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Islamic World News ( 13 Jan 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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When In Power, We Will Rewrite Constitution With No Place For Muslims: Pravin Togadia, President International Hindu Parishad

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 January 2023


Hindutva leader and president of Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad Pravin Togadia (File Photo)


• Indian Muslims Portrayed As Extremists At Kozhikode State School Youth Festival, Invites Criticism

• Military Intervention In Pakistan Politics Has Been A Long-Standing Tradition: Policy Research Group

• OIC to Send ‘Team of Ulama’ to Afghanistan for Dialogues on Women’s Education, Employment

• World Muslim Communities Council Chairman Says There Is No Anti-Islam Mentality In Chinese Culture



• Facing threats over Prophet row, Nupur Sharma gets gun licence

• Jammu and Kashmir terror attack: Amit Shah to visit Rajouri today to meet families of victims

• Taliban’s Afghan-entry hits Indian companies projects



• Pakistan Says Looking Into Case Of Indian Woman's Allegations; Expresses 'Zero Tolerance' For Misbehaviour

• Symbiotic Pak-US ties contributing towards regional, global peace: Envoy

• UAE to loan $1 billion, roll over another $2 billion to Pakistan

• Germany to provide Euro 28 million support to Pakistan

• SFD signs strategic agreement with Pakistan to finance oil derivatives worth $1b

• Amid wheat crisis, Pakistani farmers urge govt to impose 'agricultural emergency'


South Asia

• Afghanistan: Erdogan calls Taliban ban on women's education 'un-Islamic'

• Human Rights Watch highlights dire situation of Rohingya in Bangladesh

• Afghanistan Provides Promising Investment Opportunities for Iran

• Pakistani, Afghan Foreign Ministers Make Telephone Conversation

• Talibans unveil their first ‘indigenously built’ supercar, the Mada 9


Southeast Asia

• Review laws related to alcohol promotion, says Penang mufti

• Zahid: Umno did not make secret pact with Pakatan on formation of unity govt

• Indonesia President Regrets Country's Bloody Past, Apologises for Human Rights Abuses

• After decades, Indonesia’s president acknowledges state’s ‘gross rights violations’



• British Muslim Minister Performs Prayer At Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

• Britain is actively considering proscribing Iran’s IRGC: Minister

• EU urged by over 100 MEPs to strengthen response to Iran’s crackdown on protests

• UN Extends Tribunal Investigating Assassination Of Lebanon’s Rafik Hariri

• ‘Human rights are not politics’: Australia defend scrapping Afghanistan cricket series

• Türkiye rescues 27 irregular migrants after illegal Greek pushback

• PKK terror group supporters in Swedish capital continue provocation against Türkiye

• Sweden says NATO membership talks with Türkiye 'going well'

• Iranian terrorists in possible ‘dry run’ in Heathrow uranium scare: Expert



• Israel Says Its Policy On Iran Allows To Expand Ties With Arab Countries

• International Community’s Silence Perpetuates Israeli Violence Toward Palestinians, Experts Say

• Israeli army kills 3 Palestinians during West Bank raids

• Iran summons Sweden’s ambassador over ‘interventionist statements’ by EU

• Turkey using courts, laws to target dissent ahead of votes: Human Rights Watch

• Former top Israeli legal officials oppose judicial overhaul

• Iran-France tensions escalate over Charlie Hebdo cartoons row

• Israel faces new protests over Netanyahu ‘get out of jail’ card

• Israeli forces arrest 20 Palestinians during raids in West Bank, al-Quds



• Somalia’s President Urges People To Flush Out Al-Shabaab ‘Bedbugs’

• Nine killed in mosque attack in Burkina Faso

• Bombings kill 14 soldiers in central Mali

• French, German foreign ministers hail Ethiopia's peace accord

• Türkiye, Rwanda agree to boost cooperation on security, defence industry

• West exasperated at Libyan politicians’ failure to plan elections


North America

• New House Homeland Security Committee Chair Has History Of Anti-Muslim Comments

• Connecticut Man Pleads Guilty To Trying To Join ISIS: 'I Need Islamic Law'

• US extends visa interview exemption for Pakistani citizens

• ‘Daesh Beatle’ Alexanda Kotey no longer in US prison, records reveal

• US says monitoring Iran’s plans to send warships to Panama Canal

• US must be held accountable for Kabul drone strike that killed civilians: Activist


Arab World

• Jeddah Airport Starts Free Shuttle Service To Makkah Grand Mosque

• Improved Syria-Turkey ties should seek end to ‘occupation’: Assad

• Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar gain the cultural upper hand with heavy investments in the creative economy

• Families of Beirut port blast victims stage mass sit-in

• Syria’s Assad ties rapprochement with Turkey to 'end of occupation'

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



When In Power, We Will Rewrite Constitution With No Place For Muslims: Pravin Togadia, President International Hindu Parishad


Hindutva leader and president of Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad Pravin Togadia (File Photo)


12th January 2023

President of Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad Pravin Togadia said that there is a need to rewrite the Constitution of India keeping only the interests of Hindus in mind.

In a video that surfaced online on Thursday, he was seen talking at a public gathering in Uttarakhand where he categorically said that Muslims should not be included in the ‘new Constitution’.

“When we come to power, we will change the Constitution of India and ensure that no Muslim is voted to a government post,” he said.

He further stressed the need for a population control law.

“Those who have more than two children will not be provided subsidized grains. No free treatment in government hospitals or education in schools. No loans from government banks, no right to apply for a government job as well as no right to vote at all,” Togadia said.

According to him, these ‘measures’ would ensure a drastic decrease in population in other minority communities, especially Muslims.

Later while speaking to reporters, Togadia said that they have started a programme called ‘Veer Hindu Vijetha Hindu’ which will include the distribution of Trishuls to nearly two crore young Hindu men and women for their safety.

“The youth will undergo exercise, play sports such as kho-kho cricket, kabaddi, badminton, worship weapons during Vijayadashami festival as well as be a part of the state police force in order to save Hindu Dharam,” he said.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Indian Muslims Portrayed As Extremists At Kozhikode State School Youth Festival, Invites Criticism


Image via OnManorama


Jan 13, 2023

The row over a cultural programme organised recently during the inauguration of the state school youth festival here has snowballed into a political controversy. The welcome song of the youth festival held in Kozhikode in which a community was allegedly portrayed as extremists invited criticism. Following this, the state government ordered a probe into the controversy. Criticising Kerala Government over this, Union Minister V Muraleedharan told ANI that leaders of CPI(M) and Muslim League are trying to equate the Indian Muslim with Taliban and IS terrorists. “Indian Muslims don’t roam around with guns and turbans. It is the ISIS, Taliban people who do that. I’m very much surprised that some of the leaders of CPM and Muslim League tried to equate Pakistani terrorists with Indian Muslim. I want to request to these leaders to not equate every Indian Muslim with the Taliban and Pakistani terrorists,” he told ANI.

Source: Times Of India

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Military Intervention In Pakistan Politics Has Been A Long-Standing Tradition: Policy Research Group


Representative Image


12 January, 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], January 12 (ANI): The military’s intervention in Pakistan’s politics has been a long-standing tradition, starting from the former army chief General Pervez Musharraf upto the current general Asim Munir. The Pakistan army has had an impact on the rise and fall of political leaders, parties and ultimately the economy, according to a Policy Research Group (POREG) report.

In actual sense, General Qamar Javed Bajwa was doing what had been the trend passed on from his predecessors, aiming to bring down political parties like Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N), replacing them with smaller parties that could be easily controlled, according to the POREG report.

Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister Imran Khan initially became the instrument of army rule. A man with close to no political experience to lead a hybrid regime. Through this Bajwa became the de facto premier and positioned his confidantes across the political and economic spectrum, persuading Imran Khan to accept publicly that they were all on the same page, the POREG report claimed.

And Bajwa also cleared his way to remain in power and as a result, the media of Pakistan was silenced along with the civil rights activists of the country. And it was this time that Pakistan’s economy dipped, according to the POREG report.

The POREG report further claims that soon Khan turned the situation around challenging Bajwa on key decisions, playing behind his back, courting his Generals and whipping up a poisonous campaign against the army. As a result, Khan was quickly removed from the prime minister’s seat.

However, Khan’s removal from power proved to be more harmful as he quickly whipped up an anti-army tirade across the country, creating treacherous divisions within people and the military. The army leadership was withered by the campaign, forcing the ISI chief to come out in public to threaten distractors into silence, although it was in vain, As reported by the POREG report.

Musharraf originally conceived started this political intervention in regime change as he was long sceptical of PPP leader Benazir Bhutto and had supported PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif. The POREG report further claims when Sharif chose to strike an independent course of action, especially regarding Pakistan’s relationship with India, Musharraf was quick to remove him and initiated the grand plan to paralyse the two main political parties.

Ultimately Musharaf had to flee the country because of public outrage and his place was taken by General Ashfaq Kayani and General Raheel Sharif put into place. And at the end it was General Sharif and his Rawalpindi Corps Commander, Lt. General Bajwa, who ultimately brought Khan into power.(ANI)

Source: The Print

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OIC to Send ‘Team of Ulama’ to Afghanistan for Dialogues on Women’s Education, Employment


Photo: Khaama Press


By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 13, 2023

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) plans to send a delegation to Afghanistan to discuss women’s rights to education and employment with the Taliban interim government.

The decision was taken at an extraordinary meeting of the OIC in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, initiated by Türkiye – aimed at highlighting the concerns over the recent restrictions imposed by the Taliban government barring women from university education and employment at non-governmental aid organizations.

OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha told the meeting that the delegation would focus on the Taliban government’s measures against the basic rights of education, employment, and social justice of Afghan girls and women as these rights constitute a top priority for the Islamic world.

The recent move prompted condemnations on national and international levels and sparked protests by female university students and women activists in different parts of the country. Some foreign governments including the U.S., UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, Norway, Pakistan, and Iran as well as, European Union, United Nations, OIC, and other aid international aid organizations strongly criticized the act and called on the Taliban’ caretaker government to reverse the ban and allow Afghan girls and women to get an education and continue working with NGOs.

