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Interfaith Love: Hired Members of a Hardline Hindu Nationalist Group Allegedly Killed 24-Year-Old Arbaz Mullah

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 November 2021


Nazima Shaikh, mother of Arbaz Mullah weeps as she speaks to the Associated Press at her home in Belagavi, India, Oct. 6, 2021.


• Taliban Forces in Afghanistan Executed or 'Disappeared' More Than 100 Former Military Personnel: Report

• Blogger Sauleha Imtiaz’s ‘Bareheaded’ Photos at Kartarpur Gurdwara Provokes Controversy

• Boebert in Call Refuses To Apologize For Anti-Muslim Remarks

• Saudi Arabia Strived For 40 Years to Make Mideast Free Of Nuclear Weapons: Ambassador



• Omicron Threat: Mosques in Hyderabad Launch Free Vaccination Drive

• Activists Slam Police Action against Munawar Faruqui


South Asia

• 50 Per Cent Private Education Centres In Afghanistan Shut Since Taliban Takeover

• Are US-led sanctions worsening Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis?

• Argentina Court to Investigate Myanmar War Crimes against Rohingya Muslims

• Bomb blast in Kabul wounds five civilians including Taliban



• Pakistan Backs Saudi Proposal to Host OIC Summit on Afghan Crisis

• A Convict Was Invited To Moot Attended By Judges, Deplores PM Imran

• Pakistan needs to benefit from EU experience for modernising agri: Imam

• SBP signs agreement for $3bn Saudi fund


North America

• 9/11 Survivors Want Afghanistan’s $7bn Funds in US Paid as Compensation

• Scrutiny committee submits report in PTI foreign funding case

• Pentagon to probe 2019 airstrike that killed civilians in Syria's Baghuz


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia slams Israeli president’s visit to Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron

• Third Islamic State attack in three days hits northern Iraq

• Eight Iraqi officers probing attack on PM arrested on charges of negligence

• Erdogan says also plans steps with Egypt, Israel after UAE visit

• Arab Coalition carries out 15 strikes against Iran-backed Houthi militia

• Qatar to send foreign minister to cash-strapped Lebanon for support



• OIC Decries Israeli President’s Visit to Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron

• FM: Agreement in Vienna Possible, Iran Not to Accept Demands beyond N. Deal

• Spokesman: Iran Sensitive to Afghan People’s Conditions

• Iran Raps British Foreign Secretary for Attempt to Prevent Success of Vienna Talks

• Iran nuclear deal talks resume in Vienna amid muted hopes

• 74 years on, Palestinians remain stateless


Southeast Asia

• World Squash Championship Cancelled After Malaysia Refused To Allow Israeli Players

• PAS lawmaker wants Putrajaya to curb LGBTQ shows on Netflix, but minister says not possible

• PM Ismail Sabri describes first official visit to Singapore as a success



• Morocco to Push For Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks: King Mohammed VI

• Sudan's army chief visits border area with Ethiopia following attack

• Somali premier pledges election transparency amid political tensions



• Mediterranean States Seek To Bolster Peace Efforts In Palestine, Libya, Syria

• EU intends to continue talks with Taliban after 2-day negotiations

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Interfaith Love: Hired Members of a Hardline Hindu Nationalist Group Allegedly Killed 24-Year-Old Arbaz Mullah


Nazima Shaikh, mother of Arbaz Mullah weeps as she speaks to the Associated Press at her home in Belagavi, India, Oct. 6, 2021.


November 29, 2021

By Sheikh Saaliq

Associated Press journalists Shonal Ganguly, Aijaz Rahi and Chonchui Ngashangva contributed to this report.

BELAGAVI, India (AP) — Arbaz Mullah’s love story began, as romances often do, when he first laid eyes on the woman of his dreams, Shweta Kumbhar.

Over nearly three years, their courtship in many ways resembled that of any other couple and they made each other promises to get married. But those secret vows would never be fulfilled.

The romance so angered relatives of Kumbhar, a Hindu, that they allegedly hired members of a hard-line Hindu nationalist group to kill 24-year-old Mullah, who was Muslim.

They did exactly that, according to police. On Sept. 28, his bloodied and dismembered body was found on a stretch of railroad tracks.

While interfaith unions between Hindus and Muslims are rare in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, and other Hindu nationalists have decried what they call “love jihad.” The discredited conspiracy theory holds that supposedly predatory Muslim men deceive women to coerce them into changing their religion, with the aim of establishing domination in the majority-Hindu nation.

The “love jihad” issue has pitted the BJP against secular activists who warn it undermines constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and puts Muslims in the crosshairs of Hindu nationalists, emboldened by a prime minister who has mostly stayed mum about rising attacks on Muslims since he was first elected in 2014.

“This conspiracy theory demonizes the Muslim as the other and creates victimhood and fears in the Hindus that India is going to be converted into a Muslim country,” said Mohan Rao, a retired professor of social sciences at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University who has researched interfaith marriage.

Gopal Krishna Agarwal, a BJP spokesman, said the party has no objection in principle to interfaith marriages, which are legal, but suggested that concerns about “love jihad” are valid.

“To lure somebody through financial means, or some coercion, or some sort of motive to convert, that is not acceptable,” Agarwal said.

India’s National Investigation Agency and some court rulings have rejected the “love jihad” theory as baseless. Census data show the country’s religious mix has been stable since 1951, and India remains predominantly Hindu with Muslims making up about 14% of its nearly 1.4 billion people.

Nonetheless, rights groups say violence against interfaith couples has increased in recent years, perpetrated by hardline Hindu nationalists out to stop such relationships. Hundreds of Muslim men have been assaulted, and many couples have been forced to go into hiding. Some have been killed.

It was against that backdrop of fear that Mullah and Kumbhar began dating in late 2018 in the city of Belagavi in the southern state of Karnataka.

Mullah’s mother, Nazima Shaikh, was worried. She was all too familiar with the frequent news stories about interfaith couples being targeted in Karnataka, which is governed by Modi’s party.

“I was unsettled because I knew how it could end,” Shaikh said on a recent afternoon at her modest home.

She tried to persuade Mullah to end the relationship, but he refused.

Meanwhile Kumbhar’s family was aghast. Shaikh said she appealed to them to give the relationship their blessing but was told that “they will kill or get killed but won’t let their daughter marry my son.”

Soon, Mullah began receiving threatening calls. First they came from Kumbhar’s family, then from members of the hard-line Hindu nationalist group Sri Ram Sena Hindustan, or Lord Ram’s Army in India. They demanded money and for Mullah to break up with Kumbhar.

Kumbhar’s parents also sought to stop her from seeing him, so the couple began meeting clandestinely in faraway towns and in fields in the countryside, according to friends.

When the threats intensified, Mullah reluctantly agreed to end the relationship after being told it would mean he would no longer be bothered. But the couple continued to correspond in secret — and her family was incensed when they found out. It wasn’t long before he was summoned to meet again with the members of Sri Ram Sena Hindustan.

Investigators say that at the meeting, Sri Ram Sena Hindustan members bludgeoned Mullah with clubs and decapitated him using a knife. They then allegedly placed his body on the railroad tracks to try to make it look like he died when a train ran over him.

Ten people were soon arrested, though formal charges have yet to be brought. They include Kumbhar’s parents, who according to senior investigator Laxman Nimbargi have confessed to paying the killers.

The Associated Press was unable to speak with Kumbhar. After a brief time in police custody, she is now staying with relatives who declined to make her available or even say where she is.

Sri Ram Sena Hindustan denied that its members killed Mullah and said the group was being targeted for “working for the benefit of Hindus.”

Its leader, Ramakant Konduskar, who calls himself a foot soldier in the battle to save Hinduism, said he is not against any religion but people should marry within their own. He considers “love jihad” a threat to society.

Some jurisdictions governed by Modi’s party have now begun trying to codify that sentiment into law.

Last year lawmakers in Uttar Pradesh passed India’s first “love jihad” law, requiring couples from different religions to provide two months’ notice to an official before getting married.

Under the law it’s up to the official to determine whether a conversion came about through compulsion, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Because authorities can make couples’ names public during the process, hard-liners have sometimes intervened to pressure women’s families to bring charges of forced conversion.

So far nearly 100 people have been arrested under the law, though only a few have been convicted. Three other states governed by the BJP have introduced similar measures.

Critics say the bills violate the constitutional right to privacy. They also view the laws as deeply patriarchal.

“Women are not assets,” said Renu Mishra, a lawyer and women’s rights activist in Uttar Pradesh.

Some liberal activists, most of them Hindus, have formed social and legal aid groups for interfaith couples and celebrate their stories on social media.

But in Belagavi, a relatively small city, such resources and support are lacking. Karnataka state has recently seen a rise in anti-Muslim attacks, exacerbating fears among the community.

In that environment, Mullah felt he had nowhere to turn, according to those close to him.

“My son made a terrible mistake of loving a Hindu woman,” Shaikh said.

She paused, searching for the right words, before continuing, “Is this what you get for loving someone?”


Associated Press journalists Shonal Ganguly, Aijaz Rahi and Chonchui Ngashangva contributed to this report.

Source: Religion News Service

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Taliban Forces in Afghanistan Executed or 'Disappeared' More Than 100 Former Military Personnel: Report


Photo: Bloomberg


November 30, 2021

Taliban forces in Afghanistan have summarily executed or forcibly disappeared more than 100 former police and intelligence officers in just four provinces since taking over the country on August 15, despite a proclaimed amnesty, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.

