There are many reports about the thousands of young men from Western Europe travelling to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State but governments are also becoming concerned by the smaller but steady flow of teenage girls leaving home to join the ranks. According to parents, relatives and radicalization experts, the girls are lured by the promise of humanitarian work but when they arrive they discover their true fate: forced marriage to a fighter, strict adherence to Islamic law and a life under surveillance and little hope of returning home.
Instances of child-abuse related to witchcraft are on the rise in the UK, police have warned. There were 27 allegations reported in the past year whereby children were abused by people who believed them to be possessed by demonic spirits. Some of the children were raped, beaten and forced to drink unknown substances in exorcism ceremonies. The police said this form of abuse is rarely reported because the crime is kept hidden by families and faith communities, meaning the true scale of the issue is unknown.
Sikhs living in Pakistan have been closing businesses and keeping their children away from school for fear of attack. Feelings of persecution have been growing among the country’s small Sikh population as militants spread intolerance through radical Islamic ideology. Over the past 18 months eight Sikhs have been killed, the first recorded sectarian killings of Sikhs in Pakistani history. "I don't know if it's a customer or an assailant who will reach out for his gun," says a Sikh shopkeeper called Amarjeet Singh.
Investigators fear dozens of students have been killed in a massacre by Mexican police following a protest. In September, 80 students from a college in Iguala, well-known for its left-wing activism, clashed with police after they commandeered three buses. According to survivors of the incident, Mexican police killed three trainee teachers, shot another in the head and another in the face. One of the students who died had the skin cut beneath his throat and his face pulled off. Dozens more were herded into police trucks and it is thought they were taken to a remote location and slaughtered. So far, 28 corpses have been found buried in mass graves on a hillside outside Iguala and 43 students are still missing.
A radical monk from Myanmar - who once called himself “the Burmese bin Laden” and stands accused of stirring violence against Muslims - has announced a partnership with a hardline Buddhist group in Sri Lanka. The declaration by Ashin Wirathu was the clearest signal yet of a push to spread the ideology of his controversial 969 movement beyond Myanmar to build a front against Islamist militancy. "I'd like to announce that 969 and I will join hands with Sri Lanka's Bodu Bala Sena to protect Buddhists all round the world," he said.
Patriots in Russia have been asking the public to swap Western-branded T-shirts for home grown tops sporting pro-Russian slogans. So far, some 10,000 T-shirts have been swapped in a campaign against sanctions imposed by the West on Russia due to its involvement in the Ukraine conflict. The punitive measures have limited Russia's access to foreign money, pushed the rouble to historic lows and slowed economic growth to a crawl. Russia has responded by banning many Western food products.
Protesters took to the streets of New York City recently to highlight the growing threat of climate change. In the largest protest ever held on climate change, some 310,000 people marched through the American capital, joined by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, former US Vice President, Al Gore, and actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Our photo essay looks at the People’s Climate March in New York, London and Mexico City which was backed by similar events in 166 countries around the world.
Israel’s high court has outlawed a detention centre called Holot in the Negev desert that holds some 2000 African migrants. The ruling gives Israel three months to release Holot prisoners in a move hailed as ground-breaking by human rights activists who have condemned the facility. Israel has strict laws regarding immigration with asylum seekers often labelled as “infiltrators”. Indeed, thousands of people have been jailed or given financial incentives to leave Israel via controversial policies that have drawn criticism.
Social media giant Facebook faces a backlash from the LGBT community who claim they’ve been unfairly treated by a new policy that bans people from using fake names. Drag queen performers in particular, who often use stage names to protect themselves from possible retribution, have complained the move could endanger them. Cross-dressers have called on Facebook to unblock hundreds of LGBT accounts recently closed down.
Japan’s gravestone business, once very lucrative for designers making intricate personalised statues from stone, is under threat due to the country’s increasingly ageing population and ailing economy. Indeed, the number of deaths per year in Japan is expected to increase by 30 per cent over the next 25 years but while this should provide a boom for the trade many people are choosing not to have expensive statues. The move is towards cheaper memorial methods such as having remains scattered at sea or planted under a tree.
