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Islamic World News ( 23 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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France summons Pakistan envoy over criticism of ‘separatism’ bill cracking down on Islamist extremism that ‘stigmatises Muslims’

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 February 2021

 

The remarks by President Arif Alvi came after PM Imran Khan accused France of encouraging Islamophobia [File: Chudary Naseer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

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• Taliban Tells Its Members To Avoid Recruiting Foreign Fighters

• Joe Biden would not be okay if the Taliban ruled Afghanistan: White House

• Al-Qaeda, Daesh terrorists using Ma’rib as launching pad for attacks on all Yemeni regions: Officials

• Can’t equate terror victims & plotters, India tells UN body

• Violence in western Ethiopia forced 7,000 to flee into Sudan: UN

• German court sentences ISIS leader to 10 years, 6 months in prison

• China jails Uighurs for ‘picking quarrels’ and giving gifts

• Gulf countries have to be part of any dialogue on Iran nuclear deal: GCC SG

 

Pakistan

• France summons Pakistan envoy over criticism of ‘separatism’ bill cracking down on Islamist extremism that ‘stigmatises Muslims’

• Pakistan asks world to give up double standard on human rights

• Law has to be followed in good faith: Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed

• 'Sense will prevail': PM Imran woos Sri Lankan businessmen, hopes for better relations with all neighbours

• Pakistan's priorities have shifted from geo-political to geo-economic, says Qureshi

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South Asia

• Taliban Tells Its Members To Avoid Recruiting Foreign Fighters

• Taliban supreme leader says only Shariah court can punish accused

• Sri Lanka Muslims protest Covid cremations as PM Imran visits

• Taliban attack claims 9 uprising force members in Logar

• Afghanistan begins COVID-19 vaccine campaign amid surge in violence

• 42 Taliban killed in Kandahar: MoD

• ‘Violence’ against children spiked in Afghanistan

• Afghan peace talks resume in Doha as US reviews Taliban deal

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North America

• Joe Biden would not be okay if the Taliban ruled Afghanistan: White House

• US President Biden moves to reengage with Palestinians after Israel focus

• Biden has first phone call with Iraq PM, second to a Middle East leader

• US working to increase contributions at next week’s Yemen donor conference

• House Republican lawmakers call on Biden to maintain ‘immense pressure’ on Iran

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Mideast

• Al-Qaeda, Daesh terrorists using Ma’rib as launching pad for attacks on all Yemeni regions: Officials

• Rouhani: Iran’s Defense Power Based on Moral Values

• Qods Force Commander: US Only Understands Language of Force

• US, Britain’s Role in Sabotage Acts in Yemen Revealed by Spies in Court

• Clashes in southeast Iran kill three: Lawmaker

• Israeli court delays PM Netanyahu corruption trial until April

• IAEA chief describes black box-type deal with Iran to monitor its nuclear activities

• US think tank: UAE still an ‘aggressor’ in Yemen despite withdrawal claim

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India

• Can’t equate terror victims & plotters, India tells UN body

• ‘Sanskrit histories of Indo-Muslim rule are diverse in some ways’

• Development in Gujarat does not touch Muslim areas, says Owaisi

• Four terrorists eliminated in ongoing encounter in J&K's Anantnag

• Notification to acquire land for Sunni dam project issued

• ‘Fertility rate higher among Muslims, they want to turn India into Islamic state’: BJP MLA HariBhushan Thakur

• Bombay HC upholds bail for AreebMajeed, Kalyan resident accused of having Islamic State links

• Delhi court frames terror charges against Kashmiri separatist AasiyaAndrabi

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Africa

• Violence in western Ethiopia forced 7,000 to flee into Sudan: UN

• Algerian students hit streets in anti-government protests

• Russian mercenaries seen in Sirte city: Libyan army

• Dozens injured in multiple blasts in northeast Nigeria

• Somalia bans opposition protests in Mogadishu

• Ethiopian peacekeepers in S.Sudan resist going home

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Europe

• German court sentences ISIS leader to 10 years, 6 months in prison

• Iran must cooperate with IAEA for greater transparency: French, UK, German ministers

• French mosque vandalized with Islamophobic graffiti

• Syrian convicted by German court in landmark crimes against humanity trial

• SAS war crimes in Afghanistan: Australia, UK

• Turkey accuses Greece of 'harassing' research ship in Aegean Sea

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Southeast Asia

• China jails Uighurs for ‘picking quarrels’ and giving gifts

• Malaysia deports over 1,000 Myanmar nationals in defiance of court order

• After court halts deportation of 1,200 foreign nationals, Pakatan calls for govt to initiate regional talks on Myanmar coup

• Indonesia seeks to broker Taliban peace deal in Afghanistan

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Arab World

• Gulf countries have to be part of any dialogue on Iran nuclear deal: GCC SG

• State Department warns Egypt against purchasing Russian fighter jets

• Iraqi officials, Kata’ib Hezbollah condemn rocket attack on Baghdad Green Zone

• Over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for 2022 FIFA World Cup: Report

• Saudi students among winners of UAE space pioneers program

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/france-summons-pakistan-envoy-criticism/d/124387

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France summons Pakistan envoy over criticism of ‘separatism’ bill cracking down on Islamist extremism that ‘stigmatises Muslims’

23 Feb 2021

 

The remarks by President Arif Alvi came after PM Imran Khan accused France of encouraging Islamophobia [File: Chudary Naseer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

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The French foreign ministry has summoned Pakistan’s envoy to protest against claims by President ArifAlvi that a French bill cracking down on what it terms “Islamist extremism” stigmatises Muslims.

Addressing a conference on religion on Saturday, Alvi said: “When you see that laws are being changed in favour of a majority to isolate a minority, that is a dangerous precedent.”

Specifically referring to the legislation drafted after the beheading of a French teacher over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, Alvi said: “When you insult the prophet, you insult all Muslims.

“I urge the political leadership of France not to entrench these attitudes into laws … You have to bring people together – not to stamp a religion in a certain manner and create disharmony among the people or create bias.”

Pakistan was one of several Muslim countries that saw angry anti-French protests in October over President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of the right to show cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Pakistan, a country with the second-largest number of Muslims in the world after Indonesia, does not have an ambassador in France.

The French foreign ministry said late Monday it had called in Pakistan’s charge d’affaires to mark “our surprise and our disapproval (over Alvi’s remarks), given that the bill contains no discriminatory element”.

“It is guided by the basic principles of freedom of religion and conscience, makes no distinction between the different religions and applies therefore equally to all faiths,” the ministry said.

“Pakistan must understand this and adopt a constructive attitude for our bilateral relations,” it added.

The bill adopted by the lower house of the French parliament last week is dubbed the “anti-separatism” bill in reference to Macron’s claim that “Islamists” are closing themselves off from French society by refusing to embrace secularism, gender equality and other French values.

The legislation significantly expands the state’s powers to close religious organisations and places of worship if they are found to air “theories or ideas” that “provoke hate or violence towards a person or people”.

It also creates a new crime of “separatism” – described as threatening a public servant to gain “a total or partial exemption or different application of the rules” – that is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Pakistan’s government has been particularly virulent in its condemnation of Macron’s clampdown, which followed a wave of attacks in recent years on French soil.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in October accused Macron on Sunday of “attacking Islam” and choosing to “encourage Islamophobia” for defending the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/23/france-summons-pakistan-envoy-over-criticism-of-separatism-bill

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Taliban Tells Its Members To Avoid Recruiting Foreign Fighters

February 24, 2021

 

Former Taliban fighters after they joined Afghan government forces in Herat. (file photo)

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The Taliban has told its members to avoid recruiting or harboring foreign fighters amid doubts about the militants' commitment to a deal reached with the United States last year that provided for severing links to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda.

“All chiefs and mujahedin are directed to avoid arbitrary moves to bring in foreign nationals into their ranks or harbor them,” the Taliban said in a statement on February 23.

The group warned its fighters that anyone who makes such an attempt will be removed from their assignments, their group will be dissolved, “and will be referred to the military affairs commission for further punishment.”

Under a U.S.-Taliban deal reached in February last year, all foreign forces are to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for security guarantees from the militant group, including severing ties with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group and refusing to harbor any foreign terrorists.

But the militants have been under criticism by Afghan and U.S. officials for continuing their ties with terrorist groups, in particular with Al-Qaeda. The Taliban has denied the accusations.

“We believe that the top leadership of Al-Qaeda is still under Taliban protection,” Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator of the UN's Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, said earlier this month.

According to the UN monitoring team’s report last month, there are 200 to 500 Al-Qaeda fighters across about 11 Afghan provinces.

The Taliban's move comes as peace talks between the group and Afghan government resumed on February 22 in Qatar after a hiatus of more than one month.

https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/taliban-tells-members-to-avoid-recruiting-foreign-fighters/31119080.html

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Joe Biden would not be okay if the Taliban ruled Afghanistan: White House

Feb 24, 2021

 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Persident Biden is 'not Ok'with the Taliban ruling Afghanistan (AP)

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WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden would not be okay if the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, the White House has said, underlining that there is an ongoing process of considering the next steps to ensure peace in the war-torn country.

The US and the Taliban reached an agreement in February 2020 that called for a permanent ceasefire, peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, and a withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 1. There are about 2,500 US troops currently in the country.

The Taliban had their ouster at the hands of US-led troops in 2001.

"I don't think he would say he'd be okay with that," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday when asked if Biden is okay with the Taliban ruling Afghanistan.

"But again, there's an ongoing process of considering the next steps in Afghanistan. That's an ongoing discussion, and I'm not going to get ahead of where that sits at this point in time," Psaki said.

Separately, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that defence secretary Lloyd Austin has been in constant communication with Afghan partners about the ongoing review process and how they are working their way through that.

"We are mindful of looming deadlines here and everybody shares the sense of alacrity when it comes to working our way through this review but we want to do it in a thoughtful, deliberate way, to make sure that whatever decisions are made, they're the best ones, that are in our best national security interests and certainly the security interests of our allies and partners, and that includes the Afghan people," he said.

Meanwhile, during a Congressional hearing General (rtd) Joseph F Dunford, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told lawmakers that Talban gets its financial support from drug trade.

"We know that the Taliban have had sanctuary in Pakistan. We know that they have an active diplomatic effort travelling to Moscow, travelling to Beijing, travelling to other countries. We know they travel in the Gulf. We know Iran has provided some material support," he said.

The Taliban, he said is a Sunni terrorist organisation. "There's no question that the Taliban originates from the madrassas in Pakistan," he said in response to a question. Dunford told lawmakers that the terrorist threat has been reduced because of the US trained Afghan forces and continued US military presence.

"We believe that the threat can reconstitute itself in a period of about 18 to 36 months and present a threat to the homeland and to our allies," he said adding that the Afghan forces are highly dependent on US funding, as well as operational support. They will remain so for some time.

"The probability of civil war is high in the wake of a precipitous US withdrawal," he said, adding that Afghanistan meets the definition of a fragile state. Despite very real challenges, with support, the Afghan government can deliver minimally effective governance.

Dunford, who chairs Afghan Study Group of the US Institute of Peace, told lawmakers that the Taliban were not meeting the conditionality of the February 2020 agreement. That was as a result of not seeing a broad reduction in violence and as a result of not seeing the Taliban demonstrate the will or capacity to prevent Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a platform.

"We are not advocating for a unilateral declaration that we remain behind after the first of May. We're recommending that the Taliban actually hear that same message from other regional stakeholders, not the least of which is China, Russia and Pakistan," he said.

"We do think that continued negotiations with the Taliban to highlight the fact that we remain committed to the February 2020 Agreement. We have demonstrated that, by drawing down to 2,500, we remain committed," he said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/joe-biden-would-not-be-okay-if-the-taliban-ruled-afghanistan-white-house/articleshow/81186086.cms

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Al-Qaeda, Daesh terrorists using Ma’rib as launching pad for attacks on all Yemeni regions: Officials

24 February 2021

 

This undated file picture shows members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group at an undisclosed location in Yemen’s southern province of al-Bayda. (Photo via Twitter)

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Yemeni officials say members of the Takfiri al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups are using the center of strategic Ma’rib Province to launch attacks on other regions in the war-ravaged country, and that the militants are receiving training from Saudi military officers.

“Al-Qaeda and Daesh [terrorist] groups have turned Ma’rib into a launching pad for attacks on entire Yemeni regions. They are under the auspices of a Saudi officer, and sending car bombs and death squads across the country,” Director of Yemen’s Presidency Office Ahmed Hamed said at a ceremony in Sana’a on Tuesday.

He added, “Those who are now crying foul at the ongoing battle in Ma’rib kept mum when Sana’a was under threat by [the al-Qaeda-affiliated Salafist] Islah Party, al-Qaeda and Daesh [terrorists].”

“Why is it that no one is worried about the closure of Sana’a International Airport, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of patients? Why is it that no one is concerned about the seizure of Yemen-bound oil tankers, which has brought vital, health and service sectors in Yemen to a standstill. This is while al-Qaeda and Daesh operatives have occupied the city of Ma’rib and displaced its local residents. It is very heartbreaking,” Hamed said.

Chairman of the Comprehensive National Reconciliation and Political Solution Team Yousef Abdullah al-Fishi also said Yemeni and foreign militants from Islah Party as well as al-Qaeda and Daesh terror groups have come together in Ma’rib, displaced locals and usurped their residences.

“Why don’t we hear the United Nations, the Security Council, the international community and, above all, the United States voicing concern about the brutal siege of 30 million people [in Yemen]?,” he questioned.

Over the past few weeks, Ma’rib has been the scene of large-scale operations by Yemeni troops and allied Popular Committees fighters, who are pushing against Saudi-backed militants loyal to former president AbdRabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Last week, the DaeshTakfiri terrorist group said it had carried out operations against the Yemeni armed forces in the province, killing and wounding a number of them in the process.

The Lebanon-based al-Akhbar newspaper wrote on Monday that Ma’rib is witnessing a real coup against Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom’s actions to muster support are no longer effective as local tribes tend to sign peace agreements with advancing Yemeni army troops and Popular Committees fighters.

The report highlighted that the unfolding development is a major blow to the Riyadh regime as Ma’rib tribes have been in contact with the House of Saud for decades.

The tribes have seemingly had friendly relations with Saudi princes at various periods. Saudi officials have been trying for decades to attract religious scholars from Ma’rib in order to train them in the kingdom as part of a plan to change the strategic Yemeni region’s culture.

‘Enemy should not have foothold in any Yemeni province’

Meanwhile, the spokesman of Yemen’s HouthiAnsarullah movement, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, has called for the expulsion of foreign military forces from the country, stressing that enemy should not be given a chance to gain a foothold in any Yemeni region, be it Ma’rib or any other place.

“The expulsion of the foreign occupier is the duty of every free Yemeni national. Cooperation among people from all walks of life is required in order to liberate all provinces. The enemy should not have a foothold in any [Yemeni] province as it has tried in Ma’rib,” he said in a post published on his Twitter page on Tuesday.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/24/645942/Al-Qaeda,-Daesh-terrorists-using-Ma%E2%80%99rib-as-launching-pad-for-attacks-on-all-Yemeni-regions--Officials

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Can’t equate terror victims & plotters, India tells UN body

Feb 24, 2021

NEW DELHI: Foreign minister S Jaishankar reminded the UN Human Rights Council, which has also passed critical comments on Jammu & Kashmir, that terrorism is a crime against humanity and violates the most fundamental human right, the right to life.

Addressing the high level segment at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, Jaishankar said, “As a longstanding victim, India has been in the forefront of global action against terrorism. This is possible only when there is a clear realisation, including in bodies dealing with human rights, that terrorism can never be justified, nor its perpetrators ever equated with its victims.”