The report documents the killing or disappearance of 47 former members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) -- military personnel, police, intelligence service members, and militia -- who had surrendered to or were apprehended by Taliban forces between August 15 and October 31. Human Rights Watch gathered credible information on more than 100 killings from Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, and Kunduz provinces alone.

"The Taliban leadership's promised amnesty has not stopped local commanders from summarily executing or disappearing former Afghan security force members," said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The burden is on the Taliban to prevent further killings, hold those responsible to account, and compensate the victims' families."

Human Rights Watch interviewed 40 people in-person in the four provinces and another 27 by telephone, namely witnesses, relatives and friends of victims, former government officials, journalists, healthcare workers, and Taliban members. A Taliban commander said that those responsible for atrocities "cannot be forgiven."

The Taliban leadership has directed members of surrendering security force units to register to receive a letter guaranteeing their safety. However, Taliban forces have used these screenings to detain and summarily execute or forcibly disappear people within days after they register, leaving their bodies for their relatives or communities to find.

The Taliban have also been able to access employment records that the former government left behind, using them to identify people for arrest and execution.

In just one example, in Kandahar city in late September, Taliban forces went to the home of Baz Muhammad, who had been employed by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the former state intelligence agency, and arrested him. Relatives later found his body.

The Taliban have also carried out abusive search operations, including night raids, to apprehend and, at times, forcibly disappear suspected former officials.

"Taliban night raids are terrifying," a civil society activist from Helmand province said. "They are conducted on the pretext of disarming ex-security forces who have not surrendered weapons. Those that 'disappear' are (victims) of night raids. The family can't report or confirm. The families can't even ask where (the person has been taken)."

During searches, the Taliban often threaten and abuse family members to make them reveal the whereabouts of those in hiding. Some of those eventually apprehended have been executed or taken into custody without acknowledgement that they are being held, or information about their location.

The Taliban's intelligence department in Helmand detained Abdul Raziq, a former provincial military officer, after he had surrendered in late August. Since then, his family has been unable to find out where he is being held, or if he is still alive.

The executions and disappearances have generated fear among former government officials and others who might have believed that the Taliban takeover would bring an end to the revenge attacks that had been characteristic of Afghanistan's long armed conflict.

Particularly in Nangarhar province, the Taliban have also targeted people they accuse of supporting the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP, an affiliate of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS). As the United Nations reported, Taliban operations against ISKP "rely heavily on extra-judicial detentions and killings." Many of those killed have been targeted because of their Salafist views, or their particular tribal affiliations.

On September 21 the Taliban announced the establishment of a commission to investigate reports of human rights abuses, corruption, theft, and other crimes. The commission has not announced any investigations into any reported killings, although it did report on the arrest of several Taliban members for stealing, and the dismissal of others for corruption. In a November 21 response to Human Rights Watch's findings, the Taliban said that they have dismissed those responsible for abuses but provided no information to corroborate their claim.

"The Taliban's unsupported claims that they will act to prevent abuses and hold abusers to account appears, so far, to be nothing more than a public relations stunt," Gossman said. "The lack of accountability makes clear the need for continued UN scrutiny of Afghanistan's human rights situation, including robust monitoring, investigations, and public reporting."

Source: Business Standard

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Blogger Sauleha Imtiaz’s ‘Bareheaded’ Photos At Kartarpur Gurdwara Provokes Controversy


A female blogger’s photos taken at the Kartarpur Gurdwara


November 29, 2021

A female blogger’s photos taken at the Kartarpur Gurdwara has sparked controversy on social media on Monday.

The Punjab Police has launched an investigation soon after the controversy started making rounds on the social media, after an Indian Sikh journalist, Ravinder Singh Robin shed light on the offensive nature of the photo-shoot on Twitter.

“Modelling bareheaded for ladies’ attire, in the premises of Gurdwara Sri Darbar Sahib at #KartarpurSahib in Pakistan, by a Lahorite woman has [severely] hurt the religious sentiments of Sikhs,” he stated.

Soon after, the Punjab Police tweeted that they were “investigating all aspects related to this incident and strict legal action will be taken against [those] responsible”.

“[The] management of concerned brand & model are being investigated. Worship places of all religions are equally respectable,” it said.

It is pertinent to note that the blogger’s photos were shared on the Instagram page of a clothing brand named Mannat Clothing, but were removed after the criticism.

As per the sources, the police would first investigate the “model” and the brand’s role in the capturing of the photos and later “register a case”, while adding that “[Police] are checking whether the model conducted the photoshoot on her own or the brand carried out the session.”

Later, the blogger, Sauleha Imtiaz apologised for the pictures, while clarifying that the pictures were not part of a formal photoshoot.

“I just went to Kartarpur to learn about the history and know about the Sikh community. It wasn’t done to hurt anyone[‘s] sentiments or anything for that matter. However, if I have hurt anyone or they think that I don’t respect their culture, I am Sorry,” she stated.

“I respect the Sikh culture very much and I am sorry to all the Sikh community.”

The clothing brand Mannat in their defense, clarified that “the pictures posted on our accounts are NOT part of any [photo]shoot done by Mannat Clothing. These pictures were provided to us by a third party (blogger) in which they were wearing our dress.”

“However, we accept our mistake that we should not have posted this content and we apologise to every single person who was offended by this,” the statement added.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said “the designer and the model must apologise to Sikh community” over the photos.

“Kartarpur Sahib is a religious symbol and not a film set,” he tweeted.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill termed the blogger’s photos “stupid and unthoughtful”, saying the designer must apologise for “hurting Sikh community’s religious sentiments”.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also took notice of the incident, sought a report from the chief secretary and ordered an inquiry into it.

Buzdar also sought action against the officials who allowed the “modelling”, with a statement saying “Not only will action be taken against those responsible after a comprehensive investigation into the incident but it will also be seen being taken.”

Source: Pakistan Today

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Boebert In Call Refuses To Apologize For Anti-Muslim Remarks


Rep. Lauren Boebert (Photo | AP)


Nov 30, 2021

Days after firebrand conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado was harshly criticized for making anti-Muslim comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar a Minnesota Democrat whom she likened to a bomb-carrying terrorist, the two spoke by phone Monday.

By both lawmakers' accounts, it did not go well.

The conversation, which Boebert sought after issuing a tepid statement last Friday, offered an opportunity to extend a fig leaf in a House riven by tension. Instead, it ended abruptly after Boebert rejected Omar's request for a public apology, amplifying partisan strife that has become a feature, not a bug, of the GOP since a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Boebert previously apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended," but not directly to Omar.

It's just the latest example of a GOP lawmaker making a personal attack against another member of Congress, an unsettling trend that has gone largely unchecked by House Republican leaders. It also offers a test of Democrats' newfound resolve to mete out punishment to Republicans.

Earlier this month conservative Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was censured over a violent video. In February Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was booted from congressional committees for her inflammatory rhetoric.

After Monday's phone call, Omar and Boebert quickly issued statements condemning each other.

“I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” Omar said in a statement. She said she “decided to end the unproductive call.”

Boebert shot back in an Instagram video: “Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is part of cancel culture 101 and a pillar of the Democrat Party."

The chain of events was set in motion over a week ago when Boebert posted a video to Facebook of her speaking before constituents, describing an interaction with Omar — an interaction that Omar maintains never happened.

In the video, the freshman Colorado lawmaker claims that a Capitol Police officer approached her with “fret on his face” shortly before she stepped aboard a House elevator and the doors closed.

“I look to my left and there she is — Ilhan Omar. And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,’" Boebert says with a laugh.

Omar is Muslim. Boebert's comment about Omar not wearing a backpack was an apparent reference to her not carrying a suicide bomb.

Reaction to the video was swift. Omar called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to “take appropriate action” because “normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.”

House Democratic leadership also issued a joint statement condemning “Boebert’s repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions,” while calling on McCarthy "to finally take real action to confront racism.”

Yet McCarthy, who is in line to become House speaker if Republicans retake the majority next year, has proven reluctant to police members of his caucus whose views are often closely aligned with the party's base.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker had nothing new to add Monday and pointed to the statement issued by Democratic leaders last week calling on McCarthy to act.

Boebert tweeted Friday that “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar," adding that "there are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”

It's not Boebert's first brush with controversy — nor Omar's. Since Boebert's election to Congress in 2020, she has leaned in to provocative broadsides that delight the party's base. Omar has drawn her focus in particular. She has previously called Omar and others “full time propagandists" for "state sponsored terrorism,” and “politicians with suicide belts strapped their body.”

In May, she tweeted that Omar was “a full-time propagandist for Hamas.” She has also called Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib "evil” while also referring to them as the “jihad squad.” Tlaib, like Omar, is Muslim.

Omar too has drawn scrutiny for her comments, often in reference to Israel, some of which have been blasted as anti-Semitic.

In 2019, she suggested that Israel’s supporters are pushing U.S. lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance to a foreign country.” She was also pressured to apologized “unequivocally” for suggesting that congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” a longstanding trope about Jews buying influence.

House Democratic leadership intervened and directly rebuked Omar over the remarks.

Source: Independent UK

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Saudi Arabia Strived For 40 Years To Make Mideast Free Of Nuclear Weapons: Ambassador


Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi


30 November, 2021

Saudi Arabia and the countries of the region have sought for more than forty years to make the Middle East a region free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, the Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi, said in a speech.

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

Al-Mouallimi delivered the speech in New York at the second session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia has been and is still at the forefront of countries supporting the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones all over the world, especially in the Middle East region, al-Moaullimi said in his speech.

“The proposition that some countries push, which is based on the fact that the security environment and the international situation are not conducive to moving forward with the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction in our region, represents a false logic,” the ambassador said.

“We are all here in this hall to strive to achieve this goal except for one party, which is Israel, which continues to obstruct all initiatives and negotiations for the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction,” he added.

He said that the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in the Middle East, is one of the basic measures to achieve the purposes and principles of the UN charter related to the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of good-neighborliness, friendly relations and cooperation among states, SPA reported.


Al-Moaullimi added in his speech that Saudi Arabia supports international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, expressing the Kingdom’s deep concern about Iran’s behavior that contradicts its declared peaceful nuclear activities.

He called on Iran to seize the current diplomatic opportunities to enter into serious negotiations over its nuclear program.

“The establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction is no longer just an option, but has become an imperative, as achieving security, stability and comprehensive coexistence in our region will not be complete without the disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction,” al-Moaullimi said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Omicron threat: Mosques in Hyderabad launch free vaccination drive

29th November 2021

Hyderabad: In response to the Omicron alert in the state and resistance to COVID-19 immunisation in some parts of the Old City, Muslim social workers and religious leaders have stepped forward to organise vaccination clinics in mosques.

The immunisation drive is organised in partnership with the Helping Hand Foundation (HHF), a local non-governmental organisation, and SEED, a US-based non-governmental organisation.

Around 100 volunteers, counsellors, vaccinators, data entry operators, supervisors, and support personnel from mosques will participate in the immunisation drive, which will go on for six months. The volunteers will go door to door to inoculate people in around 100 slums.

According to a preliminary assessment survey, vaccination coverage in the Old City’s minority-dominated sections is low. As per the survey, 35 percent of adults have not had their first dose of vaccination and 67 percent have not received their second dose of vaccination in the catchment area of 20 slums.

Three mosques in Rajendranagar, Hasanagar, and Shaheen Nagar, which operate basic health care centres in their area, will lead the vaccination initiative.

On Monday, MIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi formally launched the vaccination drive in Masjid Mohammad Mustafa in Rajendranagar.

Source: Daily Siasat

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Activists slam police action against Munawar Faruqui

Nov 30, 2021

A day after comedian Munawar Faruqui through a tweet bid ‘goodbye’ to stand-up comedy, lawyers and activists in the city on Monday argued that the Bengaluru police’s actions that led to the cancellation of Faruqui’s show amounts to dereliction of duty by the police.

They said that though an event held in a private space doesn’t require any police permission, the fact the police failed to act against a group threatening to cause ruckus at the venue showed that they failed to perform their duty.

A show by Faruqui was cancelled on Sunday, hours before it was supposed to be held in Bengaluru, after the city police ‘suggested’ that the organizers cancel the event, citing possible law and order problems amid protest by right-wing outfits.

Bengaluru police on Sunday wrote to the organisers of the event, after a letter was sent by Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, a right wing group, to Bengaluru police commissioner Kamal Pant on the same day asking police to cancel the event. The petition said that Faruqui has a habit of making ‘unacceptable’ jokes on Hindu gods, Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2020, Godhra massacre of karsevaks’.

“Allowing Munawar Faruqui, who hurts religious sentiments of Hindus, is providing an opportunity for him to repeat those crimes…. should such a programme that disturbs the communal harmony be allowed when the memories of DJ Halli riots are still fresh?” read the letter, while threatening to take to the streets if the stand-up show is held.

Members of the organization have been charged with the murder of editor-activist Gauri Lankesh and scholar M.M. Kalburgi.

Hours later Ashok Nagar police issued the letter to the organizers “advising” them that they “should cancel the show”. The letter, though doesn’t mention the HJS petition, says they have credible information that several organizations are opposing the show. The organizers had informed the Ashok Nagar police of the show titled “Dongri to Nowhere” in a letter on November 15, as they need not take permission since it was to be held an indoor, and the police had not taken objection to the same till HJS petitioned the police.

Senior police officers aware of the development said that they were pulled up for “not cancelling the show earlier” and were asked to cancel it immediately. Senior police officials, however, refused to comment on the issue.

Vinay Srinivas, a civil rights activist, and advocate said forcing the organizers to cancel the show was a violation of the right to freedom of speech and expression. “There is a Supreme Court judgement which says no permission is needed to hold an event at a private venue. It is not the police’s job to interfere in stopping such a performance, their job is to provide security if there are threats,” he said.

All Indian Lawyer’s Association for Justice, in a statement, claimed that at its core, the targeting of Munawar Faruqui is part of a communal agenda of rightwing forces in India, which have the overt support of the ruling dispensation. “AILAJ condemns the actions of Bangalore police in issuing notice seeking cancellation of the comedy show by Munawar Faruqui. The said notice is a violation of rule of law and clearly reveals that the police force has abdicated its constitutional duty of protecting the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, succumbing instead to pressures of extremist communal right-wing forces,” read the statement.

“As such the issue of notice by the Bangalore police to the organisers of the event must be seen as a declaration of support to unconstitutional forces. The police force, which is funded by the people, must be bound by the Constitution,” the statement added.

Clifton Rozario, a Bengaluru-based lawyer pointed out that police’s failure to take action against an organisation that was threatening to resort to violence is a dereliction of duty. “It is the job of the police department to take action against such groups and they failed at their job. There have been instances where courts have ordered cases to be filed against senior officers for failure to act, this amounts to the same,” he said.

Source: Hindustan Times

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South Asia


50 per cent private education centres in Afghanistan shut since Taliban takeover

29th November 2021

KABUL: Over 50 per cent of private education centres have been closed within the past three months across Afghanistan since the Taliban take over the country, local media reported citing the Union of Private Education Centers.

As per the union, the deteriorated economic status of families is the main reason for the closure of these educational centers.

"With changes happening in Afghanistan, many educational facilities--40 to 50 per cent--stopped their activities. The reason for that was the small number of students in the educational centers," Sanjar Khalid, head of the union said.

Some students said that the long time period has affected their morale for continuing education.

"We are still hopeful to study to become a person who can serve their country," said Shabana Habib Yar, a student, according to Tolo News.

"We lost the motivation for the lessons because it is still unclear whether we will go to school next year or not," said Najia Sarwary, a student.

Mohammad Arif Jamal, the head of one of the private education centers in western Kabul said that the number of students has dropped 60 per cent during the past three months compared to previous months.

Source: New Indian Express

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Are US-led sanctions worsening Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis?

By Arwa Ibrahim

29 Nov 2021

International aid organisations and experts say the US-led sanctions on the Taliban government are hurting the Afghan people, and called for “explicit humanitarian exemptions” for the delivery of aid to prevent a “catastrophe”.

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, the aid-dependent country was cut off from international financial institutions, while nearly $10bn of its assets were frozen by the US, triggering a banking crisis.

Millions of dollars in international aid were also halted due to the sanctions.

The UN and other aid agencies have been trying to navigate the sanctions to deliver much-needed aid to the country, with more than half of Afghanistan’s 38 million population facing imminent food shortages in the harsh winter months.

“The US government, and other sanctions imposing entities like the UN Security Council (UNSC), should do all they can to ensure that Afghans have access to the humanitarian assistance to which they are entitled,” said Eileen McCarthy, the Advocacy Manager at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

“They should ensure sanctions and other restrictive measures comply with international humanitarian and human rights law and do not impede impartial humanitarian activities,” she told Al Jazeera.

‘Humanitarian catastrophe preventable’

More than 100 days into the Taliban’s rule, Afghanistan’s economy has nearly collapsed, for which the UN envoy for Afghanistan blamed on the financial sanctions. Deborah Lyons told the UNSC last week that the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the country was “preventable”.

There have been alarming reports of public hospitals unable to afford essential medical supplies or to pay staff salaries, and families offering their young daughters for marriage in return for a brideprice to help them survive.

The Taliban government, which has not been recognised by any country or the United Nations, has banned foreign currency among other measures to revive the economy, but the sudden drying up of millions of dollars in aid flow crippled banks and businesses and sent food and fuel prices rocketing.

While they blame the unfolding crisis on the Taliban for not pursuing a political settlement, experts say Afghanistan’s crisis was the result of international sanctions, making millions of dollars of aid that supported the previous West-backed Afghan government inaccessible to the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate.

“The total absence of liquidity in Afghanistan’s system is the result of the suspension of direct bilateral aid and freezing of the money of the central bank after the departure of international troops,” said Dominik Stillhart, operations director at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), referring to the withdrawal of US-led NATO troops after 20 years of war.

“There is a political legitimacy crisis… but you cannot hold the entire Afghan population hostage,” he said, explaining it was impossible for an aid organisation to operate in a country without engaging with the de-facto authority.

“If you want to provide or maintain basic services, you have to work with the system in place,” Stillhart told Al Jazeera.

Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft agreed: “It was one thing to navigate sanctions on the Taliban when they weren’t the de facto government. But now they are sitting in Kabul and the question becomes, ‘how do you conduct business or provide aid in a country without touching the government?'”

Aid dependence

Sulaiman Bin Shah, Afghanistan’s former deputy minister of industry and commerce until August 15, said the collapse of the Afghan economy was an expected development because it was heavily dependent on international aid.

“Afghanistan was so dependent on aid and donor money in the past 20 years that the economy has been somewhat artificially created on that premise,” said Bin Shah. “Now that money has vanished.”

Weinstein, who also served as a US marine in Afghanistan, said because the country’s infrastructure and economy have been built by Washington and the international community, they cannot continue without them.

“Afghanistan is aid-dependent and grants account for 75 percent of public spending. This made the country completely reliant on the international community’s willingness to continue that aid,” he told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Argentina court to investigate Myanmar war crimes against Rohingya Muslims

29 Nov 2021

Argentina’s justice system will investigate allegations of war crimes committed by the Myanmar military against that country’s Rohingya minority under a court ruling upholding the principles of “universal justice”.

The appeals court decision, which Agence France-Presse has seen, overturns a lower court ruling rejecting a request for an investigation by the British-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation (BROUK).

A 2017 army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which the UN says could amount to genocide, has triggered an exodus of more than 740,000 members of the community, mainly to Bangladesh.

The legal premise of “universal justice” holds that some acts – including war crimes and crimes against humanity – are so horrific they are not specific to one nation and can be tried anywhere.

Argentina’s courts have taken up other universal jurisdiction cases in the past, including in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.

Proceedings against Myanmar and its leaders are already under way at the international criminal court and the UN’s international court of justice.

Six Rohingya women, refugees in Bangladesh, had given remote testimony to the court in Argentina.

One of the complainants said they “had all been sexually assaulted and that many of their family members had died as a result of the repression they had suffered” in August 2017, the court recalled.

Source: The Guardian

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Bomb blast in Kabul wounds five civilians including Taliban

30 Nov 2021

A bomb that was planted on the main road in Police District six of the Afghan capital wounded five people including the Taliban fighters but the Taliban have not commented on the casualties.

The bomb has targeted a car of the Taliban fighters in the Darulaman area of Kabul.

Spokesperson of the ministry of interior Affairs Saeed Khostai confirmed the explosion but denied any financial loss and casualties.

He said the bomb was planted on the road but eyewitnesses said that a magnetic bomb has exploded.

On the other hand, the spokesperson of the police headquarter of Kabul General Mobin said there are casualties but has not disclosed the exact number of people killed or wounded.

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion yet.

Source: Khaama Press

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Pakistan backs Saudi proposal to host OIC summit on Afghan crisis

By Mian Abrar

November 29, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi welcomed on Monday Saudi Arabia’s move to request an extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and announced that Pakistan had offered to host the meeting in Islamabad on December 17.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO), Qureshi said Pakistan “fully endorses” the initiative taken by Saudi Arabia and expressed confidence that other OIC members would also back the proposal.

Saudi Arabia, which is the chair of the OIC summit, made the call for the extraordinary session the same day, according to state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The agency reported that the meeting had been called to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and “pathways for an urgent humanitarian response”, acknowledging Pakistan’s offer to host the summit.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, the country — already struggling with drought and severe poverty after decades of war — has seen its economy all but collapse, raising the spectre of an exodus of refugees.

According to the FO’s statement, Qureshi, too, highlighted the need for providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan in these difficult times.

“Afghanistan is a founding member of the OIC. As part of the Islamic Ummah, we are bound by fraternal bonds of amity and brotherhood with the people of Afghanistan,” he said, stressing that “today, our Afghan brothers and sisters need us more than ever before.”

Describing the situation in the warn-torn country, he said Afghanistan currently “faces a serious humanitarian situation — millions of Afghans, including women and children, confront an uncertain future due to [the] shortage of food, medicines, and other essential life supplies”.

And the advent of winter had exacerbated this humanitarian crisis, the foreign minister added.He emphasised the need for the OIC to “step in to help our Afghan brethren”.

“We should step up our collective efforts to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, provide immediate and sustained support to them, and continue to remain engaged with them for the wellbeing and prosperity of Afghanistan.”

According to the FO, the first extraordinary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers was held in Islamabad in January 1980, also on the then situation in Afghanistan.

Source: Pakistan Today

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A convict was invited to moot attended by judges, deplores PM Imran

Syed Irfan Raza

November 30, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan again lamented on Monday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was convicted by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case, was invited as chief guest at a recent conference in which judges of the apex courts were also present.

The prime minister feared that another blasphemous attempt would be made by the West against Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and said this time a well-calculated and unanimous response should come from the Muslims so that the false impression could not come to the fore that the Muslims were against freedom of expression.

He accepted that the government was acting “quite slowly” and that was the reason the prime minister university, which he had dreamt three years ago, could not start functioning even today.

Fears another blasphemous attempt in West, calls for calculated response from Muslim world

“A new culture has developed in the country in which thieves are not treated as thieves. We have seen that at a recent conference at Lahore, to which judges of the Supreme Court were invited, the chief guest was the person who had been convicted by the apex court,” Mr Khan said in his speech after inaugurating an academic block of the newly established Al-Qadir University at Sohawa tehsil of Jhelum district, while referring to self-exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who had delivered a speech at Asma Jahangir Conference as a chief guest.

Without naming Mr Sharif, the prime minister said: “The chief guest was the persons who had plundered public wealth and fled abroad on fake grounds.

“The moral fabric of a nation gets ruined if it stops recognising corruption and dishonesty as evils,” he added.

Mr Khan said he wanted the nation to attain a “moral renaissance” and raise leaders having a high moral character in line with the Seerat of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

About any future incident of blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he said he would encourage the nation to rather demonstrate an “intellectual and reasoned response”. “In case of any such incident in future we will consult Muslim scholars and head of Muslim states to give such a response which will not be called an attempt against freedom of expression,” he added.

The prime minister stressed the need for reviving the culture of glorious Muslim era where religion and science did not come into conflict, and that encouraged ‘Ijtehad’ (reasoning) to find solutions to emerging challenges.

He said today’s youth was facing confusion in the era of social media that provided unhindered access to western culture. However, he said, since restrictions could not be imposed on the flow of information, it was important to give informed choices to the youth by telling them about right and wrong.

“Calling someone Kafir (infidel) over difference of opinion on religious beliefs is a dangerous trend, that needs to be shunned through intellectual debate,” he added.

He expressed satisfaction over the pace of academic work attained by the Al Qadir University in a short span of time and called for conducting research on the golden era of Muslims when their leaders, scholars, and scientists ruled the world.

Prime Minister Khan said he was also establishing a “top-tech PM university” but due to slow governmental procedure the varsity could not start its function. “The government works so slowly that after three years of conceiving the concept of the university, we are now going to start it,” he added.

Mr Khan said universities had a great role to play and expressed confidence that the Al Qadir University would revive the norms of research and healthy debate.

He said all Sufi saints of the sub-continent including Baba Bulleh Shah, Nizamuddin Aulia, Data Ganj Bakhsh and Baba Farid, propagated the message of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that focused on the love for humanity.

He said a leader had four qualities: truthfulness, justice, courage and selflessness.

Later, the prime minister took a round of different academic blocks of the university and interacted with the faculty.

Our correspondent in Gujar Khan adds: The prime minister said there was time in 60s when Pakistan was seen as a country that was progressing fastest in the region and Pakistanis were respected all over the world.

“I have seen Pakistan through its different phases. There was a time when the US president personally received Pakistani president at the airport and remarkable welcome was given to our president in Britain during the 1960s because our country was progressing rapidly, and it was predicted that Pakistan was going to be California of Asia. And then we also saw the decline our country,” he said.

Meeting on agriculture

Chairing a meeting on agriculture, Prime Minister Khan was apprised that as due measures had been taken against hoarding, the price of fertiliser had registered an average decrease of Rs400 per bag.

The chief secretary of Punjab told the meeting that a number of steps had been taken since Nov 13 to curb hoarding of fertilisers, including registration of 347 first information reports, 244 arrests, 21,111 inspections, sealing of 480 godowns, and imposition of fines of Rs27.9 million.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan needs to benefit from EU experience for modernising agri: Imam

November 30, 2021

Federal Minister of National Food Security, Syed Fakhar Imam on Monday said Pakistan needed to benefit from the experience of European Union (EU) with respect to modernization of agriculture and upgradation of value addition in agricultural products.

While talking to Ambassador of European Union to Pakistan Ms Androulla Kaminara, who called on him here, he said Pakistan faces a number of challenges but with the right policy interventions in collaboration with EU, agriculture sector could be transformed.

He said EU has only 5.8 percent of the world’s population and yet they generate 18 percent of global GDP which stands at US $17 trillion in 2021.

An holistic approach is required to enhance the working conditions of the farmers, he commented.

Imam also welcomed the EU development program of US $250 million which primarily focuses on uplifting agriculture sector of Pakistan via programs aimed at but not limited to horticulture, water conservation and hydro power generation, livestock development and human resource development especially basic health facilities for women and children of the rural areas such as Tharparkar and Umerkot.

He added that agriculture had been tottering along the traditional agricultural techniques and it is time that we start to look ahead to the future in terms of modernization.

Source: Pakistan Observer

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SBP signs agreement for $3bn Saudi fund

Shahid Iqbal

November 30, 2021

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan on Monday signed an agreement with the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) to receive $3 billion, which will be placed in the SBP’s account with an aim to improve its foreign exchange reserves.

The agreement was signed by SFD Chief Executive Officer Sultan Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Marshad and SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir at the State Bank in Karachi, according to a statement issued by the SBP.

In the last week of October, Saudi Arabia had agreed to revive its financial support to Pakistan, including about $3 billion in safe deposits and $1.2bn worth of oil supplies on deferred payments.

An agreement was reached during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the kingdom last month.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry later announced that Saudi Arabia had announced the support for Pakistan with $3bn as deposit in the SBP and also financing refined petroleum product with $1.2bn during the year.

“Under this deposit agreement, SFD shall place a deposit of USD 3 billion with SBP. The deposit amount under the agreement shall become part of SBP’s Foreign Exchange Reserves,” said the press release issued on Monday.

However, it did not speak about the interest on $3bn while the banking sources believe the interest rate is higher than the global market.

When the SBP was officially contacted to know the agreed rate of return on Saudi fund as there were massive speculations in financial market about the rates being given on $3bn, it stated: “As per agreement all terms are confidential and cannot be revealed without the consent of both the parties.”

The press release further stated it would help support Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves and contribute towards resolving the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The SBP said the deposit agreement reflected the strong and special relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and will further augment the economic ties between the two brotherly countries.

However, the agreement for $3bn did not impact the exchange rate and the local currency further lost against US dollar to reach at an all-time low.

The US dollar kept its demand higher during the entire session on Monday and closed at Rs176.20 as it gained 74 paisa.

Experts in the financial market said the imports would not fall in coming months indicating that importers would keep buying dollars for protecting future trading with possible higher dollar rates.

Source: Dawn

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North America


9/11 survivors want Afghanistan’s $7bn funds in US paid as compensation

Anwar Iqbal

November 30, 2021

WASHINGTON: Families of the 9/11 victims want the entire $7 billion of Afghan assets — withheld at the US Federal Reserve — paid as compensation for the terrorist attacks that killed and injured thousands, the US media reported on Monday.

The New York Times reported that the Biden administration “is scheduled to tell a federal court on Friday what outcome would be in the US national interest,” — returning the money to Kabul or distributing it among the survivors and families of the 9/11 victims.

“The US Justice Department has been negotiating with lawyers for the 9/11 plaintiffs a potential deal to divide up the money, if the government supports their attempt to seize it,” the report added.

“The White House National Security Council has been working with agencies across the government to weigh the proposal.”

About 150 family members of Sept 11 victims went to the courts nearly 20 years ago to seek compensation for their losses. Almost 3,000 people were killed, and more than 5,000 were injured. The lawsuit named targets, like Al Qaeda and Taliban, who, they said, orchestrated the attack and therefore must pay the compensation as well.

A decade later, a court found the defendants liable by default and ordered them to pay damages now worth about $7 billion.

Source: Dawn

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Scrutiny committee submits report in PTI foreign funding case

Iftikhar A. KhanP

November 30, 2021

ISLAMABAD: A scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) constituted in March 2019 to audit the foreign funds of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has finally submitted its report to the commission — around six months after the last deadline it was given.

Cources told Dawn that since two sitting members of the ECP were out of town, the commission would examine the report upon their return before taking up the case for an open hearing. The ECP member from Sindh, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, is scheduled to return on Tuesday (today) and the member from Balochistan on Wednesday.

The foreign funding case against the PTI continues to linger since November 2014 when it was filed by the party’s founding member, Akbar S. Babar.

In his petition, Babar had alleged serious financial irregularities in the ruling party’s accounts, including illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank accounts within the country and abroad, money laundering and use of private bank accounts of party employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.

The case involving PTI awaiting ECP decision for seven years

The ECP had in September last year trashed an “incomplete” report of its scrutiny committee on the foreign funding case. In an order, the commission said the report was neither complete nor well detailed.

“The Scrutiny Committee on the basis of documents provided by both the parties and collected from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has neither scrutinised the rec­ord nor evaluated the evidence from the documents and failed to form definite opinion,” the ECP noted.

While reprimanding the panel, it observed that it was the duty and responsibility of the committee to scrutinise the authenticity, reliability and credibility of each and every document(s) submitted to it by both the parties. It said the committee had the authority to approach proper forums, sources and people to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of the documents.

“Admittedly, law provides criteria of authenticity and credibility for scrutiny of the documents, but the committee has not adopted proper procedure in this respect,” the ECP observed.

In its damning order on the scrutiny committee’s report, the commission noted that no definite conclusion had been drawn. “It is painful to say that... directions were not followed in strict sense... in spite of lapse of more than 28/29 months,” it stated. It ordered the committee to conduct the scrutiny afresh and complete it as soon as possible, but not later than six weeks.

Under the last order, the scrutiny committee was supposed to submit its report by the end of May, which it submitted now on Friday.

The ECP had allowed perusal of the financial records by two financial auditors of the petitioners during the fresh scrutiny process, during which some startling revelations were made: one of which was about authorising four paid PTI employees to receive donations from abroad in their personal bank accounts.

Source: Dawn

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Pentagon to probe 2019 airstrike that killed civilians in Syria's Baghuz

Servet Günerigök 



The US Defense Department will investigate a 2019 airstrike in the Syrian town of Baghuz that killed dozens of civilians, spokesman John Kirby announced Monday.

Speaking at a press briefing at the Pentagon, Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a full review of the March 18 airstrike in which US fighter jets killed 70 civilians, including women and children.

The investigation will be conducted by Gen. Michael Garrett, the commander of US Army Forces Command.

"He will review the reports of investigation already conducted into that incident and will conduct further inquiry into the facts and circumstances related to it," Kirby told reporters.

The inquiry will include an assessment of the number of casualties, compliance with the law of war, record keeping and reporting procedures and whether accountability measures would be appropriate.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Arab World


Saudi Arabia slams Israeli president’s visit to Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron

Hamdi Yıldız  


Saudi Arabia on Monday condemned a visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron to celebrate the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, according to local media.

The act is a "flagrant violation of the sanctity of the mosque," the kingdom’s official news agency SPA reported, citing a statement by the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

The move is "hostile and provokes feelings of Muslims all over the world," said the ministry, adding the Israeli occupation bears the consequences of this move.

Herzog forced his way into the mosque on Sunday to take part in a candle lighting ceremony held as part of Hanukkah.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Third Islamic State attack in three days hits northern Iraq

November 30, 2021

The Islamic State (IS) attacked Kurdistan Region security forces in northern Iraq again today.

The assault occurred north of Kifri in the Diyala province. There were casualties among the Kurdistan Region’s peshmerga forces, the Erbil-based news outlet Kurdistan 24 reported.

The attack was the third in as many days by IS against the peshmerga, who are the official military force of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). On Nov. 27, an IS bomb hit a peshmerga vehicle, also in the Diyala province, killing five and injuring four, the KRG said in a press release. Peshmerga forces repelled an attack in the same area yesterday, according to Kurdistan 24.

Iraqi and Kurdistan Region forces defeated the Islamic State in 2017 with the help of the US-led military coalition, but IS continues to conduct small-scale attacks in the country. IS has been particularly active in the territories disputed between the KRG and the federal government. Kifri is one of these disputed areas.

Source: Al Monitor

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Eight Iraqi officers probing attack on PM arrested on charges of negligence

29 November ,2021

Eight Iraqi officers have been arrested on charges of negligence in probing an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, a senior official said Monday.

Kadhimi escaped unhurt from the November 7 assassination bid, in an attack that has gone unclaimed.

Explosive-packed drones were used in the assault, with one hitting his Baghdad residence while a second one failed to explode and was found on the roof of the house.

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A bomb disposal team and forensic experts were tasked with examining the second drone to lift any possible fingerprints, national security advisor Qassem al-Araji told a news conference.

The teams were then expected to blow up the drone but later revealed they had failed to lift any fingerprints beforehand, Araji said.

As a result, a committee investigating the attack decided to arrest the eight officers, including two generals, Araji said.

A probe into why they failed to carry out their instructions has been launched, he added.

The commission “does not want to accuse anyone or any faction”, Araji said. “But what happened indicates there has been negligence.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Erdogan says also plans steps with Egypt, Israel after UAE visit

29 November ,2021

President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would take steps to improve ties with estranged rivals Egypt and Israel similar to those in recent weeks with the United Arab Emirates, which led to investments, NTV and other broadcasters said.

Ankara and Abu Dhabi signed accords for billions of dollars of investments last week and Erdogan said they would herald a “new era” in ties.

As part of a charm offensive launched last year, Turkey has also moved to repair ties with Egypt and Saudi Arabia but those talks have yielded little public improvement.

Earlier this month, Erdogan also held a rare phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after Turkey’s release of a detained Israeli couple.

“They (UAE) put up a $10 billion investment plan. By putting this $10 billion into place, we will have built a very different future,” Erdogan was cited as telling reporters on a flight back from Turkmenistan, adding he would visit the UAE in February.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Arab Coalition carries out 15 strikes against Iran-backed Houthi militia

29 November ,2021

The Arab Coalition on Monday said it carried out 15 attacks against the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen’s Marib and al-Jawf in the past 24 hours.

“The targeting in Marib and al-Jawf destroyed 12 vehicles and led to the deaths of more than 85 [militia] members,” the coalition said in a statement.

The Arab Coalition fighting in Yemen said on Sunday it had launched air strikes on “legitimate” military targets in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as “an immediate response” to the threat and the launch of drones from Sanaa airport.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Qatar to send foreign minister to cash-strapped Lebanon for support

Waseem Saifeddin 


BEIRUT, Lebanon

Lebanese President Michel Aoun held talks in Doha on Monday with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Tamim will dispatch his Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to Beirut to discuss ways of providing support to Beirut, the Lebanese Presidency said in a statement.

The statement, however, did not specify a date for the foreign minister’s visit to Lebanon.

Qatar “is ready to help Lebanon in all fields to overcome the difficult conditions that have negatively affected the daily life of the Lebanese,” the statement quoted the Qatari ruler as saying.

Aoun, for his part, described Qatar's support to Lebanon as "exemplary" and welcomed the Qatari efforts to channel investments for development projects in Lebanon.

The visit by the Lebanese president to Doha comes amid a diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and Qatar’s Gulf neighbors Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain over critical statements of Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi of the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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OIC decries Israeli president’s visit to Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron

Diana Shalhub  



The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Monday condemned a visit by Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron to celebrate the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

Herzog forced his way into the mosque on Sunday to participate in a candle-lighting Jewish ceremony. He was accompanied by a large number of Israeli police forces and Jewish settlers.

In a statement, the Jeddah-based OIC decried the move as a “provocation of sentiments of Muslims” and a “continuation of Israeli assaults on the rights of the Palestinian people, their land and holy sites”.

The pan-Muslim grouping said the Israeli president’s visit “was part of Israeli plans to Judaize the Ibrahimi Mosque and tighten Israeli grip on it”.

The OIC called on the international community to "act urgently to protect the holy and historical sites [in Palestine] and to force the Israeli occupation authorities to respect the sanctity of the holy sites."

On Sunday, Sheikh Hefthi Abu Sneina, director of the Ibrahimi Mosque, said Israeli forces shut the mosque and prevented Palestinian worshippers from reaching the site.

After the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers inside the mosque by a Jewish extremist settler, Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli authorities divided the mosque complex between Muslim and Jewish worshippers.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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FM: Agreement in Vienna Possible, Iran Not to Accept Demands beyond N. Deal


“What is clear in the forthcoming negotiations is that Iran will not accept requests beyond the JCPOA. The Islamic Republic of Iran will not enter into any discussion whatsoever about issues beyond the nuclear deal,” Amir Abdollahian wrote in a memo in the Persian-language Iranoline titled ‘Vienna Talks for the Removal of Sanctions’ on Monday.

“Deal is possible if other parties demonstrate political will in practice,” he added.

Amir Abdollahian stressed that despite the unfulfilled promises of the West and distrust towards the unconstructive approach and policies of the White House, the Islamic Republic of Iran will endeavor "with true determination" and "in good faith" in Vienna negotiations to achieve a "good", sustainable and effective verifiable deal for the lifting of sanctions.

The full text of the memo is as follows:

Iran is serious, acts in good faith, and considers the practical and tangible result to be the removal of sanctions.

The path travelled

The path travelled during six rounds of intensive negotiations in Vienna did not lead to success due to the US excessive demands and unrealistic stances. Now we are starting a new round of talks. The main goal of these negotiations is the restoration of the rights of the Iranian nation and removal of all the sanctions imposed unilaterally and extraterritorially on Iran by the United States which is no longer a party to the JCPOA. The US pulled out of the JCPOA on 08 May 2018–a measure perceived and condemned internationally as unlawful. There is international consensus that these unlawful US behaviors demonstrate a total contempt for the international law and the UN Charter, undermine multilateralism, and pose enormous menace to international peace and security.

Despite the formation of a new government in the United States, not only have the illegal and unilateral sanctions remained in place, but the policy of imposing sanctions on Iran has continued to exist. It is crystal clear that such US measures are aimed at preventing Iran and other JCPOA participants as well as other members of the international community from enjoying the rights and benefits described in the nuclear deal and UNSC Resolution 2231. Regrettably, too, the governments of the three European parties to the JCPOA, despite considering such a US approach as illegal and unacceptable, moved to accommodate it in practice with their silence and inaction. The alignment of the three JCPOA European countries with such devastating US measures has rendered the nuclear deal ineffective, eliminating all the economic dividends of the deal for Iran. These are the bitter realities of the past several years which should illuminate the way forward to the future.

Continuing Trump’s disastrous approach by the present US administration has raised the serious question of whether or not the present US administration is truly determined to implement its obligations and prepared to abandon the past failed policies. Answering this question does not appear difficult considering the US approach and measures during the past months.

No one can indeed question Iran’s seriousness and goodwill in fulfilling its obligations in their entirety. After the unlawful US withdrawal and the imposition of sanctions, Iran refrained from remedial measures in good faith, and, granting the request of the remaining JCPOA participants and the European Union as the coordinator of the nuclear deal, avoided resorting to the cessation of its commitments under the JCPOA so as to provide the opportunity for other JCPOA participants to compensate for the negative impacts of the US withdrawal. However, given the persistence of this unconstructive state of affairs and after one year of strategic patience, due to the escalation of US sanctions, and non-performance of the obligations of the three European countries, Iran was left with no choice but to enforce its rights as set forth in paragraphs 26 and 36 of the JCPOA and cease, partially and in stages, performing its obligations as of 08 May 2019.

Witnessing no change in the status quo, in the absence of an effective measure by the relevant JCPOA participants, and given the regrettable history of developments, the parliament of Iran adopted, on 02 December 2020, the law of “the strategic action plan to lift sanctions and protect the interests of the Iranian nation”. This law obligated the government of Iran to gradually cease the implementation of all its voluntary commitments under the JCPOA unless other parties to the deal fulfill their entire obligations in practice.

The path ahead of Vienna talks

The Islamic Republic of Iran, in spite of significant non-performance by the West in the JCPOA, is once again ready, in good faith, for result-oriented negotiations to achieve a “good deal” with P4+1.  The Islamic Republic of Iran has "good faith", serious determination, and the necessary will to reach a good deal in Vienna.

In this process, it should never be forgotten that the United States is the main culprit behind the creation of the status quo. In the past four years, the government of the United States has spared no effort to crush the nuclear deal, and it was Iran that did all it could to keep the deal alive. What became evident to Iran during the past six rounds of negotiations is that the United States still fails to properly understand the fact that there is no way to return to the JCPOA without verifiable and effective lifting of all sanctions imposed on the Iranian nation after the US departure.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 calls upon all the member states to “take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA, including by taking actions commensurate with the implementation plan set out in the JCPOA and this resolution and by refraining from actions that undermine the implementation of commitments under the JCPOA”.

The main objective of the upcoming talks should be the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA and the pursuit of the goal of normalization of trade relations and economic cooperation with Iran. It goes without saying that in order to return to the JCPOA, Iran should benefit fully from the lifting of all the sanctions. Iran is prepared to cease application of all its remedial measures if guarantees are provided, damages are assessed, and all sanctions are effectively and verifiably lifted.

The likely return of the US to the nuclear deal would not be meaningful unless guarantees are presented to prevent the recurrence of the bitter experience of the past and Iran’s trade partners could confidently enter into long term economic engagement with Iran free from any concern.

What is clear in the forthcoming negotiations is that Iran will not accept requests beyond the JCPOA. The Islamic Republic of Iran will not enter into any discussion whatsoever about issues beyond the nuclear deal.

I would like to emphasize once again that this opportunity is not a window that could remain open forever and the US and the three European countries must well understand this. The Islamic Republic of Iran, while making its determined, strong and active diplomatic efforts to remove the oppressive US sanctions, has devised an effective program to neutralize the sanctions in line with its sustainable economic development program.

Without doubt, Tehran remains as committed to maintaining and safeguarding the achievements of its nuclear scientists and peaceful nuclear industry as it remains obliged to non-diversion from its peaceful nuclear program, and will not abandon its comprehensive development in industry, trade, maritime, space, defense, science, and technology sectors, nor will it curtail its increasing economic development.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Spokesman: Iran Sensitive to Afghan People’s Conditions


“We consider the today conditions in Afghanistan as serious as winter has started and the people of Afghanistan are under severe economic pressures. The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a brother country of Afghanistan, cannot be indifferent to the situation of the Afghan people and the displaced and those who have been deprived. In all days and months and despite all the difficulties, we tried to keep the crossings open for interactions,” Khatibzadeh told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

He referred to the recent visit by Iranian President's special envoy for Afghanistan Hassan Kazzemi Qomi to Afghanistan, saying that as explicitly stated during Kazzemi Qomi's visit to Afghanistan, the ruling body in Afghanistan has a direct responsibility to ensure the security of Afghanistan's borders.

“Unfortunately, insecurities (continue) and certain terrorist groups are recruiting and organizing terrorist acts, and the ISIL, in particular, poses a serious threat to the future of Afghanistan and the region. We will continue to work closely together so that we can have better days for the future of Afghanistan,” Khatibzadeh said.

Kazzemi Qomi visited Kabul for a three-day trip last week to hold talks with Taliban authorities and other Afghan politicians.

In a meeting with Taliban's acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, he underlined Tehran’s continued support for the Afghan people.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran Raps British Foreign Secretary for Attempt to Prevent Success of Vienna Talks


"That such an article is released just a night before Vienna talks shows that certain European countries do not come to the Austrian capital with the necessary will to lift the sanctions," Khatibzadeh told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

"This shows that they are not serious and are seeking to set the stage for prolonging these negotiations and preventing the effective implementation of the nuclear deal," he added.

"The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions," Truss and Lapid wrote in the Telegraph.

Regarding the Israeli moves to disrupt the Vienna negotiations, Khatibzadeh said, "The goal of the Zionist regime is to disrupt the international order. The intention of the Zionist regime to disrupt the JCPOA agreement is quite clear to us."

The Zionist regime, the Iranian diplomat said, as a regime that has hundreds of nuclear warheads and does not respect international monitoring systems, cannot comment on Iran's peaceful nuclear program, which is under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Elsewhere, Khatibzadeh reiterated the country’s serious determination to remove sanctions against Iran during the Vienna talks, saying that Tehran has several choices if faced with Washington’s old policies.

“Iran seeks practical verification of implementation of the US undertakings under the UNSCR 2231. One of our main lines will be continued talks, and I will not talk about the other side’s strategy,” he added.

“The Iranian delegation has arrived in Vienna with a serious determination to reach an agreement and is thinking of fruitful talks,” the spokesman added.

Khatibzadeh said that if the other side comes with the same determination, both sides will be on the right track to lift the US sanctions, adding that talks between Iran and the Group 4+1 (China, Russia, France and Britain plus Germany) will begin in Vienna at 2:00 PM local time Monday.

“What is important is that if the US comes to Vienna with the determination to resolve the impasse and the issues that have not been agreed upon by us in the previous rounds, the talks will be easier, and if the US continues the previous path, Iran will definitely have several choices,” he underlined.

“With serious will, real determination and good will, we hope to be able to lift the US sanctions in the shortest possible time if the other parties come to Vienna with a changed approach,” Khatibzadeh said.

“If the US comes to really remove the sanctions, it can receive the ticket to return to the nuclear deal (negotiating) room,” he added.

Khatibzadeh noted that Iran and the G4+1 are now at the beginning of talks under the new Iranian government that has serious determination and “the other parties should seize this window of opportunity because it will not remain open forever”.

The spokesman also stressed that no bilateral talks between Iran and the US will take place in Vienna.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said last week that Tehran would participate in Vienna talks with a serious will to reach an agreement, stressing the need for other sides to show seriousness too.

The issue of Vienna talks, the interaction and cooperation with the world to realize the interests of the Iranian nation has been a priority for the Iranian Foreign Ministry since the 13th government took office, the Iranian Foreign Minister said in a video message in which he presented a report on the 100-day performance of the foreign policy apparatus after the formation of new government.

In recent weeks, Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs and the Iranian top negotiator in Vienna talks Ali Baqeri Kani has held consultations in European capitals, in Moscow, he said.

Baqeri has also participated in virtual meetings in Beijing and made some regional trips to neighboring countries, Amir Abdollahian added.

"And I held detailed talks with the foreign ministers of all Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) member states."

He went on to say that this week, the new round of nuclear talks will be kicked off in Vienna.

"We have made all the necessary arrangements to reach a good and speedy agreement", he said, and added that other parties to JCPOA must return to their full undertakings.

"We have explicitly expressed our positions and demands towards Iran's nuclear deal known as JCPOA", the Iranian top diplomat said.

The rights and interests of the Iranian people must be preserved at the negotiating table and sanctions must be lifted, he stressed.

According to him, there are several options before Iran, but the first option is the dialogue and negotiation in Vienna.

"We are serious in negotiations and in reaching an agreement", he said, expressing the hope that Iran would also “see the seriousness of the westerners”.

Amir Abdollahian also voiced the hope that all sides could take fundamental and successful steps in the Vienna talks.

Baqeri Kani arrived in Vienna, the capital city of Austria, on Saturday at the head of a delegation to attend the next round of the JCPOA Joint Commission meeting.

He is heading the Iranian negotiating team in the Monday's meeting with members of the G4 +1 group and the European Union on lifting the US sanctions.

Last Friday, Amir Abdollahian in phone talks with EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said that Washington should give guarantees not to leave the nuclear deal again.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran nuclear deal talks resume in Vienna amid muted hopes

29 November ,2021

Negotiators in Vienna resumed talks Monday over reviving Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, with hopes of quick progress muted after the arrival of a hard-line new government in Tehran led to a more than five-month hiatus.

The remaining signatories to the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain — convened at the Palais Coburg, the luxury hotel where the agreement was signed six years ago.

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The talks came as Austria is a week into a lockdown imposed because of a surge of coronavirus cases. Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported their start, without elaborating, as journalists remained outside of the hotel.

The last round of talks, aimed at bringing Iran back into compliance with the agreement and paving the way for the US to rejoin, was held in June. Since then, the task has only become more difficult.

The US is not at the table because it unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, who restored and augmented American sanctions in a campaign of “maximum pressure” to try to force Iran into renegotiating the pact.

President Joe Biden has signaled that he wants to rejoin the deal. A US delegation headed by the administration’s special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, is participating indirectly in the talks, with diplomats from the other countries acting as go-betweens.

The nuclear deal saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since the deal's collapse, Iran now enriches small amounts of uranium up to 60 percent purity — a short step from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. Iran also spins advanced centrifuges barred by the accord and its uranium stockpile now far exceeds the accord’s limits.

Source: Al Arabiya

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74 years on, Palestinians remain stateless

Ramzi Mahmoud


GAZA CITY, Palestine

The dream of Palestinians for an independent state remains farfetched as they mark the 74th anniversary of the partition of their homeland by the United Nations.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into three territories, including Jewish and Arab states, following the expiry of Britain's Palestine Mandate.

The first is an Arab state on an area of about 11136.95 square kilometers (4,300 square miles), located on the western Galilee area in Acre city of the West Bank, and the southern coast extending from Ashdod city to Rafah, with a part of the desert along the border with Egypt.

The second is a Jewish state on an area of 14762.93 square km (5,700 square miles), located on the coastal plain from Haifa to the south of Tel Aviv and the eastern Galilee, including the Lake Tiberias, Galilee Panhandle, and Negev desert.

The third area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and their neighboring lands were designated as UN trust territories.

Although Jews formed, at the time, 33% of the total population and owned only 7% of the land, the resolution gave them a state on 56.5% of the total area of historical Palestine.

Arabs, who owned the majority of the land with 67% of the population, were only designated 43.5% of the land.

After partition

The UN resolution was met with outright Palestinian and Arab rejection, and the Arab League decried the resolution as "illegal".

The resolution was not implemented as the Jewish armed groups took control of most of the territory of Palestine in 1948 under a plan that relied on increasing the frequency of attacks on Palestinian cities and villages.

In the same year, Britain withdrew from Palestine, and the Jewish armed organizations seized Palestinian lands on which they established the state of Israel.

Three-quarters of Palestine came under Israeli control, Jordan ruled the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian authority.

In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrian Golan Heights after the defeat of the Arab armies.

Despite the inking of the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, which subjected some areas in the Palestinian territories to the control of the Palestinian National Authority, Israel was still not satisfied with the outcome.

The Jewish state continues to occupy Palestinian land, expands its settlements, and deprives Palestinians of their most basic rights.

It has imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2006 and runs projects to Judaize the occupied city of Jerusalem. It also raids cities and villages in the occupied West Bank while building a separation wall in the area.

Israeli and Palestinian estimates indicate that there are about 650,000 settlers in West Bank settlements, including occupied Jerusalem, who live in 164 settlements and 116 outposts.

International law regards both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.

No solution in sight

Experts see no hope in the foreseeable future for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Talal Okal, a writer and political analyst, said after all these years, the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders has become a "farfetched dream."

"There is no room for solutions based on negotiations that would give the Palestinians an independent state, regardless of its borders, size, and specifications.” Okal told Anadolu Agency.

Besides holding Israel responsible for the current Palestinian situation, Okal said no pressure is being exercised on Israel to grant Palestinians their rights, especially in light of accelerating Arab-Israeli normalization, inter-Palestinian divisions, and a decline in international support.

He also noted that the rise of far-right groups to power in Israel means that no party “can accept political solutions and negotiations with the Palestinians."

Open option

Okal believes the main option that remains open for the Palestinians in their quest to establish an independent state is through “reviving the conflict” with Israel.

While appreciating international solidarity with the Palestinian cause, he had to contend that it remains a "public relations" issue that has no real impact on the ground.

Palestinians need to understand that "the Zionist project is expansionist and colonial, and does not seek merely to establish a state for the Jews in a specific geographical spot,” Okal said.

"We must go to revive the conflict (with Israel) again,” he added.

Palestinian reform

Okal rejects the idea of dissolving the Palestinian Authority just because the two-state solution is not in sight.

In his opinion, the function of the Authority is no longer limited to being one of the outgrowths of the Oslo Accords, citing its official diplomatic representation internationally and regionally.

"Let the Palestinian Authority remain as the actor that bears the responsibility of the Palestinians,” Okal said. “The question here is what program does this Authority adopt?"

He called for changing the Palestinian Authority's function first, in addition to rebuilding the PLO, as it is responsible for all Palestinians inside and outside Palestine.

As for resisting the Israeli occupation, Okal explained that the issue of resistance needs a discussion about its form and nature, as "it does not have to be armed."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Southeast Asia


World squash championship cancelled after Malaysia refused to allow Israeli players

November 30, 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: A major squash tournament in Malaysia has been cancelled, the sport’s governing body said, after the Muslim-majority country sparked anger by refusing to grant visas for Israeli players.

It is the latest instance of the Southeast Asian nation, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, barring the country’s athletes.

The World Team Championship for men had been due to take place in Kuala Lumpur on December 7-12 with 26 squads participating.

But the World Squash Federation (WSF) and Malaysia’s squash body said that it had been axed because of the "possibility that some nations would be unable to compete due to the lack of confirmation over the issuing of visas".

WSF president Zena Wooldridge said sports officials had sought to "influence the highest authorities of Malaysia to ensure the ability of all participating teams, including Israel, to enter Malaysia and compete.

"It is important to WSF that no nation who wishes to compete misses out on the event."

Israel’s squash association previously said that countries which participated in a tournament from which Israel was barred would be closing their eyes to "racism and discrimination".

The association also threatened to turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland if the WSF could not resolve the issue.

The WSF said the decision to cancel the event was also influenced by the new Omicron coronavirus variant, which it fears could affect travel to Malaysia.

The tournament was earlier this year moved to Malaysia from New Zealand because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

In 2019, Malaysia was stripped of the right to host the World Para Swimming Championships for threatening to refuse Israeli athletes.

Source: The News Pakistan

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PAS lawmaker wants Putrajaya to curb LGBTQ shows on Netflix, but minister says not possible

30 Nov 2021


KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 ― A PAS federal lawmaker has asked the government to censor LGBTQ shows or “sexual content” aired by streaming service provider Netflix.

Dungun Member of Parliament Wan Hassan Mohd Ramli raised the matter during Question Time this morning. PAS has long fought for strict punishment against the LGBTQ community, and have pushed for laws to “ban” them.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa replied by acknowledging concerns about the absence of censorship for shows aired on Netflix, but said Malaysian authorities are powerless to regulate content streamed from abroad.

“To answer your question, we have to admit that we face difficulty (to regulate) streaming services including Netflix,” Annuar said.

“Netflix is an over-the-top service provider that streams internet-based multimedia content from abroad and many of the service providers are difficult to be regulated fully,” he added.

Conservatives have long sought to censor the internet, claiming the platform promotes immoral behaviour if not regulated. Rights groups have responded by warning that internet censorship would curb free expression and silence dissent.

Source: Malay Mail

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PM Ismail Sabri describes first official visit to Singapore as a success

29 Nov 2021

SINGAPORE, Nov 29 — Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob today described his first official visit to Singapore as a success.

He thanked the Singapore government especially his counterpart Lee Hsien Loong for giving him a warm welcome filled with a family spirit.

“Ties between the two countries are very close, as we are neighbours with a long history,” he told a news conference with the Malaysian media at the end of his visit.

The visit, made at the invitation of Lee, is Ismail Sabri’s second to a neighbouring country after he was sworn in as the ninth prime minister on August 21 this year.

He went to Indonesia for a three-day official visit from November 9.

Ismail Sabri, who arrived here this morning, and Lee had earlier launched the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for air and land travel between Malaysia and Singapore at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

Ismail Sabri said that at his four-eyed meeting with Lee, they discussed the possible launch of sea VTL between Tanah Merah and Desaru and a cruise service from Singapore to Port Klang and Langkawi.

“We believe the opening of more (travel arrangements) can benefit the whole country not only in terms of tourism, which has been badly hit by the border closure, but also trade,” he said.

He said the opening of the borders with Singapore, which is Malaysia’s largest trading partner, was expected to have a spillover effect on Johor and nearby places such as Melaka, which is a popular destination for Singaporeans.

The prime minister said the category of users for the land VTL might be expanded after December 23, depending on the impact of the opening of the current first phase of land VTL.

“This is being done on a trial basis to see the impact of this opening. We do not want (Covid-19) cases to increase after this. We will monitor before opening further.

“If cases do not increase, we will give more spaces for easing of travel restrictions involving people of both countries,” he said.

For now, the land VTL initiative, which allows quarantine-free travel, is only for vaccinated individuals who are citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders of Malaysia and Singapore.

Asked if the VTL scheme would be extended to cover other countries, Ismail Sabri said he hoped to hold discussions with Malaysia’s northern neighbour Thailand.

He also hoped to create more travel channels like the green travel bubble with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and certain provinces in China where Covid-19 has been brought under control.

Source: Malay Mail

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Morocco to push for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks: King Mohammed VI

29 November ,2021

Morocco will push for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, King Mohammed VI said Monday, almost a year after his country renewed ties with Israel.

“Morocco will continue its efforts, building on its position and its excellent relations with all sides and relevant international actors, to provide the appropriate conditions for a return to the negotiating table,” the monarch said in a televised address.

Morocco renewed official relations with Israel in December last year, two decades after it cut ties with the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada or uprising.

The rapprochement came amid a string of normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries, brokered by the Trump administration.

In a speech, delivered on the UN-organized International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, King Mohammed stressed Morocco’s “total solidarity with the Palestinian people” and its right to an independent state alongside Israel.

He called for trust-building efforts and urged both sides “to refrain from actions that obstruct the peace process.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Sudan's army chief visits border area with Ethiopia following attack

Talal Ismail 



Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan visited his country’s border area with Ethiopia on Monday, following an attack that killed six soldiers, according to local media.

Al-Burhan's visit to Al-Fashqa area comes “to check on the Sudanese soldiers and the situation on the country’s eastern border,” the Sudan Press news portal said.

The Sudanese military has yet to issue an official statement on the visit.

The Sudanese army said Sunday that six soldiers had been killed in an attack in the disputed Al-Fashqa border area with Ethiopia.

With a 1,600-kilometer (994-mile) border, Sudan and Ethiopia recently renewed a dispute on the al-Fashqa Triangle, a decades-long border area lacking definite demarcation.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Somali premier pledges election transparency amid political tensions

Mohammed Dhaysane 



Somalia's prime minister vowed Sunday to ensure transparency in the country's ongoing parliamentary elections as well as to "correct the mistakes" made so far.

In a statement after a meeting with opposition presidential candidates in the capital Mogadishu, Mohamed Hussein Roble sought to ease political tensions over allegations of a "lack of transparency and blatant violations" in the polls.

"The prime minister is taking into account the concerns expressed about the transparency of the elections by the Union of Candidates, the concern of the Somali people and the international community and promised that the National Consultative Assembly would convene to work together to ensure that the country's elections occur efficiently and correct mistakes," Roble said in a statement after the meeting.

At their meeting with Roble, presidential candidates including former presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed expressed "serious concern" over a lack of transparency in the ongoing elections and voiced their dissatisfaction with the current course of events, according to government spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu.

Reassuring them on the elections' transparency, Roble instructed the Electoral Commission to carry out its duties in accordance with the agreed electoral procedures, according to the statement.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Mediterranean states seek to bolster peace efforts in Palestine, Libya, Syria

Alyssa McMurtry  



The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) called to strengthen efforts to resolve conflicts that are holding the region back from development and integration.

The Jordanian and EU co-presidency of the UfM released a joint statement after the union’s sixth regional forum wrapped up in Barcelona on Monday evening.

The first point centered on the Israel-Palestine conflict, with the parties encouraging anything that “achieves comprehensive Middle East peace and to relaunch effective negotiations to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution.”

Both Palestine and Israel are members of the UfM.

While the statement applauded recent high-level contacts, it also underlined the importance of not undermining trust with moves like Israel’s push to build illegal new settlements.

Finding a political solution to the Libyan crises was another of the union’s key concerns.

The statement stressed the importance of holding presidential and parliamentary elections in December and upholding the 2020 cease-fire agreement, which would result in the “complete withdrawal of all foreign forces, foreign fighters, and mercenaries from the Libyan territories.”

Syria, the only country to have been suspended from the 42-member UfM, was another pressing issue.

The forum emphasized the need to keep pushing for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, while also renewing its commitment to providing humanitarian aid to Syrians in need.

“The UfM can contribute to these goals in the Mediterranean region by creating, through dialogue and cooperation, a political environment that is conducive to the solution ... of the conflicts and the political tensions affecting members,” read the statement.

Besides discussing the conflicts plaguing the Mediterranean, country representatives also met on the sidelines to review progress on regional integration.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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EU intends to continue talks with Taliban after 2-day negotiations

Agnes Szucs 



The European Union reaffirmed on Monday its willingness to continue talks with the Taliban to reassure delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghan people after a first round of negations with the Afghan interim government over the weekend.

“We will continue the talks, we will continue to engage with the Taliban to be able to make sure that we can actually provide the humanitarian access to Afghanistan,” Nabila Massrali, the European Commission’s spokesperson in charge of foreign affairs, said at a press conference.

“We will see the actions after these talks,” she added referring to the two-day negotiations between EU officials and members of the Taliban's interim Afghan government in Doha, Qatar.

Massrali also explained that EU officials were currently assessing the possibility of reopening the bloc’s diplomatic mission in Kabul.

“Once the security situation is appropriate, we will make sure that we have a presence there,” she added.

In a statement released after the end of talks on late Sunday, the European Commission stressed that the “dialogue does not imply recognition by the EU of the interim government but is part of EU’s operational engagement, in the interest of the EU and the Afghan people.”

Both sides agreed on the necessity to deliver assistance to Afghan people amid the worsening humanitarian situation with the winter’s arrival.

The Afghan delegation promised to provide equal access for men, women, and children to foreign aid and not to tax the assistance.

On top of humanitarian aid, the EU delegation showed a willingness to channel substantial financial aid for the direct benefit to Afghan people exclusively through international organizations to ensure basic public services like education, healthcare.

The financial support is strictly conditioned to the fulfillment of the bloc’s five benchmarks set in September that stipulates, among others, equal access to education for boys and girls with an internationally recognized curriculum and minority protection.

Both parties agreed on the importance of keeping Afghan airports open for which the Taliban asked international help.

The Afghan delegation also reiterated that anyone could leave the country if they wished so.

According to the statement, they also showed commitment towards rule of law and good governance, while the EU called on them to form an inclusive government that reflected “the richness of Afghan society in terms of ethnic, political and religious affiliation and with both women and men in senior positions, and which should pave the way for national reconciliation.”

In line with the EU’s five criteria, the Taliban delegation committed to fight terrorism and to maintain the respect of human rights in line with their religious principles.

The Afghan delegation welcomed diplomatic presence in the country and invited the EU staff to return while promising to respect international law regarding diplomatic missions.

The bloc said security conditions will determine a minimum presence in Kabul, which would not imply recognition.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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