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Countries Recovering from WarCivil war often erupts in countries that suffer from perpetual poverty. At the same time, war only serves to intensify poor living conditions in regions that are already vulnerable. In countries ravaged by war, people are displaced, infrastructure is destroyed and often entire industries are disrupted, destroying the resources that a country needs to keep its people alive. This devastation often persists even after a war is over. However, several formerly war-torn countries are making significant strides when it comes to post-war reconstruction and sustainable development. Here are three examples of countries recovering from war today.

3 Examples of Countries Recovering from War Today

  1. Yadizi Farmers are Recultivating Former ISIS Territory
    When the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS) swept through the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in 2014, they displaced millions of farmers who relied on that land to make their living. ISIS persecuted the local Yadizi people for their religious beliefs and tried to destroy their farms in order to prevent them from ever being able to live in Sinjar again. In 2015, the allied Kurdish forces retook Sinjar, but the devastation of the land and the constant threat of land mines has since caused many Yadizi farmers to fear returning to their homeland.However, the Iraqi government has begun funding post-war recovery efforts in order to allow the Yadizi people to take back their land. A Yadizi woman named Nadia Murad, winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, has started a project called Nadia’s Initiative. A group called the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has also begun to clear landmines from the land of the displaced farmers. Although progress has been slow, partly due to limited governmental support in recent years and heavy regulations on the transportation of fertilizer, the region is slowly but surely recovering.
  2. The Central African Republic is Working on Protecting its Forests
    After years of political instability and a series of coups, as of 2016, the Central African Republic has a democratically-elected president for the first time in its history. Although the election of President Touadera signaled a step in the right direction toward peacebuilding, there are many areas that still need to be addressed.One particular problem for the Central African Republic is the widespread practice of illegal logging. The country’s forests are one of its biggest resources and wood is its top export, but corrupt public officials have allowed a massive trade in illegal lumber to arise, threatening the sustainability of the forests and undermining recovery efforts. Forest managers attempt to stop the problem but are often threatened by public officials who profit from the illegal lumber trade. However, many in the Central African Republic are working on changing the status quo. In 2016, the country renewed an accord with the European Union that incentivizes the country to reform forestry laws and crack down on illegal logging in exchange for favorable trade agreements. This renewal of the country’s greatest natural resource will help post-war recovery by strengthening its income from trade, building relationships overseas and giving resources for the reconstruction of damaged buildings.
  3. South Sudan is Using Mobile Money to Reignite the Economy
    The country of South Sudan is in the middle of recovering from a civil war that lasted five years and killed about 400,000 people. Part of the devastation wreaked by this war was the collapse of the South Sudanese economy, as cell towers were destroyed, trust in financial institutions was eroded and corruption began to overtake the country’s banks. According to AP News, “Around 80 percent of money in South Sudan is not kept in banks” primarly because most residents are rural and live too far from the major cities where the banks are located. Of course, there are other barriers as well, including the fact that only 16 percent of the population has a government ID (which means more expensive withdrawals and no money transfers) and concerns about the stability of the country’s banking system.As a part of the country’s post-war recovery, the South Sudanese government is working with mobile carriers to create a system called mobile money, in which people can bank from their phones instead of relying on the country’s physical banks and ATMs. This system allows people to easily participate in the Sudanese economy and since studies have shown that having access to services such as banks helps economic growth, the mobile money boom will be invaluable to South Sudan’s post-war recovery. The government is also working on setting up biometric identification for all citizens to use in banking, and on restoring damaged mobile infrastructure in order to make services like mobile money available anywhere.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Terrorism in Africa

On March 22, the Trump administration repeated its assertion that ISIS had been defeated in Syria. For the past two decades, Americans have focused exclusively on the Middle East when it comes to strategic counter-terrorism efforts. Since September 11, the U.S. military has involved itself in the affairs of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries in order to stamp out terrorism. However, poverty and terrorism in Africa are going unchecked.