However, nothing has changed for the better so far, with the Islamic Emirate authorities emphasizing creating a pure Islamic environment for women before they get back to public life, (going to school, university and work).

This is the second time the OIC is sending the “Team of Ulama” to Afghanistan for dialogue on the decision to deprive women of education and employment. This comes as the Taliban regime is under immense pressure from the international community and partners of Afghanistan for their latest decisions, which alienate women and girls from public life.

Source: Khaama Press

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World Muslim Communities Council Chairman Says There Is No Anti-Islam Mentality In Chinese Culture


Islam experts and scholars in Kashgar Old City, Kashgar City, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, January 10, 2023. /Chinese Foreign Ministry



In response to Western accusations about China's Xinjiang policies, Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, chairman of the World Muslim Communities Council (TWMCC), said China doesn't have an anti-Islam tradition or mentality and Xinjiang's rapid development proves the region is moving in the right direction.

"In Chinese culture and tradition, there has never been such an idea against Muslims or Islamic civilization," Ali said in an interview with Xinhua. "I would like to stress that the Chinese civilization and the Islamic civilization have a long history and have always maintained friendly cooperation and close ties."

Ali made the remarks during his visit from January 8 to 11 to northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He was joined by over 30 world-renowned Islam experts and scholars from 14 countries at the invitation of the local Xinjiang government.

Upon their arrival, they visited multiple sites covering the region's historical, cultural and religious work, where they spoke highly of China's anti-terrorism efforts, preservation of intangible cultural heritage Twelve Muqam, and solid outcomes under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Ali also praised China's anti-terrorism and deradicalization policies for bringing about peace and harmony in the region, saying Xinjiang has not seen a single violent terrorist activity and has eliminated absolute poverty in the past few years, which is a "remarkable achievement" and brought concrete benefits to the local people.

From 1990 to the end of 2016, separatist, terrorist and extremist forces plotted and carried out thousands of violent and terrorist activities in Xinjiang, killing a large number of innocent people.

Ali, who also visited Xinjiang in 2019, has a deep memory of the region's struggle against terrorism and extremism. He believes that compared with 2019, Xinjiang's social development has reached a new level, and relations among ethnic groups have become more harmonious.

"Xinjiang is going in the right direction," Ali said. He condemned terrorists in Syria, Egypt and other regions, criticizing extremists for killing innocent people, and disrespecting national laws and human rights, adding that China did what it should to protect its national interests and people's lives.

He suggested China further promote Xinjiang's positive image internationally in order to clean up the problem, adding the experts' visit was to help the Islamic world have a clearer understanding of Xinjiang on the ground.

"The world needs a secure, stable and prosperous China, especially for developing countries. Out of the brotherly friendship between China and the Islamic world, we will actively convey China's image of development, progress and prosperity and spread a fair voice to the outside world," Ali said.

He called on the world to put aside political and ideological differences and respect each other's differences, saying "you must have the courage to say what you believe out loud, regardless of what others say."

Source: CGTN

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 Facing threats over Prophet row, Nupur Sharma gets gun licence

Jan 13, 2023

NEW DELHI: Former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma has been granted a weapon licence for self-defence, sources have said. She has been facing extreme threats from Islamic radicals for her remarks against Prophet.

After conducting a security audit, the special cell and an intelligence agency had suggested several measures. Accordingly, she is learnt to have shifted to an undisclosed location and has been provided security. She subsequently applied for a hand gun (short-range weapon) licence and was recently granted one by the licensing unit of Delhi Police, an official said.

Last year, global terrorist outfit al Qaida exhorted Indian Muslims to bring Nupur to “justice” for alleged blasphemy, aggravating the worry of intelligence agencies about the safety of the ex-BJP spokesperson, who was already facing jihadi threats. Qaida had issued a video statement through its mouthpiece claiming its members were ready to blow themselves up in Delhi, Gujarat, UP and Mumbai.

Source: Times Of India

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Jammu and Kashmir terror attack: Amit Shah to visit Rajouri today to meet families of victims

Jan 13, 2023

NEW DELHI: Union home minister Amit Shah will visit Rajouri on Friday to meet the families of victims of the twin attacks in the district that had claimed the lives of seven civilians at the start of this year. He will also chair a high-level security review at Jammu later in the day, according to sources.

Shah’s day-long tour to J&K will begin with Dangri village where he will visit the homes of four civilians gunned down by terrorists on January 1 and three others killed in an IED blast the next day. He will be accompanied by J&K LG Manoj Sinha.

The home minister will later reach Jammu to take stock of the security situation in J&K, with a focus on the Jammu division, and chalk out future strategies with the Army, para-military, J&K police and intelligence brass.

Sources said the investigation of who carried out the attack is underway, though Lashker e Taiba — which had been trying to establish a foothold in the Pir Panjal region, as per a disclosure made by LeT operative Talib Hussain arrested in mid-2022 — has emerged as an initial suspect. Around 50 persons have been detained or arrested so far as part of the probe.

Shah’s visit to Rajouri comes even as the J&K administration and police have initiated a slew of measures since the twin attacks, to scale up security of the Hindu-dominated areas in the district. These include sending an additional 1,800 CRPF personnel to set up and man nakas and pickets and also assist the J&K police in intelligence-based cordon and search operations. Also, the Army has been patrolling the villages of Rajouri and the border grid has been strengthened.

Source: Times Of India

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Taliban’s Afghan-entry hits Indian companies projects

Jan 13, 2023

NEW DELHI: Taliban invasion of Afghanistan jeopardised the infrastructure projects of Indian companies there, but worse the Afghanistan International Bank is attempting to surreptitiously cash their bank guarantees even when they have invoked force majeure clauses despite being not fully paid for the work already carried out.

KEC International, a flagship global infrastructure company of RPG group, revealed this in its petition filed in the Supreme Court. Its counsel, A M Singhvi and Bansuri Swaraj, told the SC that following the bloody invasion and severe political situation in 2021, KEC had invoked ‘force majeure’ clause to express impossibility in completing five infrastructural projects it had undertaken in Afghanistan.

Seeking urgent hearing before a bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha, Singhvi said that while the company has not been paid up for the work done, Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) is attempting to invoke the bank guarantees given on behalf of the company by the Indian banks — Bank of India and Axis bank — for the project work cumulatively amounting to Rs 300 crore.

Source: Times Of India

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Pakistan says looking into case of Indian woman's allegations; expresses 'zero tolerance' for misbehaviour

Jan 12, 2023

ISLAMABAD: While expressing "zero tolerance" for misbehaviour at its foreign missions, Pakistan said on Thursday that it was looking into the case of a woman visitor who has alleged indecent behaviour by some senior staff members of the country's high commission in New Delhi.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement in response to the media queries about the alleged indecent treatment by an official of the High Commission to the Indian woman.

"There is zero tolerance for misbehaviour and mistreatment of individuals visiting our Missions," she said.

"While we are looking into this case, we are surprised at its timing and the manner in which it has been raised. There are robust mechanisms in place for redressal of all public grievances," she added.

She also said that Pakistan attaches high importance to proper etiquette and behaviour towards all visa and consular applicants.

"All our diplomatic staff are under strict instructions to conduct themselves professionally," said Baloch.

Source: Times Of India

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Symbiotic Pak-US ties contributing towards regional, global peace: Envoy

January 12, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Masood Khan Thursday said the upward trajectory in Pak-US bilateral relations is creating a salutary environment for scaling up the mutual ties in economic, technological, educational and other important sectors.

He thanked the US government for an additional support of $100 million for post-flood reconstruction and rehabilitation phase, pledged at the International Conference for Climate Resilient Pakistan held on Jan 9, 2023 at Geneva.

“We have been partners in peace and we would continue working together for promoting shared values and objectives,” the envoy said. He made these remarks during a reception hosted by prominent Pak-American community leader Ch Nadeem Ahmed in Seattle, according to a press release received here on Thursday from Seattle (USA).

The reception hosted in honor of the Ambassador was attended among others by Executive of King County Dow Constantine, Senator Manka Dhingra, Director Health Seattle, Chris Stearns, Washington State Representative, Dave Up the grove, Chairman of Kings County Council, Dr Faisal Khan, Secretary Health Washington State Dr Umair Shah, lawmakers, Council members, community and business leaders and prominent members of Pak-American diaspora.

Addressing the gathering, Executive of King County Dow Constantine while welcoming the Ambassador of Pakistan to Seattle appreciated the contributions of Pakistani community towards socio-economic development of Seattle.

Recognizing valuable services of Dr Faisal Khan and Dr Umair Shah in health sector, Dow Constantine said that the opportunities offered by the United States have been grappled by vibrant Pak-US community to excel in every walk of life.

Ambassador Masood Khan in his remarks thanked the leadership of Seattle and Pak-American community for warm welcome and observed that the people of Pakistan valued their relations with the United States.

“Our relations have been marked by longevity, resilience and sustainability. The symbiotic relationship has contributed towards regional and international peace and stability,” he said.

While appreciating continued assistance of the US government and its citizenry to the people of Pakistan, Masood Khan thanked the US administration for using its convening power and garnering support for flood affected population during reconstruction and rehabilitation phase.

The Ambassador expressed satisfaction over the achievements of Pak-American community based in Seattle. “Pak-American community in US is tech-savvy and political savvy,” the envoy observed.

Source: Pakistan Today

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UAE to loan $1 billion, roll over another $2 billion to Pakistan

Jan 12, 2023

The United Arab Emirates agreed on Thursday to lend $1 billion to Pakistan and roll over an existing $2 billion loan, Pakistan's information minister said, offering some respite to a nation still reeling from devastating floods.

Pakistan says it suffered more than $30 billion of damage as floodwaters swept across the country from July-August.

