US college football players charged in anti-Muslim beating

A beautiful view of the Wheaton College campus posted on the school's website. (Courtesy of Wheaton College website)
Updated 19 September 2017
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US college football players charged in anti-Muslim beating

CHICAGO: Five football players at a private US Christian college have been charged in connection with a hazing incident that allegedly included anti-Muslim taunts and left a student with injuries requiring surgeries.
The football players at Wheaton College, located in a Chicago suburb, were charged with aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and mob action, the prosecutor’s office told AFP on Tuesday.
Almost all of the charges are felonies, with the most serious carrying a sentence of two to five years in prison, DuPage County States Attorney spokesman Paul Darrah said.
The accused are currently listed as members of Wheaton’s football team — one of the top US collegiate football programs: James Cooksey, Kyler Kregel, Benjamin Pettway, Noah Spielman and Samuel TeBos.
They are accused of abducting a freshman teammate in 2016, beating him and leaving him with two torn shoulders that required surgeries, according to the Chicago Tribune, which cited unreleased investigative documents.
The victim, unidentified to protect his privacy, told investigators he was held down in a car while his abductors attempted to sodomize him with an object and then beat him, the newspaper reported.
The student also claimed Middle Eastern music was playing in the car while the abductors made offensive comments about Muslims “who wanted to fornicate with goats,” the Tribune said.
The student told the newspaper the incident had had “a devastating effect on my life.”
“What was done to me should never occur in connection with a football program or any other activity,” the student said in a statement to the newspaper, which also reported that he had left the college.
Prosecutors would not confirm details of the case, pending a possible court hearing late Tuesday afternoon. The five students charged were to either appear at the hearing or post a $5,000 bond, Darrah said.
Wheaton College and the victim’s attorney did not immediately return requests for comment.
The college emphasizes Christian teachings and in its hazing policy says “we want to honor Jesus Christ in our relationships with one another and on our teams.”
The school told the Tribune that it had investigated the incident last year and took “corrective actions,” which reportedly included requiring several players to perform 50 hours of community service.


Nowhere to run: Rohingya hunker down as monsoon arrives

Roshid Jan, a Rohingya refugee who said she is not sure about her age, cries holding her son Muhammad Gyab at their shelter at the camp for widows and orphans inside the Balukhali camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, December 5, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 6 min 44 sec ago
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Nowhere to run: Rohingya hunker down as monsoon arrives

  • More than 200,000 people are living in areas considered at risk of landslides and flooding, according to the ISCG
  • Still, for many Rohingya refugees who have made it through mass killings, rapes and other abuse in a military crackdown, the fear of the monsoon is relative

UKHIYA, Bangladesh: The hill on which the young woman’s shelter is being built is so unstable that the earth crumbles under your feet. The threat of landslides is so dire that her neighbors have evacuated. Though living here could spell doom as the monsoon rains fall, she will live here anyway.
For Mustawkima, a Rohingya woman who fled Myanmar for the refugee camps of neighboring Bangladesh, there is no other option.
Hers is a dilemma repeated over and over for many of the 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in ramshackle huts across this unsteady landscape: With the long-dreaded monsoon season now upon them, they have run out of places to run.
For months, officials raced to relocate the most at-risk families to safer areas that had been bulldozed flat, but there simply isn’t enough available land. Most refugees believe it is too dangerous to return to Myanmar, where the military launched a brutal campaign of violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims last year. And so, as the rains begin to flood parts of the camps, many Rohingya find themselves trapped — by geography, by poverty and by fear.
The bamboo shelter on the crumbling hillside will be Mustawkima’s third attempt at finding a home in the camps. She has had to do everything on her own; Her husband was killed when the military stormed their village in August 2017.
Mustawkima, who like some Rohingya uses only one name, abandoned her first shelter when the soil washed away. With five children under the age of 8, she wanted her new home to be close to relatives living at the base of the hill, so she erected a flimsy tarp halfway up. But when the rains began in June, the water quickly poured in, transforming her dirt floor into a muddy mess.
Frightened, she sold off some of her donated rations of rice, lentils and oil so she could hire men to build her a sturdier shelter in the same spot. The bamboo and sandbags were donated by aid agencies. She fears there isn’t enough material, but she has no money to buy extra bamboo.
Families living in five shelters on the hill recently evacuated, she says. She can only hope that her relatives will protect her and her children when the worst of the rains arrive.
The most intense rains are expected over the next few months, though heavy downpours began pummeling the camps in June. There have already been more than 160 landslides, 30 people injured and one toddler killed, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group, or ISCG, which oversees the aid agencies in the camps.
“Within 24 hours of the first rains falling, we were seeing small landslides and we were seeing flooding everywhere,” says Daphnee Cook, a spokeswoman for Save the Children. “I’ve been here for seven months and I was appalled at how quickly things started to fall apart.”
The ferocity of the rains and the swiftness with which they can wreak havoc is stunning. On a recent day, it took just minutes for a downpour to transform the face of another hill into a waterfall, with torrents of muddy water cascading down dirt steps.
Beyond the landslides and flooding, there are worries about waterborne diseases like cholera. Some of the latrines are piled high with fly-riddled excrement, which seeps out the sides during downpours. Water pumps are generally just a few meters away — worse, some are located downhill.
Aid workers have cleaned out thousands of latrines. Children are receiving identity bracelets in case they are separated from parents in the flooding. Families have received extra materials to fortify their shelters. Trenches have been dug to try and redirect floodwaters.
Ultimately, though, the topography of the camps is the biggest problem. The trees that once covered the hills have been cut down to make room for shelters, and the roots dug up for firewood. That process has dramatically loosened the soil, which the rains turn into heavy mud that slips down the hillsides, burying anything in its path.
The jagged scar on Mohamed Alom’s head is a grim reminder of the dangers of those landslides. The 27-year-old was asleep in his shelter last month when a torrent of mud crashed through the plastic wall next to him. A tree root slammed into his head, slicing open his skin. His agonized screams awakened his wife and two young children, who rushed him to a doctor.
Now, he and his family are among 13 people living in a one-room schoolhouse. Alom is hoping officials will help him build a new shelter, but he has no idea how long that will take.
More than 200,000 people are living in areas considered at risk of landslides and flooding, according to the ISCG. Around 34,000 refugees have been relocated to other areas, with some moving into sturdier shelters further away from the hills.
Hotiza Begum, 25, recently moved into one of the new shelters with her husband and five children after mud crashed through the roof of her old one. She likes her relatively spacious new home. But it is hard to find firewood, she says, because they now live far from the mountains. And the markets can only be reached by tuk tuk, which costs about $1 — more than they can afford.
Yet at least her family is safe, for now. Abu Bakker’s family lives at the base of a hill where a landslide destroyed eight shelters. A few weeks ago, Bakker’s 60-year-old mother was trying to scoop a bit of soil out of their shelter when a deluge of mud crashed through their tarp wall, knocking her to the ground and burying her up to her thighs.
Bakker dug his terrified mother out and knew he had to get his family away. An aid group promised him supplies to rebuild, but they still haven’t arrived. And even if they do, he asks, where will he rebuild?
He is scared whenever it rains, which is often. He prays every day for Allah to protect them.
Still, for many Rohingya refugees who have made it through mass killings, rapes and other abuse in a military crackdown, the fear of the monsoon is relative.
“In Myanmar, it’s scary because there’s no guarantee for our lives,” says Alom, as the rain begins to fall on the roof. “Here, even if there’s a landslide, at least we don’t have to worry about the military.”