE OF DEMOCRATIZATION
Christopher Walker 14 July 2005, A EurasiaNet Commentary
http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav071405.shtml

4) Kyrgyzstan: Banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Faces Dwindling Appeal, Internal Divisions
By Gulnoza Saidazimova, Prague, 27 April 2005 (RFE/RL)
http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/4/E01B2B2F-007E-4941A983-404CC2CA3D8D.html

5) UNDERSTANDING UZBEKISTAN
by Chris Seiple, 1 June 2005
http://www.fpri.org/enotes/20050601.centralasia.seiple.uzbekistan.html

SEE ALSO
Uzbekistan: Is The Country Headed For Regime Change?
By Jeffrey Donovan, RFE/RL, 30 June 2005
http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/06/5f2fb89e-7b80-469e-826d-3e6956c475f4.html

Monday, July 4, 2005

Zimbabwe: Operation Murambasvina

Date: Monday 4 July 2005
Subj: Zimbabwe: urban renewal or social engineering?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


ZIMBABWE: URBAN RENEWAL OR SOCIAL ENGINEERING?

Is Operation Murambasvina an urban renewal project that has been disastrously mismanaged by an uncaring dictator, OR, an attempt at social engineering by a murderous regime that is prepared to use government-engineered famine to decimate its opposition? One thing is certain, the Church is being drawn into the front-line of this battle, and the cost could be high.

-----------------------------------------------

President Robert Mugabe has unleashed a tsunami-like wave of destruction upon Zimbabwe's urban poor, who also happen to be those who generally do not support Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF. The demolitions commenced on 23 May under the auspices of "Operation Murambasvina" (Operation Restore Order). It is estimated that some 300,000 homes and have been demolished, leaving some 1.5 million homeless. So far three children have died after being crushed in their homes. Others have died from exposure. More than 30,000 people have been arrested.

The world was quite oblivious to this tragedy until recently when images of bulldozers, security police, burning homes, and mothers and children sitting amidst rubble were secretly recorded and smuggled out of Zimbabwe and broadcast around the world. (This film and other images and articles can be found at: link 1)

The extent of the devastation is now well known. What is still unclear is what is REALLY happening in Zimbabwe, for other details indicate that this operation is indeed much more than a badly handled urban renewal project, and really is a Mugabe/Zanu-PF war against opponents. It appears that, in the light of the recent Velvet, Rose, Orange and Cedar "revolutions", Mugabe and his Zanu-PF are merely engaging in a little "revolution"-prevention, by shattering, impoverishing, dispersing and possibly even killing-off the opposition before it can get organised.

DIDYMUS MUTASA

Three years ago, when Didymus Mutasa was Zanu-PF's Secretary for Administration and in charge of food distribution, he commented regarding food distribution to the opposition, "We would be better off with only 6 million, with our own people who support the liberation struggle. We don’t want all these extra people."

In April 2005, after his election victory, Mugabe appointed Didymus Mutasa to be his Minister for State Security. This role puts Mutasa in charge of the Central Intelligence Organization (Mugabe’s secret police) and in charge of Operation Murambasvina. (Link 2)

On top of this, Mutasa's Ministry for State Security is now in charge of food distribution, although Mutasa claims that there are no food shortages in Zimbabwe. When a journalist recently challenged Mutasa with reports from Zimbabwean Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube that people are starving to death in Bulawayo, Mutasa replied, "The cleric [Ncube] has a psychological disease and he needs to have his head examined because he is a liar." (Link 3)

RE-EDUCATION CAMPS AND SPIES

Christina Lamb reports for Times On Line that those left homeless by Operation Murambasvina are being "herded into re-education camps and told they can have a housing plot only if they swear allegiance to the party of President Robert Mugabe. Those who refuse are loaded into trucks and dumped in remote rural areas, far from their own homes, where food is scarce. Human rights workers say they are being left to die in what they believe is a deliberate strategy by the Mugabe regime to exterminate opponents." (Link 4)

Another Zimbabwean writer comments, "Indeed there are stories coming out of people being trucked out to re-education camps. We saw such camps during the early stages of the farm invasions where farm workers were often exposed to this political re-education. Now it seems the same technique is being used on the urban poor. People are forced to recant and become members of the ruling party before they receive any guarantee of a new home or of food relief. It is almost impossible to credit that this is happening in Zimbabwe in the year 2005 but all the evidence seems to be pointing that way: a Pol Pot type operation to empty the towns and force the poorest of the poor back into the countryside where they will starve to death without government assistance, which we all know they will not get unless they chant the party slogans and sing the party songs." (Link 2)