The loan announcements came as Pakistan's prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, kicked off a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates.

He met UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and was due to discuss business and economic opportunities with other officials and business leaders, information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said.

"We share a resolve and understanding that the continuous efforts need to be made to further strengthen trade, investment and economic relations," Sharif said in a statement from his office.

As a ninth review by International Monetary Fund (IMF) to clear the release of the next $1.1 billion tranche of funds to Pakistan has been pending since September, the external financing is crucial for the country's broken economy.

Pakistan's central bank foreign reserves fell to a critical level of $5.5 billion in the week ending Dec. 30, barely enough for three weeks of imports.

The IMF and Pakistan signed a $6 billion bailout in 2019 that was topped up with another $1 billion earlier this year.

The lender wants Pakistan to take fiscal measures to meet budgetary targets, introduce reforms in power and energy sectors and review subsidies to farming and export sectors.

IMF officials met Pakistan's finance minister, Ishaq Dar, on Monday on the sidelines of a Geneva climate conference that made more than $9 billion of pledges for flood recovery.

Dar said on Wednesday Pakistan was already working on the fiscal contingency plan to shed energy sector debt and review the subsidies.

Long-time ally Saudi Arabia has said is also considering investing $10 billion

Source: Times Of India

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Germany to provide Euro 28 million support to Pakistan

January 12, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Government of Pakistan and Germany signed two framework agreements -amounting Euro 28 million focusing on socio economic uplift and sustainable development of Pakistan.

According to the Economic Affairs Division, German Ambassador to Pakistan Alfred Grannas representing the German Government and the Ministry of Economic Affairs signed agreements in the energy and governance sectors.

Alfred Grannas and Dr. Kazim Niaz, Secretary Ministry of Economic Affairs signed the agreements. Officials from KfW and GIZ also participated in the signing ceremony.

Germany will provide a grant financing of Euro 23 million under framework agreement-Technical Cooperation Agreement 2021 through GIZ.

Under this framework agreement three projects will be financed namely “Participatory Local  Governance”, “Building Transition to Promote Energy Efficiency in Buildings” and “Strengthening Climate Adaptation and Resilience”. Participatory Local Governance project with overall financing of Euro 10 Million, will boost service delivery capacities of local authorities in KP and Punjab to meet local needs and priorities, while other project involving Euro 3 million-Building Transition to Promote Energy Efficiency in Buildings has overall objective to promote energy efficiency through building transition model through political, legal and regulatory interventions, while using inventories and pilot demonstration models.

Strengthening Climate Adaptation and Resilience, having an overall commitment of Euro 10 million, will contribute towards improving all prerequisites for climate change adaptation and climate risk management.

Along with this, another Framework agreement namely Financial cooperation Agreement 2020 worth grant of Euro 5 million is also signed today. This framework agreement will consist of only one project titled “Self-Employment for Women in the Health Sector” which will be executed by KfW.

This project will aid to enable conditions for creating and securing jobs and income opportunities that will further help meeting international environmental and social Standards and to contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Kazim Niaz, Secretary Ministry of Economic Affairs thanked the German Government for the support and appreciated the important role being played by the Government of German Federation in economic growth and promotion of the sustainable development in the country.

Alfred Grannas, German Ambassador remarked that the funding provided by Germany in the fields of climate adaptation, economic empowerment and governance will not only help the sectoral improvement but also result in socio-economic uplift of the beneficiaries through jobs creation and sustainable development.

Source: Pakistan Today

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SFD signs strategic agreement with Pakistan to finance oil derivatives worth $1b

January 12, 2023

ISLAMABAD: To materialize directives issued by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, CEO Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad, and Secretary Ministry of Economic Affairs in Pakistan, Dr. Kazim Niaz, signed strategic agreement to finance oil derivatives worth $1 billion to Pakistan.

According to the Economic Affairs division, the agreement was signed in Islamabad in the presence of Saudi Arabia and Pakistani officials.

Aimed at supporting Pakistan’s economy, sector growth, and navigating economic challenges, the strategic agreement signed on Thursday comes as a continuation of the support provided by the Government of Saudi Arabia to the brotherly country Pakistan to build a sustainable economy.

It is pertinent to note that the SFD signed agreements to finance oil derivatives with a value of $4.44 billion in 2019 and 2021.

The agreement marks the latest steps taken by the Government of Saudi Arabia through the SFD and the Pakistani authorities to enhance development in the country.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Amid wheat crisis, Pakistani farmers urge govt to impose 'agricultural emergency'

Jan 12, 2023

LAHORE: Amid the ongoing wheat crisis in Pakistan, the farmer's body, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) on Wednesday urged the authorities to impose an agricultural emergency in the country, The Express Tribune reported.At a press conference, PKI President Khalid Mehmood Khokhar criticized the government's policy and claimed that as a result, the nation would still need to buy wheat in 2023.

The PKI leader also referred to market fertilizer shortages and urged the government to take prompt action. Due to low yields of crops that are utilized as industrial raw materials, Khokhar added, "fertilizer shortages will also have an impact on exports."

The Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces have not made any announcements, while Sindh has set a support price for wheat of PKR 4,000 per maund.

Pakistan is facing its worst-ever flour crisis with parts of the country reporting a shortage of wheat and stampedes reported from several areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan provinces.

Prices of wheat and flour have skyrocketed amid the ongoing crisis in Pakistan, The Express Tribune reported.

Flour in Karachi is being sold from Rs 140 per kilogram to Rs 160 per kilogram. In Islamabad and Peshawar, a 10 kg bag of flour is being sold at Rs 1,500 per kilogram while a 20-kilogram bag of flour is being sold at Rs 2,800. Mill owners in Punjab province have increased the price of flour to Rs 160 per kilogram.

Balochistan's Minister for Food Zamarak Achakzai has said that the wheat stock in the province had "completely ended." He said that Balochistan immediately needed 400,000 sacks of wheat and warned that otherwise, the crisis could intensify.

Source: Times Of India

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South Asia


Afghanistan: Erdogan calls Taliban ban on women's education 'un-Islamic'

By Ragip Soylu

12 January 2023

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the Taliban’s order to ban university and primary education for Afghanistan's women as “unIslamic”, promising to follow the issue until it is resolved in a televised speech on Wednesday.

“It is inhumane and un-Islamic,” Erdogan said while addressing an international conference on ombudsmanship in Ankara.

“There is no such thing in our religion. No one should define any ban like that based on Islam. Islam does not accept such a thing. On the contrary, we are members of a religion that says 'seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave'.”

The Taliban government last month first decided to suspend university education for women, and later issued an outright ban on education for women. However, some girls' schools have remained open.

Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, residents, elders and religious leaders in the country and abroad have challenged its claims that restricting education and work for women is permissible in Islam.

However, the Islamic Emirate says it does have support among Muslim scholars from other countries.

On Wednesday, Turkey initiated an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which called on the Afghan interim government to review its ban on women's education and working in educational and non-government organisations.

The OIC also decided to send a religious delegation led by the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) to emphasise that women's and girls' access to all levels of education, including university level, is a fundamental right in keeping with the teachings of the “noble Islamic shariah”.

Erdogan said the Turkish foreign ministry as well as himself "will personally follow up on" the state of women's education in Afghanistan and would not leave it unchecked.

Turkish schools in Afghanistan

Turkey is operating 80 schools in Afghanistan through its state-funded Maarif Foundation.

MEE understands that the Taliban briefly closed 14 Turkish primary girls-only schools last month. Turkish authorities later managed to re-open girls-only primary schools and are currently trying to re-open the girls' high schools later this year by assigning female-only staff and operating the schools in different buildings than the male ones.

One person familiar with the issue said Taliban officials had not imposed a blanket ban on primary and high-school female education.

They added that the way the authorities impose the ban depends on different provincial laws and the judgement of senior education officials.

Turkey remains the only Nato country to have a functioning embassy in Kabul after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

In September 2021, just weeks after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the group refused to allow girls to resume high school education. Touted as a temporary decision, the return to school has been repeatedly delayed. 

In August, Middle East Eye reported that scores of female Afghan students were prevented by the Taliban from boarding a flight to Qatar, where they had sought to continue their studies.

Source: Middle East Eye

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Human Rights Watch highlights dire situation of Rohingya in Bangladesh

Md. Kamruzzaman  


DHAKA, Bangladesh

Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated in its latest report, released on Thursday, that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh face "impossible conditions" for safe and voluntary return to their homeland of Rakhine State in Myanmar.

“Rohingya suffer threats, extortion, and ill-treatment by Bangladeshi security forces and other authorities,” the rights organization stated in its World Report 2023.

Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country in South Asia, is currently hosting over 1.2 million persecuted Rohingya in 33 squalid refugee camps in the country's southern border district of Cox's Bazar. The majority of them fled a brutal military crackdown in their home country's Rakhine State in August 2017.

“In the Rohingya refugee camps, Bangladesh officials closed community-led schools, arbitrarily destroyed shops, and imposed new obstacles on movement,” the report said.

Based on claims made by the refugees, the report stated that the Armed Police Battalion (APB) stationed in the congested makeshift tents is subjecting Rohingya to threats, extortion, arbitrary arrests, and torture.

“The (Bangladesh) government allowed humanitarian groups to begin teaching the Myanmar curriculum but continues to deny refugee children any accredited education,” HRW said.

The report stated of the relocation of Rohingya to a remote island, citing Bangladeshi authorities' claim of better living facilities: “During 2022, the authorities moved about 8,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, bringing the total to around 28,000 refugees living on the remote silt island where they face severe movement restrictions, food and medicine shortages, and abuses by security forces.”

It also stated that, despite the involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Rohingya refugees have been prevented from returning to mainland camps to meet their other close relatives.

Increasing attacks on political opposition

Concerning the current political tensions in Bangladesh, the rights watchdog stated that increased attacks on members of the political opposition have raised fears of violence and repression ahead of parliamentary elections.

Following the Dec. 7 clashes between police and supporters of Bangladesh's main opposition political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in which one person was killed and a hundred more were injured, Bangladeshi law enforcers sued thousands of opposition party members.

In addition, after a clash with police on Dec. 30 in Dhaka, police arrested over a hundred Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists. In five separate cases, police charged over 5,000 party workers and office bearers.

The Jamaat is the country's main Islamic political party and a key ally of the BNP.

“The ruling Awami League is promising free and fair elections in response to increased international scrutiny but is belying those claims by ramping up repression,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW, was quoted in the report as saying.

“Donors and strategic partners should insist that Bangladeshis can express themselves and select their leaders without fear, including by supporting independent election monitoring missions,” she added.

HRW reviewed human rights practices in nearly 100 countries in its 33rd edition of the 712-page report.

However, the report added that after the US sanctioned Bangladesh's elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and some of its top commanders in Dec. 2021 under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances were temporarily dropped.

"(However), authorities continued to arrest critics under the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA)," it said, citing the BNP as a source of information. It went on to state that at least 20,000 cases had been filed against BNP supporters.

In November, the Dhaka Police's Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit filed a case under the DSA against a Paris-based blogger, Pinaki Bhattacharya, and two others for "tarnishing the image of the state" in a Facebook post.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Afghanistan Provides Promising Investment Opportunities for Iran

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 12, 2023

The Iranian ambassador in Kabul says that Afghanistan is a promising destination for investment, and provides the best business opportunities in different sectors.

Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iranian Ambassador and Special Representative of the President of Iran for Afghanistan, stated in an interview with Bazar New Agency earlier today, that now is the best opportunity to invest in Afghanistan’s mining sector, and other domains.

Following the withdrawal of the American forces from Afghanistan, Iran has been able to maintain close relations with the Afghan Taliban government. As an immediate neighbor with deep cultural ties, Afghanistan has been significantly important for Iran for different reasons now than ever before. Expanding bilateral trade relations and investment in various fields can pave the way for Iran to achieve its economic goals in this country.

Qomi stated that cooperation with Afghanistan in various sectors is on the agenda of his country, based on humanitarian and Islamic morals. He further added that there is no better country than Afghanistan in the mining industry for Iran.

“Afghanistan is a close country for Iran in terms of carrying out economic activities and transferring knowledge and technology, as far there is good diplomatic ties, between two neighboring countries, Qomi added.

Currently, Iran imports basic goods form distant countries such as Australia, Brazil, and Latin American countries, with relatively high costs. Therefore, Iran can utilize Afghanistan possibly with serious economic barriers, as both countries are in dire need of economic development in their own contexts.

Source: Khaama Press

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Pakistani, Afghan Foreign Ministers Make Telephone Conversation

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

January 12, 2023

Amir Khan Muttaqi the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan had a telephone conversation with his Pakistani counterpart, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari earlier today.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister in a special telephone conversation with Amir Khan Muttaqi the Acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan discussed the brutal attack which took place near the entrance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, resulting in the death and injury of scores of Afghan people.

Mr. Zardari condemned the attack in the strongest terms and expressed his deep condolences to the families of those who lost their valuable lives in yesterday’s terror attack. He said both people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are victims of terrorism, and we must do all we can to defeat this menace.

Mr. Muttaqi thanked his Pakistani counterpart for expressing his condolences and sympathy and added that the enemy want to disturb the security but the Afghan government and the people will strictly prevent them.

Abdullah Abdullah, former Head of the High Council for National Reconciliation in a tweet condemned the attack and called it against all human and Islamic principles.

The UN Assistant Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also condemned the attack and stated that violence is not part of any solution to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile, the UK Chargé d’Affaires Hugo Shorter, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Iran’s Embassy in Kabul, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation extended their deep condolences to the families of the victims and wished the wounded a quick recovery.

This comes as terror incidents have unprecedentedly increased in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the recent past, resulting in the death and injury of scores of innocent civilians and security personnel.

Source: Khaama Press

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Talibans unveil their first ‘indigenously built’ supercar, the Mada 9

by: Sutanu Guha

Jan 12, 2023

Taliban-ruled Afghanistan debuted their first indigenously built supercar that they are calling Mada 9. The car is still in the prototype stage, and it took more than five years to develop the supercar. The development was led by at least 30 engineers from ENTOP and Kabul’s Afghanistan Technical Vocational Institute (ATVI).

The prototype Mada 9 is powered by a modified Toyota Corolla engine. Performance figures are yet to be revealed, however, Ghulam Haider Shahamat, the head of ATVI told Afghanistan’s TOLO news that the modification has been made in such a manner that if you increase the speed of the car, the engine will be powerful enough to take it. Later on, ENTOP will fit the Mada 9 with an electric powertrain.

While unveiling the car yesterday at the ENTOP headquarters, Taliban’s Higher Education Minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani stated how the car was going to prove the Taliban regime’s commitment to providing ‘religion and modern sciences for its people’.

Adding on to that, ENTOP’s (the car manufacturer) CEO, Mohammad Riza Ahmadi told TOLO news that the supercar will “convey the value of knowledge to the people" which in turn will help boost the image of Afghanistan on the world stage.

The launch date of the car has not been revealed yet. However, Riza has stated that the car will first start its journey in Afghanistan, and “one day it will go international.”

Source: Times Now News

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Southeast Asia


Review laws related to alcohol promotion, says Penang mufti

Predeep Nambiar

January 13, 2023

GEORGE TOWN: Penang mufti Wan Salim Mohd Noor has called for improvements in the laws relating to the sale and promotion of alcohol in the state, saying the sensitivities of all cultures must be considered.

Responding to an objection raised by Permatang Pauh MP Fawwaz Md Jan against the sale of beer at the concourse area of a mall in Perai ahead of Chinese New Year, he said he agreed that alcohol should not be sold openly.

“In my opinion, laws related to the sale and consumption of alcohol should be updated and improved so that they are clearer about what is allowed and what is not,” he told FMT.

“This is to ensure the sensitivities of the Muslim community are considered and to maintain harmonious relations among the races in this country.

“It is better not to have promotions of alcohol openly to the general public. It is sufficient to make it at a designated area just for non-Muslims.”

Wan Salim also called on Muslims to be more tolerant towards other cultures.

“Muslims should also be more inclusive and tolerant towards the cultures of others who are part of a democratic country,” he said. “The situation is different in the Middle East, where Muslims are a big majority.

“Muslims in Malaysia must embrace the concept of muwatanah, the sharing of land and co-existence.

“Islamic teachings are flexible and allow for adaptation to changes in time, place and environment. A rigid understanding of religion not only contradicts the spirit of Islam itself, but also prevents the light of Islam from reaching the hearts and minds of people.”

Fawwaz had claimed in a TikTok post that Muslim patrons at the mall were upset that alcohol was being sold openly.

His complaint against the mall has stirred a debate among Malaysians.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Zahid: Umno did not make secret pact with Pakatan on formation of unity govt

13 Jan 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 ― Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has stressed that the party did not make any secret agreement with Pakatan Harapan (PH) regarding the formation of the government after the 15th general election (GE15).

Speaking before 2,820 delegates at the 2022 Umno General Assembly here today, the Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman said Umno’s teaming up with PH in forming the unity government was based on the initial understanding at the party level that no coalition could form the government on its own.

“First, we held separate discussions with PH and Perikatan Nasional (PN) two days after GE15, and we set out several key matters, including on the question of Islam, Malays and Bumiputera, which should be jointly agreed to, and also the matter of formation of the Cabinet.

“In fact, in our proposals we demand that the government to be formed should not be identified with the name of any party and instead should be known as the unity government,” he said.

The deputy prime minister said PH responded in writing by expressing its agreement on the basic matters while PN was prepared to consider BN’s proposals.

Ahmad Zahid also said BN’s participation in the Unity Government together with PH was also in line with the decree of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

“Apart from that, our stand was in line with the commitment we gave to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to accept His Majesty’s decree that a Unity Government be established.

“At the same time, PH also agreed with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s decree but PN rejected it,” he added.

He said the decision made was a collective one although the pledge signed by GE15 candidates empowered the party chief to negotiate on matters regarding the formation of the government.

Ahmad Zahid said 54 of the 56 members of the Umno Supreme Council agreed with the decision for the party to form the Unity Government.

“It is hoped that this clarification would put a stop to the polemics on this issue. I know that such matters continue to be harped on, what more with the party election drawing nearer,” he added.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Rural and Regional Development Minister, said the agreement signed by the coalitions in the Unity Government would serve as a guide for the parties involved.

“Political stability and harmonious ties among parties in the government, Insya-Allah would reflect a progressive Malaysia. This understanding will also ensure that the Unity Government can complete its full term,” he said.

The Bagan Datuk MP said to ensure continuity of the Unity Government, the parties in the government had agreed to form a joint secretariat to discuss matters arising from time to time, including political cooperation.

Ahmad Zahid said the government had also agreed to form a secretariat to study the manifestos of parties in the Unity Government.

“In this connection, through this secretariat at the government level we will seek points of understanding and commonality to realise the promises made to the people.
Source: Malay Mail

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Indonesia President Regrets Country's Bloody Past, Apologises for Human Rights Abuses

New Delhi: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday, January 11, apologised for “gross human rights violations” that occurred in his country in various events in the past, starting from the mass killings of communists and suspected sympathisers in the 1960s.

The president apologised for 12 events in which gross human rights violations occurred after he received a report from the ‘Non-Judicial Settlement Team for Serious Human Rights Violations’ on Wednesday. He had promised to investigate rights abuses in the world’s biggest Muslim country when he first came to power in 2014.

“With a clear mind and a sincere heart, I as the Head of State of the Republic of Indonesia recognise that gross human rights violations did occur in various events,” Widodo said, according to the translation of a statement published on his official website.

According to the news agency Reuters, some 500,000 people died in “violence that began in late 1965 when the military launched a purge of communists who they said were planning a coup”. At least one million people were jailed on suspicion of being communists during the crackdown.

