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  • SALAT MAN' IS SYMBOL OF RESISTANCE FOR MUSLIMS IN ETHIOPIA

BBN Radio Amharic

Sunday, October 20, 2014

The long read The myth of religious violence

As we watch the fighters of the Islamic State (Isis) rampaging through the Middle East, tearing apart the modern nation-states of Syria and Iraq created by departing European colonialists, it may be difficult to believe we are living in the 21st century. The sight of throngs of terrified refugees and the savage and indiscriminate violence is all too reminiscent of barbarian tribes sweeping away the Roman empire, or the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan cutting a swath through China, Anatolia, Russia and eastern Europe, devastating entire cities and massacring their inhabitants. Only the wearily familiar pictures of bombs falling yet again on Middle Eastern cities and towns – this time dropped by the United States and a few Arab allies – and the gloomy predictions that this may become another Vietnam, remind us that this is indeed a very modern war.

The ferocious cruelty of these jihadist fighters, quoting the Qur’an as they behead their hapless victims, raises another distinctly modern concern: the connection between religion and violence. The atrocities of Isis would seem to prove that Sam Harris, one of the loudest voices of the “New Atheism”, was right to claim that “most Muslims are utterly deranged by their religious faith”, and to conclude that “religion itself produces a perverse solidarity that we must find some way to undercut”. Many will agree with Richard Dawkins, who wrote in The God Delusion that “only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people”. Even those who find these statements too extreme may still believe, instinctively, that there is a violent essence inherent in religion, which inevitably radicalises any conflict – because once combatants are convinced that God is on their side, compromise becomes impossible and cruelty knows no bounds.

UN experts urge Ethiopia to stop using anti-terrorism legislation to curb human rights

GENEVA (18 September 2014) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* today urged the Government of Ethiopia to stop misusing anti-terrorism legislation to curb freedoms of expression and association in the country, amid reports that people continue to be detained arbitrarily. 


The experts' call comes on the eve of the consideration by Ethiopia of a series of recommendations made earlier this year by members of the Human Rights Council in a process known as the Universal Periodic Review which applies equally to all 193 UN Members States. These recommendations are aimed at improving the protection and promotion of human rights in the country, including in the context of counter-terrorism measures.

“Two years after we first raised the alarm, we are still receiving numerous reports on how the anti-terrorism law is being used to target journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in Ethiopia,” the experts said. “Torture and inhuman treatment in detention are gross violations of fundamental human rights.”

“Confronting terrorism is important, but it has to be done in adherence to international human rights to be effective,” the independent experts stressed. “Anti-terrorism provisions need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law, and they must not be abused.”

The experts have repeatedly highlighted issues such as unfair trials, with defendants often having no access to a lawyer. “The right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of association continue to be violated by the application of the anti-terrorism law,” they warned.

“We call upon the Government of Ethiopia to free all persons detained arbitrarily under the pretext of countering terrorism,” the experts said. “Let journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents and religious leaders carry out their legitimate work without fear of intimidation and incarceration.”

The human rights experts reiterated their call on the Ethiopian authorities to respect individuals’ fundamental rights and to apply anti-terrorism legislation cautiously and in accordance with Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations.

“We also urge the Government of Ethiopia to respond positively to the outstanding request to visit by the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and on the situation of human rights defenders,” they concluded.

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