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Women’s Ministry in Malaysia Says No Plans to Ban Child Marriages, Better to Change Society’s Attitudes

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 March 2022


Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun attends a programme by the Chean Ai Disabled Welfare Association in Kelana Jaya January 29, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon


• 'Kill More': Facebook Fails To Detect Hate Determining the Genocide against Rohingya Muslims

• Muslim Family Donates Land worth Rs.2.5 crores To Build World's Largest Hindu Temple In Bihar

• Pakistan PM Imran Khan to Trumpet Islamic Credentials as Home Fires Burn

• Myanmar Army Committed Genocide against Rohingya Muslims: US


Southeast Asia

• ‘Muslim Stewardesses Should Be Allowed To Wear Tudung (Veil or Headscarf)’: PAS MP

• China Attending OIC Moot to Bolster Relations with Muslim World: Wang Yi

• Despite birth of new parties, pundits remain sceptical that Malaysia will move past race and religion-based politics by GE15

• Implement compulsory voting, the sooner the better, says ex-EC chairman


South Asia

• Turkmenistan Becomes First Central Asian Country to Recognise Taliban Envoy to Afghan Embassy in Ashgabat

• OIC, Islamic bank sign Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan pact

• UNICEF asks Afghan parents to send children to schools

• Ashraf Ghani: Lasting government in Afghanistan needs national legitimization

• ‘Taliban rule’: Pakistanis fume after police violently disrupt Pashtun singer’s concert



• Mathura Vigilantes Beat Up Muslim Driver Over Suspicion He Was Transporting Cow Remains

• Uttar Pradesh: Aligarh Muslim University students protest against Karnataka HC ruling on 'hijab' ban

• Danish Siddiqui's Parents To Take Taliban To Court Over Photojournalist's Killing In Kandahar

• Hijab Row: Teachers from Various Parts of India Stand with Muslim Students

• Urdu journalism is dying in its crucible Lucknow



• Islamabad Hosting 48th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation FMs Moot Today At Parliament House, Islamabad

• Media bodies demand PM Imran prove ‘anti-govt drive is funded’

• PM Imran’s statement on India’s foreign policy ‘most bizarre’: Shehbaz

• Pakistan Chief Justice not yet convinced about interfering in National Assembly proceedings


North America

• Hatchet-Wielding Attacker at Canada Mosque Charged For Possible Hate-Motivated Attack, Police Say

• Democratic Pakistan critical to America’s interests: US official

• US says it is ready to make ‘difficult decisions’ to reach nuclear deal with Iran



• Russian Court Bans Facebook, Instagram Over 'Extremist Activity'

• Erdogan Seeks To Rally Turks In Europe Behind Political Islam - Report

• Freed British-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe seeks release of ‘unjustly detained’ in Iran

• US-UK national Morad Tahbaz moved back to Iranian prison, daughter says


Arab World

• New Round Of Talks On Constitution For Syria Begins In Geneva

• 'Persian Gulf Cooperation Council's talks meant to get Saudi Arabia out of Yemen quagmire'

• Presence of Israeli operatives in Kurdistan region will drag Iraq into war: Kata’ib Hezbollah spokesman

• Houthi attacks on oil facilities should be of global concern: Saudi Aramco chief

• Pressure must be put on Houthis to stop threat to international navigation: Saudi FM

• Saudi King, Crown Prince welcome Sudan’s Burhan on official visit

• Lebanese president meets with Pope Francis during his visit to Italy

• Egypt’s Sisi hosts Israel’s Bennett, UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed

• Saudi Arabia not responsible for oil shortages in light of Houthi attacks: Official



• Iranian President Seeks Hard Work to Build Powerful, Advanced Iran in Persian New Year

• Iranian People Vote to Leader's Remarks about Martyr Soleimani as Chosen Sentence of Year

• AEOI Head: Iran to Continue Development of Peaceful N. Technology

• Iranian President Offers Greetings to Countries Celebrating Nowruz

• Gaza commemorates anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu

• Turkish, Emirati foreign ministers discuss Ukraine in Abu Dhabi

• 94% of Palestinians in occupied territories subject to racist labelling: Opinion poll

• Yemen to continue retaliatory attacks until Saudi-led coalition stops war: Army spokesman

• US sends Patriot missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia amid Yemen retaliation



• Mali’s Former Prime Minister Dies In Detention: Media

• Jordan's King Abdullah to visit Ramallah in bid to ease tensions ahead of Ramadan

• Jordan eases COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Ramadan

• Tunisia train collision injures 95: Emergency services

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Women’s Ministry in Malaysia Says No Plans to Ban Child Marriages, Better to Change Society’s Attitudes


Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun attends a programme by the Chean Ai Disabled Welfare Association in Kelana Jaya January 29, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon


22 Mar 2022


KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — The government has no plans to ban underage marriage, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said in a parliamentary reply this week.

Instead, the ministry helmed by Datuk Seri Rina Harun, who is from Bersatu, said that the government remains committed to curb the practice in the country by implementing programmes under the National Strategic Plan for Addressing the Causes of Underage Marriage.

“This is because the causes of underage marriage need to be addressed not only through

legislative change, but also through education, advocacy, health, the strengthening of family institutions, as well as socioeconomic support for the public.

“At the same time, the Steering Committee that has been established will continue to monitor implementation and development of the designed programme,” the ministry said in the written reply dated yesterday.

The reply was to Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, who had yesterday asked the government for the status of current plans to ban minors in Malaysia from marrying.

Nurul Izzah also wanted to know when the ministry would discuss the matter with the states Islamic Religious Councils since setting the minimum age for Muslim marriages falls under the purview of the respective states.

The ministry said the government agrees with Nurul Izzah's suggestion to have a discussion with the state councils.

It added that talks would be set up with the help of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and the Department of Syariah Judiciary Malaysia.

The ministry’s reply echoes the earlier statement given last December by Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Idris Ahmad.

He had said that Jakim will not raise the legal marrying age for Muslims to 18 because it saw no “necessity” to do so as most states rejected the proposition.

The practice of child marriages has been a global concern in recent years and Malaysia has not been spared scrutiny.

In March last year, Unicef Malaysia noted an upwards trend in child marriages here during the Covid-19 pandemic, and attributed the increase to school closures, parental deaths and the families worsening financial situations.

Government data last year showed an average of 1,500 children in the country from various religions, ethnicities, and communities marry annually with girl brides making up 90 per cent.

Source: Malay Mail

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'Kill More': Facebook Fails To Detect Hate Determining the Genocide against Rohingya Muslims


Photo: Bloomberg


March 22, 2022

A new report has found that Facebook failed to detect blatant hate speech and calls to violence against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority years after such behaviour was found to have played a determining role in the genocide against them.

The report shared exclusively with The Associated Press showed the rights group Global Witness submitted eight paid ads for approval to Facebook, each including different versions of hate speech against Rohingya. All eight ads were approved by Facebook to be published.

The group pulled the ads before they were posted or paid for, but the results confirmed that despite its promises to do better, Facebook's leaky controls still fail to detect hate speech and calls for violence on its platform.

The army conducted what it called a clearance campaign in western Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017 after an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled into neighbouring Bangladesh and security forces were accused of mass rapes, killings and torching thousands of homes.

Also Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US views the violence against Rohingya as genocide. The declaration is intended to both generate international pressure and lay the groundwork for potential legal action, Blinken said.

On Feb 1 of last year, Myanmar's military forcibly took control of the country, jailing democratically elected government officials. Rohingya refugees have condemned the military takeover and said it makes them more afraid to return to Myanmar.

Experts say such ads have continued to appear and that despite its promises to do better and assurances that it has taken its role in the genocide seriously, Facebook still fails even the simplest of tests ensuring that paid ads that run on its site do not contain hate speech calling for the killing of Rohingya Muslims.

The current killing of the Kalar is not enough, we need to kill more! read one proposed paid post from Global Witness, using a slur often used in Myanmar to refer to people of east Indian or Muslim origin.

They are very dirty. The Bengali/Rohingya women have a very low standard of living and poor hygiene. They are not attractive, read another.

These posts are shocking in what they encourage and are a clear sign that Facebook has not changed or done what they told the public what they would do: properly regulate themselves, said Ronan Lee, a research fellow at the Institute for Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University, London.

The eight ads from Global Witness all used hate speech language taken directly from the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in their report to the Human Rights Council. Several examples were from past Facebook posts.

The fact that Facebook approved all eight ads is especially concerning because the company claims to hold advertisements to an even stricter standard than regular, unpaid posts, according to their help centre page for paid advertisements.

I accept the point that eight isn't a very big number. But I think the findings are really stark, that all eight of the ads were accepted for publication, said Rosie Sharpe, a campaigner at Global Witness. I think you can conclude from that that the overwhelming majority of hate speech is likely to get through.

Facebook's parent company Meta Platforms Inc said it has invested in improving its safety and security controls in Myanmar, including banning military accounts after the Tatmadaw, as the armed forces are locally known, seized power and imprisoned elected leaders in the 2021 coup.

We've built a dedicated team of Burmese speakers, banned the Tatmadaw, disrupted networks manipulating public debate and taken action on harmful misinformation to help keep people safe. We've also invested in Burmese-language technology to reduce the prevalence of violating content, Rafael Frankel, director of public policy for emerging markets at Meta Asia Pacific wrote in an e-mailed statement to AP on March 17.

This work is guided by feedback from experts, civil society organisations and independent reports, including the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar's findings and the independent Human Rights Impact Assessment we commissioned and released in 2018.

Facebook has been used to spread hate speech and amplify military propaganda in Myanmar in the past.

Shortly after Myanmar became connected to the internet in 2000, Facebook paired with its telecom providers to allow customers to use the platform without having to pay for the data, which was still expensive at the time. Use of the platform exploded. For many in Myanmar, Facebook became the internet itself.

Local internet policy advocates repeatedly told Facebook hate speech was spreading across the platform, often targeting the Muslim minority Rohingya in the majority Buddhist nation.

For years Facebook failed to invest in content moderators who spoke local languages or fact checkers with an understanding of the political situation in Myanmar or to close specific accounts or delete pages being used to propagate hatred of the Rohingya, said Tun Khin, president of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, a London-based Rohingya advocacy organisation.

In March 2018, less than six months after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled violence in western Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, told reporters social media had substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public".

Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media, Darusman said.

Asked about Myanmar a month later at a US Senate hearing, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook planned to hire dozens of Burmese speakers to moderate content and would work with civil society groups to identify hate figures and develop new technologies to combat hate speech.

Hate speech is very language specific. It's hard to do it without people who speak the local language and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically, Zuckerberg said.