The 11 other rights incidents, which occurred between 1982 and 2003, included the “killing and abduction of students blamed on security forces” during protests against military dictator General Suharto’s rule in the late 1990s. Suharto came to power by ousting President Sukarno, Indonesia’s independence leader, in 1967 and ruled for three decades.

According to the Washington Post, “Widodo also acknowledged a shooting campaign against criminals in Jakarta and other big cities between 1982-1985, the torture of suspected rebels in Aceh in 1988-1989, a deadly raid on an Islamic community in Lampung in 1989, the killing of students and anti-government protesters in 1998, anti-Chinese attacks and alleged mass rapes in Jakarta and other big cities in 1998, and deadly raids against civilians in Wasior and Wamena in Papua province between 2001-2003.”

In the statement, Widodo – popularly known as Jokowi – expressed “deep sympathy and empathy” for the victims and their families, adding that the government will “try to restore the rights of victims fairly and wisely”.

“I and the government are trying to restore the rights of victims fairly and wisely, without emphasising judicial resolution,” he said.

The government will also “work seriously” to prevent serious human rights violations in the future.

“Hopefully this effort will be a meaningful step for the recovery of the wounds of fellow children of the nation to strengthen national harmony” of Indonesia, Widodo said.

According to WaPo, human rights groups said Widodo’s move should not pave the way to “close these cases or give impunity to their perpetrators”.

“The protracted settlement of cases of past serious human rights violations has not only caused prolonged suffering for the victims, but has also become a stumbling block for national political reconciliation for the government,” the Asian Human Rights Commission said, adding that Widodo was urged to continue to pursue truth and justice.

These concerns are valid as Widodo’s defence minister Prabowo Subianto, a former military officer, oversaw the Army’s Special Force Command when it was accused of kidnapping and disappearing anti-government activists between 1997-1998. Widodo acknowledged this incident also on Wednesday.

Usman Hamid of Amnesty International told Reuters that victims should receive reparations and serious crimes should be resolved “through judicial means”.

“If President Jokowi is serious about past human rights violations, he should first order a government effort to investigate these mass killings, to document mass graves, and to find their families, to match the graves and their families, as well as to set up a commission to decide what to do next,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

For some, Widodo’s acknowledgement was significant. “For me…what’s important is that the president gives assurances that gross rights violations don’t happen in the future by trying the suspected perpetrators in court,” retired civil servant Maria Catarina Sumarsih, whose son was shot dead in 1998 while helping a wounded student, told Reuters.

Source: The Wire

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After decades, Indonesia’s president acknowledges state’s ‘gross rights violations’


January 11, 2023

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo acknowledged on Wednesday “gross human rights violations” in the country’s past, including the 1960s massacres when up to 1 million people were killed on suspicion of being linked to communists.

One of the darkest periods in Indonesia’s history, the killings of 1965-66 were a series of countrywide political purges targeting members and alleged sympathizers of Partai Komunis Indonesia — at the time the third-largest communist party after China and the Soviet Union.

While an accurate and verified count of the dead is unlikely ever to be known, historians say that a total of 500,000 to 1 million people had been killed. Another 1.5 million had been imprisoned, while their family members still face stigma and discrimination, and many were prevented from holding government jobs up until last year.

“With a clear mind and an earnest heart, I as Indonesia’s head of state admit that gross human rights violations did happen in many instances,” Widodo said on Wednesday after receiving a report from a team formed to help restore the victims’ rights.

“I deeply regret these human rights abuses.”

The president cited 12 incidents of state-sponsored violence between 1965 and 2003, which also included the killing and abduction of activists protesting against the regime of former President Suharto in the 1990s and the military’s violence against indigenous people of the restive Papua province.

Although previous presidents have also acknowledged some of the abuses, including late President Abdurrahman Wahid, who had apologized for the 1965-66 bloodshed, Widodo’s statement is the clearest, most comprehensive admission of the country’s darkest chapters.

“Myself and the government will try to restore the victim’s rights justly and wisely, without negating judicial resolving,” Jokowi said.

But activists say more needs to be done to redress the past violations and injustice faced by the victims and their families for decades.

“A mere acknowledgment without efforts to bring to trial those responsible for past human rights abuses will only add salt to the wounds of victims and their families,” Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, told Arab News.

“This statement is nothing without accountability.”

Widodo “needs to do more than just airing his position,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“President Jokowi made the correct statement but he should order his aides to investigate these mass killings, to document mass graves, and to find their families, to match the graves and their families, as well as to set up a commission to decide what to do next,” he told Arab News.

For historian Bonnie Triyana, Widodo’s acknowledgment was, however, a “step forward” for Indonesia to move on from its dark past.

“But we must also ask — what comes next?” he said.

Source: Arab News

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British Muslim minister performs prayer at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

Abdelraouf Arnaout


Lord Tariq Ahmad, British minister of state for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), performed prayer on Thursday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.

"An honor and privilege to spend time at the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque this morning with Director of Jerusalem Waqf Department Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib," Lord Ahmad tweeted.

The Muslim minister stressed the UK's "unwavering support" to Jordanian custodianship over the holy sites in Jerusalem along with preserving the status quo at these sites.

The status quo allows Muslims to worship at the Al-Aqsa complex and followers of other religions to visit the site.

Lord Ahmad also visited the West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday and had a tour inside the city.

On Wednesday, the British minister started his first official visit to the Palestinian territories since he became a minister.

He met with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in West Jerusalem on Wednesday before he moved to Ramallah city in the occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the world's third-holiest site for Muslims. Jews call the area the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Britain is actively considering proscribing Iran’s IRGC: Minister

12 January ,2023

Britain is actively considering proscribing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization but has not reached a final decision on the matter, foreign office minister Leo Docherty told parliament on Thursday.

“It would be wrong of me to speculate ... about the outcome of the government’s current consideration of this issue, which is active,” Docherty said during a debate on the situation in Iran during which some lawmakers had called for proscription.

“But I can say that I think the calls right across the house, and the unity with which these calls are being made on all sides will be noted by the government and this is something that we regard as extremely serious.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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EU urged by over 100 MEPs to strengthen response to Iran’s crackdown on protests

12 January ,2023

Over 100 members of the European Parliament have called on the European Union to take a tougher stance in response to Iran’s crackdown on protests, saying that the current measures taken by the EU are not enough.

In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell dated January 11, the lawmakers said that the measures taken by the EU so far “are by far not enough to deter the Iranian regime.”

The letter, signed by 118 members of the EU’s law-making body, called on the bloc to take a series of steps to increase pressure on Tehran, including imposing sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, and designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

The letter also addressed Iran’s alleged provision of arms to Russia, saying Iran is “aiding a criminal Russian state, which keeps on terrorizing the people of Ukraine through relentless bombing of civilians and critical infrastructure.”

Protests have swept across Iran since September 16 when 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran.

The demonstrations have been demanding the overthrow of the regime, creating one of the most significant challenges to the Islamic Republic since it was founded in 1979.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UN extends tribunal investigating assassination of Lebanon’s Rafik Hariri

13 January ,2023

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has extended the mandate of the international tribunal that investigated the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri until the end of the year to complete non-judicial functions so it can cease operation.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that a completion plan, developed and agreed by the United Nations and the government of Lebanon, will guide the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to ensure the completion of its work by Dec. 31.

It includes preserving record and archives, responding to requests for information, and ensuring the protection and support of victims and witnesses who cooperated with its work, he said.

The tribunal’s mandate had been set to expire at the end of February.

Last June, appeals judges sentenced two members of the militant Hezbollah group to life imprisonment for their roles in the assassination.

Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi were tried in abstentia at the court near The Hague, Netherlands, and convicted on appeal in March of five crimes, including being accomplices to the intentional homicide of Hariri and 21 others, and the wounding of 226 others.

They were killed and injured when plotters detonated a huge truck bomb outside a hotel on Beirut’s seafront as Hariri’s motorcade drove past.

The tribunal’s president, Czech judge Ivana Hrdličková, told the court in June that Merhi and Oneissi were receiving life sentences for each of their five convictions and if they are ever captured and imprisoned, the sentences would be served concurrently.

Prosecutors appealed after the two men were acquitted in April 2020 following a lengthy trial that found another Hezbollah member, Salim Ayyash, guilty of involvement in the Feb. 14, 2005, blast. Ayyash, who also was tried in absentia, received a life prison sentence.

When launched in the wake of the attack, the Hariri tribunal raised hopes that for the first time in multiple instances of political violence in Lebanon, the truth would emerge, and the perpetrators would be held to account.

But for many in Lebanon, the tribunal failed on both counts. Many suspects are dead or out of reach and the prosecution was unable to present a cohesive picture of the bombing plot or who ordered it.

The trial judges said there was no evidence that Hezbollah’s leadership and Syria were involved in the attack but noted the assassination happened as Hariri and his political allies were discussing calling for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.

Source: Al Arabiya

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‘Human rights are not politics’: Australia defend scrapping Afghanistan cricket series

January 13, 2023

Australia on Friday defended their hotly contested decision to pull out of a cricket series against Afghanistan following a Taliban crackdown on women’s “basic human rights”.

Australia and Afghanistan were scheduled to play three ODIs in the United Arab Emirates in March but Cricket Australia (CA) scrapped the series after consultation with stakeholders, including the Australian government.

“Basic human rights is not politics,” CA chief executive Nick Hockley said in a statement sent to AFP after Afghanistan’s cricket board lashed the cancellation as “pathetic”.

“It is clearly a very challenging and sad situation. We did not take this decision lightly,” Hockley said.

Cricket Australia had been hopeful of playing Afghanistan and was in regular contact with the Afghanistan Cricket Board, he added.

“However announcements by the Taliban in late November and late December signalling the deterioration of basic human rights for women in Afghanistan led to our decision to withdraw from these games,” he said.

Hockley said the Australian cricket authority consulted with the Australian government and others before scrapping the games.

