Written by Zanab J.S. 

Reports of something happening to gay men in Russia's southern province had slowly begun arriving in February. 

By the first week of March, state forces had clamped down on major activists in the region, reports of youth being arrested during protests regarding the situation in Chechnya trickled across the globe. Protests in Moscow erupted overnight, and demonstrators in a handful of foreign countries gathered at Russian embassies. The situation, once unclear, was becoming clearer: gay men were being detained in Chechnya.

And then, there was silence. No word from activists. No tweets, no letters, no photographs. No more unconfirmed reports about the something that was happening to gay men in Chechnya. Headlines changed, newsroom discussions changed, front pages of the newspaper changed. 

It wasn't until April that the theories surrounding arrest, registration and detainment of gay men in Chechnya was connected: concentration camps had been set up in Chechnya for gay men. At least a hundred had been kidnapped and forced into these torture camps. Three, possibly, had been killed already. 

According to the Russian newspaper Noyova Gazeta, tens of boys and men had disappeared simultaneously from their homes, workplaces and lives in the region, ranging from the age of sixteen to fifty years old. 

The newspaper reported that authorities and key players in the roundups had posed as single men online looking for male partners. Those who responded vanished accordingly. 

"In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep’ and it went as far as real murders,”

 --Novaya Gazeta, March

The report went on to describe concentration camp-like detainment centres where the selected men were imprisoned, interrogated, tortured and even killed. 

Ramzan Kadyrov, the provincial and--for all intents and purposes--the symbolically independent leader of Chechnya, vehemently denied such claims.

According to the Kadyrov administration, gay men simply did not exist in Chechnya. And thus, Chechen authorities could not fathom to commit such atrocities to gay people in the region, because those people, according to the provincial leader, did not exist in the first place. 

Denial of the atrocities was never rooted in the inability of government forces of kidnapping and torturing gay citizens, but rather in the non-existence of homosexuality in Chechnya. 

Such rhetoric is not foreign in Chechnya; the muslim-majority province is hyper-aligned with Russia's overarching restrictions on the LGBTQ+ population, and regularly denies the existence of such a community. 

Speaking to The Independent, Tatyana Lokshina of Russia's Human Rights Watch confirmed the fears of families and friends when she explained the situation had been directed under the order of the Kadyrov administration over the span of weeks. 

“They beat them up viciously, they torture them, they humiliate them, and there are reports that three people have been killed,” -- Tatyana the Lokshina in March

The roundups were presumed to be a response to the increasing presence of gay pride organizations such as, an advocacy group seeking permits for pride-month related events. 

Several men detained and tortured in the concentration camps had been returned home with one grisly condition: their family would have to perform an honour killing. 

Those who survived and were able to flee the region described torture sessions, electrocutions and interrogations in which they were forced to out other gay Chechens. 

Life as a gay Chechen has always been an extremely private affair: closeted online socialization with other gay citizens is as discrete as possible. Those who meet each other and date online do not reveal even their names to one another. 

This crackdown and torture campaigns marks a pivotal moment in Chechnya's landscape. Whereas once a private, secretive life as a gay citizen was possible, it no longer seems feasible. 

HRW and other advocacy groups have attempted to rescue released gay men from torture prisons by smuggling them across borders, or into different areas of Russia. As the Kremlin augments its support for the Chechen leadership, the latter, however, seems to only be a temporary fix.

Policy watchers expect Chechnya's legacy of concentration camps to act as the initiator for a wave of national anti-gay legislation. As the heads of state gear up to further support the statements of Kadyrov and his administration, the fear of greater and widespread campaigns similar to the one in Chechnya is looming and not at all unrealistic.


Eiman A.K.

Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen has not shown any signs of termination since 2015 when the nine-nation coalition first formed. The Saudi Arabian led war efforts have received an influx of military assistance since its inception, primarily from the U.S. and the U.K. Saudi Arabia has been highly determined in undermining the positions of the Houthi militia and loyalists of the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Among the budding alliances between the KSA and world powers is a new partnership with Navantia; a private weapons dealer in Spain. 