Yet in internal files leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen last year, AP found that breaches persisted. The company stepped up efforts to combat hate speech but never fully developed the tools and strategies required to do so.

Rohingya refugees have sued Facebook for more than $150 billion, accusing it of failing to stop hate speech that incited violence against the Muslim ethnic group by military rulers and their supporters in Myanmar.

Rohingya youth groups based in the Bangladesh refugee camps have filed a separate complaint in Ireland with the 38-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development calling for Facebook to provide some remediation programs in the camps.

The company now called Meta has refused to say how many of its content moderators read Burmese and can thus detect hate speech in Myanmar.

Rohingya genocide survivors continue to live in camps today and Facebook continue to fail them, said Tun Khin. Facebook needs to do more.

Source: Business Standard

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Muslim Family Donates Land worth Rs.2.5 crores To Build World's Largest Hindu Temple In Bihar


The trust has so far obtained 125 acres of land for construction of the Virat Ramayan Mandir temple (Photo: File)


March 22, 2022

Patna: Setting an example of communal harmony in the country, a Muslim family in Bihar has donated land worth Rs.2.5 crores for construction of the world's largest Hindu temple--Virat Ramayan Mandir—in the Kaithwalia area of East Champaran district in the state.

Talking to reporters here on Monday, Acharya Kishore Kunal, chief of the Patna-based Mahavir Mandir Trust, that has undertaken the project, said that Ishtiyaq Ahmad Khan, who has donated the land, is a businessman from East Champaran based in Guwahati.

"He recently completed all formalities pertaining to the donation of land belonging to his family for the construction of the temple at the registrar office of the Kesharia sub-division (East Chanmparan)," Kunal, a former Indian Police Service officer, told reporters.

The Acharya said that this donation by Mr Khan and his family is a great example of social harmony and brotherhood between two communities. Without the help of Muslims, it would have been difficult to realise this dream project, he added.

The Mahavir Mandir Trust has so far obtained 125 acres of land for construction of this temple. The trust will soon obtain another 25 acres of land too in the area.

The Virat Ramayan Mandir is slated to be taller than the world famous 12th century Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia, which is 215 feet high. The complex in East Champaran will comprise 18 temples with high spires and its Shiv temple will have the world's largest Shivling.

The total construction cost is estimated to be around ₹ 500 crore. The trust will soon take advice from the experts engaged in the construction of new parliament building in New Delhi.

Source: ND TV

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan To Trumpet Islamic Credentials As Home Fires Burn


Pakistan PM Imran Khan


Mar 22, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Foreign ministers of Muslim nations gather in Pakistan Tuesday as the country's leader trumpets his achievement of getting Islamophobia recognised at the United Nations while at the same time battling the most serious challenge to his rule in four years.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is meeting in Islamabad with an ambitious agenda that seeks approval for over 100 declarations, including aid for financially strapped Afghanistan and support for the Palestinians and Kashmir.

But as officials praise Prime Minister Imran Khan for getting the UN last week to formally recognise Islamophobia as a global threat, the cricket star-turned-politician faces a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly.

In a hectic week on the political front, the country on Wednesday also celebrates Pakistan Day, with a military parade and flypasts.

The theme for the OIC gathering is "Partnering for Unity, Justice and Development", and Khan will deliver the keynote speech that is sure to reference last week's UN resolution -- a personal bugbear since he became premier in August 2018.

Khan won office through an electorate weary of the two-party dynasties that have dominated Pakistan politics since independence -- periods of power punctuated by military coups -- but he seems to have lost that support, and perhaps the army too.

"I think the army leadership must be extremely concerned seeing what is happening on the political scene at the moment," said Talat Masood, a retired general-turned-political analyst.

Khan has called for a million of his supporters to rally in the capital next week to put pressure on dozens of National Assembly members who are reported to be considering voting against him.

The leaders of the two main opposition parties have also called for their supporters to gather, prompting authorities to declare most of this week a public holiday in the hope of avoiding conflict -- particularly during the OIC meeting.

"It is dragging the country to chaos," Masood said.

"It seems that the government and opposition parties are on a collision course. They don't seem to solve the problems politically, and rather try to show their street power."

The no-confidence motion is scheduled to be formally introduced on Friday with a vote next week, but horse-trading is common in Pakistan politics and the rebels could well return to the fold before then.

"He has managed his own and allied political parties poorly," political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said of Khan.

"It was his failure to keep the party and allies together that has brought him to this."

Although Pakistan escaped the worst of the Covid-19 epidemic, the economy is in the doldrums with soaring inflation, a feeble rupee, and crippling debt.

The return of the Taliban to power in neighbouring Afghanistan has also provoked a resurgence of militancy in Pakistan -- including the bombing of a Shia mosque in Peshawar last month claimed by the local chapter of Islamic State that killed more than 60 people.

With flaring domestic issues, Khan has tried to position himself on the international stage, but his insistence on continuing with a visit to Moscow last month as Russian troops invaded Ukraine perplexed even his most ardent admirers.

He was also one of the few world leaders to attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics when others boycotted in protest at China's human rights record.

There are several scenarios at play for Pakistan this week.

Khan's PTI party is pursuing a court case against rebellious members that could force them to follow the whip.

Another tactic is for parties to, quite literally, hold lawmakers hostage and prevent them from voting or having a quorum.

And even if Khan does lose the vote, there will likely be a series of challenges both inside and outside the assembly.

Most of that will be lost on today's OIC gathering, which is largely a talking shop that will pass a series of political resolutions.

Key among them is channelling aid to Afghanistan, although any formal recognition of the country's new Taliban government remains unlikely.

Source: Times Of India

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Myanmar Army Committed Genocide Against Rohingya Muslims: US


Photo: The Quint


March 22, 2022

WASHINGTON: The United States formally determined that Myanmar’s army committed genocide and crimes against humanity in its violence against the Rohingya minority, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, warning that as long as the junta was in power nobody in the country would be safe.

Announcing the decision, which was first reported by Reuters on Sunday, Blinken said the attacks against Rohingya were “widespread and systematic” and that evidence pointed to a clear intent to destroy the mainly Muslim minority.

A clear statement by the United States saying genocide was committed could bolster efforts to hold the Myanmar generals accountable and help prevent further atrocities, activists and US officials believe.

In his speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the top American diplomat read out tragic and chilling accounts of victims, who had been shot in the head, raped and tortured.

Myanmar’s armed forces launched a military operation in 2017 that forced at least 730,000 of the mainly Muslim Rohingya from their homes and into neighboring Bangladesh, where they recounted killings, mass rape and arson. In 2021, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup.

“Since the coup, we have seen the Burmese military use many of the same tactics. Only now the military is targeting anyone in Burma it sees as opposing or undermining its repressive rule,” Blinken said.

“For those who did not realise it before the coup, the brutal violence unleashed by the military since February 2021 has made clear that no one in Burma will be safe from atrocities so long as it is in power,” he added.

Days after US President Joe Biden took office, Myanmar generals led by Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power on Feb 1, 2021, after complaining of fraud in a November 2020 general election won by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. Election monitoring groups found no evidence of mass fraud.

Source: Dawn

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Southeast Asia


‘Muslim Stewardesses Should Be Allowed To Wear Tudung (Veil or Headscarf)’: PAS MP

22 Mar 2022

MUSLIM air stewardesses should be given the right and choice to don the Tudung, said PAS MP Ahmad Fadhli Shaari.

"I commend the move by the government to lessen discrimination against pregnant women. But how about the right of Muslim women to wear Tudung?

"As I have stated before (using) Malaysia Airlines as an example, do their Muslim air stewardesses have a right to don the Tudung?

"We are not asking that wearing the Tudung is made mandatory but that Muslim women be allowed to choose to wear it," the Pasir Mas MP said when debating amendments to the Employment (Amendment Bill) Bill 2021 in Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

He noted that employers who refused to allow their Muslim women workers the right to wear tudung, should be penalised.

Earlier, Ahmad Fadhli suggested that widows be given 30 days bereavement leave instead of the current three days.

Last December, Abdul Latiff Abdul Rahman (PN-Kuala Krai) raised in Parliament that the uniforms of Malaysian air stewardesses were too revealing.

He urged the Family and Community Development Ministry to state its stand on the matter.

However, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun said the issue of workers’ welfare came under the Human Resources Ministry based on provisions under the Employment Act.

Source: The Star

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China attending OIC moot to bolster relations with Muslim world: Wang Yi

March 22, 2022

ISLAMABAD: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday said Beijing was attending the 48th meeting of OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers — scheduled to take place March 22-23 — for developing a partnership with the Muslim world besides promoting unity and cooperation for the multilateralism.

The Chinese foreign minister, after his bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told journalists that the CFM’s theme of “Building Partnerships for Unity, Justice, and Development” had great significance in the current scenario — and was also the main purpose of Chinese participation.

In what FM Qureshi described as a “very comprehensive and detailed meeting,” the two foreign ministers discussed bilateral cooperation, regional situation as well as international issues including Afghanistan and Ukraine.

The meeting between the two ministers included discussions on diverse topics ranging from international issues like Afghanistan and Ukraine to enhancing exports of Pakistan.

Qureshi, who addressed a press briefing alongside his Chinese counterpart, told journalists that it was for the first time that the Chinese foreign minister would attend and address the CFM moot.

Earlier, both the countries also signed documents for enhancing cooperation in the fields of higher education and agriculture at a ceremony also witnessed by the two foreign ministers.

Qureshi said they also discussed the extension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan. The Chinese FM assured for a review considering the changed situation in the war-torn country.

While discussing trade and investment cooperation, Qureshi said, China expressed the desire for the export of Pakistani rice and wheat in order to enhance the country’s exports.

The two foreign ministers discussed the counter-terrorism cooperation and a coordinated approach to deal with the terrorist outfits including ETIM and TTP.

Wang Yi spoke high of Pakistan’s steps for the security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan and also lauded the strict action against those involved in Dasu terrorist attack.

FM Qureshi thanked China for supporting Pakistan in Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and told journalists that his counterpart had assured the country of its constant support till its removal from the Grey List.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Despite birth of new parties, pundits remain sceptical that Malaysia will move past race and religion-based politics by GE15

22 Mar 2022


KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Parti Warisan Sabah and Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) are among the newer parties that have vowed to move on beyond ethno-religious issues, but political analysts were sceptical that the playing field will change much.

Speaking to Malay Mail, the analysts polled said the issues of race and religion will likely remain centrestage in the run up to the 15th general election (GE15) and may even stay in Malaysian politics beyond then.

“If you trace back since the 1960s, race and religion have always been the issue,” said senior fellow with the National Professors Council, Jeniri Amir.