He also responded to Afghanistan’s best-known international cricketer and leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who had criticised the cancellation and warned he would be “strongly considering” his future in Australia’s Big Bash League.

“We acknowledge and applaud Rashid Khan’s and other Afghanistan cricketers’ comments at the time condemning the Taliban’s decision to ban women from universities. Rashid will always be welcome in the BBL,” Hockley said.

Australia was committed to growing the game for women and men, the cricket chief said, adding that he hoped better conditions for women and girls in Afghanistan would allow cricket between the countries to resume “in the not too distant future”.

Rashid mulls BBL future after Australia snub

Meanwhile, Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan is considering his future in the Big Bash League (BBL) after Australia’s men’s team withdrew from their ODI series against Afghanistan.

“I am really disappointed to hear that Australia have pulled out of the series to play us in March,” Rashid, who plays for the Adelaide Strikers, said in a statement on Twitter.

“I take great pride in representing my country, and we have made great progress on the world stage. This decision from CA sets us back in that journey.”

Rashid played eight times for the Strikers this season, but left the BBL this month to compete in South Africa’s new Twenty20 league, in which he is captain of MI Cape Town.

“If playing vs Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia, then I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore, I will be strongly considering my future in that competition,” Rashid said.

Australia were scheduled to play a Test match against Afghanistan in November, 2021 but it was postponed after the Taliban seized power in August of that year.

Naveen slams Australia over ‘childish decision’

Afghan bowler Naveen-ul-Haq also pointed to Australia’s previous withdrawal on Twitter.

“Time to say won’t be participating in big bash after this until they stop these childish decisions,” said Naveen, who plays for the Sydney Sixers.

Source: Dawn

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Türkiye rescues 27 irregular migrants after illegal Greek pushback

Huseyin Bagis  


The Turkish Coast Guard rescued 27 irregular migrants Thursday who were illegally pushed back into Turkish territorial waters by Greek authorities, according to officials.

Teams were dispatched off the coast of Menderes in the Aegean province of Izmir following reports of migrants on boats, the Turkish Coast Guard Command said in a statement.

After they were rescued, the migrants were taken to the provincial migration office.

Türkiye has been a key transit point for irregular migrants wanting to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

Human rights groups and media outlets have frequently reported on illegal pushbacks and other human rights breaches by Greek authorities.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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PKK terror group supporters in Swedish capital continue provocation against Türkiye

Atila Altuntas 



Supporters of the PKK/YPG terror group in Sweden continued their provocations against Türkiye on Thursday.

Terror supporters gathered in front of the historical City Hall in the capital Stockholm, hung a puppet -- likened to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- by the feet on a pole in front of the building and shared video footage of this moment on social media.

Video footage posted later on a social media account affiliated with the terror group showed that threats targeting Türkiye and Erdogan were made with Turkish subtitles.

There were insulting comments under the post, in which it was stated that there would be a show of charity for NATO on Jan. 21 in Stockholm, also drew attention.

On Nov. 21, 2022, supporters of the PKK terror group projected images containing terrorist organization propaganda, insulting Turkish President Erdogan to the chancellery of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Sweden says NATO membership talks with Türkiye 'going well'

Burak Bir  



Sweden’s prime minister on Wednesday said that talks with Türkiye over the NATO membership process are "going very well", adding his previous remarks were misunderstood.

"We have the fullest respect for the fact that Türkiye and every other of the 30 NATO countries make their own domestic decisions on whether to ratify or not," Ulf Kristersson, told reporters in the capital Stockholm.

He pointed out that there was a "misunderstanding" on his previous comment on Türkiye's demands.

On Sunday, the Swedish premier said that Stockholm cannot fulfill Ankara's all conditions for approving its application to join NATO.

However, Kristersson said today that he respected Ankara’s right to make its own decision on ratification.

"We have shown for Türkiye that we are doing exactly what we promised to do," he said, adding: "It has been a very rapid process. We feel very strong support from countries."

He also said that there are limits to what Sweden can do when it comes to extraditing individuals to Ankara, according to the Politico website.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in May 2022, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine which started on Feb. 24.

But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups, including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Iranian terrorists in possible ‘dry run’ in Heathrow uranium scare: Expert

January 12, 2023

LONDON: Iranian terrorists may have staged a “dry run” to test the capabilities of UK customs authorities after a uranium shipment was discovered at Heathrow Airport, the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.

The consignment was discovered on Dec. 29 — amid an eight-day strike by Border Force staff — at the London airport, where authorities traced its origins to an Oman Air flight from Pakistan.

The deadly shipment was intended to be sent to an Iran-registered business in the UK, but may have been used as part of a “dry run” to test the efficiency of the British customs system, said Philip Ingram, a former military intelligence officer.

The recipient of the shipment has been contacted by police but no arrests have been made in the case. The UK’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 is also involved in the investigation.

Ingram told the Telegraph: “If you were to use depleted uranium in a ‘dirty bomb,’ like any isotope it would cause a contamination issue — but there are a lot more radioactive isotopes out there that would be easier to get hold of and would have a much greater effect.

“It’s definitely a possibility that this could have been some form of reconnaissance or dry run to test how the security was operating during the industrial action.”

Ingram praised Heathrow authorities for detecting the radioactive package, which contained small amounts of uranium hidden in metal bars.

A security source said: “We get quite a lot of hits, but a lot are false positives and you have to respond to every single one. It is unusual for it to be real.”

Richard Smith, chief of the Metropolitan Police counterterror command, said: “I want to reassure the public that the amount of contaminated material was extremely small and has been assessed by experts as posing no threat to the public.

“Although our investigation remains ongoing, from our inquiries so far, it does not appear to be linked to any direct threat.

Source: Arab News

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Israel says its policy on Iran allows to expand ties with Arab countries

Abdelraouf Arnaout  



Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer said Thursday that his country’s policy towards Iran allows to expand relations with Arab countries.

According to a statement by his office, Dermer said his ministry's priority is to ensure that "evil regime in Iran, which openly calls and actively works to destroy the one and only Jewish state, does not achieve that goal."

Dermer, who is currently visiting the United States, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to expand ties with new Arab countries and hopes to work closely with the Biden administration on this issue.

"I think the policy towards Iran is a critical part of expanding that [normalization with Arab countries] because I think it opens the space for Arab leaders to move into a public alliance with Israel as we face this common enemy together," he added.

There was no comment yet from Iran on the Israeli minister’s statements.

Israel accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a claim denied by Tehran, which says its program is designed for peaceful purposes.

Dermer is the first Israeli minister to visit the US since the Netanyahu government was sworn in on December 29, following elections in November, which gave his right-right bloc a simple majority to form a new government.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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International community’s silence perpetuates Israeli violence toward Palestinians, experts say


January 12, 2023

RAMALLAH: Palestinian officials have blamed the silence of the international community for the continuation of unabated “Israeli crimes, practices, and racist laws.”

It came as the Israeli army killed three Palestinians during separate incidents in the West Bank over the past 24 hours, according to Palestinian medical sources: Samir Aslan, 41, from the Qalandia camp, north of Jerusalem; Ahmed Abu Junaid, 21, from the Balata camp in Nablus; and Sanad Samamra, 18, from the town of Samu’ near Hebron.

Abu Junaid was shot in the head during an Israeli army raid, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Aslan was detained when he tried to defend his son, Ramzi, who was being arrested during a massive raid at their camp. Aslan was bleeding but Israeli forces prevented him from receiving first aid, sources said.

“The crime of executing Aslan in his home in Qalandia camp is part of a series of daily crimes committed by the fascist Israeli occupation army,” said Rawhi Fattouh, president of the Palestinian National Council.

“Since the beginning of this year, the occupation army has executed seven people, wounded dozens, and destroyed many properties.

“The silence of the international community on the Israeli occupation’s crimes, practices, and racist laws that target our Palestinian people and their existence, enable Israel to persist with its crimes and become a state above the law, flouting all international agreements, resolutions, and principles of human rights.”

This week, Israeli authorities said they will revoke the citizenship or residency of any prisoner accused of carrying out an attack, or receiving funds from the Palestinian Authority to participate in one.

According to the draft law, “a citizen or resident who is proven to have received money from the PA to carry out a terrorist act will be considered as someone who, on his own initiative, waived his citizenship or residency, and the minister of interior will revoke their status.”

Senior Palestinian sources said that US authorities are working quietly with Palestinians and the new Israeli government in an effort to prevent further action that could undermine the fragile PA.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, held talks on Thursday in Ramallah with Hadi Amr, the US special representative for Palestinian affairs, during which he stressed the need for “a political horizon that preserves the two-state solution under international legitimacy, and for Israel to stop all its unilateral measures and daily attacks against the Palestinian people, which destroy this solution and create a challenging and complex atmosphere that affects security and stability.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh also met Amr and told him the US administration “is required to move urgently to put an end to the unilateral Israeli measures and threats that undermine the national authority and systematically end the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state.”

Shtayyeh said the upcoming visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to the region should carry a message of hope to the Palestinian people, and a clear statement calling on the Israeli government to halt its violations and unilateral measures, and respect international laws and signed agreements.

He also called for US authorities to put real pressure on the Israeli government to release Palestinian funds that it deducts illegally.

“The Palestinian people and their leadership will not accept the fait accompli, and we will move forward in the popular, political, diplomatic and legal struggle in the face of the Israeli measures,” he added.

Palestinian political analyst Ghassan Al-Khatib told Arab News: “While US President Joe Biden’s administration could not fulfill its promise to the Palestinians to open an American consulate in East Jerusalem, it adjusted the US representative office to send its reports to the US State Department directly and not to Washington’s embassy in Jerusalem.

“The US has not yet exerted pressure on Israel, and the continuation of this method will not work in discouraging Israel from continuing its aggressive policies toward the Palestinians.”

An American policy “without teeth toward Israel will not work,” he added.

