The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
In Kashmir, Indian security agencies have been killing and arresting youth whom they label as “hybrid terrorists”. The security agencies claim that “hybrid terrorism” is the biggest challenge that they are facing right now. This new term came into the limelight last year in November when security forces killed four people in a controversial gunfight in the Hyderpora area of Srinagar. According to police, those killed included Hyder, a foreign militant and his associate Amir Ahmad Magray. “Building owner” Altaf Ahmad Bhat, who owned the building where the gunfight took place and an OGW (Over Ground Worker) Mudasir Gul were also killed during the gunfight. The police claimed that Amir Ahmad Magray was a hybrid militant. The families of Amir and Mudasir disputed the claims of the police.
Also Read: Jammu & Kashmir: a year after the abrogation of article 370
Who are hybrid militants?
Inspector-General of Police Vijay Kumar told reporters that hybrid militants are “terrorists disguised as civilians.” He further claimed that they are “part-time terrorists” who are not on the lists of security forces. According to the IGP, these hybrid militants are “locally trained” and stay in touch with “terrorists” through the internet. They are supposedly recruited by the militant groups to carry out one or two attacks. They are radicalized enough to carry out attacks and are kept on standby mode by the terrorists. When the opportunity arises, they carry out attacks. They are mostly pistol-borne youth and attack soft targets like minorities, politicians, off-duty policemen and others who are unlikely to retaliate. After carrying out militant attacks they slip back into routine life and carry out their day-to-day life normally.
The hybrid terrorist label has raised many eyebrows.
The term hybrid terrorist caught everyone’s attention after the controversial Hyderpora encounter. Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah staged a protest against the killings. He claimed that he had never heard the term hybrid militant when he was the chief minister. Similarly, the families of those killed in the gunfight and subsequently labelled as “hybrid terrorists” denied that the slain youth had any links with militants. They alleged that the encounter was staged by the police. Besides, there were widespread protests across the Kashmir valley against the killings. Initially, the police had refused to return the bodies of the slain men. However, after sustained protests by the families and activists in Press Colony Srinagar, the bodies of Mudasir Gul and Altaf Bhat were exhumed and returned to their families after a few days.
Questioning the term “Hybrid Militant”?
Hybrid terrorists/militants continue to make headlines in Kashmir. There is almost daily news about some hybrid militants being nabbed by police or killed in a gunfight. It is a dangerous term. It is defined in a way that evades accountability. Since hybrid militants are supposed to be militants disguised as civilians and part-time militants, it is very difficult to identify them and distinguish them from civilians. As claimed by the police, they are not even listed with the security forces as militants. Further, they supposedly carry out attacks and then re-engage with society and carry out normal activities like any other person. As a result, there are not many people except for the security forces who can vouch for them being militants.
In some cases, even the family members of these hybrid militants are caught unawares. Like the Hyderpora incident, there have been many other instances when the family members have denied that those killed in the name of hybrid terrorists were militants. Earlier in January this year, Inayat Ahmad Mir was killed in a gunfight in the Pulwama district of Kashmir. The police labelled him as a hybrid militant but his family disputed the claim. The family denied his involvement in any militant activity and staged a protest demanding the return of his body. It is pertinent to mention here that the bodies of all those who are killed in anti-militancy operations in Kashmir are buried in far off places by the police themselves.
Also Read: India Gags-up Media in Kashmir
The use of the term hybrid terrorist/militant raises vexing questions. In an already environment of impunity for the security forces, the term complements the impunity. For the families, these hybrid militants are innocent civilians but for the security forces, they are hybrid militants. No one except for the security forces and the alleged handlers of these hybrid militants knows that they are involved in militant activities. The term does not allow for the accountability of security forces. Therefore, the security forces are at the liberty to categorize anyone as a “hybrid militant” and act accordingly.
26 Million People Affected By Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
Powerful earthquakes and aftershocks struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on the 6th and 20th of February, 2023.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 26 million people need humanitarian assistance. The death toll is climbing above 50,000 and is expected to rise as many victims remain missing.
Furthermore, the WHO calls the Turkey-Syria earthquakes the “worst natural disaster” in the region in 100 years.
Turkey-Syria Earthquake: What Happened?
On February 6th 2023, the first earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and the northern Syrian border, measuring a magnitude of 7.7. Within minutes entire cities turned into rubble. Following this, a second earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.6 hit the same region a little later.
Two weeks later, on February 20th, another earthquake of 6.4 magnitudes struck the same border area previously hit. Moreover, there have been more than 9,000 aftershocks recorded since.
The Aftermath of the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
These earthquakes caused immeasurable devastation for an estimated 26 million people damaging and destroying homes and infrastructure, including approximately 214,000 buildings across both countries.