Recent floods in Pakistan have devastated the country claiming hundreds of lives and destroying homes while submerging huge swathes of the countryside. Now, Pakistani Islamist militants are accusing India of causing the floods, saying their neighbour used upstream dams to dump water on the country. The militants, considered to be some of the most dangerous in South Asia, are using the disaster to turn public opinion against India, whose relationship with Pakistan has often been fraught. India has dismissed the allegations as nonsense.
Norway plans to rent prison space in the Netherlands. Dutch prisons already house overflow prisoners from Belgium and as its prison population has been steadily falling since 2008, there will be space for Norway’s offenders too. Norwegian prisons are known for their relatively humane treatment of inmates, with non-violent offenders often held in open prisons with some free personal movement, jobs, recreation facilities and focus on rehabilitation. It also boasts one of the lowest re-offending rates in the world.
A top Ukrainian clergyman has claimed that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is under the influence of Satan. Patriarch Filaret, head of the Kiev Patriarchate, a branch of the Orthodox Church, said that Putin has fallen under the devil’s spell and faces eternal damnation if he does not repent. The holy man dubbed Putin the ‘new Cain’ after the Biblical character that famously killed his own brother.
In Northern Ireland, the flags of Israel and Palestine are potent symbols of conflict, but in this part of the United Kingdom they divide Catholics and Protestants rather than Jews and Muslims. In the complex web of alliances that underpins Northern Ireland’s flag-obsessed politics, the Star of David has been adopted by pro-British Loyalists, mainly Protestants, many of whom sympathise with Israel, while the flag of the Palestinian territories is a sign of support for Catholic Irish Republicans and their aspiration for a united Ireland. During a 30 year period known as The Troubles more than 3000 people died in Northern Ireland and although the bombs have ceased, symbols such as flags can provoke violence.
Rosa Parks became a symbol of the black civil rights movement in America when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Alabama in 1955, when the US state was segregated racially. Parks died in 2005 and now hundreds of her belongings, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom she was awarded, have been sold for $4.5 million. The artefacts were bought by a foundation controlled by the son of famous billionaire investor, Warren Buffett.
The Doll Hospital in Sydney, Australia, has been repairing treasured toys and teddy bears for more than a century now. The family business survived two world wars and restored more than three million dolls, teddy bears and rocking horses for Australian and New Zealand children. It is one of the few doll hospitals left in the world as the age of mass-production has seen many close, but there are still a steady stream of customers wishing to have an old bear sewn back together in order to restore a childhood memory.
The Dutch royal family have come under fire after a report revealed that almost half a million euros of tax-payers’ money was spent on building a fence around the royals’ holiday home in southern Greece. At a time when people in the Netherlands are still struggling following the recession, the public have demanded an explanation. Indeed, this is the second controversy in as many months over lavish spending of public funds, as King Willem-Alexander faced heavy criticism after 900,000 euros was spent on renovating one of the family’s palaces in June.
Costumed characters who pose for tourist photographs for tips in New York’s Times Square have faced bad publicity recently after a spate of arrests – one involving Spiderman punching a police officer after a tipping dispute. Now, dozens of people dressed as Batman, Elmo, Mickey Mouse and other children’s favourites have formed a union – or Justice League – to try and turn around public perception, claiming a few bad apples have spoiled it for the rest.
In a ramshackle old building in Budapest, tourists pay to be locked up in a room and try to escape by solving a series of mysterious clues, opening locks and finding their way out. Some 100 or so of these “escape room” games have sprung up in the Hungarian capital in the last three years to become top tourist attractions. Hungary recently celebrated its first festival of escape games, making use of its cities’ many decrepit cellars and old ruined houses – already famous among holiday-makers as so-called “ruin bars”. The idea is now catching on in other countries with Romania and Austria looking to create their own attractions.
A company in Texas, USA, is offering a unique send off for beloved pets by placing a portion of their cremated remains in a capsule and blasting them off into space. Celestis Inc has been launching human remains by way of a memorial since 1997 and has now expanded to include pets. The space send-off options range from launching the remains into space, having them taken to space on a commercial flight and returned to the other owner, or, for $12,500, have them taken to the moon.