Originally posted on Music In the Dark:
Angelina Jolie has released a statement regrading the current situation of Syrian refugees. Jolie serves as a Special Envoy for the UNHCR.
“Three million refugees is not just another statistic. It is a searing indictment of our collective failure to end the war in Syria. International stability is steadily bleeding away in Syria. UN Security Council Resolutions are being ignored; war crimes are being committed on a daily basis; regional countries are staggering under the human burden; and Syrian refugees are dying in the Mediterranean Sea, trying to reach Europe. We need to see a new attempt to resolve the conflict and greater efforts to support more than 13 million Syrians who are in desperate need. The reputation and credibility of the international system is at stake with so many thousands of lives threatened in Syria.”
Angelina Jolie is currently working in Malta where she is filming By the Sea…
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See more photos @ Al Arabiya News
It all seems just like yesterday when the crises in Syria erupted into a full fledged civil war and now were are talking about the largest humanitarian catastrophe of the century. We are talking about a war that has displaced about 4.1 million people including a staggering 3 million refugees! The war which generated a refugee crises which the UNHCR says is the most overwhelming it has ever seen, has also claimed the lives of over 170,000 people.
My deepest worry is that despite all the twists and turns the Syrian war has undergone, the end doesn’t seem anywhere in sight. In fact, it is even more complicated now, with the ISIS trying to capture towns in the country to add to its ‘Islamic State’. My pain is that it is the innocent civilians that bear the suffering of all these actions. It breaks my heart to see the news of women and young children being killed, caught in a crossfire or having to flee with little or nothing to an unknown destination. They just keep running, in hunger and tears, hoping to get to somewhere safe.
The world seems to be forgetting about Syria or paying little attention! We diverted all our attention to Gaza (which no doubt also needed attention) and now Ukraine. I’m not saying that we should not be concerned about the negative developments in these places. Of course, we should! But we should not let them make us forget other crucial issues. Syria is crucial. Anywhere women and children are in such grave danger is crucial.
The positive side however is that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has been able to get more aid and relief items to more people stranded inside Syria and at refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and other countries which play host to Syrian refugees even though funding is always a perennial problem.
I’ve always spoken up against child marriage because I feel its a grave form of child abuse. Imagine girls, young girls forced to get married and become mothers of younger girls. These girls are deprived of a normal childhood, robbed of their childhood dreams and most importantly deprived of getting an education. Child marriage is still practiced in many cultures across the works, particularly in Africa and Asia. I’ve even written about Child Marriage in Malawi. My focus has now been drawn to an extremely poor area of Ethiopia, Amhara, where girls as young as five are forced to get married.
The United States Agency for International Development ( USAID) , Amhara has some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Nearly 50% of girls there get married before they reach the age of 18. This trend exposes these young girls to abuses by their husbands, pregnancy complications, and maternal death. I find it depressing to imagine a young girl of 12 years getting pregnant and giving birth to a child. I am a medical student and I know the various kinds of complications these girls can suffer due to their young age. In Amhara, many of these girls die during child birth. I wonder how anyone can even find it normal to require children to produce children!
Despite the fact that it is illegal for girls below 18 to get married in Ethiopia, it is still a common trend, as the law is weak. Same applies to Nigeria where there is a trend of child marriage in its Northern Region.
The Ethiopian Government should ensure that not only laws are passed but there is an implementation mechanism to back up these laws. It is a human rights abuse case for young girls to be deprived of education and forced to get married to mature, full grown men. It affects them psychological, physically and emotionally.
Let girls be girls! Say no to #ChildMarriage
Some days ago, when I saw the news headline ‘Boko Haram declares an Islamic Caliphate in Gwoza, Borno State of Nigeria‘, my mind immediately analyzed the similarities between Boko Haram of Nigeria and the Islamic State (ISIS) of Iraq and I decided to write about it. The first thing I must highlight is that the both groups are radical Islamic extremists (Jihadists) and have both been responsible for deaths of hundreds of thousand of people in Iraq and Nigeria.
Some weeks after the ISIS militants shocked the world by defeating Iraq’s military in less than a week, they declared an Islamic caliphate comprising of large portions of land in Iraq and Syria. Now, Boko Haram whose leader, Abubakar Sheka has openly expressed support for ISIS leadership, has declared a so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Gwoza, Borno State, Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram’s main objective is to establish an Islamic controlled region in the whole Northern Nigeria. They are currently fighting to take more towns just as Iraq’s ISIS who are fighting for control in Eastern Syria.