An estimated 240,000 rescue workers continued working in quake-hit provinces in Turkey. They persevered for weeks to find survivors trapped under rubble despite no survivors found for long periods of time. An estimated 1.9 million people are in temporary shelters, hotels, and public facilities.
As of February 25th 2023, in Turkey alone, 44,218 people died due to the earthquakes, while the announced death toll in Syria was 5,914 people.
Selective Humanitarianism During Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The international response to the Turkey-Syria earthquake has disproportionately overlooked the Syrian people’s suffering. Syria has faced 12 years of civil war, and with international borders blocked, many Syrians received no help in the first few days after the earthquakes.
Read more: The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria 2023: A Forgotten War.
It took over a week after the earthquakes for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to issue a three-month authorization for United Nations (UN) aid deliveries to pass through two more border crossings. These significant aid delays resulted from the regime’s influence over affected regions.
These unacceptable delays entirely defy the principles of humanitarian law. As a result, Syrians have limited access to search-and-rescue reinforcements and lifesaving aid, unnecessarily costing many precious lives. The UN has failed the people of northwest Syria, highlighting inadequacies within the current system.
The slow humanitarian response to the earthquakes severely affecting northwest Syria illustrates the inadequacy of the UN Security Council-mandated cross-border aid mechanism in Syria. Thus, this crisis highlights the urgent need for alternatives to be put in place.
Read more: The Repatriation of ISIS Children Detained in Camps in Northeast Syria 2022.
The UN Pledges a $1 Billion Appeal For Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The UN launched a $1 billion fundraising appeal to support the humanitarian needs of those affected. This appeal fund will support Turkey’s “once in a generation disaster” for three months and a $397 million appeal to help 4.9 million people in Syria.
So far, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund has donated $11.7 million. The UN held that so far, Denmark is the only country recorded to donate aid worth $1.5 million.
Human Rights Concerns Following Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
Health infrastructure was destroyed in many places, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid. In Gaziantep, a major city in south-central Turkey, hundreds of people are sleeping in tents in different parts of town, and trash has begun to pile up in public parks where some of these tents are located.
Therefore, hygiene problems, as well as inadequate housing, are some of the biggest problems in the region. In addition, the inadequacy of public toilets and the lack of infrastructure to use these toilets increases the risk of epidemics in the region.
Children’s Rights in the Aftermath of the Earthquakes
According to UNICEF, the recent earthquakes have affected an estimated 5 million children. Natural disasters such as earthquakes have severe consequences for vulnerable groups in society, such as children.
As the recovery efforts in Syria and Turkey continue, children’s rights must be a priority. All children must have access to fundamental rights such as food, clean water, and housing. Furthermore, children’s access to education and protection from exploitation and abuse is imperative. Many children in the region are unidentifiable as they are too young to know their full names, while hundreds of children’s parents remain missing.
Implementing the general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is of fundamental importance, especially in times of crisis.
Syrian refugees in Turkey Face Forced Return to Earthquake-Strikken Regions
An estimated 1.7 million Syrian refugees lived in the ten southern Turkish provinces devastated by the earthquakes. Unfortunately, these refugees rely on temporary or international protection status. Without prior authorization, these refugees cannot travel to other provinces.
However, following the earthquakes, Turkish authorities issued a directive allowing refugees in these ten provinces to travel to other regions, except Istanbul, for up to 90 days if they could secure their accommodation.
However, in the first few days following the disaster, many fled to Istanbul, resulting in the Directorate General of Migration Management revising its decision to a case-by-case basis due to Turkey’s economic difficulties. There has been a growing anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey which has become the host of the world’s largest refugee population.
Following this, a second directive provided refugees with a 60-day exemption to travel to other provinces without prior authorization. The question remains as to where these Syrian refugees will return to following the expiration of the directive.
A Committed and Sustained Global Humanitarian Response is Needed
The aftermath of these devastating earthquakes requires a committed and sustained international humanitarian response. Thousands are missing, and 1.5 million are homeless without shelter, food, clean water, and access to healthcare.
The true impact of this disaster will not be fully understood for decades. The international community must step up and provide aid and relief to the earthquake victims. Most importantly, human rights protections must be at the heart of the response.
Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe 2023: Explained
Yemen has been experiencing an armed conflict and humanitarian crisis since 2015, with seven brutal years of pain, fear, bloodshed and death. This article provides an update on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as of February 2023.
Background to Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi insurgents—Shiite rebels with links to Iran and a history of rising against the Sunni government—took control of Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government.
Two-thirds of the Yemini Population is in Need of Humanitarian Assistance
As of February 2023, two-thirds of the Yemeni population requires humanitarian assistance. The “Houthis” forces backed by Iran, the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, the internationally recognized Yemeni government, and UAE-backed forces, including the Southern Transitional Council (STC), have failed to spare Yemeni civilians grave human rights violations.
There has been a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law protections. Thus, the war has resulted in continuous incidents of abuse that have killed and injured thousands of civilians.
Nearly six million Yemenis are displaced from their homes since the beginning of the war, including 4.3 million internally displaced inside Yemen.
So far, there are no signs of the war stopping soon.
Parties to the War Responsible For Grave Human Rights Violations
Parties to the conflict in Yemen continue to commit grave human rights violations. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, the clashes between forces have led to continuous unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes against civilians.
Houthi forces have used banned antipersonnel landmines and fired artillery indiscriminately into populated areas. Moreover, Houthi forces have launched indiscriminate ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.
Read more: Children’s Rights in Yemen Are Teetering on the Edge of A Catastrophe.
Failed Truce in April 2022
An UN-mediated truce entered force on April 2nd 2022. The truce lasted six months, ending on October 2nd 2022. However, human rights violations continued, and the truce failed as parties broke the agreement with continued fighting and hostilities.
All parties to the conflict failed to protect innocent civilians’ lives. The truce in Yemen ended as both sides rejected a proposal presented by UN Special Envoy for Yemen to extend and expand the agreement.
However, on a brighter note, the truce brought noticeable tangible benefits to the Yemeni population. For example, access to humanitarian aid improved, and widespread economic opportunities became more readily available. Furthermore, there was a considerable decrease in violence and casualties across Yemen. A report by ACLED revealed the lowest number of reported political violence-related deaths in Yemen since January 2015.
These noticeable and valuable improvements should not ignore that political violence continued in Yemen despite the truce. Worringly, 200 people died every month during the truce due to political violence.
20 Million Yeminis’ Face Food Insecurity
The humanitarian crisis hit a dangerously dire point in 2022 due to constant obstruction of aid from reaching civilians. Houthi forces and the Yemeni government continue unnecessarily imposing restrictions and regulations on humanitarian organizations and aid projects.
Moreover, enforced disappearances are a massive problem in Yemen, with little accountability or investigations. In addition, the economy’s collapse, the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led to Yemen being one of the world’s most unsettling humanitarian disasters.
More than 20 million Yemenis are facing food insecurity and have little to no access to health care services. The war has resulted in deliberate unlawful attacks against civilian homes, hospitals, schools, and bridges. For years, these war crimes have continued with impunity.
Read more: Yemen: War crimes hidden behind rampant violations.
FSO Safer Threatened a Humanitarian and Environmental Catastrophe
The FSO Safer is a “ticking time bomb”, holding an estimated 1.14 million barrels of light crude oil. Since 2015, the Safer has been stranded off the coast of Yemen.
Yemen’s national oil company owns the FSO. Due to the Yemen war, all production and export operations related to FSO are suspended. However, millions of barrels of crude oil remain onboard.
The ongoing crisis in Yemen has made the Safer too dangerous to move. According to the UN, the Safer could explode or rupture anytime, threatening an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. This dire situation could quickly become one of the worst oil spills in history, devastating Yemen and the environment. Luckily, a two-stage UN-coordinated plan to prevent the Safer from exploding or breaking apart was initiated in March 2022.
In September 2022, the UN stated it had raised sufficient funds to initiate a four-month-long operation to transfer oil from the Safer to a secure vessel. Following this first step, a second stage will involve installing a replacement vessel within 18 months. The rescue mission is estimated to cost up to $115 million for both stages.
However, despite these initiated plans, recent efforts to rescue the Safer have been unsuccessful due to the region’s ongoing conflict.
Yemini Women’s and Girl’s Rights Under Threat
The Houthi rebels continue discriminating against girls and women and restricting their freedom and rights. There have been significant systematic violations of women’s and girls’ rights. The de facto law in Houthi-controlled areas requires women to travel with a mahram (a close male relative or their husband). In addition, evidence of written permission from their male guardian will also suffice.
Women’s access to healthcare services, particularly reproductive healthcare, have severely limited since the war began. Furthermore, women’s dress code, access to education and freedom of expression is severely controlled and limited by men.
The eight-year war in Yemen has caused immense suffering, and a recent UNDP report estimated that the number of those killed due to Yemen’s war could reach 1.3 million by 2030. Furthermore, the death toll from Yemen’s war is estimated to reach 377,000 by the end of 2021. To put matters into perspective, an estimated 70% of those killed will be children under the age of five years.
The evidence discussed in this article reveals alarming discoveries which must be addressed immediately. Mainly associated with girls’ and women’s rights, environmental threats, food insecurities and an increased number of civilians needing humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, an increasingly worsening economy, decimated public infrastructure, and a year-on-year decline in humanitarian funding have put Yemenis’ lives under direct threat.
The situation in Yemen is a complex protection crisis at its very core. Many Yemenis struggle to live in safety and dignity and enjoy basic fundamental rights or access to essential services.
This worrying reality must be addressed and changed in 2023 with more focused attention on protecting and upholding human rights for everyone.
India Government Unleashes Bulldozer in Kashmir
Straight out of the Israeli settler colonial playbook, the Indian government has unleashed bulldozers on the houses and businesses of the Kashmiri people in Kashmir. The government claims that the land which is being cleared is state land encroached upon by the owners. In the same breath, the government claims that it is only influential people who are being targeted. It claims that Kashmir-based politicians had encroached on the state land during their rule in Kashmir. The government had assured that poor people would not be touched by the eviction drive. However, the claim is far from the truth as common masses have also been evicted.
Using these claims, earlier the government was evicting people arbitrarily. There were some instances where some shops were sealed in Srinagar even though the property belonged to the shopkeepers and not the state. Some people had requested the government to make the eviction drive transparent. The government later released a list of thousands of people who have supposedly encroached on the state land. Contrary to the Indian government’s claims, the list does not discriminate between the poor and the rich influential people.
Hopelessness and Helplessness in Kashmir
Even though the eviction drive threatens to make thousands of people in Kashmir homeless, the Kashmiri people have not yet resisted the move publicly. There have been no protests in Kashmir. However, there have been protests by Muslims in the Hindu-majority Jammu region. The eerie silence of the Kashmiri people on this matter gives a sense of hopelessness and helplessness to the Kashmiri people.
The Indian government has so intimidated Kashmiri people that there is no resistance to the government’s eviction drive. The current Modi-led regime in India is ruling in Kashmir through fear and intimidation.
Also Read: Kashmiri Journalists Caught in the Battle of Narratives
Kashmir’s Civil Society Crushed
The Indian government has crushed the civil society in Kashmir that would work as a buffer between the state and the people. Most of the civil society members are incarcerated in different jails across Kashmir. Similarly, Kashmiri human rights activists have also been jailed for one or the other pretext.
Therefore, there is really no one in Kashmir who would talk to the government on behalf of the Kashmiri people to stop this eviction drive. The leadership that would steer Kashmir through this difficult drive is in Indian jails.
Indian Civil Society Not Forthcoming
The Modi-led Indian government has also silenced civil society and human rights organizations in India. Members of Indian civil society that were sympathetic to Kashmiri people and human rights organizations in India have been silenced. Amnesty International’s Indian branch was also shut down after the government went after it for receiving alleged illegal foreign funding.
This has left Kashmiris without any allies in India. Nobody now talks about the Indian government’s wrongdoings in India.
Also Read: Police Attach Properties in Kashmir for Harbouring Militants
Also Read: India Bans Falah-e-Aam Trust (FAT) schools in Kashmir
Media in India Silenced
The media in Kashmir does not really report anything beyond what the government tells them to report. Kashmiri media outlets and journalists have been reduced to stenographers who just parrot the sentences that the government’s public relations department feeds them. There have been no independent reports on the eviction drive by any media outlet in Kashmir.
It must be mentioned that the government successfully silenced the media in Kashmir after it jailed many journalists for reporting anti-national news. The jailed journalists have been upheld as an example by the government for other journalists in Kashmir.
Similarly, the media in India has been silent on the eviction drive in Kashmir. All the media outlets except a few independent outlets have defected to the government’s side. The independent media outlets are very cautious with their news reports as the government has filed many against all of them.
The state of media in India as well as Kashmir has made it impossible to get any news on Kashmir that is critical of the government.
Also Read: Lawlessness in Police Custody- Custodial Killings in Kashmir
Digitization and Privacy
Interestingly, the eviction drive came after the government digitized the land records. Nobody had thought the digitization of land records would be used to evict Kashmiri people from their homes. Now the government has said that it intends to give every family in Kashmir a unique number to identify it. The purpose of such an exercise is supposed to provide services in a hassle-free manner. However, the Kashmiri people cannot believe any such word from the government. It would interfere with the privacy of the people and would lead to dislodging of the Kashmiri people.
The eviction drive is one of the many inhuman policies that the Indian government has implemented in Kashmir. Before the eviction drive, the government brought a media policy in order to silence the media. Similarly, the properties of people who are supposedly anti-nationals were seized earlier by the government. Many people are in jail for alleged anti-national activities. The Indian government is not going to stop here and will come up with other policies in future to make sure Kashmiri people are completely disempowered.
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