BEFORE the recent French intervention in Mali began, 412,000 people had already left their homes in the country’s north, fleeing torture, summary executions, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence against women at the hands of fundamentalist militants. Late last year, in Algeria and southern Mali, I interviewed dozens of Malians from the north, including many who had recently fled. Their testimonies confirmed the horrors that radical Islamists, self-proclaimed warriors of God, have inflicted on their communities.Continue reading.
First, the fundamentalists banned music in a country with one of the richest musical traditions in the world. Last July, they stoned an unmarried couple for adultery. The woman, a mother of two, had been buried up to her waist in a hole before a group of men pelted her to death with rocks. And in October the Islamist occupiers began compiling lists of unmarried mothers.
Even holy places are not safe. These self-styled “defenders of the faith” demolished the tombs of local Sufi saints in the fabled city of Timbuktu. The armed groups also reportedly destroyed many churches in the north, where displaced members of the small Christian minority told me they had previously felt entirely accepted. Such Qaeda-style tactics, and the religious extremism that demands them, are completely alien to the mainstream of Malian Islam, which is known for its tradition of tolerance.
That openness is exactly what the jihadists seek to crush. “The fact that we are building a new country on the base of Shariah is just something the people living here will have to accept,” the Islamist police commissioner in the town of Gao said last August. Until military action began this month, local citizens were on their own in resisting the imposition of Shariah — and they fought back valiantly. A radio journalist was severely beaten by Islamist gunmen after speaking on the radio against amputations. Women marched through the streets of Timbuktu against Islamist diktats on veiling until gunfire ended their protest.
And linked at the piece is this report from the United Nations Security Council, FWIW, "Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali."