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Ethiopian Muslims Protest After Eid Prayer

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Ethiopian Muslims Stage Eid Protests

Reuters

 August 08, 2013

 ADDIS ABABA — Muslims in Ethiopia protested in the capital Addis Ababa during Eid al-Fitr prayers on Thursday, part of a two-year-old campaign against what they say is government interference in their religious affairs.

A heavy police presence around the city's stadium — the venue for morning prayers — marked a tense run-up to the Muslim holiday after clashes between Muslims and police killed up to five people last week in Ethiopia's south. 

 Demonstrators chanted "Allahu Akbar" and hoisted banners that read "respect the constitution," referring to allegations that the government has tried to influence the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. 

 Ethiopia, long seen by the West as a bulwark against militant Islam in the Horn of Africa, denies the claims but says it fears militancy is taking root in the country.

  "These were Salafist elements who tried to create disturbances as the crowd went back to their homes," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters, referring to the ultraconservative brand of Islam followed by al Qaeda.

   "They have no following among the population but still tried to make it look like a protest. A few have been arrested." 

 Muslims make up about a third of the population in the majority Christian nation of 85 million, and the vast majority follow the moderate, Sufi version of Islam. 

 Some have been staging mosque sit-ins and street protests in the capital for almost two years. They accuse the government of promoting an "alien" branch of Islam — the Al Ahbash sect — which is avowedly apolitical. 

 The government denies that, and protesters' allegations that authorities tried to rig elections to the Islamic council earlier this year. 

 Shimeles said the protesters aimed to set up an Islamic state in the country and were bankrolled and guided by "extremists" overseas. 

 Thursday's incidents followed clashes in Kofele in Ethiopia's Oromiya region, where government officials said Muslims wielding machetes and arms clashed with police, killing police officers and civilians. The protesters blamed the authorities for the incident. 

 Last year, police arrested 29 members of a committee that called for protests, accusing them of "planning to commit terrorist acts." 

 Amnesty International urged Ethiopia on Thursday to end "its use of repressive tactics" against the demonstrators.

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Ethiopian Muslims stage Eid protests, some are arrested

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA | Thu Aug 8, 2013 9:48am EDT

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Muslims in Ethiopia protested in the capital Addis Ababa during Eid al-Fitr prayers on Thursday, as part of a two-year-old campaign against what they say is government interference in their religious affairs.

A heavy police presence around the city's stadium - the venue for morning prayers - marked a tense runup to the Muslim holiday after clashes between Muslims and police killed up to five people last week in Ethiopia's south.

Demonstrators chanted "Allahu Akbar" and hoisted banners that read "respect the constitution", referring to allegations that the government has tried to influence the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.

Ethiopia, long seen by the West as a bulwark against militant Islam in the Horn of Africa, denies the claims but says it fears militancy is taking root in the country.

"These were Salafist elements who tried to create disturbances as the crowd went back to their homes," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters, referring to the ultraconservative brand of Islam followed by al Qaeda.

"They have no following among the population but still tried to make it look like a protest. A few have been arrested."

Muslims make up about a third of the population in the majority Christian nation of 85 million, and the vast majority follow the moderate, Sufi version of Islam.

Some have been staging mosque sit-ins and street protests in the capital for almost two years. They accuse the government of promoting an "alien" branch of Islam - the Al Ahbash sect - which is avowedly apolitical.

The government denies that, and protesters' allegations that authorities tried to rig elections to the Islamic council earlier this year.

Shimeles said the protesters aimed to set up an Islamic state in the country and were bankrolled and guided by "extremists" overseas.

Thursday's incidents followed clashes in Kofele in Ethiopia's Oromiya region, where government officials said Muslims wielding machetes and arms clashed with police, killing police officers and civilians. The protesters blamed the authorities for the incident.

Last year, police arrested 29 members of a committee that called for protests, accusing them of "planning to commit terrorist acts".

Amnesty International urged Ethiopia on Thursday to end "its use of repressive tactics" against the demonstrators.

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche)

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 Group Presses Ethiopia to End Repression at Demos

 ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia August 8, 2013 (AP)

 An international rights group is urging Ethiopia's government to end "repressive tactics" against Muslim demonstrations.

 At a protest in Ethiopia's capital on Thursday marking the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr, Muslims chanted slogans asking the government to respect their rights.

 Witnesses told an Associated Press reporter that hundreds of protesters were beaten by police who dispersed the crowd near a stadium where mass prayer was being held. Police blocked roads leading to the stadium.

 Amnesty International said it's concerned with authorities' crackdowns on freedom of speech and the right to assemble. The group said Ethiopia should restrain its response and avoid future bloodshed.

 Some in Ethiopia's Muslim community — about one-third of the predominantly Christian nation — have been protesting alleged government interference in religious affairs for about two years.

 More From ABC News

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 Ethiopian repression of Muslim protests must stop

 Protests in Ethiopia have increased in recent months.

 © AFP/Getty Images

 “We are extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia this morning of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters. The Ethiopian government’s ongoing repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now. ”

 Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.

 The Ethiopian government must end its use of repressive tactics against demonstrators, following initial reports of widespread arrests of Muslim protestors during this morning’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations, said Amnesty International today.

 “We are extremely concerned at reports coming out of Ethiopia this morning of further widespread arrests of Muslim protesters. The Ethiopian government’s  ongoing repressive crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest has to end now,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.

 Last week, another incident related to the protests reportedly ended in the deaths of an unconfirmed number of people in the town of Kofele in Oromia region.

 During the 18 month-long protest movement against alleged government interference in Islamic affairs, the vast majority of demonstrations have been peaceful. However, there have been at least four incidents involving serious allegations of the excessive use of force by security forces against demonstrators in the long-running movement.  While a few isolated incidents of violence involving protestors have occurred, these have taken place during episodes where excessive police force is alleged.

 “These reports of further deaths in the context of the Muslim protest movement are deeply worrying. There must be an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the events in Kofele, as well as into the four incidents last year which resulted in the deaths and injuries of protestors,” said Claire Beston.

 “With further protests planned, it is imperative that the behaviour of the security forces is scrutinised and if enough admissible evidence of crimes is found, suspected perpetrators should be prosecuted in trial proceedings that meet international standards.”

 Accounts of last week’s incident in Kofele from the protestors and the government differ widely.

 Protestors report that the security forces opened fire on unarmed people who were protesting against the arrests of members of the local Muslim community. One resident of Kofele told Amnesty International that 14 people were shot dead by the army, including at least three children. Another said that 11 people had been killed.

 According to media reports, the authorities have said that the protestors were armed, leading to an outbreak of violence which resulted in the deaths of three protestors and injuries to a number of police officers. Government representatives refused to respond to Amnesty International’s queries about the incident.

 There are also reports of large numbers of arrests in and around Kofele, Oromia, and further arrests in Addis Ababa over the last week.

 Those arrested included two journalists - Darsema Sori and Khalid Mohamed - detained early last week in Addis Ababa.

 The two men were working for Radio Bilal, which has regularly reported on the protest movement. Darsema Sori had also previously worked for the publication Ye’Muslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs), from which two employees have already been arrested during the protest movement, and who are currently being prosecuted under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.

 According to information received by Amnesty International Darema Sori and Khalid Mohamed are being held at Sostegna (third) police station in Addis Ababa and are not being permitted visitors. They have reportedly been taken to court and were remanded in custody while the police continue their investigation.

 Reports of arrests and detentions of peaceful protestors and people suspected of involvement in organising the protests have continued throughout 18-months of demonstrations.

 Despite many months of large-scale, peaceful protests, the government has repeatedly attempted to paint the protest movement as violent and terrorist-related in statements to the media and in parliament. Amnesty International has received a number of reports of messages aired via the state media over the last week, warning that the authorities would take firm action against anyone who attempted to take part in further demonstrations.

 “This is a violation of people’s right to peacefully protest, as protected in Ethiopia’s Constitution,” said Claire Beston. “The government continues to respond to the grievances of the Muslim community with violence, arbitrary arrests and the use of the overly-broad Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to prosecute the movements’ leaders and other individuals.”

 As demonstrations continue, Amnesty International is concerned that the response of the authorities will also continue to involve human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests of peaceful protestors and possible further bloodshed.

 The organization urges the Ethiopian government to respect the right of its citizens to peacefully protest and urges an immediate end to heavy-handed tactics in response to the protests. Anyone arrested solely for exercising their right to peaceful protest must be released immediately.

 Background

 The trial continues of 29 figures related to the protest movement including nine members of a committee of representatives selected by the Muslim community to represent their grievances to the government, and one journalist, Yusuf Getachew, of the publication Ye’Muslimoch Guday. The trial has already been marred by a number of fair trial concerns, including the airing on state-run Ethiopian Television (ETV) of a programme called “Jihadawi Harakat.” It painted the Muslim protest movement and some of the individuals on trial as having connections with Islamic extremist groups, seriously jeopardising the right of the defendants to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

 The trial is now taking place in closed proceedings, increasing fears that the defendants will not receive a fair trial. Amnesty International believes that the individuals on trial are being prosecuted because of their participation in a peaceful protest movement.

 Solomon Kebede, another journalist working for Ye’Muslimoch Guday was recently charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation along with 27 other people, according to information received by Amnesty International.

 During 2012 there were at least four incidents in which the security forces were alleged to have used excessive force during the dispersal and arrest of protestors. At least two of these incidents - in the towns of Gerba in the Amhara region, and Asasa in the Oromia region - resulted in the deaths of protestors.

 Two further incidents in Addis Ababa reportedly resulted in many injuries to protestors. Amnesty International called for independent investigations to be conducted into these incidents, but according to available information, no such investigation has taken place.

 Other protests have also been affected by the government’s pervasive intolerance of dissent. The opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice Party has reported arrests of its members in a number of locations around the country in recent weeks. They were engaged in organising demonstrations, handing out leaflets for demonstrations and calling on people to sign a petition calling for the revocation of the Anti-Terrorism Legislation and the release of political prisoners.

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 Scores Killed In Ethiopia Muslim Protests .

 OnIslam & News Agencies

 Sunday, 04 August 2013 10:11

 ADDIS ABABA – Scores of Ethiopian Muslims have been killed and dozens wounded or arrested on Saturday, August 3, when government forces open fire on unarmed demonstrators throughout the country according to Ethiopian activists who took part in the demonstrations.

 The confrontation began after activists rallied across different cities demanding the release of three Imams; Mohammed Abdalla, Abdulkadir H/Kadir and Mukhtar Safi, arrested in Wabe town earlier this week, OPride website reported on Sunday.

 Marching peacefully early Saturday morning from the town of Wabe to Kofele to petition regional administrators for the release of the arrested imams, federal police tried to block protesters near a small town called Totolamo.

 Later on, it opened on peaceful demonstrators killing at least six, said one protester who gave his name only as Hussein due to fear of repercussions.

 Hussein said the whole area looked like a war zone, describing the scene of the confrontation as “full of panic and blood” clouded with tear gas.

 The bloodshed followed a statement in the government media that said the ongoing Muslim protests will no longer be tolerated.

 According to a CNN report, witnesses said at least 25 Ethiopian Muslims were killed.

 Another witness added that at least one child was among the dead. He also stated government security forces arrested over 1,500 protesters on Friday.

 Protests have rocked Ethiopia over the past months over government interference in the religious affairs of the Muslim community.

 Muslims say the government is spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called "Ahbash".

 Muslims say the government move is in violation of the constitution, which prevents the government interference in religious affairs.

 Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an "indoctrination program" in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend "religious training" camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.

 To quell the Muslim protests, the Ethiopian government launched a major crackdown, arresting scores of Muslim protest leaders.

 Troubles

 After the clashes, hospitals in Awassa and Shashamane crowded with wounded people, the reports said.

 Surrounding towns of Dodola and Asasa were also put under military siege Sunday morning, eyewitnesses said.

 Several activists and journalists were also arrested at the notorious Maekelawi prison in Addis Ababa, including Bilal Radio journalists Darsema Dori and Khalid Mohammed.

 Bilal Radio on Saturday reported the two journalists were held incommunicado and denied visitation rights even by family members.

 Earlier on Friday, a similar sit-in was planned in mosques nationwide. Yet, the event was cancelled at the last minute to avoid what the activists saw as government provocation and to prevent bloodshed.

 After the deaths, protests are expected to spread to the nearby towns of Asasa and Dodola towns on Sunday where tensions are already high.

 Similar concerns were also expressed over next week’s `Eid al-Fitr celebration marking the end of holy month of Ramadan may see further protests throughout the country.

 Last year's `Eid saw millions of Muslims chanting slogans critical of the government's interference in religious practices.

 Muslims make up about 34 percent of Ethiopia’s population, according to the government’s 2007 census.

 But other sources put Ethiopia Muslims at about 50% of the country’s popul

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 Ethiopia Muslims Tortured Over Ahbashism 3

 By Harmus Muhammad

 Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:00

 ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian Muslim activists are reporting torture and abuses by security forces over growing opposition to an alleged government campaign to indoctrinate the community with Ahbashism campaign.

 “An Ethiopian activist died after being tortured by electric shock and inhumane acts by government security forces,” villager Ibrahim Nuseyra told OnIslam.net.

 He said a female activist, Firdaws, died last week after being tortured by security forces after attending a meeting called for by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (Majlis).

 The meeting, led by Federal Affairs Minister Dr Shiferaw Tekelemariam, was attended by only three members, including Firdaws.

 Ibrahim said the female activist left the meeting after the Ethiopian minister insulted the Muslim Provincial Committee and branding its members as “terrorists”.

 As she drove her car back home, the activist was reportedly kidnapped by security forces and taken to an unknown location.

 "They tortured her with electric shock and beaten her in an inhumane way,” Ibrahim said.

 The activist was later placed at her home gate.

 When her family and villagers got her at the gate, she was neither able to speak nor stand or move,” he said.

 “Everyone couldn’t believe what was happening, we were crying, we knew nothing about what to do,” Ibrahim recalled.

 She was later taken to hospital and sent to Saudi Arabia for a proper medical treatment.

 “But she died in hospital due to severe injury and nervous system damage,” Ibrahim said.

 The villager said that the mother of the dead Muslim activist was also kidnapped by security forces.

 Torture

 Muslims say that the torture of activists was not the first incident in Ethiopia.

 “Three weeks before, another Ja’efer mosque Muslim lady preacher was kidnapped after her preach on the way back home,” Ahmed Sulayman, another activist, told OnIslam.net.

 She “was tortured and beaten before being brought back on the street.”

 Last month, seven Muslims were killed by security forces in Assasa town in Arsi province of Oromiya regional.

 Ethiopia’s Muslims have taken to the streets in the past weeks to protest government’s interference in their religious affairs.

 Muslims say the government is spearheading a campaign in collaboration with the Majlis to indoctrinate their community with the ideology of a sect called "Ahbash".

 The government of Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi has put the Ahbash in charge of the religious affairs of Ethiopia's Muslims.

 Muslims say the government move is in violation of the constitution, which prevents the government interference in religious affairs.

 Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an "indoctrination program" in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend "religious training" camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.

 Founded by Ethiopian-Lebanese scholar Sheikh Abdullah al-Harari, Ahbash are seen by the West as a "friendly alternative" to Wahabi ideology, which the West sees as extreme and militant.

 Muslims say Ahbash imams are being brought over from Lebanon to fill the Majlis and teach Ethiopians that “Wahabis” are non-Muslims.

 Ethiopian Muslims are estimated at 30 million, making up nearly 35 percent of the country’s 90 million population.