The exchanges have continued to be sharp after Michelle Bachelet, a socialist politician and former Chilean President, became United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Jaishankar’s strong words are a pointed message to the global human rights body that has been critical of decisions like scrapping of Article 370 in J&K but which seldom pays attention to the role of Pakistan-backed terrorists in inflicting loss of lives and preventing normalcy in the Union Territory.

In the past, India has said the council has taken egregious and unwarranted positions that do not recognise the efforts to ensure democratic functioning in the terror-hit region. In October 2020, the UNGA elected China, Cuba, Gabon, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan as members of the UNHRC, a fact that came under severe criticism. Pakistan was re-elected with China’s help even though in 2019, it failed to secure the necessary support to call for a debate on Kashmir, after India nullified Article 370.

Jaishankar said, “violation of and gaps in implementation of human rights should be addressed in a fair and just manner, with objectivity, non-selectivity, transparency and with due respect to the principles of non-interference in internal affairs and national sovereignty.” The UNHRC has issued a number of very critical reports against India, particularly on Kashmir.

The US quit the UNHRC in 2018 during the Trump administration citing unfair treatment by the body of Israel. Last week, the Biden administration said they would re-engage UNHRC formally, though a formal return may happen at the end of the year, say sources.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/cant-equate-terror-victims-plotters-india-tells-un-body/articleshow/81181297.cms

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Violence in western Ethiopia forced 7,000 to flee into Sudan: UN

23 February 2021

At least 7,000 people who fled escalating ethnic violence in western Ethiopia have sought refuge in neighboring Sudan, the United Nations refugee agency says.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that most of the asylum seekers who fled ethnic violence in the Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz region were living among Sudanese host communities.

The refugee agency was working with local authorities in Sudan's Blue Nile Province to respond to the humanitarian needs of the newly-arrived refugees.

"The situation [in Metekel] has rapidly escalated in the past three months," Babar Baloch, the UNHCR spokesman, said in the Swiss city of Geneva.

"The stories the refugees are bringing... they are fleeing attacks from their opponents," Baloch said.

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission,  more than 180 people were killed in separate massacres in Metekel in December 2020 and January.

This came after members of the ethnic Gumuz community, the ethnic majority in the region, attacked the houses of ethnic Amhara, Oromo, and Shinasha tribes.

The rights group said the Gumuz set the houses on fire and stabbed and shot residents.

Fighters from Amhara, the second most populous ethnic group in Ethiopia, have been accused by witnesses of carrying out atrocities along with Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region

The bloodshed in the Metekel Zone is separate from the deadly conflict in Tigray, which has sent more than 61,000 Ethiopians into Sudan's provinces of al-Qadarif and Kassala since fighting erupted in November last year.

The new influx of refugees into Sudan comes amid tensions between Addis Ababa and Khartoum over a border dispute and the deadlocked talks over a massive dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile.

Tensions between the two countries further escalated after the Ethiopian government launched a military campaign against rebels in Tigray last year.

Tensions have led to armed clashes between Sudanese and Ethiopian forces in recent months, with each sides accusing the other of instigating the violence. The two countries held talks in Khartoum in January to deescalate.

Sudan also demands that Ethiopia guarantee the complete re-demarcation of their mutual borders and return to negotiations as previously agreed upon.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/23/645919/Violence-in-western-Ethiopia-forced-7,000-to-flee-into-Sudan--UN

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German court sentences ISIS leader to 10 years, 6 months in prison

24 February ,2021

An Iraqi preacher said to be ISIS’ de facto leader in Germany was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison by a German court on Wednesday.

Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah Abdullah, better known as Abu Walaa, was accused of directing an extremist network which radicalized young people in Europe and helped them travel to Iraq and Syria.

The 37-year-old was found guilty of membership of a foreign terrorist organization, aiding the preparation of subversive violent acts and financing terrorism.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2021/02/24/Terrorism-German-court-sentences-ISIS-leader-to-10-years-6-months-in-prison

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China jails Uighurs for ‘picking quarrels’ and giving gifts

February 24, 2021

BEIJING: China has dramatically increased its prosecution of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang through the formal court system, handing out long prison terms for dubious charges such as “picking quarrels” and giving gifts to overseas relatives, a rights group said Wednesday.

These criminal convictions are in addition to the detention of an estimated one million Uighurs and other mainly Muslim minorities in “political education” camps in Xinjiang.

More than 250,000 people in the northwestern region have been formally sentenced and imprisoned since 2016, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Despite the veneer of legality, many of those in Xinjiang’s prisons are ordinary people who were convicted for going about their lives and practising their religion,” HRW researcher Maya Wang said in a statement.

The US State Department has said China’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide, while Canadian lawmakers on Tuesday passed a similar declaration.

HRW said criminal sentences in the region had spiked between 2017 and 2019 during a crackdown on Uighurs and other mainly Muslim minorities.

Xinjiang courts sentenced nearly 100,000 people in 2017, up from less than 40,000 in 2016, the organisation said, citing government data.

The rights group said police, prosecutors and courts had been placed under pressure to “deliver swift and harsh punishment” in the name of counter-terrorism, causing many to be imprisoned without committing any genuine offence.

Sentences were handed out for activities including “telling others ‘what is haram and halal'” and bringing gifts to relatives in Turkey, HRW said, noting that prison terms have also grown longer.

Prior to 2017, around 11% of the sentences carried prison terms of over five years. In 2017, 87% did.

China’s treatment and incarceration of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, which includes accusations of forcibly sterilising women and imposing a regime of forced labour, has drawn a growing chorus of international condemnation.

After initially denying the existence of camps in Xinjiang, Beijing later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday that Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang was a “shining example” of China’s human rights progress.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/world/2021/02/24/china-jails-uighurs-for-picking-quarrels-and-giving-gifts/

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Gulf countries have to be part of any dialogue on Iran nuclear deal: GCC SG

Tuqa Khalid

24 February ,2021

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries need to be part of any dialogue related to Iran’s nuclear deal, GCC Secretary General NayefFalah Mubarak al-Hajraf said on Tuesday.

“On the Iranian nuclear file, al-Hajraf called for the necessity for the GCC to participate in any negotiations related to the security and stability of the region,” the secretariat of the GCC, made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, said in a statement after the Secretary General’s meeting with ambassadors of the European Union in Riyadh.

Washington and Tehran are locked in a standoff over reviving nuclear talks.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has signaled to Iran its willingness to return to talks to revive the nuclear deal Former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Biden reversed Trump’s determination that all UN sanctions against Iran had been restored. And the State Department eased stringent restrictions on the domestic travel of Iranian diplomats in New York.

Yet, Tehran demanded that all Trump-era sanctions on Iran be lifted before taking any real action to return to the deal. Iran also upped the ante by officially restricting site inspections by the UN's nuclear watchdog IAEA.

The GCC SG also called on Iran to quit interfering in the internal affairs of countries and stop “destabilizing security and stability by supporting terrorist groups” in the region.

Gulf countries have been at odds with longtime foe Iran for decades, condemning Tehran’s long history of arming and financially supporting its network of proxies – Shia militias across the Middle East – to further its influence in the region.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/02/24/Iran-nuclear-deal-Gulf-countries-have-to-be-part-of-any-dialogue-on-Iran-nuclear-deal-GCC-SG

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Pakistan

 

Pakistan asks world to give up double standard on human rights

February 24, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday asked the United Nations Human Rights Council and the international community to give up politically driven double standard on human rights, especially in Occupied Kashmir, and hold the abusers accountable for their actions instead of appeasing them.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr ShireenMazari, in a video statement at the high-level segment of the 46th Human Rights Council session, drew the council’s attention towards Occupied Kashmir, which she said was witnessing “a full-blown human rights crisis”.

In her remarks, the minister also touched upon growing Islamophobia, spread of state-sponsored hatred and dehumanisation of the oppressed on the pretext of freedom of expression or secularism. Calling out the standard bearers of human rights on their alleged hypocrisy, she said they “prioritise political, strategic and commercial interests over human rights values and principles”.

The minister regretted that even public calls for accountability of some of the powerful and ‘friendly’ states were conspicuously missing.

Highlighting the aggravating situation in Occupied Kashmir, Dr Mazari said about “eight million Kashmiris have been caged up in one of the world’s largest concentration camps. Using draconian laws, Indian forces have intensified systematic use of summary executions, torture and rape as a weapon”.

She also mentioned the encounters staged by the Indian security forces, imposition of collective punishment on communities, use of live ammunitions, including pellet gunshots, against peaceful protesters and religious gatherings.

The minister recalled that a large number of political leaders, activists and journalists have been put in jails by the Indian government without due process.

“Cowed by brave indigenous voices, Indian troops are gagging local media, harassing journalists and carrying out reprisal attacks against human rights defenders,” she added.

Dr Mazari said Indian forces enjoyed complete impunity in held Kashmir for their crimes and excessive use of force against the local population.

“Not a single member of Indian army has so far been prosecuted for the widely documented human violations in the occupied territory, including the mass rape of Kashmiri women in the villages of Kunan and Poshpura in 1991 — just one of the many such instances of use of rape as a weapon by the occupying forces,” she remarked.

About Indian actions to change the demography of the occupied territory for converting its Muslim majority into a minority, she said this was being done on an “unprecedented” scale and over 3 million non-Kashmiris have been illegally granted Kashmiri citizenship; allowed permanent settlement, and purchase of properties and lands, and they were taking up local jobs in the occupied territory.

The human rights minister reminded the council of two of its reports on held Kashmir in 2018 and 2019 that had been commissioned by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Joint Statement on Jammu and Kashmir, endorsed by more than 50 states at the 42nd session.

The council, she said, while implementing the recommendations of the two reports should establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate and report human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

She further asked High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to continue with the Kashmir reporting process in exercise of her monitoring and prevention mandate.

“Appeasement or inaction are no options. Doing so will only embolden the abuser. Let us not repeat mistakes of the past but rather demonstrate the courage to stand firmly on the right side of the history,” she asserted.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1609051/pakistan-asks-world-to-give-up-double-standard-on-human-rights

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Law has to be followed in good faith: Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed

SHAHID RAO

February 24, 2021

ISLAMABAD - Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan Tuesday in the Supreme Court strongly opposed to hear the arguments of the Bar Associations in the reference regarding holding of the Senate elections either through “secret ballot” or “open ballot”.

The AGP said that the bars should have taken notice of the lawyers’ protest. They did nothing when some lawyers had attacked the Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Chambers, he added. He requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan to decide the reference by Friday (February 26), saying that afterwards the arguments on the Reference will merely be academic.

He opposed the petitions before a five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice MushirAlam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice YahyaAfridi during the hearing of the reference regarding holding of the Senate elections either through “secret ballot” or “open ballot”.

It is likely that the bench will reserve or announce a short order on the Presidential Reference today.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed directed Senator RazaRabbani, who is representing PPP, and appearing in his personal capacity, to complete the argument by Wednesday.

The court allotted RazaRabbani, Farooq H Naek, counsel for Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Sindh Bar Association half an hour to each for completing arguments on February 24. They were asked to file their synopsis. Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami have adopted the arguments of RazaRabbani.

Earlier, during the proceedings, responding to a court query, RazaRabbani said that proportional representation is a system and it is not for reflecting the party strength in the Senate. He added that Article 59(2) of Constitution provides for the proportional representation. He further argued that the system requires the party is represented in the Senate, but the political alliance and compulsion can alternate the mathematical number of the parties in the Senate. He said that it does not mean that an MP is involved in the corrupt practice if he has not given vote to another party.

Justice Gulzar asked from the counsel that you mean to say that if the strength of a political party is not reflected in the Senate as there is room to enter into alliance and there could be different matters.

Justice Ijaz asked from Rabbani that you are accepting that ordinarily the party strength needs to be reflected but if there is a distortion then the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) cannot look in to it.

Rabbani replied that the ECP can look the ballots but the secrecy of the vote mentioned in Article 226 should not to be disturbed.

The counsel argued that Section 167 of Election Act, 2017, deals with the corrupt practice that a person is guilty of the offence of corrupt practice if he is guilty of bribery, personation, exercising undue influence. He said that in Section 168 bribery is defined that a person is guilty of bribery, if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf receives or agrees to receive or contracts for any gratification for voting or refraining from voting. He argued if it comes to the notice of someone that an MP has cast or refrained from polling vote for money then that MP has committed corrupt practice and there is punishment for it.

Justice Ijaz said that the corruption has many variations and there should be some post-election material to connect the corrupt practice. You have taken money for refraining to cast vote is also corrupt practice. He asked that is it necessary to have video of it.

Rabbani responded that what had happened to those videos which came to limelight and those videos are of 2018 elections but no action was taken. The Chief Justice questioned, “We do not like to have system that a legislator involved in corrupt practice be caught.”

RazaRabbani said that constitution does not allow identification of voters.

Rabbani said that suppose an MPA has refrained from voting then how it would be determined that he has been involved in the corrupt practice. Rabbani contended that the basic question of the Reference, filed by the federal government, is whether Senate elections are under the Constitution or not? He said that it is not the objective of the Reference that there should be secret or open ballot for Senate election.

Later, the bench adjourned the hearing till today for further proceedings.

APP ads: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday remarked that whatever was written in the law had to be followed in good faith.

During the course of proceedings of presidential reference seeking an opinion on open balloting for the upcoming Senate elections, CJP remarked that Implementation of the law with malicious intention causes problem.

Justice Ijaz said that the rules were framed under the Constitution. The status of the Rules for the Election Act was not constitutional, he added. He said that entire procedure of the Senate election had been in the law and not in the constitution. Later the court adjourned hearing on Presidential reference seeking an opinion on open balloting for the upcoming Senate elections till Wednesday.

https://nation.com.pk/24-Feb-2021/law-has-to-be-followed-in-good-faith-chief-justice-gulzar-ahmed

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'Sense will prevail': PM Imran woos Sri Lankan businessmen, hopes for better relations with all neighbours

February 24, 2021

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that the only way forward for the subcontinent is to resolve existing issues through dialogue.

"Immediately when I came into power, I approached our neighbour India and explained to Prime Minister NarendraModi that the way forward for the subcontinent is to resolve our differences through dialogue.

"I didn't succeed but I am optimistic that eventually sense will prevail. The only way the subcontinent can tackle poverty is by improving trade relations. Let us live like civilised neighbours as the Europeans live."

The prime minister expressed the views while addressing the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference in Colombo, aimed at promoting trade and investment between the two countries.

"Germany and France have fought multiple times, but today it is unthinkable for them to have a conflict because they are so interlinked due to trade. Similarly, my dream for the subcontinent is that we resolve our differences," he said, adding that the Kashmir issue was the only conflict in the region.

"All we want is for the Kashmir dispute to be resolved according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions and this can only be achieved through dialogue."

The prime minister said that a conflict between two nations only breeds more conflict. "We need to resolve our differences through dialogue and not through conflict. Imagine the potential for trade within the subcontinent," he said, adding that the only thing stopping the region from realising this potential was the inability to resolve differences through dialogue.

He expressed the hope that Pakistan could also play its part in reducing rising tensions between the United States and China. "We would much rather be a country that brings other nations and humanity together," he said.

Poverty alleviation

PM Imran began his address by stating that poverty alleviation was his motivation behind entering politics. "Twenty five years ago, I entered politics because I felt that the best way to reduce poverty in our country was to setup a welfare state," adding that he realised that the Sri Lankan leadership was also motivated by poverty alleviation.

He said that during his meeting with Sri Lankan President GotabayaRajapaksa, the two discussed how to bring down the rising cost of food items. Earlier today, the premier called on the Sri Lankan president for a one-on-one meeting at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

"He told me how he went to China and visited various farms where the gap between the wholesale and the retail [market] had been reduced."

In Pakistan, a huge gap exists between these two, he said, adding that he was going to take the Sri Lankan president's input on board.

"The other way we can reduce poverty is through investment and promoting profitability in business. We have completely changed our policies in Pakistan," he said, adding that in the past, government policies had impeded foreign investment.

