Alarming reports emerged today of a rise in violence against women in the Iraqi city of Basra being carried out by Islamist extremists and suspected Shia militias. A powerful piece on the Today program detailed the intimidation, beatings, threats and murders, which are happening with frequency to Iraqi women being targeted mostly for not adhering to strict Islamic dress code. The program raised questions as to whether British forces based in Basra who knew about it have done enough to tackle the issue?
Amnesty has followed the plight of women in conflict zones including Iraq drawing attention to the fact that they are often victims of violence stemming from war. Were asking people to take action to raise awareness and stop this kind of violence.
Closer to home there are more worrying noises coming from the UK government, who seem to think they can give themselves emergency powers without declaring a state of emergency. It really looks like they will have a fight on their hands, with Tories and Libdems united against plans to empower the Home secretary to lock people up for two months without charging them. Bloggers at Liberal Conspiracy and Chicken Yoghurt have rightly condemned/mocked this and Im hopeful that backbench Labour MPs will see sense and vote against this proposal as well these are extreme powers that would seriously undermine some of the most basic civil liberties in this country, dating right back to the Magna Carta. Theyll have to think long and hard about whether they wanted to be part of a decision that could damage Britains standing around the world and go down in history as one of the most draconian measures since internment. Certainly well be doing all we can to stop any increase to pre-charge detention limits.
Meanwhile, it's all happening in Pakistan again. President Pervez Musharraf has announced he will quit as head of the army before 1 December. All fair and good, but will he now release the hundreds of judges, lawyers, judges, politicians and human rights activists that have been rounded up since he partially suspended the constitution on 3 November?
Amnesty is far from convinced and is holding a demonstration outside the High Commission of Pakistan (Lowndes Square, London SW1) at 5pm today led by top judges, lawyers and journalists to demand their release and the restoration of the country's constitution. Get down there if you can (if you're nearby - I haven't given you much time!)
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