If the US genuinely and sincerely wants to help the PA and prevent its collapse, Al-Khatib said, “it could provide financial assistance to the authority and pressure Israel not to deduct from Palestinian tax money.”

Washington could also lobby its Arab friends to help the Palestinians financially, he suggested.

“The US is doing nothing to reduce Israeli aggression toward the PA and to ensure the survival of the PA and prevent its collapse,” he said.

Source: Arab News

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Israeli army kills 3 Palestinians during West Bank raids

13 January ,2023

The Israeli military shot and killed three Palestinians during arrest raids in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian health officials said, the latest bloodshed in months of rising violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

The military, which has been carrying out near-nightly raids in the territory since early last year, said soldiers who entered the Qalandia refugee camp before dawn were bombarded by rocks and cement blocks.

In response, the military said troops opened fire at Palestinians throwing objects from rooftops. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man killed as Samir Aslan, 41.

Aslan’s sister, Noura Aslan, said Israeli security forces broke into their house at 2:30 a.m. to arrest his 18-year-old son, Ramzi. As Ramzi was being hauled away, his father sprinted to the rooftop to see what was happening, she said. Within moments, an Israeli sniper shot him in the back.

Aslan’s wife called an ambulance, but Noura said the army initially prevented medics from reaching the house. As Aslan was bleeding, his family dragged his body down the stairs and called for help. An ambulance picked him up some 20 minutes later, Noura said.

The Israeli army also raided the northern occupied West Bank on Thursday, entering the village of Qabatiya south of the flash point city of Jenin and surrounding a house in the town. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that Israeli forces fatally shot 25-year-old Habib Kamil and 18-year-old Abdel Hadi Nazal.

The Israeli army said security forces entered Qabatiya to arrest Muhammad Alauna, a Palestinian suspected of planning militant attacks. The army said soldiers shot at a number of Palestinians during the raid, including a man who tried to flee the scene with Alauna, a gunman who fired at the forces from inside his car as well as a group of Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli troops. It was not immediately clear what Kamil was doing when he was shot.

The deaths on Thursday bring the total number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank this year to nine, including two Palestinians killed Wednesday in separate incidents in the West Bank. One was killed during an Israeli military arrest raid in the territory’s north and another after stabbing and wounding an Israeli man in a southern settlement.

Israel ramped up its military raids last spring, after a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 people. Israel says the operations are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see them as further entrenchment of Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of land they seek for their future state.

The raids sharply escalated tensions and helped fuel another wave of Palestinian attacks in the fall that killed 10 Israelis. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported, making last year the deadliest since 2004.

The heightened violence comes as Israel’s new ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox government — it’s most right-wing ever — is charting its legislative agenda, one that is expected to take a tough line against the Palestinians and drive up settlement construction in the West Bank.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran summons Sweden’s ambassador over ‘interventionist statements’ by EU

12 January ,2023

Iran on Thursday summoned the Swedish ambassador to Tehran, whose country holds the European Union’s presidency, over “interventionist statements” made by EU officials regarding Iran’s internal affairs, state media reported.

“Interference in the internal affairs of countries is against all international rules and regulations, and the Islamic Republic of Iran definitely does not tolerate it,” an official from Iran’s foreign ministry told the Swedish ambassador, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

The EU, along with other nations, has condemned Iran’s crackdown on protests that have been ongoing for several months.

The demonstrations, which were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran in mid-September, have been demanding the overthrow of the regime, creating one of the most significant challenges to the Islamic Republic since it was founded in 1979.

Iranian authorities view the protests as “riots” backed by foreign powers and have so far executed four protesters.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Turkey using courts, laws to target dissent ahead of votes: Human Rights Watch

12 January ,2023

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has cracked down more aggressively on dissent and political opponents ahead of Turkish elections with censorship and prison sentences, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are set for no later than mid-June but Erdogan has said they could come earlier.

Polls show he and his Islamist-rooted AK Party could lose after 20 years in power.

In its annual World Report, the rights watchdog said authorities were using online censorship and disinformation laws to muzzle independent media, the opposition and dissenting voices.

“The government has carried out highly abusive maneuvers against the political opposition, blanket bans on public protest, and the jailing and conviction of human rights defenders and perceived critics by courts operating under political orders,” Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the report.

Turkey’s Directorate of Communications did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the report.

Last month, a court sentenced Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a potential Erdogan challenger from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), to two years and seven months in prison and handed him a politics ban for insulting public officials in 2019, a verdict he has appealed.

Erdogan said in response that Turks have no right to ignore legal rulings and that courts would correct any mistakes in the appeal process.

This month, the top court froze the bank accounts of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), parliament’s third-biggest party, while it hears a case on shutting it down over alleged ties to militants. The party denies the claims.

In October, Turkey adopted a law proposed by the AK Party that would jail journalists and social media users for up to three years for spreading “disinformation,” sparking deep concerns over free speech.

ritics have said there is no clear definition of “false or misleading information”, leaving the law open to abuse by courts that are not independent. The government denies their claims that courts cracked down on open dissent and silenced opponents in recent years.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Former top Israeli legal officials oppose judicial overhaul

12 January ,2023

Former top Israeli legal officials spoke out Thursday against sweeping changes to the country’s justice system planned by the new conservative government, lending their voices to a growing outcry against the proposed overhaul.

Seven former attorneys general who have served in the post throughout the last five decades signed a letter of protest, along with four other former senior legal officials. Three of the former attorneys general were appointed under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose current justice minister is spearheading the legal overhaul. The letter, published in Israeli media, denounced the proposed changes, saying they are destructive to the country’s legal system.

“We call on the government to withdraw the proposed plan and prevent the serious harm to the justice system and the rule of law,” the letter said.

The former officials said the changes would turn the Supreme Court, often the last recourse for Israelis and Palestinians seeking to challenge what they see as discriminatory policies, into a “pseudo-political body that would be suspected of bending the law in favor of the government.”

Israel’s new government has made overhauling the country’s legal system a centerpiece of its agenda. It wants to weaken the Supreme Court, allowing lawmakers to pass laws the court has struck down with a simple majority in parliament. Other changes include politicizing the appointment of judges, reducing the independence of government legal advisors or ignoring their counsel.

The legal changes could help Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, evade conviction, or even make his trial disappear entirely. Since being indicted in 2019, Netanyahu has railed publicly against the justice system, calling it biased against him. He says the legal overhaul will be carried out responsibly.

The plan has prompted an uproar over what critics say is a major threat to the country’s democratic fundamentals. The country’s current attorney general has already fiercely criticized the proposed changes and a protest against them last week drew thousands. Alan Dershowitz, a staunch Israel defender, has also come out against the plan, saying were he in Israel he would be joining the demonstrations.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Iran-France tensions escalate over Charlie Hebdo cartoons row

Syed Zafar Mehdi  



Tensions between Iran and France are on the boil over the publication of caricatures of the Iranian supreme leader, with the country’s top general warning of revenge.

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a series of caricatures depicting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in its special issue last week, which Iranian authorities deemed “insulting” to the top political and religious figure.

Many Iranian officials, including the president, foreign minister, top military commanders and senior parliamentarians, have issued statements criticizing the magazine and the French government.

There have also been a series of demonstrations in front of the French Embassy in Tehran in recent days amid growing calls to review diplomatic ties with France.

In the most scathing reaction to the publication of the cartoons, which were part of a competition announced by the magazine last month, the chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Tuesday said Muslims will “sooner or later” exact revenge against Charlie Hebdo.

Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, speaking at an event in south-eastern Iran’s Zahedan city, asked the owners of Charlie Hebdo magazine to “look into the fate of Salman Rushdie”.

Rushdie was attacked during an event in New York on August 12 last year, almost 33 years after Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) against him for his controversial novel “The Satanic Verses” published in 1988.

The IRGC commander said the French satirical magazine, which has previously been involved in controversy over the publication of cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, made a “big mistake” by publishing Khamenei’s caricatures and will see the revenge.

“Do not play with (the sentiments of) Muslims,” Salami said. “Salman Rushdie insulted the Quran and the Holy Prophet of Islam 30 years ago and went into hiding.”

"After several years, a young Muslim man bravely took revenge on Salman Rushdie and no one could save him," he added.

The IRGC general, however, didn’t explain the nature of “revenge” against the French magazine.

Indecent act

The cartoons featuring Ayatollah Khamenei were published days before the 8th anniversary of a terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo headquarters in January 2015, which killed 17 people.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian last week accused France of choosing "the wrong path" by allowing the publication of cartoons mocking the country’s top figure.

“The insulting and indecent act of a French publication in publishing cartoons against the religious and political authority will not go without a decisive and effective response," he wrote on Twitter.

The Foreign Ministry also announced a decision to review France’s cultural activities in Iran and the closure of the decades-old French research center as the “first step”.

French Ambassador to Tehran Nicolas Roche was summoned to the ministry last Wednesday and told that Iran does not tolerate insults to its sanctities.

“France has no right to justify insults to sanctities of other countries and Muslim nations under the pretext of freedom of expression,” ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said in a statement.

In response to Iran’s decision to shut down the French Institute for Research, which operates under the French Embassy in Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said in a statement last week that it was “clearly regrettable if confirmed”.

Charlie Hebdo, for its part, vowed to publish more cartoons of Iranian leaders, dismissing recent threats from Iran’s military officials.

IRGC designation

Amid heightened tensions, the French Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it was considering the idea that the European Union label Iran's IRGC as a terrorist organization.

It came a day after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Monday said a new round of sanctions against Iran would not be enough, backing the move to designate the IRGC.

"Listing the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is politically important and makes sense," she wrote on Twitter, while also referring to legal obstacles.

Paris, which has been reluctant to endorse the move so far, appears to be changing its stance amid rising tensions with Tehran over the Charlie Hebdo caricatures controversy and the arrest of some French nationals in Iran on charges of espionage in recent months.

Earlier this month, Iran's judiciary issued indictments against two more French nationals arrested on charges of "espionage, gathering, and collusion" against the country's internal security, taking the total number of French detainees in Iran to seven as per French officials.