He pointed to legacy political parties that were formed to represent a specific ethnic group or dominated by one, such as Barisan Nasional components: Malay nationalist party Umno, ethnic Chinese-majority MCA and ethnic Indian-majority MIC.

Even Umno’s on-off archrival PAS is an Islamist party that remains largely Malay despite its non-Malay wing. Most recently, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia that aimed to replace Umno also touted its Bumiputera identity as its main cornerstone.

Jeniri also said that this perception has even carried over to Opposition parties, despite them not being ethnic-based and offering multi-ethnic election candidates, such as PKR that is perceived to be Malay-majority, and DAP which cannot seem to shake off a Chinese perception.

“You need to bear in mind that the majority of [Parliamentary] seats in Peninsular Malaysia have a majority Malay-Muslim population.

“For any Malay-Muslim [based] party, it is impossible for them to escape this [race-religion narrative]. This is their best bet to win votes,” he said.

In December last year, Warisan president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had touted the party’s ambition to transition from race or religion-based politics for its expansion to Peninsular Malaysia.

A similar intention was announced a few months prior by Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman when launching the youth-focused party.

Azmi Hassan, a senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research, said that although many Malaysian voters may wish to see political parties move away from race and religion, the issues still hold sway over a majority of the public.

“If you look at how Pakatan Harapan (PH) era, race and religion played a very important role in their downfall.

“In Sabah and Sarawak, a very similar line, which is tribal issues or which part of the community you are from (is played up),” he said.

During its short-lived administration, PH had faced intense race and religion-baiting from then Opposition Umno and PAS, including accusations that it was sidelining Malay rulers with its intention to ratify the Rome Statute and anti-Islam allegations with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).

Bridget Welsh, an honorary research fellow of the University of Nottingham Malaysia's Asia Research Institute, agreed with Azmi, saying that surveys consistently showed that religion and race are less important than other issues such as the economy, social security and governance.

“Many voters in Malaysia are able to see through identity politics and want a more sophisticated discourse,” she proposed.

“However, as race and religion have imprinted political mobilisation for decades since the 1960s, it is difficult to move away from these approaches, especially among older leaders.

“These will remain prominent as they are entrenched patterns of mobilisation and political parties have yet been able to fundamentally change narratives away from these issues,” she added.

Welsh also suggested that the “reform” narrative of PKR has lost traction, saying that the narrative that may replace it among the Opposition is still evolving and has yet to coalesce.

Azmi said that although it was possible for Malaysia’s political scene to make the transition towards focusing on matters more important than race and religion, there is still a long way to go.

“It all depends on the parties. We need more parties to emerge that do not tie themselves to these two factors,” he said.

Yesterday, human rights group Pusat Komas reported that Malaysia has seen a rise in publicised incidents of racial discrimination with 51 such incidents reported on online news media last year.

In a separate survey last month, the group also found that the topics of race and religion made up a huge percentage of the three main coalition’s communication strategies during the Melaka polls last November.

Source: Malay Mail

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Implement compulsory voting, the sooner the better, says ex-EC chairman

Danial Azhar

March 21, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: A former Election Commission (EC) chairman has suggested compulsory voting to address low voter turnout.

Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said while the recently implemented automatic voter registration was a positive move, the low voter turnout at the Johor elections proved more must be done.

“Of course, further dialogue is needed to determine exactly how this will be done, but the sooner it is implemented the better,” he said at the launch of the book, ‘Pilihan Raya Demokrasi Malaysia: Tanding, Pilih Menang Tadbir’ by the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah, today.

Rashid noted that it would require plenty of work to amend the current laws on the electoral process, but said he was confident it could be done.

He said it was especially important to encourage the public to vote in general elections, as it ultimately determined how the country would be governed for the next five years or until Parliament was dissolved.

He said “any functioning democracy is built on its voters”.

Rashid also called for a better system to keep track of where voters were located, and changes to their addresses to ensure no one was left behind in the electoral process.

He said this should not only apply to those residing in cities or rural areas, but also students or citizens living abroad, highlighting that the current system was inadequate.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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South Asia


Turkmenistan becomes first Central Asian country to recognise Taliban envoy to Afghan embassy in Ashgabat

March 22, 2022

Turkmenistan becomes the first country in Central Asia to accept a Taliban-appointed Afghanistan ambassador, since the Taliban regime took over Kabul in August 2021.

Taking to Twitter, Farangis Najibullah, a Tajik-American journalist for Radio Free Europe, wrote, “Turkmenistan becomes 1st country in Central Asia to accept Taliban-appointed Afghanistan ambassador.”

The inauguration ceremony of the new Taliban-led Afghan ambassador Fazil-Mohammad Saber took place in Ashgabat last Thursday, Fergana news agency quoted. Turkmenistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiyev attended the ceremony to mark the inauguration of the new ambassador.

Following the Taliban takeover in August last year, thousands of Afghans left the country fearing reprisal from the Islamic group.

The situation of human rights in Afghanistan has worsened since the collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban’s return to power in August last year.

Although the fighting in the country has ended, serious human rights violations continue unabated. The Taliban have committed and continue to commit human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detentions, a massive rollback of the rights of women and girls, censorship of and attacks against the media.

Source: The Statesman

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OIC, Islamic bank sign Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan pact

March 21, 2022

A charter to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan was signed on Monday by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Islamic Development Bank.

The signing ceremony, held in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, was also attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The charter was signed by OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha and Islamic Development Bank head Muhammad Sulaiman Al-Jasser, according to a Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement.

"The Trust Fund has been launched under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank. Its establishment was one of the key outcomes of the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, held in Islamabad on 19 December 2021," said the statement.

The bank will serve as a vehicle to channel humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, including in partnership with other international actors.

Addressing the ceremony, Qureshi said the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan needs urgent action and requested that OIC member states and other donors contribute to the fund.

"Humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people would constitute an important facet of Pakistan’s forthcoming chairmanship of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers," he said.

The 48th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting is scheduled to be held in Islamabad on Tuesday and Wednesday, and several top diplomats of Muslim countries have already arrived.

"Pakistan has already announced an assistance package of 5 billion Pak rupees (over $27.7 million) for Afghanistan. It remains firmly committed to supporting the Afghan people, in the wake of serious humanitarian challenges," said Pakistan’s top diplomat.

Earlier Qureshi also meet with Taha, who has arrived in Islamabad, and reviewed the agenda of the meeting and issues facing the Muslim world it will discuss.

Welcoming the UN General Assembly’s recent passage of a resolution designating March 15 International Day to Combat Islamophobia, Qureshi lauded the support of the OIC and its member states for his country's initiative, according to the ministry.

Source: Yenisafak

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UNICEF asks Afghan parents to send children to schools

22 Mar 2022

As the new educational year begins tomorrow, Wednesday, March 23 across 24 non-tropical provinces in Afghanistan, United Nations International Children Emergency Fun asked people in Afghanistan to send their minors to schools.

UNICEF Afghanistan in a Twitter post on Monday urged all Afghan parents to prepare their eligible children for schools as new educational years unfold.

“Before the reopening of schools that takes place on Hamal 3rd (March 23rd), UNICEF Afghanistan asks all Afghan parents to prepare their eligible children and send them to schools across Afghanistan.” Reads the Tweet.

Ministry of Education of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has announced that there is no limitation in place for admitting new students to schools and the process has already begun.

Source: Khaama Press

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Ashraf Ghani: Lasting government in Afghanistan needs national legitimization

22 Mar 2022

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that conflicts have ended in Afghanistan but the country has not reached peace and stability that needs internal dialogue and negotiations.

The former President who fled Afghanistan on August 15 added, Afghanistan will turn into a battlefield of other fights and a colony of humanitarian assistance.

Speaking in a voice message on the occasion of Nowruz (New Solar Year) Ashraf Ghani has offered five points as agenda for the start of “national discussion.”

Afghanistan should not turn a colony of humanitarian aid and the assistance should be arranged well.

Crisis in Europe has distracted the world from Afghanistan so the Afghan people should do initiatives by themselves. Afghans have natural assets based on which they can reach prosperity.

Afghans should accept each other for a dignified in the country as conflicts have ended but peace has not been restored yet. Containing another war will be difficult and a few people cannot rule a country.

Through national consensus, the Afghans should choose a government that is lasting and national legitimization is key for such a government. Regional and global and legitimization cannot be achieved without national one.

Afghanistan should assist and take part in large regional economic projects but should remain impartial.

Source: Khaama Press

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‘Taliban rule’: Pakistanis fume after police violently disrupt Pashtun singer’s concert


21 March, 2022

New Delhi: The violent disruption of a Pashtun singer’s private concert has led to public outcry in Pakistan, with several saying the attack threatened Pashtun identity and put the Peshawar police on an equal footing with the Taliban.

On Friday night, Pashtun singer, poet and scholar Dr Karan Khan was performing at a wedding in Nazirabad in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, when the police stormed the venue claiming to act on complaints by local clerics and residents.

According to the police, the local clerics and residents of the neighbourhood were opposing the show because it was held on Shab-i-Barat, which is celebrated on the 14th or 15th day of Sha’ban, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar.

But if news reports and videos of the incident are anything to go by, the police did much more than just stop the event. A video of the event doing the rounds on social media shows an abandoned stage with broken chairs and instruments.

Dilshad Afridi, in whose house the wedding took place, was quoted by Dawn newspaper as saying, “We had gathered on the night of March 18 to celebrate the wedding of my friend with Karan Khan performing for some 100 guests,” adding, “The police suddenly raided the venue, manhandling the guests and breaking the instruments.”

The Express Tribune reports that the Peshawar police released a press note with the claim that they acted on the complaints of “enraged” religious students. Khan and other musicians were taken to the police station and later released, allegedly to protect them from the students and clerics.

“A few armed men were also taken into custody by police on the charges of displaying weapons. Musicians and the singer were allowed to go from the police station,” the press release says. 

Support from the public

Over the weekend, Pashtun activists and social media users expressed outrage, saying the police’s crackdown was no less than an act of terrorism and threat to Pashtun identity.

Pakistanis used the hashtag #WeStandWithKaranKhan in solidarity with the Pashtun singer. Founder and head of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) Manzoor Pashteen tweeted: “Police brutal attack on event of @karanpukhtoon in Peshawar is highly deplorable & dehumanizing. Human dignity is inviolable which must be protected. Such state of exception must ends.”

