The Overflow for August 4th

International News

War Crimes

Thousands of Yazidis are being held captive by Islamic State in Syria where many are used for sexual slavery or forced to fight for the group, the United Nations said yesterday, on the second anniversary of what investigators termed a genocide. 

A UN commission of independent war crimes investigators has reported that Islamic State was committing genocide against the Yazidis, a religious community of 400,000 people in northern Iraq, beginning with an attack on their city of Sinjar on August 2014. Yazidis' beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions and they are considered infidels by the hard-line Sunni Islamist militants.

The UN said most of the captives have been taken to neighbouring Syria "where Yazidi women and girls continue to be sexually enslaved and Yazidi boys indoctrinated, trained and used in hostilities."

Around 3,200 Yazidi women and girls are being held captive, and thousands of men and boys are missing, the UN said.

The designation of genocide, rare under international law, would mark the first recognized genocide carried out by non-state actors, rather than a state or paramilitaries acting on its behalf. Historical victims of genocide include Armenians in 1915, Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 and Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.


200,000 Police

Thai authorities will deploy about 200,000 police for a referendum on a contentious new constitution on Sunday but violence is seen as unlikely, police and the government said on Wednesday, despite widespread opposition to the charter. In the vote, the country will decided on whether to accept the military's constitution in the biggest test of public opinion since the generals seized power in May 2014, with prospects for an election next year possibly in the balance.

Authorities have arrested and detained dozens of activists and politicians in the run-up to the referendum, some for simply trying to hand out leaflets urging people to vote 'no'. The military said the constitution will usher in stable, clean politics and heal more than a decade of bitter political division.

Critics say the charter is designed to cement the military's role in civilian politics and constrain the populist political forces that have arisen over the past 15 years to challenge the military and royalist establishment. 

"From intelligence received, nothing points to any likelihood of violence on referendum day," Colonel Peerawat Saengthong, a spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command, a military unit dealing with national security, told reporters.

Critics of the proposed constitution have held small, symbolic protests against it but they have been muted, largely because of a law that carries a 10-year jail term for campaigning in connection with the referendum.

A vote for the constitution would boost the government's legitimacy while a vote against would raise questions about a promised general election next year, even though the government has said polls will go ahead no matter what.

Opposition groups, including the anti-government United Front For Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), have said they will not disrupt the vote.

The junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has banned criticism of the constitution and authorities have detained and charged dozens of people who have spoken against it, including politicians and student activists.

About 200,000 police will be deployed at polling stations around the country, police said.


Protests in Harare

Anti-riot police used batons to break up a peaceful march in Harare on Wednesday, the latest public protest against how President Robert Mugabe's government has handled the economy. Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is increasingly under pressure from angry Zimbabweans, as well as his war veterans allies, who last month rebuked him as a manipulative dictator, calling on him to step down.

At a meeting in Harare, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party expelled nine senior officials, including four war veteran leaders linked to last month's statement denouncing Mugabe, the party's administration secretary said, as a purge against Mugabe's former allies intensified.

Hundreds of people marched on the streets of Harare on Wednesday against government plans to introduce local bank notes, as authorities grapple with a serious dollar crunch. Police kept watch and the marchers presented a petition at ministry of finance offices in central Harare. But baton-wielding police charged at the protesters as they approached the Parliament building, beating them until they dispersed.

"We don't want bond notes because they will wipe out the few U.S. dollars left. They have come to destroy the country. We do not want them," said protester Wesley Chawada, who was waving the old Zimbabwean dollar currency, which was dumped in 2009.

"Mugabe just quit, I will forgive you", read one placard, while another said "No to police state, you have failed Mr Mugabe."

UK News

Cursed Child

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", the script for a new London play telling the eighth story in the hugely popular series, has sold more than 680,000 print copies in the UK in three days, publisher Little, Brown Book Group said yesterday. The book - a script and not a narrative novel like J.K. Rowling's Potter books - was released at midnight on Sunday, shortly after the play's opening.

It is set 19 years after "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", which was released in 2007 and the final book in the original series.

UK book industry magazine and website The Bookseller said if the sales rate continued, the script book would "be the second biggest-selling single week for one title since records began, with 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' as the first". Bringing back Rowling's enchanted world of witches and wizards, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" features the lead character as a father of three and an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic. "After just two days' sales it is already our biggest-selling hardback since Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' in 2009," Kate Skipper, buying director at UK bookstore chain Waterstones, said in a statement.

The play is based on a story written by Rowling, screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany.


The Jungle Installation

The tents and shelters of Calais' infamous "jungle" camp have been rebuilt in London in a new installation hoping to teach Britons more about Europe's migrant crisis. The "Encampment" exhibit, which runs through this weekend, features structures rebuilt with materials used by the residents of the migrant camp in northern France, which have now been temporarily set up outside London's Somerset House.

Earlier this year, French authorities dismantled the southern half of the camp, where thousands of migrants fleeing war or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have massed, hoping to make their way to Britain.

The installation has been created by the Good Chance Theater group, which set up a temporary theatre at the Calais camp for its residents, and A Home For Winter, which builds shelters for the displaced. Among those on display are structures with graffiti reading "hello UK" or "humans after all". One bears the writing of Syrian refugee Hamoude Khalil, now in Britain, who wrote "We just want to go in England please".

"All of my dreams were inside this," the 24-year old, who fled Aleppo some 11 months ago, told reporters. "Now all of my dreams are coming with me. This has happened and I made it."

Long Read

In Canada's northernmost capital, a man stepped into a trading post. He left his dogs and sled outside, but as he shopped, he heard gunshots - the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that were outside had killed his dogs, and he had no way of getting home. As this piece in The Guardian elaborates, this is one of the many spots of tension Nunavut's Inuit people have encountered as southern Canadians have urbanised Iqaluit.

In the presence of total darkness, the mind finds it absolutely necessary to create light.
— Isaac Asimov