These military campaigns and several other military operations took place during the contentious “War on Terror.” Now, nearly eighteen years after the attacks, the American public is ready to lessen its intervention in the Middle East. By announcing ISIS’ defeat and pulling the military out, the President is suggesting that the U.S.’s role in the Middle East is nearing its end.

Violent Extremists Organizations

Though leaders of terror groups, like Osama Bin Laden, can be stopped, ideologies on terrorism still hold critical importance. Professor Paul Holman of the University of Maine has been an expert and educator on terrorism and politics for nearly four decades. He did not agree that ISIS had been “defeated” in Syria. This comes down to the root of what terrorism actually is.

In correspondence with the Borgen Project, Professor Holman defines terrorism as “violence against innocent civilians for political reasons.” He notes that both governments and violent extremist organizations (VEOs), like ISIS, use terrorism to further their ideals. Though Syria is no longer under its control, ISIS is more than a national movement.

ISIS is not simply trying to seize and hold territory in Syria and Iraq. Instead, Holman notes, ISIS is a transnational movement based upon extreme religious views, which exist in many other countries. Now that the United States military has weakened many VEOs in the Middle East, where do these organizations go next? Poverty and terrorism in Africa reveal the influence of these VEOs.

The Democratic Republic of Congo

In April, Congolese President Tshisekedi discussed the future of terrorist violence in Africa: “It is easy to see how the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq could lead to a situation where these groups are now going to come into Africa and take advantage of the pervasive poverty and also the situation of chaos that we have, for example, in Beni and Butembo, to set up their caliphate.” Beni and Butembo are northeastern cities in the DRC that have faced a substantial amount of violence.

No doubt, ISIS and other VEOs are capitalizing on the extreme poverty and the chaos of certain regions in Africa. In fact, on April 16, ISIS claimed its first attack on the DRC, killing eight soldiers. A statement made by Islamic State propagandists, to take responsibility for the attack, described Congo as the “Central Africa Province of the Caliphate.” Though these attacks by extremist groups in Africa are not new, American’s realization of their strengths seems to be.

Extemists Groups Gaining Power

As poverty and instability lead to upticks in violence by VEOs, regions in Africa are becoming more susceptible to extremist attacks. For the past ten years, Islamist militant groups have been gaining ground in Africa. In 2015, in the poverty-stricken region of northern Nigeria (the largest nation within Africa), Boko Haram became “the world’s deadliest terror group” while at the same time pledging allegiance to ISIS. Though several African militaries, with aid from France and other Western countries, decimated the land control of Boko Haram, the group still maintains a strong influence within Northern Africa.

With African militaries and other nations are fighting against its influence, Boko Haram focused on the Lake Chad region that borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Lake Chad is not only one of the poorest regions in the world but a region that remained largely ungoverned. In 2016, Boko Haram split into two, the new group being the Islamic State of West Africa. The Islamic State of West Africa is offering protection to locals from Boko Haram in exchange for economic reimbursement.

Other extremist groups are adopting the strategy of exploiting extreme poverty as well as profiting off of regional and tribal conflicts while diseases spread. According to the Global Hunger Index, some of the hungriest places on Earth are in Africa as are also some of the least peaceful countries. Northern and Central Africa have similar scores in hunger and peace rankings to those of Syria and Iraq where extremist groups have thrived in the past.

VEOs in Nigeria and Sudan

Professor Holman identified a few African nations that are of higher risk of violent attacks by extremist groups, such as Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria. “The country [Nigeria] is polarized between extreme wealth and extreme poverty, suffering from endemic corruption as well as ethnic rivalries and religious differences.” Libya has been in a civil war since the Ghadaffi regime was overthrown. Sudan has had political turmoil both before and after Bashir’s regime was ousted, and Somalia has a weak government.