A lived reality

Karan Khan’s music is derived from his experiences and lived identity as a Pashtun. Al Jazeera reported that he was one of the millions of people who had to flee the Swat Valley in 2008 when the Pakistan Army fought the Taliban in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Source: The Print

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Mathura Vigilantes Beat Up Muslim Driver Over Suspicion He Was Transporting Cow Remains

March 22, 2022

New Delhi: Cow vigilantes in Raal village of Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh brutally beat up a Muslim driver of a pick-up van on the night of March 20, because they suspected he was transporting cow bones and other cow remains.

Officials have said that the bones were not of cows and were, in fact, being disposed off by a contractor as part of the village cleanliness drive.

The Raal village is under the jurisdiction of the Jait police station.

Times of India has reported that the victim, 35-year-old Mohammad Aamir, was thrashed repeatedly and verbally abused. Several videos of the crime were shot and circulated. PTI has identified the victim as ‘Hamid’ and noted that he is a resident of Hathras. He was headed there from Mathura’s Govardhan, police told TOI, adding that he had a licence to transport animal carcasses.

Police have arrested three villagers and registered a case against several people, 14 of them identified, under sections of the IPC, including 307, attempt to murder.

Cow vigilantes from Vrindavan – Vikas Pandit and Balram Thakur of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – reached the village and intercepted Aamir’s vehicle, the latter said in the FIR. Claiming that the vehicle was being used to transport cow remains, the two led began thrashing him, he noted, as reported by TOI.

Pandit and Thakur have, in turn, alleged that villagers mistook them as Aamir’ associates and also assaulted them, holding all three captive.

Source: The Wire

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Uttar Pradesh: Aligarh Muslim University students protest against Karnataka HC ruling on 'hijab' ban

Mar 21, 2022

AGRA: Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students on Monday took out a protest march in the varsity campus to oppose the Karnataka government’s order and the high court judgment restraining Muslim girl students from wearing a "hijab or headscarf" in educational institutions.

The protesting students submitted a memorandum to the President of India through the local administration, demanding an ordinance to "preserve the right to religious freedom prescribed under the Quran and the Hadith" and protect citizens under constitutional principles.

In the memorandum, the students wrote, "It creates a vague prohibition against clothes that disturb equality, integrity, and public law and order. Unity in diversity is one of the distinguishable features of India."

The memorandum further stated that covering the body with clothes is a "dignified practice". "Wearing a hijab does not create disharmony, oppose constitutional morality, or disturb public tranquillity," it said.

The memorandum added, "The essential religious practice doctrine shall be applied in the light of sacred scriptures and if such a question arises before the hon’ble judiciary, the bench may take assistance from the expert of Shariah for better appraisal of such issues."

Urging the government through the president, students said the proposed measures must be complied with for the "protection of interests of the minority for their existence as an individual and as a society." They requested that the government order be set aside.

The students said, "If people from other religions are allowed to follow their customs then why are Muslim girls being stopped from wearing a hijab in schools and colleges? Our hijab is our protection and we feel safe while covering our body."

Source: Times Of India

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Danish Siddiqui's parents to take Taliban to court over photojournalist's killing in Kandahar

Geeta Mohan

March 21, 2022

The parents of Indian photojouralist Danish Siddiqui will move the International Criminal Court against the Taliban tomorrow over Siddique’s death in Afghanistan last year. He was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city last July.

“On Tuesday, 22nd March, 2022, Danish Siddiqui's parents, Akhtar Siddiqui and Shahida Akhtar will initiate legal action to investigate his killing and bring those responsible, including high level commanders and leaders of the Taliban, to justice,” the family said in an official statement.

Calling his killing “a crime against humanity” and a “war crime”, the statement said: “On 16th July, 2021, Pulitzar award winning Indian photojournalist Danish Siddique was illegally detained, tortured and killed by the Taliban, and his body was mutilated. These acts and this killing constitute not only a murder, but a crime against humanity and a war crime. This was not an isolated incident. The Taliban's military code of conduct, published as the Layha, has a policy of attacking civilians, including journalists. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented over 70,000 civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban.”

Lawyer Avi Singh will represent the family in the case.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan last August in a stunning sweep to power, overthrowing a democratically elected government.

Source: India Today

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Hijab Row: Teachers from Various Parts of India Stand with Muslim Students

Mar 22, 2022

BENGALURU: Teachers from various parts of India expressed solidarity with Muslim girls over the hijab issue.

“As teachers working in different schools, colleges and universities in different parts of India, and as Indian teachers working abroad, we stand in solidarity with Muslim students’ right to wear a hijab in the classroom if they wish to. It is a question of women’s autonomy and their agency, and the hijab does not compromise with the integrity of education in any way,” said a solidarity statement signed by teachers from premier institutions including Jamia Millia Islamia, Miranda House, University of Delhi, Ashoka University and NLSIU, among others.

“Our students come from different religions, castes, genders and speak different mother tongues… In the course of their education, students learn to reflect critically on the world around them and begin to interrogate beliefs and practices they grew up with. In the process, students sometimes reaffirm their beliefs, and sometimes discard them,” read their statement.

Source: Times Of India

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Urdu journalism is dying in its crucible Lucknow

Mar 21, 2022

Lucknow: Exactly 200 years ago in the month of March, undivided India’s first Urdu newspaper — Jam-e-Jahan Numa — edited by Hari Har Dutt and Sada Sukh Lal, rolled out of a printing press in Calcutta, mobilizing opinion on social issues, freedom struggle and nation building.

Thirty-six years later, well-known Urdu litterateur Munshi Nawal Kishor published — Awadh Akhbar — the first Urdu newspaper from Lucknow, which was in the vanguard of Urdu journalism, just a year after the first uprising against British.

It was the most popular newspaper of its time, specialising in politics, social reform and literature and soon became the fulcrum of Urdu journalism.

One-and-half centuries later, the crucible of Urdu journalism, Lucknow, is struggling to keep the flame alive. Barring a couple of newspapers, published by Hindi media groups, majority of Urdu publications from Lucknow and its suburbs have little or no circulation and are mere statistics in UP information department records. In sharp contrast, Urdu print and digital media has managed to thrive in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Srinagar.

On Saturday, the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association, Lucknow, organised a seminar at Islamic Centre of India in Lucknow, to mark 200 years of Urdu journalism. The meet presided over by Islamic Centre chairman Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali was attended by Prof Shafey Kidwai, chairman department of journalism,AMU, and Urdu author Masood Usmani. Syed Shoeb, secretary of AMU Old Boys Association told TOI that “AMU has produced some of the finest Urdu journalists of the sub-continent and one of the leading names include Maulana Abdul Majid Dariyabadi. On his 120th birth anniversary, we organised this seminar. Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Asrar-ul Haq Majaz, Josh Malihabadi, Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui, Ali Sardar Jafri are other prominent AMU alumni, who contributed to Urdu writing.”

Talking about the slow death of Urdu journalism in Lucknow, a local scribe, Asad Rizvi said, “With no revenue model and dwindling readership, Urdu newspapers are dying here. Also, the GenNext can hardly read or write the language.”

Hyderabad, where Urdu has a distinct Deccani flavour, has managed to keep the flag aloft and Urdu newspapers still shape opinion. And these include Munsif, Siaisat, Etmaad, Rahmuma-e-Dakkan and Adab-e-Telangana. In Mumbai, Urdu News and Urdu Times are prominent newspapers with a wide reach.

“The older generation in Lucknow, who were born 10-20 years after independence can read and write Urdu. Today, Muslim youths have lost interest and given the language a miss. Urdu has also lost relevance in government school syllabi ringing a death knell to the language,” said Nadir Wahaab Khan, a senior Lucknow journalist. Notably, it was Hindu scholars and writers, who took Urdu journalism to great heights in Lucknow.

Source: Times Of India

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Islamabad Hosting 48th Organisation Of Islamic Cooperation FMs Moot Today At Parliament House, Islamabad

Mar 22 2022

Mariana Baabar

ISLAMABAD: The Council of the Foreign Ministers (CFMs) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will meet today after the inaugural of the 48th OIC conference, hosted by Pakistan at Parliament House, Islamabad.

The theme of the 48th session is "Building Partnerships for Unity, Justice, and Development". Over 100 resolutions will be considered during the two-day session.

In his keynote address at the inaugural, Prime Minister Imran Khan will spotlight the role and contributions of Pakistan towards the OIC and reflect on the challenges the Muslim world is facing.

Moreover, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will also deliver a statement which will be followed by the election of bureau members. Once the bureau members are elected, the OIC chair will be handed to Pakistan.

The session will be addressed by the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, Islamic Development Bank President Muhammad Suleiman Al-Jasser, Chinese State Councilor and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wangi Yi.

Meanwhile, a video message by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be shown on the occasion.

The 48th OIC session coincides with the celebrations of Pakistan Day.

On March 23, the visiting foreign ministers will visit the Pakistan Day parade venue and witness the professional capability of Pakistan’s armed forces and the traditional floats of all the provinces, reflecting the national unity.

Later in the day, Foreign Minister Qureshi along with OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha will hold a joint press stakeout following the conclusion of the session.

The summit will also discuss developments in Afghanistan and its humanitarian consequences for the Afghan people and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, it added.

Many African issues will also be on the summit’s agenda, including the situation in Mali, the Sahel region, and Lake Chad, and the situation in Central Africa and the Republic of Guinea.

The OIC foreign ministers will also discuss developments in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and other regions during the summit.

Pakistan has a proud history of hosting major OIC events including Summits and Council of Foreign Minister (CFM) meetings.

The country hosted the 2nd OIC Summit in Lahore, in February 1974. An Extraordinary OIC Summit was held in Islamabad in 1997, on the occasion of Pakistan’s Golden Jubilee.

Pakistan also hosted the OIC CFMs on four occasions, 2nd Session in December 1970, 11th Session in May 1980, 21st Session in April 1993 and the 34th Session in May 2007. The 1st and the 17th Extraordinary Sessions of the OIC CFM, were held in Islamabad, in January 1980 and December 2021, respectively.

FM Qureshi and OIC secretary-general review agenda of 48th session

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha reviewed the agenda of 48th Council of Foreign Ministers and exchanged views on the main outcomes expected from the conference.

They also discussed the issues confronting the Islamic Ummah and the role of the OIC in that regard.

Whilst highlighting the grim human rights and humanitarian situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the foreign minister expressed appreciation for OIC’s principled position and consistent support for the just struggle of Kashmiris for their right to self-determination.

Welcoming the recent adoption of the resolution at the United Nations General Assembly designating March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, the foreign minister lauded the support extended by the OIC and its member states to Pakistan’s initiative.

He commended the proposal to appoint OIC’s Special Envoy on Islamophobia to help coordinate the work of the organisation and its member states for addressing discrimination and stigmatisation of the Muslims all over the world.

