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To Attract Indians, Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan To Celebrate Spring Festival ‘Jashan-e-Baharan’

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 January 2022


Jashan-e-Baharan Festival 2021, Pakistan


• Pakistan Aiding Chinese Repression Of Uyghurs In Xinjiang: Canada-Based Think Tank Report

• Samsung Removes Ad In Singapore Showing Muslim Mother And Drag Queen Son After Online Backlash

• European Union Re-Establishes Presence In Afghanistan For Humanitarian Purposes

• Muslim Leader Builds CAN Secretariat; Christian Association Of Nigeria Calls Nigerians To Embrace Religious Harmony And Live In Peace


• AIMMM Writes To Ambani Over ‘Hate Campaigns’ Against Muslims On News 18

• Eye On Polls: BJP Trying To Win Support Of Muslim Women Beneficiaries Of Government Schemes In UP

• Texas Attack Again Exposes Pakistan Ties With Global Terror: India

• Lucknow Man Summoned Over Clubhouse Group That Targeted Muslim Women, Joining Probe Today: Delhi Police

• 2021 watershed year for armed forces in J&K and Ladakh: Army Commander

• Block 35 more Pakistan-based YouTube channels: Information and Broadcasting ministry



• ATC convicts Sialkot citizen for justifying lynching of Priyantha Kumara

• Only Vaccinated People To Be Allowed To Offer Prayers At Mosques Of Pakistan

• More suspects held as CIA joins Lahore blast probe

• Govt, opposition spar in NA over growth claim

• Gen Bajwa visits Peshawar Corps HQ; briefed on security situation

• 10 Pakistanis serving different sentences in Indian jails, SHC told

• Pakistan beefs up security in capital after deadly Lahore blast


Southeast Asia

• Anyone Can Challenge Constitutionality Of Laws Enacted In Malaysia

• Indonesia jails 'Catholic brother' for molesting boys

• Ah Long victim in fear as RM300 loan swells to RM45,000

• Malaysia: The Absence Of Political Checks And Balances

• Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital


South Asia

• Rights Groups, Victims Call UN To Ban Bangladesh Paramilitary Force RAB

• Taliban root cause of Afghanistan's troubles; people face most difficult scenario in country's history: Expert

• US has no specified schedule for recognition of Taliban: Special envoy

• IEA delegation led by Amir Khan Motaqi to visit Norway



• Muslim Leader Builds CAN Secretariat; Christian Association Of Nigeria Calls Nigerians To Embrace Religious Harmony And Live In Peace

• 'Trade with Allah' ... The Mufti of Tunisia calls on citizens to donate in favour of the State

• Sudanese hold ‘day for martyrs’ after anti-coup protest deaths

• At least 11 migrants drown off Tunisia in shipwreck

• US army confirms Russian mercenaries in Mali

• Sudanese judges, US denounce deadly crackdowns on protests


North America

• US Commits To Helping Saudi Arabia, Gulf Partners Defend Against Threats From Yemen

• UN chief sharply denounces Saudi coalition strikes in Yemen

• US slaps sanctions on Hezbollah-linked men, companies for second time this week

• Turkiye exemplary country to follow, says El Salvadoran president

• Turkish Aerospace, El Salvador sign MoU on space, satellite systems


Arab World

• Gulf Arab Embrace Of Jewish Minority Reflected In Bahrain Cemetery-Restoration Project

• Islamic State Fighters Overran Entire Army Outpost In Iraq’s Diyala, Killing 11 Soldiers

• Islamic State stages Syria prison break, kills 11 soldiers in Iraq

• Kurdish forces kill 16 ISIS members in Syria prison clashes: Monitor

• UAE has ‘legal’ right to self-defense against Houthi terrorist acts: Gargash

• More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack



• 2008 Gaza War's Effects Continue To Resonate For Palestinian Resistance: Expert

• Iran Rejects UNGA’s Resolution on Holocaust

• Iran Condemns Deadly Blast in Pakistan

• Iran nuclear talks ‘on right track': EU official

• Iran embassy responds to Pakistani newspaper's false claims about developments in Yemen, UAE

• Over 100 killed in airstrike on Yemen prison

• Russian Diplomat Underlines “Very Useful” Meeting with Iran’s Top Negotiator in Vienna



• Iran Holding Talks With Russia To Expand Its Sole Nuclear Power Plant

• How A Muslim Dating App Made UK Man’s Search For A Wife Go Viral

• UN Security Council Slams Houthi’s ‘Heinous Terrorist Attacks’ On Abu Dhabi

• UK’s Prince William to visit UAE next month

• Concerned over 'grave situation' in Afghanistan, Norway set to host talks with Taliban

• 'Turkiye-EU economic relations a very important cornerstone in ties'

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 To Attract Indians, Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan To Celebrate Spring Festival ‘Jashan-e-Baharan’


Jashan-e-Baharan Festival 2021, Pakistan


Jan 22, 2022

AMRITSAR: In order to attract devotees from India to Gurdwaras Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the Pakistani government has decided to celebrate ‘Jashan-e-Baharan’ (Basant), marking the arrival of the spring season.

While expressing concern over the significant decline in the number of devotees visiting Kartarpur Sahib everyday post reopening of the corridor, chief executive officer (CEO) of its project management unit (PMU), Muhammad Latif, said on Friday that they would celebrate ‘Jashan-e-Baharan’ or the Spring fest, celebrated by Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus alike, at Kartarpur Corridor in February.

Stating that only 73 devotees arrived at the Kartarpur Corridor on Friday from India, Latif said since the reopening, only 200-plus devotees have been arriving every day on an average.

The CEO attributed rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus behind the decline in the number of devotees.

Claiming that they had never returned any Indian devotee in case they were not carrying a negative RT PCR report, the CEO said they themselves conduct free of cost Rapid RT PCR test at the border to adhere to the Covid guidelines. “Besides we also don’t want devotees to be bereft of fulfilling their religious aspirations despite reaching so close to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib,” said Latif.

He claimed that PMU had made arrangements of facilitating 5,000 devotees a day. “Various Indian organisations want to visit in jathas of more than 500 devotees but it seems that Indian authorities are only allowing 200-plus devotees per day,” he opined.

Inaugurated on November 9, 2019, the Kartarpur Corridor was temporarily closed on March 16, 2020, as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The newly constructed corridor enables Indian devotees to travel about 4.5 km inside Pakistan to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib where Sikh’s first master, Guru Nanak Dev, had spent around 18 years till his death.

On October 2, 2020, the Pakistani government announced to unilaterally open the Kartarpur Corridor but India denied to reciprocate the gesture. On November 17, 2021, India reopened its side of the Kartarpur Corridor for the daylong pilgrimage.

The CEO said despite economic stagnation, the Pakistani government is spending a huge amount on the maintenance of the Kartarpur Corridor, for which it has specially created a separate department.

“We have over 1,000 dedicated staff, including security personnel, which costs us anything between 5 to 6 crore in Pakistani rupees per month,” said the CEO.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan Aiding Chinese Repression Of Uyghurs In Xinjiang: Canada-Based Think Tank Report


(Representative image/File)


Jan 22, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has never shied away from denouncing other nations for atrocities against Muslim communities however the country itself has remained noncommittal on the issue of violation of Uyghur human rights in Xinjiang.

China's economic rise and growing presence in Pakistan due to its investment specifically in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has given Beijing an unprecedented scope to take off 'Transnational Repression' in the country including violation of human rights and persecution of Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang region, reported Canada-based think tank International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS).

Chinese authorities had included Pakistan on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XAR) list of 26 blacklisted countries.

The blacklisting means those with contacts with anyone or visited or have family ties or any communication in these blacklisted countries are not to be trusted and will remain under the radar of XAR authorities, reported the think tank.

Notably, for years Pakistani nationals and Uyghurs have forged marriages as there has been trans-border commerce involved between the two nations across the Karakoram Highway.

In one of the incidents in Pakistan, Sikandar Hayat and Ghulam Durrani were separated from their wives who happen to be Uyghurs. The wives were detained in XAR by the Chinese authorities while they were visiting there.

Subsequently, Hayat's son who went to support his mother in XAR was not able to meet his father for two years.

Furthermore, Durrani's wife continues to be in detention since 2017.

In a particularly heinous episode exposing Islamabad's insensitivity and involvement in China's "repression," the Pakistani security forces deported 14 Uyghur Islamic students suspected of being terrorists by China.

After being turned over to China, the authorities mercilessly killed all of the students at the border.

The international community has been quite vocal about the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and recently, French Parliament slammed China's "genocide" of its Uyghur Muslim people on Thursday, in a resolution that could sour relations between Paris and Beijing only two weeks before the Winter Olympics.

The resolution also urges the French government to protect the ethnic minority in the Xinjiang region and take "the necessary measures within the international community and in its foreign policy towards the People's Republic of China".

Approximately 60 Uyghurs were deported or imprisoned by Pakistani security forces till 2014. Following the unrest in Urumchi, a huge number of Uyghurs attempted to exit China via Pakistan to Turkey.

The Uyghurs were apprehended by Pakistani officials on their route to Turkey and deported. In one example, five innocent Uyghurs were deported to China from Baluchistan in 2010, despite the fact that they had no ties to any terror groups.

Source: Times Of India

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Samsung Removes Ad In Singapore Showing Muslim Mother And Drag Queen Son After Online Backlash


A still from the deleted Samsung advert. Samsung/WakeUpSingapore


20 Jan 2022

SINGAPORE, Jan 20 — An advertisement meant to tug at viewers’ heartstrings while promoting Samsung’s latest wearable products backfired after it drew public backlash for its portrayal of a Muslim mother expressing support for her drag queen son.

The company has since taken down the online video, saying that it was aware of feedback that it “may be perceived as insensitive and offensive to some members of our local community”.

“We acknowledge that we have fallen short in this instance, and have since removed the content from all public platforms,” it said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Jan 19).

The advertisement in question was part of Samsung’s “Listen to Your Heart” series aimed at promoting its noise-cancelling earbuds and smart watch that features a heart rate monitor.

Participants featured in the campaign would listen to a message from a loved one through the earbuds while their heart rate was monitored by the smart watch.

One of the participating pairs was a Muslim mother and her drag queen son, who thanked his mother for her unwavering support.

The scene sparked outrage online, with people angered by its insensitivity to the Muslim community.

Some online users were also riled by what they felt was an attempt to normalise and push LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer) ideology into a largely conservative Muslim community.

Homosexuality remains a sensitive topic in Singapore, despite increasing calls for more acceptance of the LGBTQ community here.

In its post, Samsung added that it “believes that innovation and growth are driven by diversity and inclusivity”.

“We will certainly be more mindful and thorough in considering all perspectives and viewpoints for our future marketing campaigns.”  — TODAY

Source: Malay Mail

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European Union Re-Establishes Presence In Afghanistan For Humanitarian Purposes


(Representative image/Reuters)


January 22, 2022

KABUL: The European Union said on Friday it was re-establishing a physical presence in Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes, but stressed it was not formally recognising the Taliban-led administration.

It was the first such announcement by a Western power since the 27-nation EU and many governments withdrew staff and diplomats from Afghanistan as Kabul fell to the hardline Taliban last August.

“The EU has started to re-establish a minimal presence of international EU Delegation staff to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and monitor the humanitarian situation,” said European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano.

A Taliban foreign ministry spokesman had earlier said in a Tweet that its officials had reached an understanding with the EU, which had “officially opened its embassy with a permanent presence in Kabul & practically commenced operations”. The EU spokesperson stopped short of saying the mission had been formally re-opened.

“Our minimal presence in Kabul must not in any way be seen as recognition. This has also been clearly communicated to the de facto authorities,” he said.

Also on Friday, the Norwegian foreign ministry said it had invited Taliban representatives to Oslo on Jan 23 for talks with representatives of the international community and Afghan civil society members.

Governments globally have been grappling with how to avoid formally recognising the Taliban, which swept to power on Aug 15 as foreign forces withdrew, while working to stem a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Many countries have ramped up humanitarian aid — aimed at urgent needs and largely bypassing government channels — as most development aid to the country has been cut off and strict restrictions placed on the banking sector due to sanctions against members of the militant group.

The EU on Tuesday announced it was launching projects worth 268.3 million euros, mostly to be channelled through United Nations agencies focused on health, education and displaced people.

Source: Dawn

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Muslim Leader Builds CAN Secretariat; Christian Association Of Nigeria Calls Nigerians To Embrace Religious Harmony And Live In Peace


CAN President, Rev. Olasupo Ayokunle


22 January 2022

The President, Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Olasupo Ayokunle, has called on Nigerians to embrace religious harmony and live in peace.

Ayokunle said this at the inauguration of a secretariat built for CAN in the Irewole Local Government Area of Osun State by the Balogun Musulumi of Ikire, Mr Bola Oyebamiji.

The CAN president, who expressed delight that Oyebamiji, a Muslim, who currently serves as the Osun State Commissioner for Finance, had taught every member of society a lesson on religious tolerance, also stressed that Nigerians should show love to people of other faiths.

He said, “Bola Oyebamiji is someone my family has been very close to for the past 20 years and he has always been like this. He is a very good and tolerant man to everybody, no matter your religion.

“I have always known him to be a partaker in the work of God, be it in the church or mosque. I must say this is laudable; this is what we have been preaching – harmonious relationship between all religions. It is exactly what God wants.

“This is the only way we can achieve true peace in our nation. It is nice to know that the sponsor of this project for CAN Irewole is a devout Muslim. This gladdens my heart so much.”

Oyebamiji, while speaking in a statement signed by his aide, Kingsley Omoyeni, in Osogbo on Friday, said he embarked on the project because he believed in service to humanity.

Source: Punchng

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AIMMM writes to Ambani over ‘hate campaigns’ against Muslims on News 18

21st January 2022

New Delhi: All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) in an open letter addressed to the Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Mukesh Ambani, on Thursday, raised its concerns over debates on the Reliance owned News 18, around the Hindu-Muslim binary.

In the letter, AIMMM president, Navaid Hamid stated that the debate shows which are full of false and misleading narratives are aimed to create an atmosphere of hatred against Muslims.

“These are not normal debates with political, cultural, or social connotations but sadly are blended in poisonous anti-Muslim agenda,” the letter states.

Stating that “patriotic Indians” who have a sincere desire for a peaceful co-existence of different communities in “our nation” would never support such campaigns, the letter mentioned that News18 India is running a debate show ‘Desh Nahi Jhukne Denge’, that crosses all “limits of impartial journalism violating journalistic ethics and are full of distortions, prejudices, hatred and ill will against the Muslim community”.

Highlighting the results of such a campaign, Mushawarat mentioned that unless some corrective steps are taken, the consequence will lead to a major communal flare-up.

Anti-Muslim campaigns

In the last few years, many anti-Muslim campaigns have taken place in the name of debates. After the outbreak of the pandemic, under the pretext of criticizing Tablighi Jamat, several media outlets spread hatred against Muslims.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Eye on Polls: BJP trying to win support of Muslim women beneficiaries of government schemes in UP

22nd January 2022

NEW DELHI: In an attempt to make inroads into the minority vote bank in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is trying to win the support of Muslim women.

The saffron party is reaching out to Muslim women who benefitted from the Narendra Modi's government welfare schemes along with decision to ban the practice of instant triple talaq.

Muslims constitute little less than 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh's total population while other minorities form around 1 per cent of the state's population.

Muslims play a decisive role in many Assembly seats in the state. The BJP Minority Morcha has identified 40 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh having 60-70 per cent minority population and 100 Assembly seats having 30 per cent minority population in the state.

BJP Minority Morcha national media in-charge, Syed Yasir Jilani, told IANS that Muslim women who benefitted from the welfare schemes of the Modi government are coming out in support of the BJP and the Prime Minister.

"After seeing the overwhelming support of Muslim women for Prime Minister Modi, we have decided to reaching out to these women. We are preparing a list of Muslim women beneficiaries to reach out to the families seeking support for the BJP ahead of the Assembly polls," Jilani said.

Jilani, who is helping the local unit in Sambhal district along with other party leaders from the national capital, claimed that Muslim women are listing a series of government initiatives which have benefitted them.

"Muslim women are defying their male family members and supporting Prime Minister Modi and the BJP. They are saying that their family benefitted from PM Awas Yojna, PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, which provided free ration, Ujjwala Yojana and other beneficiary schemes of the Centre. These women are openly supporting Modi. They are also thanking the Prime Minister for banning instant triple talaq," Jilani claimed.

Source: New Indian Express

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Texas attack again exposes Pakistan ties with global terror: India

Jan 22, 2022

NEW DELHI: The Texas synagogue attack has again exposed Pakistan’s links with international terrorism, the government said Friday while calling for an unambiguous, undivided, effective and collective response to the global threat from international terrorism network. Without naming Pakistan, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, while underlining the threat from terrorism, said the recent incident in Texas had again demonstrated that “the international network of terror, with its epicenter in India’s neighbourhood, was very much active and had long lasting implications”.

He was speaking at an event on potential for cooperation between India and Europe in Indo-Pacific where he welcomed German frigate Bayern, which is making a port call to Mumbai, and called for more intense engagement between India and Europe to address challenges like sustainable development, environmental protection and climate change. Shringla said these issues can only be addressed through collaborative effort that promotes linkages and not “economic dependencies and debt traps” in an apparent dig at China.

“India believes that our common prosperity and security require us to evolve, through dialogue, a common rules-based order for the region. Such an order must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as equality of all nations. Such an order should enable all countries to use common spaces on sea and in the air, engage in unimpeded commerce, and peacefully settle disputes in accordance with international law,” said Shringla. He added India’s record of respecting and accepting the ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) verdict on the delimitation of its maritime boundaries with its neighbours – Bangladesh and Myanmar - spoke for itself.

Source: Times Of India

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Lucknow man summoned over Clubhouse group that targeted Muslim women, joining probe today: Delhi Police

by Mahender Singh Manral

January 22, 2022

The Delhi Police Cyber Cell has summoned an 18-year-old man from Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow to join the investigation after it was found that he had allegedly created a group on the Clubhouse app, where several users allegedly made derogatory remarks against Muslim women.

On Saturday, Delhi Police said they have identified the ID of user – Bismillah as Rahul Kapoor, a graduate student, whose father is working as an accountant in Army Public school, Lucknow Cantt. “He was traced and during questioning, he disclosed that he was asked by Sallos to create an audio chat room in Clubhouse. He created a chat room and handed over the moderator key to Sallos. We have seized his mobile phone and served him a notice. He is joining the investigation in Delhi on Saturday evening,” a senior police officer said.

Police teams have been sent to four states to question others in connection with the case, said sources.

The discussion was recorded and shared online, prompting the Delhi Commission for Women to write to the police seeking action.

A senior police officer from the cyber cell said: “A team went to Kapoor’s house late last night. He used a fake ID on the app and created the group where he and 4-5 others made vulgar and lewd comments against Muslim women.”

Cyber cell officials said they have sent notices to the US-based company seeking details of the users/organisers of the group, and to Google Play Store to “keep a check” on such apps. An FIR under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the ground of religion), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion) and 354 A (sexual harassment) has been registered in the matter.

As reported by The Indian Express, the Delhi Police had earlier identified 4-5 suspects as the ‘main speakers’ in the group. Acting on a separate complaint about the same group, the Mumbai Police crime branch has arrested three persons — Akash Suyal (19), Jaishnav Kakkar (21) and Yash Parashar (22) from Haryana.

Source: Indian Express

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2021 watershed year for armed forces in J&K and Ladakh: Army Commander

Jan 22, 2022

UDHAMPUR (J&K): A top army officer on Saturday called 2021 a “watershed year” for the armed forces on Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

He said the troops displayed boldness in standing up to the “aggressive designs” in the two Union Territories.

General Officer-Commanding-in-Chief, northern command, Lt Gen YK Joshi said there has been a reduction in terrorist-related incidents and stone pelting activities in Jammu and Kashmir.

“There has been a reduction in terrorist related incidents, stone pelting activities and protests as a result of tireless efforts of the security forces and the people of J&K,” Joshi said, addressing the northern command investiture ceremony at its headquarters here in J&K.

Earlier in the ceremony, he presented GOC-in-C's appreciation to 40 units and GOC-in-C's ‘Certificates of Appreciation' to 26 units for their overall 'outstanding' and 'distinguished' performance in the command theatre.

The GOC-in-C's Appreciation were given for performance of units in Operation Meghdoot, Operation Rakshak, Operation Northern Borders, and other operations in the command.

The GOC-in-C's Certificates of Appreciation were given for performance of units in Operation Snow Leopard, which was launched after China refused to move back and restore status quo ante in eastern Ladakh.

“The ceremony was a solemn occasion to appreciate and recognise the professionalism in operational roles performed by the units during their tenure in northern Command,” a defence spokesman said.

Source: Times Of India

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Block 35 more Pakistan-based YouTube channels: Information and Broadcasting ministry

Jan 22, 2022

NEW DELHI: The Union ministry of Information and Broadcasting said on Friday it has issued orders to block 35 more YouTube channels, two websites, Twitter and Instagram accounts each, and one Facebook account, all originating in Pakistan, for spreading anti-India content in a “coordinated manner over digital media”.

The fake, anti-India content contained references to Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir, India’s foreign relations with other countries, including fake information about the demise of former Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and content seeking to undermine the elections in five poll-bound states. The I&B ministry said the channels also propagated toxic, separatist content, which have “the potential to incite its audience into commission of crimes adversely affecting public order in India”.

The January 20 order comes exactly one month after the ministry invoked, for the first time, the emergency clause of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to block 20 YouTube channels and two websites on December 20, last year. Union I&B secretary Apurva Chandra referred to the pernicious content as a “war of misinformation against India” and said the blocking orders followed fresh intelligence inputs about YouTube accounts operating from Pakistan.

Some of the YouTube channels, Chandra said, have a total subscriber base of over 1.2 crore and the anti-India content they have disseminated had over 130 crore views.

He said orders to block the social media accounts and websites were issued after Indian intelligence agencies, which were closely monitoring these accounts and websites flagged them to the I&B ministry for immediate action.

“While the ministry is alive to finding and blocking such kind of content, we also call upon people to flag such content when they see it. It is also the responsibility of intermediaries to create systems where such kind of fake and toxic content is automatically flagged,” Chandra said.

Source: Times Of India

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ATC convicts Sialkot citizen for justifying lynching of Priyantha Kumara

January 21, 2022

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Friday sentences a Sialkot citizen, identified as Muhammad Adnan, for justifying the brutal lynching of Sri Lankan citizen Diyawadanage Don Nandasri Priyantha, soon after the incident.

It is pertinent to note that the foreign worker, commonly known as Priyantha Kumara, was brutally lynched in Sialkot over spurious blasphemy allegations late last year.

According to case details, police had filed a report against Adnan on the complaint of Sub Inspector Mubarak Ali two days after the brutal murder of Priyantha Kumara.

The First Information Report (FIR) said that Adnan had uploaded a video on YouTube in which he supported the actons of those involved in the lynching of the Sri Lankan citizen.

Police had subsequently arrested Adnan and produced him in ATC Gujranwala.

During the hearing of the case, the accused had admitted to the charges framed against him, on which the court sentenced him to one-year imprisonment and a penalty of Rs10,000.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Only vaccinated people to be allowed to offer prayers at mosques of Pakistan

January 22, 2022

Amid a surge in the novel coronavirus cases during the fifth wave of virus fuelled by the Omicron variant, the National Command and Operation Centre of Pakistan has issued fresh standard operating procedures for mosques and worship places across the country.

Under the SOPs issued on Friday, only vaccinated individuals are allowed to offer prayer at mosques or worship places while wearing face masks has been declared mandatory.

The worshippers will be required to maintain a social distancing of at least six feet and mosques have been asked to remove mats and carpets from their premises.

The NCOC has also advised elderly and comorbid persons to prefer offering prayer at home and maintain minimal attendance for the prayer.

The SOPs also recommended use of hand sanitiser frequently and organising prayer in open spaces or ensure proper ventilation to contain the spread of the contagious disease.

It also asked the mosque-goers to prefer performing ablution at home and recommended short sermons for Friday prayer.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has registered 7,678 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, up from 6,808, the second-highest daily toll, since the pandemic started in 2020, official figures showed Friday morning.

With the new infections, the overall cases have moved past 1.35 million. Meanwhile, as many as 59,343 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, and the positivity ratio shot up to 12.93%.

The deaths from coronavirus also went up to 23 in the last 24 hours from five a day earlier, taking the overall death toll to 29,065, official figures showed.

The cases are on the rise, but top officials have refused to impose a lockdown, saying that the country’s economy could not bear the burden of another.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre, the number of active cases rose to over 57,000 while 961 patients were in critical care.

Source: ABNA24

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More suspects held as CIA joins Lahore blast probe

Asif Chaudhry

January 22, 2022

LAHORE: Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) launched search operations across Lahore and picked up some suspects over their alleged involvement in Thursday’s bomb blast in Anarkali market.

Raids were carried out by joint teams of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of police and other LEAs on the basis of intelligence reports about the movement of the facilitators/handlers of the terrorist attack.

An official privy to the development told Dawn that the law enforcers received a tip-off about the presence of suspects in areas adjacent to Anarkali and other parts of the city. He said the law enforcers got some important leads through call record data and footage from CCTV cameras installed in the bazaar and the roads leading to it as well as other areas.

Geo-fencing and other such methods helped security officials in spotting the key suspect who was believed to have planted the explosives at Paan Mandi in Anarkali. The official, however, refused to confirm any breakthrough, saying it would be premature to disclose anything as investigations were under way.

Meanwhile, Mayo Hos­pital discharged 20 people injured in the blast whereas eight victims were still under treatment.

Of the eight injured people under treatment, only one was critical, said Medical Superintendent Dr Iftikhar Ahmad while speaking to Dawn. The remaining seven could be discharged from hospital within a couple of days, he hoped.

Earlier on Thursday night, the official source said, a CTD team had picked up two suspects from Mayo Hospital and shifted them to an undisclosed location for interrogation. Both were released shortly afterwards when it transpired they were members of a religio-political party.

The official said the LEAs were analysing a lot of CCTV footage gathered from the Safe City Authority, which could play a critical role in getting their hands on the terrorists behind the blast.

To a question, he remarked there was a strong possibility the newly formed Baloch Nationalist Army was behind the blast, as the two groups that merged to create this new organisation had used timed-devices for their attacks previously.

Separately, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rao Sardar Ali Khan has also tasked the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) with handling the blast case besides the CTD.

On Friday, the CIA chief held a meeting after examining the Paan Mandi crime scene and dispatched teams to inspect the roads that could have been used by the prime suspect to escape.

Source: Dawn

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Govt, opposition spar in NA over growth claim

Amir Wasim

January 22, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The opposition challenged in the National Assembly on Friday the government’s claim regarding improvement in economic indicators and achieving a 5.37 per cent growth rate, besides seeking an investigation into the ongoing campaign in support of the presidential system.

The lower house of parliament witnessed ruckus on a couple of occasions when the opposition tried to interrupt speeches by ministers.

Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, during heated exchange of arguments, passed some personal and taunting remarks against each other, raising the temperature.

Speaking on a point of order, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi first lashed out at the PML-N for allegedly influencing the judiciary through the affidavit of ex-chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim and video and audio leaks of the judges and then started recounting the economic “achievements” of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, claiming that through tough decisions, the government had succeeded in stabilising the economy.

“We took very difficult decisions in two years and swallowed a bitter pill. We made painful decisions …. the people suffered and we received criticism, but in the third year, the economy is now heading towards recovery [phase] after attaining stability,” said Mr Qureshi, amid desk-thumping by the treasury members and sloganeering from the opposition benches.

PML-N, PPP seek probe into campaign in support of presidential system; minister says government has succeeded in stabilising economy

The fourth year under the PTI government, he said, would be the year of “prosperous Pakistan” as all economic indicators were moving in the right direction. He said the international financial institutions were saying that Pakistan’s GDP growth was touching 5.37 per cent. He said the national economy had registered sustainable growth and the country’s exports, remittances and foreign exchange reserves had witnessed an upward trend at a time when the economy was contracting in other countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The minister admitted that the farmers were getting urea fertiliser at higher rates from the black market, but claimed that the price was still lower than the international price. He also admitted that price hike was a challenge for the government, but then said it was a worldwide phenomenon.

He claimed that the per capita income in Pakistan was at around $1,457 which has now jumped to $1,666, indicating that the purchasing power of people has also increased considerably.

He also agreed that the rupee had depreciated against the dollar, but again gave the examples of Turkey, Argentina, Columbia, Japan and the European Union which were also facing the same problem.

Taking the floor, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal ridiculed Mr Qureshi’s speech and taunted him for changing his loyalties, stating that the opposition did not take him serious as he used to deliver similar speeches when he was with them in the PML-N and then in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). He said Mr Qureshi was in fact trying to present himself as “replacement” for Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Mr Iqbal challenged the minister to have a live debate on TV with him over the economic policies of the previous and present governments. He said the minister was claiming that there was price hike all over the world, but he did not mention India and Bangladesh where inflation was still in single digit.

Presidential system

Mr Iqbal then drew the attention of the house to the ongoing media campaign in favour of imposition of the presidential system, stating that the country had already suffered under this system during the eras of dictators like Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf. He said Pakistan could no more afford experimentation. He asked the speaker to hold a debate on the issue “to finish the matter once for all”, stating that the Quaid-i-Azam had himself laid the foundation of the federal parliamentary system in Pakistan.

Editorial: Emergency rumours

Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar said he was ready to accept Ahsan Iqbal’s challenge and said parliament was the best forum to give answers to the opposition’s “misleading” speeches on the national economy. He alleged that the PML-N had maintained the growth rate at 5pc artificially after utilising foreign exchange and borrowing loans.

Mr Azhar also taunted the PML-N leader for naming Gen Zia as dictator, stating that it was his party which should be made answerable for the actions taken by Gen Zia.

PPP’s Agha Rafiullah called for investigation to find out the elements behind the media campaign for the presidential system. In fact, he said, these elements were creating distrust in the public on parliament and democracy.

Gas shortage

Earlier, responding to a calling attention notice of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the energy minister blamed the Sindh High Court and the provincial government for the gas crisis in Karachi. He said that when the government started disconnecting gas supply to some 1,900 industries in Karachi to shift its supply to domestic users, the owners got a stay order from the court in September last year and till that time they had been trying to get this stay vacated.

Source: Dawn

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Gen Bajwa visits Peshawar Corps HQ; briefed on security situation

January 22, 2022

PESHAWAR: Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has reiterated the resolve of Pakistan Army to fight against terrorism till elimination of the menace from the country.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that Gen Bajwa visited the Corps Headquarters, Peshawar, on Friday where he was given a detailed briefing on the prevailing security situation, progress on development works in newly merged tribal districts and Pak-Afghan border fencing.

Paying tribute to brave tribesmen, officers and soldiers of the army, FC, Levies, Khasadar and police, Gen Bajwa vowed that the sacrifices of martyrs would not go in vain and complete peace would return to the country.

He praised security forces for providing an enabling environment for the completion of socio-economic development projects in the newly merged tribal districts, vital for enduring stability and sustainable progress of the region.

Source: Dawn

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10 Pakistanis serving different sentences in Indian jails, SHC told

January 22, 2022

KARACHI: The foreign affairs ministry has informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) that 10 Pakistani citizens were serving different sentences, including life terms, in Indian prisons.

The foreign ministry disclosed this in its reply filed before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro, which was seized with a petition seeking directions for the federal government to ensure repatriation of 17 Pakistanis imprisoned in India.

An official of the foreign affairs ministry, Huzefa Khanum, stated in the comments that four out of Pakistani nationals were serving life terms in the prisons of the neighbouring country.

He also stated that seven prisoners had been released from the Indian prisons and were repatriated to the country from 2011 to 2015.

The director submitted that ministry regularly took up the matter with the Pakistani mission in New Delhi and continuously kept pressing the Indian authorities for early release/repatriation of the prisoners who had completed their sentence and whose national status had been confirmed.

The bench disposed of the petition in view of the reply of the ministry of foreign affairs.

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan beefs up security in capital after deadly Lahore blast

21 January ,2022

Security was beefed up across Pakistan’s capital Friday, police said, a day after three people were killed and 22 wounded by a bomb in the eastern megacity of Lahore.

The country has suffered a string of blasts and attacks since December, when a truce between the government and Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) lapsed.

But Thursday’s bomb blast – in a busy shopping district of Lahore – was claimed by the Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), the newest of several separatist groups to emerge from Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province, Balochistan.

Police spokesman Naeem Iqbal told AFP that security would be tightened in Islamabad, the seat of the government and home to dozens of embassies and other international institutions.

He said uniformed and plain-clothes officers would fan across the city, particularly in crowded areas such as markets.

Earlier this week a policeman was killed and two others wounded in a drive-by motorcycle shooting in the capital by two TTP militants who died in return fire.

The BNA said it carried out Thursday’s Lahore bomb attack “in response to the killing of women and children by Pakistani forces in Balochistan.”

Ethnic separatist groups have been waging an insurgency for years in the province, complaining they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Southeast Asia


Anyone can challenge constitutionality of laws enacted in Malaysia

By Ersie Anjumin

January 21, 2022

KOTA KINABALU: All parties are entitled to challenge the constitutionality of laws enacted in Malaysia, whether they be state or federal laws.

Sabah Law Society (SLS) president Roger Chin Ken Fong said such was the hallmark of a democracy and the people should not be deterred to seek recourse with the courts.

"The Federal Court had recently held that a Selangor Syariah law was invalid, this decision was by no means an attack on Syariah law. The Federal Constitution was, through that decision, upheld by the Federal Court.

"The core of the decision is uncontroversial. Matters which are under the Federal List in the Federal Constitution are for Parliament to legislate upon, and matters which are under the State List in the Federal Constitution are for the States to legislate upon," said Chin in his speech during the Opening of the Legal Year for Sabah and Sarawak 2022 at the Kota Kinabalu Court Complex today.

Chin was referring to a case of a Muslim man who challenged the constitutionality and validity of Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995, which allows for punishment for unnatural sex.

Clearly therefore, any law enacted by the states in relation to matters contained in the Federal List are invalid, he said.

"The states simply have no power to legislate in relation to such matters. This is a fairly rudimentary principle and the law minister would – or should – be entirely aware of the same."

The SLS applauds the willingness of the Federal Court to uphold the basic tenets of the Federal Constitution, notwithstanding the potential for misunderstanding by members of the public or politicisation by politicians, who may not appreciate the context of the decision.

"In the premises, it would be irresponsible for anyone to characterise the decision of the Federal Court as an attack on Syariah law, and go further to discourage similar challenges."

Chin further said that the provisions of the Federal Constitution must be upheld at all times.

Although there may be concerns as to perception which should be managed with tact and diplomacy, ultimately the rule of law and the provisions of the Federal Constitution must always be preserved and upheld.

Source: NST News

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Indonesia jails 'Catholic brother' for molesting boys

Katharina Reny

January 21, 2022

An Indonesian court has sentenced a “Catholic brother” to 14 years in jail for sexually assaulting boys at an orphanage near capital Jakarta.

Lukas "Lucky" Ngalngola, also known as Brother Angelo, was convicted by Depok District Court on Jan. 20 for threatening violence and committing lewd acts on at least three children.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of 100 million rupiah (US$6,990).

Ngalngola claimed to be a member of the Blessed Sacrament Missionaries of Charity (BSMC), an obscure order based in the Philippines.

The order founded the Kencana Bejana Rohani Foundation which ran the orphanage in the city of Depok, West Java province, where the abuses were committed.

The abuse first came to light when three boys living at the orphanage filed a police report against Ngalngola in September 2019.

They claimed they were sexually abused by Ngalngola on a regular basis over a prolonged period.

Police arrested Ngalngola but released him three months later after investigators failed to complete a report for prosecutors to bring the case to court.

They cited their inability to find the whereabouts of the boys to get additional statements requested by prosecutors as the reason.

The case was reopened in September 2020 after Darius Rebong, who took over running the orphanage, filed another police report against Ngalngola.

Six months later, however, Ngalngola remained free, prompting accusations the police were dragging their feet in the case.

Ngalngola was arrested in March last year.

Following the Jan. 20 verdict, Ngalngola said he would file an appeal “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to a panel of fair judges.”

Speaking to UCA News, Rebong said he had to respect the legal process even though “the sentence will not be able to heal the victims’ suffering.”

Source: UCA News

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Ah Long victim in fear as RM300 loan swells to RM45,000

Zeanaaima Mohd Yusof

January 22, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: Last year, Aliff and his sister borrowed RM300 from money lenders to settle their father’s debts, but little did they know that the small loan would bring them a year of suffering.

They have already made repayments totalling RM34,000 but the loan sharks, or Ah Longs, still want to squeeze RM11,000 out of Aliff (not his real name).

He is now living on the run to escape the Ah Longs’ torments – but pictures of him and his family have gone viral online after his phone was hacked. Members of the public are being asked to “beat them up for failing to pay off their debts”.

Aliff’s suffering began when he tried to get an immediate loan to help his father, who fell victim to a scam. He was also unemployed at the time, forcing him to turn to moneylenders.

“I just borrowed RM300. My dad asked for my help, but I wasn’t working at the time because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“My friends suggested this phone app through which I could submit a loan application. I had to give a copy of my identification card and a video of me saying I borrowed money through the app. That’s all. I got the money immediately,” he told FMT.

However, instead of the RM300 he was promised, Aliff only received RM150 and was required to pay back RM300 within a seven-day period. He could not afford to do so, and had to rope in his sister as the debt continued to rise.

“My sister has already spent so much money because of this. More than RM30,000 is now gone. The first time I paid, RM8,000 was already gone. Then they came calling again, asking for RM6,000, RM8,000.

“They said what I paid initially was just the principal amount and that I had more to pay. In total, my sister and I had to fork out RM34,000,” he said, adding that he then had no choice but to borrow money online from an Ah Long to pay off the debts.

He fell into an unending cycle and, in the end, resorted to borrowing money through 15 different applications to pay off his prior debts. His pictures then went around online leaving him in fear and shame.

“My friend called me and said, ‘A picture of you is going viral.’ In the picture, they wrote, ‘This boy doesn’t pay his debts. If you see him, just beat him up.’ But we actually have paid, in fact, we’ve paid off more than we borrowed,” he lamented.

After jumping from one application to another, he eventually filed a complaint with the Malaysian Muslim consumer association Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM), which said Aliff’s case was just one of the thousands who have been entrapped by Ah Longs.

Police statistics show that 3,149 complaints have been filed from 2019 to last October over loan sharks. PPIM said more than 80% of cases involve Malays.

PPIM lead activist Nadzim Johan conceded that loan sharks’ widespread presence was because there was a demand for them, adding that this was due to “loopholes in society”.

To help borrowers, he said PPIM would try to negotiate with the Ah Longs to reduce the amount demanded, in adherence to what the government allows.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Malaysia: The Absence Of Political Checks And Balances

By Murray Hunter

January 21, 2022

The major impediment to Malaysia achieving the aspiration of becoming a developed country is the lack of checks and balances within the system of politics and government. Malaysia has three tiers of government, federal, state, and local government. Malaysia also has three branches of government, the executive made up of the prime minister and cabinet, the parliament, made up of the monarch, Dewan Rakyat, lower popularly elected house, and the senate.

The lack of checks and balances in government occurred partly due to the country’s origins as a group of Malay Sultanates within the Malay peninsula, and events and decisions that have shaped the nature of Malaysia’s political system since federation.

Checks and balances are a mechanism of constitutional government where institutions within different branches of government are empowered to prevent other institutions make decisions and take actions beyond their power and authority. Checks and balances map out how authority and power is distributed and shared within constitutionally based government. Checks and balances limit power by individuals and institutions overreaching into areas they are not constitutionally or by convention shouldn’t be involved in. Checks and balances prevent the abuse of power, and regulate the harmonious operation and interactions of the different branches of government.

The Constitution

The Malaysian constitution lays out the basic law of government. It lays down the powers, responsibilities, and boundaries of all branches and levels of government. All legislation and operations within government must be consistent with the wording and intentions of the constitution.

However, the constitution is not a solid bedrock of government. The constitution can be changed by an act of parliament that garners at least two-thirds of the votes to pass it. Successive Barisan Nasional governments had a two-thirds majority in the parliament for all but two elections since federation, up to 2009. This has left the constitution, the very foundation of government vulnerable to abuse, which has been the case.

Malaysia’s constitution has been amended 58 times since federation, affecting some 750 clauses within the document. Most of these constitutional amendments were made very hastily, under semi-secrecy.

The Reid Commission formulated the constitution with the intention it would nurture a strong, viable and healthy democracy in South-East Asia. The most controversial amendments have weakened democratic safeguards and freedom of speech enshrined within the constitution. These include;

Article 10 was amended in 1971 to allow the parliament to pass legislation to restrict public discussion on citizenship, the national language, Bumiputera rights, the legitimate rights of other races, the sovereignty of the rulers.

Article 121 was amended in 1998 to place the judiciary under the influence of parliament, and

Article 121 (1) (a) was amended at the same time to divorce the Syariah court system from the civil court system, thereby making it autonomous.  

These and many other amendments weakened the separation of powers between the executive, judiciary, and legislature. Constitutional changes over the years have led to the centralisation of power in Malaysia, and partly to the autonomy of Islam within the state.

The Senate

The parliament’s upper house, the Dewan Negara, or senate is comprised of 69 members. Each of the 13 state assemblies elects 2 members each, and 43 members are appointed by the Yang Di-pertuan Agong, or king, on the advice of the prime minister. Consequently, the senate is an undemocratic house.

The role of the senate is twofold. The first function is to safeguard the rights of the states. However, with 43 federally appointed members negates this. The second function for the senate is to act as a house of review for government legislation. This is undermined by the shear weight of federal appointees outnumbering state representatives. Consequently, although there are some independent minded senators, the house is just a rubber stamp for the government of the day.

There are provisions within the constitution for the direct election of state representatives by the people. The senate by the nature of 43 representatives nominated by the government of the day destroys the role of the senate as a check and balance upon the executive government.

The Judiciary

The independence, or lack of independence of the judiciary has long been the subject of debate over the years. The Anwar sodomy 1 and 2 trials, and convicted felon ex-prime minister Najib Razak out on bail after his conviction and dismissal of an appeal continue to drive allegations of court partiality in politically sensitive cases.

Confidence in judiciary was at rock bottom after the dismissal of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas in 1988 for effectively defending the court’s independence. Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed held distain for the court over a number of court decisions. These cases included anger over the court overturning a decision to revoke the work permit of the Asian Wall Street Journal correspondent John Berthelsen, judicial reviews over ministerial decisions such as the awarding of contracts for the North-South Highway Project to UEM, and the decision to declare UMNO illegal following a dispute after party elections in 187.

Today, the attorney-general is empowered to determine which courts will be used for particular cases. This leaves a great question over how independent the judiciary can really be in the Malaysian political environment.

The federal court has traditionally been reluctant to nullify federal and state legislation they deem as breaching the constitution. The court system needs to assert itself as a truly independent arm of the government, as a custodian of the constitution.

Federal-State Relations

Malaysian government over the last 64 years has become centralized. The federal government has taken too much power away from the states. Successive federal governments have showed a lack of respect for the division of powers between the federal government and the states. This is not just about a new deal for Sabah and Sarawak, all state governments had their sovereignty eroded by the federal government.

State governments need to be run by leaders who put state interests before the political interests of the federal government. National development and budgetary issues need to be undertaken as fully cooperative exercises, where governments accept the will of the people, even if a state government is administrated by an opposition party.

Part of the federal-state nexus is distorted by the way Malaysian political party decision making is undertaken, particularly with the selection of candidates for public office in federal and state elections. These decisions are usually made centrally, by the national party leader and a very small working group. This disenfranchises the local party branch system, where local party membership has little, if any say in who their candidates for public office will be. This gravely weakens the checks and balances between federal and state governments, particularly if they are of the same party and coalition.

Local Government

Local government in Malaysia consists of various organizational units, including city councils covering urban areas with over a population of 500,000 people, municipal councils covering other urban areas, and rural district councils.

Local government elections were suspended during the Indonesian Confrontation in 1964. They have never been reinstated, and attempts by Penang to revert to local government elections, thrashed by the federal government. Today, city, municipal, and rural council members are selected by respective state governments and by the federal government within federal territories for two-year terms. Accountability and transparency are notoriously missing. The government that operates closest to the people, affecting daily lives is totally undemocratic.

Local governments have been detached and isolated from the communities they serve. Policy making is top down and administrators serve other stakeholders, rather than the communities they are serving.

Local government is an incubator of future leaders, should be a check and balance against the power of state and federal governments, rather than a subservient extension. The nation is desperately in need of this protection. However, local government elections would potentially challenge the state of federal government’s prerogative. State and federal members of parliament fear that elected councillors would erode their tenure of control over individual constituencies, as citizens would have an alternative public representative to approach with their problems.


Under the constitution Malaysia is primarily a secular state, with Islam as the religion of the federation. To all intents and purposes, the operation of government was intended to be secular with certain provisions made within the constitution to empower the monarchy to be custodians of the religion. The responsibility for the administration of Islamic affairs primarily lies with the states.

However, over the last 50 years, an unassailable Islamic bureaucracy has developed in Malaysia. Under then prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, under political threat by the rural based Parti Islam se-Malaysia or PAS, the civil service has been Islamized.

The federal centrepiece of Islam within the federal civil service is the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM). The department has almost become a government within itself, able to manoeuvre itself politically over the last few decades. JAKIM’s role in Malaysia has been strongly rebuked by the eminent G25 group, and the Sultan of Johor has instructed his state Islamic department not to cooperate with JAKIM.

Islamization of Malaysia has destroyed the principle of secularism within government. There are strong criticisms of Islamization by Malays themselves. They claim the freedom of lifestyle, association, and expression has been taken away. Under Syariah law Malays have less civil rights than non-Malays. Islamization has to some degree stifled constructive discussion and criticism over issues of governance.

The Media

In a democracy, the media is often considered a major check and balance against abusive government. In Malaysia, the media has been heavily censored over the years. New portals can be closed down like The Malaysian Insider was in 2016, running multiple reports and commentary about the 1MDB financial scandal. Today, all news portals practice self-censorship, and will take down articles upon the request of ministers, in fear of not getting their licences renewed. Investigative journalism is threatened with strong deformation laws. Journalist have been regularly rounded up in political crackdowns and held in custody without charge. In 2020, Malaysia was ranked 119 out of 180 in the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index.

The First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system

The type of voting system a country adopts has great bearing upon the nature and dynamics of formal political representation within the parliament. Malaysia adopted the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system from the United Kingdom, where the candidate within an electoral constituency garners the most votes is elected the member for the constituency. This greatly favours national organizations with strong grassroot election machinery available to muster enough votes in the maximum number of constituencies to win government, or enter onto a coalition with other elected groupings that have concentrated support. Political movements that have some broad support across the nation, but not enough concentration of support within single constituencies will not win any constituencies and be without representatives in parliament.

Source: Eurasia Review

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Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital

January 22, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been admitted to hospital, a spokesperson for him said on Saturday.

The spokesperson said Mahathir was admitted to the cardiac care unit at the National Heart Institute but gave no details.

Source: Arab News

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South Asia


Rights groups, victims call UN to ban Bangladesh paramilitary force RAB

21 January ,2022

Families of victims of enforced disappearances allegedly perpetrated by an elite Bangladesh paramilitary group Friday called on the UN to ban the security force from serving as peacekeepers.

They made the call a day after 12 international rights groups including Amnesty International made similar demands to the UN Department of Peace Operations in a letter to UN Under-Secretary General Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

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The move is designed at adding pressure on Bangladesh authorities, especially its powerful military and police, after rights groups blamed the elite Rapid Action Battalion for gross human rights violations.

They say the RAB enforced disappearances of hundreds of people, including many opposition activists and leaders.

“If Secretary General (Antonio) Guterres is serious about ending human rights abuses by UN peacekeepers, he will ensure that units with proven records of abuse like the Rapid Action Battalion are excluded from deployment,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

“The evidence is clear; now it’s time for the UN to draw a line.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday that the letter from the 12 rights groups would be looked at.

The UN has a “stringent human rights screening policy that applies to individual units from every country. But we obviously have been taking very seriously what is being done,” Dujarric told reporters.

The RAB, which draws officers from the armed forces and police, has come under intense pressure in recent weeks after the United States last month slapped sanctions against it and at least seven of its current and former officers including its current national police chief.

Bangladesh has protested the sanctions and on Thursday home minister Asaduzzaman Khan defended the RAB.

“They are not highlighting the positive impacts of RAB has had on society. They are not talking about RAB’s war on drugs and terrorism,” he told reporters.

Families of victims of enforced disappearances and politicians have also stepped up pressure on the tainted security force.

“RAB picked up my brother in December 2013 and we have never found him. My mother went to RAB headquarters every day for more than a year to find out his whereabouts,” said Afroja Islam Akhi, whose brother Sajedul Islam was an opposition activist.

Akhi, who helped set up Mayer Daak, which groups families of enforced disappearance victims, blamed RAB for abducting and disappearing more than 600 people.

“Can murderers and human rights violators be UN Peacekeepers? No way,” she said.

The UN sanctions on RAB has emboldened Bangladesh’s opposition, which has held a series of massive rallies across the country.

Reza Kibria, who heads the Gono-odhikar Parishad, a new opposition outfit, called for the disbanding the RAB.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Taliban root cause of Afghanistan's troubles; people face most difficult scenario in country's history: Expert

Jan 21, 2022

KABUL: As people residing in Afghanistan face the horrors of Taliban atrocities since the fall of Kabul, an expert believes that the Taliban are the root cause of all of Afghanistan's troubles and under their rule people are facing the most difficult scenario in the country's history.

Red Lantern Analytica on Thursday hosted a webinar titled "Regional and Global Implications of Taliban Rule: Afghan Voices." The Red Lantern Analytica organized a panel featuring specialists in the fields of human rights, security, and geopolitics of South Asia.

Kabir Haqmal, an ex-spokesperson for the office of the National Security Council said, "The Taliban regime has brought upon a crisis which is a humanitarian crisis, a national crisis, as well as an economic crisis and a political crisis. This has been brought upon by the Taliban, which is backed by regional and some international powers."

Haqmal said that there is no conflict that may kill millions, but ordinary Afghans are forced to leave the nation while millions live below the poverty line. Also, millions of women lack access to education, and the Afghan community lacks trust in the Taliban regime.

He added that the Taliban's actions are backed by ISI operatives and the Pakistani and Chinese governments. Every day, women and members of Afghanistan's ethnic communities march on the streets, refusing to accept Taliban authority.

The Taliban's return has set the path for another catastrophe unprecedented in the country's history, necessitating another revolution. The Taliban are unwilling to work democratically because they reject public opinion and deny elections and media coverage, among many other things, Haqmal noted.

He further stated that the Taliban are the "root cause" of all of Afghanistan's troubles, and Afghans under their rule are facing the most difficult scenario in the country's history.

Talking about the humanitarian assistance provided to Afghanistan, Haqmal said that several foreign groups and organizations are attempting to provide assistance worth millions of dollars, but their efforts have proven largely ineffective.

"When a government that has operated democratically for two decades abruptly relinquishes power, these organizations cannot simply fulfil their responsibilities by infusing money into the country at a time when the Afghan administrative system has completely crumbled," he added.

According to Haqmal, the ideal form of help for Afghanistan would be for the international community to pressure the Taliban regime into accepting a "loya jorga" system (elections) for a certain term in order to construct a favourable administrative system for Afghans.

Afghans should have the right to vote, and the country should hold legitimate democratic elections. If fair elections were held, the Afghans would have ousted the Taliban, he added.

In response to a question on whether he could discuss Pakistan's involvement in causing the Taliban crisis, Haqmal stated that Pakistan is the "primary element" driving Taliban rule.

Major Amit Bansal, who addressed an Indian perspective on Afghanistan's violence and anarchy, as well as the Doha Agreement Factor, which was a big blunder in the making, stated the deal did not take the opinions of the Afghan people into consideration, and the agreement struck between the US and Afghanistan was a watershed moment.

Bansal continued discussing how the greatest threat to Afghanistan throughout the social spectrum is the humanitarian food crisis, which will only worsen as it spreads to the country's most marginalized parts.

He also discussed how Pakistan has been a significant impediment and has been responsible for building barriers in the movement of supplies and imports via its shared border with Afghanistan.

Bansal concluded by stating that the "only way to resolve these issues is for the Afghan people to take action. Rather than fighting and fleeing the country, the people must find a solution and unify through democratic protests."

Source: Times Of India

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US has no specified schedule for recognition of Taliban: Special envoy

22 Jan 2022

US special representative for Afghanistan Thomas West said that the US has no specified schedule for the recognition of the interim government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and that the Taliban should take some steps before the normalization of relations.

Speaking with BBC Pashto, Thomas West said that normalization of ties between the US and the Taliban does not seem easy and that they (the US) have outlined preconditions in this regard.

Respect for human and women’s rights, freedom of speech, education of women, and formalization of the rights of minorities in Afghanistan are preconditions of the US to the Taliban.

The special representative said that the US will pay the salaries of Afghan teachers in collaboration with the International Society in case the Taliban reopen schools.

About the frozen assets of Afghanistan, Thomas West said that part of the nearly $10 billion will be paid to the victims of 9/11 as ransom but added that the final decision has not been made yet.

Source: Khaama Press

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IEA delegation led by Amir Khan Motaqi to visit Norway

21 Jan 2022

Spokespersons of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan said that an Afghan delegation led by the acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Motaqi is supposed to leave for Norway on Saturday, January, 22.

Inamullah Samangani said that the Afghan delegation that will be comprised of a number of Afghan ministers will meet with American diplomats, EU members, Norwegian officials, and other Afghans.

Norway’s Foreign Ministry in a statement said that Afghan representatives have been invited to Oslo on 23-25 January 2022 to meet Norwegian authorities, the international community, and other Afghans.

The statement reads that the meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban but the de facto authorities must be talked with so that we prevent political situation leading to a worse humanitarian disaster.

Source: Khaama Press

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'Trade with Allah' ... The Mufti of Tunisia calls on citizens to donate in favour of the State

January 21, 2022

On Thursday, the Grand Mufti of the Republic of Tunisia, Othman Battikh, called on all Tunisian citizens to donate in favour of the State, in order to contribute to "end the current economic crisis" that the country is witnessing.

Through a statement by the Tunisian Dar Al Iftaa (Fatwa Council), Tunisia's Grand Mufti called on "good and righteous people, who provided assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis" to "continue giving and expenditure as a moral and religious duty, until the country overcomes the crisis."

The statement stated that "subsidisation of the homeland" cannot be considered "sacrifice, redemption or loss", but rather it is "trade with Allah, the reward of which is social stability, progress, advancement and tranquillity, with the aim of catching up with the advanced nations."

The Grand Mufti also urged Tunisians to "not be stingy with the beloved Tunisia" and "not to hesitate to support it." On the same occasion, he also warned against those who "dishearten others, and do that in each society."

The call by the Mufti of the Republic comes at a time when Tunisia is going through a severe economic crisis, where economic analysts believe that the State may be unable to pay the salaries of its employees in the near term. Indeed, the payment of the salaries of a group of employees who work in various government sectors has been delayed.

Earlier, Tunis Afrique Presse reported that Tunisia's public debt will reach 114.14 billion dinars ($ 39.77 billion) by the end of 2022, which represents 82.6 per cent of GDP.

Source: Middle East Monitor

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Sudanese hold ‘day for martyrs’ after anti-coup protest deaths

21 January ,2022

Sudanese anti-coup protesters held a “day for the martyrs” Friday, gathering outside the homes of some of those killed in a violent crackdown on demonstrations since an October military takeover.

In Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, dozens headed toward the home of John Kual, a 37-year-old electrician from South Sudan, some shouting “power to the people.”

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Friends said Kual had regularly attended demonstrations until he was shot in the chest on Wednesday while protesting against the security forces’ use of deadly violence.

Al-Tahami Khalifa, 60, who was among those at the procession that followed Friday Muslim prayers, called for an end to “an unjust and criminal regime.”

Marches also headed to the homes of other bereaved families across the capital, activists said.

Civil society groups had called for a day of solidarity with the families of 73 protesters killed since General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan led a coup on October 25 that derailed the country’s fragile transition to civilian rule.

Regular demonstrations against the military takeover have sometimes been attended by tens of thousands, and trade unions, political parties and community groups have called for new protests on Monday.

Burhan this week announced a new “cabinet in charge of current affairs,” appointing some deputy ministers in the deposed civilian government as ministers.

Among them was Ayman Sayyid Salim, who was appointed youth and sports minister and who resigned Friday in a letter made public.

He expressed “surprise” at what he deemed an “unconstitutional” appointment and said he paid “tribute to the martyrs.”

Amid an international push for dialogue, US diplomats visited Khartoum this week in an attempt to help end the crisis.

Source: Al Arabiya

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At least 11 migrants drown off Tunisia in shipwreck

21 January ,2022

At least 11 migrants drowned in a shipwreck off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, while 21 others were rescued by the coastguard, the army spokesman said on Friday.

He added the coastguard had recovered five bodies, while the search was still under way for six more drowned.

Tunisia is a key departure point, just 140 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa, according to AFP.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US army confirms Russian mercenaries in Mali

21 January ,2022

The US army has confirmed the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group in Mali, which the African nation’s government has denied amid increasingly strained relations with the West.

“Wagner is in Mali,” General Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command, said in an interview with Voice of America, “They are there, we think, numbering several hundred now.”

“They’re deploying there, supported by the Russian military, Russian Air Force airplanes are delivering them,” he said, directly tying the Wagner group to the Kremlin, a link that Moscow denies.

“The world can see this happening,” Townsend said. “It’s a great concern to us.”

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week accused Wagner’s mercenaries of “supporting” Mali’s ruling junta under the pretense of fighting extremists. He also slammed Russia for allegedly lying about the status of the Wagner group.

“When we asked our Russian colleagues about Wagner, they said they don’t know anything (about it),” he said.

“When it comes to mercenaries who are Russian veterans, who have Russian weapons, who are transported by Russian planes, it would be surprising if the Russian authorities did not know about it,” Le Drian said.

“We are living in a lie.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Sudanese judges, US denounce deadly crackdowns on protests

January 22, 2022

KHARTOUM: Sudanese head of judiciary and judges condemned violence against anti-military protesters in a rare public statement, while the US said it would consider unspecified steps against those holding up efforts to resolve Sudan’s political crisis.

At least 72 civilians have died and more than 2,000 have been injured as security forces have cracked down on frequent demonstrations since a military takeover on Oct. 25, according to medics aligned with the protest movement.

Angered by the killing of seven civilians earlier this week, protesters took to the streets once more on Thursday in eastern Khartoum and other locations across Sudan.

Military leaders have said that the right to peaceful protest is protected and have commissioned investigations into the bloodshed.

The violence has deepened the deadlock between pro-democracy groups and the military leadership.

In a statement, Sudan’s ruling council affirmed the need for national dialogue, a technocratic Cabinet, and adjustments to a transitional constitutional document negotiated after the ousting of former leader Omar Bashir in a 2019 uprising.

The document formed the basis for a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that was halted by the coup.

After a failed bid by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to salvage some civilian control following the coup, the UN has been trying to facilitate dialogue between opposing factions.

Late on Thursday, military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan announced the appointment of 15 Cabinet ministers, most of whom had been promoted to acting roles by Hamdok.

No prime minister or defense or interior ministers were named.

The coup drew condemnation from Western powers that largely froze badly needed economic assistance to Sudan.

That assistance would only be restarted if violence ended and a civilian-led government was restored, visiting US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee and newly appointed special envoy David Satterfield said.

Condemning the use of force on protesters, they “made clear the United States will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward” with a political transition and an end to violence, a US statement said.

A statement from 55 Sudanese judges to the judiciary chief said military leaders had “violated agreements and covenants since the Oct. 25 coup, as they have carried out the most heinous violations against defenseless protesters.”

They called for an end to the violence and a criminal investigation.

In response, the head of the judiciary said in a statement that the ruling sovereign council must do the utmost to prevent violations.

“We in the judiciary affirm that we will not hesitate to take the measures we have at hand to protect the lives and constitutional rights of citizens,” the statement said.

Separately, more than 100 prosecutors announced they would stop work from Thursday to call for security forces to cease violations and lift a state of emergency. They said prosecutors had been unable to carry out their legal duty to accompany police to protests and determine the acceptable use of force.

It is unusual for Sudan’s judges and prosecutors to make public statements about the conduct of the security forces.

Source: Arab News

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North America


US commits to helping Saudi Arabia, Gulf partners defend against threats from Yemen

21 January ,2022

The US reiterated its commitment to helping Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners defend themselves against threats from Yemen and other places in the region, the State Department said after a call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated the US commitment to help Gulf partners improve their capabilities to defend against threats from Yemen and elsewhere in the region and underscored the importance of mitigating civilian harm,” Spokesman Ned Price said.

Friday’s call came after this week’s attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, claimed by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

Civilian sites, including Abu Dhabi’s International Airport, were targeted with missiles and drones. At least three civilians were killed, and a handful of others injured.

“The Secretary condemned the January 17 Houthi attack on both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that struck civilian sites in the UAE, including Abu Dhabi’s international airport, and killed and wounded civilians,” Price said in the statement.

Separately, the UN Security Council condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi” after a meeting was called for by the UAE.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UN chief sharply denounces Saudi coalition strikes in Yemen

Michael Hernandez  



UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sharply condemned airstrikes on the Houthi controlled city of Saada in Yemen that killed dozens of inmates at a detention center.

The strikes were part of ramped up hostilities from a Saudi-led coalition seeking to curtail the Houthi rebels in the war-torn country. Other strikes targeted a telecommunications facility in the port city of Hudaydah that led to mass internet disruptions in Yemen, while others hit in the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa.

"The Secretary-General reminds all parties that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

"He further reminds all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that civilians are protected against the dangers arising from military operations, adhering to the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution," he added.

Guterres further called for a "prompt, effective and transparent" probe into the attacks to "ensure accountability," the UN said.

Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when Iran-aligned Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including Sanaa.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US slaps sanctions on Hezbollah-linked men, companies for second time this week

21 January ,2022

The US Treasury Department on Friday sanctioned three Lebanese men linked to Hezbollah and ten companies based in Lebanon, Zambia and Germany.

A statement from the Treasury Department said that Friday’s announcement showed how Hezbollah gained access to the international financial system to raise funds “in support of its acts of terrorism and other illicit activities.”

“These actions undermine the stability, security, and sovereignty of the Lebanese people,” the statement read.

Adnan Ayad and his son Jihad were designated alongside Ali Adel Diab, whose father Adel was sanctioned earlier in the week.

Adnan and Jihad also have German citizenship, according to the Treasury Department.

Two of the sanctioned companies are based in Zambia, one in Germany and the rest in Lebanon.

All three individuals and the companies were used to raise funds and launder money to Hezbollah, the Treasury Department said.

For his part, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said that Washington was committed to disrupting Hezbollah’s attempts to evade sanctions.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkiye exemplary country to follow, says El Salvadoran president

Beyza Binnur Donmez  


El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele on Friday said his country sees Turkiye as "an example" to follow.

Noting that his country is one of the smallest countries in the world and at the center of the entire American continent, Bukele said: "After 200 years of liberating ourselves from the Spanish crown, El Salvador is finally taking firm steps to achieve its true independence and write a history of modernity and progress."

His remarks came during his speech in the Center for Latin American Studies (LAMER) at Ankara University.

"Today, we are in the right direction: we are turning our country into a beacon of light for Central and Latin America," he continued.

The course of history would not change if the country cannot overcome obstacles, he said, adding: "On this point, we agree with the Turkish people, because step by step we begin to dream and build a prosperous, innovative nation that looks ahead to the future without fear, as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the founder of the Republic of Turkiye) did, that man who dreamed of a Republic of Turkiye, which is now an example for us."

He added that "a friendly, free, independent, and sovereign state is being formed" in El Salvador.

The president emphasized that his government wants "the world to see El Salvador as an example, not only of what we Salvadorans can achieve but of all the potential that exists in Latin America."

Bukele also said that being the first president of El Salvador who paid an official visit to Ankara is an honor for him.

He said his country can offer countries like Turkey "a fair, peaceful, and lasting relationship."

At the end of the event, Ankara University awarded Bukele a Certificate of Friendship.

Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakci, head of LAMER Mehmet Necati Kutlu, and Ankara University's Rector Necdet Unuvar also attended the event.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Turkish Aerospace, El Salvador sign MoU on space, satellite systems

Gozde Bayar  


Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and El Salvador signed a memorandum of understanding on space and satellite systems on Friday.

In a Twitter post, TAI said that President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele visited the company and “got information about our products.”

“We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Space and Satellite Systems,” it added.

Bukele has made his first trip abroad this year to Turkiye on Thursday at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Arab World


Gulf Arab embrace of Jewish minority reflected in Bahrain cemetery-restoration project

January 22, 2022

DUBAI: For more than a century, a small cemetery in the heart of Manama has served as the final resting place for members of Bahrain’s tiny Jewish community, which is the most established of its kind in the Gulf Cooperation Council area.

Located a short distance from The House of Ten Commandments, the oldest synagogue in the Gulf, the cemetery receives fewer visitors these days than the nearby Christian graveyard at St Christopher’s Cathedral. But for Jews in Bahrain it remains a cherished part of their heritage.

Thanks to a new donor-funded initiative, efforts have begun to restore the site, which is recognized as the only Jewish cemetery in the Gulf. The project, launched by the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities on Jan. 16 to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, aims to finance renovation and maintenance work at the site. The AGJC was founded in 2021 as a network of communities to develop Jewish life in the GCC area.

“For more than 100 years, our family members have been buried in the Jewish cemetery in Bahrain,” Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo — president of the AGJC, chairman of the Board of Trustees of The House of Ten Commandments and head of Bahrain’s Jewish community — told Arab News.

“One component of our community planning is ensuring that our cemetery is properly maintained for generations to come. We are very thankful that the AGJC chose this for its Tu B’Shevat project.”

As part of the renovation project, weathered headstones are being cleaned and trees planted.

“We are planting trees in the Jewish cemetery of Bahrain, which is akin to bringing life back to those that have lived in the beautiful community in Bahrain for centuries and made their resting place in Bahrain for eternity,” Rabbi Elie Abadie, the most senior Jewish cleric in the GCC area, told Arab News.

“Trees offer life; they provide shade, oxygen and nutrients. We are planting trees in the cemetery, the final resting place to the spirits, as a revival to them. Trees take time to grow so we are not growing them for this generation, but for the upcoming one as our forefathers did for us.”

The readiness of Bahrain to embrace its Jewish minority and celebrate its heritage has made it a trailblazer for the region. The island kingdom’s former ambassador to the US, Houda Nonoo, is a prominent member of the Jewish community in the Gulf.

Bahrain has long been supportive of coexistence not only between Muslims and Jews but also between Arabs and Israel. In June 2019, it hosted the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama, during which US President Donald Trump’s administration presented the economic aspects of his plan for peace between Israel and Palestine.

In August the following year, Bahrain and the UAE issued a joint declaration with Israel called the Abraham Accords, which led to the normalization of relations between the two Arab countries and Israel. The agreements also paved the way for warmer ties between Israel and Oman, Morocco and Sudan.

Israel considers itself a “Jewish and democratic state,” while Islam is the official religion of the UAE and Bahrain. Abraham Accords was chosen as the name for the agreement to signify the shared origin of belief between Judaism and Islam, both of which are Abrahamic religions that strictly espouse the monotheistic worship of the God of Abraham.

Since the signing of the accords, the UAE and Bahrain have invested a great deal in their bilateral relationships with Israel, and encouraged the celebration of Jewish history and heritage in the region.

At the same time, Gulf leaders have enhanced their political ties with Israel. Late last year, for example, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, visited the UAE where he met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince.

Bennett also met Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

The modern Jewish community in Bahrain was established in the 1880s when hundreds of Jews arrived from Iraq and Iran in search of a better life. Many settled in the Al-Hatab neighborhood of Manama, where they initially worked in the clothing industry.

In 1935, as the community began to thrive, an Iranian immigrant named Shimon Cohen established a synagogue. However, the building was destroyed in 1947 during disturbances linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Until the Abraham Accords were formally signed on Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington, D.C, Bahrain’s remaining Jewish community of about 50 people practiced their faith largely behind closed doors. Since then, however, their synagogue has been renovated at a cost of 60,000 Bahraini dinars ($160,000) and religious services are once again taking place openly.

Bahrain is not the only regional state that hosts a Jewish minority. About 1,000 Jews, all of them expatriates, are thought to live in the UAE. As trade ties with Israel are enhanced and Israeli tourists continue to flock to the UAE, that number is expected to increase, in parallel with economic, technological, cultural and security cooperation.

“I went to Dubai twice last year and I would like to go to Bahrain,” said Yossi Levy, 41, an Israeli who lives in Jerusalem. “We felt safe and so did all my friends. I’m interested in the heritage aspect — and the shopping is out of this world.”

Israeli tour groups have become more common in Dubai in the past two years. And until COVID-19 restrictions put the brakes on international travel, the city’s hotels were serving a growing Israeli clientele.

According to the Israel’s foreign ministry, about 200,000 Israelis have visited the UAE since relations between the two countries were normalized in 2020.

“There will be many more when COVID-19 finally disappears,” said Levy. “I hope we can develop the heritage links. It’s important.”

In most parts of the Arab world, however, Jewish populations are on the brink of vanishing. Iraq, once home to one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities, now hosts only four members of the faith. Last year, their patriarch, Dhafer Eliyahu, died.

Baghdad has one semi-functional synagogue but it does not have a rabbi and no services have been held there since before the 2003 US-led invasion. An estimated 220,000 Jews of Iraqi descent now live in Israel.

Both Turkey and Iran have small Jewish communities, while Lebanon, Syria and Egypt are thought to have only a few dozen Jewish residents between them. It is estimated that Yemeni Jews number in the low hundreds, at most.

Against this bleak backdrop, Bahrain is seen by many in the Jewish community as a particularly successful example of peaceful interfaith coexistence.

“The revival of the Jewish community in Bahrain and the development of one in the UAE is just beautiful,” Rabbi Abadie told Arab News. “It is nostalgic, after decades of the absence of Jewish presence.”

Abdullah Issa, a 39-year-old Muslim and Bahraini national, said his country has set a strong example that others should follow.

“Bahrain and other GCC countries have proven to the world that coexistence and the values of human fraternity as a whole can be achieved through will and resolve,” he told Arab News.

“Although changing perceptions and attitudes can be difficult, by the simple gesture of planting a tree both the government and people of Bahrain showcase that coexistence and demonstrate that human fraternity must be achieved.”

Source: Arab News

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Islamic State Fighters Overran Entire Army Outpost In Iraq’s Diyala, Killing 11 Soldiers

Shelly Kittleson

January 21, 2022

BAGHDAD — Islamic State fighters overran an Iraqi army outpost in the freezing early morning hours of Friday, killing 11 soldiers including their commanding officer.

By the end of day IS had taken responsibility for the attack, which happened northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province near the town of al-Udhaim (also known as al-Azim), which lies on the main road between Baghdad and Kirkuk.

All of the men at the post were killed.

Diyala province has long been one of Iraq’s most problematic in terms of IS activity, with areas disputed between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government resulting in security gaps and issues with intelligence sharing.

The Hamrin mountains, which have for decades served as a hiding place for various insurgent groups, run through the province from near the Iranian border and then cuts across the country, acting as a dividing line between Kirkuk and Salahuddin provinces on its westernmost edge.

Photos of the site where killings took place showed a flat expanse with no hills or groves of trees in sight. Streams of bright red blood can be seen on the ground near a lookout position with a low dirt embankment and cement bricks providing scant protection.

According to the website of the Arabic-language Iranian broadcaster al-Alam, the “terrorist attack was carried out by a cell consisting of nine members” of IS. The report added that the cell had come from areas of Kirkuk province including Riyadh and south of Hawija, “taking advantage of the Hamrin hills through Salahuddin” to conduct the attack.

The security forces had been trying to keep fires burning nearby the checkpoints to warm themselves and the bonfires and heavy fog appear to have helped IS carry out the attack.

A photo of the small building where most of the men had been sleeping shows a stack of blood-stained khaki flak jackets, messy stacks of paper and wooden ammunition crates on the rough concrete floor.

Diyala province has long been used by IS cells to conduct hit-and-run attacks and kidnappings. It was where the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a 2006 airstrike. Repeated operations by the regional operations command, which often finds large weapons stashes, have failed to entirely eliminate the cells.

In April 2020, a Diyala security officer had told Al-Monitor that IS had begun to conduct attacks during the day and “uses groves of trees between Kulajo and Jalawla to hide in” close to the Iranian border.

When reporting from Kalar in the Garmian administration north of Diyala in September 2020, this journalist was told by a security official who works in areas disputed by the central government in Baghdad and the KRG that kidnappings, especially in those areas, remain a major source of funding for terrorist groups in Iraq.

However, “If they are not Asayish, or Peshmerga or the Iraqi army, then they will demand a ransom. If they are part of the security forces then they kill them,” he said.

An Oct. 26 attack last year in Diyala had set off further sectarian killings and displacement. At least 11 Shiite members of a tribe were killed in the attack, and their fellow tribesmen went en masse to a nearby Sunni village, killing members of the community and burning down homes in revenge for what they claimed was “collusion” with IS. Many residents fled out of fear to neighboring provinces.

Udhaim lies further west, close to Salahuddin, on the other side of Hamrin Lake from Jalawla.

A police colonel was kidnapped along with two friends while they were on a fishing trip near Hamrin Lake on Dec. 13. IS published photos of his corpse two weeks after he was kidnapped.

South of Udhaim, the road to the capital runs close to Tarmiya, near where two members of the local Popular Mobilization Units were killed Jan. 18. An operation conducted the morning after in collaboration with the Iraqi National Security Service killed three IS fighters in a nearby area.

Since the international terrorist group lost its last territorial holdings in the country in late 2017, much of its activity has been concentrated in areas disputed between the central government and Iraqi Kurdistan in the northern part of the country.

The commanding officer killed on Friday morning was Lt. Dergham al-Kuraiti, whose social media accounts show him praising the Shiite-led PMU.

Source: Al Monitor

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Islamic State stages Syria prison break, kills 11 soldiers in Iraq

January 21, 2022

The Islamic State launched its deadliest attacks in years in both Iraq and Syria yesterday, killing 11 Iraqi security forces and attacking a prison holding jihadists in Kurdish-run northeast Syria. 

Wiped off the battlefield in 2019, IS demonstrated its ruthless endurance on Thursday in a pre-dawn attack on an Iraqi army barracks north of the city of Baqouba in Diyala province as soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division were asleep.

The attack just 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Baghdad is one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq by the jihadist groups in recent years.

Hours earlier and more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) away, IS fighters detonated a car bomb and skirmished with local Kurdish-led security forces near Sinaa Prison in Syria’s Hasakah province. Initial reports suggested at least some IS detainees escaped the prison’s walls.

Fighting continued overnight in Hasakah as Kurdish-led security forces sent anti-terror commandos and the US-led coalition provided air support. By Friday morning, at least 23 Islamic State militants were reported dead in the attack.

The attacks underscore the lurking risk of jihadist resurgence as the two countries slowly rebuild following a devastating five-year war against the Islamic State.

Sinaa is one of the largest facilities holding thousands of hardened IS jihadists and their families across northeast Syria. Tens of thousands of IS detainees, many of them deeply radicalized, have languished for nearly three years in makeshift jails and internment camps. There is no clear plan for trials or repatriation for most of them.

Kurdish-led administration officials in Syria have warned for years that the prisons and internment camps that hold tens of thousands of IS adherents in their region are not tenable, a warning echoed repeatedly by US military and diplomatic officials.

Source: Al Monitor

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Kurdish forces kill 16 ISIS members in Syria prison clashes: Monitor

21 January ,2022

Kurdish forces have killed 16 ISIS members in Syria prison clashes, according to a war monitor.

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Earlier reports said at least 18 Kurdish security forces, including guards, were killed in an ongoing ISIS attack on a Syrian prison housing thousands of suspected terrorists, a war monitor said Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, also said at least 16 ISIS members were killed in the clashes.

The fighting was triggered by an ISIS attack Thursday night on the Ghwayran prison, said the Britain-based Observatory.

“The number of those killed among Kurdish internal security forces and prison guards stands at 18,” the Observatory said, calling it the largest such attack since the ISIS group was declared defeated in 2019.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UAE has ‘legal’ right to self-defense against Houthi terrorist acts: Gargash

21 January ,2022

The UAE has a “legal and moral right” to defend itself against terrorist acts by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia, said Dr. Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, the official WAM news agency reported on Friday.

“The UAE has a legal and moral right to defend its lands, population and sovereignty, and will exercise this right to defend itself and prevent terrorist acts pursued by the Houthi group,” he was quoted as saying.

The comment was made during a call with Hans Grundberg, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Yemen, where the duo reviewed the nature of the Iran-backed Houthi attack in Abu Dhabi that led to a fuel tanker explosion killing three.

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The UAE official also noted the expansion of the Houthi militia over the past three years and their lack of engagement in a “political solution to the crisis,” as the piracy of the UAE-flagged ‘Rwabee’ ship adds another dimension to the issue.

The Iran-backed Houthis seized the ship on January 3 off the Red Sea port of Hodeida, along with its 11-member crew, and rejected a United Nations request to release the vessel.

Gargash called for a “strong and firm position” against the “terrorist acts by the Houthi militia” from the international community.

He stressed the fact that the group repeatedly violated international laws and agreements, primarily, the Stockholm Agreement, which Gargash says is evident in the port of Hodeida which is reportedly being used for “maritime piracy and war financing.”

The Iran-backed militia frequently target civilian areas and energy facilities in Saudi Arabia with explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles.

The Arab Coalition has been carrying out attacks against legitimate military Houthi targets in Yemen in recent months, warning civilians to not approach or gather around the targeted sites beforehand.

Source: Al Arabiya

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More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack

January 22, 2022

BEIRUT: Fighting raged for a third day Saturday between the Daesh group and Kurdish forces in Syria after Daesh attacked a prison housing militants, in violence that has claimed over 70 lives, a monitor said.

The assault on the Ghwayran prison in the northern city of Hasakah is one of Daesh’s most significant since its “caliphate” was declared defeated in Syria nearly three years ago.

“At least 28 members of the Kurdish security forces, five civilians and 45 members of Daesh have been killed” in the violence, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Daesh launched the attack on Thursday night against the prison housing some 3,500 suspected members of the militant group, including some of its leaders, said the Observatory.

Hundreds of militant inmates had since been detained and around 10 were believed to have escaped, said the Observatory, a Britain-based monitor that relies on sources inside war-torn Syria for its information.

“The exceptional situation continues in and around the prison,” said Farhad Shami, spokesman for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The fighting on Saturday morning was taking place north of the prison, he added.

The militant group said in a statement released by its Amaq news agency that its attack on the jail aimed to “free the prisoners.”

Daesh has carried out regular attacks against Kurdish and government targets in Syria since the rump of its once-sprawling proto-state was overrun on the banks of the Euphrates in March 2019.

Most of their guerrilla attacks have been against military targets and oil installations in remote areas, but the Hasakah prison break could mark a new phase in the group’s resurgence.

Source: Arab News

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2008 Gaza war's effects continue to resonate for Palestinian resistance: Expert

Salam AbuSharar 


GAZA, Palestine

Saad Wahidi still remembers the day in 2008 he was trying to rescue his family from Israeli fires by moving them to his uncle's home, where he believed it would be safer.

"The distance between the two houses is passed in two minutes, but at the time, it felt like a year," he told Anadolu Agency.

Wahidi recalled the first time he saw the white phosphorus, fired by Israeli artillery, descending from the sky around him and his family amid the clashes that came to be known as the 2008 Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

"It was very strange, like a small date of a fire that can never be put out, even by water. The fire was increasing," he said.

For Wahidi, the worst part of the war was when his family was separated amid Israeli ground invasion of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, storming the region from multiple points.

"Then, we lived without electricity and heating. The army arrested all the men under 40 years old in those cold days and the fire was everywhere around us. Those were unforgettable days," he said.

Wahidi remembered those days, comparing them with later wars that took place in Gaza and how resistance groups improved their methods against the Israeli troops.

"In the war of 2008, dozens of rockets were fired. But in the later wars, hundreds were launched on each rocket burst, and this improvement is the only thing that helped us forget the horrible days we lived," he said.

On Dec. 27, 2008, Israel carried out a large onslaught on Gaza over three weeks, named by Israel as "Operation Cast Lead" during which 1,436 Palestinians, including 410 children and 104 women, were killed. In response to the Israeli onslaught, 13 Israelis were killed in the Palestinian attacks.

Coming after two years of an Israeli blockade on Gaza to put pressure on Hamas after it won the legislative elections in 2006, the 2008 Gaza war was followed by several large-scale attacks by Tel Aviv on the sea-side enclave.

"It was an attempt to eradicate the Palestinian military resistance in Gaza, but it proved counterproductive. The military resistance learned its lessons and improved its tools. This reflected on the later three wars," said Palestinian political analyst Wisam Afifah.

ِAccording to Afifah, the Israeli army deliberately strategized to use shock, terror, surprise, and fire to undermine the region's will to resist, as well as to pressure it to adopt a political situation that was favorable to Israel.

"Israel wanted to downsize the force of Hamas, and there was a regional support for it but the effects of that war led to surge in the force of the resistance, not only military, but politically, as well, in the region," he added.

Afifah emphasized that the 2008 war was the origin of all subsequent developments that affected the political and armed strength of Hamas, as well as its relations with countries that have played critical roles to support the Palestinians, like Iran, Qatar, and Turkiye.

"Today, as a major faction on the military resistance, Hamas is attacking the enemy, not receiving the attacks. This is one of the most important transformations of the balance of power," he argued.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Iran Rejects UNGA’s Resolution on Holocaust


“As our country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York has in an explanatory statement officially proclaimed the Islamic Republic of Iran’s stance on the Holocaust resolution, it is reiterated that the racist Zionist regime abuses international bodies to cover up its daily crimes against Palestinians. This move by the Zionist regime is another attempt at abusing international mechanisms to cover up the regime’s daily crimes, which unfortunately have the unconditional support of the West these days,” the statement said.

“As is clear to all, the atrocities during the Second World War took place with the two motives of racism and expansionism, two satanic traits inherited and represented now by the Zionist regime. The regime’s racist approach has been affirmed in numerous international documents, and in spite of the solid will of the international community, Israel remains the sole racist regime with an expansionist ideology.”

It noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran has considered genocide an act to be condemned and unjustifiable under any circumstances, and that is the reason why, during the Second World War, Iran hosted people displaced by the conflict in some European countries, adding, “This is while the faux Zionist regime has constantly attempted to exploit victims of the World War II and Jews as justification for its egregious and aggressive acts.”

“This regime and its leaders have over the past seven decades committed all acts of criminality and specially crimes against humanity against the people of Palestine and the peoples of regional countries by violating international law. Genocide, assassinations, ethnic cleansing, the demolition of houses, and siege are some of the crimes that the Zionist regime is constantly in the process of committing.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran once again stresses that historical research is needed to avoid the repetition of historical catastrophes, which should be conducted without political prejudgments; and thus, such constrictive approaches are not acceptable, and such a resolution is not deemed based on consensus, and is thus null,” the statement concluded.

The UN General Assembly on Thursday agreed on a definition of denial of the Holocaust and urged social media companies "to take active measures" to combat the s-called anti-Semitism.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran Condemns Deadly Blast in Pakistan


Khatibzadeh expressed sympathy with those affected by the terrotist attack, as well as the families of the victims and the friendly government of Pakistan.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman slammed the terrorist attack that killed and wounded a number of Pakistani citizens in the city of Lahore.

"Such acts of terror once again highlight the need to fight the terrorist groups to restore peace and stability to the region," he added.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran nuclear talks ‘on right track': EU official

Agnes Szucs 


Negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal are “on right track” and a final deal might be reached soon, an EU official said on Friday.

“We are on the right track for a final agreement,” a senior EU official said about the negotiations in the Austrian capital Vienna to bring the US and Iran back to the 2015 nuclear deal.

The official pointed out that the slow pace of negotiations may put a “good solution” in danger.

“Still, I think we will have an agreement (…) sooner than later,” the official added.

Last week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also said he hoped “to be able to inform the public about the final decision within weeks.”

The EU diplomacy has made significant efforts to get Iran and the US back to the negotiation table since the beginning of the conflict between the two countries.

Since last month, representatives from Iran, China, Russia, France, the UK, and Germany under EU chairmanship have held several rounds of discussions.

The Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015 by Iran, the US, China, Russia, France, the UK, Germany, and the EU.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Iran embassy responds to Pakistani newspaper's false claims about developments in Yemen, UAE

January 22, 2022

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Pakistan responding to the baseless accusations against Tehran by a Pakistani newspaper in its editorial said constructive approach of Iran is based on good neighborliness to establish a ceasefire, resolve disputes among the countries involved in the Yemen crisis.

Press section of Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Islamabad in a statement on Friday said the Editorial published in your esteemed daily newspaper "Dawn" under the headline "UAE targeted" on Wednesday, January 19, 2022; put up negative and baseless accusations and allegations against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“While reiterating its respect for the newspaper, the Embassy strongly denied the allegations, noting that making such claims would have a detrimental effect on public opinion towards the relations between the two countries and to over shadow the positive dimensions of relations and cooperation between the two governments for peace and durable stability in the region,” said the statement.

It added by subverting the truth, such viewpoints ignores the respect of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors, including the UAE, and the constructive approach of the Islamic Republic of Iran based on good neighborliness to establish a ceasefire, resolve disputes among the countries involved in the Yemen crisis and to end this human crisis. Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is making great efforts to maintain peace and security in the region.

The statement said the Dawn Editorial accused Iran of supporting the attackers in the UAE without presenting any reason or document. Moreover, although the United Nations has confirmed that Iran was not involved in the attack on Aramco oil installations, it is unclear on what basis and evidence the newspaper made the accusation.

“Regarding the published material and the baseless accusation of Iran's possible role in the attacks on Aramco oil installations, while explicitly and seriously denying this accusation, the esteemed editor is requested to take note of the UN report on this incident, which states: The United Nations has not found any evidence that the Islamic Republic of Iran was involved in this incident and rejects such a claim,” it noted.

It said the U.N. sent a team of weapons experts to Saudi Arabia in September and November to analyze missile and drone debris. During the trip, the Saudis told the U.N. that 18 unmanned vehicles were used in the attack on Abqaiq and four cruise missiles were used in the attack on the Khurais oil facility. Three additional cruise missiles fell short of their target. “At this time, [the U.N. secretariat] is unable to independently corroborate that the cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles used in those attacks were of Iranian origin and were transferred in a manner inconsistent with the Iran nuclear deal, according to the report”.

Source: ABNA24

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Over 100 killed in airstrike on Yemen prison

January 22, 2022

SAADA: More than 100 people were killed or wounded in an air strike on a prison and at least three children died in a separate bombardment as Yemen’s long-running conflict suffered a dramatic escalation of violence on Friday.

The Houthi rebels released gruesome video footage showing bodies in the rubble and mangled corpses from the prison attack, which levelled buildings at the jail in their northern heartland of Saada.

Further south in the port town of Hodeida, the children died when air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit a telecommunications facility as they played nearby, Save the Children said. Yemen also suffered a country-wide internet blackout.

“The children were reportedly playing on a nearby football field when missiles struck,” Save the Children said.

The attacks come five days after the Houthis took the seven-year war into a new phase by claiming a drone-and-missile attack on Abu Dhabi that killed three people.

The United Arab Emirates, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels, threatened reprisals.

Aid workers said hospitals were overwhelmed in Saada after the prison attack, with one receiving 200 wounded, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Basheer Omar, spokesperson for the International Committee for the Red Cross in Yemen, told AFP: “There are more than 100 killed and injured... the numbers are going up.”

Ahmed Mahat, Doctors Without Borders’ head of mission in Yemen, said: “There are many bodies still at the scene of the air strike, many missing people. It is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of violence.”

The United Nations Security Council is due to meet at 1500 GMT on Friday in an emergency session on the Houthi attacks against the UAE, at the request of the Gulf state, which has occupied one of the non-permanent seats on the council since January 1.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the rebels since 2015, in an intractable conflict that has displaced millions of Yemenis and left them on the brink of famine.

Source: Dawn

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Russian Diplomat Underlines “Very Useful” Meeting with Iran’s Top Negotiator in Vienna


Ulyanov in a post on his Twitter account on Friday said that he held a "very useful" meeting with Baqeri Kani.

“A very useful meeting with the Head of the delegation of Iran at the Vienna Talks Mr. A.Bagheri Kani,” he wrote.

"Close coordination between our two delegations is one of prerequisites of successful continuation and completion of negotiations on restoration of JCPOA and sanctions lifting," Ulyanov added.

Also in a Friday meeting between Baqeri Kani and Enrique Mora, the European Union’s deputy foreign policy chief and head of the JCPOA Joint Commission, the sides discussed various issues pertaining to the Vienna negotiations.

In an earlier tweet, Ulyanov said Russia rejects “artificial deadlines” set by Western parties after their meeting with the US.

“The Western colleagues, as they do it publicly, underlined the need to finalize negotiations ASAP. Russia shares the sense of urgency but is against artificial deadlines,” Ulyanov wrote.

On January 17, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian once again reaffirmed that Tehran has no intention to waste time or derail the sanctions removal talks in Vienna, criticizing the West, particularly the US, for failing to present any innovative proposals in the negotiations. 

“China and Russia support Iran’s constructive plan, but Western countries, including the United States, have so far offered no innovative proposals in the talks,” he added, emphasizing that “if the parties can resume their commitments under the Iran deal, Iran will also return to commitments based on the agreement”.

Iran and the other participants to the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany), have been holding talks in the Austrian capital since April last year with the aim of reviving the deal by bringing the US into full compliance.

The US left the JCPOA in May 2018 under former President Donald Trump. The Vienna talks began on a promise by Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, to rejoin the deal and repeal the so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran. Biden, however, has so far failed to undo Trump’s own undoing of Barack Obama’s Iran policy, which led to the JCPOA in June 2015.

In response to the US withdrawal, Iran began to reduce its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA in 2019. Tehran maintains that it will reverse its nuclear measures once the US – the main culprit behind the failure of the JCPOA – removes its sanctions and abides by all of its contractual commitments in practice.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran holding talks with Russia to expand its sole nuclear power plant

21 January 2022

TEHRAN — Iran is in talks with Russia over the construction of two new units at its sole nuclear power plant, the Islamic republic’s atomic energy agency said on Friday.

“Negotiations are underway between Tehran and Moscow to construct the second and third units of the Bushehr power plant,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

The move was “in accordance with the Islamic republic’s plans to produce at least 10,000 megawatts of electricity using nuclear energy,” he said, quoted on the government’s website.

The announcement coincides with ongoing talks in Vienna seeking to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, including Russia.

The parties to the accord that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program saw it as the best way to stop Tehran from building a nuclear bomb -– a goal it has always denied.

The United States unilaterally withdrew from the deal and began imposing sanctions on Iran in 2018 under then-US president Donald Trump, prompting Tehran to begin walking back on its commitments under the agreement.

Moscow built the Bushehr plant, equipped with a 1,000 MW reactor, delivering it in September 2013, after years of delay.

Kamalvandi said the project was being implemented “without delay,” despite payments being behind schedule.

The announcement immediately follows a two-day visit by ultraconservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Moscow, during which he said Tehran has “no limits for expanding ties with Russia.”

Source: Times Of Israel

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How a Muslim dating app made UK man’s search for a wife go viral

David Batty

21 Jan 2022

When giant purple billboards advertising Muhammad Malik’s search to find a wife appeared in London and Birmingham in early January, the 29-year-old financial consultant became an overnight celebrity.

His quest attracted widespread coverage and messages of support on social media, which Malik said led to 5,000 responses via an accompanying website,

Then last week the Muslim dating app Muzmatch revealed it was behind the stunt, with Malik’s website rebranded, directing hopeful suitors to their site.

The revelation prompted mixed reactions on social media, with one user praising the viral marketing campaign, another criticising it as unethical and a third saying it was leaning into Islamophobic tropes as a result of its slogan “save me from an arranged marriage”.

Malik, a startup consultant at Nationwide building society, said Muzmatch’s marketing team pitched the campaign to him last autumn. He has previously appeared in adverts and promotional videos for the app, including one called “Farts Break Hearts” where he discusses his dating red flags, which include “that there’s a double life going on”.

He denied that the campaign was disingenuous. “This was an idea that was presented to me and I thought: it’s genuine, I’m 100% looking. But these guys just absolutely took it on steroids. I’ve always been a bit tongue in cheek. A bit quirky. I’ve done a bit of standup comedy. So I think it was quite in line with that.”

Shahzad Younas, the chief executive of Muzmatch, said: “Malik was very keen to stress that there’s nothing wrong with an arranged marriage. For a lot of people it works. The whole premise touches more upon how young Muslims are increasingly becoming empowered through Muzmatch to find their own partner, but still do it in a way that’s respectful of their faith, their traditions, their culture.”

The viral campaign comes as Muzmatch, which has 5 million users worldwide, is defending itself from a claim of alleged trademark infringement brought by in the high court. Muzmatch was accused of “piggybacking on established dating brands” to improve its success. The court heard that Match brought the legal action after four failed attempts to buy Muzmatch.

Hussein Kesvani, the author of Follow Me, Akhi, which explores how British Muslims interact with the online world, compared Malik to the TikTok trainspotter Francis Bourgeois, who was revealed to be a student called Luke Holland, represented by a modelling agency. He was subsequently signed up to feature in an ad campaign for Gucci and the North Face.

“The aim is to get people really invested in a character that you’re not quite sure is ‘real’,” said Kesvani. “Muzmatch might argue that ‘Malik’ is more a representation of the kind of clientele of the platform. Which, in this case, seems to be middle-class, fashionable, metropolitan young Muslims for whom faith is a part of their identity and aesthetic.

“To me, this represents what MuzMatch is trying to assert itself as, now that it finds itself being the most successful ‘halal dating’ app … It was always going to lead to some identity crisis as it expanded.”

Malik, who lives in London with his parents, said he considered himself “more on the orthodox, conservative side” of Islam. “When going on dates, it’s always a chaperone date. From a spiritual angle, the purity is intact in terms of there’s no ulterior motives. What you’re focused on is marriage.”

Source: The Guardian

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UN Security Council slams Houthi’s ‘heinous terrorist attacks’ on Abu Dhabi

21 January ,2022

The UN Security Council blasted the Iran-backed Houthis on Friday for the “heinous terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi.”

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, 17 January, as well as in other sites in Saudi Arabia,” a statement from the Security Council said.

The meeting, requested by the UAE, was held behind closed doors.

The Security Council expressed its condolences to the families of the victims killed from India and Pakistan, and wished a speedy and full recovery for those injured.

The members also reaffirmed that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh said she had presented the Security Council with details of the origins of the Houthi attack.

She said it showed “clearly that Sanaa, amongst other places of origin, were the place that these cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and drones were launched indiscriminately at my country in order to target the maximum number of civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

The UAE diplomat added: “The attack on the UAE is an attack that is a violation against all international norms. It is a violation of international law.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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UK’s Prince William to visit UAE next month

21 January ,2022

Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince William will visit the United Arab Emirates next month, his office Kensington Palace announced on Friday, as Britain seeks to step up its relationship with the Gulf state.

William, the Duke of Cambridge, will visit Dubai on Feb. 10, with his trip coming as the UAE marks its 50th year and coinciding with UK National Day being held at Expo 2020 Dubai, his office said.

“The bond between the UK and the UAE is deep and strong and Prince William’s visit will highlight and build upon these links as he has the opportunity to engage with young Emiratis, leaders from government and committed conservationists,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.

Britain has been looking to the Gulf countries for trade deals as part of its post-Brexit strategy to build new ties around the world.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Concerned over 'grave situation' in Afghanistan, Norway set to host talks with Taliban

Merve Aydogan  

21.01.2022Concerned about the "grave" humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, Norway is hosting Taliban representatives for talks in Oslo on Jan. 23-25, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

In a statement, it said the Taliban, who have taken power in Afghanistan, have been invited for "meetings with the Norwegian authorities and representatives of the international community, as well as with other Afghans from a range of fields within civil society."

Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said her country is "extremely concerned about the grave situation in Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing a full-blown humanitarian disaster."

"In order to be able to help the civilian population in Afghanistan, it is essential that both the international community and Afghans from various parts of society engage in dialogue with the Taliban," she added.

She said Norway will convey its expectations from Afghanistan's interim government, particularly on "girls’ education and human rights, such as women’s right to participate in society."

The minister said the meetings "do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban" but "we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster."

Afghan women leaders, journalists, and individuals working to safeguard human rights and address humanitarian, economic, social and political issues will join the meetings.

"One of the key principles underpinning Norway’s peace and reconciliation efforts is the willingness to talk to all parties. Norway has been in dialogue with the Taliban for many years," the readout said.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a Taliban spokesman, said a senior delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Muttaqi will leave for the Norwegian capital on Saturday.

Taliban regained power in August 2021 amid the withdrawal of foreign forces and collapse of the US-backed government. The interim administration, however, has yet to gain international recognition.

While international funding remains largely suspended, billions of dollars of the country’s assets abroad, mostly in the US, are also frozen.

According to the UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA, half the population now faces acute hunger, over nine million people have been displaced and millions of children are out of school.

The UN and its partners have launched a $4.4 billion funding appeal to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan in 2022.

"Humanitarian assistance, while essential, is not enough. We must prevent a collapse in basic services such as health and education. We must support the livelihoods of families and communities. This could reduce the number of people needing humanitarian assistance," Huitfeldt said.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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'Turkiye-EU economic relations a very important cornerstone in ties'

Merve Gül Aydoğan Ağlarcı


The EU is the largest trading partner of Turkiye," the bloc's top diplomat in Ankara noted Thursday, saying economic relations with the country are a very important cornerstone in ties.

Speaking to a group of reporters from the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Turkiye, Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut hailed economic ties with Ankara as he expressed hope to continue to have "a conducive environment" to maintain cooperation with aims to expand on it.

Citing the initial records for last year, Meyer-Landrut said Turkiye's exports to the EU have surpassed €70 billion ($79 billion), making the country the bloc's "largest trading partner."

Bilateral trade in the last 25 years has more than quadrupled, the head of the EU Delegation to Turkiye said, noting that "high-level dialogues" on a range of issues are to continue in the year to come.

On the issue of updating the Customs Union between Turkiye and the EU, Ambassador Meyer-Landrut said: "We all agree that the Customs Union and its potential modernization has an important potential for the EU-Turkey economic and trade relations."

Technical talks on the issue of the Customs Union are ongoing, EU envoy further said, adding that Turkiye and the bloc are "now working on the elements of a positive agenda," including "a number of things which were possible, on which engagement is increasing, where cooperation is growing."

On bilateral relations between Turkiye and the EU, Meyer-Landrut recalled the EU and European Council's "strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the eastern Mediterranean and the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey."

He also cited "the resumption of political high-level meetings," as well as "high-level dialogues on climate migration, security and public health" during the past year.

"We then have seen an additional decision by the EU to allocate an additional €3 billion to support refugees and host communities in Turkey for the next years. ... this additional three billion ... makes it three plus three plus three. So, we are close to 10 (billion euros)," he added.

He also said the first billion committed by the end of 2021 covers areas such "as basic needs, education, and migration and border management, which was an issue ... particularly asked for by the Turkish authorities."

Turkey is the largest host country for Syrian refugees, providing protection to nearly 4 million people who fled the civil war.

In the area of health, the EU envoy said there were "important results" as he cited the "mutual recognition of the COVID digital certificate from Turkey in the EU system."

Defining the mutual recognition as "an important step also in terms of allowing trade and people movements," Meyer-Landrut said Turkiye was "one of the first countries with such mutual recognition."

"And we have also been working together on the strengthening of Turkey's laboratory network, linking it to early warning systems."

"This is important in terms of spotting potential pandemics, allows swift responses and cooperation on this part of the fight against pandemics," he added.

Meyer-Landrut said the EU recognizes and supports "the diplomatic efforts of Turkey as an important NATO ally."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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