Egypt. Ideology and History of the Muslim Brotherhood. March, 2018

The MB was founded in Egypt in 1928 by and Islamic scholar and teacher by the name of Hassan al-Banna. He had a vision of a universal Islamic system of rule that could be attained by promoting Islamic laws and morals and by engaging society through offering social services.

The ideology of the MB is mainly focused on reform of existing political systems in the Arab world. It embraces the idea of political activism and social responsibility, organising charitable works and social support programmes as part of its outreach to its core support base of lower-income populations. The members of the MB represent a broad spectrum of interpretations of the initial ideology of Hassan al-Banna. Many members embrace a more pragmatic idea of achieving their goals, urging political participation and cooperation.

There were a couple of shifts in the MB’s ideology over the years, as they developed from an active participant in a nationalist movement to a banned group forced to operate underground and leaning towards an armed struggle for their ideology, and then back to a reformist-minded party. Throughout they have always adhered to their ideal of a society governed by Islamic laws and morals.

In its early days in Egypt, the MB was involved in the active struggle against British occupation, and also cooperated with the Free Officers movement to liberate Egypt from the monarchy. The MB officially renounced violence in the 1970s during the rule of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat. They formally adopted a mandate of democracy in 1995 and their influence became apparent in professional work syndicates and social welfare work circles. To date, the countries that have labelled the MB as a “terrorist organisation” are: Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.[1]

Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the modern Muslim Brotherhood movement, was highly influenced by Rashid Rida’s thought, and developed his ideas into a social organization dedicated to the implementation of those principles. Alongside the Muslim Brotherhood’s rapid expansion in the 1930s, Al-Banna wrote five risalat (letters) to his young, educated supporters. The ideas he set forth in the letters are still the pillars of the movement’s worldview.

In his ideological messages, Al-Banna defined his movement as a group of believers on a quest for the revival of Islam, seeking to establish a Sharia state based on the Quranic “law of Allah”. It is an objective Al-Banna hoped to achieve by liberating the Muslim world from any kind of foreign rule, followed by shaping a state governed by Islamic religious law. According to Al-Banna, the establishment of such a state is not the final goal. On the contrary, the new Sharia state must realize its social order in accordance with Islamic religious law and become a basis for the worldwide spread of Islam, eventually culminating in the emergence of Islamic hegemony around the globe.

Al-Banna listed seven stages to achieve these objectives, each to be carried out in a gradual fashion. The stages are divided into social and political: the first three are based on educating the individual, the family, and the entire society of the Muslim world to implement Sharia laws in every aspect of daily life. The next four stages are political by nature, and include assuming power through elections, shaping a Sharia state, liberating Islamic countries from the burden of (physical and ideological) foreign occupation, uniting them into one Islamic entity (“new caliphate”), and spreading Islamic values throughout the world.

Al-Banna’s principles still constitute the ideological foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, there occurred considerable developments in the validity of his ideological message since the end of World War II. The change stemmed mostly from the appearance of radical Muslim Brotherhood factions in Egypt following the mass arrests of their members by Nasser’s regime in the 1950s and 1960s, and the lifting of restrictions on their political participation in various Arab countries since the 1970s.

The growth of the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical faction is associated with Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), a senior ideologue in the movement’s Egyptian branch. In the 1950s and 1960s, Qutb wrote several books (some during his prison term) supplementing Al-Banna’s ideas with a radical spirit. Thus, he developed the idea of “modern jahiliyya”, according to which modern Islamic society is ignorant and has strayed from the code of conduct required by divine precepts. In this context, Qutb discussed the phenomenon of Westernization, as well as the existence of regimes based on earthly, man-made legal systems. Accordingly, in Qutb’s view the Arab regimes were considered as lacking religious and divine legitimacy (which he considered a supreme value), and thus he publicly called to resist these regimes.

Even though Qutb did not emphasize that resistance to the regimes must be violent, he created an opening for such violent activity by defining jihad for the enforcement of religious law (Sharia) in Muslim society as every Muslim’s duty. Qutb’s execution in 1966, which many saw as shahada (martyrdom for the sake of Allah), served to further disseminate his ideas. Starting from the 1970s, these ideas gained even more popularity thanks to the educational activity of his supporters, who came to Saudi Arabia and linked Qutb’s principles to those of Salafism and Wahhabism. Later, this link gave rise to the idea of global jihad and takfir (accusing others of infidelity).

Alongside the radical ideology of Qutb and his successors, another faction developed starting from the mid-1980s, also originating in the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the Wasatiyya (middle ground) faction, mostly associated with a well-known Qatari cleric of Egyptian descent, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. This faction supports the idea of adjusting Islam to modern reality and religious tolerance, strongly opposes the idea of global jihad, and attempts to give religious-legal validity to changes resulting from the adoption of modern technology, social modernization (in women’s status, for example) and the need to contend with the influence of other cultures (as part of life in immigrant communities, among other things).

The messages of this school of thought focus mostly on the attempt to fight the spiritual influence of the followers of global jihad. However, despite the fact that it contains different liberal ideas, this faction’s adherence to the fundamental principles of the Sharia, without implementing a comprehensive reform in the Muslim worldview, reflects a desire to “conquer Rome” (i.e., victory over the West) and reiterates vicious anti-Semitic views. The faction supports terrorism (including suicide bombings and murder of civilians) “only” against Israel and the occupation in Iraq, while the struggle as a whole — against Middle Eastern and Western regimes — should take place through the da’wah and without the use of violence (see Chapter 11 for Qaradawi’s profile).

Since the Muslim Brotherhood supports the worldwide spread of Sunni Islam, it shares the Sunni-Shi’ite debate. Early on, the Muslim Brotherhood considered the Shi’ites an inseparable part of the Muslim nation, and even expressed support for the Islamic revolution in Iran. Afterwards, the Muslim Brotherhood’s attitude towards Iran grew much more hostile due to Iran’s efforts to export the revolution to the Sunni Arab domain. In recent years, and all the more so since the second Lebanon war, the question of the attitude towards the Shi’ites has reemerged once again. In general, the basis for the debate is the difference in the perception of Iran’s political role in the region.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has not reached an agreement on the stance towards Iran. Some members of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt lead support for Iran as the “engine of resistance”, making official Egyptian observers claim that the movement’s leadership attempts to find ways to strengthen its ties with Iran to form an alliance against the Egyptian regime. On the other side of the fence are Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who on several occasions has expressed concerns over the threat of “Shi’itization” of Sunni population in Arab countries, and the leadership of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which considers Iran an ally of Assad’s oppressive regime, responsible for the brutal suppression of the movement in Syria.

Ultimately, it appears that the Muslim Brotherhood’s stance to the Shi’ites is one of ambivalence. This is a result of the built in tension between its fundamental support for the idea of “resistance”, currently led by Shi’ite Iran and implemented, among others, by Hamas, and its character as a Sunni organization par excellence, requiring a certain level of commitment to Sunni traditions that don’t take kindly to the Shi’ite faith.[2]

From the 1970s to the late 1990s, militant Islamic groups in Egypt posed the greatest challenge to the regime in terms of internal security. The number of groups was estimated at several dozens, the largest and most important being Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya and Al-Jihad.[82] Some of them splintered from the Muslim Brotherhood due to differences of opinion over the means to achieve the goal of turning Egypt into an Islamic Sharia state and apply Islamic religious law to all spheres of life. Other groups were ideologically and organizationally inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and its leaders.

The ideology of the Islamic groups is based on accusing the regime of heresy against Islam (takfir). Within militant Islam there are two conflicting ideological approaches for achieving the goal of establishing a Muslim state and society:

  1. Jihad — waging a holy war against the regime until the goal is achieved, including a violent struggle against the leaders and branches of the regime to topple it. This approach is followed by the two leading organizations, Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya and Al-Jihad al-Islami.
  2. Al-Takfir wal-Hijra — like the regime, the society is also corrupt and rotten, and is also to blame for the current social situation. Accordingly, it is the believers’ duty to work against the infidel society, seceding from it physically and living a true Islamic life while advancing the collapse of the regime and the society. Following the collapse, the believers must assume leadership and establish a pure and just Islamic society. Until then, the believers are forbidden to mingle in society, take part in elections, or serve in government positions.

The different groups strongly oppose the West in general and Israel and the Jews in particular, believing they are largely to blame for the decline of Islam in the modern era. However, resistance to the West and Zionism is not the first priority of the groups — in their view, the war on Israel will be launched after first disposing of the Egyptian regime, their main enemy.

Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya – Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya is the largest and most active radical Islamic organization operating in Egypt. It was established in the late 1960s as a student organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In the mid-1970s it splintered from the Muslim Brotherhood over differences of opinion, as it considered that organization to be too moderate in its approach towards the regime. It became institutionalized in the late 1970s and in the early 1980s formed a military wing for violent terrorist attacks. Its ties to Al-Jihad grew closer at the time, and the two organizations cooperated fully with each other, including in the assassination of President Sadat in 1981 (the assassination itself was carried out by Al-Jihad, while Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya simultaneously attacked the security department in Asyut, killing dozens of police officers). The cooperation between the two organizations decreased following Sadat’s assassination due to disputes between their leaders.

