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India

A Human Shield Exposed In The Daylight Of Kashmir

Screenshot of video of Farooq Ahmad Dar being used as human shield
Screenshot of video of Farooq Ahmad Dar being used as human shield

One of the ugliest tactics in modern warfare has been the use of "human shields." From Serbia to Sri Lanka and Gaza, armed combatants have been accused of putting civilian lives at risk on the frontlines in order to protect themselves. If the enemy attacks innocent bystanders on site, it risks committing a grave human rights violation. But even if the 1949 Geneva Conventions rightly stipulates that the use of human shields itself constitutes a war crime, it is a practice that often remains in the shadows.

Last month, a horrifying video circulated on YouTube has brought the practice to light in an unprecedented way in Kashmir, another region long mired in conflict over disputed territory between India and Pakistan.

A 26-year-old local Kashmiri man was strapped onto the front hood of an Indian Army jeep, as a deterrent against anti-military protesters throwing stones. Farooq Ahmad Dar's body became a literal shield for more than six hours, while the Army convoy drove through more than 10 different villages in the region during an election-day patrol.

The incident come amid a long history of alleged human rights atrocities allegedly committed by the Indian Army in the region.

Dar, a shawl weaver, was on his way back home after voting in a special election to replace a Kashmiri representative in the Indian parliament when Indian soldiers stopped him, and proceeded to tie him to the front of a jeep, to deter people from throwing stones at the convoy. Though he was uninjured, media reports said Dar was left "traumatized" by the treatment.

Major Nitin Leetul Gogia, who was in charge of using Dar as a human shield, is currently under investigation. Still, on May 1 the Indian Army awarded him a commendation card for "his sustained distinguished service till now in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir," reported the Indian Express.

The national public outcry in India and protests in Kashmir over the incident come amid a long history of alleged human rights atrocities allegedly committed by the Indian Army in the region. In the summer of 2016, amid escalating violence in the Kashmir valley, the Army was accused of violating international law after using pellet guns against unarmed Kashmiri civilians.

When conflicts endure, the weapons of war know no limits.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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