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Friday, May 17, 2013

Gay Rights Rally in Georgia Attacked by Counter-Protestors

Today’s International Day Against Homophobia rally in the capital city of Georgia was broken up when priests and thousands of other Georgians burst through police lines and attacked gay rights activists. “We won’t allow these sick people to hold gay parades in our country,” said one of the counter demonstrators, Zhuzhuna Tavadze. Only three days ago, Georgia’s Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, told journalists that sexual minorities “have the same rights as any other social group.” But yesterday, Ilia II, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church to which most of the country’s 4.5 million people belong, condemned the gay rights rally as “a violation of the majority’s right” and an insult to the Georgian way of life. The counter-protestors today stormed several businesses and private residences looking for suspected homosexuals, with one woman screaming, “Drag them out, stomp them to death.” Not everyone shared that sentiment, an elderly woman in tears berated the crowd from her balcony. “Look at yourselves! You call yourselves Christians? Go ahead, kill everyone you are told to hate in the name of God and national values.” Government officials were dismayed by the violent results of today’s rally, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukuani said, “Both groups have a full right to hold peaceful rallies. Violence is unacceptable.”

23 Killed in Rite of Passage Gone Awry

More than 20 South African boys have died during coming of age rituals over the past week. Police suspect incorrectly performed circumcisions are to blame. According to Mpumalanga Police spokesperson, Leonard Hlathi, authorities have opened 22 murder cases pertaining to coming of age deaths, but no suspects have been arrested. Some 30,000 boys aged 10-15, signed up for the rite of passage this year. During the rite, boys are circumcised, painted with red clay, given traditional herbal drinks, and assigned a series of survival tests. Deaths during these government-monitored rites are not unknown, but this is the highest number of deaths in the area in almost 10 years. Usually deaths are the result of infection or loss of blood. Mathibela Mokoena, chairman of the House of Traditional Leaders in Mpumalanga, says the Department of Health was alerted before the initiation ceremonies began, but only showed up after the first few deaths were reported. Popo Maja, a spokesperson for the Department of Health pledged to investigate, saying, “We would want to find out why they were done without the supervision of medical personnel.

Sectarian Violence Causes Mounting Death Toll in Iraq

A brace of bombs killed 40 people at a Sunni mosque in outside of Baghdad, Iraq today. The first bomb exploded as worshipers were leaving the Saria mosque; the second went off shortly after people had gathered at the scene of the first blast to assist survivors. Sectarian violence targeting both Sunnis and Shiites increased last month after government security forces raided a peaceful Sunni protest camp near Hawijah in northern Iraq, killing more than 40 people. Since then more than 1,000 people have died in a wave of tit-for-tat killings. The government blames the surge in violence on a protest movement launched by al-Qaeda and former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party. And indeed, there are signs that extremists have joined the protests. According to one local journalist, the attack in Hawijah has led many protest leaders to accept militants into their groups, “All insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda, have united around one thing, which is to protect the demonstrations.”

Nigerian Military Campaign Against Boko Haram Begins

Yesterday Nigerian forces shelled a suspected Boko Haram Fighter camp in the Sambisa Forest Reserve. According to government officials at least 21 people were killed. The government also shut off mobile phone service and imposed a curfew in major cities as part of a recently declared state of emergency. Thousands of troops have been mobilized to end the anti government revolt centered in Borno. The early success of the Nigerian military has been welcomed by some in Nigeria, but many Nigerians remain wary of the military’s reputation for gross abuse of human rights. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that while the US “condemns Boko Haram’s campaign of terror in the strongest terms” he is also “deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism.”

Weekend Read: Fukushima Disaster

It’s been six months since the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the damage on the streets has been repaired but the psychological effects continue. Jonathan Watts takes a closer look at the enduring ruptures in Japan’s social fabric, in The Guardian.

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