Referring to the humanitarian and economic crises being faced by the Afghan people, Qureshi stressed the importance of the implementation of decisions taken at the extraordinary session of the OIC-CFM held in Islamabad on December 19 last year and welcomed the operationalisation of the Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan.

The OIC secretary-general assured the foreign minister of the OIC Secretariat’s full support and cooperation during Pakistan’s chairmanship of CFM.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said that the 48th session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers would play an important role in promoting unity of the Islamic Ummah and resolution of the problems being faced by the Muslims.

While talking to media after receiving the OIC Secretary General Hussain Ibrahim Taha here, he said that the session would also take up the recent achievement of the Muslim Ummah against Islamophobia, when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to observe March 15 day against Islamophobia every year.

He said that Pakistan had moved the resolution on behalf of the OIC.

He said that secretary general of the OIC had also visited Pakistan three months back when an emergency session of OIC Foreign Ministers was held on Afghanistan.

Speaking on the occasion, the OIC secretary-general said that he was very happy to be back in Pakistan.

Source: Geo TV

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Media bodies demand PM Imran prove ‘anti-govt drive is funded’

March 22, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the media has challenged the prime minister to prove his “scandalous allegations” that media houses have been bought by political parties and some are being funded by foreign sources.

Prime Minister Imran Khan made these allegations in his public address in Malakand on Sunday.

In a statement issued on Monday, the JAC said the PM’s statements amount to accusing the media of corruption. If these allegations cannot be proved “within a reasonable time”, the committee reserves the right to approach the judiciary for relief, it warned.

It requested PM Khan not to make such statements for “political point scoring”.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) sought an apology from PM Khan over the allegation that media houses were receiving funds for “anti-government campaigns”.

In a statement, PFUJ president Shahzada Zulfiqar and secretary general Nasir Zaidi expressed outrage over the “baseless remarks”, saying “it is surprising the head of the government is using a public forum for spreading unfoun­ded allegations agai­nst the media and the journalist fraternity instead of ordering an investigation”.

Source: Dawn

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PM Imran’s statement on India’s foreign policy ‘most bizarre’: Shehbaz

March 22, 2022

LAHORE: Leader of the Opposi­tion in the National Assembly Sheh­baz Sharif has termed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement on India’s foreign policy the ‘most bizarre’.

“Imran Khan’s praise for the so-called ‘independent’ Indian foreign policy is the most bizarre statement to date. India, particularly under [Narendra] Modi, has accused Pakistan of terrorism, opposed CPEC & hurt our interests globally. It has robbed Kashmiris of their statehood,” the PML-N president said in a tweet on Monday.

Prime Minister Khan had in his public address in Dargai area of Malakand on Sunday lauded India for having an ‘independent foreign policy’ that was favourable to people of India.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan Chief Justice not yet convinced about interfering in National Assembly proceedings

21 March, 2022

Islamabad [Pakistan], March 21 (ANI): Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said the Supreme Court has not yet been convinced about interfering in the proceedings of the National Assembly.

The CJP said this while hearing a petition moved by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) seeking the court’s intervention to prevent “anarchy” in the country, The News International reported. A no-trust motion is being moved in the assembly and the ruling party and the Opposition have announced rallies in Islamabad.

After hearing the arguments by the SCBA counsel, CJP said, “these are the internal matters of the assembly,” adding that it would be better to fight these battles in the National Assembly, The News International reported.

CJP Bandial also said that the Supreme Court of Pakistan wants to protect everybody’s voting rights regarding the Pakistani government’s decision that prevents the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers to vote in the no-confidence motion.

Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Jamiat Ulema-e Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman were also present during the hearing.

The opposition leader has expressed frustration over the delay in conducting voting on no-confidence against Khan and claimed that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is biased.

Earlier, on Monday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the right to bring about a no-confidence motion is democratic and a constitutional right, adding that the votes cannot be bought this time, reported Geo News.

“The speaker was biased since day one, and is still showing his bias,” the senior leader claimed.

Meanwhile, Pakistani PM has to face the no-confidence motion on Friday as the National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Sunday summoned the session of the Lower House at the Parliament House in Islamabad on Friday.

Source: The Print

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North America


Hatchet-wielding attacker at Canada mosque charged for possible hate-motivated attack, police say

By Amir Vera and Jennifer Henderson

March 21, 2022

The man who allegedly discharged bear spray while brandishing a hatchet at a mosque in the Canadian city of Mississauga is now facing multiple charges for what is "believed to be a hate-motivated incident," Peel Regional Police said in a news release Monday.

The charges against Mohammad Moiz Omar, a 24-year-old Mississauga resident, include assault with a weapon; administering noxious substance with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm; possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose; utter threat to cause death or bodily harm; carrying concealed weapon; and mischief to religious property, according to the release.

The attempted attack took place Saturday around 7 a.m. local time at Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre during the dawn prayer of Fajr, police said. The mosque said in a Facebook post the suspect who walked in was also armed with "numerous other sharp edged weapons."

Noonrani Sairally, who's been attending the mosque for more than a decade, told CNN Monday he heard a noise about seven to 10 minutes after the congregation started morning prayers.

"I heard a hissing noise over the sound system followed by a scream and when I turned around, I saw this man with a can of bear spray and a hatchet in his hand," he said.

Sairally said that's when worshippers, who were lined up in the middle of the mosque, immediately approached the attacker and pinned him to the ground.

"He (the attacker) didn't realize the spray was making noise so that immediately alerted people in the first row," Sairally said. "One of the young fellows in that row saw the hatchet and acted very quickly to knock it out of his hand. Then everyone quickly jumped on him and pushed him to the floor."

The attacker didn't say anything as worshippers waited for police to arrive because he had inhaled bear spray and was having trouble breathing, Sairally said.

Worshippers sustained minor injuries from the bear spray, police said.

Omar had a bail hearing in front of the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton on Saturday.

Source: CNN

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Democratic Pakistan critical to America’s interests: US official

March 22, 2022

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Monday that a prosperous and democratic Pakistan was critical to US interests.

Responding to queries about the current political situation in the country, a spokesperson for the State Department also underlined America’s support for the constitutional process in Pakistan.

“We are closely following developments in Pakistan. We respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law,” the spokesperson told Dawn.

“The United States values our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests.”

Some circles in Pakistan blame the United States for stirring up troubles in the country for supporting the elements that want to unseat the current government.

Official and diplomatic circles in Washington, however, reject all such speculations as incorrect, pointing out that there were internal causes for the ongoing political crisis.

At a Friday afternoon news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki underlined the Biden administration’s desire to continue a careful engagement with Pakistan without committing to either improving or degrading ties with a country that was once a close ally.

Source: Dawn

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US says it is ready to make ‘difficult decisions’ to reach nuclear deal with Iran

22 March ,2022

A deal to restore the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear program is not imminent, but Washington is prepared to take “difficult decisions” to make it happen, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Monday.

Price told journalists he could not discuss the specifics of the final remaining issues in the 11-month-old negotiations over restoring the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which aims at preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“We are not in the practice of negotiating in public,” Price said, amid reports that a deal is close.

“We are prepared to make difficult decisions to return Iran’s nuclear program to its JCPOA limits,” he said.

For the United States, he said the main issues remain Iran committing to verifiable limits on its nuclear activities, in return for an easing of punishing sanctions placed on the country.

According to sources close to the talks, Iran is insisting on “economic guarantees” in case a future US administration changes its stance and abrogates the agreement, as President Donald Trump did in 2018; and that Washington remove its official terror group designation on Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards.

“We’re not going to respond to specific claims about what sanctions we may or may not be prepared to lift as part of a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA,” Price said.

He said the key US negotiator, Rob Malley, has not returned to Vienna to resume the most recent round of negotiations.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Russian court bans Facebook, Instagram over 'extremist activity'

Elena Teslova  



A Moscow court on Monday banned Meta-owned social networks Facebook and Instagram in Russia over "extremist activity."

The Tverskoy district court said in a ruling that it agreed to "the claims of the Prosecutor General's Office to ban the activities of Meta corporation" and the decision "takes effect immediately."

The ban, however, does not apply to WhatsApp messenger, which is also owned by the US tech giant, it added.

Prosecutors sued Meta for temporarily lifting the ban on posting calls for violence against Russians in the context of Moscow’s war on Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24.

Meta has also been prohibited from opening branches and conducting commercial activities in Russia.

Separately, the country's Investigative Committee had opened a criminal case over the "illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Erdogan Seeks To Rally Turks In Europe Behind Political Islam - Report

Mar 21 2022

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is attempting to rally Turks across Europe behind his political Islamist cause, according to a report by the Stockholm-based Nordic Research & Monitoring Network.

Erdoğan who clearly sees Turks living in Europe as his own citizens, rather than nationals and/or residents of the countries where they live, work and retire, called on all to unite under one nation and one flag, the network said on Monday.

Last month, Erdogan said that when Turkey properly mobilises this power, no organisation, no evil structure, no hidden or open obstacles can stand in its way. He spoke at a meeting organised by the Union of International Democrats (UID), known as Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) proxy group abroad.

Erdoğan’s speech at the UID meeting was by far the most provocative to date, amounting to overt political interference in European affairs and using Turks and Muslims as trump cards against the nations, the network said.

Formerly named as The Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), the group was evaluated as incompatible with Germany’s constitutional order, according to a report by the German domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) in 2017.  BfV has confirmed that it was spying on the group in Germany as an anti-sabotage measure.

The UID has 253 branches with 38 regional organisations in 17 countries.

In his speech, Erdoğan gave directions to UID members to work harder to achieve their objectives, the network said.

“The more you expand this umbrella as the UID, the more you increase your sphere of activity and influence, the more successfully you can fulfil the mission of delivering these messages to our citizens, organising them and preparing them for the future,” it cited Erdoğan as saying.

“The next pillar of the bridge we built from the past to the future should and will be the places where we live in Europe,“ Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan said hundreds of millions of Muslim friends and brothers stand behind the Turks and that they all are committed to the advancement of the causes of Allah and the truth.

Turkey, backed by Turks and Muslims in Europe, “would derail any plans devised by European governments”, Erdoğan said.

Source: Ahval News

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Freed British-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe seeks release of ‘unjustly detained’ in Iran

21 March ,2022

A British-Iranian charity worker held in Tehran for six years called on Monday for all “unjustly detained” prisoners in Iran to be freed, speaking publicly for the first time since her release.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe thanked everyone involved in the campaign to secure her release but added: “What’s happened now should have happened six years ago... I shouldn't have been in prison for six years.”

