Sectarian attacks in Algeria's desert city of Ghardaia (see map) have left five dead over the past week—including one young Berber man who a local official said was knifed to death and disfigured under the eyes of police. Local Mozabite Berbers, adherents of the Ibadi sect, are apparently being targeted by Chaamba Arabs, followers of the Malekite branch of Sunni Islam. Troops of the National Police and Gendarmerie were rushed to the city this weekend, and 10 arrested in connection with the violence. There have been repeated clashes in the city since December, but the violence reached a climax on Feb. 4 when a Mozabite teaching center was torched. (AFP, Feb. 9; AP, Algeria Press Service, Feb. 8)
Riot police in Istanbul used water cannons against demonstrators Feb. 9 in the latest protest against a bill that would increase government control over the Internet. Last month, demonstrators attempted to occupy Istanbul's main Taksim Square in protest of the law, before being evicted by riot police with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. The bill, granting Turkey's telecommunications authority the ability to block websites or remove content without a court order, has been approved by parliament and awaits the signature of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey made almost 1,700 requests for Google to remove material from the web in the first six months of 2013—more than three times any other country, and a rise of nearly 1,000% in one year. Google says most of the requests were turned down. (AFP, Feb. 9; Jurist, Feb. 7; Euronews, Jan. 18)
EarthRights International (ERI) on Jan. 24 filed an action in federal court in Denver on behalf of a protestor left paralyzed by police violence at the site of Colorado-based Newmont Mining's Conga mine project in Peru. ERI is seeking documents and information from Newmont to assist in pending legal proceedings in Peru related to the police repression of protestors against the Conga project. Elmer Eduardo Campos Álvarez, a 32-year-old resident of the Cajamarca department, where the Conga project is planned, lost a kidney and his spleen and was paralyzed from the waist down on Nov. 29, 2011, when National Police officers shot him in the back while he was peacefully protesting. Campos was among at least 24 protestors injured by police that day. The Yanacocha mining company, Newmont's local subsidiary, contracted with the National Police of Peru to provide security services at the planned mine site. Officers involved in the repression of November 2011 have told local prosecutors that they were providing security to the company. The proposed Conga mine has generated strong community opposition; the project would mean the destruction of lakes held sacred by local people, who also depend on them as a water source.
The armed conflict in Colombia has up to now claimed a total of 6,073,453 officially recorded victims, according to a count by the government's Unit for Attention and Integral Reparation to Victims—constituting 12% of the population. The figure, based on records kept since 1985, includes all who have been registered as having suffered displacement, usurpation of lands or property, abduction, violence, threats. or loss of family members. Under the 2011 Law of Victims and Land Restitution, the state is obligated to compensate those who have suffered as a result of the armed conflict. The Victims' Unit records a total of 353,174 as having received compensation so far, including 8.992 victims of forced displacement. But the unit's director, Paula Gaviria, acknowledged that even those who have received reparations oten remain at risk. She said: "The government intends to address and repair a significant percentage of the victimized population, through a model that supercedes assistance and encourages the overcoming of the condition of vulnerability." (EFE, Feb. 7)
The Lubicon Lake Nation of Cree in Alberta, Canada, is appealing a court order prohibiting the indigenous community from blockading gas operations on unceded territory. Calgary-based Penn West Petroleum won the order from an Alberta court last month, barring the blockade set up in December by Lubicon Cree protesters for a period of six months. "The judge denied [us] the opportunity to raise any of the constitutional issues and arguments for the Lubicon," said Garrett Tomlinson, Lubicon Lake Nation communications director. Lubicon Cree leadership argued that Canada has never entered into a treaty with them, which renders permits for oil and gas development on Lubicon land null and void.
Protesters in Bosnia-Herzegovina set fire to government buildings Feb. 7, in the worst unrest the country has seen since the end of the 1992-95 war. Hundreds have been injured in three days of protests over unemployment and privatization of state industries. The presidency building in Sarajevo was set aflame, and riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in both the capital and the northern industrial hub of Tuzla. Angry demonstrations are also reported from Mostar, Zenica and Bihac. Elderly residents supported the protests by banging cooking pots on their windows and balconies. Four former state-owned companies, including furniture and detergent factories, employed most of the population of Tuzla, but filed for bankruptcy shortly after being privatized, throwing thousands out of work. The leader of the Tuzla region, Sead Causevic, told Bosnian state TV that the "rip-off privatization" had already taken place when his government took office, and called the workers' demands legitimate. Bosnia has the highest unemployment rate in the Balkans at roughly 40%. Privatization that followed the end of communism produced a handful of oligarchs, but almost wiped out the middle class and sent many workers into poverty. (BBC News, DW, Feb. 7)
The local Islamic police, or Hisbah, in Nigeria's Bauchi state (see map) are carrying out a hunt for members of a putative "homosexual organization," whose formation was reported in a local newspaper last year. The article in Hausa Leadership daily included a list of names, and the state's Sharia Commission ordered they be arrested. If apprehended they could face death by stoning. One man convicted by the Bauchi sharia court last month was publicly lashed 20 times, the death sentence waived because the defendant showed "great remorse." On Jan. 30, an angry mob gathered outside the sharia court in Anguwan Jaki, Bauchi, and attempted to lynch seven suspected gays who were on trial there. Protesters hurled rocks at the court, breaking a window and injuring one, demanding that the defendants be stoned to death. Security forces fired tear gas canisters and several gunshots into the air to disperse the mob. Also last month, President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, criminalizing gay marriage and gay organizations on a national level. (BBC News, Feb. 6; Vanguard, Lagos, Jan. 30 via AllAfrica; AP, Jan. 16; AP, Jan. 13)
Egypt's military is denying that its chief of staff, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, told Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah that he will run for president in elections that are still yet to be scheduled. The newspaper quoted him as saying he could "not reject the demand" of the people that he should stand. Former strongman Hosni Mubarak meanwhile said in an interview with an independent Egyptian journalist that al-Sisi would be the next president. "The people want Sisi and the people's will shall prevail," journalist Fajer al-Saeed quoted Mubarak as telling her at the armed forces hospital where he is being held in Cairo.