An Indian mother, stranded in war-torn Yemen, tweets about her eight-month-old son stuck in Sana’a. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj swings into action, and the baby and mother are safely back home. In the largest evacuation effort by air so far, 488 Indians have been saved at the time of going to press. They have horror stories to tell about bombs exploding and bullets flying around. “I had seen such scenes only in movies,” says S Zahirul, who worked as a jeweller in Aden. Indian warships were fired upon as they landed to evacuate stranded countrymen. Last September, political dialogue between Houthi rebel fighters and the Yemen government collapsed, and the rebels captured Sana’a and overthrew President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Riyadh. Meanwhile, Hirak separatists and al-Qaeda terrorists were being targeted by American drones. The Islamic State took credit for two suicide bombings in Sana’a. The Saudi Arabian air force, trained and supplied by the Americans, has been bombing the rebels, who are fighting back. By March-end, UN statistics showed over 600 were killed in the Yemen fighting.
Garissa is a small city near Nairobi, Kenya, around 60 miles from Dadaab, home to the world’s largest refugee camp filled with people fleeing from the Islamist menace that is spreading like virus all over Africa. On April 2, Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate, attacked a university in Garissa, killing 224 innocents.
The extremists believe that any kind of education, except what is imparted in madrassas, is evil and anti-Islam. So they chose a university where they were sure to find young, educated students and academics. The terrorists even separated the Muslims from the rest before executing the latter. Like Boko Haram, which has spread throughout Nigeria, Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon, has killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014.
Indian intelligence agencies have warned that Pakistani terrorists, led by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), is planning to carry out fidayeen strikes in Delhi. The Middle East and adjoining areas have become the most dangerous places to live in, its cities torn apart by bombs and guns, with citizens dying in the thousands. The Arab Spring destabilised the region, overthrowing dictators like Gaddafi in Libya, but replaced them with monsters of terror, who are capable of unbridled violence against women in particular. Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan and Afghanistan have become the hunting grounds of death, where life is cheaper that an AK-47 bullet. In the post-Saddam Iraq, where violent deaths have become the norm since the 2003 US invasion, civilian deaths till March 2013 were estimated to be 134,000. A great portion of the fatalities was recorded in Baghdad.
As many as 11,420 children have been killed in the Syrian conflict so far, according to reports. The total body count exceeds 2,10,000.
Peshawar, which lies on the unstable AfPak border, is a city of evil, where education is a target for these medieval monsters—in December last year, 132 schoolchildren and nine staff members were massacred by heavily armed Taliban suicide bombers who stormed a Pakistan Army-run school. The Pakistan Army has been waging a war against well-equipped and battle-toughened insurgents, ironically trained by the Pakistan Army and ISI. In 2009, then President Asif Zardari admitted that the country created terrorist groups to attack India. Official figures put the number of those who fled North West Pakistan in 2009 at nearly one million. As a grim sidebar, Peshawar’s coffin-sellers are reportedly trying to keep up with the demand. The UK Foreign Office’s travel advisory cautions its citizens to avoid large parts of Pakistan—the “federally administered tribal areas”, Peshawar and districts south of the city, northern and western Balochistan, the Karakoram Highway between Islamabad and Gilgit, the Kalesh Valley, the Bamoboret Valley and Arandu District, Quetta, Nawabshah, and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Terrorism is not the only harbinger of blood. Latin America, where poverty, corruption and drug cartels are rampant, murder is a favourite guest. San Pedro Sula in Honduras has been ranked by safety watchdogs as the world’s most dangerous city. In 2013, it had the highest murder rate in the world with 169 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, averaging more than three murders a day. Caracas in Venezuela had a kill rate of 134.36 per one lakh residents; Acapulco, Mexico, had 112.80 homicides; Cali, Colombia, 83.20; Maceió in Brazil 79.76; and Palmira, Colombia, 60.86 homicides per 100,000 residents, to name a few cities the average tourist or sunbathers should avoid. In Central America, 8.4 murders happen per one lakh people. In South Africa, Cape Town tops the chart with 50.94 homicides per 100,000 residents. It’s also one of the most dangerous cities for women’s safety. Kingston, Jamaica, had 52.83 murders per lakh in 2013.