Stating that the country's ranking on the Ease of Doing Business index had improved, PM Imran said that the whole idea was to generate wealth to uplift the underprivileged. "This is what China did."

The prime minister also touched on the relations between the two countries, saying that Pakistan could learn the most from Sri Lanka in terms of tourism.

"You have a much more advanced tourism industry compared to us. Pakistan has enormous potential for tourism but that potential has been limited to local tourism so far, not foreign tourism."

At the end of his address, PM Imran once again urged the Sri Lankan business community to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. "It gives you the opportunity of connecting from Gwadar right up to Uzbekistan and the central Asian states.

"This is the connectivity that Pakistan offers [...] we have these special economic zones which give incentives to businesses to set up industries there. So I invite Sri Lankan businesses, businessmen and investment, you can come over to Pakistan."

'Focus is economic diplomacy'

Addressing the conference, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the two countries have to look at how to improve bilateral relations.

"When Imran Khan took reins of the government, our economic indicators were pointing in the wrong direction. [But] in two-and-a-half years we have achieved, to a large extent, economic stability," he said, adding that the focus had now shifted towards growth.

Pakistan has moved up a number of places in the Ease of Doing Business ranking and the government is also facilitating investment, he said. "Our focus has shifted from geo-politics to geo-economics," he said.

He added that the aim was to make Pakistan a hub of economic activity, while focusing on development and connectivity. Addressing the participants of the conference, he said that the Foreign Office was committed to assisting and facilitating Sri Lankan businessmen.

"Our focus is economic diplomacy. You are welcome to come to Pakistan, you will see how hospitable it will be," he concluded.

Dawood appeals to business community

Commerce Adviser Abdul RazakDawood said that the aim of the conference was to bring the business communities of the two countries together to explore new ideas and opportunities for increasing trade and investment.

"Fellow business people, under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, we have come here not to fear the future but to shape it," he said.

The adviser maintained that while there is trade between the two countries, it is not "good enough" and doesn't match the relationship between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

He said that Pakistan has made a dramatic economic turnaround and is witnessing industrial growth. "So take advantage of this," he said in an appeal to the Sri Lankan business community.

"We stand at a moment where our capacity to change the economic relationship is unmatched [...]. We must not accept the current level of economic relations and must imagine future relations," he said.

PM Imran meets Sri Lankan president

Earlier today, PM Imran called on the Sri Lankan president at the President House in Colombo. According to the Prime Minister's Office, the one-on-one meeting between the two leaders was followed by delegation-level talks.

"The premier underlined the exceptional quality of Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations marked by trust, understanding and mutual support. The prime minister emphasised the importance of building a robust economic partnership characterised by enhanced bilateral trade, investments, and commercial cooperation," the statement said.

The prime minister also laid emphasis on deeper collaboration in diverse fields — particularly agriculture, tourism, science and technology, sports, education and culture. The importance of sharing experiences in poverty alleviation was also stressed.

The prime minister underlined that Pakistan and Sri Lanka had always stood by each other. He re-affirmed Pakistan’s steadfast support to Sri Lanka in the future. The close cooperation between the two sides in the multilateral fora was re-affirmed, the statement said.

While noting the close traditional and cultural ties between the two countries, PM Imran highlighted that Pakistan has the potential of being a choice destination for religious tourism for Sri Lankan people. He particularly highlighted the rich Buddhist heritage of Pakistan.

"In the regional context, the premier shared his vision of peace, development, and connectivity. He also emphasized the importance of regional cooperation through the platform of SAARC and the opportunities for regional prosperity through CPEC, the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative," the statement said.

PM Imran extended a cordial invitation to President Rajapaksa to visit Pakistan at the earliest convenience, the statement concluded.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1609145/sense-will-prevail-pm-imran-woos-sri-lankan-businessmen-hopes-for-better-relations-with-all-neighbours

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Pakistan's priorities have shifted from geo-political to geo-economic, says Qureshi

February 24, 2021

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan has "shifted its geo-political priorities into geo-economic priorities", while speaking about Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Sri Lanka.

The foreign minister was briefing the media about the premier's maiden visit to Colombo. Qureshi said that Pakistan has offered a credit line of $15 million to Sri Lanka for defence and security cooperation to "end the menace of terrorism [which is] of equal importance to both" countries.

Furthermore, the government has also decided to offer scholarships to 100 Sri Lankan students in the top medical institutes in Pakistan, he said.

FM Qureshi assured that Pakistan stood by Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism especially when the latter was "in trouble and terrorism [there] was at its peak". "They share credit [of defeating terrorism] with Pakistan," Qureshi said in a conversation with reporters.

He said that the prime minister's visit will help in strengthening bilateral ties and increase cooperation between the two countries, Radio Pakistan reported.

The two sides also discussed ways to enhance bilateral trade and investment during the visit, Qureshi said, adding that trade between the two countries was below potential even though a free trade agreement existed.

The country is also looking at ways to promote tourism, noting that Pakistan had several Buddhist sites that would be attractive to Sri Lanka's citizens. Furthermore, the varied landscapes and climate zones in Pakistan are also of attraction for visitors.

PM Imran's visit

PM Imran arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday on a two-day visit on the invitation of the country's prime minister, MahindaRajapaksa.

On arrival in Colombo, he was received by his Sri Lankan counterpart and presented a guard of honour. He was later introduced to members of the Sri Lankan cabinet.Prime Minister Imran and Rajapaksa then held a one-on-one meeting at Temple Trees, the official residence of the Sri Lankan prime minister.

It was followed by delegation-level talks between Imran and Rajapaksa, according to the former's office.

A Foreign Office statement said yesterday that Imran and Rajapaksa during the meeting held wide-ranging discussions with a focus on reinforcing a "broad-based and enduring partnership" between Pakistan and Sri Lanka to advance the shared objectives of peace, stability and economic prosperity in South Asia.

The two leaders reaffirmed their resolve to work together across a broad range of areas and acknowledged the opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration in the areas of trade and investment, IT and human resource development, agriculture and science and technology, security and defence cooperation, and culture and tourism.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1609136/pakistans-priorities-have-shifted-from-geo-political-to-geo-economic-says-qureshi

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South Asia

 

Taliban supreme leader says only Shariah court can punish accused

February 24, 2021

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban supreme leader Shaikh HaibatullahAkhundzada has said that only their court and judges had the authority to punish someone after a proper trial and Taliban members violating this order would be made accountable.

In an order posted on the Taliban website, he said if a prisoner is taken or an accused is held by Taliban that person should be presented before a Taliban Shaiah Court and put on trial. The directive said no Taliban member or official other than the Taliban court had the power to award punishment to an accused.

Shaikh HaibatullahAkhundzada in his directive said Taliban must abide by the law and policies of the movement and refrain from violations that cause suffering to the common people.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/794709-taliban-supreme-leader-says-only-shariah-court-can-punish-accused

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Sri Lanka Muslims protest Covid cremations as PM Imran visits

February 23, 2021

Sri Lanka minority Muslim community demonstrated in Colombo on Tuesday demanding an end to forced cremations of Covid-19 victims as Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived on an official visit.

Dozens of Muslims carried a mock janazah, or coffin, denouncing the Sri Lankan government's policy of banning burials of virus victims disregarding their funeral rites.

The demonstration was aimed at the visit of Prime Minister Imran who two weeks ago had weighed in on the plight of Muslims in Sri Lanka.

He had welcomed an announcement by Prime Minister MahindaRajapaksa on February 10 that burials would be allowed, but a day later Colombo backtracked and said there would be no change in the cremation-only policy.

“Respect Prime Minister's statement and allow burials,” said a banner carried by the demonstrators who assembled at an open space in front of President GotabayaRajapaksa's office.

His government has rejected international pleas and recommendations from its own experts to allow Muslims to bury their dead in line with Islamic custom.

The government first banned burials in April amid concerns — which experts say are baseless — by influential Buddhist monks that burying bodies could contaminate groundwater and spread the virus. The World Health Organisation has said there is no such risk, recommending both burial and cremation of virus victims.

Traditionally, Muslims bury their dead facing Makkah. Sri Lanka's majority Buddhists, who are strong backers of the current government, are typically cremated, as are Hindus.

In December, the authorities ordered the forced cremation of at least 19 Muslim Covid-19 victims, including a baby, after their families refused to claim their bodies from a hospital morgue.

This stoked dismay and anger among the Muslim community, moderates and abroad, with the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation repeatedly expressing concern.

There have been ongoing tensions between Muslims and the majority Sinhalese — who are mostly Buddhists — since the deadly 2019 Easter bombings carried out by local jihadists.

Muslim community leaders say more than half the 450 Covid-19 victims were from the Muslim minority which accounts for just 10 per cent of the 21 million population.

Muslims have a disproportionate number of fatalities because they don't seek treatment, fearing they will be cremated if they are diagnosed with the virus, they have said.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1608985/sri-lanka-muslims-protest-covid-cremations-as-pm-imran-visits

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Taliban attack claims 9 uprising force members in Logar

23 Feb 2021

At least nine public uprising force members were killed in a Taliban offensive in Logar province on Monday night.

The public uprising force members were attacked in the Hesarak area in Pul-e-Alam the provincial capital.

Sources told media the clashes continued for hours until the outpost fell to the Taliban.The Taliban storm and overrun resulted in the death of 9 public uprising force members, local sources told media.

Taliban also took weapons and ammunitions from the outpost with them.

Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for the incident.

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-attack-claims-9-uprising-force-members-in-logar-343437/

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Afghanistan begins COVID-19 vaccine campaign amid surge in violence

February 23, 2021

KABUL: Afghanistan on Tuesday launched a Covid-19 vaccination campaign aimed at inoculating hundreds of thousands, as the war-weary nation reels from near-daily attacks by insurgents.

Doctors, security personnel, and journalists were among the first volunteers to receive doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, donated earlier this month by India.

“Today, I congratulate the people of Afghanistan for the launch of the first stage of Covid-19 vaccine [drive] with 500,000 doses of vaccines. This is a big opportunity for the people of Afghanistan,” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as the first jabs were administered.

“We don’t expect any miracles, but let’s help this campaign to be implemented justly,” the country’s acting health minister WaheedMajroh added.

Afghanistan is believed to have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last year, but limited testing and a ramshackle health care sector have hampered its ability to track the virus.

Officially the country has recorded just 55,600 confirmed cases and about 2,430 deaths.

But a survey published by the country’s health ministry last August estimated that up to 10 million people — nearly a third of the population — might have been infected with the coronavirus.

Kabul, along with urban areas across the country, have been rocked in the recent weeks by frequent explosions on an almost daily basis amid fraught peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

Decades of conflict have slowed past vaccine drives in Afghanistan, including an anti-polio campaign, with swathes of the country under the control of insurgents making access difficult for inoculation teams.

The war-torn country kicked off its vaccine drive as controversies dogged inoculation plans across the globe, with accusations of dose hoarding, supply shortages and logistical headaches slowing the delivery of jabs.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1814261/world

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42 Taliban killed in Kandahar: MoD

24 Feb 2021

The Ministry of Defense on Wednesday stated that 42 Taliban fighters were killed in the Mianshin, Panjwai, and Arghandab districts of Kandahar province.

MoD in a released statement said Afghan national defense and security forces backed by air support launched an operation in three districts of southern Kandahar province.

During the clashes 42 Taliban were killed, 8 wounded also the group’s stronghold, four motorbikes, and some of their weapons and ammunition were wrecked in the operations.

According to the statement, defense forces discovered and defused 35 various types of IEDs and mines in the Arghandab and Maiwand districts of the province by doing so the Afghan forces prevented major casualties and saved dozens of innocent lives.

This comes as one policeman was and four others were injured in a Taliban offensive in Nurgaram district of Nuristan on Tuesday night

Local sources told the media that if reinforcements are not sent, the Taliban will take over the center of the district and accused government officials of not being attentive to the security situation in the region.

Taliban and government officials have not yet commented on the incident.

https://www.khaama.com/42-taliban-killed-in-kandahar-mod-3434366/

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‘Violence’ against children spiked in Afghanistan

23 Feb 2021

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said in a report on Tuesday that over 2,019 children have been killed and injured during the 2020 battles in Afghanistan.

In an annual report based on the children’s rights, AIHRC stated the child casualties had dropped to 25.1 percent compared to 2019, but violence against children has increased to 16 percent.

Physical, mental, economic, sexual, and other forms of violence have been recorded against children, and out of 1,391 children who were recorded as victims of violence 984 (68.2%) are boys and 443 (31.8%) are girls.

“This research reflects the human rights situation of 5,318 children (3,807 boys, and 1,509 girls) from 28 provinces of the country. 19.3 percent of these children are between 7 and 11 years of age, and 80.7 percent of them are between 12 and 18 years old,” AIHRC stated.

According to AIHRC, “In 1399 (2020), 628 (45.1 percent) of children included in the study, were victims of psychological violence, 606 (43.6 percent) were victims of physical violence, 44 (3.2 percent) victims of economic violence, and 34 (2.4 percent) were victims of sexual violence; and 79 (5.7 percent), were victims of other types of violence that are not listed under verbal-psychological, physical, economic and sexual violence”.

The number of children deprived of education due to poverty, security issues, and family also had a sharp rise, the report indicated.

The report also added at least 100 children were recruited by illegal armed groups and the government.

This comes as UNAMA in a report said that amid peace efforts civilian casualties have doubled.

https://www.khaama.com/violence-against-children-spiked-in-afghanistan-223322/

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Afghan peace talks resume in Doha as US reviews Taliban deal

23 Feb 2021

Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have resumed in the Qatari capital Doha after weeks of delays, escalating violence and a change in US diplomatic leadership as the Biden administration began.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem tweeted on Monday night the resumption of the talks, which were the outcome of an agreement between the Afghan armed group and the US in February 2020.

But the administration of President Joe Biden is reviewing the agreement, which was aimed at ending the longest war the US has fought. The Taliban has been fighting the combined forces of the Western-backed Kabul government and foreign troops since it was toppled in a US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Last week, the Taliban in an open letter called on the US to fully implement the Doha accord, including the withdrawal of all international troops, saying it had committed to its side of the deal – to secure US security interests in the war-torn country.

Setting the agenda

There were no details about the talks except for an announcement that the first item of business would be setting the agenda.

When talks ended abruptly in January, days after they began, both sides submitted their wish lists for agendas which they now have to sift through to agree on negotiation items and the order in which they will be tackled.

The priority for the Afghan government, Washington and NATO is a serious reduction in violence that can lead to a ceasefire, the Taliban have until now resisted any immediate ceasefire.

Washington is reviewing the Doha peace agreement the previous Trump administration signed with the Taliban as consensus mounts in Washington that a delay of the withdrawal deadline is needed. The Taliban have resisted suggestions of even a brief extension.

There has been a suggestion of a smaller intelligence-based force staying behind that would focus almost exclusively on ‘counterterrorism’ and an increasingly active and deadly ISIL (ISIS) affiliate in eastern Afghanistan.

But neither Washington nor NATO has yet announced a decision on the fate of an estimated 10,000 foreign troops, including 2,500 American soldiers, still stationed in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the troops from the transatlantic alliance would not withdraw from Afghanistan “before the time is right”, adding that the Taliban must do more to meet the terms of the agreement with the US.

Political solution

The Biden administration, which has emphasised a political solution to the protracted conflict, retained US diplomat ZalmayKhalilzad, who negotiated the US agreement with the Taliban but has until now avoided any definitive statements about the road forward on Afghanistan.

The resumption in talks in Doha comes on the heels of hectic diplomatic activity, including reaching out to Pakistani officials and its powerful Army Chief General QamarJavedBajwa.

Pakistan is seen as critical to getting the Taliban back to the negotiating table, and it can use its influence to pressure the Taliban to reduce violence in Afghanistan.

