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Islamic World News ( 17 Feb 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Hizbul Mujahideen and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan Remain a Global Terrorist Organisation: U.S. State Secretary

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 February 2023


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. File | Photo Credit: Reuters


• ‘Pakistan a Cancer State in the Name of Islam’: Islamic State-Khorasan’s Latest Attack

• Muslim Outfits, Including IUML, Slam Jamaat-e-Islami for Holding Talks with RSS

• Iranian President Joins Chinese Muslims for Prayers at Beijing Mosque

• US Jail Abuse: Inmate, Mentally-Ill Anthony Mitchell, Frozen to Death: Iran’s Rights Chief


North America

• Canada has already become a safe-haven for the Islamic Republic regime’s murderers

• Chollet reaffirms US help in fight against terrorism

• US refuses to get involved in Imran’s ‘blame game’

• US ‘dismayed’ with Israel settlement move, dubs UN vote ‘unhelpful’

• Top US diplomat to Afghanistan apologizes for ‘inappropriate’ tweets

• US frowns on UN Security Council's anti-Israel draft resolution



• PTI Workers Gather At Lahore’s Zaman Park To Resist Imran’s Arrest

• Peshawar mosque attack confronts Pakistan with tough security choice

• Terrorists attack CTD officials in Kalabagh, TTP commander killed in exchange of fire

• Pakistani workers in Gulf face inhumane working conditions: report

• Pakistan denies supplying ammunition to Ukraine

• Jaffar express explosion: Two killed, many injured in Pakistan train blast



• Burnt Bodies of 2 Muslim Men Found In Haryana, Bajrang Dal Role Alleged

• Activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal Target Mosque in Uttar Pradesh

• Plea moved in Supreme Court citing ‘hate speech against Hindus’


Southeast Asia

• Dr Mahathir: Radical actions of a few Muslims contribute to Islamophobia

• 69 Rohingya refugees land on Indonesia’s west coast

• Malaysia will assist Turkiye in more capacities, says PM

• ‘Don’t spin my words’: PAS lawmaker says did not mean to imply Menu Rahmah causes cancer

• Activists decry Malaysia ban on LGBTQ books



• Religion in Ruins: Turkiye's Oldest Mosque And World's Oldest Church Destroyed By Earthquake

• UN Mission Rejects Report over Al-Qaeda Chief's Sheltering in Iran

• Iran planning to assassinate diaspora Jews if Israel attacks: French journalist

• Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launch protest campaign against ‘collective punishment’

• President Rayeesi: Iran, China Agree on Technology Transfer

• Iranian President: US Seeking To Stir Chaos in Region By Forming Takfiri Outfits

• Renewed protests in Iran to mark 40 days since execution of two demonstrators

• Iran says US claim linking al-Qaeda leader to Tehran ‘laughable’

• Iran jails influential academic for eight years: Lawyer


Arab World

• UAE, Egypt To Boost Cooperation In Anti-Money Laundering, Counterterrorism Financing

• Arab popular sympathy, solidarity with Türkiye is no surprise: Yemeni Nobel laureate

• Four Iraqi soldiers killed in raid foiling Daesh plots to target pilgrims north of Baghdad

• Iraq PM risks new crisis as tensions with Kurds resurface

• Saudi Arabia to build 3,000 homes as Turkey, Syria earthquake survivors left homeless

• Awards for Jeddah Islamic Port at Rotterdam’s Green Shipping Summit

• Saudi becoming a global leader in arts, says Algerian American rapper and filmmaker

• Syrian kids feel the whole world is ‘spinning around them,’ UNICEF official says



• Bulgaria’s Turkish Minority Steps up Aid Drive for Earthquake Victims in Türkiye

• Volunteer Dutch medics healing wounds of quake victims in Türkiye

• Earthquake hit Turkey helped yet Syria ignored by most EU states

• NATO chief says ‘time is now’ for Turkiye to ratify Finland, Sweden membership applications



• Israeli shadowy firm sought to discredit ICRC in Burkina Faso: Report

• Tunisia’s Kais Saied rejects foreign interference after US concern over arrests

• Libya’s Misrata mobilizes aid for quake victims in Türkiye

• Türkiye donates over 70,000 military uniforms to South Sudan


South Asia

• ISIS Is the Common Enemy of Afghanistan, International Community: Former U.S. Special Representative For Afghanistan

• Afghan Refugees Face Deportation Risks Due to Congress Delays: CBS Report

• The Ruling Regime Should Pay Attention to People’s Demands: IEA Minister

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Hizbul Mujahideen and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan Remain a Global Terrorist Organisation: U.S. State Secretary


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. File | Photo Credit: Reuters


February 17, 2023

Pakistan-based Kashmir-centric Hizbul Mujahideen and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan remain a global terrorist organisation and there is no reason for the change in their status, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said following a review.

Mr. Blinken’s determination was notified in the federal register on February 16 following a review of the designations as foreign terrorist organisations of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Hizbul Mujahideen, and the Army of Islam (and Other Aliases).

“Based on a review” of the Administrative Records and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Blinken said he conclude that the circumstances that were the bases for the designations of these organisations as Foreign Terrorist Organisations have not changed in such a manner as to warrant revocation of the designations.

“The national security of the United States does not warrant a revocation of the designations,” he said.

“Therefore, I hereby determine that the designations of the aforementioned organisations as Foreign Terrorist Organisations,” Mr. Blinken said.

Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was designated as a terrorist organisation by the U.S. on 1 September 2010. It also identified its leaders Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali ur-Rehman as specially designated global terrorists.

TTP, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, is an umbrella organisation of various Islamist armed terrorist groups operating along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Formed in 2007, the group shares a common ideology with the Afghan Taliban and assisted them in the 2001–2021 war.

Based out of Pakistan, Kashmir-centric Hizbul Mujahideen has been designated as a global terrorist organisation by the US, Canada, India and the European Union.

Source: The Hindu

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‘Pakistan a Cancer State in the Name of Islam’: Islamic State-Khorasan’s Latest Attack


SKP emerged in 2014 with the defection of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), al Qaeda, and Taliban fighters active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Shutterstock)


By: Manoj Gupta

FEBRUARY 16, 2023

Pakistan is a “cancer” for Islamic existence and is run at the behest of the United States, the Islamic State - Khorasan Province (ISKP) — an affiliate of the Islamic State militant group active in South Asia and Central Asia — has said in its magazine, warning that it will continue working against the country.

In the 18th issue of ISKP’s ‘Khorasan Ghag’ magazine, the group attacked Pakistan’s religious scholars as well as system of governance. A 79-page central piece in the magazine focuses on the Mufti Noor Wali vs Mufti Taqi Usmani confrontation.

ISKP claimed that Pakistan is run by the establishment which follows the instructions of the United States. Citing an example, the group said in 2018, former prime minister Imran Khan was brought into power through rigging and removed when he visited Russia.

They added that current army chief General Asim Munir is on US visit and will act upon what the United States orders him.

The ISKP, which is lodged in a power tussle with Taliban, called the Afghan Taliban “pawns” of the Pakistani establishment.

Noting that Pakistan is going through the worst political, economic and security situation in the history of 75 years, ISKP slammed Pakistani scholars — especially Mufti Taqi Usmani, claiming that after issuing a fatwa on Jihad in Afghanistan, he called it a riot in Pakistan in recent days.

“This shows that Pakistani politicians, journalists and scholars also follow the instructions of the establishment,” the outfit said.

Warning that ISKP will continue working against the Pakistani state, the terror outfit said it was not following anyone else’s agenda and will keep up its Jihad against US agents.

ISKP emerged in 2014 with the defection of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), al Qaeda, and Taliban fighters active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the wake of these defections, the Islamic State dispatched emissaries from Iraq and Syria to meet with local fighters, including a number of TTP commanders. In January 2015, these efforts were formalised when the Islamic State announced the formation of its “Khorasan” province.

Source: News18

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Muslim Outfits, Including IUML, Slam Jamaat-e-Islami for Holding Talks with RSS


IUML national general secretary P K Kunhalikutty


Feb 17, 2023

KOZHIKODE: Various Muslim organizations, including IUML, have come out against Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) for holding talks with RSS.

IUML national general secretary P K Kunhalikutty said that currently there is no circumstance for holding talks with the BJP or RSS and added that what was needed at the hour was a joint fight by secular forces against them.

Kunhalikutty said that the BJP/RSS or the central government have not given any sign of any change in its policies or correction in stand towards a secular character.

"The main concern of the people was the communal stand taken by the central government. There is scope for talks only when that stand is corrected," he said.

IUML leader Dr M K Muneer said that RSS was an organization which was untouchable for those who believe in secularism. "It is very dangerous for those who believe in secularism to hold reconciliation or mediation talks with RSS," he said.

Meanwhile, Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM) president T P Abdulla Koya Madani said that the talks should not have carried out in a unilateral manner and added that it has created suspicion whether they had any self-interest in the talks.

Samastha leader and SYS secretary Abdu Samad Pookottoor too said that the talks were unwarranted and asked what purpose does it serve to hold talks with an organization which challenges secularism and which allegedly plans to change the Constitution of the country. "Instead of approaching them for adjustment we should be able to able to tell that their stand is wrong," he added.

RSS had held talks with some Muslim organizations, including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), Jem Iyyathul Ulama Hind, Darul Uloom Deoband, Ajmer Dargah, etc. on Januray 14.

JIH had said that Muslim organizations decided to hold talks with RSS because it was the organization which was controlling the India government.

JIH general secretary T Arif Ali had said that the Muslim organizations had strongly raised the issues of mob lynching, hate speech and genocide at the meeting.

Source: Times Of India

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Iranian President Joins Chinese Muslims for Prayers at Beijing Mosque


Photo: Tasmin News


February 17, 2023

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited the Dongsi Mosque in Beijing on Wednesday as part of his three-day trip to China, before returning to Tehran on Thursday.

The Iranian president participated in the Maghrib and Isha prayers with the local Chinese Muslims in the 500-person prayer hall, where he gave a speech to the congregation.

“It’s an honor to join the local Chinese Muslims in prayer at this historic mosque,” Raisi said.

He also said that the United States is responsible for creating Takfiri terrorist groups and promoting insecurity in West Asia. He stated that the US hostility towards Iran is due to the country’s independence, and that despite all the animosity, the Islamic Republic has become stronger than before.

He also praised the growing relations between Iran and China, stating that the two countries have the potential to develop ties in various fields.

The Dongsi Mosque, built during the Yuan Dynasty in 1356 AD, features a structure with two gates, a dome, a prayer hall, and more. The mosque is built in the Ming Dynasty style and houses many cultural and valuable artifacts. The mosque’s library preserves various copies of the Quran, including one of the most valuable handwritten copies from the Yuan Dynasty.

The mosque is also the headquarters of the Beijing Islamic Association.

Source: Eurasia Review

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US Jail Abuse: Inmate, Mentally-Ill Anthony Mitchell, Frozen to Death: Iran’s Rights Chief


Photo: Fars Today


16 February 2023

Iran’s top human rights official says at an Alabama jail an inmate was deliberately frozen to death after he was placed in a walk-in freezer for hours, yet no human rights mechanism dares to question such an instance of appalling abuse in the United States.

Kazem Gharibabadi, the secretary of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, made the remarks on Thursday, after leaked CCTV footage of the jail revealed mentally-ill Anthony Mitchell, 33, froze to death after he was purportedly locked inside the walk-in freezer while in police custody.

"In yet another appalling instance of jail abuse in the U.S., a man froze to death after being restrained in a freezer! And the fact that no human rights mechanisms dare to pose a question, or unmask the depth of the matter is just terrifying!," Iran's rights chief tweeted.

On January 12, Mitchell, who had a history of mental health problems and drug addiction, was arrested for attempted murder after allegedly threatening to harm himself and others. He was then transported to Walker County Jail. Two weeks later, on January 26, he died at a local hospital after he was taken there for evaluation and, according to a statement by the sheriff’s office, “became unresponsive at the hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.” However, leaked CCTV footage from the jail shows a different story, and his family and protesters are demanding answers. The footage shows authorities carrying Mitchell’s near-lifeless body, which appears frozen, out of the jail and shoved into a vehicle to be taken to the hospital.

A lawsuit by his family alleges that Mitchell was taken to the hospital only after “hours of neglect,” including being locked inside the jail’s kitchen’s walk-in freezer as punishment. “How does a man literally freeze to death while incarcerated in a modern, climate-controlled jail, in the custody and care of corrections officers?” the family's lawyers asked.

Mitchell’s "cell was bare cement, the equivalent of a dog kennel. But unlike a dog, Tony was not even given a mat to sleep on,” the lawyers said.

Margaret Mitchell, his mother, brought the lawsuit against Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith, 10 corrections officers, two nurses and one investigator.

Austin Banks, a former classmate of Mitchell’s, described the circumstances leading to his ex-classmate as "almost barbaric."

“How does America, in 2023, how does a prisoner… die of hypothermia?” he said.

Source: Press TV

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 North America

 Canada has already become a safe-haven for the Islamic Republic regime’s murderers

By Lily Pourzand

Feb. 16, 2023

In February 2022, Morteza Talaei’s photo on a treadmill in Richmond Hill was all over social media. It made my stomach churn each time I saw the picture while scrolling through Facebook and Instagram.

Talaei was a member of the Islamic Regime’s police force, but not just any member. He was Tehran’s police chief when the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra (Ziba) Kazemi was arrested, tortured and murdered in Tehran’s Evin Prison in 2003.

This level of ignorance by the Canadian government was not only disappointing but also horrifying for many Iranian-Canadians, including myself.

When I learned that Talaei’s picture on the treadmill was taken at the gym in my neighbourhood, only five minutes away from my home, the combination of rage, disappointment, helplessness, and insecurity flared up in my heart. I felt my self-identity as a refugee woman, who fled her homeland to seek safety in Canada, instantly highjacked.

My dad’s voice kept echoing in my mind: “Each time that famous Sardar (police chief) appeared back at the secret detention centre, a new round of horrifying interrogation and torture would have been started.”

I recalled his voice talking about when the guards forced him into the shower and covered his body with hair removal cream. Ten minutes later, instead of letting him wash off the cream, they forced him to put on his dirty, bloody clothes, his body still covered in chemicals. They said there was no time to wash it off as “Sardar” had just arrived and wanted to meet him. His old, vulnerable, weak body burned and became severely infected. “Sardar” shouted at him while he was begging for water to wash off the chemical and said if he confessed that he was a spy, they would let him back in the shower.

The painful reality is that many Iranian-Canadians, including myself, have repeatedly tried to alert the Canadian government across parties since 2009 to the fact that Canada has become a safe-haven for the murderers of the Islamic Republic. Officials have met with many of us, individually and in group settings and little was done until recent months.

Since the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution, I have been asked countless times how safe I feel in Toronto. Similarly, mainstream media such as CBC have approached me for interviews, searching for the answers to the same question. Honestly, I have no idea how to respond to this question since Talaie has appeared in my neighbourhood. I am not sure how safe I feel when the man who tortured my father lived in the same neighbourhood as my family.

Finally, on Dec. 9, on the eve of International Human Rights Day, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly announced that Canada is imposing measures on those complicit in gross and systematic human rights violations in Russia, Iran and Myanmar. Sardar Talaei is one of those individuals.

Even though I feel validated by this announcement and acknowledge all the steps the Canadian government took to support the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution by banning regime officials from entering Canada and there have been many other measures, I hope the government understands this is not enough, and they have to do more.

Let’s be honest and accept that Talaei’s entry permission to the country indicates that Canada has already become a safe haven for the regime’s murderers. Unfortunately, Canada has already become a destination for dirty money laundering of Islamic regime proxies.

Source: The Star

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Chollet reaffirms US help in fight against terrorism

Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 17, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Counselor of the US Department of State Derek Chollet on Thursday reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to help Pakistan deal with resurgence of terrorism in the country and said that the two countries were looking at ways to strengthen their military ties.

Talking to a group of journalists at the US Embassy after his meetings here, the senior State Department official said that US was “prepared to work with Pakistan as they’re trying to deal with this renewed threat to them”.

Though he confirmed that counter-terrorism cooperation was discussed in the military talks held a few days back in Washington and in his own meeting at the General Headquarters, he, however, did not share specifics of the planned cooperation.

“I don’t want to get into the details of that right now but we’re very much following their lead in terms of both the investigation and where that leads and ensuring that those who conducted these attacks are held accountable,” he maintained.

Says two nations looking at ways to strengthen military ties

He said the US officials were assessing the terrorist threat and how it was evolving. “We are looking at what we can do together to try to address that threat, because the last thing any of us wants to see is a return to where things were here 15 some years ago,” he added.

Military cooperation

“Well, we’re also looking at how to strengthen the military relationship,” he further said noting the long history of the military ties and how those had supported the broader bilateral relationship.

Chollet underscored the need for taking other elements of the relationship in tandem with the growth in the military ties. He said that the bilateral relationship has been in the past “defined solely or principally by our military to military ties”, but now other areas of cooperation like energy, environment and climate, and trade and investment are also being focused.

Economic crisis

Speaking about Pakistan’s rapidly aggravating economic crisis, the official said that US was working with both IMF and other international partners to help the struggling country.

He urged the government to undertake fundamental reforms to put the economy on track.

“There’s an eagerness from the US private sector to be more engaged, but in order for them to be engaged and to realise that potential, some of these reforms are necessary so people can have confidence in their investments here,” he said.

About the overall trajectory of the relationship, he said efforts were under way to reframe it.

Source: Dawn

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US refuses to get involved in Imran’s ‘blame game’

Anwar Iqbal

February 17, 2023

WASHINGTON: The Uni­­ted States has once again refused to get involved in former prime minister Imran Khan’s ‘blame game’ about Washington’s alleged role in his ouster.

Days before his April 10, 2022 ouster, Mr Khan claimed that the Biden administration had orchestrated his ouster and presented a diplomatic cable to prove the allegation. But in an interview to VoA broadcasting service earlier this week, he absolved America, saying it was former army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa who planned and executed his ouster.

Asked to comment on Mr Khan’s new position, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “I’m just not going to comment on the evolution of the blame game, as you say. We have spoken clearly about this ever since these erroneous allegations surfaced. We’ve consistently said there is no truth to these allegations.”

Addressing the issue at a Wednesday afternoon news briefing in Washing­ton, Mr Price said the United States valued its longstanding cooperation with Pakistan and had always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to its interests. “That very much remains unchanged.”

Whether the blame game had come to an end or not, “we don’t let propaganda, misinformation, disinformation get in the way of any bilateral relationship”, the US official said. “And that of course includes our valued bilateral relationship with Pakistan.”

Mr Price said the United States never took a position on Pakistan’s domestic politics. “When it comes to various political players inside of Pakistan, we don’t have a position on one political candidate or party versus another,” he explained.

“We support, as we do around the world, the peaceful upholding of democratic, constitutional, and legal principles.”

Responding to a question about the US-Pakistan defence dialogue being held in Washington, Mr Price said he was not in a position to “share publicly beyond the fact that Pakistan is a valued partner” of the United States.

“It’s valued across many realms. Of course we have a security relationship that is important to us knowing that many of the threats Pakistan faces could well in turn be threats to us,” the US official said.

Source: Dawn

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US ‘dismayed’ with Israel settlement move, dubs UN vote ‘unhelpful’

17 February ,2023

The US voiced deep dismay at Israel's decision to expand Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory but on Thursday also described as “unhelpful” a push for the UN Security Council to denounce the move.

In a rebuke of Israel - suggesting President Joe Biden was prepared to take a harder line in dealing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - the White House said settlement activity “creates facts on the ground” that undermine hopes for peace between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

“The US strongly opposes these unilateral measures which exacerbate tensions, harm trust between the parties and undermine the geographic viability of the two-state solution,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Netanyahu's government on Sunday authorized nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank and announced mass construction of new homes in established settlements.

Most world powers consider Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal. Israel disputes that and cites biblical, historical and political links to the West Bank, as well as security interests.

The United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution, seen by Reuters on Wednesday, that would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

The 15-member council is likely to vote on Monday on the text, drafted by the United Arab Emirates in coordination with the Palestinians, diplomats said.

“Steps like settlement activity, steps like the introduction of such a resolution, are unhelpful and put us further away from a negotiated two-state solution,” deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters on Thursday.

He said the United States was working with partners at the United Nations in New York on “next steps.”

In December 2016 the Security Council demanded Israel stop building the settlements. It adopted a resolution after US President Barack Obama's administration abstained, a reversal of its practice to protect Israel from UN action.

When asked on Thursday if the United States could again abstain, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said: “I have nothing for you on that.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Top US diplomat to Afghanistan apologizes for ‘inappropriate’ tweets

17 February ,2023

The top US diplomat to Afghanistan on Thursday apologized for tweets that suggested struggling Afghan women might find inspiration in African American history and culture -- particularly the #BlackGirlMagic social media movement.

US envoy Karen Decker tweeted that several of her posts earlier in the week went “awry” despite her “best intentions” when she suggested Afghan women could learn from examples such as pop culture icons Beyonce and Lizzo.

Her comments sparked online indignation from users who objected to the seemingly tone deaf comments about the plight of Afghan women, who have seen their rights severely curtailed since the ultra-conservative Taliban swept back to power in 2021.

Since then the hardline Islamist rulers have banned women working for most aid groups, going to school or university, parks, gyms and public baths, and ordered them to cover up in public -- effectively segregating them from public life.

The poverty-stricken nation is also facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. More than half of its 38 million people are facing hunger this winter, and nearly four million children are suffering from malnutrition, according to aid agencies.

“Sometimes our best intentions go awry because we haven’t listened enough or don’t truly understand others’ lived experience,” Decker posted.

“My efforts to celebrate courageous African Americans this month fall in that category. I apologize to any and all who I may have offended or hurt.”

Decker’s apology came after her tweets drew a rare rebuke from the State Department, with spokesman Ned Price saying on Wednesday that her messaging was “rather inappropriate and ineffective.”

In a series of tweets over several days, Decker -- who has had multiple postings in Afghanistan dating as far back as 2006 -- evoked themes from Black History Month in relation to Afghanistan and Afghan women.

“Are Afghans familiar with #BlackGirlMagic and the movement it inspired? Do Afghan girls need a similar movement? What about Afghan women?” Decker tweeted on Wednesday in a now-deleted post.

“Teach me, ready to learn.”

At the bottom of her tweet, Decker put hashtags for Beyonce, Lizzo and actress Regina King. In other tweets she also cited civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the Super Bowl, and Abraham Lincoln.

#BlackGirlMagic is a movement born on social media that celebrates Black women with millions of uplifting and laudatory posts.

“Decker asked if the country needed a ‘movement,’ apparently oblivious to its real need, which is food. Is she aware of the impending famine?” tweeted Lee Slusher, an international security expert.

“What the hell is this? Apparently the Biden Administration isn’t embarrassed enough already by their Afghanistan debacle,” Donald Trump Jr, son of the former US president, tweeted.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US frowns on UN Security Council's anti-Israel draft resolution

16 February 2023

The United States rages against a proposed UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that calls on the Israeli regime to stop all its illegal settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory.

"Our view is that the introduction of this resolution was unhelpful," Vedant Patel, deputy US State Department's spokesperson, told reporters on Thursday.

The draft resolution would demand that the Israeli regime "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory."

The measure "reaffirms" that the regime's settlement construction activities across the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 "has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law."

The draft was referring to the West Bank, including East al-Quds, that the regime occupied during a heavily-Western-backed war that year.

Ever since the occupation, the regime has set up more than 250 illegal settlements across the West Bank that have come to house more than half a million settlers.

Tel Aviv has stepped up its efforts at expanding the illegal settlements since late December when Benjamin Netanyahu staged a comeback as the regime's prime minister at the head of a cabinet of hard-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.

On January 25, Israeli media sources informed that the Israeli cabinet was planning to increase the number of the settler units by a whopping 18,000 in the coming months.

The regime's unabated construction campaign comes while the Palestinians have historically demanded that the West Bank serve as part of their future state with East al-Quds as its capital.

The draft text also lambasted the Israeli regime over its regular practice of "legalizing" or "retroactively authorizing" the settler outposts that have been built across the occupied territory without the regime's so-called approval.

Earlier in February, the Israeli cabinet granted such permits to as many as nine settler outposts, raising international condemnation.

Referring to such structures, the draft resolution condemned "all attempts at annexation, including decisions and measures by Israel regarding settlements, including settlement outposts," and called for their immediate reversal.

The Security Council is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the situation in Palestine. It is not clear yet whether the body would put the draft to a vote during the upcoming session.

Completing his remarks, the State Department official alleged that the UNSC measure was counterproductive to "the conditions [that are] necessary to advance the negotiations of a two-state solution."

Negotiations between the Israeli regime and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority was suspended indefinitely in 2014 after Tel Aviv resumed a temporary halt it had introduced in its incessant settlement activities.

Source: Press TV

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PTI workers gather at Lahore’s Zaman Park to resist Imran’s arrest

February 17, 2023

LAHORE: Chanting slogans, hundreds of workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) reached the Zaman Park residence of Imran Khan on Thursday evening after cancellation of his protective bail in a case pertaining to protests outside the office of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Two days ago, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) had rejected Khan’s request for an extension to his interim bail for non-appearance in a protest case outside the ECP after his disqualification in the Toshakhana case.

On Thursday, the Lahore High Court (LHC) dismissed Khan’s petition for protective bail and the PTI workers, including women and children, started gathering at Zaman Park to thwart any attempt by the police to arrest their party chairman.

A large number of the PTI workers have already been camping outside the house of former prime minister Mr Khan at Zaman Park for several days where their leader has been staying after suffering injuries in an assassination attempt on him in Wazirabad during a march on Islamabad. The workers were continuously chanting slogans against the government and police.

PTI leader Musarat Jamshaid Cheema said the entire nation would take to the streets if the government tried to arrest the PTI leader. She said all the women sitting outside the house of Mr Khan were holding clubs and sticks for their safety and the women there were not criminals but belonged to respected families. She said it would not be easy to arrest Mr Khan and they would also start a ‘Jail Bharo’ campaign.

PTI’s social media focal person Azhar Mashwani told Dawn thousands of the PTI workers were permanently camping outside the house of Imran Khan to thwart any arrest attempt. He said the workers residing at Zaman Park were working in shifts to stay outside the house of Mr Khan at Zaman Park and they would come in shifts from different areas of the country.

Source: Dawn

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Peshawar mosque attack confronts Pakistan with tough security choice


February 16, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s perfect storm of crisis — economic turbulence, plunging currency, political polarization and Islamist militancy — has been compounded by last month’s suicide bombing at a mosque in a highly fortified police compound in Peshawar.

The attack —Pakistan’s deadliest in several years — harked back to a period more than 10 years ago when Peshawar, a city near the former tribal areas that borders Afghanistan, was scarred by militant violence and a military counteroffensive.

Authorities in Peshawar believe the Jan. 30 attack was in retaliation for the police force’s role on the front line of Pakistan’s battle with a resurgent insurgency since the Taliban returned to power across the border in Afghanistan.

The suicide bombing was the latest in a string of attacks targeted at security personnel across the country since the militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, called off its cease-fire deal with the Pakistan government in November.

Visiting Peshawar soon after the attack, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said “all resources” would be mobilized to flush out the militants. “This is no less than an attack on Pakistan ...  I have no doubt terrorism is our foremost national security challenge,” he said in a tweet.

If Sharif’s government decides to match words with resolute action, it would not be lacking in support judging by the public outrage fanned by the high death toll.

“Pakistan needs to come out of the confusion, end appeasement of the militants through peace talks, and go all out against them to achieve permanent peace,” Mosharraf Zaidi, a Pakistani security analyst, told Arab News.

Until Pakistan “separates itself from its romance with violent extremism,” the militants will continue to believe they can seize power, he said.

“We have to crush the militants’ ideological infrastructure and supply chain to break their backbone,” Zaidi said, adding that the government needed to formulate a “decisive strategy” to flush out the terrorists.

The Peshawar attack happened at a time when Pakistan is facing a slew of daunting challenges, with domestic political tensions soaring over a worsening cost-of-living crisis in the run-up to general elections due by October.

Analysts say political disunity and ideological confusion have provided space for militants to regroup and target the state.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the TTP has distanced itself from the Peshawar bombing, claiming it does not target mosques. Police are investigating whether the attack was the handiwork of an on-off TTP affiliate, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

Although separate, the Pakistani Taliban, established in 2007, is allied with the Afghan Taliban, which returned to power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 when US and NATO forces concluded their 20-year occupation of the country.

Several militant groups, including the TTP, began operating in Pakistan’s former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, shortly after the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in response to the Taliban’s refusal to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

During that time, the militants unleashed a wave of terror in FATA, killing soldiers, murdering outspoken politicians and celebrities, and eliminating perceived opponents. Compounding the crisis, they outlawed women’s education in the area, destroying about 200 girls’ schools.

It was in 2012 in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Pakistani Taliban militant. She miraculously survived the attack, going on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy of girls’ education.

Large-scale counterinsurgency operations began in 2014, killing most militant commanders and fighters and driving the rest into Afghanistan. The areas constituting FATA, established at the time of partition from India in 1947, were amalgamated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018.

However, after the Taliban returned to power in Kabul and the US ended counterterrorism operations in the border region, Pakistani militants began to regroup in the former tribal districts. Since then, a rash of deadly attacks have left Pakistanis in little doubt that their country faces a renewed insurgency.

Ismail Khan, a Pakistani journalist and security analyst, believes the Sharif government urgently needs to devise “a holistic and long-term strategy in the conference to deal with the problem at hand.”

At the same time, he told Arab News, “the government should also directly engage with the Afghan government to put an end to the cross-border movement of the terrorists, besides formulating and implementing a robust counterterrorism strategy.”

In January alone, the militants killed 124 security personnel and injured 247 in 26 separate attacks, the majority of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan, according to data shared by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank.

The breakdown of the data shows that of these 26 attacks, seven took place in Balochistan, in which six people were killed and 17 were injured; one in Sindh with no casualties; two in Punjab, killing two; and 16 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killing 116 and injuring 230.

According to the think tank, attacks rose by 50 percent in Pakistan, mostly along the western provinces bordering Afghanistan, during the first year of Taliban rule in Kabul.

In recent months, Islamabad has accused Kabul of failing to secure its borders and allowing militants inside Afghanistan to plan attacks against Pakistan.

Peace negotiations between the TTP and Pakistan, mediated by the Afghan Taliban, fell through in November, shattering a shaky cease-fire. During the talks, the militants had their numbers boosted by the release of about 100 low-level fighters from Pakistani jails.

Major General Ejaz Awan (retired), a prominent security analyst and former Pakistani ambassador to Brunei, believes a military response is the only solution to the terror threat.

“They are not willing to acknowledge Pakistan’s constitution, law, and writ of the state, therefore there is only one option left now and that is to wage a full-fledged war against them,” Awan told Arab News.

Awan, who held several rounds of unsuccessful peace talks with the militants in the early 2000s, wants the Pakistani government to launch an intelligence-based operation in the country’s tribal districts and other areas to eradicate the militants, their facilitators and supporters.

“These militants are equipped with the latest gadgets like night vision goggles left by the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan after their withdrawal, so Pakistan should also take it up with the Afghan authorities,” he said. 

According to investigators who spoke to the AFP news agency, the suspect appeared on CCTV arriving at the compound gates on a motorcycle before walking through a security checkpoint and asking officers where the Police Lines Mosque was located.

Moazzam Jah Ansari, the head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province police force, said the bomber used 10-12 kg of explosive material, brought to the site in advance of the attack in bits and pieces.

Authorities have been hard put to come up with an explanation for the suicide bomber’s success in gaining access to the mosque dressed in police uniform.

They are investigating how such a major breach could have occurred in one of the most secure areas of the city, which houses the intelligence and counterterrorism bureaus, amid concerns that people inside the police compound may have enabled the attack.

Hundreds of police were attending afternoon prayers inside what should have been a tightly controlled police headquarters when the blast erupted, causing a wall to collapse and crush scores of officers.

On Feb. 2, police officials revised the death toll down from 101 to 83 officers and one civilian, after saying there was confusion in registering bodies. Many survivors remain in hospital in a critical condition.

Expressing solidarity with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “stressed the Kingdom’s firm position that rejects targeting places of worship and terrorizing and shedding the blood of innocent people,” according to a Saudi Press Agency report.

The ministry “also affirmed that the Kingdom stands by the brotherly Islamic Republic of Pakistan against all forms of violence, extremism, and terrorism, regardless of its motives or justifications.”

The attack also drew strong condemnations from the Muslim World League and the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, among other international organizations.

“It is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship,” Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said through a spokesperson. “Freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace and security, is a universal human right.”

Imran Khan, the former Pakistan prime minister who is a fierce critic of the current government, said: “It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering and properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”

Prime Minister Sharif has appealed for national unity in the wake of the Peshawar attack. “We should unite and tackle this,” he said on Feb. 3 during his visit to the city.

Source: Arab News

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Terrorists attack CTD officials in Kalabagh, TTP commander killed in exchange of fire

Wasim Riaz Published

February 17, 2023

The Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department’s team in Mianwali’s Kalabagh came under attack by a group of armed militants be­longing to the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakis­tan (TTP) on Thursday night, the CTD said.

According to a statement issued by the CTD on Friday, the militants and security officials exchanged fire for 20 minutes during which a terrorist was killed.

“The slain militant was an important TTP commander identified as Habibur Rehman,” it said, revealing that a Kalashnikov, suicide jacket and TTP stickers were recovered from the terrorist’s possession.

The statement said that two terrorists managed to escape during the exchange of fire and a grand search operation has been launched to arrest them.

“A case against the attack has been registered at the CTD police station in Sargodha,” the statement added.

There were no reports of any injuries to CTD personnel during the attack.

Thursday’s attack is significant in that terrorists — who had so far targeted police stations and checkposts in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa, Balochistan and areas bordering Afghanistan — have set their sights in Punjab.

Earlier this month, a police station in Mianwali had also come under a gun attack by a group of TTP terrorists. Fortunately, no injuries to the police personnel were reported. After the attack, the Punjab police had launched a grand counterterrorism operat­ion in the highly complex and inac­cessible hilly areas of the district.

Last week, the CTD claimed to have killed a suspected terrorist allegedly belonging to the TTP in an encounter and arrested 11 other members of banned outfits from different cities during intelligence-based operations (IBOs) across Punjab.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistani workers in Gulf face inhumane working conditions: report

February 17, 2023

ISLAMABAD: A report on the plight of Pakistanis in the Gulf States said low-wage migrants working abroad were at the mercy of their employers, subjected to discriminatory and inhumane working conditions and inadequate consular assistance from their diplomatic missions.

Titled, “The cost of living: migrant workers’ access to health in the Gulf”, the report was launched at an event in Islamabad on Thursday. It was a collaborative effort of civil society organisations in South and Southeast Asia.

The launch event entailed a presentation of the findings of the report relevant to Pakistan followed by a moderated discussion between participants on the issue of migrant workers’ access to healthcare in the Gulf, and what needed to be done to improve their situation.

The event was attended by parliamentarians, migrant workers and representatives of various government and multilateral organisations, including the International Labor Organisation, Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development, Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment and International Organisation of Migration.

The report said destitute Pakistanis faced harsh state of affairs due to their lack of understanding of and assistance with the labour recruitment process, exploitative labour laws and a lack of protections negotiated on their behalf by their home country. These issues were further compounded by the fact that migrant workers in Gulf countries faced severe difficulties in accessing affordable healthcare.

Chaudhry Shafique from the Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights said: “Exploitation of migrant workers is not just an individual issue, it affects their families, the community and, most importantly, the economy.”

It is the first of its kind report to attempt to systematically analyze and explore the issue of migrant workers’ access to healthcare in the six states of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC), where about 30 million migrant workers accounted for more than 50 per cent of the total population.

Senator Dr Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur in a video brief said she had tabled a law in the Senate where the labour attache would be responsible for Pakistan migrants’ workers across the world.

The new law specifically prescribes harsh punishments for agents who dupe people under false pretense of them getting a lucrative job, she added.

The report said easy access to healthcare was particularly critical for low-paid migrant workers in the Gulf due to the multiple adverse health conditions that can result from their work. The GCC states’ healthcare services were generally not tailored to the specific needed of this population. There was obvious evidence of discrimination in access to healthcare for migrant workers with lack of documentation and affordability the most significant obstacles.

The gradual shift in the region to mandatory private health insurance is more likely to further restrict access to care than to improve low-paid migrant workers’ access to healthcare.

The report suggested repealing any laws or regulations that required medical professionals to report undocumented or pregnant migrant workers to the authorities and explicitly prohibit medical professionals from doing so.

It also suggested to introduce meaningful sanctions, passing legislation if necessary, for employers and sponsors who, by their actions or omissions (e.g. confiscation or non-renewal of identity documents), prevent migrant workers from accessing healthcare.

The report insisted that at a bilateral level, and with the input of public health experts, inclusion of transparent and explicit healthcare provisions in all bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding with the GCC states. Establish and activate meaningful and regular review processes for these, it added.

At a multilateral level, work in coalition with other origin states and outline a detailed position aimed at improving GCC migrant workers’ access to health in regional and global forums such as the Colombo Process, the Abu Dhabi Dialogue and the Global Forum for Migration and Development.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan denies supplying ammunition to Ukraine

Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 17, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday questioned the accuracy of reports claiming that Pakistan was providing ammunition to Ukraine in its war with Russia.

“The reporting about supply of defence items by Pakistan to Ukraine is not accurate,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at the weekly media briefing.

Reports claiming that Pakistan was providing ammunition to Ukraine have regularly surfaced in media since middle of the last year, but it is rare for Islamabad to have officially denied such involvement in the Russia–Ukraine conflict.

France 24 had a couple of days back reported that “run-down ammunition supplies are one of Kyiv’s most pressing concerns, with Ukraine and its partners resorting to far-flung countries like South Korea and Pakistan as sources of artillery munitions”.

Pakistan, the spokesperson said, maintains a policy of non-interference in military conflicts.

Many of those reports had alleged that the ammunition was sent to Ukraine via some other European country.

“Pakistan only exports defence stores to other states based on strong end-use and none re-transfer assurances. And this is the case of Pakistan’s position in the Ukraine-Russia conflict,” she maintained.

Many of the reports about Pakistani ammunition supplies have sought to target the improved ties between Islamabad and Moscow.

Raids on BBC offices

The FO spokesperson condemned the raids on BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai by Indian tax officials, saying these acts have tarnished India’s so-called democratic credentials.

“We believe that the raids conducted on the BBC offices in India are yet another manifestation of the shrinking space for freedom of media in India,” Ms Baloch said.

The raids were conducted weeks after India banned a BBC documentary that criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in Gujarat riots of 2002 in which Muslims were targeted.

Source: Dawn

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Jaffar express explosion: Two killed, many injured in Pakistan train blast

Feb 16, 2023

NEW DELHI: At least two passengers are reported dead in a blast that ripped through a coach of a moving train in Pakistan on Thursday morning.

Another 4 were injured in the incident, Pakistan's ANI reported quoting Pakistan's ARY News.

The blast on the Quetta-Rawalpindi Jaffer Express occurred inside a washroom when it was passing the Chichawatni railway station in Pakistan's Punjab province.

Train services on the route has been suspended.

No group has so far claimed responsibility behind the train blast.

The militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been blamed for a majority of recent subversive activities, including attacks on security forces in Pakistan.

It was reportedly behind last month's suicide attack on a mosque in which more than 100 people, mostly police personnel were killed.

Source: Times Of India

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Burnt Bodies of 2 Muslim Men Found In Haryana, Bajrang Dal Role Alleged

February 17, 2023

Bharatpur: A day after the burnt bodies of two Muslim men were found in a car in Haryana, a kidnapping case has been filed against five men, suspected to be cow vigilantes. Nasir, 25, and Junaid, 35, had been kidnapped from Rajasthan's Bharatpur district on Wednesday, their families alleged in their complaint to the police.

The charred bodies of Nasir and Junaid were found in a Mahindra Bolero SUV on Thursday morning in Haryana's Bhiwani district. Police are still trying to establish whether the remains are those of Nasir and Junaid.

"The burnt bodies of two unidentified men have been found in the car. To ascertain whether the two men are the same who were kidnapped, our team has gone to the spot with the family members. After post-mortem and DNA analyses, their identification will be verified," Bharatpur Inspector General Gaurav Srivastava said.

Whether the two were burnt alive or died in a fire that broke out in the car is being investigated. The families of the two kidnapped men identified the vehicle and said that the owner of the car was known to Nasir and Junaid.

The police said they were investigating whether cow vigilantism was involved in the deaths. Mr Srivastava said Junaid had five cases of cow smuggling against him while Nasir had no criminal record.

Source: ND TV

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Activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal Target Mosque in Uttar Pradesh

Piyush Srivastava   |   Lucknow  


Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists ransacked a mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda city on Thursday and took away construction materials kept there for the renovation of the structure.

The activists threw bricks, cement bags and iron grills on the road and some of them also made away with the construction materials.

Mohammad Zahiruddin, the caretaker of the mosque, has lodged a police complaint against VHP and Bajrang Dal members.

“They came here in the morning and stopped the labourers from doing their work. They threw bricks, cement bags and iron grills on the road. Later, some of them took away the construction materials with them,” Zahiruddin said.

Chandra Mohan Bedi, the district president of the VHP, claimed that floors were being added to the mosque illegally.

“The local administration had given them permission on December 12, 2022, for renovation work but they were adding new floors. They were into the second phase of their construction work and we opposed it because it was not written in the permission that they can add structures to the mosque,” he said.

“We organised a dharna there because the people living in the neighbourhood of the mosque had complained to us. We didn’t attack the mosque, nor took away construction materials. But our protest will continue if the construction work is not stopped,” Bedi added.

Source: Telegraph India

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Plea moved in Supreme Court citing ‘hate speech against Hindus’

16th February 2023

New Delhi: A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court citing some recent instances of “hate speeches, utterances and statements” made against Hindus and Hindu religion by members of Muslim and Christian community, including call for “Sar Tan se Juda” (beheading).

The application has been filed through advocates Hari Shankar Jain and Vishnu Shankar Jain after taking the court’s permission. The application said: “On multiple occasions, Muslim mobs have brought out processions in which they can be heard calling for beheading (‘Sar Tan se Juda’) and after such calls, actual incidents of beheading have taken place.”

The plea said the apex court on January 13, permitted the said application with reference to instances of some recent vintage.

The application has been filed by ‘Hindu front for Justice-Trust of Lucknow through its President, Ranjana Agnihotri in a pending petition by journalist Qurban Ali.

The plea filed by Ali alleged hate speeches were made in ‘Dharm Sansad’ organised in Delhi and Haridwar, which resulted in filing of cases and also arrest of the accused.

Agnihotri’s plea said: “The present application is being filed with relevant facts and figures concerning the matter in issue. Some recent instances of hate speeches, utterances and statements made against Hindus and Hindu religion by members of Muslim and Christian community are being placed on record in a summarised form.”

The plea cited several instances including speech by prominent people including AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi wherein he was seen at a public rally, saying: “I want to tell the police. Remember this. Yogi will not be the Chief Minister forever. Modi will not remain the Prime Minister forever. When Yogi will go back to his math, when Modi will go to the mountains, then who will come to save you. Remember, we will not forget.”

The application also cited some stand-up comedians namely Munawar Faruqui, Alexander Babu, Surleen Kaur etc., claiming they blatantly made crass and insulting jokes on Hindu gods and Hindu religion.

The plea further alleged, “the buck does not stop here when it comes to blatant hatred against Hindus. Even songs of ‘Qawwalis’ have been made inciting hatred against Hindus and calling upon Muslims to kill Hindus”.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Southeast Asia


Dr Mahathir: Radical actions of a few Muslims contribute to Islamophobia

16 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 — The radical actions of a few Muslims such as committing violence, which deviate from the true teachings of Islam, are among the contributing factors to Islamophobia sentiment around the world.

The Islamic Welfare Association of Malaysia (Perkim) president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there are Muslims who have strayed from the true teachings of Islam to the point of bringing a bad image and perception towards the religion.

The former prime minister said it was caused by the nature of these individuals for doing something that is not based on the Quran.

“There are those who strayed from religion, do things that are not condoned by the religion and commit violence. It is not our way, it is not the teachings of Islam.

“There are cases where the Muslims themselves are divided and this is against the religious teachings,” he said when met by reporters after officiating the National Dakwah Conference hosted by Perkim at the Federal Territories Mosque here today.

Dr Mahathir said that Islam is a religion that promotes and encourages its followers to love peace.

“That is why every time we meet people, we greet them by saying ‘peace be upon you’,” he said.

He said Muslims need to stand out as a civilised group, apart from showing respect to other faiths.

Source: Malay Mail

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69 Rohingya refugees land on Indonesia’s west coast

February 17, 2023

BANDA ACEH (Indonesia): At least 69 Rohingya refugees, many of them women and children, landed on Indonesia’s west coast on Thursday in a wooden boat, an official with the United Nations refugee agency said.

The vessel came ashore at a beach in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh, according to UNHCR official Oktina Hafanti, with one passenger saying some on board died during the voyage.

It was the sixth Rohingya boat to land in Indonesia since November.

Nearly one million Rohingya currently live in crowded conditions in Bangladesh, including many of the hundreds of thousands who fled a deadly crackdown in 2017 by Myanmar’s military, which denies committing crimes against humanity.

Thousands risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys — often in poor-quality boats — attempting to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

“We currently count 69 of them, including men, women and children,” Hafanti said.

Several died due to a lack of food and the captain abandoned them in the middle of the journey

The refugees were being transported to a temporary shelter nearby, the official added.

Hafanti said authorities would double-check the headcount after they arrived at the refuge.

Miftah Cut Ade, a senior member of the area’s traditional fishing community, told the group had arrived from Bangladesh, many in a state of exhaustion. Local residents had offered them food, he said.

According to a passenger who gave his name as Shorifuddin, the boat departed Bangladesh two weeks ago. Several people died due to a lack of food and the captain abandoned the passengers in the middle of the journey, he said.

“We have been suffering in the ocean for 15 days and all this time, we didn’t have enough food,” the 15-year-old told.

He said he fled Bangladesh with seven family members including his parents hoping for a better life in Indonesia.

“We were strongly persecuted in Bangladesh by the local people. We also didn’t have the opportunity to study and achieve higher education,” he said.

Five other vessels carrying Rohingya refugees landed in Indonesia in November and December last year, carrying a total of nearly 700 passengers.

More than 2,000 are believed to have attempted the risky journey in 2022, according to the UNHCR, a number similar to that in 2020.

Source: Dawn

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Malaysia will assist Turkiye in more capacities, says PM

16 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic) said Malaysia is ready to assist Turkiye in more capacities in the nearest future, especially in helping the Turkish government and its people affected by the recent earthquakes.

Anwar, in an exclusive interview with the TRT World that was uploaded on YouTube on Wednesday (Feb 15), said Malaysia would do more in offering assistance after discussion he had with Turkiye President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We (Malaysia) have sent three teams, so far. I’ve discussed with the President that we’ll certainly do more, although Turkiye already has that huge capacity in terms of resources and facilities.

"We’ll need and continue to raise more funds and support, as well as providing relief support here.

"With Muslim and non-Muslim populations in Malaysia who’re committed to assist, I think it will make things easier for us to contribute and help more," he said in the interview with TRT World’s diplomatic correspondent Andrew Hopkins on his one-day visit to Turkiye.

The Prime Minister said the Malaysian search and rescue (SAR) team - comprising members of the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart), Fire and Rescue Department, Civil Defence Force, and Malaysian Armed Forces Royal Medical Corps stationed in Nurdagi - has shown extraordinary capability with efforts that the nation can be proud of.

Anwar, who arrived home on Thursday (Feb 16), was in Turkiye to express support to the rescue teams as well as Malaysia's commitment to helping its people affected by the twin earthquakes.

He had visited the Ground Zero, and described the enormity of destruction from earthquakes as "so horrible and beyond imagination."

Anwar had also met with Erdogan in Ankara to convey Malaysia’s condolences during the short trip.

"I feel the urge and need to personally thank the workers and rescuers. I need to express my sentiments, sympathy and support to the President and the people of Turkiye.

"People (have had) outpouring sympathies and grief throughout Malaysia that when we initiated fundraising for the calamities recently, in a matter of few days and for a small and developing country relatively, we managed to secure US$10mil. I think this is something extraordinary.

"More than that, whenever Malaysia was in difficulty, Turkiye has been one of many countries that offered help and played its part.

"This country has that special relationship with Malaysia as a whole, with me personally (too). Since I assumed office, I would like to enhance these shared bilateral relations," he added.

On Thursday, Anwar said he has given approval for the Smart team, which was supposed to be in Turkiye for two weeks, to extend their stay at Erdogan's request.

Source: The Star

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‘Don’t spin my words’: PAS lawmaker says did not mean to imply Menu Rahmah causes cancer

By Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam

16 Feb 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 — PAS lawmaker Dr Halimah Ali said that her remarks on the government’s Menu Rahmah programme causing “cancer, autoimmune diseases and autism, among other things” had been misunderstood.

Speaking to reporters, the Kapar MP said that the message she had wanted to convey was that the poor quality of raw materials used by restaurants for Menu Rahmah could lead to the meal’s quality being compromised.

“We are saying to the government, if you are desperate, do not forsake nutrition. How do you provide good quality food at a low price?” she said in Parliament.

She also expressed her concern that Menu Rahmah could be exploited by those who can afford to buy meals at regular prices.

“Logically speaking, how are restaurants going to check if a diner is really poor? The government must find a way to keep tabs on this.

“The bigger issue is you are feeding the hungry, but also please make sure that the food provided is nutritious and not detrimental to one’s health,” she added.

Yesterday, Dr Halimah received flak from the public over comments made during a Parliamentary debate, in which she reportedly said that eating Menu Rahmah dishes could cause various diseases and health conditions due to the use of low-quality ingredients.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the finance minister, had vowed to address cost-of-living issues, pledging that it would be his top priority.

This came amid shaky public confidence in his Cabinet line-up after he appointed several leaders from past administrations accused of poor management of the economy.

Menu Rahmah was launched on January 31 by Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub as part of the Unity Government’s short-term efforts to mitigate the inflation squeeze on low-income earners.

Source: Malay Mail

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Activists decry Malaysia ban on LGBTQ books

February 16, 2023

Activists in Malaysia criticized Thursday a government decision to ban three books for allegedly promoting "LGBTQ lifestyles", saying it would further erode gay and transgender rights.

"Jacob's Room to Choose", a children's book about gender expression and identity, was banned in January, the home ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

In the book, a teacher educates children on gender identity at a school after a student wearing a dress feels unwelcome in the boys' toilet.

Two other children's books, "The Tale of Seven" and "Aku", were also banned.

The ministry said its objective was to "prevent the spread of elements that are harmful to morality in the community".

Homosexuality is forbidden in Malaysia and laws criminalizing sodomy can result in imprisonment, corporal punishment and fines.

Siti Kasim, a prominent Malaysian human rights lawyer, described the ban as an attempt "to chisel away" at LGBTQ rights.

"This group has always been marginalized and oppressed," she said.

Thilaga Sulathireh from the transgender rights group Justice for Sisters said the move was part of "a broader trend of censorship that we are seeing in the last couple of years".

"The ban of the books further shrinks spaces for LGBTQ people to express and be themselves," she told AFP, urging the government to "stop discrimination against LGBTQ people".

In 2017, Walt Disney shelved the release of its movie "Beauty and the Beast" after refusing to cut a "gay moment" to mollify film censors.

And last year Marvel film "Thor: Love and Thunder" was also banned over purported LGBTQ elements.

Malaysia has experienced growing religious fundamentalism in recent years, sparking friction between conservative forces and those campaigning for greater rights.

The Muslim-majority nation routinely bans publications deemed to be pornographic, insulting to Islam or harmful to morality.

Source: UCA News

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Religion in ruins: Turkiye's oldest mosque and world's oldest church destroyed by earthquake

By Kerem Congar 


In the ancient Turkish city of Antakya, the oldest church in the world and the oldest mosque in the country were reduced to rubble after two massive earthquakes hit in just 8 hours.

The domes and walls of the 1st century Antioch Orthodox Church, known as Antakya Church, and the 7th century Habib-I Nejjar Mosque have almost completely collapsed.

"Unfortunately our church was destroyed after the earthquake. All its walls have fallen down and it is not in the condition for prayers, " says Sertac Paul Bozkurt, a member of the board of Antioch Orthodox Church. "Sadly Antakya is in great trouble. As the community here, of course, we are deeply sad, we are in great despair. We have big losses. We lost around 30-35 people from our church community."

The oldest church in the world

Bozkurt says that the city will try to save the church but they need help from other communities.

"This is the oldest church, the first church in the world. This is the place where Christianity was born. That is why we call on Christians from all over the world to help us rebuild the Antakya Church. This will be a long process. But we will rebuild our church and we will bring our community together again in this church." Bozkurt says.

Muslims living in Antakya are also very upset. Habib-I Nejjar Mosque, Turkiye's oldest mosque, built in the 7th century, was also destroyed. Many local Muslims were killed by the earthquake.

"This mosque means so much to us. In every province, we believe that there is a holy person protecting us. This Habib-I Nejjar mosque is so valuable to us Muslims. On Qadr Night (the holiest day of the year and Ramadan month) we used to come here for prayers. I was wondering how our mosque was as I heard it was in a bad condition." says Havva Pamukcu, a local Muslim worshipper.

"Every province is believed to have a holy person that keeps it safe by God’s will and of course, Habib-I Nejjar was one of them. As you know we believe in holy people in all villages here. This place means so much to us, it is so valuable. It was very valuable for all of us, all Turks and Muslims. People used to first visit here before they go to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Antakya: The horn of Turkiye was hit by huge earthquakes 3 times

On 6 February 2023, 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes in the city of Kahramanmaras shook Turkiye deeply. The loss of life so far has exceeded the number of those who lost their lives in the tragic 1999 earthquake. A state of emergency was declared in the region for 3 months.

One of the cities most affected by the earthquake that hit 10 provinces was Antakya-Hatay.
Source: Euro News

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UN Mission Rejects Report over Al-Qaeda Chief's Sheltering in Iran


A UN report based on intelligence supplied by member states has claimed that a veteran Egyptian extremist, named Saif Al-Adel, thought to be based in Iran is now the de facto leader of Al-Qaeda.

The US has also said its assessment aligns with the UN report concluding that Al-Adel is based in Iran. The State Department added Al-Adel has become the chief following the July 2022 death of Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN has categorically denied the allegations levelled by the world body and Washington.

"The global network of Al-Qaeda was dismantled after the death of Osama Bin Laden and the organization is no longer in existence but its extremist ideology still persists," the mission wrote on Twitter.

It added that the emergence of Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) terror group has taken the place of Al-Qaeda and has given rise to "a new form of terrorism".

"It is worth noting that the address for the so-called newly appointed Al-Qaeda leader is incorrect. This misinformation could potentially hinder efforts to combat terrorism," it said.

Iranian officials say the country is perceived to be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, highlighting Tehran’s contribution to the regional peace, security and stability.

They blasted the Western states for their double-standard policies on terrorism and reiterated that Iran’s fundamental stance is to condemn terrorism in any type and method.

Back in mid-July, Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi underlined the need for fight against all forms of terrorism to protect peace in the region.

"Terrorism may have different kinds, but fighting terrorism under any name is necessary in order to guarantee the security and stability of borders and states," the Iran's president underscored.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran planning to assassinate diaspora Jews if Israel attacks: French journalist

February 16, 2023

LONDON: Tehran has identified a significant number of diaspora Jews worldwide to assassinate in the event of a war with Israel, a French journalist specializing in Iranian affairs has warned.

Catherine Perez-Shakdam — who has met both Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, and has contributed to pro-Tehran media outlets — told the Jewish Chronicle she had learned that Iran had “mapped” a significant number of Jews to be targeted in the event of it being attacked by Israel.

She said she learned of the plans having accessed a meeting through filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, who was sanctioned by the US for his ties to Tehran.

Talebzadeh, who died in April last year, was a member of the organization New Horizon, which set up events supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

It was at one such event that Perez-Shakdam said she learned of the plot to “identify all the prominent NGOs run by Jews, who was doing what in each business sector, the important rabbis.”

The IRGC “wanted to figure out their influence and where they lived with their families in order to target them,” she said, adding that the attendees did not know she was Jewish.

The IRGC has frequently been accused of trying to assassinate opponents, including foreign nationals on other countries’ soil.

Source: Arab News

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Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launch protest campaign against ‘collective punishment’


February 16, 2023

RAMALLAH: Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have launched a protest campaign against punitive measures brought in by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Widespread demonstrations have led to increased tensions in prisons, and a situation that Palestinian prisoner affairs officials on Thursday warned could boil over if not addressed.

Protests erupted after the Israeli Prisons Administration began imposing collective punishment against Palestinians including by closing canteens and other facilities on Friday and Saturday.

Also under the new rules, prisoners leaving their cell will be handcuffed, even if attending the prison clinic, showering is being limited to three minutes in hot water, monthly family visiting has been further restricted, and morning sports are being halted.

Earlier this month, Ben-Gvir ordered the closure of bakeries providing inmates with daily bread.

In response to the moves, the Supreme Emergency Committee for Prisoners announced an immediate disobedience campaign followed by a hunger strike to mark the start of Ramadan.

Qadura Faris, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Arab News that the latest measures were government inspired and aimed at humiliating and breaking the will of prisoners and the Palestinian people.

He said the situation had been brought to the attention of relevant international bodies which had been urged to intervene and put pressure on the Israeli government to ease the measures.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoners Club in Ramallah said that the Israeli army had arrested 32 Palestinians in the West Bank at dawn on Thursday, bringing the number held since the beginning of the year to 800.

Laila Zawahra, from Bethlehem, the 70-year-old mother of a man given a life sentence, told Arab News that the families of the detainees were going through difficult times because of the strict Israeli measures.

She claimed that prison authorities had started transferring inmate leaders in a bid to derail organized protests.

“I am very concerned about my son Mohammed, who is 41, and about the situation of his fellow prisoners. In addition to their suffering from this cold weather, they will start a hunger strike on the first day of Ramadan,” Zawahra said, adding that she and other families of prisoners were planning to stage sit-ins to highlight the inmates’ plight.

Israel currently has 4,780 Palestinians in detention, including 160 children, 29 women, and 914 administrative detainees.

Palestinian political analyst Riyad Qadriya told Arab News that the latest targeting of prisoners by the Israeli government could spark street demonstrations.

Israeli journalist Dana Ben-Shimon told Arab News that Ben-Gvir had advocated a tough stance against Palestinian prisoners even before becoming a minister.

Source: Arab News

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President Rayeesi: Iran, China Agree on Technology Transfer


President Rayeesi, arriving in Tehran after an official visit to China, stated 20 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed between Tehran and Beijing during the trip.

He called for further bolstering bilateral ties in commercial, economic, energy, science and technology fields.

"Good decisions were made in the mentioned fields during the visit," the Iranian president stressed, adding that the Iranian ministers followed good discussions in the fields of energy, industry and trade, road and urban development.

"The decisions were based on the assumption that all these connections should be accompanied by technology transfer," Rayeesi underlined.

He underscored that this 3-day visit was so positive and fruitful, stating that China plays an important role in Asia and is considered one of the emerging economies of the world.

"Bilateral cooperation at the Asian and international level can be very effective," Iran's president further noted.

“We have an effective role in the field of security in the region and across the world and we should play an effective role in the economy and trade as well,” the president maintained.

Rayeesi also stated that China has welcomed Iran’s bid to join the group of the world’s emerging economies, known as BRICS.

“There was a discussion about Iran’s membership in BRICS, and we saw China’s desire for this membership,” he clarified.

The BRICS group comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Their economies account for more than 40% of the global population and nearly a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product.

In a meeting with President Rayeesi on Tuesday, Chinese Leader Xi Jinping hailed the friendly relationship between his country and Iran, underscoring that Beijing will unswervingly develop cooperation with Tehran in various fields.

The Chinese president underlined the need for implementing the strategic agreement between Beijing and Tehran, noting that his country is strongly resolved to further enhance ties with Iran.

Iran and China have enjoyed close ties in recent years, particularly after the United States reinstated sanctions on the Iranian economy in 2018 after unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement.

The US has increasingly targeted Chinese companies over cooperation with Iran as the prospects of reviving the agreement have dimmed due to Washington’s refusal to fully honor the deal.

China has strengthened its position as Iran’s top trade partner in recent years. During the first ten months of the current Iranian year (March 21, 2022 – January 20, 2023), China has exported $12.7 billion worth of goods to Iran and its imports from Iran stood at $12.6 billion.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iranian President: US Seeking to Stir Chaos in Region by Forming Takfiri Outfits


President Rayeesi made the remarks during an address to Muslim worshippers at Dongsi Mosque in the Chinese capital Beijing on Wednesday.

He described Iran's desire for independence as the reason for the enmity of the United States and the domination system towards Tehran.

"Despite all the enmity of the United States, today the Islamic Revolution of Iran has been able to continue its movement on the path of progress and development, stronger than before," he added.

Stating that the Dominion System has failed in all its conspiracies against the Iranian nation, Iran's president clarified, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has been a security provider for the people of the region, but America has sought to create insecurity in the region by creating takfiri groups."

Referring to the insulting of sacred values in European countries, Rayeesi pointed out, "Westerners insult the sanctities of nearly 2 billion Muslims in the name of freedom of speech, which is an insult to all humanity and an act against freedom of speech, but we are sure that these conspiracies will not lead anywhere, and the domination system will have no place in the future of the world."

The US and its allies invaded Syria in 2014 under the pretext of fighting the Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) Takfiri terrorist group. The outfit had emerged as Washington was running out of excuses to extend its regional meddling or enlarge it in scale.

The US-led coalition sustains its illegal presence on the Arab country's soil, although, Damascus and its allies defeated Daesh in late 2017.

Several reports have revealed that the US troops have provided military and financial supports to militants and training them for field operations.

US military officials have also admitted that US airstrikes had killed hundreds of civilians. According to reports, Pentagon has tried to cover up several deadly raids on Syrian civilians.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Renewed protests in Iran to mark 40 days since execution of two demonstrators

16 February ,2023

Protests erupted in several cities across Iran on Thursday to mark 40 days since the execution of two protesters, footage circulating on social media showed.

Last month, Mohammad-Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini were executed by Iran for allegedly killing a member of the security forces.

In Iran, the 40th day after a person’s death holds significance in the mourning process.

Videos posted on Twitter showed demonstrations in the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Mashhad, Izeh, Gorgan, Arak, and Isfahan. Protesters were seen chanting anti-regime slogans and denouncing the clerical regime and its highest authority, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

In Tehran, protesters chanted “woman, life, freedom,” the rallying cry of the protest movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini last September. In another video from the capital, demonstrators were heard shouting “death to the dictator,” referring to Khamenei.

In another video from Tehran, security forces were seen clashing with protesters.

In Izeh, located in the southwest of Iran, demonstrators were chanting, “this is the year of blood, Khamenei will be overthrown.”

The death of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died on September 16 after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress rules for women, triggered months of protests that quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

The protests were met with a violent crackdown from authorities, resulting in the deaths of hundreds and the arrest of thousands, according to human rights groups.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran says US claim linking al-Qaeda leader to Tehran ‘laughable’

16 February ,2023

Iran’s foreign minister dismissed on Thursday the US claim that an Iran-based Egyptian has become the new leader of al-Qaeda, calling it “laughable.”

“I advise White House officials to stop the failed game of Iran-phobia. Creating news about the leader of al-Qaeda and linking it to Iran is laughable,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian wrote on Twitter, accusing Washington of being the “creator” of al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The US State Department said on Wednesday that Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian currently based in Iran, had succeeded Ayman al-Zawahiri following the latter’s death in July 2022.

“Our assessment aligns with that of the UN – that al-Qaeda’s new de facto leader Saif al-Adel is based in Iran,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The United Nations report released Tuesday said that the predominant view of member states is that Adel is now the group’s leader, “representing continuity for now.”

But the group has not formally declared him “emir” because of sensitivity to the concerns of the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan, who haven’t wanted to acknowledge that Zawahiri was killed by a US rocket in a home in Kabul last year, according to the UN report.

In addition, the UN report said, the terrorist group al-Qaeda is sensitive to the issue of Adel residing in largely Shia Iran.

Adel, 62, is a former Egyptian special forces lieutenant-colonel and figure in the old guard of al-Qaeda.

He helped build the extremist group’s operational capacity and trained some of the hijackers who took part in the September 11, 2001 attack on the US, according to the US Counter Extremism Project.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran jails influential academic for eight years: Lawyer

16 February ,2023

An Iranian court has sentenced influential sociology professor Saeed Madani Ghahfarokhi to eight years in prison, his lawyer told AFP on Thursday.

Madani, 62, who has published books on topics including prostitution, violence against women, child abuse and drug addiction in Iran, has been in detention since May last year.

“My client was sentenced to eight years in prison for forming a hostile group and one year for propaganda against the system,” said his lawyer, Mahmoud Behzadirad, adding the verdict was final.

Madani, a professor at Tehran’s Allameh Tabatabai University, had previously been arrested several times and served a six-year prison sentence from 2011.

Iran has been rocked by a wave of protests since mid-September, sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been accused of breaching the Islamic Republic’s dress code for women.

“Since my client has been in prison, he has been consulted by some officials to find ways to deal with the violence” that broke out at the protests, said Behzadirad.

Early this month, Madani published from prison an analysis of the protest movement in which he wrote that it spelled a “vision of the future Iran.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Arab World


UAE, Egypt to boost cooperation in anti-money laundering, counterterrorism financing

February 16, 2023

CAIRO: The Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing in the UAE has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptian Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Combating Unit, the Emirates News Agency reported on Thursday.

The memorandum aims to expand collaboration between the UAE and Egypt, particularly in risk understanding and the exchange of knowledge, expertise, and practices in the fields of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing, to strengthen both countries’ responses to shared threats and risks.

The agreement also aims to raise awareness and improve domestic and regional understanding through training courses, workshops, seminars, and conferences.

Hamid Al Zaabi, director general at the UAE office, said: “The signing of the memorandum is yet another step in a long series of bilateral meetings and achievements that have undoubtedly strengthened national and regional efforts to counter illicit financial flows.

“I would like to thank our Egyptian partners for hosting a productive meeting and for sharing a valuable update on tactics, typologies, and the latest developments.

“The signing of the memorandum formalizes the exchange of knowledge, experience, and expertise in the areas of combating money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“By strengthening our cooperation in the fight against financial crime, we protect our national economies and international financial systems.”

Ahmed Khalil, the chairman of the Egyptian unit, said: “We have cooperated closely for the past five decades, a milestone that we celebrated last October on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Egypt-UAE relations.

“Ultimately, the bilateral partnership between our countries is based on the pursuit of shared interests.

“The memorandum will also play a role in encouraging the sharing of experiences through bilateral meetings and the exchange of best practices, including the establishment and amendment of laws, supervisory instructions, guidance mechanisms, and procedures to enhance the effectiveness of both parties in relation to combating money laundering and related predicate offenses, terrorism financing, and proliferation financing.”

Source: Arab News

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Arab popular sympathy, solidarity with Türkiye is no surprise: Yemeni Nobel laureate

Muhammad Sheikh Yusuf  


Yemeni activist and Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman deemed Arab widespread solidarity and sympathy with Türkiye amid the devastating earthquake disaster a "no surprise."

In an interview with Anadolu, Karman said, "in general, there is great popular sympathy and solidarity shown by the Arab countries, and this is not surprising because what unites the Arabs and the Turks is more than what separates them."

At least 36,187 people were killed by two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye on Feb. 6, says disaster agency on Thursday.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 tremors last week were centered in Kahramanmaras and struck nine other provinces – Hatay, Gaziantep, Adiyaman, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa. More than 13 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.

Humanitarian response

The Yemeni activist stated that "the Tawakkol Karman Foundation is providing relief to the afflicted as part of local and international humanitarian efforts that seek to mitigate the damages of the disaster and help those who lost their homes and loved ones."

According to Karman, the foundation seeks to "build 50 housing units, which, upon completion, will be handed over to the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD)."

It also seeks to "deliver donations and mobilize resources and efforts to meet the need, similar to other civil society organizations and humanitarian work."

The assistance includes "blankets, mattresses, winter clothes, foodstuffs, and some sanitary materials and personal hygiene tools."

Karman explained that "the campaign, which is conducted in coordination with the Turkish authorities, will focus on Reyhanli in Hatay Governorate, to which many of the displaced have sought refuge, in addition to other regions in southern Türkiye."

Karman also stated that "financial donation to support institutions operating in northern Syria is also included in the campaign's agenda."

Yemeni solidarity

Karman emphasized that "the Yemeni people have fraternal affection towards the Syrian and Turkish peoples."

"The Yemenis in Türkiye did what any responsible person should do. They contributed with financial and blood donations," she added.

"Arab solidarity, to a large extent, was very good, but we should not forget that there is a general weakness in the equipment and preparations for confronting natural disasters," Karman added.

She stressed that "the popular sympathy and great solidarity shown by the Arab countries is not surprising, as what unites Arabs and Turks is more than what separates them."

Since the earthquake, Arab activists have expressed on social media their grief and solidarity with the afflicted in both Türkiye and Syria.

Activists in Tunisia, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia interacted with the earthquake disaster, expressing solidarity with the two peoples, where they volunteered to collect donations and deliver them to the afflicted.

Good management

The Yemeni activist said, "Let us admit that the catastrophe is very big, and yet it seems that the reaction of the Turkish government and agencies is good."

"The rescue, evacuation and shelter operations, as well as the provision of the necessary supplies for those in need, were done fast," she added.

"The government's pledges to restore what was destroyed and to provide assistance to those affected indicate that it is committed to alleviating the suffering of the affected areas," according to Karman.

On Saturday, the Turkish president pledged to rebuild the quake-hit region as part of a yearlong plan.

Karman criticized the international response and the efforts of the international community, saying, "Through the news that is being reported, there is an international response, but I do not imagine that it was as big as the disaster."

She explained that "there should be more attention by the international community towards natural disasters around the world."

Karman stressed that "it is possible to work hard to find certain fixed and flexible means that help in mitigating the damages resulting from natural disasters."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Four Iraqi soldiers killed in raid foiling Daesh plots to target pilgrims north of Baghdad

16 February 2023

Four Iraqi army soldiers have been killed in a counter-terrorism operation north of the capital Baghdad, which thwarted plots by Daesh terrorists to target pilgrims during the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the great grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the seventh Shia Imam.

Iraqi media reports said the fatalities took place on Thursday in Tarmiya, about 25 kilometers north of Baghdad, where remnants of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group are active, as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims descended on the Kadhimiya district to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Musa al-Kazim.

The Iraqi government's security media cell said in a statement that an army unit launched a "raid on a hideout of Daesh terrorists," adding that "three terrorists were killed, one of whom was wearing an explosive belt.”

"Two officers and two soldiers" were also killed when the device was detonated, the statement said.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Salim, the commander of security forces in Baghdad, was quoted by Iraqi News Agency as saying that the raid had foiled a terrorist plan to target the pilgrims of the seventh Shia Imam.

"As part of the pre-emptive operations carried out by the Baghdad Operations Command in the Tarmiya district, north of Baghdad, to track down the remnants of Daesh terrorist gangs, the Baghdad Operations Command Commando Brigade managed to kill a terrorist detachment of Daesh gangs consisting of three terrorists, one of whom was wearing an explosive belt,” Salim said.

"The information indicates that they intended to target the pilgrims of Imam al-Kazim (PBUH)," he added, stressing that the Iraqi army units are still searching the area.

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

Iraq declared victory over the terrorist group in December 2017 after a three-year counter-terrorism military campaign, in which the PMU, known in Arabic as Hashd al-Sha’abi, also played a major role.

However, Daesh’s remnants keep staging sporadic attacks across Iraq, attempting to regroup and unleash fresh violence in the Arab country.

The Takfiri terrorist group has managed to intensify its attacks in Iraq, particularly since January 2020, when the United States assassinated top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and PMU’s deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport.

Anti-US sentiments sharply increased in Iraq in the aftermath of the assassination, prompting Iraqi lawmakers to pass a bill – only two days after the assassination – that required the Baghdad government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by Washington.

Source: Press TV

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Iraq PM risks new crisis as tensions with Kurds resurface

16 February ,2023

After more than a year of political deadlock, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani could face a debilitating new crisis with Kurdish leaders that risks undermining his efforts to set policy and compile a badly needed state budget.

Sudani, whose government was approved in October, has vowed to reform the economy, fight corruption, improve deteriorating public services and combat poverty and unemployment -- tall orders in a country that has been craving stability and cash since the 2003 US-led invasion.

Without support from the powerful Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) which helped him come to power and holds 31 seats in parliament, he would find it difficult to advance his agenda.

The central government's strained relations with the Kurds -- often part of Iraq's political landscape since Saddam Hussein was toppled in the 2003 invasion -- could hamper Sudani's efforts after a long period of paralysis.

The KDP may withdraw its support for the federal government if he fails to fulfil his promises to fix long-standing disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, according to two Iraqi lawmakers and a Kurdish government official.

That could leave him struggling to pass bills in parliament and enact reforms.

Before Sudani formed his government he struck a deal with the KDP, which dominates the administration in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq.

The agreement included ending a long-running dispute over budget transfers to Erbil and oil revenue sharing between the national government and Kurdistan, according to three Kurdish officials.

Under the Iraqi constitution, the Kurdish region is entitled to a portion of the national budget. But the arrangement collapsed in 2014 when the Kurds began selling crude independently from Kurdistan.

In 2017, Iraqi forces retook disputed territories including the oil city of Kirkuk. Baghdad resumed some budget payments, but they have been sporadic.

The KDP made it clear that they would stop supporting Sudani if he didn't keep his promises, according to one of the Kurdish officials.

Sudani came to power after more than a year of political deadlock as infighting among Shia and Kurdish groups prevented the formation of a government, hampering efforts to rebuild a country on its knees after decades of conflict.

The paralysis left Iraq without a budget for 2022 holding up spending on much-needed infrastructure projects and economic reform and depriving Kurdish authorities of revenues needed to pay international oil firms and the salaries of thousands of local workers.

A KDP official said after the government was formed last year that the Kurds wanted to end the deadlock, which was why they supported Sudani's government, but that if the other side failed to deliver they would withdraw that support.

“There are some political forces that are trying to break our will and we reject this and won't allow it,” said Shawan Taha, a KDP spokesman.

Carrot and stick approach

In January, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court ruled that orders from the Baghdad government to transfer money to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to pay salaries in 2021 and 2022 were illegal because they broke Iraq's budget law.

Massoud Barzani, president of the ruling KDP, said the court has taken a “hostile position” against the region and “seems to have replaced the revolutionary court in the previous regime”, referring to an infamous court of the Baathist regime known for issuing death sentences against regime opponents.

A spokesman for the KRG, Jotiar Adil, said the “politically motivated” court was trying to spoil the deal between Erbil and Baghdad.

A KRG delegation was in Baghdad on Monday to discuss the budget as well as hydrocarbon laws. A source with knowledge of the meetings said Erbil and Baghdad remained far apart on the hydrocarbon law.

According to an adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Sudani has tasked the cabinet's legal team with finding a solution to allow salary transfers without breaching the court verdict.

Other political actors in Sudani’s camp in Baghdad see escalation with the Kurds by using such court rulings as a necessary political tactic to put him in a stronger negotiating position, according to lawmakers.

But the KRG's Adil was still hopeful that a compromise could be agreed on. He said the KRG delegation would be in Baghdad again on Sunday, and he denied that the KDP was threatening to withdraw its support for the government in Baghdad.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia to build 3,000 homes as Turkey, Syria earthquake survivors left homeless

16 February ,2023

Saudi Arabia will build 3,000 temporary buildings to help those affected by the massive earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria earlier this month, the General Supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) Dr. Abdullah al-Rabeeah said.

Hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless as a result of the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck both countries.

KSRelief has sent thousands of tents, but people will need to have adequate shelter in the coming months as governments rebuild the destruction, according to al-Rabeeah.

“Tens of thousands of people need shelters, and the priorities of the Saudi team are to carry out a rescue operation of those trapped under the rubble and to provide the necessary support such as medicine, food, and urgent healthcare,” he said in an interview with al-Ekhbariyah TV on Tuesday.

“KSRelief was able to provide temporary tents for those affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria and it will construct 3,000 temporary buildings for these people,” he added.

Under the directives of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia sent teams from KSRelief and the Saudi Red Crescent to provide aid to victims on the ground.

The Kingdom has also donated millions to both countries and continues to accept donations from citizens and residents through its “Sahem” program – all of which come under the directives of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Awards for Jeddah Islamic Port at Rotterdam’s Green Shipping Summit

February 17, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Islamic Port took two awards — one for Best Port in 2022 and the other for Digital Transformation — at the Green Shipping Summit in Rotterdam, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

The port was ranked eighth on the World Bank’s Container Port Efficiency Performance Index.

The Kingdom’s port authority, known as Mawani, has worked to improve the facility’s operational capabilities and use of clean energy, including the establishment of five integrated logistics zones and the operation of 12 environmentally friendly cranes in its southern and northern container terminals.

In addition, Mawani has heavily promoted the use of advanced digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, to automate Jeddah Islamic Port. It has also launched a port community management system, increasing the number of services available in Saudi ports from 46 to 150.

Source: Arab News

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Saudi becoming a global leader in arts, says Algerian American rapper and filmmaker


February 16, 2023

RIYADH: When Saudi Arabia decides to showcase arts and culture, it does it on a grand scale, which is advancing its claim as one of the world’s leading entertainment hubs.

This is the view of Algerian American filmmaker and rapper Solvan “Slick” Naim, who recently appeared on “The Mayman Show” to talk about his career and collaboration with leading Arab and American artists in the US.

“I’m not surprised … I think their new initiative, they’re really bringing a lot of entertainment, to their (cities). And I feel like it’s when Saudi does it, they do it big, you know, they’re going to do it big. So they’re going to put a lot of resources into it,” said Naim.

He is not surprised that the Kingdom is host to the region’s largest music gathering with MDLBEAST. “I think it’s been showing right, you know, it’s been a huge hit. And I look forward to collaborating with them,” he said.

The rapper and filmmaker serves as director and executive producer for the successful Netflix series “Mo” which has been picked up for a second season. The series is loosely based on comedian and lead star Mohammed Amer’s life as a Palestinian refugee living in Houston, Texas.

Naim is also working with Saudi comedian Moayad Alnefaie who Amer brought onto the show. “Moayad is hilarious man, he is a great guy. We became friends. He got into the project, very simple. Mo knew him, Mo wanted him in the project role, pushed for him. You know, we didn’t know who he was at the time, you know, in America. And Mo really vouched for him, and he pulled through,” said Naim.

He said everyone were initially suspicious of Alnefaie’s ability, but this was soon laid to rest after the first scene with the Saudi comedian. “I mean, you know, he killed it, he was so unique, and hilarious and authentic. That brought such a tapestry to the series,” said Naim.

Naim said the scene was in a hookah shop, with Moayad only saying “she foo, she foo” which impressed the production team because it was so funny and memorable in the context of the storyline.

On his career as a rapper, Naim said he had recently released a song “Scary Slope” where he describes how hard it is for him to balance being a musician and filmmaker. For his music videos, he found a productive partnership with his wife Dr. Reema Naim, who has Saudi roots, and is now his director.

“She always wanted to be a music video director. So me being a husband and a music artist, we were able to collaborate together and we were able to make that second passion that she had a reality. Because like I said, I wrote over a 100 songs. So we got plenty of music videos to shoot and direct,” he said.

Naim said Reema has generated several ideas for songs. “So she had a vision and we brought all the crew together, and now she’s able to live out her dream as well.”

Naim said he has visited Saudi Arabia and found the experience illuminating and educational. “It was going to a place I’ve never gone before, seeing a culture I’ve never seen before. And you know, actually my wife has roots there. So for me, it was also seeing family, right. Seeing my mother-in-law.”

Source: Arab News

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Syrian kids feel the whole world is ‘spinning around them,’ UNICEF official says


February 16, 2023

NEW YORK CITY: The international community must not abandon the 4 million children in Syria for whom the Feb. 6 earthquakes came as “a trauma on top of trauma,” the UN’s Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has warned.

“It is our duty to make sure that we do not forget them,” said Adele Khodr, the organization’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“It is our duty, as well, to ensure that this earthquake does not make them even worse than what they are, and we should leave anything that is political aside and focus only on the humanitarian.”

Ten days after a massive earthquake and major aftershocks devastated parts of southern Turkiye and northwestern Syria, the confirmed death toll exceeds 41,000, and continues to rise. UNICEF fears thousands of children are among the dead, while millions of young people who survived are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

An estimated 7 million children were directly affected by the earthquake in the two countries, including 2.5 million in Syria. Khodr told Arab News that what worries her most is the unknown number of young people in remote villages that have not been reached by international aid organizations and so have yet to receive any humanitarian assistance.

“What we know about, we can address,” she said. “But what really is worrying for us is what we don’t know about.”

As hopes of finding survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings fades, search and rescue operations are winding down and so the aid effort will increasingly turn toward helping people in areas that have not been reached so far, she added.

Many children and their families are in desperate need of additional support, Khodr said. In addition, many first responders and employees of the local partner organizations with which UNICEF works were killed, injured or displaced, while their offices and equipment were damaged or destroyed.

The existing situation in the country before the disaster struck was not “a normal background,” Khodr said. The earthquake is an “emergency on top of an emergency,” after 12 years of civil war that have drained Syria of resources and destroyed much of its infrastructure.

She said the natural calamity has compounded “a very serious economic crisis” that was already unfolding, including a decline in the value of the Syrian pound, the effects of which included the deterioration of basic health services for children and the education system.

In addition, the country has been dealing with a cholera epidemic since September, exacerbated by damage to water infrastructure caused by the war and now made even worse by this month’s disaster.

“The earthquake has damaged water tanks, especially elevated ones,” said Khodr. “Some water pipes have also been dislocated, which means the availability of water is going to be a very big issue.

“And the fact, also, is that people now might be staying inside big centers, like schools or other public buildings: How do you get rid of the wastewater and the solid waste? All these things around water sanitation and hygiene are worrying in areas that were already subject to a cholera epidemic.

“We are very worried that should spring come and should the damaged water and sanitation infrastructure not be repaired, we would be heading into a serious health (crisis) with waterborne diseases (spreading) among the children.”

The earthquake damaged or destroyed many buildings, so millions of children and their families are now sleeping outside, on the sides of roads or under bridges, or in public buildings that remain intact, such as schools and bus stations.

Even those whose homes are still standing are afraid to return home to buildings that might be structurally unsound and vulnerable to aftershocks, or might collapse as a result of heavy rain or other severe weather events.

Sleeping outside, exposed to harsh winter conditions in which freezing rain and snow are not uncommon, is already leading to growing numbers of children suffering from hypothermia or acute respiratory infections, said Khodr.

UNICEF is also worried about the mental health of children driven from their homes, she said, especially in the rebel-held northwest of the country where families had already been displaced at least once — and some more than three times — before the earthquake.

“Many children said that they felt that the whole world was spinning around them,” Khodr said. “This psychosocial impact on children is one of our first worries.”

Further displacement, combined with the dire economic situation, once again raises the specter of growing food insecurity, she added, and the “already higher level of poverty in some pockets in those areas could lead to more cases of malnutrition among children.”

Meanwhile, many people who have lost their homes are seeking refuge inside schools, which means classes will not immediately resume and children’s education will suffer as a result, said Khodr.

The immediate efforts by UNICEF to save lives in Syria in the aftermath of the earthquake includes shipments of hygiene kits, food, drinking water, warm winter clothes and tents, along with the provision of medical aid.

The organization is also working with local partners to provide children with psychosocial and mental health support. It is distributing recreational kits “for the children to keep them busy and to try to establish a sense of normalcy in their lives and allow them to deal with the trauma that they have been through,” Khodr said.

For a week after the earthquake, the Syrian regime refused to allow any deliveries of aid to rebel-held areas in the northwest of the country and insisted that all humanitarian assistance should go through the capital, Damascus.

But following intensive international pressure to open more crossings along Syria’s border with Turkiye to allow the delivery of aid, President Bashar Assad on Monday approved the reopening of two additional crossing points, Bal Al-Hawa and Al-Raee, for an initial period of three months, the UN said.

Despite the continuing politicization of aid mechanisms in Syria, Khodr said that “we are a child rights-based agency and (our) mandate remains a purely humanitarian one. Our position is that we have to continuously try to reach all the children wherever they are, through whatever means.

Source: Arab News

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Bulgaria’s Turkish minority steps up aid drive for earthquake victims in Türkiye

Ahmet Gencturk


The Turkish minority in Bulgaria stepped up an aid drive for the earthquake victims in Türkiye, local media reported Thursday.

The minority’s religious authority, or grand mufti, said nearly 1.95 million levs ($1.07 million) has been collected, as reported by the Kircaalihaber news outlet.

Multiple aid campaigns by various Bulgarian and minority bodies for the victims are ongoing.

At least 36,187 have been killed by two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye on Feb. 6, the country's disaster agency said Thursday.

The 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude earthquakes, centered in the Kahramanmaras province, affected more than 13 million people in 11 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa and Elazig.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Volunteer Dutch medics healing wounds of quake victims in Türkiye

Bilal Kahyaoglu and Ilyas Gun 


Dutch volunteer medical staff are examining patients in southern Türkiye's quake-hit province of Adiyaman.

A team of two dozen doctors and nurses came to the region under the coordination of the Turkish disaster management agency AFAD last week after two back-to-back earthquakes caused widespread destruction.

The team, serving in a field hospital established by the Turkish National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) at Adiyaman University, has provided much-needed support in the disaster zone.

Shakib Sana, a Dutch doctor of Afghan origin, told Anadolu that he came to Türkiye to help health workers, who have been providing care for the thousands in need of medical attention in the aftermath of the quakes.

Sana, whose wife is a Turkish specialist doctor, said: "We work here voluntarily. We are doing our humanitarian duty. This shows the unity of people. We are here to contribute to the people and institutions in Türkiye. Let's work shoulder-to-shoulder. The pain is great."

Dr. Sevilay Temel, who came to Türkiye with her husband Sana, said: "We have established a tent hospital and pharmacy here with UMKE and AFAD. We work in a well-integrated way with UMKE doctors."

Another doctor on their team, Jaco Suijker, said he saw the earthquake on television and was very impressed by the support that subsequently flooded into the country.

"I am very happy that the volunteers came together and did such good work together," he added.

According to the latest figures, over 36,100 people have been killed and over 108,000 others wounded after the two massive earthquakes struck southern Türkiye within hours of each other on Feb. 6, affecting more than 13 million people.

The earthquakes were centered in Kahramanmaras province and shook ten other provinces, namely Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Earthquake hit Turkey helped yet Syria ignored by most EU states

16 February 2023

Lives have been saved in Turkey following the recent earthquakes because the country had access to heavy lifting machinery. Experts say many lives were lost in Syria because sanctions prevented the country from having similar equipment.

That catastrophe has just been debated in the European Parliament.

Following the disaster, I contacted one of the largest aid agencies in Syria. I've spoken to Italian agencies and other NGOs. They all told me that the EU sanctions present an obstacle to humanitarian work.

Gyorgy Holvenyi, Hugarian MEP

European Commission officials told legislators that just nine of the EU's 27 member states have supplied Syria with support, whereas, 21 have scrambled to help Turkey.

The Commission also allocated an additional €3.5 million in emergency humanitarian funding to help our partners address urgent needs in Syria.

Janez Lenarcic, EU Crisis Management Commissioner

This €3.5 million for Syrians pales into insignificance when compared to the €67 billion spent by the EU on Ukraine during the past 11 months.

Experts have been saying for years that the bloc lacks unity when it comes to Syria.

Countries are acting in their own way; there is no coordinated action. And this is one of the reasons that we're faced with this very big crisis, this mega crisis.

Shada Islam, EU Affairs Specialist

Efforts by Western nations to overthrow President Bashar Al Assad have failed. Critics say interventionism has brought misery to millions of innocent people in the country. Some lawmakers want the pressure to be paused.

In Syria there are sanctions. We don't want to see more people die in the cold. They don't have medicines. We must put politics aside and human life first.

Maria Grapini, Romanian MEP

It's been announced the EU will host a donor summit next month to gather money for the earthquake hit regions.

Source: Press TV

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NATO chief says ‘time is now’ for Turkiye to ratify Finland, Sweden membership applications

February 16, 2023

ANKARA: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday the “time is now” for Turkiye to ratify applications by Finland and Sweden to join the defense alliance.

Stoltenberg was speaking at a joint news conference in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock this week said she expects all NATO members to ratify the bids “without further delay.”

Finland and Sweden applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year and their membership bids have been ratified by all allies except Hungary and Turkiye.

Turkiye is widely seen as the main hold-up, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicating his country could ratify Finland’s application while not going ahead with Sweden’s.

Turkiye says Sweden harbors members of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK, which is seen as a terrorist group by Turkiye, the EU and others.

Last month Turkiye suspended talks with Sweden and Finland on their applications after a protest during which Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, burned a copy of the Holy Qur’an outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Stoltenberg described protest as “a disgraceful act” and said the Swedish government had demonstrated a strong position against the protest which should be praised.

“For me, this just demonstrates that Sweden and Finland understand and are implementing policies which recognize the concerns that Turkiye expressed. And this is why I think that time has come to ratify,” he said.

Cavusoglu repeated Turkiye’s position that it could evaluate Finland and Sweden’s bids to join NATO separately.

While conceding that Sweden had changed its legislation on terrorism in line with Turkiye’s demands, Cavusoglu said the changes should be fully implemented.

Source: Arab News

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Israeli shadowy firm sought to discredit ICRC in Burkina Faso: Report

16 February ,2023

An Israeli firm in 2020 smeared the International Committee of the Red Cross in Burkina Faso, presumably at the request of the Burkinabe government, investigative journalists said Thursday.

The report – by a consortium of journalists led by French non-profit Forbidden Stories – appears to add to a growing body of evidence that shadowy private firms worldwide are using hacking and social media to manipulate public opinion.

Journalists posing as potential clients met one of the two heads of Israeli influence company Percepto International, Royi Burstien, who cited Burkina Faso as a successful disinformation campaign by his company.

Although Percepto had not yet been founded at the time, “Burstien presented the case study as a significant achievement of Percepto’s,” it said.

Burkina Faso is in the grip of a seven-year extremist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced at least two million people from their homes.

In the meeting, Burstien, who says he previously served in Israel’s military intelligence directorate, displayed a PowerPoint on “Limiting Prominent NGO Intervention” for an unnamed government, Forbidden Stories said.

“Our client had a real problem with a specific NGO that really was not objective... The question is, how do you... put them on the sideline?” he told them.

Based on a few clues, the reporters managed to trace the controversy’s trajectory, Forbidden Stories said.

In the alleged disinformation campaign, an opinion piece appeared in French magazine Valeurs Actuelles on August 3, 2020, asking whether the ICRC was the “involuntary godfather of terrorism in Burkina Faso.”

The article was circulated by Burkinabe outlets and provoked a fierce anti-ICRC controversy fed by social media, leading to fears for the safety of ICRC employees working in the country, Forbidden Stories said.

French analyst Emmanuel Dupuy, who wrote the article, told AFP he had no link with Percepto, and was unaware of its existence.

He said an adviser to the country’s then-president Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Samuel Sellem, suggested he write the article, for which he was not paid.

“Everything is true in the column, I wouldn’t change a comma,” he said.

As the controversy grew in Burkina Faso, AFP on September 14, 2020 published a response by then ICRC head Peter Maurer, in which he said the organization only entered into dialogue with armed groups out of humanitarian necessity.

Forbidden Stories claimed AFP “amplified” the news.

“AFP on September 14, 2020 factually reported on a press conference held by the ICRC president in Ouagadougou, according to the journalistic standards of one of the world’s largest international news agencies,” AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd said.

“At no prior stage had AFP reported on the contents of the Valeurs Actuelles opinion piece,” he added.

Burstien seemed to interpret the results of the campaign as a success, Forbidden Stories said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tunisia’s Kais Saied rejects foreign interference after US concern over arrests

16 February ,2023

Tunisia’s president on Thursday rejected “foreign interference and harm to the country’s sovereignty” after the United States raised concerns over a recent wave of arrests of his critics.

“We are able to diagnose our problems,” President Kais Saied said, adding whoever wants to help Tunisians should “return our looted money and drop the accumulated debts.”

The United States on Wednesday said it was “deeply concerned” by the reported arrests of political figures, business leaders and journalists in Tunisia.

In recent days, Tunisian police have detained leading figures from opposition or critics of Saied, including prominent politicians, an influential businessman, the head of Tunisia’s main independent news outlet.

“Our sovereignty is above all considerations... we are not under colonization, we are an independent sovereign country,” Saied said in a meeting with his prime minister Najla Bouden.

Saied on Wednesday accused some of those detained of being responsible for price increases and food shortages in the north African country, and of wanting to fuel a social crisis.

The opposition has said the arrests aim to silence dissent, empower a slide towards autocracy and cover up Saied’s failure to manage the worsening social and economic crisis.

The arrests have raised fears of a wider crackdown on dissent and prompted the UN Human Rights Office to call for the immediate release of detainees.

Tunisians have for months been suffering shortages of food commodities that economic experts say are mainly caused by a crisis in public finances as the state attempts to avert bankruptcy while negotiating for an international bailout.

Last month, Moody’s ratings agency downgraded Tunisia’s debt, saying it would likely default on sovereign loans.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Libya’s Misrata mobilizes aid for quake victims in Türkiye

Aydoğan Kalabalık 



The people of Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata, sent 12 truckloads of humanitarian relief items Thursday to quake-hit regions of Türkiye.

Coordinated by Türkiye’s Consulate General in Misrata, the Libyan Red Crescent and Misrata Municipality, the humanitarian supplies were loaded onto a ship that was set to embark on its journey to Türkiye late Thursday.

"The people of Türkiye and the Turkish Red Crescent have always stood by us. We wanted to stand by the Turkish people in this time of great disaster, which saddened us," Fethi Shibani, the director of the Libyan Red Crescent in Misrata, told Anadolu.

The ship loaded with humanitarian aid will carry generators, electric heaters, blankets and clothes to quake victims in southern Türkiye.

A team of 25 people from the Libyan Red Crescent who are experts in locating the missing and retrieving bodies had set out for Türkiye, he added.

Mahmud Mirsadi, a senior official from Misrata Municipality, said: “In the first phase, we collected 12 truckloads of humanitarian aid. Our warehouses are full of aid. We will send two more ships.”

Mirsadi said that they wanted to establish an "air aid corridor" between Tripoli and Türkiye to facilitate the dispatch.

Türkiye’s Consul General to Misrata, Fatih Ugurlu, said they initiated an aid campaign through social media after the devastating earthquakes.

The list of primary needs was handed over to the associations and the Misrata Municipality upon their request, Ugurlu said.

"The people of Misrata in general are very thoughtful. Most of those who visited our Consulate General said they are of Turkish origin, that they have a special love for our country, and that friendship is understood in such difficult times," he added.

At least 38,044 people were killed by two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye on Feb. 6, the country's disaster agency said early Friday.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 quakes were centered in Kahramanmaras and struck 10 other provinces – Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Hatay, Gaziantep, Malatya, Kilis, Osmaniye, Elazig and Sanliurfa. More than 13 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Türkiye donates over 70,000 military uniforms to South Sudan

Benjamin Takpiny  


JUBA, South Sudan

The Turkish government on Thursday donated 75,000 military uniforms for the use of unified forces in South Sudan.

South Sudan’s Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs Angelina Teny said the contribution will help promote stability in the country.

“It is a big celebration for contribution of Republic of Türkiye to our peace and to creation of stability in our country, and I don’t call it a donation,” Teny said during a handover ceremony at Juba International Airport on Thursday.

Teny hailed the Turkish government for supporting South Sudan to implement the 2018 peace agreement.

“They are putting their hands together with us to ensure that peace stay in the Republic of South Sudan, we have signed the peace agreement and we must build it and in order to do that it requires friends like Türkiye,” she said.

Erdem Mutaf, Turkish ambassador to South Sudan, said the donation of the first batch of military uniforms is a sign of strong support of Türkiye to revitalized peace agreement.

“This donation of mainly 75,000 military uniforms is the most important part of our assistance to South Sudan,” Mutaf said.

Mutaf described the contribution of 9 tons of military uniforms as one of the biggest military support that Türkiye has provided to a country in African continent so far.

“The total rate of this donation is 134 metric tons and today’s symbolic handover comprise only 9 metric tons that were transported to Juba by Turkish military aircraft and the rest will be deliver in due time.”

Brig. Gen. Abdullah Katirci, representative of Turkish Ministry of Defense, said the contribution will enhance bilateral relations between the two nations.

“I am sure that uniform to new unified forces will be an import contribution to the peace process in South Sudan. This contribution will enhance our bilateral relations,” said Gen. Abdullah.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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South Asia


ISIS Is the Common Enemy Of Afghanistan, International Community: Former U.S. Special Representative For Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 15, 2023

Zalmay Khalilzad, Former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation says that ISIS is the common enemy of Afghanistan and the International Community.

The Afghan-American diplomat on Twitter said that cooperation against ISIS (Daesh) can be an important part of future relations.

Khalilzad said the full implementation of the Doha Agreement is the best way forward to bring peace and stability to war-torn Afghanistan and fight the growing threats of terrorism in the country. “The execution of the Doha Agreement addresses all the concerns of Afghans and the international community,” he added.

Many Afghan politicians believe that Doha Agreement signed between the Taliban and the United States in February 2020 was the main factor in the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Certain Afghan politicians believe that some key elements of the Doha Agreements were kept hidden from the public, and the people of Afghanistan still do not know the full context of the peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban.

Previously, high-ranking Afghan politicians including President Ashraf Ghani, and Former Vice President Amrullah Saleh had asked for publications of the hidden annexes of the Doha Agreement.

Khalilzad talks about the cooperation of the Taliban against ISIS as the terror activities of the militant group have rapidly increased since the Taliban’s return to power. The militant group has carried out deadly attacks in different parts of Afghanistan in the last year and a half, which resulted in the dead the injury of scores of innocent civilians.

Source: Khaama Press

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Afghan Refugees Face Deportation Risks Due to Congress Delays: CBS Report

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 17, 2023

Based on U.S. government documents thousands of Afghan refugees who entered America after the Taliban’s takeover are now facing the risk of losing their work permits and getting deported from the U.S. in the summer, CBS reported.

Despite the pressures, the U.S. Congress has not yet passed the bill to grant permanent residence to these refugees.  Out of 77,000 Afghan nationals who were evacuated to the United States, only 4,775 people have received permanent residence cards.  

Although the representatives of both parties (Democrats and Republicans) supported the resettlement of Afghans in the U.S., the bill to grant permanent residence has not been approved yet. The reason for the delay is primarily linked to the concerns of some Republican Senators regarding the assessment of the refugees’ backgrounds.

Republican legislators are worried that terror group members will take the advantage of the law on granting permanent residency and become a potential threat to the security of America in the future.

With the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the Biden administration evacuated tens of thousands of people to America for humanitarian reasons and without going through the legal process of granting asylum and visa, which usually takes months. 

Now the fate of these people is in the hands of the American legislators to adjust laws and provide the conditions for the residence of these refugees.

Afghan refugee advocates, mostly military veterans, have said it is required that there is an urgent need to pass a bill amending the law for Afghan refugees, as most of their work permits expire this year.

Krish O’mara Vignarajah, the President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, who has helped in the resettlement of thousands of Afghans, said to CBS, “conditions are tough for refugees. They don’t know with certainty if they will be deported from the United States or they can stay here.”

CBS has reported last week; 28600 Afghans have applied for permanent residence in two separate programs out of which the applications 4775 have been approved.

Source: Khaama Press

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The Ruling Regime Should Pay Attention to People’s Demands: IEA Minister

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

February 15, 2023

Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Delawar in a ceremony held to commemorate the withdrawal of the Soviet Union said that the current regime should pay attention to the legitimate demands of the people, in order to sustain itself.

Shahabuddin Delawar said that all Taliban senior leaders including ministers, deputy ministers, and other officials should pay extra attention to the legitimate demands of the common people.

Minister Delawar’s remarks indicate that Taliban officials are criticizing the group’s leadership and the latest decisions which violated the rights of women and girls to get an education, work, or appear in public places.

Addressing a crowd, Mr. Delawar on Wednesday reiterated that freedom is achieved through the power of the general public and lost by leaders. Maintaining freedom is equally important as gaining it, Delawar said.

This comes as the ongoing criticisms from the Taliban leadership’s decisions are increasingly growing within the group in the recent past. Previously, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Acting Interior Minister in a gathering in Khost province criticized the group’s leadership and said, “monopolizing power” is not good for the ruling regime.

Haqqani criticized the members of the group and said that they have forgotten the interests of the people. Taliban members do not think about “what service they can provide to the people” after they get appointed to positions in the current regime.

“We reached our goals with many sacrifices. Now, the responsibility has been placed on our shoulders and it requires patience, morals, and proper behavior and engagement with the people,” Haqqani said.

Source: Khaama Press

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