The week at a glance...International
Kiss-in: Protesters staged a “kiss-in” this week in support of a teenage couple who were arrested after posting photos of their kiss on Facebook. The boy, 15, and girl, 14, and a friend who took the photos were charged with “violating public decency” and will be tried next month. An online campaign to kiss publicly outside the Parliament building in solidarity drew more than 2,000 supporters, but only about a dozen couples actually kissed at the protest. Morocco, a relatively moderate Muslim country that boasts Africa’s highest rate of Internet usage, has been growing more conservative since Islamists swept the 2011 elections in the wake of Arab Spring democratic reforms.
American dies in prison: A 66-year-old American man was found hanged in an Egyptian prison cell this week, in what appears to have been a suicide. Egyptian authorities didn’t name the man but said he was a retired U.S. military officer who was arrested six weeks ago in Sinai after a car bombing with “maps of important facilities” in his possession. The U.S. State Department, though, said that his name was James Lunn and that he had never served in the military. U.S. Embassy staff visited Lunn after his arrest. Egyptian prisons are notoriously crowded and unsanitary, and prisoners are often beaten. Two Canadians released this week after being detained while filming a protest in August said they had been “systematically” kicked in the kidneys and the head.
Votes counted before they’re cast: Authoritarian Azerbaijan accidentally announced the re-election of President Ilham Aliyev a day before the polls opened. The Central Election Commission’s smartphone app showed Aliyev winning a third term with 73 percent of the vote, with just 7.4 percent going for opposition candidate Jamil Hasanli. The CEC quickly retracted the “results,” saying it had mistakenly republished the last election’s returns, but since Hasanli didn’t run in 2008, that seemed implausible. The country, ruled by either Aliyev or his father since 1993, has never held an election that Western observers deemed free and fair.
Race riot: The stabbing of a Russian man last week—allegedly by a migrant worker from the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan—touched off one of the worst anti-immigrant riots Russia has seen in years. Thousands of nationalists rampaged through a market in Moscow’s gritty Biryulyovo district, smashing windows, torching cars, and shouting “Russia for Russians!” Police briefly detained nearly 400 people during the riot, and then used the event as a pretext for a crackdown on the riot’s victims. The authorities rounded up more than 1,200 migrants from southern Russian provinces like Chechnya and from nearby former Soviet republics and arrested them for immigration violations. “There is an explosive situation developing with interethnic relations in Moscow, and anything could happen at any moment,” said TV reporter Nikolai Svanidze.
Bohol Island, Philippines
Deadly earthquake: A powerful earthquake triggered landslides in the central Philippines this week, killing at least 150 people. The magnitude-7.2 quake was equivalent to about “32 Hiroshima atomic bombs,” said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. The temblor knocked the bell tower from the country’s oldest church, the 16th-century Basilica of the Holy Child in Cebu City. Dozens of other buildings were flattened, but most of them were empty because the earthquake fell on Eid al-Adha, a Muslim festival that is a national holiday in the mostly Catholic country.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Allah is for Muslims: Christians may no longer use the word “Allah” to refer to God, as they have done in Muslim-majority Malaysia for centuries. The government banned the use of the word in Catholic newspapers in 2009, but a court struck down the ban that year, sparking a string of attacks on churches by vandals. This week, a higher court reinstated the ban in a ruling seen as an attempt by the governing Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which suffered losses in the last election, to shore up ethnic support. The use of “Allah” to mean God predates Islam and is common among Arab Christians across the Middle East, as well as many Asian Christians.
Biker gangs outlawed: Queensland has passed a slew of laws cracking down on “outlaw bikies,” the armed motorcycle gangs that have been menacing the state. More than two dozen gangs were labeled criminal organizations, and the bikies who belong to them now can’t own tattoo parlors, wear gang colors, or gather in groups. Violators will have their bikes destroyed and will be sent to special “bikie-only” prisons with longer sentences and no TV. “Take off your colors, get a real job, act like decent, law-abiding human beings, and become proper citizens in the state of Queensland, and you won’t have to go to jail,” said Premier Campbell Newman. Bikie gangs have been at the center of a spate of violent brawls and shootings.