Al-Jihad al-Islami – Al-Jihad al-Islami was established in 1975. Upon its exposure by the regime in 1978, its members were arrested and the organization was disbanded. In 1978-1979, the organization was reestablished and became at the time the largest and most powerful of its kind in Egypt at the time. Al-Jihad was exposed once again after the assassination of President Sadat. Some of its leaders were executed; others were imprisoned or put under police surveillance. It was a hard blow for Al-Jihad to recover from, and it therefore went from being a major militant organization to the second largest organization (after Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya).

In 2000, the organization’s leadership called to “cease all hostilities against Egypt and focus on the main objective — a holy war for the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque”. While the initiative gained increasing support from the detained inside leadership and was encouraged by the regime, which publicly took positive measures towards the organization and released hundreds of its operatives, Al-Jihad’s outside leadership persisted with the same kind of operative terrorist activity as before the initiative.

In 2001, Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that his organization had decided to cease anti-regime activities, but stressed the need to continue terrorist attacks against Western targets. The organization’s leadership condemned the terrorist attacks carried out in Egypt in recent years, announcing that Al-Jihad intended to launch an initiative to stop the violence, similarly to Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya. However, it appears that the organization believes that the initiative can only be launched once Egypt has implemented political reforms, guaranteed civil rights, and given the organization’s members their political rights immediately upon their release.

Al-Takfir wal-Hijra – The organization was established in 1971 and carried out violent activities in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although its low-profile operations continued for several years afterwards. According to an announcement released by the Interior Ministry in 1989, the authorities exposed a secret radical organization established by Al-Takfir wal-Hijra members with Iranian supervision and funding. In December 1992, the Egyptian interior minister defined Al-Takfir wal-Hijra as one of the two most dangerous organizations in Egypt.

Major Al-Qaeda members who got their start in the Muslim Brotherhood – Dr. Abdullah Yousef Mustafa Azzam. Palestinian, from the village of Silat al-Harithiya, near Jenin. Al-Qaeda’s former ideologue and Osama Bin Laden’s spiritual guide. Still viewed as a role model by Hamas. His teachings emphasized the significance of jihad (war on the infidels) as a personal duty shared by all Muslims. He fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan and died when a bomb exploded in his car in Peshawar, on November 24, 1989.

Ayman al-Zawahiri: Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s second-in-command. Joined the Muslim Brotherhood when he was 14, and at a young age decided to turn Sayyid Qutb’s vision of an Islamic government into reality. He was arrested following Sadat’s assassination, charged with possession of arms, and sentenced to three years in prison. After his release, he moved his focus of activities outside of Egypt (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Yemen).[3]

The BBC in its news profile of December 2013 stated: ‘Founded by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood – or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic – has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work… ‘The movement initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence… ‘While the Ikhwan say that they support democratic principles, one of the group’s stated aims is to create a state ruled by Islamic law, or Sharia. Its most famous slogan, used worldwide, is “Islam is the solution.” [4]

In the published main findings of the UK Government’s review of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was noted that the group was dissolved in 1954 ‘which led to the arrest, torture and execution of many members and the co-option of others’. The MB were, however, rehabilitated under President ‘Sadat 20 years later. In the 1970s the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt expanded, established a foothold within the Egyptian political system and took a firm hold on student organisations, professional syndicates and trades unions. It also developed a large, sophisticated and often clandestine network of commercial enterprises, small businesses and charities. [5]

The Council for Foreign Relations noted in January 2014: ‘The MB… has spawned Sunni Islamist groups throughout the Arab world. Banned from politics for its early aim of overthrowing the Egyptian government, the Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s and earned popular support by providing social services such as pharmacies, hospitals and schools.’ [6]

The MB stated in 2013 that its members number over a million. The majority rank-and-file are said to be lower-middle-class, but leaders are often doctors and businessmen. Each pays a portion of their income to help fund the movement.[7]

Janes provided a brief description of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities: The Muslim Brotherhood’s activities are social, economic, charitable, and political. Indeed, its supporters often refer to the Muslim Brotherhood’s “society” and its plan to “enable” itself to govern starting at a grassroots level. The group emphasised the building social acceptance of Islamist ideas and its own soft power until it is in a position to govern. Its relationship with the state historically swung among direct military conflict, support, and silent opposition… [the Muslim Brother gained power in 2011 but were subsequently ousted by the military in 2013 which] triggered an ongoing confrontation between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood, with the youth wing adopting terrorist tactics against the state and foreign interests allied to it, and the older generation adhering to mostly peaceful unrest. The organisation is now banned. Its members cannot participate publicly in political life, and their assets are targeted for expropriation. The Al-Wasat Party and Strong Egypt Party are both offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood. Proponents of the violent approach to opposition are likely to continue with a campaign of targeted assassinations against state officials for as long as the military remain opposed to negotiation.’ [8]

Khalil al-Anani, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Dohar Institute for Graduate Studies, writing in Al Jazeera, observed: ‘Since the coup of 2013, the Brotherhood has seen myriad organisational, political and ideological divisions. [President al] Sisi’s repression has divided the movement and created significant differences among members over several issues, ranging from the position towards the regime to its political, ideological and religious views.

‘These divisions have shaped the Brotherhood’s strategy and tactics on how to respond to Sisi’s repression. Organisationally, with many of its senior members in prison and exile, the Brotherhood is facing a crisis of leadership. The gap between the older and younger leaders is increasing and affecting the movement’s strategy.

‘Over the past three years, the Brotherhood has been divided into two camps: the old and conservative leaders versus the young and revolutionary members. The latter have gained influence over the movement because of their tendency to confront the regime… The new and relatively young leadership formed a committee called “The High Administrative Committee” and was led by Mohamed Kamal, a former member of Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau who was assassinated by security forces last October.

‘The new committee claimed leadership over the movement against veteran leaders such as Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting General Guide of the Brotherhood, who is believed to be hiding in Egypt, Mahmoud Hussein, the secretary-general of the movement, and Ibrahim Munir, who was appointed Deputy of the General Guide and has been in London since the late 1980s.

‘In December [2016], the High Administrative Committee was dissolved and the formation of a new Guidance Bureau declared, which was rejected by the old leadership.

‘Also, for the first time in its history, the Brotherhood is divided between internal and external leadership. Senior members who fled to Turkey after the coup have formed a new office called the External Office to run and supervise the Brotherhood’s members and activities overseas.’

‘Politically, the Brotherhood is divided on how to deal with regime repression and which strategy it should adopt to remain relevant. ‘While the new leadership has adopted a confrontational and non-compromising position, the old leadership tends to accommodate regime repression and keeps the door open for bargaining and reconciliation with the regime. ‘The new leadership of the Brotherhood finds support and appeal among young members, as they see it as more revolutionary and willing to challenge the regime.’[9]

Alaraby reported in an article following the Palm Sunday Bombings of a Christian church and cathedral in April 2017 that, at least, some elements of the MB accused the government of being responsible for the attacks and ongoing violence generally: ‘The Egyptian regime had a hand in the twin church bombings that killed dozens on Palm Sunday, the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood has said. ‘The Islamist group accused Egyptian authorities on Sunday of complicity in the deadly bomb attacks in the Nile Delta cities of Tanta and Alexandria, which killed at least 44 people.

‘”Fascist regimes have taken a unified approach in their struggle to ensure their survival by creating an imaginary enemy called terrorism to cover up their failure and garner the sympathy of ordinary people,” the banned group said in a statement. ‘”We accuse the…regime of orchestrating or facilitating the two incidents,” it said. ‘”The Muslim Brotherhood condemns this painful incident and professes its innocence of the innocent blood that has been spilt,” the statement added.

‘Qatar-based prominent Muslim theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is close to the Brotherhood, also denounced the Palm Sunday attacks. ‘”We condemn all attacks on peaceful souls and confirm that these crimes are inconsistent with religious laws, ethics and customs. Those who have done this will face great torment,” Qaradawi tweeted.[10]

[1] Al Jazeera; Article “What is Muslim Brotherhood?” published: 18 June, 2017; available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/06/muslim-brotherhood-explained-170608091709865.html [accessed 1 march 2018]

[2] Crethi Plethi; Middle East Affairs Information Center; The Muslim Brotherhood – Chapter 2: The ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood; 19 June, 2011; available at: http://www.crethiplethi.com/the-ideology-of-the-muslim-brotherhood/global-islam/2011/ [accessed 1 March 2018]

[3] Crethi Plethi; Middle East Affairs Information Center; The Muslim Brotherhood – Chapter 12: Islamic jihadist organizations in Egypt ideologically originating in the Muslim Brotherhood; 19 June, 2011; available at: http://www.crethiplethi.com/islamic-jihadist-organizations-in-egypt-ideologically-originating-in-the-muslim-brotherhood/global-islam/2011/ [accessed 1 March 2018]

[4] BBC News Profile; Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood; 25 December, 2013; available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12313405 [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[5] UK Government; Muslim Brotherhood Review: Main Findings, para 10; 17 December, 2015; available at:

. [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[6] Council on Foreign Affairs – CFA Backgrounder; Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood; January 2014; available at: http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egypts-muslim-brotherhood/p23991 [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[7] The Guardian; Who are the Muslim Brotherhood?; 2 April, 2013; available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/02/who-are-the-muslim-brotherhood [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[8] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood , 26 July 2017, v 3.0, available at:

[accessed 19 February 2018]

[9] Al Jazeera; What happened to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood? By Khalil al-Anani, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Dohar Institute for Graduate Studies; 15 February, 2017; available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/02/happened-egypt-muslim-brotherhood-170212130839987.html [accessed 19 February 2018]

[10] AlAraby; Muslim Brotherhood denounces Egypt church bombings, blames Sisi regime; 10 June, 2017; available at: https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/4/10/muslim-brotherhood-denounces-egypt-church-bombings-blames-sisi-regime [accessed 19 February 2018]

Syria. Military service and forced recruitment. February, 2018

According the report of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in Syria, draft evasion is a criminal offence.  Independent observers note that draft evasion is likely considered by the government as a political, anti-government act, which may lead to punishment of the person who attempted to evade the draft beyond the relevant sanctions for the criminal offence of draft evasion, including harsher treatment during arrest, interrogation, detention and, once deployed, during military service. In practice, rather than facing criminal sanctions (imprisonment) under the Military Penal Code, draft evaders are reportedly deployed to a frontline position within days or weeks of their arrest, often with only minimal training.

As a result of high rates of draft evasion, desertions, and casualties, the army and security agencies have reportedly intensified their efforts to conscript Syrian men and to mobilize reservists. In addition, efforts have reportedly been stepped up to identify and arrest draft evaders, including at mobile and fixed checkpoints, during raids, house searches and searches on public transportation.  In areas retaken by government forces from anti-government armed groups, men of mandatory military service or reserve duty age have reportedly been arrested in large numbers for the purpose of conscripting them into the army.

Draft evaders in detention face a risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, a practice reported to be endemic in Syria.

In addition to the act of draft evasion itself being perceived as a political act, other elements of a draft evader’s profile may further contribute to that person being perceived as not sufficiently loyal to the government and/or supporting the (political or armed) opposition, which would put the draft evader at further risk of ill-treatment over and beyond punishment under the applicable legal framework for draft evasion.

An increasing level of arbitrariness is reportedly applied to rules and regulations regarding military service, particularly in relation to deferral and exemption procedures. Increasingly, the government has reportedly also called up previously “protected populations” such as university students, civil servants and prisoners for compulsory military service. Many of those serving their compulsory military service have reportedly seen their terms extended beyond the 18 months prescribed by law. According to reports, men who are discharged following the end of their mandatory service are often automatically enlisted into the army reserves. Many men of conscription or reservist age are reported to avoid movements, have gone into hiding, relocate to areas held by anti-government armed groups (including under local reconciliation agreements), or have fled the country for fear of harassment at checkpoints and forced conscription. Men returning from abroad are reported to be consistently checked for their military service records.

Desertions from the armed forces have reportedly been most prevalent in the early years of the conflict, but have since become a rare occurrence. Desertion is punishable under the 1950 Military Penal Code, as amended, and entails, depending on the circumstances, imprisonment or the death penalty. These legal provisions notwithstanding, according to reports, individuals who refused orders to shoot, deserted or were suspected of planning their desertion have commonly not been formally charged with an offence. Rather, they have reportedly either been subjected to immediate execution at the time of desertion or when caught, or have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, torture and extra-judicial execution; or have been ordered to return to their military unit following an investigation.

Since 2011, the Syrian president has issued a series of amnesty decrees for members of anti-government armed groups, draft evaders and deserters, which exempted them from punishment, if they turned themselves in within a specified period of time.[1]

The situation in the government-controlled areas

Military conscription of males continues unabated as it has done throughout the conflict. There has been no general mobilization within the last year (March 2016 – March 2017), but generally, control of military status has been intensified at checkpoints. Several sources said that during 2016, there were waves of intensified efforts to recruit conscripts and reservists, including raids in public areas. Two sources stated that one of the reasons behind raids of this sort was that only few men responded to call ups for conscription and reported for duty.

According to several sources, areas recently taken over by the government forces provide new pools of recruitment for the Syrian authorities. In these areas, there are many men who have never reported for service and are now subject to military conscription.

Several sources noted that the government actively encourages citizens to enroll for service in the armed forces.

Groups which previously were able to avoid conscription through deferrals are increasingly under pressure for being conscripted and their possibilities to obtain deferrals or exemptions have been limited. According to a diplomatic source (A), leniencies have been cut back, e.g. university students whose military service was postponed during their studies, are now called up immediately after their final exam rather than at the end of the academic year as was the case prior to the conflict

UNHCR also noted a rise in targeting of prisoners, public servants and to some extent also certain religious minorities, which were previously considered as ‘protected’ with regards to military service.

One source said that exemptions for e.g. medical reasons are no longer strictly adhered to and that individuals who have previously been exempted for medical or mental conditions have in some instances undergone renewed medical, physical and mental assessments. The purpose of such assessments has been to identify individuals with minor medical issues who, despite prior exemptions, can be considered fit for either logistical or combat roles.

Two sources mentioned that the government has begun to recruit everyone, also only male children of families who previously, by law, have been exempted from service.

Profile of reservists called up for service

Several sources said that which reservists are particularly at risk of being drafted depends on the qualifications needed by the army.

Three sources have on the other hand said that the government no longer exclusively focuses on recruiting reservists with certain qualifications, with one of the sources underlining that this is due to the lack of unity in the army with regard to recruitment strategies. An international organization has similarly stated that it seems quite random how reservists are called up and that it differs from area to area.

One source said that reservists with military qualifications are in high demand. However, the source underlined that even those not being specifically targeted presently could risk being sought after when their specific qualifications were needed and added that the army was recently in a severe need of doctors.

Several sources said that reservists over the age of 42 are recruited and the age scope of reservists called up thus has been widened.

 Recruitment of men above the age of 42

Regarding recruitment of those over the age of 42 to the Syrian army, several sources said that the age limit has been pushed to include men over the age of 42. Two sources noted that the military service age has been extended from 42 up to 50.

A major international non-governmental organization operating in Syria said that generally, the age limit of recruits to the army is 42. However, agreements that have been made in areas recently taken over by the government show that the age scope of people recruited for the army has been widened to include men up until at least the age of 45. One source referred to reports of men up until the age of 52 being drafted in areas recently retaken by the government forces, for example in Aleppo where many men were immediately recruited to serve in the military.

The situation in opposition-controlled areas

According to a diplomatic source (A), there are a wide array of different opposition groups in areas outside of government control and a multitude of factors affect the circumstances under which groups exert control in a given area.

Some sources noted that recruitment patterns vary from area to area depending on local dynamics and groups in question. Professor Bassel Al-Hassan said that generally all warring parties increasingly recruit their fighters on the basis of ethnic and religious motives due to the escalating sectarianism.

Most sources said that recruitment of fighters to armed opposition groups generally takes place on a voluntary basis. Economic necessity is a significant incentive pushing men to join armed groups in the face of few other options for earning a living.

Most sources considered that social pressure to join armed groups exists in opposition-controlled areas, and some sources noted that whether or not social pressure is prevalent depends on the area and local circumstances.

An international organization highlighted that jihadist groups such as Jabhat Al-Nusra use force in recruiting and refusing to join jihadist groups would be considered equal to siding with the regime. Contrarily, a major international non-governmental organization said that a group such as Al-Nusra only trusts and recruits persons whom it knows and whose families are known to them.  A third source stated that Jabhat Al-Nusra relies heavily in their recruitment on a religious, sectarian and ideological propaganda. [2]

Forced Recruitment by Kurds Reported again in Northeastern Syria

TEHRAN (FNA) – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) recruited more civilians in different regions in Raqqa province and forced them to join the SDF, local sources said Saturday, adding that the Kurdish militias are intensifying pressure on civilians in the region.

The sources said that the SDF has arrested a number of young people in the town of Solouk in Northern Raqqa to force them to join the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The sources in Northern Raqqa reported on Thursday that the Kurdish forces detained over 1,500 young people from the towns and villages of the region with the aim of recruiting them for fight against the Turkish army and its affiliated militants.

They also underlined increased recruitment activities by the Kurds in the region, adding that a large number of teachers in Solouk and Tal Abyadh regions in Raqqa province have been transferred to Khorous base in South of the town of Ain al-Arab (Kobani) in Eastern Aleppo.[3][4]

ACCORD – Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation in Query response on Syria: Forced recruitment of underage persons by the Islamic State (IS) group, Published on18 August 2017 mentions that:

„A total of 362 cases of recruitment and use of children were verified and attributed to ISIL (274), the Free Syrian Army and affiliated groups (62), Liwa’ al-Tawhid (11), popular committees (5), Kurdish People’s Protection Units (4), Ahrar al-Sham (3), the Nusrah Front (2) and the Army of Islam (1). Of the verified cases, 56 per cent involved children under 15 years of age, a significant increase compared with 2014. The payment of salaries and ideology continued to be major influencing factors. The massive recruitment and use of children by ISIL continued.“ [5]

According the Monthly Human Rights Digest – June 2017 of UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports of forced recruitment campaigns by the SDF and    YPG    in    both    Ar-Raqqa    and    Al -Hassakeh Governorates are   also   being   received. [6]

[1] UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Protection Considerations with regard to people fleeing the Syrian Arab Republic, Update V, 3 November 2017, available at:

 [accessed 23 February 2018]

[2] Danish Immigration Service: Recruitment Practices in Government-controlled Areas and in Areas under Opposition Control, Involvement of Public Servants and Civilians in the Armed Conflict and Issues Related to Exiting Syria; Copenhagen, August 2017

[accessed 23 February 2018]

[3]Fars News Agency: Forced Recruitment by Kurds Reported again in Northeastern Syria;  published: Feb 10, 2018 available at: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961121001523 [accessed 23 February, 2018]

[4] Fars News Agency: SDF Continues Forced Recruitment in Raqqa; published: Feb 08, 2018; available at: http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13961119000761 [accessed 23 February, 2018]

[5] ACCORD – Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation: Forced recruitment of underage persons by the Islamic State (IS) group; Published:18 August 2017;  available at:

[6] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Syria: Monthly Human Rights Digest – June 2017, 30 June 2017, available at:

  [accessed 23 February 2018]

Egypt. Freedom of the press and the security conditions of journalists. February, 2018

According the Human Rights Watch Report President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government maintained its zero-tolerance policy towards dissent, introducing repressive legislation, notably a nongovernmental organization (NGO) law that may end independent associations, reinstating a state of emergency and continuing near-absolute impunity for abuses by security forces under the pretext of fighting “terrorism.”

Security forces rounded up hundreds of dissidents, mainly targeting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Ministry of Interior’s National Security Agency arbitrarily detained, disappeared, and tortured people. There were numerous incidents of what appeared to be extrajudicial killings, including of previously detained persons in staged “shoot-outs.”

Authorities placed hundreds of people on terrorism lists and seized their assets for alleged terrorism links without due process.

The government imposed a media blackout on its counterterrorism operations in Northern Sinai. Wilayat Sinai, an affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) operating there, targeted civilians as well as security forces.

Military prosecutors continued to send hundreds of civilians to military trials in cases related to political dissent, whether violent or peaceful. President al-Sisi has approved in August 2016 a five-year extension of a 2014 law that expanded, to an unprecedented extent, grounds for trying civilians before military courts. Between October 2014 and September 2017, authorities sent at least 15,500 civilians to military courts including over 150 children

The government placed two independent newspapers, Al-Borsa and Daily News Egypt, and two independent news websites, Misr al-Arabiya and Cairo Portal, on the terrorist entities lists. The placement led to asset freezes and brought the four outlets under the administration of the government-owned Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In March, an appeals courts reduced a two-year prison sentence to one-year suspended sentence for the former head of the Journalists’ Syndicate, Yehya Qallash, and two former board members, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim. A final appeal was ongoing before Egypt’s highest appellate court, the Cassation Court.

According to RSF, as of late October, 17 journalists remained in jail. On October 21, journalist Hisham Gaafar had spent more than two years in pretrial detention, the maximum allowed by Egyptian law, on charges of receiving foreign funds for his institution, Mada Media Foundation, and joining a banned group. Authorities denied him proper medical care for prostate disease. Ismail al-Iskandrani, a journalist who reported on Sinai, will have entered his third year of pretrial detention in December 2017. He faces charges of spreading false news and joining a banned group.

In May, the government blocked 21 websites of political groups and news outlets. As of October, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an independent Egyptian group, said that the number of websites blocked reached more than 425, including rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and RSF.

President al-Sisi signed parliamentary amendments to the 2013 protest law intended to meet a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling, but they did not affect the highly restrictive nature of the law, and peaceful gatherings remain effectively banned and penalized. Al-Sisi pardoned a total of 705 prisoners in March and June, most of whom had been convicted in cases related to peaceful protests.[1]

According the Freedom House report President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who first took power in a July 2013 coup, continues to govern Egypt in an authoritarian manner, though the election of a new parliament in late 2015 ended a period of rule by executive decree. Serious political opposition is virtually nonexistent, as both liberal and Islamist activists face criminal prosecution and imprisonment. Terrorism persists unabated in the Sinai Peninsula and has also struck the Egyptian mainland, despite the government’s use of aggressive and often abusive tactics to combat it.

The Egyptian media sector is dominated by progovernment outlets, as most critical or opposition-oriented outlets were shut down in the wake of the coup. Moreover, over the past three years, a number of private television channels and newspapers have been launched or acquired by progovernment businessmen and individuals with ties to the military and intelligence services. Journalists who fail to align their reporting with the interests of owners or the government risk dismissal. Journalists also continued to face arrest for their work, and 20 remained behind bars as of December 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

A law adopted in late 2016 created the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, with broad discretion to control the content of broadcast, print, and online media. In September 2017, during a crackdown on LGBT people, the council banned any media coverage of “homosexuality” except to “convey the danger of the problem.”

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) reported a major escalation in the government’s efforts to censor online media beginning in May 2017. It found that nearly 500 websites had been blocked by December, though the authorities had yet to acknowledge the scale of the blocking or provide a legal justification.[2]

According the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than half of the journalists imprisoned in Egypt, where the number in jail fell to 20 from 25 last year, are also in poor health. Among them is photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, who was arrested covering a violent dispersal of protesters by Egyptian security forces and has been in pretrial detention for more than four years. He and his 738 co-accused are charged with possessing weapons, illegal assembly, attempted murder, and murder, according to CPJ research. Shawkan is anemic and needs blood transfusions, but has been denied hospital care, according to his family. Of the 20 journalists in Egyptian jails, 12 have not been convicted or sentenced for any crime.

The prolonged imprisonment of Egyptian journalists comes as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi battles deadly extremism and high unemployment in the country, and as Cairo and Washington cooperate closely on security. Soon after el-Sisi met Trump at the White House in April, his government passed a draconian anti-terrorism law that furthered its crackdown on the press by, among other things, enabling authorities to put journalists acquitted of terrorism-related charges on a terror watch list that restricts their financial and other rights, according to news reports.[3]

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a report on Wednesday listing world’s top jailors of journalists. CPJ’s annual prison census found that 262 journalists have been imprisoned worldwide which makes the year 2017 the worst year on record since CPJ started its census in the early 1990s. After Turkey and China comes Egypt as the worst country for journalists with 20 journalists currently behind bars.

“Among them is photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, who was arrested covering a violent dispersal of protesters by Egyptian security forces and has been in pretrial detention for more than four years,” states the report.[4] [5]

According to Radidja Nemar, a North Africa legal officer for human rights group Alkarama, the Egyptian government has “targeted either news outlets or human rights organisations who would be covering human rights violations in the country”.

But journalists, in particular, can be silenced under a 2016 law that makes it a crime to spread false news, Nemar told Al Jazeera. Often, this law is used against journalists “covering what the government would consider [hurts] the image of the state”.

That’s what Al Jazeera Arabic news producer Mahmoud Hussein was accused of last year, when he was detained on December 20 on accusations of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos”. Al Jazeera has denied the charges against him and demanded Hussein’s immediate and unconditional release.

A 2015 law broadened the scope of what is considered a “terrorist crime” and criminalised reporting on “terrorism” and “terrorist acts” in Egypt that go against reports by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, CPJ reported, citing various news sources. “The law defines ‘terrorist crimes’ as any act aiming to harm public order, social peace, or national unity,” the group said.

