Turkish Bill Clearing Men Accused of Raping Underage Girls Passes First Parliament Vote

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish parliament approved a preliminary bill which would clear men accused of raping underage girls if they marry her.

Thousands protested a new bill that would clear men accused of raping underage girls (Photo courtesy of Digital Journal)

The bill, which was brought to parliament by President Erdogan’s party, was preliminarily approved on the evening of November 17th. The parliament will debate the bill a second time on November 22nd before casting their final vote.

The Turkish government stated that the bill is designed to pardon men only on the basis of sex that is “without force or threat,” and if the offense was committed before November 11, 2016.

There has been strong opposition to the bill in many parts of the country, including by members of parliament, with many protestors stating that it is an encouragement for rape. Critics of the bill declare that it “legitimizes rape and child marriage,” and that it “lets off men who are aware of their crime.” Parliament member Ozgur Ozel stated that “sexual abuse is a crime” which does not require consent. He added that “seeking the consent of a child is something that universal law does not provide for.”

It is anticipated that approximately 3,000 men accused of assaulting a girl under 18 will have their convictions repealed if the bill is passed. On Saturday, November 19th, thousands of people attended a demonstration in Istanbul protesting the bill. The crowds, wielding banners stating “#AKP take your hands off my body,” shouted anti-government slogans, declaring “we will not shut up. We will not obey. Withdraw the bill immediately.” Further mass protests are expected if the bill passes following Tuesday’s vote.

The UN Children’s Fund stated that it was “deeply concerned” over the bill. The Fund’s spokesman indicated that “these abject forms of violence against children are crimes which should be punished as such, and in all cases the best interest of the child should prevail.”

The government has defended the bill by stating that its aim is not to excuse rape, but to “rehabilitate” men who may not have realized the unlawfulness of their sexual relations or to prevent underage girls who have sex from “feeling ostracized by their community.” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated that the bill “is not an amnesty for rape,” and that the country has very “serious punishments for rape.” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag indicated that the bill could help couples who want to marry after engaging in consensual relations. He stated that when a child is born from a non-official union, the mother and child are subjected to financial difficulty because the father will be arrested after the doctor informs the prosecutor.

Turkey has experienced a steep increase in violence against women in the past decade, with 40% of women reporting sexual or physical abuse.

For more information, please see:

Euro News—When is rape not a crime? Turkey considers proposal for controversial sexual abuse law—18 November 2016

Anadolu Agency—Turkish justice minister clarifies law changes—18 November 2016

Ahram Online —Thousands rally against Turkey child sex conviction bill—19 November 2016

BBC News—Turkish bill clears men of statutory rape if they marry—18 November 2016

TRT World—Proposed bill sparks debate in Turkey—18 November 2016


Scores Killed in Mozambique Truck Blast

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

MAPUTO, Mozambique– 73 are dead and over a hundred are injured in Tete, Mozambique after a truck blast.  The truck, which was carrying petrol from the port city of Beira to Malawi, exploded killing civilians.

A badly injured person arrives at Tete hospital following a fuel-truck explosion

A person injured from the blast arrives at a Tete hospital.  (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

It is still unclear under what circumstances the truck exploded.  Officials are exploring whether petrol was being sold at the time or the blast was triggered by a rush of civilians trying to siphon gas.  Government officials have recently raised the price of gas and the country’s currency has not been able to keep up with the increase.  Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest country’s.  Of the countries 24 million citizens more than half live in poverty.  The country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975 and soon after dealt with a 16 year long civil war which ended in 1992.  Since 1992 the country has struggled to end the widespread poverty that the country faces.

Because the blast happened in Tete in western Mozambique medical attention was not immediately near by.  Some victims traveled over 90km to receive medical attention.  The exact death toll of the blast is still developing, and the results of the lack of medical attention nearby will be revealed as the story develops.

For more information, please see: 

BBC News – Mozambique: Scores Killed in Fuel Truck Blast – 17 November 2016

The Guardian – Scores killed in Mozambique fuel-truck blast – 17 November 2016

Indian Express – Mozambique: At least 73 killed, 110 injured in truck blast – 17 November 2016

Amazon Indigenous Communities Protest Oil Spill

By Cintia Garcia

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Lima, Peru—The Indigenous community located at the basin of the Marañon River in the Amazon are protesting the latest oil spill in the district of Urarinas—the cost of damage has yet to be released. This is the tenth oil spill since January 2016 in the Amazon. The indigenous community began their protest on September 1st.

Oil spills are contaminating the Amazon river and affecting the indigenous community. (Photo Courtesy of Peru This Week)
Oil spills are contaminating the Amazon river and affecting the indigenous community. (Photo Courtesy of Peru This Week)

The latest protest was led by seven indigenous federations in the Northwest region of Peru by blocking the Marañon River, an important transportation route. The communities are demanding action from the Peruvian government. The communities are seeking an end to the contamination, an end to the oil spills, measures to protect the environment and compensation for those affected by the spills. They are also demanding an independent third party to monitor the area and the impact of oil extraction in the region. The community leaders known as the Apus released a letter addressed to the government stating, “we are carrying forward a just struggle to peacefully push a platform of fair social development that guarantees the right to a safe environment and water that sustains our people.”

Petroperu is the company overseeing the pipelines and oil extraction. The company has attributed the spills on third parties intentionally breaking the pipes. Petroperu released a statement after the most recent spill stating, “the people who are causing the spills to stop because you are putting the health of people in the area at risk as well as affecting the surrounding environment.”

The Apus, a day after the spill, have finally arrived to an agreement with the government to a meeting with the president of Peru Pablo Kuczynski or Prime Minister Fernando Zavala. The protestors will continue blocking the passage way until action is taken.

For more information, please see:

Telesur—Amazon Indigenous Block Peru River Traffic to Protest Oil Spill—14 November 2016.