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Zaghari-Ratcliffe and questioned why Britain had failed to get her home before her return last week.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrived in Britain from Iran in the early hours of Thursday following six years when she was detained in Tehran and convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment.

She returned to Britain after London resolved what it called a parallel issue -- repaying a historic 400 million-pound ($526 million) debt for the purchase of military tanks to Tehran that dated back to 1979.

While Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard thanked the British government for getting his wife home, she said she could not agree.

“What’s happened now should have happened six years ago,” she told a news conference in the House of Commons in Westminster. “It should have happened exactly six years ago, I shouldn’t have been in prison for six years.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by Revolutionary Guards at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016, while trying to return to Britain with her then 22-month-old daughter Gabriella from an Iranian new year’s trip to see her parents.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US-UK national Morad Tahbaz moved back to Iranian prison, daughter says

21 March ,2022

An Iranian-American environmentalist who was recently released from an Iranian prison has been taken back to jail, one of his daughters told a news conference in London on Monday.

Britain said last week that Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British citizenship and whose family say he was born in Britain, had been released from prison on furlough on the same day aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori left Iran to return to Britain.

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Britain’s foreign ministry said on Friday it had been told by Iran that Tahbaz, 66, had been taken back to Evin prison in order to fit an ankle bracelet. It said earlier on Monday that Tahbaz had since been released to a residential location.

“My father was removed from his cell in prison yesterday, but we’ve only just found out, before we started this afternoon, that he’s been returned to the prison,” his daughter Roxanne told a news conference at the British parliament, alongside Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Tahbaz was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for “assembly and collusion against Iran’s national security” and working for the United States as a spy.

“It’s been over four years now since my father was detained and my mother was put on a travel ban within Iran,” his daughter said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Arab World


New round of talks on constitution for Syria begins in Geneva

Peter Kenny 



A new round of talks involving the Constitutional Committee seeking a solution to the ongoing 11-year war in Syria resumed in Geneva Monday.

The five days of talks scheduled to end on Friday involve both the regime and the opposition and are taking place at Geneva's Intercontinental Hotel instead of at the Palais des Nations, the European headquarter of the UN.

UN Special Envoy on Syria Geir Pedersen said at a news conference on Sunday he did not want to predict the outcome of the seventh round of talks after the last round in October ended in "disappointment."

"It is now close to two and a half years since we had the first meeting. I will not pre-judge the outcome of this session," Pedersen told journalists.

Jennifer Fenton, Pedersen's spokesperson, told Anadolu Agency that the talks began on time.

The civil war began in March 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

According to UN estimates, hundreds of thousands of people have since been killed and millions more displaced.

During the sixth-round meetings in Geneva, the co-chairman of the delegation representing the Assad regime, the lawyer Ahmed Kuzbari, and the co-chairman of the opposition, Hadi al-Bahra, had sat at the same table for the first time.

When that round of talks ended on Oct. 22, Pedersen said: "Today's talks were a huge disappointment."

"We didn't achieve what we hoped to achieve. I think we lacked a proper understanding of how to move that process forward. So, in the end, the government delegation decided not to present any new text," he said in criticism of the regime.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee consists of two structures, large and small.

The large structure includes all the committee members and consists of three groups: the regime, the opposition delegation, and civil society representatives.

The small body consists of 15 people selected from each group and is responsible for writing the constitution.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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'Persian Gulf Cooperation Council's talks meant to get Saudi Arabia out of Yemen quagmire'

22 March 2022

The so-called intra-Yemeni talks, planned by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at the regional union’s headquarters in Riyadh, are meant to save Saudi Arabia from the quagmire it is stuck in by leading the war on Yemen, according to a report.

The New Khalij news website reported on Tuesday that the negotiations, scheduled to be held between March 29 and April 7, are set to address six issues, including what is called the opening of humanitarian corridors to restore stability in Yemen.

After the talks, according to the report, specialized committees will be formed to follow up on the implementation of the results of the discussions.

It added that Saudi Arabia spends $175 million a month on air raids against Yemen.

British daily The Times said the war costs Saudi Arabia $72 billion a year. Estimates put the cost of Saudi fighter jets participating in the offensive at $230 million a month.

Yemeni forces’ counterattacks on Saudi oil facilities have added to the kingdom’s economic problems as its Patriot and THAAD systems have not been able to counter the strikes, the report said.

“With the increasing economic pressure on Riyadh caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as declining US support, Saudi Arabia appears to be seriously considering a way to rescue itself from the Yemeni crisis in a way that saves its face,” it noted.

“Arab and international circles are beating the drum of the ‘Ramadan ceasefire’ in Yemen in order to increase the chances of success of the Riyadh talks on the condition that Ansarullah participates in the negotiations. The absence of Ansarullah will cause the failure of these negotiations.”

Yemen’s popular Ansarullah resistance movement has turned down the GCC invitation for the talks, saying Saudi Arabia cannot be a mediator as it is a perpetrator of the bloody war.

The group also stressed that it will welcome discussions on a peaceful settlement to the ongoing conflict if the venue is a “neutral country,” and that the priority is lifting “arbitrary” restrictions on Yemeni ports and Sana’a airport.

Recently, Mahdi al-Mashat, who heads Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, vowed to uphold the rights of his nation against more Saudi aggression and siege.

“What is being said about the Riyadh talks has the title of peace, but at its heart, it means more aggression and siege,” he said, condemning Riyadh’s calls for peace while at the same time killing the Yemeni people.

“How stupid do they think the Yemeni people are? They are inviting them to peace amid a siege,” he added.

Addressing the Saudi-led military coalition, he further stressed that the invading coalition “will eventually fail and all its schemes will fall short because the Yemeni nation is treading the right path.”

Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western states.

The objective was to return to power the former Riyadh-backed regime and crush the Ansarullah, which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.

The war has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and turning entire Yemen into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Source: Press TV

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Presence of Israeli operatives in Kurdistan region will drag Iraq into war: Kata’ib Hezbollah spokesman

22 March 2022

The Iraqi anti-terror Kata'ib Hezbollah movement says the presence of operatives affiliated to the Israeli spy agency Mossad in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region will drag the Arab country into a military confrontation.

Speaking in an interview with Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network, spokesman Jafar al-Husseini warned against attempts aimed at turning Iraq into a launchpad for attacks on regional countries and stated that such bids will exacerbate the existing tensions.

He noted there is substantial evidence that Israeli operatives are freely active in the Kurdistan region, and that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) exports crude oil to the Israeli-occupied territories.

The spokesman of Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi, underscored that the Palestinian cause remains a cornerstone of Iraqi resistance groups’ doctrine, stating that the forces are coordinating with their Palestinian and Lebanese comrades.

Husseini went on to say that Iraqi resistance forces are on the great march of progress and are expanding their capabilities to defend the country’s airspace.

Last week, the spokesman for Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said the elite military force will not hesitate to strike other Israeli bases in the Iraqi Kurdistan region if its officials do not dismantle them.

“It is our natural right to destroy any base from which any attack is carried out against the security of Iran and this is a red line” for us, Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif told Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network on March 17.

According to Sharif, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi had on several occasions warned the Iraqi Kurdistan region about the presence of the Mossad base, which was recently attacked by the IRGC, and two other similar bases.

“If Iraqi officials do not take action to remove other bases of Zionists in this country while our security continues to be threatened from this region, we will respond without hesitation,” the IRGC’s spokesman added.

Days earlier, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq had said the latest IRGC missile strike on secret Mossad bases in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region was strictly necessary, as operations against Iran’s security were being plotted and orchestrated there.

Masjedi said Israeli operatives used the Iraqi Kurdistan region to plot and launch operations against Iran’s security, emphasizing that Iranian officials had time and again warned the KRG authorities against their activities, but to no avail.

The Iranian diplomat highlighted that the missile attack was carried out in order to safeguard Iran’s security, “and was neither intended to violate Iraq’s sovereignty nor was meant to insult the Arab country and its nation.”

In the early hours of March 13, a dozen ballistic missiles hit secret Mossad bases in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, reportedly leaving several Israeli operatives dead.

In a statement issued later in the day, the IRGC indicated that the operation was in response to a recent Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus, in which two IRGC officers were killed.

Source: Press TV

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Houthi attacks on oil facilities should be of global concern: Saudi Aramco chief

21 March ,2022

Saudi Arabia’s Aramco chief Amin Nasser said on Monday that escalating attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis against oil installations in the Kingdom should be a global concern at a time when the oil market was tight.

“The message that came out highlighted that these types of attacks and that type of escalation during a time when the market is very tight is a real concern for the world for it will have -- God forbid -- if more escalations happen over time, it might have some impact on supply,” Nasser told an earnings webcast.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Pressure must be put on Houthis to stop threat to international navigation: Saudi FM

22 March ,2022

Pressure must be put on the Iran-backed Houthi militia to stop its threat to international navigation, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said in a speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Tuesday.

“Houthi escalation threatens the security and stability of the region,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said.

The comments came days after the Yemen-based group launched a series of attacks on logistics and energy facilities in the Kingdom.

An explosive-laden boat targeting shipping was intercepted by the Arab Coalition off the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Sunday, according to Al Hadath television.

The attack was one of many, including attempted drone and missile strikes targeting energy facilities.

Saudi state news agency (SPA) said one attack targeted a water desalination plant in the city of al-Shaqeeq, an Aramco facility in Jizan, a power station in the southern Dhahran al-Janub city, and a gas facility in Khamis Mushait.

State television al-Ekhbariya later cited the coalition as saying it had intercepted and destroyed three drones that targeted economic facilities. The coalition also foiled an attack on an Aramco Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in the Saudi city of Yanbu, state television reported.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi King, Crown Prince welcome Sudan’s Burhan on official visit

22 March ,2022

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Monday met separately with Sudan’s top military general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Riyadh, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Discussions revolved around bilateral ties and ways to strengthen them in several areas.

Burhan is the chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council.

His visit to Saudi Arabia comes days after he met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed to discuss the political process in Sudan.

Burhan led a military coup on October 25 that ended a partnership between the army and civilian parties, which was meant to lead to democratic elections. This has led to months of deadly protests, which have been condemned by much of the international community.

In February, Burhan said the armed forces were committed to handing over power to an elected government or an arrangement decided through “national consensus,” reiterating a commitment to hold elections in mid-2023.

On Monday, the US imposed sanctions on Sudan’s Central Reserve Police for using excessive force and live ammunition against peaceful protesters that have demonstrated against the military coup.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Lebanese president meets with Pope Francis during his visit to Italy

21 March ,2022

Lebanese President Michel Aoun met with the Pope on Monday during his visit to Italy.