According to Nemar, while journalists covering state repression, politics or human rights abuses since the military’s takeover in 2013 have been prosecuted and imprisoned, “there is no clear line” that journalists cannot cross, which highlights “the whole arbitrary [nature] of the process”. “We don’t know the rationale [behind] every arrest or every judicial decision or sentence,” she said.[6]

According the Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index Egypt ranks 161 out of 180 countries in the world rankings in 2017. In the name of combating terrorism, Egypt has become one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists, most of them held on trumped-up charges.[7]

[1] Human Rights Watch /World Report 2018- Egypt- Events of 2017; available at: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/egypt [accessed 19 February 2018]

[2] Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2018/ Egypt; available at:  https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/egypt [accessed 19 February 2018]

[3] Committee to Protect Journalists: Record number of journalists jailed as Turkey, China, Egypt pay scant price for repression; Published December 13, 2017. available at https://cpj.org/reports/2017/12/journalists-prison-jail-record-number-turkey-china-egypt.php [accessed 20 February 2018]

[4] Egyptian Streets: Egypt Ranks Third Worst Jailer of Journalists in 2017: CPJ; December 14, 2017; available at https://egyptianstreets.com/2017/12/14/egypt-ranks-third-worst-jailer-of-journalists-in-2017-cpj/ [accessed 20 February 2018]

[5] Al Jazeera: Egypt’s journalists face ‘unprecedented’ threats; 20 Dec 2017; available at:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/egypt-journalists-face-unprecedented-threats-171130130036948.html  [accessed 20 February 2018]

[6] Al Jazeera: Egypt’s journalists face ‘unprecedented’ threats; 20 Dec 2017; available at:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/egypt-journalists-face-unprecedented-threats-171130130036948.html  [accessed 20 February 2018]

[7] Reporters Without Borders: 2017 World Press Freedom Index; avaliable at https://rsf.org/en/ranking# [accessed 20 February 2018]

Turkey. Freedom of Religion: Treatment of the atheists. February, 2018

The 1982 Turkish constitution provides for the freedom of belief, worship, and the private dissemination of religious ideas, and prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. Nevertheless, the state interprets secularism to require state control over religious communities, including their practices and houses of worship. The Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) maintains control over the practice of Islam in Turkey; all other religions are under the auspices of the General Directorate for Foundations (Vakiflar).[1]

There are also an unknown number of atheists; estimates by international and private Turkish polling organizations vary, but most recent published survey results suggest approximately 2 percent of the population is atheist’.[2]

The U.S. government estimates the population at 80.3 million (July 2016 estimate). According to the Turkish government, 99 percent of the population is Muslim, approximately 77.5 percent of which are Hanafi Sunni. Representatives of other religious groups estimate their members represent approximately 0.3 percent of the population, while the most recent published surveys suggest approximately 2 percent of the population is atheist.

The constitution establishes compulsory religious and moral instruction in public primary and secondary schools, with content determined by the Ministry of National Education’s Department of Religious Instruction. Only students who marked “Christian” or “Jewish” on their national identity cards may apply for an exemption from religion classes. No exemptions are allowed for atheists, agnostics, Alevis or other non-Sunni Muslims, Bahais, Yezidis, or those who left the religion section on their national identity card blank.

In March the chair of the Sharia Association was fined 7,080 Turkish Lira ($1,928) for insulting and 6,000 Turkish Lira ($1,634) for threatening the chair of the Atheism Association.[3]

A group of NGOs have surveyed what Turkish parents and secondary school pupils think about the government’s education policies in relation to freedom of religion and belief. Some welcome state actions, but others feel coerced into religious instruction and practices they disagree with.

However, what parents want varies. Devout or pious Sunni Muslims, for example, want RCKE classes to continue to be compulsory. This is not because they want others to be forced to learn about Islam, but because they think that their own children may not opt for these courses if they are voluntary. In contrast, atheists are not opposed to religious education but want such classes to be voluntary.  Atheists tend not to be categorically opposed to religious education in schools, but stress that such education should be entirely voluntary. In relation to the “compulsory optional” Islam lessons, the Education Ministry convened a commission to produce optional lessons in Christianity – but did not convene similar commissions for the Alevis, despite their requesting it, nor for atheists, agnostics, or people of other beliefs.[4]

On the basis of the Lausanne Treaty (1923) that established the newly Turkish modern State after the War of Independence, Turkey recognizes only some non‐Muslims as minorities (i.e., Armenian Orthodox Christians, Jews and Greek Orthodox Christians), excluding different cultural and ethnic groups.

A recent positive development is the adoption by the parliament on 6 April 2016 of the Law on Human Rights and Equality Institution, addressing inter alia the discrimination on ethnic and racial grounds. The law prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender, race, color, language, religion, belief, philosophical or political opinion, ethnic origin, property, birth marital status, medical condition, disability and age. However, as the EC Communication 2016 noted: ‘A legal vacuum exists on human rights cases as the new National Human Rights and Equality institution has not yet been established. The rights of the most vulnerable groups and of persons belonging to minorities should be sufficiently protected. Gender‐based violence, discrimination, hate speech against minorities, hate crime and violations of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons continue to be a source of a serious concern’.

Sources report that minorities, such as Assyrians, Caferis, Yezidis, Kurds, Arabs, Roma, Circassians, and Laz, are not permitted to fully exercise their social, economic, linguistic, religious, and cultural rights. The law nonetheless allows private institutions to provide education in languages and dialects that citizens use in their daily lives under certain conditions.[5]

Although the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, increasingly the public sphere is dominated by Sunni Islam. Alevi places of worship are not recognized as such by the government, meaning they cannot access the subsidies available to Sunni mosques. The number of religious schools that promote Sunni Islam has increased under the AKP, and Turkish public education includes compulsory religious education courses that non-Muslims are generally exempted from but Alevis and nonbelievers have difficulty opting out of. Three non-Muslim religious groups – Jews, Orthodox Christians, and Armenian Christians – are officially recognized. However, disputes over property and prohibitions on training of clergy remain problems for these communities, and the rights of unrecognized religious minorities are more limited.[6]

[1] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 2 countries – Turkey, 26 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 February 2018]

[2] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Information and Guidance – Turkey: Background information, including actors of protection and internal relocation, February 2016, Version 1.0, available at:

[accessed 20 February 2018]

[3] United States Department of State, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom – Turkey, 15 August 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 February 2018]

[4] Forum 18, Turkey: What do parents and pupils think?, 1 November 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 February 2018]

[5] European Union: European Asylum Support Office (EASO), EASO Country of Origin Information. Report Turkey Country Focus, November 2016, available at:

[accessed 20 February 2018]

[6] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018 – Turkey, 2 February 2018, available at:

[accessed 20 February 2018]

Ethiopia. Security Situation and Human Rights Practices. February, 2018

Ethiopia is officially a federal republic. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four ethnically based parties, controls the government. In May 2015 elections the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 House of People’s Representatives seats to remain in power for a fifth consecutive five-year term. In October 2015 parliament elected Hailemariam Desalegn as prime minister. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the vote. A mission from the African Union, the sole international institution or organization permitted to observe the voting, called the elections “calm, peaceful and credible.” Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported an environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place prior to the election. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters, and violence before and after the election that resulted in six confirmed deaths.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over the security forces, and local police in rural areas and local militias sometimes acted independently. The most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs.[1]

Ethiopia made little progress in 2017 on much-needed human rights reforms. Instead, it used a prolonged state of emergency, security force abuses, and repressive laws to continue suppressing basic rights and freedoms. The 10-month state of emergency, first declared in October 2016, brought mass arrests, mistreatment in detention, and unreasonable limitations on freedom of assembly, expression, and association. While abusive and overly broad, the state of emergency gave the government a period of relative calm that it could have used to address grievances raised repeatedly by protesters.

However, the government did not address the human rights concerns that protesters raised, including the closing of political space, brutality of security forces, and forced displacement. Instead, authorities in late 2016 and 2017 announced anti- corruption reforms, cabinet reshuffles, a dialogue with what was left of opposition political parties, youth job creation, and commitments to entrench “good governance.”

Ethiopia continues to have a closed political space. The ruling coalition has 100 percent of federal and regional parliamentary seats. Broad restrictions on civil society and independent media, decimation of independent political parties, harassment and arbitrary detention of those who do not actively support the government, severely limited space for dissenting voices.

Despite repeated promises to investigate abuses, the government has not credibly done so, underscoring the need for international investigations. The government-affiliated Human Rights Commission is not sufficiently independent and its investigations consistently lack credibility.[2]

Prolonged protests over political, economic, social and cultural grievances were met with excessive and lethal force by police. The crackdown on the political opposition saw mass arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and violations of the rights to freedom of expression and association. On 9 October, the government announced a state of emergency, which led to further human rights violations.[3]

Ethiopia is an authoritarian state ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has been in power since 1991 and currently holds every seat in Parliament. Multiple flawed elections, including most recently in 2015, showcased the government’s willingness to brutally repress the opposition and its supporters, journalists, and activists. Muslims and members of the Oromo ethnic group have been specifically singled out. Perceived political opponents are regularly harassed, detained, and prosecuted – often under the guise of Ethiopia’s deeply flawed Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation drastically impeded the activities of civil society groups.[4]

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 102.3 million (2016 estimate). The most recent census of 2007 estimated 44 percent of the population adheres to the EOC, 34 percent is Sunni Muslim, and 19 percent belongs to Christian evangelical and Pentecostal groups. The EOC is predominant in the northern regions of Tigray and Amhara and present in Oromia. Islam is most prevalent in the Afar, Oromia, and Somali regions. Established Protestant churches are strongest in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, Gambella, and parts of Oromia. There are small numbers of Eastern Rite and Roman Catholics, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and followers of indigenous religions. The constitution requires the separation of state and religion, establishes freedom of religious choice and practice, prohibits religious discrimination, and stipulates the government shall not interfere in the practice of any religion.[5]

Ethiopia has a long history of religious tolerance and interreligious cooperation. The Ethiopian constitution protects freedom of religion or belief and provides for separation of religion and state. Religious freedom violations are prevalent in a number of countries in the Horn of Africa region. The Ethiopian government engages in serious religious freedom violations in response to concerns about terrorism and religious extremism.[6]

[1] United States Department of State, 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Ethiopia, 3 March 2017, available at:

[accessed 13 February 2018]

[2] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018 – Ethiopia, 18 January 2018, available at:

[accessed 13 February 2018]

[3] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Ethiopia, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 13 February 2018]

[4] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Ethiopia, 3 May 2017, available at:

[accessed 13 February 2018]

[5] United States Department of State, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom – Ethiopia, 15 August 2017, available at:

[accessed 13 February 2018]

[6] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 3: Other countries/regions monitored – Ethiopia, 26 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 13 February 2018]

The Democratic Republic of Congo. Human Rights Practice. February, 2018

Political violence and government repression continued in 2017, as President Joseph Kabila held on to power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit, which ended on December 19, 2016. As authorities stalled plans to organize elections, government officials and security forces systematically sought to silence, repress, and intimidate the political opposition, human rights and pro-democracy activists, journalists, and peaceful protesters. Government security forces and numerous armed groups attacked civilians across the country with devastating consequences.

A power-sharing agreement mediated by the Catholic Church and signed in late 2016 called for elections by the end of 2017 and for a number of steps to de-escalate political tensions, including the release of political prisoners. Many of the main tenets of the agreement were largely ignored. In March, the Catholic bishops withdrew from their mediation role. In June, the bishops blamed the country’s dire security, human rights, economic, and political crises on the failure of those in power to hold elections in accordance with the constitution, and they called on the Congolese people to “stand up” and take their destiny into their own hands.

In November, days after the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, visited Congo and called for Kabila to hold elections by the end of 2018, the national electoral commission published a calendar, setting December 23, 2018 as the date for presidential, legislative, and provincial elections, while noting numerous constraints that could impact the timeline. Congolese civil society and political opposition leaders denounced the calendar as merely another delaying tactic to allow Kabila to stay in power. They called on him to step down by the end of 2017 and proposed a brief post-Kabila transition to organize credible elections, led by people who cannot run for office themselves.[1]

Freedom Status: Not Free; The Democratic Republic of Congo’s political rights rating declined from 6 to 7 due to the authorities’ failure to hold constitutionally mandated elections before President Joseph Kabila’s term expired in December, a flawed “consensus” deal to extend Kabila’s term, and human rights violations perpetrated by security forces while putting down opposition protests. Civilians and opposition politicians are increasingly unable to influence politics by participating in elections. Civil liberties are limited, but the population continues to exercise rights to association and freedom of expression despite growing state repression. Armed groups and insecurity are prominent in the country’s east, and state security forces have also been implicated in abuses.[2]

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) experienced political unrest during the year with protests over the end of President Kabila’s mandate. Demonstrations were met with excessive use of force by security agents as well as violations of the rights to freedom of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly. Armed conflicts continued in the east: armed groups committed numerous abuses against civilians, including summary executions, killings, abductions, acts of sexual violence and looting of property; and security forces carried out extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations. Both the armed forces and the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO (UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC) were unable to protect civilians adequately.[3]

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nominally centralized constitutional republic. Voters popularly elect the president and the lower house of parliament (National Assembly). Under the constitution the president’s second and final term in office expired on December 19. The government, however, failed to organize elections by year’s end in accordance with constitutional deadlines. On December 31, the government and opposition parties agreed to a power-sharing arrangement and holding elections by the end of December 2017. The country’s most recent presidential and National Assembly elections, which many local and international observers characterized as lacking in credibility and seriously flawed, were held in 2011. Civilian authorities did not always maintain control over the security forces. Armed conflict in the east exacerbated an already precarious human rights situation. The most significant human rights problems included unlawful killings; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment; and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including rapes and abductions.

Elements of the SSF were undisciplined and corrupt. PNC and FARDC units regularly engaged in illegal taxation and extortion of civilians. They set up checkpoints to collect “taxes,” often stealing food and money and arresting individuals who could not pay bribes. The FARDC suffered from weak leadership, poor operational planning, low administrative and logistical capacity, lack of training, and questionable loyalty of some of its soldiers, particularly in the east. In October a military court in Kongo Central Province sentenced five FARDC officers and their subordinates to prison terms ranging from one to 15 years for violating orders and attempted corruption in facilitating fraudulent border crossings. Although the military justice system convicted some SSF agents of human rights abuses, impunity remained a serious problem.[4]

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 81.3 million (July 2016 estimate). The last national census was performed in 1981, and many existing demographic statistics vary in estimates and reliability. The Pew Research Center estimates 95.8 percent of the population is Christian, 1.5 percent is Muslim, and 1.8 percent report no religious affiliation (2010 estimate). Of the Christian groups, 48.1 percent are Protestant, including evangelical Christians and the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth through the Prophet Simon Kimbangu (Kimbanguist), and 47.3 percent are Catholic. The constitution provides for freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based on religious belief.[5]

[1] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018 – Democratic Republic of Congo, 18 January 2018, available at:

[accessed 5 February 2018]

[2] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa), 8 June 2017, available at:

[accessed 5 February 2018]

[3] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Democratic Republic of the Congo, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 5 February 2018]

[4] United States Department of State, 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Congo, Democratic Republic of the, 3 March 2017, available at:

[accessed 5 February 2018]

[5] United States Department of State, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom – Democratic Republic of the Congo, 15 August 2017, available at:

[accessed 5 February 2018]

Pakistan – Effectiveness of law enforcement agencies – February, 2018

Freedom of Expression and Attacks on Civil Society

According the Human Rights World report 2018 on Pakistan, Journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship after numerous attacks by security forces and militant groups in retaliation for critical articles. Media outlets remained under pressure to avoid reporting on or criticizing human rights violations during counterterrorism operations. The Taliban and other armed groups threatened media outlets and attacked journalists and activists because of their work.

In January, security forces abducted five men—Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer, and Samar Abbas—who were vocal critics of militant religious groups and Pakistan’s security establishment. Four were released after three weeks of public protests. Samar Abbas remained forcibly disappeared at time of writing.

In May, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) counterterrorism wing summoned Taha Siddiqui, a journalist and the bureau chief for World Is One News (WION), for questioning about opinions expressed in his journalism. The same month, the FIA arrested six people for making “blasphemous” comments on the internet, and the interior minister announced new rules that can severely restrict online anonymity. According to media reports, the FIA interrogated at least 40 people for making comments criticizing the military on the internet, and seized their computers and phones for forensic evaluation.

In August, plainclothes men accompanied by police officials picked up Punhal Sario, a human rights activist and campaigner for victims of enforced disappearances; Partab Shivani, a teacher and activist; Naseer Kumbhar, a writer; and Muhammad Umar, a political party worker, from different cities in Sindh province. The same month, security forces raided the home of Amar Sindhu, a well-known poet in Sindh province. Sario returned home in October.

Human Rights Watch received several credible reports of intimidation, harassment, and surveillance of various NGOs by government authorities. The government used the “Regulation of INGOs in Pakistan” policy to impede the registration and functioning of international humanitarian and human rights groups.[1]

According „The News International“ the Islamabad Police have arrested 4,450 criminals during 2017 and recovered valuables worth more than Rs400 million from them. A total of 234 criminal gangs were busted, 289 stolen vehicles and 122 motorbikes were recovered while 851 proclaimed offenders were also held.

The commitment and devotion by the personnel of Islamabad police despite several constraints, made them successful against the criminal elements this year and decline in crime rate was witnessed. The citizens were not only protected from any terrorist activity but effective security arrangements were also introduced for their safety.

Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Sajid Kiani said the police officers and jawans remained firm against the activities of mischievous elements and emerged successful during 2017 in countering criminal elements, the murderers, drug pushers, robbers and criminal gangs.

Sajid Kiani said that Islamabad Police arrested 4450 criminals during 2017 and recovered valuables worth more than Rs400 million from them. He said that 620 gangsters of 234 gangs were apprehended. He said that safe city project is very helpful in checking crime and 608 different cases have been traced through it during 2017 and criminals were arrested.

