- Russia has another brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- This time it involves Russian troops stepping in to keep the peace and Armenia leaving the region.
- Azerbaijan will be allowed to keep all the land it controls currently, including the culturally significant city of Shusha, known as Shushi to Armenians.
- Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and the Armenian leader of the breakaway Republic recognized the war was strategically lost after Azerbaijan took over Shusha as well as the heights surrounding the capital of Stepanakert, meaning it could be easily attacked.
- The announcement was celebrated in Azerbaijan, while Armenians are calling for Pashinyan to resign and describe the deal as a “betrayal.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan Stop Fighting
After six weeks of fighting, Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a fourth ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh.
This most recent ceasefire was brokered by Russia and has provisions that are widely popular in Azerbaijan. The agreement, however, created outrage in Armenia, prompting calls for the prime minister to resign.
The two nations have been fighting over the region, also known as Artsakh by ethnic Armenians, after Azerbaijan attacked the territory to regain control. Internationally, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but 30-years-ago the ethnic Armenian controlled region declared independence and has been protected by Armenia since.
Over the past month, fighting has escalated with both sides accusing the other of are serious war crimes. Stepanakert, Artsakh’s capital and most populous city, has been consistently shelled by Azerbaijan, leaving whole blocks destroyed and accusations that Azerbaijan targets civilians. While Armenia has been accused of using cluster munitions against Azeri civilians by Azeri authorities and the Humans Rights Watch.
Will This Peace Deal Last?
The brokered ceasefire went into effect at 1:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday. While past ceasefires fell apart within minutes, this version involves Russian soldiers being stationed in the combat zone; meaning the stakes of breaking the ceasefire are much higher.
Additionally, there are provisions that Azerbaijan has demanded since the conflict began, and they have been the instigators of past broken ceasefires. Some of the concessions Armenia agreed to were completely removing its military forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and another Azeri territory currently held by Armenia by December 1, 2020.
Azerbaijan will retain control of all territory held by its forces, as well as areas Armenia’s forces have been removed from per the agreement. Artsakh proper will still remain autonomous and its status was not decided by the agreement. Azerbaijan will also retain control of the culturally significant city of Shusha, known as Shushi by Armenians.
To keep the peace in the region, about 2,000 Russian troops and their equipment have entered the region in the last 24-hours to man the front lines and protect what is left of Artsakh, as well as occupy the Lachin Corridor. The Lachin region is used by Armenia to supply Artsakh. They will remain there for at least five years.
Lastly, Azerbaijan will get a roadway that will allow them to connect the main part of Azerbaijan to the stand-alone territory of Nakhchivan.
Reactions to the Agreement
The Armenian leader of Artsakh announced that the ceasefire was necessary and the terms unavoidable after they lost Shusha, which is only a handful of miles from Stepanakert. It was unavoidable because Susha commands the high ground, meaning Azeri forces could easily shell the capital.
The news of the ceasefire was met with very different reactions in each country.
In Azerbaijan, people took to the streets in celebration. Many Azeris have wanted to regain control of the region since losing it nearly 30 years ago, and its been a major political platform of President Ilham Ajiyev.
However, some weren’t completely happy with the deal and hoped Azerbaijan would take the entire region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Many also quoted Russia’s involvement as a source of disappointment. One man told Reuters, “I don’t trust the Armenians, but I trust the Russians even less.”
This same news was met with fury in Armenia. When Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the ceasefire he wrote, “Dear compatriots, sisters and brothers. I personally made a very hard decision for me and all of us. I have signed a statement on the terminiaton of the Karabakh war with Russian and Azeribaijani presidents…”
“I made the decision as a result of a deep analysis of the military situation… Also based on the belief that this is the best solution in the current situation,” he continued.
“It’s not a victory, but there’s no defeat until you admit defeat.”
Within hours there were protests in Yerevan, the capital, and people quickly stormed the main government building.
People could be heard asking “Where is Nikol? Where is that traitor?”
Many Armenians and 17 political parties are demanding he resigns.
See What Others Are Saying: (Reuters) (New York Times) (NPR)
Nigerian Gunmen Kidnap Over 300 Students From Boarding School
- Gunmen abducted 317 girls from a Nigerian boarding school early Friday morning, making it the second major abduction in the northwest area of the country in over a week.
- Militants loaded some girls on trucks while others were walked into the nearby Rugu forest, which covers hundreds of miles and is spread over three states.
- Authorities believe these abductions are being carried out by armed bandit groups seeking random rather than the jihadist groups in the region.
- According to terror analysts, kidnapping is quickly becoming one of the most thriving industries in Nigeria and has led to 10.5 million Nigerian children being out of school – the most of any nation.
Abductions Before Dawn
Gunmen abducted 317 students early Friday morning from the Nigerian Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state.
They entered the building shooting, although it’s clear if anyone was hurt, and forced many girls onto trucks while others into the nearby Rugu forest, which covers hundreds of square miles and crosses multiple states. Some girls escaped, but by morning it was clear to the local community that hundreds were taken.
Zamfara police and security forces, backed by Nigerian army reinforcements, said they are in pursuit of the abductors.
This abduction is the second in a little over a week in the northwest area of the country. At the Kagara Government Science College in Niger state, dozens of schoolboys were abducted on February 17.