|The World’s 10 Safest Cities to Live in||India’s Most Dangerous Places for Women|
Though the US is the most powerful country in the world, it also has one of the highest rape and homicide rates. Flint, Michigan, has the highest murder rate in the US, with 62 homicides per 100,000 residents. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics show Detroit is next with 45 per 100,000 people—10 times the national average—and 2,070 violent crimes per 100,000 people. In the US, a rape is reported every 6.2 minutes, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime. New Orleans, Louisiana, records 156 killings and a violent crime rate of 786 per 100,000 people. In Newark, New Jersey, where many Indians live, the violent crime rate per 100,000 people is 1,264. Violent crimes include murder, rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. Tourist magnets like Myrtle Beach, Atlantic City, Daytona Beach and Niagara Falls report a large crime rate, unlike New York which has a dense population. According to a latest UN report, the Americas has a murder rate of 16.3 per one lakh population.
Europe’s most dangerous cities are Tallinn in Estonia, Minsk in Belarus and Chishinau in Moldova. Amsterdam has the most murders in western Europe with 4.4 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Glasgow (3.3), Brussels (3) and Prague (2.7).
According to a survey, a third of residents of Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, where organised crime is rampant, never feel safe in the city. When a prominent radio host was killed in broad daylight in 2010 by a gangster, but was released from a custody because nobody was willing to testify against him, it led to a scandal which cost Bulgaria’s interior minister his job. The government has publicly admitted that Sofia has been under the influence of 300 gangsters for the past 20 years, and that most prosecutors must play by their rules if they want to live. Radicalised Muslim migrants have made many European cities dangerous as the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris proved: Marseille in France which has an estimated 30 to 40 per cent Muslim population has been ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in Europe. Muslim vigilantes have even set up checkposts to control traffic in and out of their neighbourhoods after a woman was booked for wearing a burkah, which is illegal in France. Drug executions are common—the day after 250 law enforcement officers were despatched to clean out the drug gangs in January, they found a charred corpse with a bullet in its skull, an execution method local drug leaders call the “barbecue”.
Though the deep-rooted prejudices against women in Islam have made it dangerous for them to exercise any form of individual liberties in Middle Eastern countries, in a 2014 YouGov poll, 15 of the world’s largest capitals were unsafe for women—Bogota came first, followed by Mexico City, Lima and then New Delhi. New York was rated the number one in the 16-city poll and Tokyo came second among the safest cities for women. Jakarta, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Moscow, Manila, Paris and Seoul are other unsafe cities for woman travellers. One out of three women in Europe have suffered some form of physical or sexual assault and 5 per cent have been raped—one out of 20 women. Sweden has the second-highest rape cases—53.2 per 100,000—which is one of four women becoming victims. In Australia, one in six women has been the victim of a sexual assault by a non-partner, compared to the world average of one in 14, according to news.com. In New Zealand, one out of three girls and one out of six boys are likely to be sexually abused before they turn 16. The UK reports 230 rape cases daily. Sadly, India is one of the unsafest countries in the world for women—848 women are harassed, raped, or killed every day. In Delhi, the overall crime rate doubled in 2014: 147,000 cases till December 2014 compared to 2013.
Apart from civil war, religious strife and drugs, a factor that makes cities dangerous to live in is pollution. WHO has ranked New Delhi as the world’s most polluted city. The other 12 most polluted cities in the world are also in India—Patna, Gwalior, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Firozabad, Kanpur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Allahabad, Agra and Khanna.
The virtue of a civilisation lies in its ability to ensure the safety of its citizens. Only in such a society can institutions of learning, the arts, science and commerce thrive. In a world that is trapped in a womb of blood and terror, industrial exploitation and drugs, world society needs a catharsis of hope to be reborn.