It is clear that these terrorist groups thrive in poverty-stricken countries fraught with political strife. Therefore, it is essential that poverty and terrorism in Africa be combatted. Governments and organizations must ensure that the innocent civilians have the education, food, water and financial stability needed to secure themselves from violent extremist groups that prey on the poor and the weak. Foreign aid along with maintaining diplomatic relationships with governments from African nations will be a huge part of that. This fosters strong governments that are able to coordinate a defense from extremist groups.

– Kurt Thiele
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in Iraq

With the war against ISIS in Iraq officially declared over by the Iraqi government in December, efforts on the ground have now begun to focus on rebuilding the lives of the Iraqi people. Of particular concern is the rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers in Iraq, the young “cubs of the caliphate” trained by ISIS and indoctrinated with its ultraviolent ideology.

What Has Happened to Child Soldiers in Iraq?

It is estimated that over the past four years, at least 2,000 minors underwent military training in ISIS camps, learning to use light and medium weaponry and function as effective cogs in the ISIS machine. Yet what may be most distressing is not the technical training these children received, but rather the ideological indoctrination.

The indoctrination that took place in ISIS sponsored schools and training camps instilled these children with extremist beliefs and sought to normalize acts of violence and killing. The result, ISIS hoped, would be the creation of the jihadists of the future, a group of fighters steeped in the ultraviolent ideology of ISIS and capable of waging a holy war for generations.

It is this deeply seated indoctrination into extremism, experts fear, that may pose a grave threat to the future stability of Iraq. With the end of the war and a return to normal life, many foresee the violent indoctrination of ISIS preventing these children from reintegrating into society and leading normal lives. With an intentionally violent and radical worldview, it is possible that many child soldiers will return to their towns highly radicalized, facing the discomfort of a worldview which does not match reality.

Besides being radicalized, many of these former child soldiers in Iraq also suffer from psychological trauma derived from a childhood of violence and warfare. For many, it is all they know and it is this mindset geared toward violence that has no place in normal life that could isolate them from their friends, families and peers. The resulting isolation caused by their inability to properly reintegrate may then make them more vulnerable to crime or further acts of extremism.

Why is Reintegration So Difficult?

Now that the process toward normalization has begun for many Iraqis, the question facing towns, families and NGOs is how to welcome back the former child soldiers in Iraq. There is no doubt that the task is monumental, as in many places there are no jobs available and professionals needed for psychological rehabilitation remain few and far between.

The complexity of the situation in Iraq remains a hazard to successful reintegration as well. In some territories which were held previously by ISIS, families who were sympathetic to the Caliphate gave their children up willingly and the child may continue to be indoctrinated when he or she returns home. It is also no secret that many Iraqis hold a grudge against former ISIS members and would deny them treatment and reconciliation.

What is Being Done?

Yet with peace becoming a reality, there is real promise for a brighter future for these former child soldiers in Iraq. Programs demobilizing and reintegrating child soldiers have been successful in countries such as Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. Such programs began by clearing the environment of weapons, then identifying former child soldiers who needed special care. Next, focus was placed on empowering these children with a feeling of belonging and re-establishing societal and familial links to reintegrate them.

Local citizens are also taking matters into their own hands to re-educate former child soldiers in Iraq. In Mosul, for instance, a group of Muslim law sages has begun preaching a moderate brand of Islam with the intent to promote peace and reconciliation.

What remains clear is that reintegrating child soldiers in formerly held ISIS territory will be a difficult, long term process, one which needs attention from the highest authorities inside and outside Iraq. If Iraq is ever to be war free and at peace, this challenge must be addressed and reconciliation and reintegration of child soldiers must be made a priority to end the cycle of violence.

– Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

civil war in Libya
In Feb. 2011, civilians in Libya, inspired by the Arab spring, took part in protests against their government. Muammar Gadhafi has held complete control over power and wealth in Libya ever since overthrowing King Idris in 1969. Civil war in Libya broke out in early 2011 as rebels rose up in response to a police crackdown on protesters.