Harare correspondent Dumisani Muleya said in an opinion piece published in "Business Day" (Johannesburg, 22 June), "The scenario is almost like a theatrical revival of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution or Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge rampage. The political philosophy and motives are similar." (Link 5)

Zim Online reports, "A Zim Online news crew touring Caledonia Farm, converted into a holding camp for thousands of families evicted from their shanty homes in and around Harare, met several agents of the state's dreaded spy Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). They said they were at the camp to 'monitor the mood' of the families and also to keep a record on who visits them especially non-governmental organizations or members of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, adding that this was being done only as a security precaution." (Link 6)

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CHURCH DEEPLY IMPACTED AND THREATENED
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All church ministries that operate amongst the poor have been deeply impacted. Their clinics, shelters, orphanages and chapels have been bulldozed and torched along with everything else. (for two reports/testimonies: see link 7)

Churches are defying the orders of the regime and providing shelter, food and blankets to the homeless. The National Pastors Conference, representing over 100 Christian pastors, has demanded that President Mugabe "engage in a war against poverty and not against the poor". The immense scale of this humanitarian catastrophe is stretching the churches.

In 1945, Deitrich Bonhoeffer was executed in a German concentration camp for protesting the injustice and evil of Hitler's murderous Nazi regime. His commitment to discipleship compelled him to act, and he paid with his life. It might not be long before Christian leaders in Zimbabwe, in confronting the evil and inhumanity of the ruling powers, find themselves incarcerated or on a death-list on account of their principled Christian words or actions. It is indeed the Church's calling to be "yeast" in society. As Bonheoffer noted, "To flee into invisibility is to deny the call." As such, the Church's call puts it on a collision course with Mugabe and the Zanu-PF.

Bulawyo's courageous Archbishop Pius Ncube is a long-time open critic of the Mugabe regime. In an interview from the Vatican with Britain's Channel 4, he testified that Mugabe keeps him under tight surveillance. "Mugabe goes around intimidating people, anyone who dares talk is followed, next is torture, next is demonisation or humiliation. I'm standing for the truth and I trust in God. I'm under surveillance myself, my phones are tapped, I've been followed by car, I've even been followed by plane. An aeroplane was following me right from town to a mission station about 140km away, for two hours I was being followed through dust roads." (Link 8)

Archbishop Ncube also compares the present situation in Zimbabwe to that of Cambodia under Pol Pot. Archbishop Ncube expects that many of those exiled into rural areas without food will perish. Likewise, Methodist bishops in South Africa have warned that the situation is "a complete recipe for genocide".

Compelled as the Archbishop is by his commitment to discipleship, he says he has no option but to speak out. "I am aware of the dangerous situation of speaking up but that is the only thing I can do -- to speak up for the people. I'll go back there. I am so angry. I am ready to stand before a gun and be shot."

Godfrey Magwenzi, the charge d'affairs and deputy head of the Zimbabwean Consulate in London, told Channel 4 News that nobody in Zimbabwe took Archbishop Ncube seriously. 'The sewage and filth that spills out of that man's mouth should shame and embarrass all men of the cloth,' he said." (Link 9)

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Kubatana.net
http://www.kubatana.net/html/archive/urbdev/050601evictdex.asp?sector=URBDEV

2) Should Blair phone Mugabe?
The Zimbabwean, 25 June 2005
http://www.thezimbabwean.co.uk/24-june-2005/should-blair-phonr.html

3) Zimbabwe officials break ranks over food crisis
By Staff Reporter, 26 April 2005
http://www.newzimbabwe.com/pages/food15.12571.html

4) Mugabe policy branded 'new apartheid'
Christina Lamb, 12 June 2005
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1650991,00.html

5) Echoes of Mao, Pol Pot in Mugabe's Clean-Up Blitz
Business Day (Johannesburg) OPINION
By Dumisani Muleya, 22 June 2005
http://allafrica.com/stories/200506220647.html

6) Government plants spies among evicted families
Zim Online (SA) 20 June 2005
http://www.zwnews.com/issuefull.cfm?ArticleID=12127

7) Where is the outside world?
http://allafrica.com/stories/200506170703.html
The Harrowing Period in Sakubva
http://allafrica.com/stories/200506170702.html

8) Channel 4 Interview with Pius Ncube
Bishop: Mugabe another Pol Pot?
By Jon Snow, 25 June 2005
http://www.channel4.com/news/special-reports/special-reports-storypage.jsp?id=283

9) Zimbabwean archbishop says he's ready to die in defense of people
By Simon Caldwell, CNS, 24 June 2005
http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0503743.htm