Since the initiation of the KSA coalition led by Saudi Arabia, a surge in the global arms sales had become palpably evident. The increase in trade of weaponry by Saudi Arabia assisted in pushing global arms sales up by more than 10 percent since 2015. According to IHS Inc. in its ‘Global Defense Trade Report’, the world defence market rose to $65 billion in 2015; marking an increase of $6.6 billion from 2014. In early 2016, a report released by the Military think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) stated,

“In the last five years, it has seen weapons imports increase by 275% over the previous five-year period, largely to fuel its expanding wars.”

With Saudi Arabia’s purchases jumping by about 50 percent to $9.3 billion, The Englewood, a Colorado-based communication company, describes it as the most prevalent annual rise in the past decade. Saudi Arabia has imported a wide range of weaponry within the past year including Apache helicopters, Eurofighter Typhoon jets, F-15 Warplanes, drones, precision-guided weapons as well as surveillance equipment. Navantia is one of various weaponry suppliers to Saudi Arabia which assist in the continuation of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen. 

Navantia S.A. is a 270-year-old European military shipbuilder that provides its services to both the military and civil sector. Navantia currently plays a significant role to Saudi Arabia as its main weaponry supplier. This relationship became more public when the KSA refused the United States' offer to purchase four multi-mission warships based on Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) valued at $11.25 billion. Instead, Navantia had replaced the U.S. proposal with an estimated €2 billion ($2.1 billion) contract.

Riyadh had approved the production of five corvettes being versions of Navantia's Avante 2200 design in February 2016. However, a spokesman for Navantia on Sunday stated that “We can only confirm that negotiations are very advanced to build five warships which would be sold to the Saudi navy.”

These covert negotiations had been carried out during Felipe VI's visit to Saudi Arabia's King Salman. The EL Pais Spanish newspaper reports that the contract is "one of the imperatives of the visit". This would officially mark Navantia’s largest export contract to date. Although it is unknown how Royal Saudi Navy will configure and arm the new corvettes, these ships could potentially be equipped for anti-ship warfare (AShW) and anti-air warfare (AAW) via the Harpoon Block-II and Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) if they are bought in lieu of LCS-based Multi-Mission surface Combatant (MMSC).6

Growing concern regarding Saudi Arabia’s weapon deal with Navantia is prominent amongst many non-government organisations; leading them to declare the potential sale illegal. Directors of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, the Peace Foundation (FundiPau) and Oxfam Intermón have expressed their disagreement regarding Navantia’s contract with Saudi Arabia, evident through the open letter they had sent to the Spanish Prime Minister and Navantia. In an NGO-funded report called "License to Kill," the following is stated about Navantia:

“nearly a third of Spanish arms exports in the first semester of 2015 was destined to the countries of the Saudi-led coalition operating in the war in Yemen since March 2015.”7

The Spanish King had been called upon by Amnesty International to halt the sale of warships to the Saudi navy, disputing the dangers of this trade as it could be used to undertake “serious violations of international humanitarian law” against Yemen. Esteban Beltrán, a director of Amnesty International (AI) in Spain, said,

“Any possible arms sales to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen are illegal because it violates Spanish law and international arms trade.”

The main concern of these NGOs is the risk of Saudi exacerbating the naval blockade implemented on Yemen since 25 March, 2015. According to the UN, the death toll has reached 10,000 and over 8,100 wounded reported as a result of the conflict. Additionally, more than 21 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

It is concerning and undeniable that Saudi Arabia’s aggressive war crimes against Yemen are primarily fuelled by private weapon partnerships such as Navantia. Such deals provide fertile ground for terrorism and inhumane wars to be carried out wherever funders please, all in aims of fulfilling tyrannical agendas.



Having been the only state to declare people belonging to the Ahmadiyya faith as non-Muslim,

persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan is an ingrained, far reaching phenomenon.