In December, 344 boys in Katsina state were also abducted before being freed a week later. At the time, the kidnappers claimed a ransom had been paid, a common motivation for such abductions, but security forces say the children were freed after they had surrounded the group.
Was the Kidnapping for Ransom?
Many abductions have a monetary aspect, with ransoms quickly being demanded; however, it’s currently unclear if Friday’s events were carried out by local bandits looking for a payout or one of the nation’s myriad of jihadist groups that occasionally take hostages.
Most are leaning towards believing this was a kidnapping for ransom due to it quickly becoming the nation’s most thriving industry, according to Bulama Bukarti, a terror analyst and columnist of northern Nigeria’s largest paper.
Unfortunately, the constant kidnapping in less-stable parts of the country, along with economic hardships, have caused parents to pull their children out of schools. Currently, there are more than 10.5 million Nigerian children out of school, the most of any nation. The issue is so prevalent that 1 in 5 of the world’s unschooled children are in Nigeria.
The government has struggled to respond to the rise of kidnappings, with officials both on the civilian side and within the military unsure of how to proceed. On one hand, there are those who want to deal with the issue head-on and attack kidnappers, but others want to try and resolve the issue with dialogue.
See what others are Saying: (NPR) (CNN) (Wall Street Journal)
Malaysian Man Wins Challenge Against Islamic Law Banning Gay Sex
- On Thursday, a Malaysian man in the state of Selangor successfully challenged the state’s Sharia Law ban on gay sex.
- His legal argument revolved around Malaysia’s two-track legal system that features Sharia Law Courts in some states for certain crimes, and Federal courts for everything else.
- While the Islamic courts and Sharia law are allowed to regulate divorce, property, religion, and some criminal codes, they cannot enact laws that conflict with Federal law.
- Malaysia’s top court unanimously found that Selangor’s Islamic-based anti-gay sex law conflicted with the countries rarely-enforced national ban on gay sex.
Malaysia Upholds Federal Law Over Sharia Law
The Malaysian LGBTQ+ community won a major legal victory in the Muslim-majority country on Thursday after a man successfully challenged an Islamic law ban on sex “against the order of nature.”
The case started back in Selangor state when eleven men were arrested for allegedly having sex together in 2018. In 2019, five admitted to the charge and received six strokes by cane, a fine, and jail terms of up to seven months.
But one man, whose name was withheld by his lawyers to protect his identity, challenged the charges. His defense revolved around how Malaysia’s legal system works.
The country, which is 60% Muslim, has both Islamic Sharia law and associated courts in many states, as well as federal laws and courts. The Sharia courts, locally called Syariah courts, are allowed to deal with Islamic law issues such as divorce, property, religion, and certain criminal matters. However, they’re barred from passing laws that conflict with federal law.
The accused pointed out that Malaysia already had an anti-gay sex statute that was leftover from its days as a British colony. The exact same statute can be found throughout former British colonial holdings like India and Pakistan and is known as Section 377.
His argument went on to say that therefore, Selangor shouldn’t have passed its Islamic anti-gay law and the Sharia court didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter.
An Important Victory
Malaysia’s top civil court unanimously agreed, striking down Selangor’s anti-gay sex statute for conflicting with federal law.
The ruling is considered a massive victory for LGBTQ+ people in Malaysia, despite there still being a federal anti-gay statute, because it’s rarely enforced. Similar laws in Muslim states, for instance, are far more restrictive and enforced by their courts. It’s also rare that such legal victories happen in Muslim-majority countries.
Even with this win, there are still other states with Islamic anti-gay statutes, but advocates are now more hopeful and confident about challenging those laws when they’re used again.
See what others are saying: (The Straits Times) (Reuters) (Independent)
Anti-Asian Hate Crimes on the Rise in British Columbia
- A report given to Canadian police in Vancouver, British Columbia last week showed a 717% in hate crimes against Asians over the last year and a 97% increase in hate crimes overall.
- Prosecutors have been urged to more seriously pursue hate crime charges, despite them being harder to prove in court.
- The trend has been mirrored in Ontario, another Canadian province with significant Asian populations.
Massive Surges in Hate Crimes
The U.S. has struggled with anti-Asian hate crimes over the last year, especially in municipalities like New York City, which reported upwards of a 1,900% increase from one incident to 19 within the year.
However, the U.S. isn’t the only country dealing with the issue. Similar trends have been reported in Canada as well. A report given to the Vancouver police board last week found that in 2019, there were just 12 incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the city. In 2020, there was 98, which marks a 717% increase. Those numbers helped drive the stats of hate crimes in the city up 97% overall.
To be clear, crime overall has been on the rise, likely fueled by struggling local economies dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Hard To Pursue Charges
The report has caused Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth to push local prosecutors to seek more hate crime charges.
The region has failed to actually bring charges for most reported hate incidents, with the past year only seeing just one charge filed despite police evidence of such hate crimes. The issue at hand is that adding a hate crime charge makes getting a conviction much harder.
The incidents have led to a push for more strict anti-racism legislation in the province, a position that John Horgan, the British Columbian Premier, has pushed for as far back as June 2020.
British Columbia, according to an assortment of Asian-Canadian advocacy groups, has the most incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes, followed by Ontario. This is especially notable because they are the number two and number one locations of Asian populations in Canada, respectively.