Boko Haram, just like ISIS is well funded. Boko Haram is said to be the 7th richest terrorist organization in the world. ISIS, of course is the first. The Islamic State reportedly gains a whooping $3million dollars daily from oil fields it controls in Iraq. It also gets money from looting banks and museums, kidnapping for ransom and from wealthy sponsors. Boko Haram on the other hand also has wealthy sponsors, some of whom are allegedly wealthy Nigerian politicians. Boko Haram is also very popular for kidnappings in Northern Nigeria, including the abduction of over two hundred school girls. Reports claim that some of the victims are traded for money, meaning that Boko Haram is involved in human trafficking as one of the means of creating wealth.
Another striking similarity between Boko Haram and ISIS is that they adopt similar propaganda. Boko Haram and the Islamic State group release videos and pictures of their cruel and terrible activities as tools of terrorism in order to create fear. ISIS mainly uses social media like Twitter to circulate terrible images like this:
While Boko Haram occasionally release videos which show the leader ranting about so many things. Boko Haram released two videos after kidnapping the secondary school girls, they also recently released a video after claiming a town in Nigeria as their Islamic state. The recent video shows fleeing soldiers, captured arms and civilian massacres.
Both groups are widely known for their brutality and senseless killings. The take over villages and violently kill hundreds of innocent civilians. Boko Haram is popular for the use of bombs while ISIS launches direct attacks against Iraqi and Syrian military. Both Boko Haram and ISIS pose deadly threats to Nigeria and Iraq respectively and have been terrible menaces to the countries’ militaries. Iraq’s military practically crumbled under ISIS within days and more recently, ISIS fighters were able to withstand the Syrian military to capture some areas in the countries east. Boko Haram, on the other hand is said to have better weapons than the Nigerian military including rockets and anti aircraft missiles and the Nigerian military has often retreated during direct armed confrontation with the group. Boko Haram just like ISIS also operates in Syria, has their operations not limited to only Nigeria alone. They also carry out attacks in Cameroon. ISIS is a threat to the whole Middle East just as Boko Haram is a threat to regional peace in West Africa.
Though these groups are similar in ideologies and practices, it is important to that ISIS is far deadlier and brutal than Boko Haram. (They are even more brutal than Al Qaeda). ISIS controls so much land and generates so much money. They can even be seen as a threat to the world. Nigeria has not degenerated to the state Iraq presently is. So, even as the world seeks solution to ISIS (one of my blog readers jokingly suggested using Nuclear weapons), Nigeria must make sure it prevents Boko Haram from spiraling out of control.
Sometimes, when I read about all the crises and conflicts happening around the world, from ISIS brutality in Iraq to Syria’s deadly civil war which has now gone on for 3 years, from the crises in Ukraine to the deaths of many civilians in the Israel-Palestine conflict and the killings and unrest in D.R.C, I wonder, “Where is the United Nations? What are they doing about this and What is their role in these various crises? Why does it look like they’re insignificant or powerless? Why do they watch and allow all these deadly crises develop and spin out of control before responding?”
I know I’m asking a lot of questions but fortunately for me, Navi Pillay, the outgoing United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner provided some answers to them when she criticized the UN General security council during her last speech. She sharply criticized the Council for allowing many conflicts to degenerate because members constantly put National interests ahead of stopping these crimes and preventing mass atrocities. She further added that the UN Security Council lacks the resolve for saving lives and stopping crimes. I strongly support her and I can site a very good example of China using their veto power on the council to block sanctions against their close ally, North Korea after reports of severe human rights violation were investigated in North Korea. That’s just one of many examples of countries preventing the right things from being done just because of their selfish gains, just as sharp divisions between veto holders, U.S and Russia has thwarted actions on Syria and Ukraine. I find it very sad that short term geopolitical gains and national interests are allowed to overshadow important issues like human rights violations, mass atrocities and killings during decision making in the UN. This unfortunate trend has done so much to paralyze the effectiveness of the organizations. So, things keep going wrong which leave us wondering where the UN is.
Navi Pillay also criticized the UN General Council for its ineffectiveness in Syria and cited other examples of crises in Afghanistan, the Central African
Republic, Congo, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine and Gaza. Obviously, none of these crises erupted without warning but how come none of them where prevented by the UN? The answer is obvious; each country is too busy fighting for its own interests rather than joining to prevent mass atrocities and ensure international peace.
If the United Nations continues like this, then sooner or later, we will all realize that the main objective for the existence of the UN which is to ensure international peace and cooperation among nations has been defeated.