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Violent protests rock Basra

International | Complaints over poor public services could trigger more instability in the Iraqi city
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 9/11/18, 03:39 pm

At least 15 people have died and dozens more sustained injuries in the latest escalation of protests in the Iraqi city of Basra over poor public services.

The unrest comes amid the country’s failure to form a new government after elections in May.

Hundreds of protesters over the past week crowded the streets of the oil-rich city. The protests increasingly turned violent as stone-throwing protesters clashed with security officials, who responded with tear gas and live fire. The demonstrators burned down multiple government buildings and set fire to the Iranian Consulate in the city.

In addition to those killed, close to 190 others sustained injuries, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The protests began in July over degenerating public services in the city, including water and electricity shortages, as well as unemployment. Health officials treated about 30,000 people who drank polluted water. The latest unrest surged over the past week as more Basra residents suffered from water poisoning.

Ali Saad, a 25-year-old man who attended one of the rallies, complained the government does not care about the people. “The people are fed up, so yes they throw stones and burn tires because nobody cares,” he said.

The Iraqi Parliament held an emergency session on Saturday to discuss the unrest, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for an investigation into the violence.

The public complaints come as Iraq faces political uncertainty since May’s elections. Two rival political factions claim they created alliances capable of forming a parliamentary majority, which will ultimately form the new government. The country’s Parliament remains adjourned.

The European Union in a statement said the worsening violence highlights the urgent need for a new government. Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for the EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy department, noted the new government still has the responsibility to reconstruct some of the regions liberated from Islamic State and resettle nearly 2 million internally displaced people.

“The EU looks forward to the formation of a government as soon as possible so that the multiple challenges Iraq faces are addressed,” the statement said.

By Sunday, some level of calm returned to the city as police reinforcements manned the streets and authorities imposed a curfew. Matthew Schweitzer, a research fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, earlier noted that half-measures such as protest resolution and coercion lack long-term affect. “Without more thorough government engagement to address the problems facing southern regions, current grievance could presage greater instability,” he said.

Getty Images/Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR Getty Images/Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR A LGBT advocate celebrates the Indian Supreme Court decision in Kolkata, India, last week.

Marriage, adoption next on the LGBT agenda in India

Religious groups in India said although the country has decriminalized homosexuality in last week’s historic ruling, that does not make it morally acceptable. But LGBT activists are already looking to the next steps in normalizing homosexuality in the country.

The Supreme Court of India unanimously struck down an 1861 law, which condemned gay sex as “against the order of nature” and punishable by fines and up to 10 years imprisonment. Five individuals challenged the law as discriminatory, saying it caused harassment and abuse.

The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that sexual orientation was a “biological phenomenon.” In reading the verdict, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality.”

A New Delhi court previously ruled Section 377 unconstitutional in 2009, but the Supreme Court overturned it in 2013 on grounds that Parliament should change or repeal the law. In July 2016, the government deferred the case to the Supreme Court.

“The arguments used in this case are deeply subversive of an entire understanding of sexual reality that has been common to almost every civilization throughout the history of humanity,” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member, said on his podcast The Briefing earlier this week.

Transgender activist Abhina Aher told The Lily the ruling was just the beginning and the Indian LGBT people should “congregate and approach specific issues strategically,” including marriage and adoption.

But religious groups remained opposed to homosexual acts on moral grounds, the Catholic UCA News site reported.

“What is legal is not equal to moral acceptability,” Father Stephen Fernandes of the Indian bishops’ Office for Justice, Peace and Development said in a statement. He added that the ruling “violates the purpose of human sexuality, which is procreation, and union of love fulfilled in the loving union of man and woman in marriage.”

A Hindu guru, Goswami Sushil Ji Maharaj, also criticized the ruling, telling UCA News, “God has created men and women for a purpose … but some people think differently now, which is not morally acceptable.”

The New Indian Express also cited Muslim and Hindu critics and reported that a Hindu nationalist group may call for a review of the ruling. —Julia A. Seymour

Associated Press/Photo by Flavio Bolsonaro/National Social Liberal Party Associated Press/Photo by Flavio Bolsonaro/National Social Liberal Party Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro at Albert Einstein Hospital, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Sept. 8

Stabbing could factor in Brazilian election

Leading Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro remains in intensive care after he was stabbed during a rally Thursday, a little more than a month ahead of the country’s hotly contested Oct. 7 presidential election.

Dr. Luis Henrique Borsato, one of the surgeons who operated on Bolsonaro, said he suffered intestinal damage and internal bleeding but remains in stable condition.

Authorities arrested one suspect involved in the incident, Adelio Bispo de Oliveira.

The right-wing Bolsonaro, who belongs to the Social Liberal Party, vowed to crack down on corruption and advocated for less restrictions on gun purchases. He also drew negative attention over racist comments and violent statements targeting his opposition.

Bolsonaro is currently leading the polls after an electoral court barred former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from running. Lula is currently serving a 12-year sentence on fraud charges. Other leading candidates include Marina Silva, a former environment minister, and leftist Ciro Gomes.

Eduardo Mello, an assistant professor of politics and international relations in Brazil, noted the attack could likely serve as Bolsonaro’s ticket to the runoff slated for Oct. 28. “Bolsonaro’s proposals will likely now appear even more appealing to Brazilians on the right,” Mello said. —O.O

UPDATE (9/12/18): Brazil’s Workers’ Party on Tuesday announced it had replaced jailed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as its candidate, naming former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, who will be joined on the ticket by Manuela d’Ávila, a member of Brazil’s Communist Party.

South Sudan sentences soldiers over abuse

A military court in South Sudan sentenced 10 soldiers to jail over a 2016 attack, where the soldiers raped foreign aid workers and killed a local journalist.

In July 2016, dozens of soldiers stormed into the Terrain Hotel in the capital, Juba. Mike Woodward, the hotel manager, told the court “between 50 and 100” soldiers came into the hotel. The soldiers shot and killed South Sudanese journalist John Gatluak and raped five aid workers, including an American and an Italian.

Brig. Gen. Knight Briano sentenced two soldiers to life imprisonment for killing the journalist. He found three others guilty of raping the aid workers, four guilty of sexual harassment, and one guilty of theft and armed robbery. The soldiers received sentences ranging from seven to 14 years in jail. The court also ordered the government pay $4,000 to each of the five rape victims and more than $2 million to the hotel for damages.

Seif Magango, the East Africa deputy director with Amnesty International, said the conviction represents a step toward ending impunity in South Sudan. “These convictions must lead to the crucial next step of ensuring justice for all crimes committed in the ongoing armed conflict,” Magango said. —O.O

North Korea battles severe weather conditions

Flooding in North Korea has led to the deaths of close to 76 people and left dozens of others missing as the country faces extreme weather conditions, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) said in a statement.

The agency said heavy rains caused landslides and flooding in low-lying areas in North and South Hwanghae provinces, destroying more than 800 buildings in the region. “Thousands have lost their homes and are in urgent need of health services, shelter, food, safe drinking water, and sanitation,” said John Fleming from the IFRC’s North Korean office.

IFRC spokeswoman Laura Ngo-Fontaine warned the country is facing more frequent severe weather conditions. This summer, a heat wave destroyed rice, maize, and other crops, resulting in an “unprecedented natural disaster.” —O.O

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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