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Persecution of minorities a lasting legacy of 9/11 says MRG

7 September 2011

In the ten years since the 9/11 attacks, ethnic and religious minorities have been targeted for large-scale human rights violations across the world, ranging from torture and extra-judicial executions to extraordinary rendition and restrictions on freedom of religion, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says.

In a statement to mark the 10th anniversary of the Al Qaida attacks on the United States of America, MRG says that the increased imposition of counter-terrorism measures by many states across the world has affected minority communities the most.

‘Even though the rhetoric of “war on terror” has been abandoned, the reality continues to affect minority communities worldwide,’ says Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of MRG.

‘As we commemorate the terrible crimes committed on 9/11, we should also think of the tens of thousands of innocent victims killed in the wars that have followed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,’ he adds.

MRG has been researching and monitoring the impact of counter-terrorism measures on minorities in the last ten years. The international organization’s recent research found that nearly a decade after 9/11, religious minorities across the world face increased attacks, persecution and a clampdown on their freedoms.

In Iraq, religious groups such as Christians, Mandaeans and Yezidis, have become targets of violence, including murder, abduction, rape and looting of properties, since the 2003 US-led invasion.

In Pakistan, counter-terrorism operations in the north-west have led to the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of the Pashtun community and, partly as a response to US and Pakistani military operations, the Taliban have targeted Christians for attack, through killings, torture, forcible conversions and burning of churches, MRG says.

In India, the government has used counter-terrorism measures to arrest and detain large numbers of Muslims arbitrarily. In January 2009, thousands of people protested in Uttar Pradesh, accusing police of arresting young Muslim boys on terrorism charges with minimal evidence. Following blasts from 21 simultaneous bombs in the city of Ahmedabad in July 2008, local human rights activists claimed that about 400 Muslim youths had been rounded up in the aftermath.

In the last decade there has also been an increase in religious profiling as part of counter-terrorism measures introduced by governments. In most cases the targets have been men believed to be Muslim or originating from a Muslim state.

‘An enduring legacy of 9/11 is the ongoing persecution of minorities,’ Lattimer says. ‘Too often whole communities have been labelled as terrorists and members of those communities denied due process and basic human rights guarantees.’

MRG says that participation in anti-terror operations has provided a convenient cover for many countries to escape their human rights obligations and engage more easily in attacks against minorities.

Countries such as China, that do not have a visible terrorism problem, have used anti-terror laws to repress minorities, including Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans and Mongolians.

In some states a poor human rights track record, and increased restrictions on freedom of religion, have been effectively overlooked by Western states in return for political or material support in counter-terrorism operations. Central Asian countries where religious groups face increased persecution and other Asian countries, including Pakistan, have avoided censure for violating human rights, MRG adds.

Notes to Editors