He said friendly police ecology is the top priority and citizens as well as conciliatory committees have been made functional at police station level. He said that Human Rights Officers have been appointed at police stations to ensure protection of rights of all segments of society.[2]

According the “Pakistan Today” despite various specialized forces formed over the past few years by the Punjab police, statistics tend to show a sharp increase in the crime rate in the province. Murder, theft and dacoity are all included in the list of these heinous crimes, creating a dangerous situation in the country.

Also, there are widespread reports of organized gangs emerging in the province, conducting their criminal activities by impersonating  police officers, workers of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) or as being the workers sent to administer dengue spray in homes. It is said that women are also being used in the crimes to gain access to homes fraudulently.

According to the reliable sources, the statistics collected by the Punjab police from the beginning of 2017 till December 15 of this year, about 3,888 people have lost their precious lives as a result of these crimes. About 526 cases of blind murders were reported, and almost 125 were brutally killed while resisting during various incidents.This included women, children and elderly.

About 665 and 11917 cases of dacoity and stealing were reported respectively. These deprived many citizens of their expensive jewelry, cash, cars, motorcycles and mobile phones. Seven bank robberies in the province, including Lahore, have also been reported so far.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Haider Ashraf has said that the police have arrested dozens of gangs of criminals, and have recovered millions of rupees as a result. Claiming that the incidents of dacoity have measurably decreased in the province he further stated that many police officers have been punished on their negligence.[3]

[1] Human Rights Watch/World Report 2018: Pakistan Events of 2017 https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/pakistan [accessed 9 February 2018]

[2] 2017 Review: Islamabad Police witness decline in crime rate; January 1, 2018. available at:  https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/262963-2017-review-islamabad-police-witness-decline-in-crime-rate [accessed 9 February 2018]

[3] Pakistan Today: Punjab police new forces fail as crimes increased in 2017; December 21, 2017, available at https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/12/21/punjab-police-new-forces-fail-as-crimes-increased-in-2017/ [accessed 9 February 2018]

Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Inter Religious Marriages. February, 2018

Sunni and Shia Muslim marriage – In 2013, the IRB Research Directorate quoted correspondence in 2011 with a University of Oregon professor of international studies who specializes in women’s rights and Islam in Pakistan, who stated that arranged marriages between Sunni and Shia Muslims were “not uncommon”, although they occurred less amongst Pashtun, Ismaili and Bohra Shia and Memon communities.

In contrast, a representative from the women’s rights organisation, Shirkat Gah, in correspondence with the Refugee Directorate in January 2012, stated that arranged marriages between Sunni and Shia Muslims were “very rare”, and indicated that ‘it is normal for two families arranging a marriage to be familiar with each other’s beliefs, particularly if they live in the same community.’54

According to Christophe Jaffrelot, senior research fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research, Paris, ‘Until the 1980s, marriages between Sunni and Shia Muslims were common… and there were no public assertions of Sunni or Shia identity.’55

Societal treatment and attitudes

In 2003, corresponding with the IRB Research Directorate, a professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, stated that intermarriages between Sunni and Shia Muslims are less problematic in Pakistan than marriages between Muslims and Christians. The professor further noted, in regard to a Sunni and Shia marriage, that ‘In practice, the marriage agreement between both spouses will determine whether the woman joins her husband’s religious community and whether the children will grow up in that community. In general, the children born into Sunni-Shia intermarriages are normally raised within the father’s sect; however, there are cases where the children are brought up in the mother’s sect.

In correspondence with the IRB Research Directorate in May 2005, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated ‘[t]here is no legal discrimination against inter-religious couples or their children. As far as the social situation is concerned, it depends on the beliefs of their extended family or the circle they move in. The society in general does not discriminate against them. [1]

A professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University who specializes in modern Islamic developments in India and Pakistan, including women’s issues, stated in a 7 October 2003 telephone interview that intermarriages between Sunnis and Shias are less problematic in Pakistan than marriages between Muslims and Christians. Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims share the same faith and abide by the same five pillars of Islam (Professor 7 Oct. 2003). There are no rules forcing a woman to adopt her husband’s particular branch of Islam (ibid.).

In practice, the marriage agreement between both spouses will determine whether the woman joins her husband’s religious community and whether the children will grow up in that community (ibid.). In general, the children born into Sunni-Shia intermarriages are normally raised within the father’s sect; however, there are cases where the children are brought up in the mother’s sect (ibid.).

In 20 October 2003 correspondence, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Toronto-based Al-Eman Society of Canada (AESC), a registered charitable religious organization, who is also an authorized imam in the Shia faith, stated that, according to Islam, a newly wed Sunni woman does not have to convert to the Shia faith of her husband, and that is true for Pakistan. It is up to the wife to make the decision (Al-Eman Society of Canada 20 Oct. 2003). The Chairman also stated that “if there is pressure applied for the woman to convert, this is a different matter and has nothing to do with jurisprudence of either the Shi’a or Sunni [tradition]” (ibid.).

With respect to the religious upbringing of the children, the Chairman stated that it is a matter to be resolved by the mutual understanding of the parents (ibid.).

In 24 May 2005 correspondence to the Research Directorate, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated that [t]here is no legal discrimination against inter-religious couples or their children. As far as the social situation is concerned, it depends on the beliefs of their extended family or the circle they move in. The society in general does not discriminate against them. Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Reports of women being forced to convert religions, either to the Shia or to the Sunni faith, upon marrying a spouse of the opposite faith could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.[2]

Australian Government,Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade , in its Country Information Report  on Pakistan 2017 states that there are no formal legal barriers to inter-sectarian marriage between Shi’aand Sunnis in Pakistan.

While such marriages do occur across the country (most commonly in large cities such as Lahore), credible sources told DFAT that Sunni-Shi’amarriages are becoming less common in the face of increasing religiosity across the country. When inter-sectarian marriages do occur, one partner (typically the bride) usually undergoes religious conversion. DFAT is not aware of forced conversions between sects.[3]

 

[1]

[accessed 6 February 2018]

[2] Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Pakistan: The consequences of a Shia-Sunni inter-religious marriage, including the treatment of the couple and their children (October 2003 – May 2005), 25 May 2005, PAK100048.E, available at:

 [accessed 6 February 2018]

[3] Australian Government,Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)- Country Information Report- Pakistan;  September 2017

[accessed 6 February 2018]

Islamic Republic of Iran. Treatment of Sunni Converts. February, 2018

The U.S. government estimates the population at 82.8 million (July 2016 estimate). According to U.S. government estimates and other statistical reports, including Global Security and Iran Press Watch, Muslims constitute 99 percent of the population; 89-94 percent are Shia and 5-9 percent Sunni (mostly Turkmen, Arabs, Baluchis, and Kurds living in the northeast, southwest, southeast, and northwest, respectively). Afghan refugees, economic migrants, and displaced persons also make up a significant Sunni population but accurate statistics on the breakdown between Sunni and Shia are unavailable. There are no official statistics available on the number of Muslims who practice Sufism, although unofficial reports estimate several million.

The constitution states the Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki, Hanbali, and Zaydi Sunni schools of Islam are “deserving of total respect” and their followers are free to perform religious practices. It states these schools may follow their own jurisprudence in matters of religious education and certain personal affairs, including marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

The only recognized conversions are from another religion to Islam. Apostasy from Islam is a crime punishable by death. Under the law, a child born to a Muslim father is considered to be Muslim. By law, non-Muslims may not engage in public persuasion, or attempted conversion of Muslims.[1]

Sunni Muslims complain that they have been prevented from building mosques in major cities and face difficulty obtaining government jobs. In recent years, there has been increased pressure on the Sufi Muslim order Nematollahi Gonabadi, including destruction of their places of worship and the jailing of some of their members.[2]

The government discriminates against religious minorities, including Sunni Muslims, and restricts cultural as well as political activities among the country’s Azeri, Kurdish, Arab, and Baluch ethnic minorities. On August 2, Molavi Abdolhamid, a prominent Sunni leader, wrote a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei asking him to remove restrictions on the appointment and employment of Sunnis in Sunni-majority areas and to remove restrictions on Friday prayer assemblies in major cities in Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei reportedly responded that Iranian law and Sharia oblige officials not to discriminate between Iranians based on religion or ethnicity.[3]

Members of religious minorities, including Baha’is, Sufis, Yaresan (Ahl-e Haq), Christian converts and Sunni Muslims, faced discrimination in law and practice, including in education, employment and inheritance, and were persecuted for practicing their faith.[4]

According to human rights groups and the United Nations (UN), at least 120 Sunni Muslims are in prison on charges related to their beliefs and religious activities. In August 2016, approximately 22 Sunni Muslims were executed for “enmity against God,” including Sunni cleric Shahram Ahmadi, who was arrested in 2009 on unfounded security-related charges and reportedly forced to make a false confession. Several other Sunni Muslims are on death row after having been convicted of “enmity against God” in unfair judicial proceedings. Leaders from the Sunni community have been unable to build a mosque in Tehran and have reported widespread abuses and restrictions on their religious practice, including detention and harassment of clerics and bans on Sunni teachings in public schools. Additionally, Iranian authorities have destroyed Sunni religious literature and mosques in eastern Iran.[5]

In March 2014 the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that 20 Arab Iranians were arrested for converting from Shia Islam to Sunni. It was reported that security forces have been cracking down on converts in the region; “Security agents arrested 20 Arab-Iranians on February 26 in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, for converting from Shia’ Islam to Sunni, human rights activist Karim Dahimi told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “I have spoken to some of their families. They are all residents of Khashayar and Alavi neighborhoods of Ahvaz,” said Dahimi, who is based outside Iran. “They had gathered in the home of one of the Arabs in the Alavi neighborhood to read the Quran and study Arabic. Security agents entered the house by force at 9 o’clock without a warrant, arrested everyone and took them to the Ahvaz detention center. The owner of the house was the only one who was not arrested. He had gone out to buy dinner and when he saw the police cars he ran away.” The human rights activist pointed out that none of those arrested were involved in political activities but the security forces have been cracking down on converts in the region. “In recent years many people in the south, especially in Shoush, Abadan, Shadegan, and Khorramshahr, have converted from the Shia’ faith to Sunni [Islam]. The Iranian government is worried about the growth of the Sunni population in the region and therefore it is being strict towards converts.”

