New era of hope: Tunisia, the country that sparked the Arab Spring, swore in its new president this week, a human-rights activist who had been repeatedly imprisoned by the ousted dictatorship. President Moncef Marzouki promised Tunisians the right to education, work, and health care, as well as equal rights for women. “Tunisians have proved to the world that they are a civilized people who have the ability and resources to overcome all challenges,” he said. Marzouki’s authority is more moral than legal. The assembly elected in October to rewrite the constitution and appoint the president has given most powers to the prime minister.
Al-Jawf, Saudi Arabia
‘Witch’ executed: A Saudi woman was beheaded this week for practicing “witchcraft and sorcery,” the Interior Ministry said. Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser, who was said to be in her 60s, was charged with tricking people into believing she could cure their illnesses. She is the second person to be executed for witchcraft this year. In September, a Sudanese man was publicly decapitated with a sword for the same crime. According to Amnesty International, at least 79 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year, more than three times as many as last year.
Kids chained in madrasa: Pakistani police have freed dozens of boys and young men locked in a dungeon at an Islamic seminary. Acting on a tip that children as young as 7 were being beaten, officers raided the school and found captives chained to the basement walls. Some of the 54 men and 14 boys being kept underground at the Madrasa Zakarya, a school near an Afghan refugee camp in Karachi, said they had been tortured and denied food. They said armed Taliban fighters frequently visited the school and told them they would be prepared for battle. Some children said their parents had enrolled them to cure them of curses or drug addiction. “They gave us jihad training,” one detainee told Pakistani television. “They warned us if we ever tried to escape, we would be severely punished.”
Village revolts: A months-long dispute between Chinese farmers and local Communist officials exploded into open revolt this week when the farmers kicked out the administrators of their southern coastal village and set up roadblocks to prevent them from returning. The farmers began protesting in September, after officials seized their land for development. This week, after one of the villagers chosen to negotiate with officials died in police custody, apparently after being tortured, the village rose up and chased out the officials. Police surrounded the town. London Telegraph reporter Malcolm Moore, holed up with villagers inside the cordon, said other villages were secretly supplying Wukan with food.
U.S. teen hostage free: A kidnapped American teenager escaped from al Qaida–linked militants in the Philippines after five months in captivity, police said this week. Kevin Lunsmann, 14, was vacationing with his Filipino-American mother and relatives when they were nabbed by suspected militants from Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist separatist group. His mother was freed two months ago, and police said Lunsmann told them he had tricked his captors and escaped into the jungle, where he was rescued by villagers. Local media doubt the story. They cite unnamed sources as saying Lunsmann’s mother was released so she could return to the U.S. and raise money to pay ransom for her son. Philippine authorities often claim that hostages escaped because paying ransom for their release is officially banned.
Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Punks busted: Police in Indonesia’s most conservative province raided a punk-rock concert last week and detained 65 fans, shaving off their Mohawks and removing their piercings. It was the largest bust of punks yet in Aceh, the only Indonesian province that operates under Islamic sharia law. Police chief Iskandar Hasan said the young men and women would be sent to a re-education facility for 10 days to be schooled in discipline and Koran recitation. “We’re not torturing anyone,” Hasan said. “We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.”