Aoun arrived in Italy on Sunday and said upon arrival in Rome that he would invite Francis to visit Lebanon, adding that the Pope’s spiritual and moral authority can help his country during this difficult period.

The Pope has said he intends to visit Lebanon soon.

The two spoke on many subjects, including the investigation into the explosion of Beirut’s port in August 2020 and the economic crisis.

Aoun, a Maronite Catholic, added that his small country is passing through a severe economic and social crisis that is the result of years of mismanagement made worse by coronavirus and the destruction of the port.

The Mediterranean nation of 6 million, including an estimated 1 million refugees, has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East and is the only Arab country with a Christian head of state.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Egypt’s Sisi hosts Israel’s Bennett, UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed

21 March ,2022

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hosted Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, two Egyptian security sources said, as talks to revive a nuclear deal with Iran remain in limbo.

Shared concerns over Iran saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain forge ties with Israel in 2020 to create a new regional axis at a time of uncertainty over the commitment of key security ally the United States.

Gulf states were excluded from talks to revive a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran that they have criticized for not addressing Iran’s missiles program and regional proxies, including in Yemen.

Egypt’s presidency said Sisi and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held expanded bilateral talks on issues including economic investment, in the Red Sea Resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Sisi stressed Egypt’s commitment to security in the Gulf and “rejection of any practices that seek to destabilize it,” the presidency said in a statement.

There was no official comment on any talks involving Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, but the Egyptian sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the three leaders were holding discussions that covered the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

The UAE along with Saudi Arabia has resisted Western calls to hike oil output and contain a jump in crude prices caused by the conflict in Ukraine.

Egypt faces new economic pressures due to the war that saw it devalue its currency by 14 percent on Monday. It has called on financial support from wealthy Gulf states in the past.

Bennett traveled to Abu Dhabi in December, the first official visit by an Israeli leader following the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979 and last week announced an agreement on direct flights between Tel Aviv and Sharm el-Sheikh.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia not responsible for oil shortages in light of Houthi attacks: Official

21 March ,2022

Saudi Arabia said on Monday it would not bear responsibility for any global oil supply shortages after attacks on its oil facilities by the Iran-aligned Houthis.

The Houthi movement fired missiles and drones at several facilities of Saudi state oil firm Aramco over the weekend, causing a temporary drop in output at a refinery and a fire at a petroleum products distribution terminal.

A Saudi foreign ministry official said in remarks on state news agency SPA that such attacks result in serious consequences for upstream and downstream sectors affecting “the Kingdom’s production capacity and its ability to fulfil its obligations.”

Aramco CEO Amin Nasser, asked in an earnings webcast about the statement, said: “These types of attacks and that type of escalation during a time when the market is very tight is a real concern for the world ... If more escalations happen over time, it might have some impact on supply.”

The unidentified official urged the global community to “realize the gravity of Iran’s continued behavior in equipping” the Houthis, who are fighting the Arab coalition that intervened in Yemen seven years ago. Iran denies arming the group.

The source highlighted the danger of Iran’s continuing to provide Houthis with ballistic missile and drone technology, which the Yemen-based group uses to target oil and gas production sites in the Kingdom.

Recent attacks will affect the Kingdom’s production capacity and its ability to meet its supply obligations, threatening global energy supply, according to SPA.

The source highlighted the importance of standing against the Houthis and deterring them from further attacks.

Global energy prices have skyrocketed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions on Russian oil and gas, prompting several Western leaders to urge Gulf Arab states to increase production.

Sunday saw several Houthi attacks on energy facilities in Saudi Arabia.

One targeted an Aramco petroleum distribution plant in Jeddah, causing a fire but no injuries or casualties, state television reported.

Earlier on Sunday, the Arab Coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen reported the destruction of an explosive-laden boat in Hodeidah, and the thwarting of an imminent attack targeting the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.

State television al-Ekhbariya cited the coalition as saying it had intercepted and destroyed three drones that targeted economic facilities.

The coalition also foiled an attack on an Aramco Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in the Saudi city of Yanbu, state television reported.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iranian President Seeks Hard Work to Build Powerful, Advanced Iran in Persian New Year


President Rayeesi made the remarks on Sunday afternoon in his New Year message aired live from the Grand Mosque of the southwestern Iranian port city of Khorramshahr.

“My first Nowruz message as the servant of the public is the message of round-the-clock and incessant work to build a powerful and advanced Iran,” he said.

“No nation and no country has achieved anything without intensive work and the maximum use of human and natural resources. The New Year and the new century should be the beginning of a new era of productive, useful, fruitful, and progressive work for all of us,” the president added.

"During the current year, God willing, the issue of employment will be our first and foremost issue," Iran's president said, adding that unemployment is the root cause of all economic and social plights. As a result, he noted, supporting domestic production is at the top of his administration’s agenda.

Rayeesi noted that during the seven month lapsed since his administration was inaugurated, it has proven the it is determined to do what it says.

"We said that with the help of God and people, we would contain the coronavirus [pandemic], [and] thanks God, it was done," he said.

"We said that the country and the economy would not be left in limbo pending [the conclusion] of the JCPOA [Iran's deal with world powers]. Everybody saw that while engaging in negotiations [with other parties to the JCPOA] and taking advantage of political and legal means to dealing with the crime of sanctions, we also put our focus on thwarting sanctions."

He pointed to the emerging signs of economic growth and stability as well as a significant increase in the volume of foreign trade and non-oil exports under his administration, saying, “We increased trade with our neighbors for the benefit of the people.”

“We said that we will set the production wheel in motion, [and] official statistics, released up to the end of the third quarter even show that economic growth has reached above 5%,” Iran's chief executive said.

“We said that we will not trade the interests and security of the people with anything, [and] everyone saw that we gave priority to boosting the country’s defense, missile, and space capabilities, because the country’s security is a priority,” he added.

Rayeesi also said the balance in the country’s foreign policy has been restored through an active diplomacy pursued under his leadership.

According to the president, the greatest foreign policy achievement of the country in recent years has been the disgraceful failure of the United States’ maximum pressure policy in the face of the Iranian people’s resistance.

Back in 2018, the administration of the former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and re-imposed the anti-Iran sanctions that were lifted under the accord while piling on with new ones. He said he was adopting a “maximum pressure” policy to force Tehran to negotiate a new deal.

In spite of his fierce criticisms of the “failed maximum pressure” campaign pursued by his predecessor, Biden has not only kept all the sanctions imposed under Trump but has also added new ones as well.

“We began running the country in the right direction. We do not see the fate of the nation in the hands of foreigners,” Rayeesi stressed.

He noted that his administration did away with polarization, which he said undermines the nation’s strength, and instead demonstrated that the power of the [operations in the military] field is in line and parallel to the power of diplomacy.

“We used foreign relations in the service of [the country’s] economy, and that is the meaning of a transform-seeking and justice-oriented administration,” he added.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president wished for the new Iranian year to be the end of the coronavirus pandemic around the world and also an end to wars in every corner of the world.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iranian People Vote to Leader's Remarks about Martyr Soleimani as Chosen Sentence of Year


The Iranians participated in an online poll and chose a sentence by Ayatollah Khamenei who said "Martyr Soleimani is more dangerous than General Soleimani for enemies" as the Leader's selected sentence. The sentence alludes to the fact that General Soleimani's friends across the region and the world and the resistant front will take revenge for his martyrdom from the enemies.

According to website, over 97,000 Internet users took part in an online poll survey since March 14, 2022 till March 19, 2022 and they voted to the aforementioned sentence.

Former Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on January 3, 2020.

The airstrike also martyred Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The two were martyred in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Five Iranian and five Iraqi military men were martyred by the missiles fired by the US drone at Baghdad International Airport.

On January 8, 2020, and after the funeral ceremony of General Soleimani, the IRGC Aerospace Force started heavy ballistic missile attacks on US Ein Al-Assad airbase in Southwestern Iraq near the border with Syria and a US operated airbase in Erbil in retaliation for the US assassination of General Soleimani.

Ein Al-Assad is an airbase with a 4km runway at 188m altitude from sea levels, which is the main and the largest US airbase in Iraq. Early reports said the radar systems and missile defense shields in Ein Al-Assad failed to operate and intercept the Iranian missiles. Unofficial reports said the US army's central radar systems at Ein Al-Assad had been jammed by electronic warfare.

The second IRGC reprisal attack targeted a US military base near Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan Region in the second leg of "Martyr Soleimani" reprisal operation.

Source: Fars News Agency

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AEOI Head: Iran to Continue Development of Peaceful N. Technology


The AEOI will not stop continued peaceful nuclear activities in the country by no means, Eslami said.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has gone through a difficult and exhausting path during the last four decades and the Iranian scientists in the nuclear industry succeeded in acquiring the latest achievements despite the arrogant powers' opposition, he added.

The guidelines of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in the development of application of nuclear technology in Iran completely changed the position of the country in the level of science and technology, industry, environment and health, Eslami said.

In relevant remarks in November, Eslami said that his country is determined to use peaceful nuclear program to improve the Iranian people’s lives, adding that the UN nuclear watchdog is due to help Tehran to this end.

“The important point between us and the Agency is that issues between the two sides are technical and (the assurance) that the Agency does not pay attention to the political issues and the enemies' plots to influence the path of progress of Iran’s nuclear program and is not influenced by them,” Eslami told reporters in a joint press conference with Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi in Tehran at the time.

“Mr. Grossi said several times today that they have witnessed no deviation in Iran’s nuclear programs and Iran continues its nuclear activities based on treaties and regulations,” he added.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iranian President Offers Greetings to Countries Celebrating Nowruz


"Nowruz is a symbol and crystallization of a value-oriented civilization, the culmination of which is worshipping God, family-friendliness and peace," President Rayeesi said in his messages.

"Contemplating the greatness of creation and paying attention to the transformation of nature is the source of awakening of the heart and the means of remembering God and the cause for the growth and excellence of humanity," he said.

"I hope that in the new century, the movement towards the sublime divine and human values will accelerate and, like Nowruz, a happier day would come for the hearts and souls of all the people of that land and more empathy and peace for all regional nations."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the strengthening and expansion of this cultural solidarity as a promise of peace for all the countries of the region and the world, and in this regard, extends a friendly hand to all countries," President Rayeesi said.

Nowruz, the start of the year according to the Persian calendar which marks arrival of spring was celebrated across Iran.

Nowruz, which coincides with the first day of spring on the solar calendar (this year started on March 21), is mostly celebrated in 10 countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The International Day of Nowruz was registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on February 23, 2010.

For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and change, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Gaza commemorates anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu

Nour Abu Eisha


GAZA CITY, Palestine

A ceremony was organized in the Gaza Strip on Monday to commemorate South Africa's anti-apartheid icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu.