Last week, the head of US Central Command, General Kenneth F McKenzie, was in Islamabad, as was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Afghan envoy, ZamirKabulov and Qatari foreign ministry special envoy Mutlaq Bin Majed Al Qahtani.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy Umar Daudzai is expected in Islamabad on Wednesday.

While details of the meetings have been sketchy, Afghanistan featured prominently and officials familiar with the talks said a reduction of violence and eventual ceasefire dominated discussions.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/23/afghan-peace-talks-resume-but-path-is-anything-but-certain

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North America

 

US President Biden moves to reengage with Palestinians after Israel focus

24 February ,2021

The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office.

As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America's closest partner in the region.

On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state.

The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993.

“During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement.

“The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said.

U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution.

Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

In Monday's call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty.

The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2021/02/24/US-President-Biden-moves-to-reengage-with-Palestinians-after-Israel-focus

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Biden has first phone call with Iraq PM, second to a Middle East leader

Joseph Haboush

23 February ,2021

US President Joe Biden had his first phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Tuesday, a tweet from the latter said.

In what was one of the first calls to a Middle East leader, Biden and al-Kadhimi spoke of the need to continue the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue “to serve as a roadmap for the future.”

“We reaffirmed our commitment to bolstering Iraqi-US ties for the benefit of our peoples and cooperation in fighting Daesh to ensure regional peace and stability,” the Iraqi premier tweeted.

US troops and allied personnel have come under attack on at least three different occasions in Iraq over the last week.

On Monday, the Green Zone in Baghdad, home to the US Embassy and several other Western embassies, was targeted by a rocket attack. No injuries or causalities were reported.

The attack came after four rockets hit Al Balad Airbase, where US companies operate.

Perhaps the most noteworthy attack was the Feb. 15 incident where at least 14 rockets struck near Iraq’s Erbil Airport in the country’s Kurdistan region. A civilian contractor, who was not a US citizen, was killed, and several others were injured. It was one of the most significant strikes on US-led coalition forces in the last year and the worst strike since US Biden took office.

A pro-Iran Shia group claimed the attack, while Tehran denied any links to the strike.

Iraqi analysts welcomed Tuesday’s call as the Biden administration reportedly does not see the Middle East as a priority.

This was Biden’s second call to a Middle East leader after last week’s call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/24/US-foreign-policy-Biden-has-first-phone-call-with-Iraq-PM-second-to-a-Middle-East-leader

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US working to increase contributions at next week’s Yemen donor conference

Joseph Haboush

23 February ,2021

The United States will participate in next week’s donor conference on Yemen, and it is working to increase the contributions of its partners, the State Department said Tuesday.

“We look forward to participating in the UN high-level pledging event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen on March 1,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price told reporters in a briefing.

Price said Switzerland and Sweden would co-host the conference.

He also noted that Washington was working to increase the contributions of its “partners” during the conference.

“We are seeking to raise the ambition, not only in this country but on the part of our partners too when it comes to what they’re willing to contribute and able to contribute to bringing an end to the humanitarian plight of the Yemeni people,”

Meanwhile, US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking met with Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak on Tuesday. This is Lenderking’s second public visit to the region since he was appointed under President Joe Biden.

A statement from the US Embassy to Yemen said the meeting discussed Washington’s “dual-track approach to end the conflict in Yemen: A lasting political solution & humanitarian relief for the Yemeni people.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/02/24/US-foreign-policy-US-working-to-increase-contributions-at-next-week-s-Yemen-donor-conference-

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House Republican lawmakers call on Biden to maintain ‘immense pressure’ on Iran

23 February 2021

GOP lawmakers in the US House of Representatives are calling on President Joe Biden to maintain “immense pressure” on Iran.

Spearheaded by Rep. John Katko, the  lawmakers wrote a letter to the Democratic president on Tuesday, warning him not to lift anti-Iran sanctions imposed during the administration of former President Donald Trump.

“Regime demands for sanctions relief as a prerequisite for the administration’s proposed bilateral negotiations are not made in good faith,” they said.

Republicans on the House Homeland Security committee expressed concerns that removing the brutal sanctions would strip the US of its power in dealing with Iran.

“The United States must apply immense pressure to the Iranian regime and cannot afford to be perceived as weak or wavering on these important national security threats. Appeasement will not effectuate change,” they claimed. “Lifting sanctions will only serve to back the United States into an inescapable corner and removes any power we hold in our attempts to normalize Iranian and United States relations.”

The Biden administration is reportedly attempting to return to the Iran nuclear deal, which was negotiated under former President Barack Obama and rejected by Trump.

Iran has slammed the new US administration for talking of returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, while sticking with Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign in practice.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/23/645928/House-GOP-urges-Biden-to-maintain-immense-pressure-on-Iran

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Mideast

 

Rouhani: Iran’s Defense Power Based on Moral Values

2021-February-24

“Iran's defense doctrine is based on Islamic principles and moral values,” Rouhani said, adding that some regimes resort to the military power to dominate the world.

He stressed that the Islamic Iran’s Armed Forces use defense capabilities and capacities only to defend moral values and bolster Islamic principles.

In relevant remarks on Tuesday, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force Brigadier General EsmayeelQa’ani downplayed Israel’s attempts to weaken the resistance front, and further said that the US has proved that it only understands the language of force.

“We know how to speak with a country like the US which only understands the language of force,” General Qa’ani said.

He also played down Israel’s attempts to weaken the resistance front, and said the regime has failed in its attempts and has been forced to build a tall wall around itself.

General Qa’ani said that the US situation in the region is no better than Israel as evidenced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Elsewhere, he stressed the efforts made by former IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General martyr QassemSoleimani to establish security in the region, and said in the past 10 years, he was directly confronting the world’s most notorious terrorists.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991206000173/Rhani-Iran%E2%80%99s-Defense-Pwer-Based-n-Mral-Vales

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Qods Force Commander: US Only Understands Language of Force

2021-February-23

“We know how to speak with a country like the US which only understands the language of force,” General Qa’ani said on Tuesday.

He also played down Israel’s attempts to weaken the resistance front, and said the regime has failed in its attempts and has been forced to build a tall wall around itself.

General Qa’ani said that the US situation in the region is no better than Israel as evidenced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Elsewhere, he stressed the efforts made by former IRGC Qods Force Commander Lieutenant General martyr QassemSoleimani to establish security in the region, and said in the past 10 years, he was directly confronting the world’s most notorious terrorists.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif warned Israel that it will certainly be responded for its mischiefs and terrorist acts against the Iranian scientists and people.

"Certainly, the usurper and fake Zionist regime will receive the response to its mischief," General Sharif said, referring to Israel’s assassination of the Iranian scientists and people.

He said that the enemy's all-out confrontation against the Islamic Republic is indicative of Iran's strong power and recent incidents have shown that the western power have lost power and the US has no more the ability to impose hegemony on others.

Also earlier this month, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Hossein Salami said the enemies should be scared of the country’s defense power, stressing that any move by enemies would receive an all-out fire of Iran’s Armed Forces.

“The ill-wishers and enemies of Iran should be afraid of our defensive power, a part of which was displayed in the recent military drills,” General Salami said on the sidelines of IRGC Ground Force’s Great Prophet 16 wargame, adding that any would-be threat of the enemies will be responded with an all-out fire.

“Iran’s Armed Forces have always kept their spirit of authority, defense, resistance and aggression against the enemies,” he said, and noted, “The enemy should take a lesson from the firepower showcased by the Iranian forces during the Great Prophet drills.”

"The IRGC Ground Force’s combat power is much higher than what we saw today, and in this exercise, we showed only a small example of this power,” the commander said.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991205000593/Qds-Frce-Cmmander-US-Only-Undersands-Langage-f-Frce

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US, Britain’s Role in Sabotage Acts in Yemen Revealed by Spies in Court

2021-February-23

Yemen’s Saba’a news agency reported on Tuesday that in the second session of the court to try the spies, evidence was presented by the prosecutor on the US and Britain’s direct role in operations to recruit, train and send spies to conduct sabotage acts in Yemen.

During the hearing, recorded confessions of the accused was displayed to the court where they admitted to recruiting, training, spying and carrying out sabotage operations on Yemeni's soil under the supervision of the British intelligence chief at the al-Qeiza airbase in al-Mahra province.

According to the report, the recording is due to be aired on TV later on Tuesday.

Oxfam has accused the British government of prolonging the war in Yemen by allowing the export of air-to-air refuelling equipment that it fears could be used to help the Saudi air force conduct indiscriminate bombing in the country.

The technology was licensed to Riyadh last summer when arms restrictions were lifted, alongside £1.4bln of other sales, and can be used to help warplanes fly longer missions at a time when the conflict is intensifying.

Sam Nadel, head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam, said, “As the US has called for an end to the conflict in Yemen, the UK is heading in the opposite direction, ramping up its support for the brutal Saudi-led war by increasing arms sales and refuelling equipment that facilitate airstrikes.”

“The UK claims to support peace in Yemen. It can start by immediately ending the sale of all arms that risk being used against civilians and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis,” Nadel added.

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13991205000821/US-Briain%E2%80%99s-Rle-in-Sabage-Acs-in-Yemen-Revealed-by-Spies-in-Cr

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Clashes in southeast Iran kill three: Lawmaker

24 February ,2021

Three people were killed over two days in clashes in the southeastern Iranian town of Saravan near the border with Pakistan, the semiofficial ILNA news agency reported.

An angry mob stormed the district governor’s office Tuesday, a day after shootings at the border left at least two people dead.

Tuesday’s ILNA report quoted MalakFazeli, Saravan’s representative in parliament, as saying: “As far as I know, three people lost their lives while being transferred to the hospital.”

It was unclear whether all three people were killed in the border shootings or if one of the fatalities was a result of the chaos at the district governor’s office.

Fazeli said another eight people were hospitalized with injuries but three were released. He said calm had returned to the town.

Saravan is a major city in Sistan-Baluchestan, a desert province that is one of the most restive and least developed parts of Iran.

Local official Mohammad HadiMarashi said Tuesday the outrage at the governors’ office stemmed from the shooting of several fuel smugglers on the Pakistani side of the border near Saravan the day before.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/24/Clashes-in-southeast-Iran-kill-three-Lawmaker

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Israeli court delays PM Netanyahu corruption trial until April

23 February ,2021

The Jerusalem court overseeing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has delayed the opening of the dramatic evidentiary stage until after March 23 elections.

The three-judge panel issued a statement late Monday saying the proceedings, which have been repeatedly delayed due to legal wrangling and coronavirus restrictions, would begin on April 5 and take place three days a week.

Netanyahu had pushed to delay the witness stage of the trial until after the election, saying that allowing the testimonies before then would amount to “interference” in the political process. A number of former aides have agreed to testify against him as prosecution witnesses.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases.

He stands accused of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy associates and offering to grant favors to powerful media moguls in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his family. He denies all charges.

Netanyahu is hoping the election will result in a coalition of allies that would grant him immunity from prosecution.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/23/Israel-relations-Israeli-court-delays-PM-Netanyahu-corruption-trial-until-April

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IAEA chief describes black box-type deal with Iran to monitor its nuclear activities

23 February ,2021

The U.N. nuclear watchdog's chief described his weekend deal with Iran on continued monitoring of its nuclear activities for up to three months as one where data is gathered but his agency is only able to access it afterwards.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran announced on Sunday that although Tehran would go ahead with its plan to reduce cooperation with the IAEA this week, including ending snap inspections, they had struck a deal on continuing "necessary" IAEA monitoring and verification activities in Iran.

Details of the deal are confidential but IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi described a black box-type system in which data, even on Iran's most sensitive activities like uranium enrichment, is collected without the IAEA being able to access it immediately.

"This is a system that allows us to continue to monitor and to register all the key activities that are taking place throughout this period so that at the end of it we can recover all this information," Grossi told an event hosted by the U.S. Nuclear Threat Initiative think-tank.

"In other words, we will know exactly what happened, exactly how many components were fabricated, exactly how much material was processed or treated or enriched and so on and so forth."

Grossi has said he hopes a deal can be struck at a higher level while his technical accord is in place - an apparent reference to efforts to salvage Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers by ending Iranian breaches and bringing the United States back into the agreement.

"Some say at the end of it, if Iran wants (to) and there is no agreement, they will destroy this information. Yes, but if at the end of it there is no agreement everything is destroyed. There is no confidence anymore," Grossi said.

Had it not been for his weekend deal on inspections, he added, "the situation would not, I repeat, would not be reversible or recoverable. We would be basically flying blind, without any idea of what would be taking place in terms of enrichment activities and other relevant activities."

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/23/Iran-nuclear-deal-IAEA-chief-describes-black-box-type-deal-with-Iran-to-monitor-its-nuclear-activities

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US think tank: UAE still an ‘aggressor’ in Yemen despite withdrawal claim

23 February 2021

An American think tank says the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remains deeply involved in the war on Yemen despite its claim of disengagement.

Justin Russel, the head of the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA) think-tank, said in an interview with the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal on Monday that his group documented continued Emirati military involvement in Yemen after Abu Dhabi claimed last October that it had withdrawn from the Saudi-led coalition.

Russel said it was revealed after four months that the UAE was heavily active in the war in Yemen by using strategic islands, air and sea ports, and military bases and militias.

"The UAE, either in the spotlight or under the radar, continues to be an aggressor in the region," he said.

"The UAE's withdrawal announcement drew international attention away and basically took the rest of the world off the scent of what they are actually doing in the region… But in our research, there is still funding and other battlefield support from the UAE in Yemen on a regular basis," Russel said.

The think-tank has filed a lawsuit against the US State Department over a now-paused arms deal to the UAE.

Shireen al-Adeimi, a Yemen-born activist and professor at Michigan State University, told MEE that the UAE was likely keeping in place foreign forces that it has trained and funded in the areas it withdrew from.

"At some point last year, they announced that they were withdrawing... But really, what they were saying is that they were leaving behind trained mercenaries while pulling out their official ground troops," Adeimi said.

"They make it look like they've withdrawn from Yemen while all they've done is just pull out their official physical presence," she said. "The UAE has been able to take advantage of the Saudis being the front-facing group for this war, while they've been able to kind of take a step back and be behind the scenes."

Adeimi said the UAE's interests in Yemen were varied but a key goal of the small Persian Gulf country was maintaining influence over the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

The Yemen-born activist said the UAE had worked throughout the war to take up strategic outposts around the waterway, which is essential for the passage of about nine percent of the world's crude oil and refined petroleum traded via the sea.

"It's pretty clear to me as a Yemeni what the UAE's endgame is, and that is to make sure that they have a government in Yemen that is going to make it easy for their oil to travel through Bab el-Mandeb," Adeimi said.

"It's a really important strategic location. That's why Yemen has always had interventions by Saudi Arabia and the US in the past," she added. "That's really what it comes down to."

The MME reported that the UAE had turned Al Rayan airport in the southeastern Yemeni port city of Mukalla into a military base for its occupation forces around the start of the war and had refused to reopen the facility since then.

Yemen's government says the Emirati troops are using the airport "as an illegal prison to commit heinous forms of torture against Yemenis."

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015 with the goal of bringing a former Riyadh-friendly regime to power.

According to the United Nations, 80 percent of Yemen's 30 million people need some form of aid or protection. About 13.5 million Yemenis currently face acute food insecurity, United Nations (UN) data shows.

According to the latest figures released by the UN in December last year, over 230,000 people have been killed since the onset of the Saudi-led war.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/23/645903/US-think-tank--UAE-still-an-%E2%80%98aggressor%E2%80%99-in-Yemen-despite-withdrawal-claim

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India

 

‘Sanskrit histories of Indo-Muslim rule are diverse in some ways’

24th February 2021

BENGALURU: Sanskrit histories of Indo-Muslim rule embody considerable geographic, political and religious diversity. The authors hailed from all corners of the Indian subcontinent, from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu and from Gujarat to Bengal. They worked across nearly as broad an area (for the exception of Bengal, see the epilogue). Many texts were written by court poets, working for Muslim and Hindu kings; the works’ writers and patrons also include merchants, religious leaders and other non-imperial actors. Both Brahmins and Jains number among the authors.