In 2011, during the civil war in Libya, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed. Those killed included civilians, government forces and rebels.

On Feb. 16, 2011, anti-government protests in Benghazi met violent opposition from police. Protests quickly spread to the capital of Tripoli, and more than 200 people were killed. The conflict escalated from Feb. 16 to Feb. 21, on which day Gadhafi made a speech vowing to die a martyr rather than step down.

The conflict drew international interest for humanitarian and economic reasons. Libya has a significant standing as one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world. It produces two percent of the world’s oil supply.

In March 2011, French, British and American forces took action in Libya. More than 110 missiles fired from American and British ships hit about 20 Libyan air and missile defense targets. A week later, NATO agreed to take command of the mission and enforced a no-fly zone over Libya. In October, Gadhafi was found and killed by rebel forces.

Seven years later, Libyans are still feeling the aftershocks of the conflict. According to Amnesty International’s most recent report on Libya, there are now three rival governments competing for power in the country.

The U.N. backs the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj based in the capital of Tripoli. The GNA has been unable to enforce authority over the area. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, refuses to recognize the GNA and continues to fight for control of Libya. The rest of the country is ruled by local militias and Islamist groups, including ones linked to ISIS.

The direct humanitarian impact of the civil war in Libya is that hundreds of thousands of people across the country are now living in unsafe conditions with little access to healthcare, food, safe drinking water, shelter and education. An estimated 100,000 people are in need of international protection and 226,000 internally displaced people.

A disturbing development of a slave trade has also become apparent in Libya. According to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Libyans and migrants are being detained and sold in open slave markets. Due to the split governments, no authority is able to stop the human rights abuses.

Civilians in Libya continue to suffer as a result of the conflict. The desire for reform was well-intentioned, but the transfer of power following the death of Gadhafi did not go as planned. The resulting fracture of the country has thrown Libya into turmoil without any indication of ending.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Additional U.S. Aid for the Syrians Caught in the WarSyria has now been in conflict for six years, and it is becoming the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. Syria is in ruins, and people stuck in the war zone need humanitarian assistance. UNHCR is working 24/7 to help newly displaced people arriving daily to the Ein Issa camp, but almost 50,000 people are still trapped inside Raqqa. This is why additional U.S. aid for Syrians caught in the middle of the war is needed in the field and will help mitigate the impact of the war on the communities in the region.

The U.S. State Department announced that additional humanitarian aid will be provided to civilians stuck in the war zone. Almost $700 million will be provided, which raises the total amount of U.S. aid for Syrians to more than $7 billion since 2012.

This announcement shows the commitment of the American people and the U.S. government to support critical humanitarian needs. U.S. aid for Syrians caught in the war will provide food, clean water, shelter and medical care to the almost 14 million people in the country who need it.

According to the U.N., since 2011 almost 400,000 Syrians have lost their lives and 5 million have fled the country, while 6.3 million people are displaced inside the country. The crisis has no end for now, even with the news that ISIS is on its heels but will not surrender, preferring to fight to the death. Even with his allies, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is very limited in his rule, the Islamic State is losing ground and the country is exhausted from fighting. But still, the Syrian war drags on.

Aid for the Syrian people will be divided among the organizations and agencies assisting Syrian refugees in the country and elsewhere. Part of the funding will also go to Syria’s neighbors, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, who are taking in some of the refugees.

The day before the announcement, there was a gathering of the world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly. Additional aid for the Syrians and the six-year-long conflict was a central part of the discussion, where the urgent need for safe passage for the humanitarian convoys was highlighted.

Additional U.S. aid for Syrians reflects the commitment of the government to help and ease the suffering of Syrians caught in the war, ultimately saving lives. This additional aid is also supporting the operations of the United Nations and other international and non-governmental organizations.

The U.S. government is making huge efforts to increase humanitarian assistance, but to meet emergency needs, other donors are crucial. Non-governmental organizations are often working in areas where U.N. agencies cannot, offering food assistance and meeting basic needs.