Peru This Week—Tensions Rise in the Amazon—27 October 2016.

Telesur—Peru Officials to meet Indigenous Protesting Amazon Oil Spills—28 September 2016.

Peru Reports—Oil Spills Contaminate Major River in Peru’s Amazon—13 February 2016.

Germany Bans Islamic Group ‘True Religion’

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe


BERLIN, Germany — German authorities have banned the Islamic group True Religion early Tuesday morning based on allegations of their recruiting efforts for the Islamic State.  True Religion is known for distributing German copies of the Quran as well as setting up “welcome tables” in busy parts of cities.  Police conducted raids in over 60 cities across Germany, and searched 190 mosques, apartments, and offices connected to the group.  Evidence was gathered with the intention of using it to reinforce the ban, however no arrests were made.

Police officers transport materials seized in the raid on True Religion (Photo Courtesy of CNN)
Police officers transport materials seized in the raid on True Religion (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Thomas de Maizière, German interior minister, said that the ban was executed because True Religion was acting as a “collecting pool” for future Islamic fighters.  De Maizière insisted that the group was targeted because of its “work to foster violence,” not because of its religious ties and faith.  According to de Maizière, 140 of True Religion’s members have traveled to Iraq and/or Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.

De Maizière emphasized that the ban is “directed against the abuse of religion by people propagating extremist ideologies and supporting terrorist organizations under the pretext of Islam.”  The group, also known as “READ!” often holds banners or wears garments with “READ!” embroidered in gold.  The ban will prohibit the group from running these types of campaigns in the future.

Authorities accuse the group of using their campaigns as a cover up for recruiting for the Islamic State.   These campaigns were the idea of Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, a Palestinian who preaches Salafism, a conservative form of Islam.  Abou-Nagie, a German national who has lived in the country for more than 30 years, has been on the radar of German authorities since 2005, when he set up a website that officials alleged spread extremist ideologies. Officials attempted to prosecute Abou-Nagie in 2012 on charges of incitement of religious hatred, however were unsuccessful.

True Religion’s Facebook page and website were offline Tuesday, however they condemned the raids through their Twitter account, saying “Dear brothers and sisters, the Quran has been banned in Germany. We brought Allah’s message to everyone. Allah u Akbar.”  They later posted a link to the Facebook page of the group’s UK branch.

A spokeswoman for the interior ministry clarified that there is no evidence True Religion was planning any form of attack itself.


For more information, please see:

CNN — Germany Bans Islamist Organization After Raids — 15 November 2016

The New York Times — Germany Bans ‘True Religion’ Muslim Group and Raids Mosques — 15 November 2016

Reuters — Germany Bans Islamist ‘True Religion’ Group, Raiding Mosques and Flats — 15 November 2016

The Washington Post — Germany Launches Raids Across 60 Cities, Bans Group on Suspicion of Islamic State Recruiting — 15 November 2016

Aleppo Hit By Airstrikes Following Weeks-Long Peace

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DAMASCUS, Syria — On Tuesday, November 15th, Russia launched new airstrikes on the rebel-held sections of Aleppo in connection with a major new offensive against forces battling President Assad.

Aleppo is struck by several airstrikes, killing six and injuring dozens more (Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency)
Aleppo is struck by several airstrikes, killing six and injuring dozens more (Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency)

Local civil defense sources stated that Russia and the Assad regime have carried out intense airstrikes on the opposition-held city of Aleppo for the past twenty-four hours. A civil defense official, Baybars Meshaal, added that the airstrikes have also targeted the towns of Al-Shear, Salahaddin, Haydariyah, Al-Sahur, Muyesir and Misqan Khanuna. These attacks mark the end of a nearly three-week calm that had prevailed over the region.

Mr. Meshaal indicated that the intensity of the attacks is creating difficulty for paramedics and civil defense teams to reach targeted areas. He noted that “local residents are afraid to leave their homes,” while stating that at least six people were killed and dozens more injured when a warplane struck an ambulance. He noted that those who are injured cannot be taken to a hospital because regime forces are “striking anything that moves.” Residents and a war monitor indicated that both rocket strikes by jets and barrel bombs dropped by helicopters were being used.

A children’s hospital was one of the locations hit by the attacks, destroying sections of the building. Patients, doctors and staff members were forced to take shelter in the basement. The director of the hospital posted a message on Facebook, stating that he and the hospital staff were sitting in one room in the basement, trying to protect the patients. He indicated that they are unable to leave the basement due to the continued presence of aircraft in the sky, while asking for readers’ prayers.

The U.S. State Department condemned the airstrikes as a violation of international law, by reporting that it allegedly targeted civilian infrastructure. It described the Russian airstrikes as a “disappointment.” The Pentagon spokesman stated that he “hoped” the airstrikes were not an attempt to “change the balance of power in Aleppo.” He added that Russia already has significant military capabilities within Syria, and that anything brought in from the outside, such as aircraft carriers, cruise missiles or long-range strike bombers flying in from Russia, is “done for show.”

The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, stated that Russia used its aircraft carrier to launch missile strikes against opposition-held areas in Syria through cruise missiles and fighter jets. He indicated that the country had started “a big operation to deliver massive strikes.” Mr. Shoigu further added that “exhaustive” research on all targets had been conducted, and that warehouses with ammunition, terrorist training centers and factories are being targeted.

For more information, please see:

The Wire—At Least Three Dead After Air Strikes Resume in Rebel-Held East Aleppo—16 November 2016

Boston Globe—Russia launches new Aleppo offensive—16 November 2016

Anadolu Agency—Russia, regime pounding Syria’s Aleppo: Local sources—16 November 2016

The Guardian—Children’s hospital in Aleppo hit as airstrikes continue—16 November 2016