Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of militant attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe forces. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 March 2019

Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

  • Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months
  • All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019

OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso security forces have summarily executed more than 115 civilians since mid-last year during operations against militants who themselves have killed over a third of that number, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months, as militant groups seek to increase their influence across the Sahel.
A Burkinabe government spokesman declined to comment, but said authorities would issue a statement shortly. None of the multiple militant groups operating in Burkina Faso could be reached for comment.
HRW documented “the execution by Burkinabe security forces of over 115 men accused of supporting or harboring the armed Islamists,” as well as 42 killings carried out by militants of suspected government collaborators.
All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019.
“Scores of people have been murdered,” Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch, said. “Villagers are living in fear as both armed Islamists and government forces have demonstrated utter disregard for human life.”
Burkina Faso has become the latest focal point for a determined regional militant campaign, seven years after well-armed extremists took over northern Mali in 2012, prompting the French to intervene the following year to push them back.
However, any evidence of reprisals would present an uncomfortable dilemma for Western allies such as France and the United States: backing security forces in countries such as Burkina Faso is key to containing the militant threat, but that support is meant to be conditional on respect for human rights.
Burkina declared a state of emergency in several provinces in December following an attack by an Al-Qaeda-linked group. The state of emergency was extended by six months in January after an dozens died in ethnic violence triggered by the suspected militant killing of a traditional ruler.
Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of militant attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe forces.
According to the HRW report, in the village of Gasseliki, about 230 km north of the capital Ouagadougou, militants killed 12 people.
“They kicked the door in, went room to room and found us hiding,” the report quoted a witness as saying. Reprisals by security forces were mostly carried out by a detachment of about 100 gendarmes, or military police, based in the town of Arbinda, since late August, it said.
Most were from the Fulani ethnic group, whom the militants have targeted heavily for recruitment.
Earlier this month, Burkina Faso acknowledged accusations of abuse, saying the army was committed to human rights and that it “investigations are ongoing into the facts.”


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”