Armed extremists impose Sharia Law in Mali, says rights group

(Reuters/Adama Diarra)Armed men from the Ansar Dine Islamic group have caused terror in Mali.

Armed Islamist groups in Mali have imposed the Sharia Law, executing people and harming those who would not obey, says a human rights group.

According to a report from international watchdog Human Rights Watch, various Islamic terrorist groups have been carrying out human rights abuses in the northern and central parts of Mali in West Africa, imposing their version of the Sharia, which also bans marriages and baptisms. The non-governmental group named the bandits as Al-Qaeda, the Macina Liberation Front, the Ansar Dine, and the Movement for Unity in Jihad in West Africa, groups that have intensified banditry in the area.

Human Rights Watch interviewed by phone over 70 victims, as well as witnesses to different types of abuses that happened between April to August of 2016, particularly in Bamako, Mopti, and Sévaré. "Those interviewed included members of the ethnic Peuhl, Bambara, Dogon, and Tuareg communities; detainees in government custody; local government, security, and Justice Ministry officials; and diplomats and UN officials," the report read.

The victims and witnesses shared the horror they encountered, seeing around 50 armed men, some of whom were teenagers, occupying the villages and threatening they would kill anyone who got in touch with the government, UN peacekeepers, or the French forces.

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In other villages, the people were barred from celebrating marriages and baptisms. Even though some villagers were still able to hold weddings, they were forced to forego traditional customs. One of the witness shared that the manner of their celebration is now considered "haram" or forbidden. Moreover, families were also "pressured to give their children" to the terrorist groups, the report added.

Sadly, the Malian government is unable to provide protection to the people. Apart from the abuses, the civilians were also caught in crossfire, with intercommunal clashes in banditry also taking place. In 2016, the terrorist groups killed at least 27 men, composed of local government officials and village chiefs, security forces, and freedom fighters who were accused of conniving with the French forces or the government.

Meanwhile, international watchdog Open Doors recently released the 2017 edition of the World Watch List, naming the top 50 countries where Christians faced the most number of persecutions. Mali ranked 32nd on the list.

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