In 1974 a series of violent campaigns perpetrated by the radical, Deobandi, conservative party known as Majlis-e Ahrar-e Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami was launched against the Ahmadiyya community. The proceedings of these campaigns resulted in scores of Ahmedi deaths, destruction of multiple mosques and the vandalism of multiple Ahmedi cemeteries.

As these campaigns culminated, a series of changes were made to Pakistan’s constitution by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s administration declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslim.

10 years later, Ordinance XX, an anti-Ahmadiyya ordinance, would forbid the Ahmadiyya Muslim community from publicly discussing or advocating for their beliefs. The ordinance demanded that Ahmadis could no longer refer to themselves as “muslims” or apply the term “mosque” to their places of worship. Additionally, Ahmadis were barred from praying in public alongside other Muslims or reciting the adhaan. All publications relating to the Ahmadiyya faith were made illegal.

In 2005, 3 unidentified gunmen entered the city of Mong, 2 of which entered an Ahmadi mosque and shot dead 9 Ahmadi Muslims.

In 2008, on September 7th, Aammir Liaquat Hussein proposed the lynching of Ahmadi Muslims on live TV, broadcast by GEO, a nationwide news network in Pakistan.

One day following the broadcast, Dr. Abdul Mannan Siddiqui, an Ahmadi Muslim physician, was urged as part of a ploy to come tend to a patient in crisis downstairs in the hospital where he worked. He was shot 11 times by 6 perpetrators and died instantly. Though the perpetrators waited inside the hospital until the doctor was declared dead, they were never captured nor named.

Two days following the broadcast, Yousaf Khan, a 75 year old rice trader and local Ahmedi chief, was shot three times on his way to mosque by gunmen on a motorcycle. The gunmen were never caught nor named.

In 2010, in May, two prominent Ahmadiyya mosques were targeted by the Punjabi Taliban. The dual, simultaneous attacks resulted in the death of nearly 90 Ahmadi Muslims and even more non-fatal injured persons. Only 72 hours later gunmen entered and attacked the intensive care unit of the hospital where majority of the victims were transported.

On the same day an Ahmadi teenager was stabbed and killed by an anti-Ahmadi fanatic.

In 2011, countless Ahmadi students and teachers were removed from their positions, expelled, suspended, threatened and/or shunned by education establishments across the country.

In 2012, police officers removed verses from the Quran inscribed on gravestones belonging to Ahmadi Muslims. In the same year 100 graves were desecrated by gunmen in Lahore.

2013, countless Ahmadi muslims have been arrested for distributing books pertaining to their faith, and have been consistently denied bail following detainment.

Instances of mob violence against Ahmadi Muslims has been ignored and sometimes motivated and supported by local police, including an instance where a 70 year old Ahmadi Muslim was tortured and beaten. Another instance occurred when anti-Ahmadi activists accompanied by police publicly beat and detained 5 Ahmadi Muslims.

In 2014 an American doctor, Mehdi Qamar, was shot dead while training local physicians. 3 members of his family were killed in the same year when their house was set on fire by an angry mob. No one was arrested in either case.

Since 2014, hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have traveled to China to seek refuge from anti-Ahmadi violence perpetrated by fanatics, extremists, locals and the authorities themselves.

For inquiries regarding this article, tweet Zanab J.S. @zanabism



A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with Shamim Zaidi, a lawyer in Punjab, Pakistan and the legal representative for Rizwan Haider. I contacted Mr. Zaidi through social media, and it is there that our correspondence began regarding the Rizwan Haider case. It was not until our first week of communication had ended that Mr. Zaidi began asking questions. 

"My question is, who told you about me? Where are you from? What is the organization you work for?" 

Having spoken to Mr. Zaidi for nearly seven days, and having introduced myself thoroughly at the beginning of our conversation, I was confused by his curiosity. I introduced myself again, offering more information this time (my age, the name of my university, the name of my co-writer on the article) in hopes that my openness would be comforting. When offered this information, Mr. Zaidi explained he needed to know these things for his own safety. "You know, there have been attempts on my life." Even though I had been confronted with the reality of such assassinations in my own community, Mr. Zaidi's words were still jarring to hear. 