In July 2014 Sunni Prisoners Iran, International Campaign for Sunni Prisoners in Iran, a local Iranian NGO, reported the arrest of a Sunni convert as part of a crackdown on Sunnis, “The Iranian security forces arrested yet another Ahwazi Sunni convert in the Khuzestan province on Thursday, with at least ten other Sunni converts arrested in the area within the last fortnight. 35-year old Saeed Haydari, who recently converted from Shi’ism to Sunni Islam, was arrested on 24 July 2014 at his home in the town of Taleghani (Al-Kora) in Mahshahr city, Khuzestan.His arrest is believed to be directly related to his religious activities and his conversion to Sunni Islam. The Shia Iranian government has been alarmed by the rise of Sunni Islam among the Ahwazi Arabs in the traditionally Shia-majority Khuzestan province. At least ten Sunni converts have been arrested in the last fortnight alone, with three arrested after openly preaching Sunni beliefs and a further seven arrested after holding congregational Sunni Taraweeh prayers. More than 6000 books mocking Sunni beliefs were also distributed in Ahwaz on Monday, with information printed on the book indicating that they were published on the behalf of the Iranian government.”

In February 2014 Sunni Prisoners Iran, International Campaign for Sunni Prisoners in Iran reported that nine Sunni men were arrested in Qal’eh Chan’an, Khuzestan province after converting to Sunni Islam, “Nine men from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority were arrested in Qal’eh Chan’an, Khuzestan province of Iran, after they left their Shia beliefs and converted to Sunni Islam.The men, who had reportedly been arrested due to their ‘religious activism’, have been transferred to Karoun prison in Ahwaz. 26-year old Syed Amin, 26-year old Ali Hadi, 27-year old Hamid bin Hadi, 28-year old Jassem Mohammad Isa, 30-year old Jamal Khidr, 31-year old Abdullah Mohye Ahmad, 33-year old Syed Khalil, Foad Salamat and Abdol Rahim Salamat, were reportedly arrested in their houses in recent weeks by security forces.”

In March 2014 the Human Rights Activists News Agency reported that a Sunni convert was arrested in Ahwaz, south-western Iran, as part of a series of arrests targeting converts to Sunni Islam, “Iran’s crackdown of Sunni converts continues as security forces arrest another convert in southwestern Iran. According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 35-year old Jafar Chaldawi, a Sunni convert from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority, was arrested on Monday by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in the Hay al-Thawra district of Ahwaz, Khuzestan province.His arrest is the latest in a series of arrests targeting converts to Sunni Islam in the region. Just days earlier, a 45-year old Sunni convert was arrested in Ahwaz on 6 March 2014. Iranian security forces also arrested more than 20 Sunni converts at a Qur’an and Arabic language study meeting in Ahwaz on 25 February 2014. A further nine Ahwazi men were arrested earlier this year for ‘religious activism’ in Qal’eh Chan’an, Khuzestan province, after converting to Sunni Islam.”[6]

[1] United States Department of State, 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom – Iran, 15 August 2017, available at:

[accessed 7 February 2018]

[2] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018 – Iran, 19 January 2018, available at:

[accessed 7 February 2018]

[3] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018 – Iran, 18 January 2018, available at:

[accessed 7 February 2018]

[4] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Iran, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 7 February 2018]

[5] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 1: USCIRF-recommended Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) – Iran, 26 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 7 February 2018]

[6] Country of Origin Research and Information (CORI), Iran: Information on situation of persons who convert from Shia to Sunni Islam; how are they treated by the State and its organs, 6 November 2014, Iran1114, available at:

[accessed 7 February 2018]

Swaziland – Legal and Economic Condition of Refugees – February, 2018

Autonomy for the Swazis of southern Africa was guaranteed by the British in the late 19th century; independence was granted in 1968. Student and labor unrest during the 1990s pressured King MSWATI III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, to grudgingly allow political reform and greater democracy, although he has backslid on these promises in recent years. A constitution came into effect in 2006, but the legal status of political parties was not defined and their status remains unclear. Swaziland has surpassed Botswana as the country with the world’s highest known HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. [1]

Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. It also states provisions of law and custom that impose restrictions on the freedom of any person to reside in the country shall not contravene the freedom granted by the constitution.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. By traditional law and custom, chiefs have the power to decide who may reside in their chiefdoms; evictions occurred due to internal conflicts, alleged criminal activity, or opposition to the chief.

Foreign Travel: Nonethnic Swazi citizens sometimes experienced lengthy processing delays when seeking passports and citizenship documents, in part due to the country’s history of not treating mixed-race and white persons as “legitimate” citizens. In addition, political activists and their families often had difficulty obtaining passports.

Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: Laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers. The country hosted an estimated 1,000 refugees, the majority from the African Great Lakes region and Somalia.

Durable Solutions: The government permanently resettled refugees in the country. It allowed some refugees to compete for jobs and granted them work permits and temporary residence permits. The government also provided refugees with free transportation twice a week to buy and sell food in local markets. Refugees who lived in the country more than five years were eligible for citizenship, but many waited longer to acquire citizenship, sometimes more than 10 years, due to bureaucratic inefficiency and onerous requirements. The government continued to implement a psychological support program that provided counseling to refugees. Refugees could visit the neighboring countries of Mozambique and South Africa with ease.[2]

Refugees Registration

The Ministry of Home Affairs Refugee Section in executing its mandate of guaranteeing the protection and assistance of asylum seekers and refugees, acting together with its partner United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and it’s a implementing partner Caritas Swaziland ensures the provision of the following: Legal Protection, Education- Health, Counseling, Shelter, Food Assistance, Income generating opportunities, Skills Training.

Legal Protection

The refugee section carries out individual refugee registration to enhance their legal protection.

Education

Refugee children are assisted to enroll with local schools as a means of promoting local integration . Refugee parents are encouraged to contribute meaningfully towards the education of their children with UNHCR providing funding to assist with the remainer of the fees.

Health

The on-site clinic at Malindza Refugee Reception Centre is a primary health care facility attending to the health needs of refugees and the local community .Illnesses requiring secondary health care facilities (e.g. Good Shepherd Hospital) which is 22 kilometres from the centre.

Counseling

The staff at the Refugee Section (both Headquaters and Malindza) offer counseling services to the refugees in need, given the inherent traumatic effect of refugee flight and also provide psychological support.

Shelter

New arrivals are accommodated at Malindza Reception Center where they are provided with household items which include blankets etc.

Food Assistance

New arrivals receive food prepared in the center’s communal kitchen .Beneficiaries include asylum seekers and those with special needs such as sick elderly , physically and mentally challenged and other vunerable groups which include children who are below 18 years of age.

Income generating opportunities

Swaziland provides a perfect environment for refugees to realize their potential and utilize their skills and talents.Many refugees are gainfully employed in Swaziland as doctors , teachers and engineers to mention a few. Malindza based refugees take advantage of the Vast tract of arable land and irrigation water to produce a variety of crops for both subsistence and semi-commercial purposes.

Skills training

The government of Swaziland together with the UNHCR and it’s partners encourage and provide financial assistance to refugees to acquire skills through vocational training so as to empower them to enter the open market.[3]

Exploring durable solutions for Refugees in Swaziland

The Kingdom of Swaziland as a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, hosts about 728 refugees and 385 asylum seekers. Some of the refugees have been in the country for more than a decade. Some have successfully integrated into local society yet some have difficulty in doing likewise.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to provide international protection to refugees, which includes seeking to find permanent or durable solutions to refugee problems. The UNHCR partners with the Swaziland Government and Caritas Swaziland to carry out this mandate to refugees in the country.[4]