Brahmins get plenty of attention in contemporary Sanskrit scholarship, but Jains are often relegated to footnotes, literally. More than one scholar has repeated and so entrenched a Brahmin-centric view of the premodern Sanskrit tradition, in which Jains are presented as interlopers rather than full participants. By putting Jains and Brahmins on equal footing, I make a small contribution to the larger project of calling out and undermining Brahminical claims to define Sanskrit intellectual production, an issue that contemporary Sanskrit studies has not left in the past.

While Sanskrit histories of Indo-Muslim rule are diverse in some ways, their authors were elite in terms of language, gender and social status. These poet-historians all wrote in Sanskrit or (in a few cases) Prakrit, a set of Sanskrit-adjacent literary mediums, languages unknown to the vast majority of Indians, past and present. The authors were nearly all men. A sole historical text considered here was authored by a woman (Gangadevi’sMadhuravijaya), a small bit of diversity that, while important, points up the overarching gender exclusion that defined premodern Sanskrit textual production.

The authors were often high caste and, following the tight link between gender and caste, many express extreme levels of misogyny and casteism in their histories. They are unapologetic about all of this. Exclusivity and privilege structured premodern Sanskrit intellectual culture and the social spheres in which it operated, which in turn informed what people chose to say in Sanskrit.

Again, I will give away something of my findings: elite authors often express harsh, elite ideas. I present these below with an unvarnished gaze and attempt to contextualize premodern views, no matter how distasteful and bigoted we may find them today. Brahminical privilege is one notion to which I return several times, because it was a borderline obsession among several authors (e.g., Jayanaka, Jonaraja and several writers working for Rajput and Maratha courts).

We also see recurrent attention given to Kshatriya kingship, a flexible institution that rulers and intellectuals defined in many different ways. Being a Kshatriya ruler was, for most thinkers, a varna distinction and typically involved certain kinds of relations with Brahmins. But for numerous premodern Sanskrit thinkers, the advent and expansion of Indo-Muslim rule provided new foils for thinking about what it could mean to be a Kshatriya king or warrior. Some of the results were stunning. For instance, writing in the fifteenth century, Nayachandra upholds a Muslim Mongol, somebody outside of the varna system, as an exemplar of Kshatriya heroism (Chapter 3).

Writing in the sixteenth century, Chandrashekhara lauds as an ideal Kshatriya king a man who neither ruled nor fought for himself (Chapter 6). There remained more traditional views as well, such as Paramananda’s seventeenth-century vision of a Kshatriya ruler who took every conceivable action to assist Brahmins (Chapter 6). Extracted from The Language of  History: Sankrit Narratives of Muslim Pasts by Audrey Truschke, with permission from Penguin Random House

https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2021/feb/24/sanskrit-histories-of-indo-muslim-rule-are-diverse-in-some-ways-2268004.html

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Development in Gujarat does not touch Muslim areas, says Owaisi

byAvinash Nair , VaibhavJha

February 24, 2021

Riding on the maiden victory of All India Majlis-e-IttehadulMuslimeen (AIMIM) candidates in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections on Tuesday, the leader of the political outfit, AsaduddinOwaisi, while addressing political gatherings at Godhra and Modasa, pointed out how the development in Gujarat is lopsided and does not touch Muslim-dominated areas.

“You all know that in Godhra, no development works have been carried out in areas that have Muslim majority. There is a railway line passing through the city. On one side of this railway line, ‘SabkakaSaath, sabkaVikas’ can be seen. On the other side, where topi and burkas can be seen, there is no Vikas (development),” said Owaisi in Godhra town.

“What is the reason that trains like GaribRath and August Kranti do not stop at Godhra railway station? These trains stop at Dahod though. If Godhra had a large Muslim population, then doesn’t it also have Hindus brothers? The BJP government wants Dahod to develop… what kind of justice is this,” he added.

He said there were 20 secondary schools in Godhra city of which, only three were in Muslim areas. He said the dropout rate among school going Muslim girls were as high as 80 per cent due to lack of Urdu medium schools. “Modiji then says, BetiBachao, DeshBachao. How will daughters be saved, if there are no urdu schools for them…,” he added.

On Tuesday, AlMIM won about seven seats in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), winning all seats in Jamalpur ward and three seats in Maktampura ward. The party had fielded 21 candidates for the AMC. Thanking the voters, Owaisi said, “If people sitting in power in AMC think that they will continue to ignore Muslim areas like they did in the past, then I would like to tell that that so far you were engaged in a friendly duel with Congress or independents. Now now we will fight (for development).”

In the upcoming elections, BJP is contesting in 24 of the 44 seats in Godhra municipality. Traditionally, BJP has been putting up candidates in only six wards of the municipality where Hindus are in a majority. On the other five wards, Muslim candidates have been winning largely as independents.

In the 2015 local body polls in Godhra municipality, BJP won 18 seats, Congress won one seat and remaining 25 seats were won by independents. Eight candidates of AIMIM will fight the Godhra municipality polls on February 28. The party has fielded candidates in Godhra, Modasa and Bharuch municipalities.

Earlier in the day in Modasa, Owaisi invoked the 2008 bomb blast case that claimed one life and said that people “reply to the oppressors” in the upcoming elections. The AIMIM has fielded 12 candidates in three wards of Modasa municipality.

“Do you know what happened on September 29, 2008 in Modasa,” Owaisi asked as crowd responded saying “bomb blast”. “Among the deceased was a 15-year-old boy named Jamal Ab Din Ghouri… a blast occurred near a mosque during Ramzan month in Modasa in which seven were martyred and over 100 were injured (referring to both Malegon and Modasa blasts cases ). I want to ask the BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP), especially Prime Minister NarendraModi, Gujarat Chief Minister and RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh people… I want to ask the cowards of Congress whether they will ever speak of Jamal,” asked Owaisi claiming, till date the people responsible for the blast were not brought to book.

“The families of the deceased persons in the blast still don’t know who killed their loved ones. I appeal to my mothers and sisters that we will not let another Jamal to die in Modasa… Human life has a value be it a Hindu, Muslim or tribal… it has been granted to us in the Constitution by Dr BabasahebAmbedkar,” said Owaisi.

Referring to the protests in Modasa in January 2020 against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), Owaisi said, “I want to congratulate the people of Modasa for the manner in which they protested against the CAA, NRC and NPR… I spoke up in the Parliament against 306 MPs of the BJP saying that if they will bring the CAA, then we will protest. We, too, have the right to live without fear (sic).”

Attacking the Congress, BJP and AamAadmi Party president ArvindKejriwal in his 30-minute address, Owaisi said, “There is a guy who has come to Gujarat with a bundle of brooms… when riots were taking place in Delhi, when Hindus and Muslims were killing each other, he went to Gandhi samadhi and sat over there… This guy kept quiet even when the TablighiJamat was given a bad name and accused of waging corona Jihad in Delhi.”

Alleging that the Congress has not given the post of mayor to a Muslim in Modasa, fearing that it would upset their votebank, he said, “It is the Congress party that is responsible for India’s Muslims being weak, India’s Muslims lacking a political voice and India’s Muslims, Dalits and Advasis getting harassed. Modiji has spent so much money in constructing the Statue of Unity but in the process he also displaced over 75,000 tribal people from there(sic).”

AIMIM senior leader WarisPathan, party’s Gujarat president SabirKabliwala, Gujarat general secretary Hamid Bhatti were also present.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/asaduddin-owaisi-ahmedabad-municipal-corporation-elections-godhra-modasa-7202316/

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Four terrorists eliminated in ongoing encounter in J&K's Anantnag

24th February 2021

ANANTNAG: A many as four unidentified terrorists have been killed in an ongoing encounter in Anantnag, said Jammu and Kashmir Police on Wednesday.

Earlier, a source in CRPF said that two to three terrorists are believed to be trapped at the site of ongoing encounter in Anantnag.

An encounter has started at the Shalgul forest area of Srigufwara in Anantnag district today.

Further details are awaited.

On February 19, two policemen were killed in a terrorist attack in Srinagar's Baghat area of Barzulla. In another encounter on the same day, three terror associates affiliated were also killed in the Budgam area of the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir.

One police personnel of Jammu and Kashmir lost his life and one another was injured in another encounter that broke out between the security forces and terrorists in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on February 19.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/feb/24/four-terrorists-eliminated-in-ongoing-encounter-in-jks-anantnag-2268355.html

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Notification to acquire land for Sunni dam project issued

Feb 24, 2021

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh government has started the process to acquire over 698 bighas of land for the construction of 382MW Sunni dam hydroelectric project by issuing a notification under Section 11(1) of Land Acquisition Act. Land acquisition would result in displacement of 45 families.

The social impact assessment of project-affected areas has revealed that 91% primary stakeholders were willing to surrender land for acquisition, provided appropriate compensation was paid and only 8% resisted the process.

As per the notification, total 8,007 forest trees and 2,914 fruit-bearing trees are in the project area. Additional district magistrates of Mandi and Shimla have been designated as administrators for the purpose of relief and rehabilitation process as land to be acquired for the project fell in the two districts.

Land proposed for the project would be acquired in the villages of Jaishi, Bharara, Khaira, Lunsu, Bathora, Pandhoa, Grehna, Talah, Ogli, Kothi, Malgi of Sunni tehsil; Jhjnjhun and Majrog of Kumarsain tehsil in Shimla disrtrict; and Jaqlin, Bhounra, Balog, Phaphan, Parlog, Beludhank, and Kharyali of Karsog tehsil of Mandi district.

The project aims to harness the hydel potential of Satlujriver between Rampur and Kol hydroelectric projects.

The project is proposed to generate 1,369 million units (MU) of electrical energy in a 90% dependable year. Proposed project is located on Satluj river basin with Shimla district falling on its left bank and Mandi on right bank. The dam is located near Khaira village in Shimla district.

Total land requirement for the project is 44,03,889sq metre, of which 38,71,915 sq metre is forest land and 5,31,974 sq metre is private land

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/notification-to-acquire-land-for-sunni-dam-project-issued/articleshow/81179364.cms

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‘Fertility rate higher among Muslims, they want to turn India into Islamic state’: BJP MLA HariBhushan Thakur

Rohit Kumar Singh

February 24, 2021

Bihar BJP MLA HariBhushan Thakur has triggered a controversy with his remarks on the fertility rate of Muslims.

Elected to the Bisfi Assembly constituency on a BJP ticket in 2020, HariBhushan Thakur said the fertility rate in Muslims was higher than in Hindus.

"Muslims want to convert India into an Islamic state," the Legislator went on to remark.

HariBhushan Thakur made the comment in response to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar's claim that the fertility rate in the state has declined tremendously. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had made the statement while delivering a Motion of Thanks to the Governor in the state Assembly on Tuesday.

HariBhushan Thakur said Bihar had witnessed a decline in fertility rate but among Hindus and not Muslims. The BJP MLA from Bisfi also demanded a law to restrict population growth.

"Law should be brought to control the population in the country. The resources in the country are very limited but some people want to increase the population and capture and turn India into an Islamic country," BJP MLA HariBhushan Thakur said.

BJP MLA HariBhushan Thakur added, "Muslim community is indulging into this. It is important to control the population in order to make India into a developed country from a developing country."

Asked about several Muslim leaders in the JD(U), MLA HariBhushan Thakur even slammed the BJP's ally in Bihar. He said, "Nation comes first and then comes religion but for some people, religion comes first and then the country. There is no feeling of patriotism in them."

Akhtar-ul-Iman, MLA from AsaduddinOwaisi's AIMIM hit back at the BJP MLA for his controversial comment.

"What the BJP MLA is talking about is unconstitutional, illegal and aimed at dividing the society. The fertility rate has nothing to do with religion but with poverty and illiteracy. People who are poor and illiterate tend to have more children than those who are literate and economically sound. BJP tends to speak on issues which trigger hatred," AIMIM MLA Akhtar-ul-Iman said.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/-fertility-rate-higher-among-muslims-they-want-to-turn-india-into-islamic-state-bjp-mla-hari-bhushan-thakur-1772333-2021-02-24

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Bombay HC upholds bail for AreebMajeed, Kalyan resident accused of having Islamic State links

February 23, 2021

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday upheld a special court order granting bail to 27-year-old AreebMajeed, accused of having Islamic State links.

A division bench of Justices S SShinde and Manish Pitale disposed of an appeal filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), challenging a special court order granting bail to alleged Islamic State member Majeed.

The bench said it was upholding the lower court's order granting bail to Majeed on the ground of pendency of trial and not on merits of the case.

The high court directed Majeed to furnish Rs 1 lakh as surety and also directed him not to leave Kalyan in neighbouring Thane district, where he resides.

The NIA's case was that Majeed had travelled to Syria to allegedly join the terrorist group Islamic State and returned to India to carry out terror activities.

Majeed was arrested in November 2014 under provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code for waging war against the nation and other charges.

He was granted bail in March last year by a special NIA court.

The NIA subsequently approached the HC, challenging the lower court order.

The high court had then granted an interim stay on operation of the bail granted, pending hearing of the NIA's appeal.

Hence, Majeed continued to remain in jail.

While opposing the NIA's appeal, Majeed argued that he had gone to Syria only to help people and denied all charges levelled against him

https://www.firstpost.com/india/bombay-hc-upholds-bail-for-areeb-majeed-kalyan-resident-accused-of-having-islamic-state-links-9336011.html

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Delhi court frames terror charges against Kashmiri separatist AasiyaAndrabi

February 23, 2021

A Delhi court has framed terrorism, sedition and other charges against Kashmiri separatist AasiyaAndrabi and her two associates for allegedly waging war against the government of India and conspiring to commit terror acts in the country.

The case relates to waging war against the country with support from Pakistan including terror entities.

Special Judge Parveen Singh had put Andrabi and her associates – SofiFehmeeda and NahidaNasreen – on trial for various offences punishable under IPC and the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on February 20.

The court passed the order after the accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.

The court framed charges under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the government of India), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war against government of India), 124-A (sedition), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC.

It further framed sections 18 (conspires or attempts to commit, or advocates, abets, advises or incites terror act), 20 (being member of terrorist gang or organisation), 38 (offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation) and 39 (offence relating to support given to a terrorist organisation) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Andrabi, who was chief of the banned outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat (daughters of nation), was accused by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of being involved in conspiracy and acts to “severely destabilise the sovereignty and integrity of India”, along with her two other associates.

By their activities on cyber space, they were running a concerted campaign to solicit support of Pakistani establishment which inter-alia included arranging support from terrorist entities from Pakistan, it said.

The NIA, on directions of the Union home ministry, registered a case against them and the organisation.

According to the FIR, Andrabi, Fehmeeda and Nasreen were actively running Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DEM), a terrorist organisation proscribed under the first schedule of the UAPA.

They were using various media platforms to spread insurrectionary imputations and hateful speeches that endanger the integrity, security and sovereignty of India, the NIA said.

DEM through Andrabi openly advocated secession of Jammu and Kashmir from the Union of India and had also called for Jihad and use of violence against India, it said.

The three accused were arrested in April 2018 and are currently in custody.

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-court-terror-charges-against-aasiya-andrabi-7201404/

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Africa

 

Algerian students hit streets in anti-government protests

24 February ,2021

Dozens of Algerian students defied police Tuesday to demonstrate in the capital Algiers, a day after major protests for the second anniversary of mass anti-government rallies.

The “Hirak” protest movement forced longtime president AbdelazizBouteflika from power in 2019, and before the protests were stalled amid COVID-19 restrictions last year, marches were held every Tuesday.

A mass rally in Algiers was held on Monday to mark the protests that kicked off on February 22, 2019, to oppose Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term.

The protests on Monday were the largest since the weekly demonstrations were suspended.