The target killing of Shia muslim professionals in Pakistan is an oft-occurring, yet rarely talked about phenomenon by mainstream media in the country. 

May 7th, 2016 saw the assassination of Khurram Zaki; an outspoken Pakistani civil rights activist, journalist, and Shia Muslim. The assassination occurred in a strong hold of the ASWJ in north Karachi; a political organization responsible for supporting and orchestrating attacks on Shia Muslims and other minority sect Muslims in Pakistan. 

On April 25th of this year, Dr. Zainab of Peshawar and her father in law, Shabeer Hussain, were shot and killed outside of her practice by anti-Shia terrorists. 

On April 8th of this year father and son, Shahid Hussain and Ali Sajjad were shot and killed during their trip home after prayer. Acclaimed physics student Hashim Rizvi was also wounded during the incident and died shortly after. 

On March 22nd of this year, Syed Razi ul Hassan Shah was shot and killed on his way to work. 

On February 8th of this year Iftikhar Hussain was shot and killed in the same place his brother was shot and killed 3 years prior. 

Exactly one month prior, Mukhtar Zaidi of Karachi is shot and killed on his way home from work. 

All of these aforementioned victims are Pakistani Shia Muslims and all were targeted and killed by anti-Shia outfits. 

What exactly is target killing in the context of anti-Shiism in Pakistan?

Target killing can be described as the orchestrated assassination of Shia Muslims which occurs primarily at the individual level. Patterns of assassinations target professional Shia Muslims foremost; the majority of victims of target killings hold integral jobs within society, such as those of doctors. The assassinations occur primarily near the home of the victim or within or near their place of work. The majority of assassinations occur in public proximity, and often in daylight. The direct perpetrators of these assassinations are virtually never captured. 

Who is responsible for the orchestration of target killing?

Anti-Shia outfits in Pakistan have laid the groundwork for regular and common target killing; multiple anti-Shia organizations exist across Pakistan which have taken responsibility for individual assassinations of Shia Muslims. Groups such as the Pakistani Taliban, Lakshar-e-Jhangvi, Jundullah have directly orchestrated the mass murder of Shia civilians as well as their individual assassinations. 

Lakshar-e-Janghvi declared war on muslims belonging to the minority sect in an open letter which promised to make Pakistan “a graveyard for Shias”: 

“All Shias are wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of killing). We will rid Pakistan of [this] unclean people. Pakistan means land of the pure, and the Shias have no right to be here. We have the fatwa and signatures of the revered ulema in which the Shias have been declared kaafir [infidel]*. Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shia-Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia-Hazaras, from every city, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan. Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue [in the future]. We will make Pakistan their graveyard — their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. We will only rest when we fly the flag of true Islam on this land. Our fighters and suicide bombers have [already] successfully operated in Parachinar**, and are awaiting orders to operate across Pakistan. Jihad against the Shia-Hazaras has now become our duty. Our suicide bombers have successfully operated in Hazara Town on May 6, and now our next target is your houses in Alamdar Road***. As long as our innocent friends aren’t freed [from incarceration], we will continue our operations.” 

Why is target killing significant in the grander scheme of anti-Shiism in Pakistan?

The call for cleansing of Shias from the Pakistani Muslim population is one that has resulted in the murder of tens of thousands of Shias since 2001. Target killing instills a legacy of weakening and attempting to unravel the fabric of Shia neighbourhoods and families. 

The death of breadwinners effectively induces financial insecurities, initiating a cascade of adverse events for the victims of the families. 

The impact of regularized target killing instills not only fear amongst the Shia population, but the initiation of a social drift, amongst which the loss of Shia family members and community members weakens their infrastructure and the ability to thrive. 

This, along with the collusion of members of the Pakistani state with members of known anti-Shia outfits poses the grounds for early signs of genocide

1. The ultimately state-sponsored murder of Shia professionals via support for anti-Shia outfits

2. The immunity afforded to anti-Shia terrorists by state police, the greater justice system and the government 

3. The regression of Shias in their ability to thrive and maintain strong and safe financial, emotional, and spiritual connections. 

