Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

07 Aug 2014

This week's Roundup brings together a number of analysis pieces about the persecution of religious minorities, particularly ISIS's treatment of Yezidis and Christians in Iraq. In Kenya, terror attacks are on the rise, and we feature an article examining the increasing influence of al-Shabaab. We also look ahead to the presidential this weekend in Turkey, and highlight a report into the ongoing dispute surrounding the Afghanistan election result.   

Top Stories

Kenya: As Kenya is subjected to repeated attacks by militants affiliated to al-Shabaab, Jonathan Russell examines the reasons for the group's successes in recruiting in the country and what it can do to address them.

Iraq: In a week in which atrocities committed by ISIS have multiplied, one particular target of their sectarian cleansing are the Yezidis, perhaps one of the world's oldest religions, writes Sean Thomas. The Economist explains what they believe.

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq: Setbacks for the Kurdish peshmerga forces may be linked to their lack of resources. As a largely pro-Western grouping with a proven willingness to fight ISIS, it's time for the US to arm them, regardless of whether they declare independence, argues Dexter Filkins.

Iraq: A social media campaign has been started in solidarity with Mosul's Christians, a community dating back to the early church, forced to flee in the face of ISIS. Peter Welby explains what it means.

Israel / Palestine: Hamas sees itself in a battle for its survival, writes Nathan Thrall, and has set itself limited, achievable goals – but it has also risked a great deal.  Furthermore, despite the 'Unity Government' proclaimed a few months ago, Hamas and Fatah continue to vie for control of the Palestinian leadership says David Kenner

Israel / Palestine: For the ceasefire declared this week, to be followed by disarmament, Gaza needs to be convinced that the political and economic benefits of peace outweigh those of violence, says Benedetta Berti. Israel should look for a more realistic path towards peace.  Ed Husain argues that this is not possible without Hamas, and that Hamas is not just a terrorist outfit. It's time to bring them to the negotiating table.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: With almost four months passing since the kidnapping of the school girls from Chibok, John Campbell looks at speculation that they are linked to the recent spate of suicide bombings by women in Kano state, in the North of Nigeria.

Nigeria: The CFR have released their latest Nigeria Security Tracker, looking at recent attacks in the country, and Reid Standish visually represents the story of violent attacks by Boko Haram this year.

Central and South Asia

Afghanistan: After the suspension of the UN-assisted election audit for the week-long festival of Eid al-Fitr, Carlotta Gall looks at the disputes that threaten to derail the process.

Afghanistan: As John Kerry visits Afghanistan, a report from Frances Z. Brown at the United States Institute of Peace presents a long term plan for state building in Afghanistan, pointing out the state's need to foster a 'social contract' to gain loyalty from the population at large, built on the backbone of a fully resourced counterinsurgency programme.

Pakistan: Akhilesh Pillalamarri reports on the largely undocumented violence perpetuated daily against religious minorities in Pakistan. The government lacks both the ability and the will to put a halt to this violence and some speculate that government forces are participating.

Pakistan: Hassan Abbas comments on the importance of understanding local religious and tribal dynamics in the army's offensive in North Waziristan.

East and South East Asia

Myanmar: Recent violent clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in central Myanmar brought the total number killed in sectarian violence in the country over the past two years to around 240, according to  The Economist. These religious tensions can be placed in the post-colonial context of "plural societies", with empires throwing together religious and ethnic groups throughout South East Asia.

Philippines: Doubts persist about the peace process in the Philippines after an attack last week, which the New York Times covers in an editorial. Meanwhile, Manual Mogato finds that disagreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over the wording of the agreement on autonomy issues is stalling the process.

China: Shannon Tiezzi draws together a number reports over recent weeks on the violence in western Xinjiang, finding that China's plan to create a system where civilians watch each other could lead to further tensions. This, as well as reports of specific discrimination against the Muslim Uighur community could affect China's relationship with Pakistan, writes Ankit Panda.


Turkey: With presidential elections due on 10 August, A Kadir Yildrim looks at the different factors, particularly the importance of the Kurdish vote in any runoff. A recent report released by the Pew Research Centre examined the view of the Turkish public ahead of the vote, finding that observant Turkish Muslims are more likely to support Recep Erdogan.


Religious Beliefs: In a major publication released this week, the Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2014 finds that religious adherents of all faiths are on the rise. More than eight-in-ten people today follow a religion, with religionists accounting for 88% of the world's population in 2013, compared to 80% in 1970.