On Tuesday, students continued, despite police deploying in force before dawn in the center of Algiers, especially at Martyrs’ Square, where student marches used to begin.

Several dozen students and activists managed to walk a short distance shouting slogans before police stopped the march.

“We are students and not terrorists,” some chanted, according to AFP journalists. “A free and democratic Algeria,” others shouted.

The CNLD prisoners’ rights group said three students and five other activists were arrested.

Protesters demand a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/north-africa/2021/02/24/Protests-Algerian-students-hit-streets-in-anti-government-protests

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Russian mercenaries seen in Sirte city: Libyan army

24.02.2021

TRIPOLI, Libya

The Libyan army on Wednesday said it spotted several trucks of Russian Wagner mercenaries in the coastal city of Sirte.

In a statement, the government-led Volcano of Rage Operation said two groups of mercenaries were also seen moving along the road from the oil-rich city of Brega to Sirte and in the direction of Ajdabiya, the statement said.

The Libyan army described the activities of the Russian mercenaries as a “violation of the cease-fire agreement” signed in Geneva in October.

On Oct. 23 last year, the UN announced a permanent cease-fire agreement between Libya’s warring rivals during a meeting of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission in Geneva.

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/russian-mercenaries-seen-in-sirte-city-libyan-army/2155465

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Dozens injured in multiple blasts in northeast Nigeria

Olarewaju Kola  

24.02.2021

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria

Dozens of people were injured as a string of explosions rocked Nigeria's northeastern Maiduguri city on Tuesday.

Multiple casualties are feared following blasts at four locations in the city, but authorities are yet to confirm any numbers as evacuation efforts continue.

Musa Saleh, a volunteer helping officials at the site, told Anadolu Agency that he led a team that brought over 15 injured people, including children, to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

Scores of family members of victims were seen in the hospital's emergency ward.

"We reached Gwange [district] after the explosion and we brought about 16 wounded victims to the hospital," he said.

Some of the injured were from the Kaleri and Bulabulin areas of the city and were brought to the hospital in pick-up trucks.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/dozens-injured-in-multiple-blasts-in-northeast-nigeria/2154846

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Somalia bans opposition protests in Mogadishu

Mohammed Dhaysane

23.02.2021

MOGADISHU, Somalia

The Somalian government on Tuesday banned protests in the capital Mogadishu due to rising COVID-19 cases and security threats in the Horn of Africa country.

“Any protests in Mogadishu, whether anti-government or pro-government, are illegal and will not be allowed,” Internal Security Minister Hassan HundubeyJima'le said in a news conference in Mogadishu.

The announcement comes after the opposition presidential candidates, led by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, said they will continue to hold protests and called a fresh anti-government rally on Friday.

“This is a political issue that needs political discussion. They are now dangerously using the public for the sake of a political agenda. This is dangerous and has to stop immediately,” JawahirMohamudJama, chairperson of Banadir Women Organization, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somalia-bans-opposition-protests-in-mogadishu/2154562

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Ethiopian peacekeepers in S.Sudan resist going home

Benjamin Takpiny

23.02.2021

JUBA, South Sudan

Several UN peacekeepers were injured during an internal brawl when 15 peacekeepers in South Sudan, originally from Ethiopia’s restive Tigray region, refused to return to Ethiopia on Monday, a UN official said.

Kirk L. Kroeker, a spokesman for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), told Anadolu Agency Tuesday: “169 members of the Ethiopian contingent were due to rotate out of [the capital] Juba today and to be replaced by a fresh deployment as part of the normal UNMISS rotation of peacekeepers. While still to be verified, it is reported that approximately 15 members of the contingent chose not to board the flight at the Juba International Airport and a scuffle broke out, resulting in some minor injuries.”

Kroeker said these contingent members are now receiving support from the South Sudanese commission for refugee affairs and UNHCR.

“Individuals in need of international protection, anywhere in the world, can choose to seek asylum through their own free will, under international law,” he said.

“This is a human right. Any process of asylum will be managed by the Government of South Sudan with support from UNHCR.” Kroeker said, and praised the service of the Ethiopian peacekeepers.

Kroeker said the Ethiopian contingent has provided a highly professional peacekeeping service in support of the people of South Sudan.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region has been the scene of fighting since last November when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing them of attacking federal army camps.

Pro-government troops took control of the regional capital Mekele in late November, but the TPLF vowed to fight on, and clashes have persisted in the region, hampering efforts to deliver humanitarian aid.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/ethiopian-peacekeepers-in-ssudan-resist-going-home/2154427

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Europe

 

Iran must cooperate with IAEA for greater transparency: French, UK, German ministers

24 February ,2021

Iran should fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and reverse steps that reduce transparency, the governments of France, Britain and Germany said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran might enrich uranium up to 60% purity if the country needed it and would never yield to U.S. pressure over its nuclear programme, state television reported.

“We... deeply regret that Iran has started, as of today, to suspend the Additional Protocol and the transparency measures under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA),” the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain said.

“We urge Iran to stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency and to ensure full and timely cooperation with the IAEA.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2021/02/24/Iran-s-actions-are-further-violation-of-JCPOA-commitments-European-foreign-ministers

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French mosque vandalized with Islamophobic graffiti

Shweta Desai  

23.02.2021

PARIS

French Muslim organizations on Tuesday strongly condemned vandalism of an under-construction mosque in Strasbourg with Islamophobic graffiti.

The words, "No to Islam, go back to your village” were sprayed across the fence on the site of the Eyyub Sultan Mosque, which once completed will be Europe’s largest Muslim place of worship.

In a video statement, the MilliGorus Islamic Confederation (CIMG), the group overseeing construction of the mosque, expressed disappointment at the Islamophobic and racist message.

“There is no material damage but the symbolism is strong,” said a tweet from the official handle of the mosque.

“However, this incident reflects the deleterious climate that France is going through today. Indeed, the trivialization of remarks targeting Muslims in media discourse demeans the enemies of living together,” it added.

A 21-year-old man detained by police admitted to have committed the vandalism, Strasbourg prosecutor's office said, French daily DerniersNouvellesd'Alsace (DNA) reported.

He was released before his next appearance on prior admission of guilt, the report said. The motive or intent behind the vandalism is still unknown.

CIMG said in the last weeks it had received several threatening messages, which the authorities failed to respond to.

The recent vandalism received widespread criticism by national bodies like the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) and the Union of Mosques (UMF).

The Grand Mosque of Strasbourg said the abject act of hatred and intolerance “aims to divide the national community and to pit religious communities against each other, while they live in perfect harmony."

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/french-mosque-vandalized-with-islamophobic-graffiti/2154660

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Syrian convicted by German court in landmark crimes against humanity trial

24 February ,2021

A former member of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s secret police was convicted Wednesday by a German court of facilitating the torture of prisoners in a landmark ruling that human rights activists hope will set a precedent for other cases.

Eyad Al-Gharib was convicted of accessory to crimes against humanity and sentenced by the Koblenz state court to 4 and a half years in prison, the dpa news agency reported.

It was the first time that a court outside Syria ruled in a case alleging Syrian government officials committed crimes against humanity. German prosecutors invoked the principle of universal jurisdiction for serious crimes to bring the case that involved victims and defendants who were in Germany.

Details of the ruling were not immediately available, but Al-Gharib could have been sentenced to more than a decade behind bars. However judges were able to consider his defection and court testimony as mitigating factors.

Al-Gharib was accused of being part of a unit that arrested people following anti-government protests in the Syrian city of Douma and took them to a detention center known as Al Khatib, or Branch 251, where they were tortured.

The 44-year-old went on trial last year with Anwar Raslan, a more senior Syrian ex-official who is accused of overseeing the abuse of detainees at the same jail near Damascus.

Raslan is accused of supervising the “systematic and brutal torture” of more than 4,000 prisoners between April 2011 and September 2012, resulting in the deaths of at least 58 people. A verdict in his case is expected later this year.

BalkeesJarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said the conviction of Al-Gharib “gives Syrians some hope that this may be the beginning of a path to fuller justice.”

“Germany’s trial of two former Syrian officials for atrocities shows that it’s possible with drive and perseverance and determined prosecutors for victims to have their day in court,” she said.

Evidence reviewed during the trial included photographs of thousands of alleged victims of torture by the Syrian government. The images were smuggled out of Syria by a police officer.

Syrian government officials did not testify during the trial.

“Over the last ten months, courageous survivors have provided testimony about horrific abuses committed in Syria’s ghastly archipelago of prisons,” Jarrah said. “This case not only speaks to the role of the two suspects but also lays bare the Syrian government’s systemic torture and killing of tens of thousands of people.”

Al-Gharib was one of Raslan’s subordinates. When he was a sergeant major, his unit was allegedly involved in chasing down and detaining at least 30 people following a demonstration in Douma, and then bringing them to the detention center where they were tortured.

Al-Gharib left Syria in 2013 and came to Germany in 2018. Both men were arrested a year later.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2021/02/24/Syrian-convicted-by-German-court-in-landmark-crimes-against-humanity-trial

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SAS war crimes in Afghanistan: Australia, UK

23 February 2021

Australia and the United Kingdom have both investigated their elite fighting force, the Special Air Service (SAS) for war crimes in Afghanistan, where they were supposed to be protecting the population.

The Brereton Report and the Operation Northmoor investigation, respectively, found substantial evidence of war crimes; a warrior culture and gang-like initiation rituals known as “blooding”, resulting in dozens of dead Afghan civilians. Yet no one has been prosecuted.

The Brereton report released in late 2020, documents alleged war crimes committed by Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan.

A separate inquiry into war crimes committed there by British Special Forces was concluded just a few months earlier with many striking similarities.

This is a topic that is often overlooked and under-reported, especially given the severity of the crimes.

David McBride, a former lawyer who served as a Major in the Australian Defence Force, faces jail time for leaking evidence of war crimes to Australian broadcaster, ABC.

What we learned from the inquiries

In 2001, Australia invaded Afghanistan, along with the United States and the United Kingdom. 20 years later, these countries are still occupying war ravaged Afghanistan despite promising they would bring peace and stability.

Astronomical amounts of money, resources and manpower have gone towards this occupation, all in the name of nation building, however, it turns out that a lot of these resources have been used to commit horrific acts against the people of Afghanistan.

In late 2020, an inquiry into war crimes committed by Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan was finally released.

This 465 page report, entitled "The Virgin Report" was initiated in 2016 and took several years to complete. The report found that 39 Afghan civilians are alleged to have been unlawfully killed by, or involving, Australian Defence Force members.

None of these alleged crimes took place in the heat of battle, and the victims were non combatants or no longer combatants. The report is broken down into three parts. However, a lot of it is heavily redacted. Not just the names of individuals, but in some cases, entire events are redacted.

One of the shocking practices revealed in this report is known as "blooding". This practice is another extremely disturbing aspect of these war crimes.

 Essentially, what would happen is you'd have a platoon commander, who would take a new squad member and have them execute a detained prisoner. The prisoner would be unarmed, in cuffs and posing no threat whatsoever.

The term using this report is also of interest because they referred to this as an unlawful killing. What it really is, is an execution. It's cold blooded murder; calling it an unlawful killing is just a way to water down the horror of what we're discussing here.

What we're talking about here are war crimes, we're talking about murder, and there is no way to sugarcoat atrocities like this.

Prisoners executed, weapons planted

Another practice that has come to light is the use of "throw downs". Basically, what this means is that Special Forces would carry weapons that are not regularly issued by the Australian or British military, and then plant them on a prisoner after executing them. They would throw it down on the ground next to them, thus the moniker “throw down”.

This would make it look like the prisoner wasn't executed, but instead killed during a firefight or because they had supposedly pulled a knife, for example, none of which was true, of course.

It's important to note that the Brereton report is not in fact a criminal investigation, but an inquiry conducted by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force. This is a role that is separate from the chain of command in the Australian armed forces and is appointed by the Secretary of Defence.

The Virgin Report makes a number of recommendations following the inquiry, some criminal, others promotions, others pardons. However, it's not clear which cases they're referring to because a lot of it has been redacted.

Once again, another war crime, which didn't come from the Virgin Report, but is still one of the most striking nonetheless, is unveiled in a video that was released by Four Corners.

It shows three men from the Australian SAS chasing an Afghan farmer with a German Shepherd. They catch up to him and gather around him as he's lying on the ground. At one point one of the SAS can be heard asking if he should drop the man. There's an inaudible answer after which we see him execute the Afghan farmer at point blank range using his machine gun.

It's sickening, its grotesque and it's a war crime that makes one feel physically ill just by watching it. The man who was executed in the video was 26 years old.

His name was Dadu Mohammad and was said to have been carrying a radio and that this proved that he was an insurgent, which is why they killed him. This turned out to be a lie, unsurprisingly, there was no radio recovered. And even if there was, one has to ask the question, how does carrying a radio merit a summary execution at point blank range?

After the release of the Brereton report a Chinese official posted a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian soldier with a knife in reference to the war crimes committed by these by their special forces.

What's interesting here isn't so much the image, but the reaction it garnered, particularly, from Australian officials. Australia's parliament was outraged by it and Australia's Prime Minister issued a statement rebuking the Chinese government, demanding an apology.

Apparently, the Australian Government is more offended by people exposing and calling out its war crimes than the actual war crimes themselves perpetrated by its own soldiers.

David McBride, a former lawyer and Major in the Australian Defence Force, leaked evidence of war crimes to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC. After this happened, the ABC offices were raided by police.

And I think it is extremely interesting, and worth pointing out here, that when supposedly liberal democracies like the United States, Australia and the UK, have embarrassing information about them leaked to the press, all notions of freedom of speech and press freedoms suddenly seem to go out the window.

We saw this with the raid on ABC, with the persecution of Julian Assange and numerous other whistleblowers over the years.

After leaking evidence of war crimes committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan to ABC, David McBride faces five charges including those of theft of Commonwealth property, breaching the defence act, and disclosing information without due authorization. This could result in him going to jail for decades.

David is facing several decades in jail now, because he exposed war crimes committed by the SAS in Afghanistan, he details how he tried going up the chain of command, and how they put roadblocks and obstacles in front of him, and will elaborate on some of the mechanisms that an institution like the Australian, the British and the American military might put in place to prevent whistle-blowers like himself from disclosing the truth and exposing wrongdoing.

It wasn't war crimes that I first noticed a problem. It was more that we didn't tell the truth about anything, about small things as well as big things. That the war looked like it was being run to win domestic elections rather than to actually make a difference in Afghanistan.

And I started to get suspicious, because when I made complaints, they weren't treated seriously. And in fact, the message that seemed to be coming back to me was “shut up, stop making waves, what's going on is way above your paygrade”.

And there were some things which looked like cold blooded murders. But they weren't being investigated, or that were just being whitewashed, and I was like, Well, how can that be?

How could you not look into something which looks like children are being killed?

David McBride, former Lawyer and Major in the Australian Defence Force

The Virgin report, which was concluded in late 2020, says the SAS killed 39 Afghan civilians. That's the official figure, but how many of those Special Forces that committed these murders were prosecuted or held accountable?

Is the 39 casualty count accurate or even legitimate?

There's only one person, one person who ever put on a uniform for Australia, who was facing a trial and significant jail time at this stage, and that is me. And I think even the government finds that an uncomfortable fact.

The report, as you know, was only finished late in 2020. And it wasn't a conviction of anybody it was simply a non criminal report like an inquiry, which recommended charges you know, didn't even recommend charges and recommend the collates look at those 39 murders, and if necessary, charge people.

The wheels of justice, even when they're, even when they're sort of being totally run honestly, take a long time. And it's quite possible we won't even have a trial on this until 2030.

In relation to the amount of murders, I don't know that it was that many more. But it's a significant number because it wasn't...a lot of people must have known.