All of these constitute early signs of genocide in which the state, by supporting or directly colluding with anti-Shia outfits, aids in the decimation of Shia Muslims by literal assassination, and by causing mental and emotional harm to the larger Shia community. 

The names listed here represent only a fraction of the number of Shia Muslims that have been killed in 2016. The first half of 2015 saw the targeted/mass killing of 122 Shia Muslims. Since 2012, 1900 Shia Muslims have been slain at the hands of anti-Shia outfits. An estimated 23 000 Shias have been killed since 1963. 

For inquiries regarding this article, tweet Zanab J.S. @zanabism



Rodrigo Duterte's Rule in the Philippines

President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, won the 2016 election in May by a popular vote of 39%. His campaign was designed to capitulate the response to the sharp increase in the illegal drug trade, which has turned the nation into an international transit hub for cartels.

His campaign, based mostly on an anti-drug and anti-crime platform, aimed to completely eradicate these problems. The Philippine Star reported the activities of the 9 separate Chinese cartels operating in Manila, the country’s capital. The U.S. State Department found the Chinese syndicates in question were responsible for the trade of methamphetamine (meth), as well as marijuana on a smaller scale, in the country. Some confirmed reports from the country’s national police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) verify that the Mexican Sinaloa cartel operates in the country as well. 

Davao Death Squad

For three separate terms, prior to his presidency, Duterte was mayor of Davao City in the Mindanao region. Aligned with the culture instilled by Duterte of a "zero tolerance policy" to crime, a vigilante group named the Davao Death Squad (DDS) substantiated itself as the first, notable vigilante justice group in the Philippines since the Maoist insurgency. 

DDS became responsible for a wave of extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals, repeat-offenders, petty criminals, and has maintained an active campaign of executions since 1998. From 1998 to 2008, the DDS is reportedly responsible for the execution of over 1000 Philippine nationals. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported victims were selected because they were suspected of being murderers, child rapists, drug dealers, and other repeat offenders of various crimes. Duterte expressed his approval of DDS several timed during his tenure as mayor, creating a culture of acceptance for vigilante justice that has inevitably led to other death squads acting in the same manner in other cities in the Philippines. The public opinion of these groups, surprisingly, had a sizeable fraction of approval, provided this sentiment is relative to the general discontent towards the “ineffectiveness of the judicial system”. 

Though Duterte has never officially confirmed the state sponsorship of any death squad in the Philippines, he has expressed support and approval for DDS and similar groups on multiple occasions prior to, and during his presidency. 

"Summary execution of criminals remains the most effective way to crush kidnapping and illegal drugs."
President Duterte speaking in regards to DDS in Manila in 2005
"If you are doing an illegal activity in my city [Davao], if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination."
Duterte speaking to reporters in 2009

Human rights groups have condemned Duterte for supporting extrajudicial execution devoid of any due process in a court of law. 

"The mayor’s positioning is frankly untenable: He dominates the city so thoroughly as to stamp out whole genres of crime, yet he remains powerless in the face of hundreds of murders committed by men without masks in view of witnesses."
Philip Alston, U.N. Investigator of summary executions, gratuitous extrajudicial executions speaking to the senate of HR in 2008

As of October, 2016, his presidency continues to reflect his penchant for swift, permanent, and unregulated vigilante justice and his support for extrajudicial killings. The focus, this time, is specifically on drug trafficking.

The Killing of Eric Sison

Several death squads like DDS have arisen across the nation, removing due process in a legal framework altogether as they carry out routine executions. However, it is not only death squads carrying out swift, seemingly unregulated acts of violence since the commencement of Duterte's war on drugs. Armed forces in the Philippines have been reported to use excessive force that is often fatal on drug users and sellers as well. 

Eric Sison, a 22-year old pedicab driver, was killed last month in the country’s capital by city police in the Pasay township of Manila. The officers were allegedly on assignment looking for drug pushers when Sison was killed by police. 