Organized by the Council of International Relations, a Gaza-based NGO, the ceremony was attended by a host of Palestinian and South African figures, including South Africa’s Ambassador Shaun Edward Byneveldt.

Addressing the event via video-conference, Byneveldt said South Africa will continue to support the oppressed people living under occupation.

“Tutu was a spiritual leader who stood up against oppression and who campaigned for justice, equality and humanity,” he added.

Bassem Naim, the head of the Council of International Relations, said Tutu was the first figure to accuse Israel of pursuing a policy of apartheid against the Palestinians in 2002.

A meeting hall in Gaza was named after Tutu in recognition of his support to the Palestinian people, according to the Gaza Municipality mayor Yahya el-Sarraj.

In 2009, Tutu joined a delegation of the international NGO "the Elders" on a visit to Israel and occupied Palestinian territories to advocate for peace.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Turkish, Emirati foreign ministers discuss Ukraine in Abu Dhabi

Handan Kazanci 


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday met his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi and they discussed several issues including the war in Ukraine.

“Discussed bilateral relations & regional developments, especially in Ukraine,” Cavusoglu said on Twitter, sharing a photo from the meeting.

Russia's war against Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial sanctions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia.

At least 902 civilians have been killed and around 1,459 injured in Ukraine so far, according to UN estimates. Over 3.38 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the war began, while some 6.5 million are estimated to be internally displaced in the country.

The top Turkish diplomat is in the United Arab Emirates to address the 16th UAE Ambassadors and Representatives of Diplomatic Missions Forum as a guest of honor upon an invitation by Al Nahyan. Ties between Turkiye and the Arab world are experiencing a major thaw after years of tense relations.

Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Abu Dhabi and said Turkiye and the UAE have a common goal of taking bilateral ties to higher levels.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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94% of Palestinians in occupied territories subject to racist labelling: Opinion poll

21 March 2022

More than 90 percent of the Palestinians living in the occupied territories have experienced racist labeling, a survey has found.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA on Monday cited the Israeli daily Maariv that the result of the survey conducted by the Israeli Racism Crisis Center (RCC) was published on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination observed annually on March 21.

According to the results, 69 percent of the respondents believe they were subject to racism and discrimination in public places, while 41 percent said they had a similar experience in academic institutions.

The survey found that the most cases of discrimination occurred at airports, followed by academic institutions, workplaces, and malls and shopping centers.

More than 65 percent of the respondents said their identification cards were checked in public places; 59 percent were subject to security inspections and 58 percent were forced to answer unusual questions by the security guards.

The director of the RCC, Samah Darwish, said in an interview that the results of the survey illustrated the extent of racism in the occupied Palestinian territories. “This should concern everyone.”

Last year, more than 600 scholars, artists, and intellectuals from over 45 countries across the world censured the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, calling for an immediate end to “Israel’s apartheid regime.”

Source: Press TV

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Yemen to continue retaliatory attacks until Saudi-led coalition stops war: Army spokesman

21 March 2022

The Yemeni army has released more details of its latest retaliatory operations against Saudi Arabia dubbed ‘Breaking the Siege’, and other similar military actions, emphasizing continuation of such operations until the Riyadh regime stops its aggression against Yemen.

Army spokesman Yahya Saree made the remarks in a press conference aired live from the capital Sana’a on Monday.

Saree said despite relentless aerial and artillery attacks by the Saudi-led coalition and its mercenaries, Yemeni people have remained resilient over the past years of war.

“The Yemeni army will continue its reprisal attacks against Saudi Arabia until Riyadh stops its war of aggression.”

“The Saudi-led coalition says it wants peace but conducts further attacks on civilians,” the Yemeni spokesman said, adding that the enemy “targets residential areas in Yemen.”

On the enemy’s casualty count, Saree said the Yemeni forces had killed and wounded about “20,000 people fighting for the Saudi-led coalition, including more than 10,000 Saudi soldiers, and more than 1,200 Emirati soldiers.”

“The Yemeni army has conducted a considerable number of missile strikes and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” he added.

Saree said of the missile strikes, which totaled over 1,800, at least 1,200 targeted enemy gatherings inside Yemen and nearly 600 had landed on the Saudi and Emirati territory.

“We succeeded in damaging more than 17,000 vehicles, armored vehicles, personnel carriers, tanks, bulldozers and various weapons, most of which are documented by video and audio,” he said.

“The Yemeni army is prepared to face the enemies’ threats,” Saree stated.

“We are not Yemen of surrender. We are Yemen of freedom.”

On Sunday, the spokesman announced a new round of retaliatory attacks against Saudi Arabia. He said the armed forces planned to carry out “special military operations” against sensitive targets that “the criminal enemy [would] never think of” in order to break the unjust siege.

The statement of the armed forces regarding the 3rd Siege-Breaking operation.

— Yahya Sare'e (@Yahya_Saree) March 21, 2022

The Saudi-led coalition has ramped up its airstrikes against various regions across Yemen, tightening the siege and preventing the entry of fuel tankers. In response, the Yemeni armed forces have concluded three ‘Yemen Storm’ operations against the Saudi and Emirati territories with ballistic missiles and drones.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies — including the UAE — launched the war on Yemen in March 2015. It was meant to eliminate Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and reinstall a former regime. The conflict, accompanied by a tight siege, has failed to reach its goals, but has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemeni people.

The Saudi-led coalition has been preventing fuel shipments from reaching Yemen, while looting the impoverished nation’s resources.

The UN says more than 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger. The world body has also labeled the situation in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Source: Press TV

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US sends Patriot missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia amid Yemen retaliation

21 March 2022

The United States has sent a significant number of Patriot antimissile interceptors to Saudi Arabia upon an urgent request from Riyadh, reports say, amid intensified Yemeni retaliatory attacks on the kingdom.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Washington transferred the interceptors to the kingdom within the past month.

The report said the move was aimed to fortify Saudi Arabia’s defense capacity in order to enable the kingdom to fend off drone and missile attacks conducted by the Yemeni army and popular committees in retaliation of the years-long Saudi aggression and siege.

A senior official within the administration of President Joe Biden, who asked not to be named, confirmed the news on Sunday night, telling the Associated Press that the transfer of the interceptors was in line with Biden’s promise that “America will have the backs of our friends in the region.”

Throughout the course of the war, the United States has supported and armed Saudi Arabia. Despite his promise to end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales,” Biden last year approved the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles valued at up to $650 million to Saudi Arabia.

Late in 2021, the Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, told a Middle East conference that Washington was “significantly enhancing Saudi Arabia’s ability to defend itself.”

Saudi Arabia launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, leading a military coalition consisting of its regional allies, including the UAE, and supported by major Western powers, especially the United States.

Although the kingdom estimated at the beginning of the war that it would come out victorious within just a few weeks, the war has continued for seven years, leaving hundreds of thousands of Yemenis dead and displacing millions more.

Yemeni armed forces and allied Popular Committees, however, have grown steadily in strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the country.

Riyadh’s intimate relationship with Washington has turned sour under the Biden administration, which published an assessment by US intelligence agencies that concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) personally ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

The Biden administration, however, has neither punished the prince nor halted its support for Saudi Arabia’s bloody war on Yemen.

Source: Press TV

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Mali’s former prime minister dies in detention: Media

James Tasamba


KIGALI, Rwanda

Mali’s former Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga died in detention on Monday, local media reported. He was 68.

Maiga, the president of the Alliance for Solidarity in Mali–Convergence of Patriotic Forces party, (ASMA-CFP) died on Monday morning at a private clinic in Mali’s capital Bamako, where he had been admitted for treatment, according to reports.

The ex-premier, who served under ex-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was imprisoned last year after allegedly being implicated in a $16.7 million embezzlement case.

Last August, Maiga was detained after being charged with “forgery, use of forgery and favoritism” following an investigation into the purchase of military equipment and the acquisition of a presidential plane in 2014 when he served as a defense minister.

He was believed to have been a close ally of Keita, who was overthrown by Col. Assimi Goita in August 2020.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Jordan's King Abdullah to visit Ramallah in bid to ease tensions ahead of Ramadan

21 March 2022

Jordan's King Abdullah plans to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah next week in a bid to ease tensions in the occupied West Bank, ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israel's Kan news channel reported on Monday.

Kan reported that King Abdullah will be making his first trip to the occupied territories since 2017, before the anniversary of last year's tensions in Jerusalem that later triggered Israel's 11-day offensive on Gaza.

Tensions erupted last year when Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers.

This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian community inside Israel, triggering Israel's large-scale military operation on the besieged Gaza Strip.

According to Axios, US officials have been working to maintain calm in Jerusalem ahead of the anniversary of the May 2021 conflict where around 250 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and 13 people were killed in Israel.

Still, dozens of Israeli settlers flanked by Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa Mosque compound last week to mark the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where al-Aqsa Mosque is located, during the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the entire city in 1980, in a move never recognised by the international community.

Jordan has been the custodian of Jerusalem's Muslim holy sites since the 1920s. The compound, which sits on a tree-lined plateau in the Old City, is also revered by Jews, who call it Temple Mount.

Source: Middle East Eye

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Jordan eases COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Ramadan

Laith al-Juneidi  


AMMAN, Jordan

Jordan on Monday relaxed coronavirus restrictions ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, due to start early April.

Minister of State for Media Affairs, Faisal Shboul, said the measures, which were in place since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, will be eased “in conjunction with the approaching month of Ramadan."

Social distancing during congregation prayers in mosques have been removed and the wearing of masks will be mandatory only in closed spaces, Shboul said.

The minister added that capacity restrictions for public gatherings such as weddings have also been removed, allowing for the establishment of Ramadan iftar (fast-breaking) tents.

He underlined that the decision to relax anti-virus measures was taken based on the recommendations of the Jordanian National Committee for Epidemics.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Tunisia train collision injures 95: Emergency services

21 March ,2022

A collision between two passenger trains injured 95 people on Monday morning in the south of the Tunisian capital, emergency services said.

“The injured were taken to hospitals and there were no deaths,” civil defence spokesman Moez Triaa told AFP, adding that one train contained passengers, while the other was empty.

Most of the injured were suffering from fractures, none of them life-threatening, he said.

The accident happened at 9:30am local time (0830 GMT) in the Jbel Jelloud area of southern Tunis.

The cause was not immediately clear.

Tunisia’s ageing railway system has seen several deadly crashes in recent years.

At least five people were killed and more than 50 injured in late 2016 when a train slammed into a public bus before dawn near the site of Monday’s crash.

Source: Al Arabiya

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