Terror incident scebe
Terror incident scebe Defense Ministry

On Israeli Memorial Day, a Palestinian Arab terrorist stabbed a 62-year-old Israeli woman. For the Israeli people, who are preoccupied with trying to survive the coronavirus pandemic, it was a major wake-up call that despite the coronavirus pandemic, our conflict with the Palestinians has not gone away and Palestinian Arab terrorists will try to maim and kill Israelis whenever they get the chance.

Dealing with this terror threat should still be on the top of our agenda despite the existence of the coronavirus. But in recent weeks, in the era of coronavirus, it appears that too many people have almost forgotten about the Palestinian terror threat and other grave human rights abuses occurring across our region. However, to forget about the threat posed by Palestinian terrorists and other grave human rights abuses in the greater Islamic world would be a great folly.

The day before a Palestinian Arab terrorist stabbed an Israeli woman in Kfar Saba, Palestinian Media Watch reported that the PA had condemned Israel for seeking to make the Tomb of the Patriarchs wheelchair accessible for Jewish, Muslim and Christian worshipers. Currently, the holy site is not accessible to pilgrims who are physically impaired, unless the disabled person has a friend or relative who is willing to carry them up numerous flights of stairs. The PA referred to Israel’s decision to construct an elevator at the Tomb of the Patriarchs to be an “invasion,” stressing that Israel is trying to “spread its epidemic of Judaization in Hebron.”

This comes at a time when there is an Arabic social media campaign comparing Jews to the coronavirus. Did such incitement lead to the Memorial Day terror attack in Kfar Saba? This possibility should be investigated. After all, coronavirus or no coronavirus, Palestinian Arab incitement to terrorism still threatens us.

Around the same time that the coronavirus plagues our planet, there are reports that the conditions for Iranian political prisoners are worsening. The Iranian regime likely feels that the world is distracted by the pandemic and therefore, they can get away with committing worse human rights violations.

According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Conditions in Iran’s prisons were dire even before the threat of coronavirus, but activists had become increasingly concerned with the ability of overcrowding to facilitate the spread of coronavirus. Ahwaz activists reported on reports of dangerous conditions among the women’s section of the regime’s notorious Sepidar Prison.”

There are reports that the situation for prisoners “began deteriorating rapidly as coronavirus spread, including floods of raw sewage and rarely functioning water supply. While Ahwazi reportedly protested regularly at the lack of basic sanitation and disinfectants and the poor diet in the prisons, warning that these provided a perfect environment for the spread of disease, these protests were ignored by the regime.”

According to Iranian journalist Neda Amin, Ahwazi political prisoners who tried to escape from Ahwaz prison were murdered by the regime. She noted while the Iranian regime had no problem releasing other criminals from its prisons due to the fear that they would get coronavirus, the Iranian government is unwilling to release political prisoners because the regime wants these people to die. This is reportedly why the conditions inside of the Iranian prisons deteriorated, why dissidents are not getting proper medical care and why some of the non-political prisoners have been freed.

However, the Iranian regime does not mind exploiting the pandemic in order to advance its ballistic missile program by trying to get sanctions relief, which will be utilized for nothing else but to increase terrorism across the Middle East and the entire world. Iran will not use it in order to help the over 93,657 Iranians with the coronavirus. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies claims that Iran has the resources in order to change the plight of the Iranian people suffering from coronavirus and the global economic depression, provided they are willing to shift their priorities. However, this is not happening.

According to Amin, Iranians who get the virus must pay for their own medical expenses and the regime is not doing anything to assist Iranians who are economically hurting from the pandemic. No sanctions relief will change any of that and the mullah’s regime will continue to utilize the pandemic in order to violate the human rights of the Iranian people and to threaten the free world.

Similarly, just as Iran is exploiting the coronavirus crisis, so is Turkey, according to Dr. Widad Akreye, co-founder of Defend International: “Ever since the coronavirus crisis has been emerging into a global pandemic, Turkey's illegal hostile actions in Rojava have become more frequent. Exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the pandemic, Turkey and its jihadists have intensified their attacks in March and April by shelling villages in Tel Temir, Tel Abyad and Ain Issa with mortar and artillery fire."

"They are sadistically terrorizing women and children, using every means at their disposal. There are reports of ongoing daily battles in Tel Abyad, Ain Issa and Tel Temir and intense shelling of SDF positions. On April 16th, there were clashes between Turkey-backed Islamists and SDF, even though the coronavirus outbreak was supposed to put an end to the fighting. On April 17th Turkey-backed Islamist groups reportedly sent two children, disguised as shepherds, to detonate suicide vests on SDF in the west of Tel Abyad. The villages of Hmra, el-Kayf, Abosh, Qabir and Tel Ward have been bombed, injuring a number of civilian women.”

“All in all, we have recorded a long range of violations, including deliberate shelling of populated civilian targets and hitting civilian infrastructure (for example medical facilities),” she added. “All this terror and violence have led to new displacement from the nearly 15 villages that have been under fire. The region is going through another wave of kidnappings for ransom, rapes of women and little children, human trafficking, sexual enslavement, enforced disappearances, abductions, assassinations, burning down of houses and orchards, looting and the constant search for what Turkey-jihadists call the ‘spoils of war.’

"These actions demonstrate Turkey’s indifference to international law and its disregard to the Geneva conventions. During its invasions in 2019 and 2018, Turkey did all this and more. It is now repeating the same. Therefore, many women have nothing but a painful story to tell. Mothers and grandmothers are once again escaping Turkey’s bombs with just the clothes they are wearing. Their houses and factories have been seized by Turkey-backed jihadists. They have lost almost everything. The only thing they have left is their lives, and that may be taken from them either by the Turkish aggression or the vicious virus.”

Turkey is not the only nation to utilize the coronavirus pandemic in order to attack a minority group. Shipan Kumer Basu, who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee, noted that the Hindu minority following the coronavirus pandemic is suffering in both Bangladesh and Pakistan: “In Bangladesh, a Hindu female schoolteacher was recently attacked. Over there, two other Hindus were murdered not too long ago. Under Sheikh Hasina’s rule, political fundamentalists are seeking to occupy lands belonging to the minorities even during the pandemic. Furthermore, neither Bangladesh nor Pakistan are distributing assistance to the Hindu community. If someone in Bangladesh and Pakistan wants coronavirus assistance, he must convert to Islam. At the same time, with the assistance of the Bangladeshi government, Rohingya Islamists have been engaging in intensified training during the pandemic and they will pose a huge threat to all of the minorities living in this region of the world in the future.”

Although many nations right now are more focused on surviving the coronavirus more than anything else, we all have a moral responsibility to not neglect to raise awareness about these human rights abuses at this critical hour. As Cicero once said, “Not for ourselves alone are we born.” We should not allow the internal focus on surviving the coronavirus pandemic to let us forget about the threat posed by radical Islam, Palestinian terrorism or the numerous dictatorial regimes in the Islamic world. If we forget these issues, it will be at our own peril.

Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation) and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research and Public Relations. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Me.