The circumstances surrounding Sison's death remain foggy; authorities claim Sison engaged in a firefight with the officers, but his family members state Sison surrendered after attempting to flee. In a circulating cell phone video that captures unclear footage of the incident, one can hear a voice in the video screaming, “Don’t do it, I’ll surrender!”, preceding a gunshot that can be heard before the video ends. Near Sison’s coffin, a poster reads “JUSTICE FOR ERIC QUINTINITA SISON” and “OVERKILL - JUSTICE 4 ERIC” on a hand painted sign not too far from the coffin. The signs made by Eric Sison’s family are only one of the very few protests challenging Détente’s practices on alleged police brutality. 

The current atmosphere of state-sponsored killings in the Philippines has produced a climate of fear among citizens. The list of fatal casualties has reached 2,400, 900 of which died in police assignments. Duterte’s administration labeled the rest as “under investigation”, human rights watchdogs state that’s most likely code for extrajudicial killings led by vigilante death squads. 

There is no widespread dissent, no rallies, and barely any participation in the vigils held by the families. Unfortunately, the main victims are mostly small time drug dealers and addicts. Reflective of the history of death squads, often times, innocent people are killed purely out of suspicion. Duterte avoids addressing these incidents in an effort to uphold the war against drug trafficking. These death squads have acted as a limb for Duterte’s influence during his tenure as mayor and now as president. 

International Opinion

Contrary to his continuous denial in any involvement with the vigilante justice groups, the U.S. state departments claims to have confirmed Duterte’s role in sponsoring the death squads. In documents released by Wikileaks, the state department indicates sufficient evidence to assume Duterte's role in orchestrating the DDS. 


State department memorandum discussing Duterte's role in DDS released by WIKILEAKS//CRDTOpenSource


State department memorandum discussing Duterter's role in DDS released by WIKILEAKS//CRDTOpenSource

On the international stage, Duterte asserted that the U.N., and specifically Washington, are more concerned with “the bones of criminals piling up”, over their own mandates. He continued to argue that the U.N. hasn’t done enough for Syria and Iraq, then moved on to suggest the Philippines would withdraw from the organization, and invite China and a number of other African countries, to form another union of nations. His foreign minister later formally withdrew that statement.

With this kind of hyperbole, Duterte is seen by most world leaders as abrasive and short sighted. Having a nickname like “the Trump of the East”, Duterte’s temperament towards issues is described to be similar to Donald Trump. With the comment “I’ll eat you alive, just give me salt and vinegar” towards Abu Sayyaf, an ISIS linked terror group operating in the southern Philippines, one can easily determine the brashness of Duterte’s disposition.

Exaggeration in his rhetoric is where the comparison between the two ends. Unlike Trump, who has not yet been given the opportunity to follow through with his mandates, Duterte has become notorious for enacting his promises without wavering on his stance. Should Duterte promise the end of drug cartel activity in a city like Manila, the extreme, and fatal measures employed by his administration would be reflective of his history as a municipal--now national--leader. 

Testimony of Hitman Edgar Matobato

Among the many elements in this story, none come at a more convenient time than the recent testimony from hitman Edgar Matobato. Not much is known about the hired gun, aside from his willingness to volunteer a confession, and his history of being enlisted in a paramilitary group that was created to combat the Maoist insurgency--the same insurgents responsible for the murder of his father when he was young.

In the televised hearing, Matobato confessed that he directly overheard Duterte order killings during his first term as Mayor of Davao City, along with a surprising allegation of Duterte’s involvement in a killing of a government agent. Matobato disclosed the then-mayor unloaded an uzi submachine gun twice into the target. Matobato was denied protection following the hearing. 

As one would guess, Duterte’s political allies immediately dismissed the entire testimony, even attempting to point out inconsistencies in Matobato’s statement due to his illiteracy. Duterte finally addressed the allegations, suggesting perjury among anyone that would validate the confession. As it stands now, it’s unlikely for this testimony to contribute to an alteration in the status quo by itself. It is, however, very probable for a series of statements similar to Matobato’s be revealed over the course of Duterte’s term.


