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Mali - War, Terror and Sharia Law Take Over Democracy

For Mali, once an example to many other African nations as a democratic, multi-party state, 2012 has been a particularly tumultuous year. After a military coup against a democratically elected president, secular Tuareg rebels captured the northern part of the country. The rebels declared a new nation for their people, who feel that they have long been marginalized by Mali's government.

The Tuareg rebels' fight against government forces was initially backed by several Islamist groups such as Ansar Dine. While they captured new ground, Ansar Dine started imposing a strict Sharia law in these areas. This led to fights between the Tuaregs and the Islamists, which have culminated this week as the Tuaregs retreated from major towns, leaving northern Mali in the hands of Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups.

The fighting has caused widespread suffering to civilian populations  as horrific human rights violations are reported to have been committed by all sides in the conflict. According to activist groups, rapes, executions, whippings, amputations and destruction of religious sites have taken place. Only yesterday, six young men and women were each given 100 lashes for having talked to each other on city streets, a breach of the Sharia law. The rich cultural heritage of Mali and civic rights  are seen as threatened in the hands of the Islamists, whose efforts to impose the Sharia Law remind some witnesses of Afghanistan's worst days under Taliban's rule.

International experts now worry that the destabilization  might spill over to the neighboring region and affect countries such as Mauritania, Kenya and Burkina Faso. There have also been fears of Mali collapsing into a situation similar to Somalia in the past two decades, as well as worries that the country with its Islamist militia might become a terrorist safe haven.

In efforts to pacify the situation, the African Union has sent an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, urging the UN to take immediate military action. The Secretary General emphasized that the initial plans by AU must be further developed in order to avoid a botched military intervention.

We invite you to watch the following films to learn more about Mali, Sharia Law and Al-Qaeda:
  • AL QAEDA'S NEW HOMELAND - MALI tells about the rise of Islamists in Mali. Al Qaeda has a new refuge... the deserts of Northern Mali. This report captures the food crisis and an exodus of half a million people, caused by the Islamist enactment of harsh Islamic law in the North of the country.
  • MY TRIP TO AL-QAEDA by Alex Gibney chronicles fundamentalist Islam's rise to power and explores Wright's struggle to maintain his objectivity as a journalist writing about Islamic terror.
  • STONING OF SORAYA M by Cyrus Nowrasteh, winner of Cinema for Peace Award for Justice 2010, is a drama set in 1986 Iran and centered on a woman who is murdered through stoning according to Sharia Law.
  • I WILL SING FOR YOU by Jacques Sarasin recounts the love story told by a singer whose music takes us on a social, political and geographic voyage of Mali from 1960 to our days.