And that's what's truly significant, they should say, a lot of people must have known, a lot of people must have said nothing. And not only that, what is more worrying than sad, if it had been 300, was that often we rewarded the perpetrators of the murders, we gave them medals, we made them sort of media superstars, and I think that's the really sickening thing; to say, who do we, who gets ahead in our society, you know, the person that does the right thing? Or the person who is the most sneaky, the most ruthless, the person that actually thinks that laws are just a joke?

David McBride, former Lawyer and Major in the Australian Defence Force

Is Australia's geopolitical standing, its place on the international stage, at risk due to the perception that it is doing the bidding of the United States? Could the confrontation with China, not to mention the situation with Julian Assange, be another aspect of the same policy?

It completely is and that it does worry me a lot. Well, we will never move forward as a country until we take a good hard look at what they euphemistically call the strategic relationship. That means we are just we're just doing whatever America wants. And the idea is that they will look after us. You know, if we're ever going to buy it, but I mean, that's highly questionable. And I would rather stand on our own, they make us buy their equipment. They use us; obviously, we don't have a very big army. But it's it has a very potent effect. It means that when they go on these expeditions to Middle Eastern countries that it doesn't look like they're acting on their own. So having Australian is it's powerful for them.

David McBride, former Lawyer and Major in the Australian Defence Force

So Donald Trump, he sanctioned the ICC for investigating war crimes in Afghanistan. Israel is now scared that the ICC might investigate them.

Do you think that Australia has handled the SAS war crimes adequately? And if not, do you think that the ICC should be stepping in to prosecute officials and politicians involved in fiasco?

I believe the ICC I believe that was the motivation for the Brereton Report. That was the real motivation. I spoke to a senior lawyer back in 2014. And I said, What's going on? There's obviously some big cover up there. Something strange is going on, as I said, we're prosecuting people we shouldn't be prosecuting. And we're not prosecuting the famous guys that need it. And he said, we're worried about the ICC. And I didn't understand at the time, I thought, well, the ICC doesn't have any jurisdiction in Australia, unless it's pretty serious. What I didn't realize was that it was a lot more; it was serious enough for the ICC. They knew it back in 2014. And everything they've done since, because the ICC can't prosecute you, if you have carried out prosecutions yourself. I think, they  think they're being really clever, because I imagine it's not really it's not clear what carrying out prosecutions means and so if you're carrying out prosecutions, yourself for 50 years, that probably qualifies, you know, whatever, by that time they will all be retired.

David McBride, former Lawyer and Major in the Australian Defence Force

Who is afraid of the ICC?

And the reason why the ICC scares them, The ICC has a tendency to go for the leadership. And this is how, you know, spineless our people are. They don't really care about the soldiers doing things wrong, whatever. But they worry that they might be in the frame and they might get before the Hague. And so they need to find some scapegoats fast, and they need to draw it out. And I think that that's that was the real, the really cynical motivation about Brereton was to get, because unlike the US, where a signature were in, this is typical Australia, back to Maurice Payne. We can't sign up to these things quick enough. We sign up to any anything and we're like, oh, we're such a good nation, you know, we signed up to the ICC... and I think a lot of the time people just want to go on junkets to nice sounding... Rome was where the ICC was put together. But they don't really think about what it means to be a member and now, where the Americans have, of course, never sign up to it, now we're backpedalling really fast. We will be complicit even though we are a signatory to the ICC, a founding member, and the Americans, Pomeo's absolutely outrageous idea that he was going to put sanctions that he made the ICC the bad guys. Yeah, to try to make it look like the ICC were the criminals. And Australia, of course, did nothing. And again, this is that creepy thing about, you know, being beholden to the US. We either need to get out of the ICC or we need to say something about that Pompeo's actions, and they are pretty outrageous, but I think that, unfortunately you're hanging around, you know, the boys long enough and you become like them and ...I think the only reason ... we even did the inquiries was to get the ICC off our back, we we didn't support the ICC. When Pompeo was putting sanctions on them, I'm like, Oh, my God!

David McBride, former Lawyer and Major in the Australian Defence Force

As stated earlier, these investigations literally take years. And you also have the UK inquiry, Operation Northmoor, where they are still investigating war crimes in Afghanistan, and of course, no one has been found guilty.

I think that's, that's another good example. I'm glad you brought it up. I think that that's what we're getting in Australia. And unfortunately, all these people are working in the government. And it seems they are using the same playbook, you know, make a big noise about something for long enough, throw around money, but then make sure nothing ever happens, the sort of thing they do in political investigations, you know, whereas if you only care about public appearances, that sort of thing makes perfect sense. You know, if you're not actually trying to do the right thing, just trying to win elections, of course, double dealing and mixed messages and playing one side off another, a bit like the American elections, you know, that partisan politics serves a purpose. And, if public perception and opinion polling are your goals, your ultimate goals, why not? Just mess with the truth the whole time. You know, a trial is really just a way to look good temporarily. And if you have to have a trial, but make sure the person gets acquitted, that's a win win. As far as these very cynical, you know, reputation management, people would would go in there pretty much everything that the US has, not just the US but all the Western nations are doing the Middle East is a Sham.

David McBride, former Lawyer and Major in the Australian Defence Force

The United Kingdom, which also invaded Afghanistan in 2001, is also embroiled in its own war crimes scandal. Britain's Special Forces, also named the Special Air Service, SAS, were found to be committing war crimes going back many, many years.

These war crimes involved many of the same things we just looked at such as blooding, or throw downs, and were also systemically covered up by the entire chain of command. An inquiry was also launched, called Operation Northmoor, yet not a single soldier or politician was held accountable. These atrocities were reported on years before when the Sunday Times in cooperation with the BBC, published internal emails showing that troops in Afghanistan were casually discussing these war crimes among themselves.

For example, in late 2010 and early 2011, British special forces from D Squadron in the 22nd Special Air Service regiment, conducted several night raids in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

During these nighttime raids they would regularly execute dozens of unarmed Afghan men, committing the most horrendous of war crimes, with complete impunity.

On February 16th 2011, the SAS stormed the house of a man named SaifullahGharebYar. They executed his two brothers, his cousin and his father. All of his family members had been unarmed and were already in custody at this point when they were murdered.

Afterwards, the SAS falsified their Operational Summary, OPSOM reports, claiming that these men had brandished weapons of some sort. They did this for practically every raid, these “throwdowns”, the report goes on to detail how British commanders became aware early on of a deliberate policy of executing Afghani civilians, particularly men.

In one email published by the Sunday Times a Major in the SAS remarks that there were more bodies than weapons. This clearly indicates that either the weapons had gone missing, or the men were never armed to begin with. And these reports were fabricated, or falsified. The numbers literally did not add up.

In another email soldiers casually talk about the latest massacre, indicating how common these occurrences were. The UK Ministry of Defence claims that a "breakdown of communication" between the Ministry of Defence and lawyers is the reason that no action ended up being taken.

Operation Northmoor was set up in 2014 to investigate these crimes. And yet, here we are in 2021, and not a single person has been found guilty despite all of these killings. How is that possible? It's extraordinary that none of these investigations whether we're talking about Operation Northmoor, or the Brereton Report, have resulted in any successful prosecutions or convictions; or even criminal proceedings beginning.

How is it that Australian, British and American Special Forces can literally get away with murder?

The end result of this is that these actions not only disgraced the uniforms of these countries but also blew a giant hole in the mission these countries allegedly set out to accomplish, if their original goal was, as they professed, to bring peace and stability to the country, this certainly was not the way to do it.

Executing unarmed men and getting away with murder, is not nation building or bringing peace and stability and security to Afghanistan. It's a horrendous, brutal occupation that cannot be justified and is, ultimately, self defeating.

In some cases when Afghan civilians were executed by special forces their families were paid compensation by British and Australian troops, who did so without acknowledging any wrongdoing.

If you look at the sums mentioned, in some cases, it's around 2000 or $3,000. According to the Sunday Times, in July of 2012, an Afghan mother named BebeHazrata, watched as the elite British SAS commandos shot dead her three unarmed sons (Nor Mohammad, 33, Din Mohammad, 30, and Sher Mohammed, 27) in the courtyard of their own home.

They were just farmers. The British then paid her 3000 pounds, and just left. Of course, the British government denies any wrongdoing.

And in another instance, reported by ABC, the Australian Special Forces killed a man named BismillahAzadi and his 15 year old son, Sadighollah, while they lay sleeping. According to Bismillah's cousin, he found them dead and the bed riddled with bullets, the Australian Special Forces had left some cash with the corpse and left.

Is that how much the United States, Britain and Australia think Afghan lives are worth, a few thousand dollars?

This is not just repulsive; it's extremely insulting and dehumanizing. Foreign invaders come to Afghanistan, kill Afghan civilians in front of their families, pay them a few pennies and then just move on to the next village, or next town, as if nothing happened.

And the world stays silent and allows this to continue for decades. Is this it?

Anyone with a shred of decency will be shocked and offended by what's going on. And these are just the things that we know.

More recently, there's a bill going through the British Parliament called the Overseas Operations Bill, which is extreme cause for concern.

This bill seeks to eliminate accountability for British troops who commit war crimes overseas by introducing a statute of limitation of five years after the event has happened. That is, If it's ever investigated.

This means war crimes, torture, abuses of various kinds would go unpunished, essentially, not just the soldiers committing the acts but all the way up the chain of command, no one would be held responsible.

The bill effectively eviscerates accountability for war crimes and does nothing to prevent them in the future. It's an assault on human rights in the clearest sense and an indication that the British government intends to continue the trend of letting war crimes go unpunished.

If there's one thing we've learned from these investigations, it's not just that war crimes have been committed with absolute impunity, and that these horrific practices like blooding and throw downs are going on, but that there's also been a systemic cover up going up the entire chain of command.

It's really worth thinking about what is more concerning here, the fact that these war crimes have taken place at all or that military officials and politicians are able to get away with them and escape unscathed after failing to prevent them from happening in the first place, and letting them continue when they knew the horrors that were taking place.

Honestly, both concepts are equally terrifying, and equally unacceptable; most of all, to the victims and their families.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/23/645885/SAS-commit-war-crimes-in-Afghanistan-with-impunity

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Turkey accuses Greece of 'harassing' research ship in Aegean Sea

23 February 2021

Turkey has accused the Greek military of "harassing" a Turkish vessel in the Aegean Sea, despite efforts by Athens and Ankara to resolve their differences over the disputed waters.

Turkey's Defense Ministry claimed on Tuesday that four Greek F-16 fighters had flown close to the TCG Cesme ship, which was carrying out "technical and scientific research" in waters near the Greek island of Lemnos.

One of the Greek fighter jets was alleged to have flown "at an altitude of 1,000 meters" and dropped a flare "two nautical miles" away from the Turkish research ship.

"This is unfortunately one of the frequent acts of harassment by our Greek neighbors," Turkish Defense Minister HulusiAkar said in statement.

Without providing further details, Akar said that Turkey had made an "adequate response" to the incident.

"We all believe that such harassment is not appropriate and does not suit good neighborly relations," he added.

Greek media reported that an official from the country's Defense Ministry had denied that its fighter jets had harassed a Turkish vessel.

The Turkish Navy deployed the TCG Cesme ship on a scientific mission in the Aegean Sea last week and said the vessel would carry out surveys of the islands of Lemnos, Skyros, and Alonnisos until March 2, a move that drew protests from Greece.

For the first time in five years, representatives from Ankara and Athens resumed talks over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean last month with the aim of settling long-standing disputes between the two NATO member countries. The two sides have agreed on a subsequent meeting in the Greek capital.

Greece and Turkey, both of them NATO members, have been locked in a long-lasting territorial dispute over hydrocarbon resources in the Mediterranean Sea.

Tensions escalated last year between the two after Turkey began a military-backed hydrocarbon exploration venture in waters between Greece and Cyprus.

Turkey’s discovery of major gas deposits in the waters sparked anger in Greece, which responded with naval drills.

Despite warnings from the European Union, Ankara has organized several gas exploration missions in Greek waters, triggering a diplomatic crisis.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/23/645921/Turkey-accuses-Greece-of--harassing--research-ship-in-Aegean-Sea

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Southeast Asia

 

Malaysia deports over 1,000 Myanmar nationals in defiance of court order

February 24, 2021

LUMUT: Malaysia on Tuesday deported more than 1,000 Myanmar detainees back to their strife-torn homeland just weeks after a coup, despite a court order halting the repatriation and a storm of criticism.

The migrants, whom activists say include vulnerable asylum seekers, departed on three Myanmar navy ships from a Malaysian military base after arriving on packed trucks and buses under police escort.

The United States, the United Nations and rights groups had criticised the plan, while hours before the deportation a Kuala Lumpur court ordered it be temporarily halted to allow a legal challenge. Activists were set to argue it should not go ahead as Malaysia would breach its international duties by deporting vulnerable people, and the Myanmar military’s seizure of power put them at even greater risk.

But the vessels later set sail carrying 1,086 detainees, with authorities giving no explanation as to why the court order had been ignored.

Amnesty International, one of the groups that had brought the legal challenge, said pushing ahead with the repatriation in defiance of the ruling was “inhumane and devastating”.

“This life-threatening decision has affected the lives of more than 1,000 people and their families, and leaves an indelible stain on Malaysia’s human rights record,” said Katrina JoreneMaliamauv, executive director of the group’s Malaysian office.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said Malaysia had “sent them back into the hands of a military junta known for persecuting those who flee the country for political reasons”.

Malaysian immigration chief KhairulDzaimeeDaud had offered assurances no members of the persecuted Rohingya minority — not recognised as citizens in Myanmar — or asylum seekers had been repatriated.

“All of those who have been deported agreed to return of their own free will, without being forced,” he said.

Rights groups have however raised doubts over authorities’ claims no asylum seekers were among those sent back, as the UN has not been able to do a proper assessment.

Authorities earlier said 1,200 detainees were to be deported, and it was not clear why the final number was lower.

Officials insist those sent back had committed offences such as overstaying their visas, and the deportation was part of their regular programme of repatriating migrants from poorer parts of Asia.

About 37,000 foreigners were repatriated last year. Malaysia is home to millions of migrants who work in low-paying jobs such as construction. It is rare for rights groups to launch legal challenges against deportations.

But they were prompted to do so by concerns about the worsening human rights situation in Myanmar since the coup, and that some of the migrants were vulnerable.

Activists have been growing increasingly alarmed since authorities blocked the UN refugee agency from accessing immigration detention centres in Malaysia in 2019.

This means the UN cannot assess whether foreigners are economic migrants looking for work or asylum seekers fleeing persecution and conflict, who would usually be granted refugee status and the right to remain in Malaysia.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1609083/malaysia-deports-over-1000-myanmar-nationals-in-defiance-of-court-order

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After court halts deportation of 1,200 foreign nationals, Pakatan calls for govt to initiate regional talks on Myanmar coup

23 Feb 2021

BY EMMANUEL SANTA MARIA CHIN

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — Opposition coalition PakatanHarapan (PH) today called on the government to initiate a regional dialogue among Asean leaders to find a solution to the recent military coup and restore democracy in Myanmar.

PH zoomed in on the importance of such a discourse taking place soon, to end alleged persecution and rights abuse by the junta, underscored by a recent decision by the Kuala Lumpur High Court to grant a temporary stay of deportation to some 1,200 Myanmar nationals earlier today.

The temporary stay was granted until tomorrow morning when a judicial review of the repatriation will be heard by the court.

“PH calls on the Malaysian government to initiate a dialogue between Asean leaders and the Myanmar Junta in order to end the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators, to release prisoners of conscience, and return democracy and the institution of Parliament in Myanmar,” read a statement issued by the coalition.

The statement, endorsed by its three party leaders, namely Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PKR), MohamadSabu (PartiAmanah Negara) and Lim Guan Eng (DAP), despite urging the government to reconsider its decision to deport the Myanmar nationals, then expressed their concerns if such a request would even be considered.