Edgar Matobato, self-proclaimed assassin for the DDS//CRDT

While suspected criminals can be targeted for any number of crimes, the vast majority of victims in the Philippines have been killed almost exclusively for selling or using drugs. The lack of due process in these cases suggest there will not be a halt to the extrajudicial killings.

Acquired knowledge, and historical perspective, reminds us that death squads are not a novel or surprising phenomenon. From the Middle East, to South America, death squads like the DDS have existed in bursts of time ranging from months to decades depending on the atmosphere. It is this same acquired knowledge that elucidates the resulting culture of fear, lawlessness and corruption that follows the presence of death squads. The distortion of power, justice, and opportunity can make for an environment that sees the unwarranted killing of dissidents, journalists, and alleged criminals not yet proven to be guilty.  In consideration of the 2400 deaths reported so far, an overwhelming majority thought to be committed by death squads, the primary target of these executions (low-level drug sellers, and people suffering from drug addiction), and Duterte's promise of support for vigilante justice, and punishment of those who oppose him, indicate that the Philippines are steadily approaching such an environment.

The direction of political power employed by the president is likely lined with more bodies as Duterte proves to be ruthless in his effort to eradicate drug trafficking in the country. And with the population immersed in fear--firstly, of summary executions carried out by death squads, and secondly, of the punishment promised by their president to those who speak against him--Duterte's crusade meets very little resistance. 

For further inquiry regarding the content of this article, contact Jibril Ali @jibrilalpha and Zanab J.S. @zanabism.




During a religious procession, four shia muslim men, and one woman were gunned down by sunni militants in Nazimabad, a neighbourhood of Karachi, Pakistan on October 29th. There are unconfirmed reports of a twelve year old boy having also been killed. 

The religious event hosted for shia women took place indoors, while a tent was set up for men out doors. The location was in proximity to a police station, though no police officers were employed near the site of the majlis. Two gunmen on a motorcycle attempted to enter the gates of the house where the event was taking place. When the surrounding men attempted to close the gate to prevent their entry, the gunmen shot, wounded and killed several individuals standing nearby.

Three of the victims killed were brothers; Naiyyar Mehdi Zaidi, Nasir Abbas Zaidi and Baqir Abbas Zaidi. The fourth victim was their uncle; Muhammad Zaki. Naiyyar Mehdi Zaidi was a citizen of the U.K., while his younger brother Nasir Abbas Zaidi was a citizen of the U.S.  

"Two attackers on a motorbike opened indiscriminate fire on the participants coming for the gathering...they fled the scene shortly after."

Tayyab Haider, police representative to AFP

A faction of the sunni militant group Lakshar-e-Janghvi boasted responsibility for the act shortly after its occurrence.

Attacks on shia religious processions are not uncommon in Pakistan; for years, sunni militant groups like LeJ, Sipah e Sahaba (SeS) and the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) have committed regular, frequent attacks on shia muslims in mosques, during religious gatherings and in predominantly shia muslim neighbourhoods.

Several militant groups in Pakistan aim for the complete eradication of shia muslims, whom they consider to be infidels, from the country.

In 2011, LeJ declared war on muslims belonging to the minority sect in an open letter which promised to make Pakistan “a graveyard for Shias”, specifically referencing the Hazara population:

“All Shias are wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of killing). We will rid Pakistan of [this] unclean people. Pakistan means land of the pure, and the Shias have no right to be here. We have the fatwa and signatures of the revered ulema in which the Shias have been declared kaafir [infidel]*. Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shia-Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia-Hazaras, from every city, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan. Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue [in the future]. We will make Pakistan their graveyard — their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. We will only rest when we fly the flag of true Islam on this land. Our fighters and suicide bombers have [already] successfully operated in Parachinar**, and are awaiting orders to operate across Pakistan. Jihad against the Shia-Hazaras has now become our duty. Our suicide bombers have successfully operated in Hazara Town on May 6, and now our next target is your houses in Alamdar Road***. As long as our innocent friends aren’t freed [from incarceration], we will continue our operations.”