UNHCR Syria is the organization’s largest refugee assistance operation in the world. This organization provides assistance to the internally displaced, supporting refugees across the region. UNICEF implements child and youth protection and health programs and neighbors are also involved.

U.S. aid for Syrians trapped in the war zone is crucial, being the largest single donor to the humanitarian response. The U.S. provides critical relief supplies and protection for children, women, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Due to a shortage of the funds, non-government organizations are facing many challenges. The additional aid for Syrians in the war zone will bring them critical help, hope for a safe future and the message from the world that they are not alone and forgotten.

– Edita Jakupovic Delcaro

Photo: Flickr

Top Developments in the lives of the Iraqi Kurds: Why it MattersThe fight against ISIS and the turbulence in the Middle East has adversely impacted Iraqi Kurds recently. The poverty rate in Iraqi Kurdistan has quadrupled to 15 percent, largely due to the fight against ISIS, civilian casualties, the influx of refugees and insuperable pressure on resources. One in 10 Iraqi Kurds live below the internationally recognized poverty line.

Since 2014, over a million refugees have arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2015, the World Bank estimated that the Kurdistan Region needs $1.4 billion in humanitarian response. The number of internally displaced persons to the region continues to increase.

The Kurds are an important ethnic group in the Middle East, often recognized for their efforts to achieve self-governance. Iraqi Kurdistan is a rather controversial oil-rich region, with especially large reserves in the province of Kirkuk. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been the ruling body of Iraqi Kurdistan since 1992. In 2005, the Iraqi Constitution officially recognized the autonomy of the Kurds in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The Iraqi Kurds have played a pivotal role in the combat against ISIS. The Iraqi Kurdish forces are a vital part of the U.S. coalition against the Islamic State. Despite accounting for close to 20 percent of the population in Iraq, the Iraqi Kurds have suffered a slew of human rights violations over the years and have been oppressed due to their “minority” status. In most recent years, these attacks can be traced back to the time of Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War.

Moreover, the KRG faces many obstacles in its path to win a pending referendum and mend the infrastructure and administration in the country. The economy, resources and commerce of the region is in a poor state. The government is facing problems in financing the incomes of the people in many conclaves, as individuals are only receiving about half of their monthly salaries. The KRG is also working on improving the transparency and accountability of state financial institutions and businesses in the region to regulate the channeling of public funds.

Even though unemployment has peaked at more than 13.5 percent due to labor immobility and the lack of labor market reforms, the World Bank is still spearheading reform plans for the future. The Iraqi Kurds face a rather uncertain future ahead of them, given the clamorous events of the past and present. Self- determination has been an unavailing right for many. In a landmark move, a referendum is being called for Kurdish independence from Iraq.

However, the referendum is being eyed with a great degree of skepticism from the U.N., Iran, Turkey, Iraq and the United States. Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi is demanding a suspension to the referendum scheduled to be held on September 25, given the precarious position the region is currently in. Many are reminded of the Arab-Israeli conflicts that still impact many countries in the Middle East.

Many leaders have expressed that the referendum vote could potentially destabilize the region further, threaten Kurdish minorities and negatively affect the campaign against ISIS. Russia remains a strong ally of the Iraqi Kurds and is a major contributor to Kurdish oil and gas revenue. This will help bolster the region’s economic potential. Israel also remains another country pledging their support for the vote.

Furthermore, supporting the Iraqi Kurds’ right to establishing a sovereign state could also create safe zones and conclaves. This could effectually deal with the refugee crisis plaguing Iraq currently and help offer a more sustainable solution to the problem in the long run.

Contrary to what many entities believe, the vote could prove to be successful in ushering more progress and development, both socially and economically. It can also pave the way for improved relations in the region and put an end to the suppression of Kurds in many landlocked regions in the Middle East and finally liberate an important minority group.

-Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Iraq poverty rateThe Iraq poverty rate has been steadily on the rise and has affected many, including children. The Iraq poverty rate increased from 16 percent in 2014 to 22.5 percent in 2016, according to Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi, the spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Planning.

The increase in poverty is due to ISIS taking control of the provinces in the north. This has caused a substantial amount of displaced people and the oil prices to spiral downward. Since oil generates a large amount of Iraq’s GDP, the economy has become incredibly stressed.

In Iraq, there are at least 800,000 people in need of food assistance and 10 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

Children are among those who have been dramatically impacted by Iraq’s economic downturn. According to UNICEF, of the three million people displaced in Iraq, half of them are children.

Schools have also been directly hurt by the turmoil in Iraq, with 138 attacks on schools within a three year period. Now half of all schools in Iraq are in need of repairs if they are to continue to function. Circumstances surrounding children in Iraq have caused over three million children to miss school on a regular basis and 1.2 million to be out of school permanently.

Children are also being targeted and killed as a method to deter families from feeling the violence and poverty occurring in Iraq. Since 2014, more than 4,650 children have been separated from their families.

Humanium recognizes the Iraq poverty rate is negatively affecting children. It works on raising awareness, providing legal assistance and supporting local projects to help children.

The Iraq poverty rate has been increasing and placing many at risk, including children. Humanium is one of many groups that are taking the initiative to step up and do something about it.

Danyel Harrigan
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights In YemenYemen is a nation located in Western Asia at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is also the second-largest country in the region and has a population of around 25.5 million people. Due to the unstable nature of the nation’s government coupled with the influence of insurgent groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, human rights in Yemen is a topic that needs to be discussed for it to move from a developing nation to a developed one.

Human Rights In Yemen

Due to the influence of extremist Islamic groups in this region of the world, Yemen struggles to ensure the rights of its women. As a result, human rights in Yemen are not yet where they need to be.

Even though the Yemeni Constitution of 1994 states that women have equal rights as men, the country still struggles to provide this for all women. Yemen’s Personal Status law gives women fewer rights than men and excludes women from decision making and deprives them access and control over their resources and assets.

On top of this, women in Yemen do not have the right to initiate divorce in the same way a man can. Women must first go to court and justify to the public why divorce is imperative to their safety. Yemen has a horrible record of child marriage. According to a UNICEF study in 2005, 48.4 percent of women in Yemen were married before the age of 18. Worse yet, it was only in 2010 that a new law stated the minimum age for marriage in the country was 17.

Freedom Of The Press

Yemen ranks at 136 out of 167 nations in regards to its press freedom. The government has total control over all television and can ban anything that they deem to be releasing “incorrect” information. To further explain the severity of this situation, a journalist in the newspaper Al-Shura criticized Abdul Majeed al-Zindani in a 2001 newspaper. As a result of this action, this journalist was sentenced to 80 lashes.

Freedom of the press is a luxury that many individuals in the West take for granted. If human rights in Yemen are to improve, the ability to publish information without the threat of violence must first be allowed.

Freedom Of Religion

Due to the immense influence of insurgent groups in the region, freedom of religion is hard to attain. The constitution of the country declares Islam as the state religion and uses Sharia law as the source of all governmental legislation. Although Yemen does allow people to practice any religion, a citizen of Yemen is not authorized to convert to another religion if they are currently Muslim.

Different religious groups in the region often get into conflicts and attacks on Jews in Yemen are commonplace. Since the start of the Shia insurgency in the Middle East, many Zaidi Muslims were accused of supporting them. This accusation led to these groups being arrested, beaten, and at times murdered under false accusations. For human rights in Yemen to improve, and to allow people to have the freedom of religion that the Constitution dictates, significant change must occur in the region.

Progress Is Being Made

Although human rights in Yemen are not ideal at this point in time, the government of Yemen is doing much work to fix this issue. Recently, Yemen has been involved in numerous treaties to repair the state of human rights in the country.