“Even so, this decision (by the courts) may not stop the Malaysian government from continuing with the repatriation process after that period is over.

“PH stresses that the Malaysian government must reconsider the repatriation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals because such an action would legitimise and acknowledge the Tatmadaw military junta.

“The act of repatriating refugees to a conflict zone before stability and peace has been truly established may jeopardise the safety of these refugees,” read the statement.

The foreign nationals were supposed to be deported earlier today, via three Navy ships docked at the Lumut, Perak port sent by Myanmar’s military that seized power in the country through a February 1 coup, before the Court’s decision at the noon hearing today.

The power grab by the Myanmar military triggered protests and demonstrations by pro-democracy activists in locations throughout the country, with even several fatalities reported as a result of the clashes with the junta.

Reports had claimed that among the 1,200 set to be repatriated by Malaysia include several with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cards and even minors with one parent in Malaysia.

This despite the government earlier promising not to deport Rohingya Muslims or refugees registered with the UNHCR.

Refugee groups say asylum seekers from the minority Chin, Kachin and non-Rohingya Muslim communities fleeing conflict and persecution at home are among those being deported.

PH today also expressed its worry towards these claims of minors and documented refugees being among those set to be deported.

“If this is true, then it is a worrying development. We therefore request that the authorities, with the assistance of the UNHCR, promptly verify whether this is truly the case or not,” PH said.

This also comes a day after PH likened the PerikatanNasional government to the military government currently ruling Myanmar, saying both were alike in their efforts to subvert democracy through the suspension of Parliament

PH had said both administrations also used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to impose autocratic rule as a way to divert attention from their failure to tackle the health and economic crisis effectively.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/02/23/after-court-halts-deportation-of-1200-foreign-nationals-pakatan-calls-for-g/1952186

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Indonesia seeks to broker Taliban peace deal in Afghanistan

February 24, 2021

JAKARTA -- Former Indonesian Vice President JusufKalla said he has traveled to Afghanistan and Qatar several times in recent months to help broker a peace deal between the government in Kabul and the Taliban insurgent group.

In an interview at his home in Jakarta, he told Nikkei Asia that he went to meet the two parties in a personal capacity to "give them thoughts, as well as ways of how to negotiate effectively."

Kalla said one way he could help mediate the conflict is by offering suggestions to both sides based on "Indonesia's experiences in dealing with conflict areas," adding that he aimed to operate within Indonesia's constitution by helping "maintain world order by means of lasting peace."

Kalla, who served under the administrations of former President SusiloBambangYudhoyono from 2004 to 2009 and current leader Joko "Jokowi" Widodo from 2014 to 2019, was a key figure behind the 2005 Helsinki agreement in which the government and now-defunct Free Aceh Movement signed a peace accord following a decades-long conflict in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.

"By negotiating, it means they basically already want to achieve peace," Kalla told Nikkei Asia, referring to peace talks that started last September in Doha.

Faran Jeffery, deputy director of the Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism (ITCT), a U.K.-based anti-terrorism think tank, told Nikkei Asia: "Afghanistan's security and stability will not only impact Asia but the rest of the world."

Jeffery continued: "Afghanistan has in the past acted as the hub of global terrorism, with Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and a list of other terrorist groups maintaining their bases and training camps in the country. Even if the Taliban completely cuts ties with Al-Qaeda, they will always remain ideologically aligned with the global jihadist group."

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in October the country remained "among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian" -- with 2,117 people killed and 3,822 injured from January to September last year.

In a February 2020 report, UNAMA documented more than 35,000 fatalities and more than 65,000 injuries in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2019. The actual death toll could be much higher, as the U.S.-led coalition began operations against the Taliban in the country in 2001.

As the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has been a part of the Afghanistan peace process since 2014, when Kalla began his second stint as vice president. "The government is committed to contributing to peace in Afghanistan," foreign ministry spokesperson TeukuFaizasyah told Nikkei Asia. "What Mr.Kalla does adds value to the Indonesian government's sustained diplomatic efforts and contribution for peace in Afghanistan."

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Indonesian counterpart RetnoMarsudi during a visit to Jakarta in October last year that he "appreciated" Indonesia's engagement in the peace process. "The world's largest majority-Muslim country has much to offer Afghanistan on its road to peace and making sure that every Afghan, men and women, have all the rights to which they are rightly deserving," Pompeo said.

Kalla, currently chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross, however, declined to elaborate on the message he conveyed to the Afghan government and Taliban. "Of course, it cannot be [made] open," he told Nikkei Asia.

Jeffery of the ITCT "can play an important role in Afghanistan" by promoting religious harmony and helping the country rebuild. He said that U.S., Qatar and other brokers had ignored the role of tribal leaders and their militias in relation to the peace process.

"Similarly, the Afghan non-Taliban Islamic scholars have also been largely ignored," he said. "I think this is where Indonesia can do what others have not so far. Indonesia can engage with Afghan tribal leaders as well as Islamic scholars in a variety of ways, which will eventually help bring them into the Afghan national fold and be more productive in the national peace process."

Ahmad Rizky M. Umar, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Queensland in Australia, said Indonesia's initiative to encourage dialogue between groups in Afghanistan was "actually driven more" by Kalla and the Indonesian foreign ministry, rather than grassroots Islamic organizations in Indonesia.

Umar, who has researched Islam and its connections to Indonesia's foreign policy, said Kalla's involvement in the dialogue would be "different from his experience in previous conflict resolutions," such as his roles in Indonesia's Poso conflict from the late 1990s to early 2000s and in southern Thailand in the late 2000s.

"This will be very different because Afghanistan has a contour of Islamic understanding which is quite different from that in Indonesia or in Southeast Asia," he told Nikkei Asia.

Kalla said he would continue monitoring the negotiations between the two sides and would travel again to Afghanistan and Qatar if needed.

"I promised them if there is still a deadlock, I am ready to come again to give suggestions."

https://asia.nikkei.com/Editor-s-Picks/Interview/Indonesia-seeks-to-broker-Taliban-peace-deal-in-Afghanistan

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Arab World

 

State Department warns Egypt against purchasing Russian fighter jets

Joseph Haboush

23 February ,2021

The United States Tuesday expressed its concern over Egypt’s potential purchase of Russian fighter jets, the State Department said Tuesday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue during a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart SamehShoukry.

“The Secretary raised concerns over human rights, which he emphasized would be central to the US-Egypt bilateral relationship, and Egypt’s potential procurement of Su-35 fighter aircraft from Russia,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Washington has increased its opposition to allies, specifically Turkey, acquiring Russian fighter jets.

A US sanctions regime was put into effect to allow the US to sanction any allies for doing so.

Separately, Blinken and Shoukry highlighted the importance of the strong strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, “particularly in security and ongoing counterterrorism cooperation, and exchanged views on regional issues.”

The ongoing UN-backed peace talks in Libya and the Middle East Peace Process were also touched upon, Price said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2021/02/23/US-foreign-policy-State-Department-warns-Egypt-against-purchasing-Russian-fighter-jets

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Iraqi officials, Kata’ib Hezbollah condemn rocket attack on Baghdad Green Zone

23 February 2021

Senior Iraqi officials and Kata'ib Hezbollah resistance group, which is part of the Popular Mobilization Units, have denounced the latest rocket attack that targeted the high-security zone in the capital Baghdad, blaming rouge elements for the “unjustifiable” assault.

“We strongly condemn the resumption of attacks on diplomatic centers and spread of terror among the residents of Baghdad,” Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance in Iraq’s parliament, said in a statement.

Ameri, who also leads Iraq’s Badr Organization, censured the rocket fire on Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone as unjustifiable under any pretext, calling on Iraqi security forces to fulfill their duties and protect diplomatic installations across the country.

Iraq’s Security Media Cell announced in a statement that at least two rockets had landed in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad, which houses foreign embassies and some of the main Iraqi government institutions, on Monday evening.

The rockets only caused material damage, and there was no mention of casualties.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kata’ib Hezbollah’s military spokesman Jaafar al-Husseini also called the rocket attack on the high-security Green Zone of Baghdad an attempt to foment unrest in Iraq.

“According to the information received by us, the rocket attack in Green Zone, was the work of evil hands who want to destabilize the country,” Husseini pointed out in a short message.

Furthermore, influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on the Baghdad government to take proper actions to stop attacks on diplomatic missions.

“We are witnessing an increase in the use of weapons, bombings and attacks targeting diplomatic installations in Iraq…They are posing tremendous risk to the lives of Iraqi civilians, and seriously damaging the prestige of the administration,” Sadr wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page.

He called on Iraqi authorities not to stand idly by and adopt appropriate steps to prevent rocket attacks.

Additionally, the leader of the National Wisdom Movement (al-Hikma), Ammar al-Hakim, deplored attacks on diplomatic missions, especially in the Green Zone in the center of Baghdad.

He said those individuals who launch such assaults are not concerned about the dire consequences of their actions, which tarnish the reputation of Iraq, damage the prestige of the government in the global public opinion, and endanger the lives of people residing in the nearby areas.

PMU ‘will disclose info on perpetrators in due time’

Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ibAhl al-Haq, which is also part of the PMU, also slammed the rocket attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone.

The continuation of attacks on the Green Zone, which hit residential areas each time and do not cause any damage to the US embassy, comes despite the declared decision of the Iraqi Resistance Coordination Commission to stop such raids, said the commander.

This raises many questions about the party that benefits from such assaults,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“We have information that we will disclose at the appropriate time,” Khazali noted.

‘Mossad controls Daesh camps in Syria’

Meanwhile, the Union of Muslim Scholars in Diyala said the Israeli spy agency Mossad is in control of training camps of the TakfiriDaesh terrorist group in Syria.

“The control of Daesh camps inside Syria has shifted from the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) to the Israeli Mossad, which has been directing the militants for the past few months. The US [military] aircraft prevent any initiative to bombard such camps and secure them. This is proof that Washington is the sponsor of the largest extremist organization, which threatens global security and stability,” the union’s head, Jabbar al-Ma’mouri, told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency on Monday.

He added, “Creation of extremist organizations is a US objective, which was formulated decades ago. It started with al-Qaeda [terror network] and has now reached Daesh. They are the offspring of the CIA.”

“Confessions of the White House leaders confirm such evidence. Iraq’s security is tied to the fortification of its border with Syria since there is a scheme that aims to undermine the stability of the country through attacks,” Ma’mouri noted.

Israel frequently targets military positions inside war-ravaged Syria, especially those of the Hezbollah resistance movement that has helped the Syrian army in its fight against foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists.

Many view the Israeli acts of aggression as a knee-jerk reaction to the Syrian government’s increasing success in confronting terrorism in the country

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/23/645879/Iraqi-officials,-Kataib-Hezbollah-condemn-rocket-attack-on-Baghdad-Green-Zone

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Over 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for 2022 FIFA World Cup: Report

24 February 2021

More than 6,500 migrant workers from five labor-sending South Asian countries have reportedly died in Qatar ever since the Persian Gulf kingdom won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup nearly a decade ago.

British daily newspaper The Guardian, citing findings compiled from a range of government sources, reported on Tuesday that the figure means an average of 12 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died each week in Qatar.

The report said thousands of migrant Asian workers have died in unexplained or dubious circumstances – often listed as “natural deaths” – while working in Qatar in the last decade.

It said 69% of the deaths among Indian, Nepali and Bangladeshi workers are categorized as natural, while the figure is 80% among Indians alone.

Based on the data from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, 5,927 migrant workers lost their lives in Qatar between 2011 and 2020.

Separately, Pakistan’s embassy in Doha reported there were a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers in the period 2010–2020.

The Guardian further revealed that Ghal Singh Rai from Nepal paid nearly £1,000 ($1,418) in recruitment fees for his job as a cleaner in a camp for workers building the Education City World Cup stadium. He killed himself within a week of arriving in Qatar.

Another worker, Mohammad Shahid Miah, from Bangladesh, was electrocuted in his worker accommodation after water came into contact with exposed electricity cables.

In India, the family of MadhuBollapally have never understood how the healthy 43-year old died of “natural causes” while working in Qatar. His body was found lying on his dorm room floor.

The Guardian highlighted what it described the lack of transparency, rigor and details in recording deaths in Qatar.

The daily newspaper said embassies in Doha and governments in labor-sending countries are apparently reluctant to share the data, possibly for political reasons.

“There is a real lack of clarity and transparency surrounding these deaths,” May Romanos, a researcher with Amnesty International on migrant rights in the Persian Gulf region, said.

She added, “There is a need for Qatar to strengthen its occupational health and safety standards.”

The report warned the real death toll is significantly higher, as figures do not reveal the number of deaths of workers from other countries which send large numbers of migrants to Qatar, such as the Philippines and Kenya.

The findings also do not include deaths that occurred in the final months of 2020.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2021/02/24/645952/Over-6,500-migrant-workers-have-died-in-Qatar-as-it-gears-up-for-2022-FIFA-World-Cup-Report

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Saudi students among winners of UAE space pioneers program

TARIQ AL-THAQAFI

February 23, 2021

MAKKAH: The UAE’s inaugural spacecraft, the Hope Probe, entered orbit round Mars last week and the country wants future generations in the Arab world to continue to have an impact on space exploration.

It all starts with the Arab Space Pioneers Program, which is an intensive science training program launched in July by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai. The program comes on the heels of the Hope Probe mission and aims to build Arab expertise in space science and technologies, while also empowering the region’s talents.

Within two weeks of its launch, the program received 37,000 applications from talented researchers and inventors from Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, the UAE, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

The program, overseen by the UAE Space Agency, then selected 10 winners to participate in the inaugural edition.

“I knew I had to apply because it would allow me to explore my love for space at an advanced level,” said Saudi national Nuran Al-Youssef, 16, one of the future astronomers selected for the program.

“There’s only so much a person can learn from online research papers and books and I wanted to have real-world experiences in the field that I love.”

Joining Al-Youssef in the program’s talent track will be Muhammad Al-Sayed Subai,17, Salah El-Din Jalal, 17, and Nuran Al-Sayed, 16, from Egypt; Fatima Al-Abdullah, 16, from Saudi Arabia; Muhammad Zakaria, 15, from Algeria; and Muhammad Al-Jroub, 16, from Jordan.

The talent track offers training that will assist participants in entering the scientific field.

Maria Muhammad from the Comoros, Muhammad Abdel Jawad from Syria, and Asmaa Al-Mismari from Saudi Arabia were selected for the program’s student track, which will assist participants in earning college scholarships.

Participants in both tracks will receive training in the UAE’s space research and development centers.

Al-Youssef became interested in space exploration when she was 7 while living in Texas as her parents pursued their graduate degrees. After borrowing a simple astronomy book from the library, her curiosity peaked. Al-Youssef then visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston when she was in the sixth grade, which solidified her goal to learn more about the skies above.

After she returned to the Kingdom, Al-Youssef started a small club called the Saudi Youth Space Association where the main goal was to encourage youth to pursue careers in space-related fields.

“The majority of students who would come into these webinars have an interest in astronomy, but don’t know if they want to pursue it as a career,” she said. “Seeing someone who has done it before and succeeded can inspire them to turn their dreams into a reality.”

Saudi Fatma Al-Abdullah, 16, said she discovered her love for science during summer programs hosted by the King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba).

The 11th grader from Al-Ahsa has a passion for modern physics and mathematics and she has also participated in various olympiads.

“Throughout the application and vetting process, I was trying my best to show how passionate I am about space science, technology and mathematics and how driven I am to achieve my goals,” Al-Abdullah said.

Both students have high aspirations for the future. Al-Youssef wants to become an astronaut and she plans to study astronomy and aerospace engineering in college.

“My ultimate goal is to eventually work in the Saudi Space Commission and play a part in shaping Saudi Arabia’s space future,” she said.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1814626/saudi-arabia

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URL: https://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/france-summons-pakistan-envoy-criticism/d/124387

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