Fear grows as Mali extremists compile list of unwed mothers
Fear grows as Mali extremists compile list of unwed mothersOctober 12, 2012 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)STORY HIGHLIGHTS
- NEW: A U.N. Security Council resolution urges action to plan for a military force in Mali
- NEW: Demonstrators in Bamako call for such an international military intervention
- Extremists control two-thirds of northern Mali, an area the size of France
- Women are living in fear of cruel punishments such as stoning and executions
(CNN) -- Radical Islamists are compiling a list of unmarried mothers in northern Mali, raising fears of cruel punishments such as stoning, amputations and executions, a senior United Nations official said.
Islamists controlling most of the north have vowed to impose a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia. Local radical groups have said the law condemns relationships outside marriage.
Condemning these and other "abuses," as well as activity of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups in the region, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on Friday setting the stage for the deployment of international troops.
The council, with its resolution, "requests the (U.N.) Secretary-General ... immediately provide military and security planners to assist (the Economic Community of West African States) and the African Union (to plan) for such an international military force."
The U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights, who just returned from a visit to Mali, said there are reports Islamist groups are compiling lists of women who have had children out of wedlock, or who were unmarried and pregnant.
"The threat is there, it's real and people live with it and they are afraid of those lists," Ivan Simonovic said. "This could indicate that these women are at imminent risk of being subjected to cruel and inhumane punishment."
In July, they forced a man and a woman into two holes and stoned them to death for committing adultery as terrified residents quietly watched in remote Aguelhok town.
Extremists have conducted public executions, amputations, floggings and other inhuman and degrading punishments, Simonovic said.
Women and children face greater risk, he said.
More women in the region are ending up in forced marriages. And with wives costing less than $1,000, husbands are also reselling the women, according to Simonovic.
He said the process is "a smokescreen for enforced prostitution and rapes" occurring in the region.
"Civil and political rights are being severely restricted as a result of the imposition of a strict interpretation of sharia law, and systemic cruel and inhumane punishments are being implemented," Simonovic said.
The militants are also buying children and enlisting them as soldiers, paying their families $600 -- a major incentive in a country where more than half the population lives on $1.25 a day, he said.
In addition, the Islamists have also banned smoking, drinking, watching sports on television and listening to music.
"We don't have to answer to anyone over the application of sharia," Islamist commissioner Aliou Toure said in August. "This is the form of Islam practiced for thousands of years."
Thousands of protesters marched Thursday in the Malian capital of Bamako backing efforts to send international troops to the country's north. Alpha Moulaye Haidara, a youth leader for a group of northern Malians advocating action, said the region has become "a safe haven for jihadists ... using the area for drug and arms trade, to train recruits and plan new attacks."
"It's unacceptable what the Islamists have done," said Papa Maiga, a citizen of Gao in the occupied north now living in Bamako, at the protest. "I'm here to say Mali needs help, and I hope the international community listens."
In its resolution Friday, the U.N. Security Council condemned human rights abuses "committed ... by armed rebels, terrorist and other extremist groups," including "hostage-taking, pillaging, theft, destruction of cultural and religious sites and recruitment of child soldiers."
The council said the "primary responsibility" to check these abuses rests with Mali's transitional government, while adding that those outside the West African nation have a role to play as well. Member states encouraged "the international community to provide support to resolve the crisis in Mali through coordinated actions for immediate and long-term needs, encompassing security, development and humanitarian issues."
Mali plunged into chaos in March after a military ruler overthrew the president, shaking one of West Africa's most stable democracies.
The coup leader stepped down in May and transferred power to a civilian transitional government, but uncertainty looms.
Ethnic Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants took advantage of the chaos to seize the northern portion of the country. Months later, two groups with ties to al Qaeda toppled the Tuareg movement. The two groups now control two-thirds of northern Mali, an area the size of France.
West African states and the nation's transitional government have asked the U.N. Security Council to authorize the military intervention to oust the radical groups.
Journalist Katarina Höije contributed to this report.