Continued political support of these treaties is one way human rights in Yemen can continue to improve. On top of this, attention from the media in countries with freedom of the press will continue to pressure the government of Yemen to improve these conditions.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Iraq
The issue of human rights in Iraq is a continuing problem that needs to be addressed due to the conflict between the people, government and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). While the name ISIS frequents news sources in the United States, particularly in stories of the abuse of civil rights, the Iraqi central government also contributes to systematic abuse of Iraq’s citizens.

ISIS uses citizens of Iraq as human shields, hurts them with random attacks using weapons, car bombs and suicide attackers, and blows up citizen areas with landmines. The government, which includes departments like Popular Mobilization Forces, loots and destroys homes, and tortures, executes and “disappears” its citizens. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) also implements the use of child soldiers.

Thousands of civilians are in prison without charge and denied legal counsel and access to their families. They are treated poorly at best and subjected to torture at worst. After extremely unfair trials, many receive lengthy prison sentences or death sentences. Most “confessions” are obtained while the civilian is being tortured.

While most violence and terrorism in Iraq is indiscriminate, women and girls have more restricted civil rights than men. They live in constant danger of sexual assault and domestic violence with little to no repercussions for the perpetrators of such acts. Gay men face acts of targeted violence due to sexual orientation as well.

In 2017 so far, no month counted less than 317 deaths (April) or 300 injured (June) in acts of violence and in violation of human rights in Iraq. In June alone, there were 415 killed due to violence, terrorism and armed conflict.

The protection of the innocent civilians and their human rights in Iraq is of the utmost importance, and so is the protection of the International Affairs Budget with regard to United States foreign policy. Iraq is now known as the deadliest country in the world for journalists and one of the deadliest for children. In a country that is labeled the third most prolific executioner, advocation for human rights is sorely needed.

Ellie Ray

Photo: Flickr

Why Mali MattersWith no end in sight, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali is the deadliest ongoing mission, and yet the country is rarely mentioned in the news. Since 2013, when the mission named MINUSMA was launched, more than 100 peacekeepers have been murdered. Despite the paucity of media coverage, there are a number of reasons why Mali matters and cannot be ignored.

Mali is located in a strategic area. It is a large country surrounded by poorly guarded borders. Its neighboring countries have been suffering from extremism and instability and could be devastated by turmoil in Mali. If Mali fell to extremists, it could become a launchpad for attacks on the surrounding countries. In addition, Mali has critical smuggling routes that help terrorists traffic in goods and people.

Mali is extremely poor. More than half the population live below the international poverty line, living on less than $2 a day. Though people from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the potential to become terrorists, extreme poverty seems to be a strong contributing factor to radicalization. One U.N. ambassador stated that “radicalization of otherwise law-abiding, responsible individuals [is] caused by a deep sense of collective frustration, deprivation and disillusionment.” Therefore, one of the ways to combat extremism is by improving socioeconomic conditions. MINUSMA aims to do just that by supporting political reform and assisting with humanitarian relief work.

The crisis that necessitated MINUSMA was largely caused by ineffective government. In 2012, Tuareg rebels joined Islamic militants in a coup d’etat. In 2013, with the help of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine advanced south and defeated the Malian army. Former CIA director Leon Panetta stated, “We have a responsibility to make sure that al-Qaeda does not establish a base for operations in North Africa and Mali.” If peacekeeping efforts fail, Mali could become a new hotbed of extremism.

One of the reasons why Mali matters is that hundreds of thousands of people have already become refugees or been internally displaced. In a nation that was already rife with hunger and malnutrition, the crisis has further exacerbated the situation. Young children, in desperate need of food, have become targets for jihadist recruitment. If the country continues on such a trajectory, the future for the country and even the region will be grim.

The costs of keeping the peace in Mali have been high, but the costs of allowing Mali to fall apart would be even higher. Knowing this, it is clear why Mali matters.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr