In Pakistan, Islamic Boarding Schools Accused Of Torture

An Islamic class in a small school near Quetta, Pakistan.
An Islamic class in a small school near Quetta, Pakistan.
Naeem Sahoutara and Shadi Khan Saif

KARACHI — It’s time for the evening prayer at the Edhi Shelter Home in Karachi, Pakistan. For nine-year-old Rehmatullah Khan, it’s a reminder of a painful childhood past.

His parents sent him to an Islamic boarding school in the northwestern city of Quetta when he was just three. "At seminary, my teacher would beat me and the other students," he recalls. "The teacher would beat us for not memorizing the lessons or making a noise. He sometimes hit us with sticks and would punch me when the other students told him it was me making noise in the classroom."

After six years he ran away, traveling 700 kilometers to this shelter home in Karachi. Khan’s body is covered with signs of abuse. His left ear is still bleeding, his wrists have dark scars and his legs have wounds that have yet to heal. "My father took me to the Madrassah and dropped me off there, even though I was crying and wanted to go home with him. He left me and went away. I was kept in chains, my hands and feet cuffed together. Some other students were also chained."

There are officially 8,000 private Madressahs in Pakistan where some two million students study and live. There are many more unofficial Islamic boarding schools, and because there is no government monitoring system, there are many stories of abuse.

Seven-year-old Usman arrived at this shelter last month. "One day I went to a shop, but forgot the way back home," he says. "Someone took me to the Madressah, where I was tortured for some mistakes. On Saturday, I just ran away from there. And one policeman brought me here."

A 2011 video shows police rescuing 43 students from chains at a Karachi seminary. Anwar Kazmi, spokesperson for the Edhi Welfare Trust, says he has seen countless similar cases in the four decades he has been running this shelter.

"The children are subjected to physical punishments, sexual abuses or kept in chains," he says. "We are receiving 30 to 40 runaway children at our shelter homes every month all over the country.”

Teacher Farzana Faisal says the children are also suffering from psychological scars. “I’ve noticed that the children coming from the seminaries have very rude behavior and they’re so aggressive because physical torture builds their character in a violent manner," she says. "In such situations I stay calm and pamper them because they've not been loved being away from their parents. But it destroys their childhood and personality."

Here at the shelter, the children are given a limited religious education until the age of 16 years old. But for many, staying here is the only option. "We miss our family, our home," says one child. "We want to go back to our home, but we don’t want to go back to the Madressah again."

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.


"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.

➡️


"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.



Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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