Though attacks on shia muslims have primarily occurred during events for men, recently sunni militants have begun to target gatherings of women as well. Only a few days ago, a 13 year old minor was killed when sunni militants detonated a device during a similar religious event for women.

Aside from massive terrorist attacks on shia muslim populations, such as the one in Shikarpur, Abbastown and Quetta where hundreds of shia muslims were killed en masse, sunni militant groups also regularly carry out individual assassinations of shia muslims across the country.

Victims of these "target killings" are often community leaders such as doctors, lawyers, and business owners. Hundreds of shias are assassinated each year, including women.

The significance of these gruesome assassinations transcend criminal activity; political support and willingness to legitimize militant groups such as the LeJ at the governmental level is indicative of early signs of genocide directed towards shia muslims in Pakistan. Only three days prior to the attack, an anti-shia event approved by municipal government took place in Islamabad. In attendance were banned terrorist groups responsible for shia killings, and provocation against shia muslims. Slogans such as “Shias are infidels” were shouted during the event.

These attacks, both on the massive and individual scale, are largely overlooked by government officials and within policy itself. The culture of shia killings in Pakistan has slowly approached that of indifference; perpetrators of this violence are virtually never caught nor tried for their crimes.

#NazimabadFour, a hashtag referencing the neighbourhood and area number of the attack's location, has commenced a campaign to protest shia killings in Pakistan. Tomorrow, November 4th, will mark a day of protest in Seattle, London, Chicago, and New York City outside of the Pakistani consulate against shia massacres in the country.

For further inquiry, tweet Zanab J.S. @zanabism



In the Shade of Fallen Chinar is a new short documentary exploring the relationship of art and resistance among young Kashmiris at Kashmir University. In the film, there is a fragile peace hovering over the Valley, and interesting questions are raised about the uses of art in a militarized and oppressed society. 

Institutional restrictions have long limited young people’s avenues for voicing dissent. At Kashmir University, the student union has been banned since the conflict in the 90s. Accordingly, the students who grew up in an Indian-occupied Kashmir marked by decades of unrest and violence, reveal how they channel their politics, anger, and despair into different forms of art in settings that are both underground and informal. Their motivations for turning towards the arts and literature differ. While one student describes it as a form of coping, or a type of escapism into aesthetics, Ali Saffudin, a young musician, explains that his guitar serves the same purpose a gun would have 20 years ago--an expression of his specific idea of resistance. 


Protestor in Kashmir returns a tear gas canister to soldiers of the Indian army//CRDT ABC

While the role of art as a political tool is an age-old one, Kashmir has been cultivating a renaissance in recent years. For instance, U.S. culture has witnessed the spoken poetry grow as a forum to discuss things such as race, sexuality, and personal experiences among young people. While across Eastern Europe, street art has been a vista of subversion, dissent and public political probing. It is perhaps in places like Kashmir, environments filled with intense repression and brutality in the service of ‘national integrity,’ where the importance of the underground artistic scene is viewed as a sigh of relief. When the local press is gagged, or when the national press is actually the nationalist press; when simply going outside, much less engaging in street protests can actually lead to death, then what platforms remain for the expression of an alternative narrative? In such suffocating atmospheres, the mere singing of a folk song can be filled with contemporary political undertones as well as the peoples' pain. 

Despite the relatively calm setting, the film has an eerie feel because of what we know has transpired in Kashmir after the cameras stopped rolling. The filming was completed only days before the July 8th killing of Burhan Wani, a popular and social-media savvy separatist fighter from southern Kashmir, by Indian forces. In the ensuing protests and subsequent brutal crackdown, at least 91 civilians have been killed so far and hundreds injured by pellet guns, a ‘non-lethal’ method of crowd control that has left many in danger of permanent blindness. A curfew has been put in place by the government during the uprising, and there have been clampdowns on the press. Some of the young men and women in the film--painters, musicians, rappers, writers-- could have by now become one of the many casualties of the trigger-happy force deployed against Kashmiris’ desire for freedom from, ironically, the 'world’s largest democracy'.