"Given the continuation of this repression, France is working with its European partners on new sanctions' measures, without excluding any," Legendre said on the designation of IRGC.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Israel faces new protests over Netanyahu ‘get out of jail’ card


January 12, 2023

RAMALLAH: Israel’s far-right government faced a new barrage of criticism on Thursday over its extremist policies, in particular its plans to curb the independence of the judiciary.

Hundreds of lawyers took part in a protest rally outside a court in Tel Aviv, 11 former senior judicial officials signed an open letter saying they were “shocked” by the proposed reforms, and the influential S&P agency warned that divisive actions by the government were a threat to the country’s AA- sovereign credit rating.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin wants to hand more powers to members of parliament in appointing judges, whoare currently nominated by an independent panel, and to allow the Knesset to annul a Supreme Court decision with a simple majority.

The proposed reforms are widely viewed as a “get out of jail” card for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption. If, as expected, his case ends up in the Supreme Court, the reforms would enable the Knesset — which Netanyahu’s far-right coalition controls — to overturn that court’s ruling.

Lawyer Orna Sher, 66, one of the protesters in Tel Aviv, said the reforms were “dangerous” and “a threat to democracy.” She said: “The nomination of judges will be political. Courts won’t be independent, but controlled by politicians.” Another protester, Bruria Lekner, said the plans were “destruction and a regression.”

In their open letter, the 11 former state attorneys and attorney generals said: “We call on the government to retract the plan it published and prevent the severe damage to the court system and the rule of law.”

S&P global ratings director Maxim Rybnikov, the main credit analyst for Israel, said the agency was closely following the proposed judicial reforms, as well as new moves by Israel against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

“If the announced judicial system changes set a trend for a weakening of Israel’s institutional arrangements and existing checks and balances, this could in the future present downside risks to the ratings,” he said. “The primary concern for us would be the ... security situation, which could be undermined by more hard-line policies.”

In the latest attack on Palestinians, the Knesset has given initial approval to a draft law that would revoke the Israeli citizenship or residency rights of anyone convicted of carrying out an attack.

Source: Arab News

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Israeli forces arrest 20 Palestinians during raids in West Bank, al-Quds

12 January 2023

Israeli forces have detained 20 Palestinians during large-scale raids in several areas in the West Bank and al-Quds, as the Tel Aviv regime continues its extensive arrest campaign across the occupied territories.

Palestine’s official Wafa news agency, citing local sources, reported on Thursday that Israeli troops rounded up 15 Palestinians, including five former prisoners, after storming Qalandiya refugee camp, north of al-Quds, and ransacked the houses of the families of those arrested.

Two brothers were also detained in Dheisheh refugee camp, located just south of Bethlehem, after Israeli military vehicles attacked there.

Israeli forces also raided al-Dawha area, southwest of Bethlehem, where they arrested another Palestinian. 

In the village of al-Baqa'a, east of the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), Israeli troops arrested a 17-year-old girl. According to sources, the girl was brutally assaulted by Israeli troops as a bulldozer demolished two houses belonging to her family a day earlier.

Heavily armed Israeli forces also raided the West Bank city of Qalqilya, where they detained another Palestinian after conducting a thorough search at a house.

The latest development comes as Israeli forces have shot and killed a Palestinian man in Qalandiya refugee camp, north of al-Quds.

Israeli forces launch raids on various cities of the West Bank almost on a daily basis under the pretext of detaining what it calls “wanted” Palestinians. The raids usually lead to violent confrontations with residents.

Over the past months, Israel has ramped up attacks on Palestinian towns and cities throughout the occupied territories. As a result of these attacks, dozens of Palestinians have lost their lives and many others have been arrested.

Thousands of Palestinians are held in Israeli jails. Hundreds have been imprisoned under the practice of administrative detention, which allows incarcerating Palestinian inmates without trial or charge.

Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to eleven years.

The Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which advocates the rights of Palestinian inmates, said in a 2017 report that over the past 50 years, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel.

Source: Press TV

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Somalia’s president urges people to flush out al-Shabaab ‘bedbugs’

12 January ,2023

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called Thursday on ordinary people to help flush out members of the al-Shabaab extremist group he described as “bedbugs.”

Mohamud was addressing large crowds at a government-organized rally against the al-Qaeda-linked militants held at a stadium in the capital Mogadishu under tight security.

“I’m calling to you, the people of Mogadishu, the kharijites (renegades) are amongst you... so flush them out. They are in your houses, they are your neighbors, in cars that pass you by,” he said.

“I want us to commit today to flushing them out, they are like bedbugs under our clothes,” he added, as demonstrators waved flags and placards with anti-al-Shabaab messages.

Al-Shabaab has been waging a bloody insurgency against the frail internationally-backed central government for 15 years, carrying out attacks both in Somalia and neighboring countries which sent troops to help in the fight against the militants.

“The people are tired of massacres, killings, and all kinds of misdeeds and they are now saying to al-Shabaab: ‘Enough is enough’,” Mohamud said.

The president declared “all-out” war against extremist fighters shortly after he came to office in May last year.

In recent months, the army and local clan militias have retaken swathes of territory in the center of the country in an operation backed by US airstrikes and an African Union force.

But the insurgents have frequently retaliated with bloody attacks, underlining their ability to strike at the heart of Somali towns and military installations despite the offensive.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Nine killed in mosque attack in Burkina Faso

January 12, 2023

Nine people were killed when suspected jihadists attacked a mosque in northeastern Burkina Faso, local sources said Thursday.

The attack happened at around nightfall on Wednesday in the village of Goulgountou in Burkina's Sahel region, when assailants arrived on motorbikes and herded worshippers inside the mosque, a witness said.

"They separated out the women, children and elderly and then made sermons to try to convince worshippers of abandoning" their form of faith, the source said.

"A discussion even started up with the imam, and because he refused he was executed," the source said.

"They tried to cut his throat, but he fought back, saying he wanted to die standing up, so the terrorists shot him in the head," a local resident said, adding that he had attended the victims' funeral on Thursday.

"Eight other worshippers, mainly community leaders, were shot dead in the same way."

Goulgountou is located close to the gold mining town of Falagountou, which lies near the border with Niger.

The area has suffered several incursions by suspected jihadists since the start of the week, the sources said.

Thousands of people have died and more than two million people have fled their homes since jihadists began launching attacks on Burkina Faso from neighbouring Mali in 2015.

More than a third of the country's territory lies outside of government control.

The insurgency fuelled two coups last year among army officers angered at the rising toll.

Source: Nation Africa

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Bombings kill 14 soldiers in central Mali

James Tasamba  


At least 14 Malian soldiers were killed and 11 others wounded in two separate bomb explosions targeting military vehicles in central Mali, the army said on Wednesday.

The bombings took place between Dia and Diafarabe villages and between Koumara and Macina towns, according to a military statement.

The army deployed reinforcements in response to the two attacks and killed 31 terrorists, the statement said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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French, German Foreign Ministers Hail Ethiopia's Peace Accord

Andrew Wasike 



France and Germany’s foreign ministers praised the peace agreement that ended the civil war in Africa's second-most populous nation Thursday during a two-day visit to Ethiopia.

Speaking a joint press briefing with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock commended the implementation of the peace agreement that has stopped the war in northern Ethiopia, which has claimed more than half a million lives since 2020.

Colonna praised the good progress, which she said Europe wants to continue, since it has allowed for the delivery of essential aid to Ethiopia's Tigray region, and the rebels surrendering their heavy weapons is a sign of long-lasting peace.

Baerbock in a statement said that together with her counterpart, they were in Ethiopia “to do three things: explore with authorities on how to support the country on its way to lasting peace and accountability for human rights abuses, discuss food security in the Horn of Africa and strengthen Europe’s partnership with the African Union.”

Colonna and Baerbock presented aid provided by Germany and France worth up to €14 million ($15.1 million) each for the delivery of 50,000 tons of grain given by Ukraine️.

They are the first EU foreign ministers to travel to Addis Ababa after the peace agreement was signed.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Türkiye, Rwanda agree to boost cooperation on security, defence industry

Faruk Zorlu 


Türkiye and Rwanda have agreed to boost cooperation and bilateral relations in the field of security, defense industry, culture, and economy, education.

"Today, we signed two other cooperation agreements. We want to continue our cooperation in the field of culture and science and technology and innovation, and we have decided to increase our cooperation in the field of security and defense industry," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a joint news with his Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta.

Cavusoglu said that they discussed many issues, including the economy, culture, defense, and education.

"With the general cooperation agreement that we just signed, we will form a Joint Permanent Commission," he said, adding it will be another mechanism where they can assess all aspects of relations between the two countries.

Ankara also wants to activate the political consultation mechanism, established in 2016, Cavusoglu said.

Touching upon the commercial affairs of the two countries, he said: "Our trade and economic relations are rapidly developing. Trade volume increased by more than five times in the last three years."

It means there is a "huge potential," he said, adding that the two countries should work together to increase trade volume further.

Also, Turkish investment in Rwanda reached nearly $500,000. They made up 13% of foreign investments in Rwanda, he said.

For his part, Rwanda’s Biruta emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries, saying: "We have signed some agreements and MOU (memorandum of understanding) covering various sectors, including trade, investment, defense, security, education, visa exemption, culture, and diplomacy among others."

"We are looking to having even more, and also discussed increasing trade and investment between our countries," he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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West exasperated at Libyan politicians’ failure to plan elections

January 12, 2023

LONDON: Western leaders are growing increasingly impatient with Libyan politicians who, despite finding time to agree a 42 percent pay rise, have failed to finalize plans for national elections, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

Special envoys from France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US are due to meet in Washington on Friday to discuss next steps after rival Libyan factions last week failed to reach a final agreement in Cairo on a constitutional basis for national elections.

One Western diplomat told The Guardian: “They are some making sincere efforts at mediation. But the abiding character of too many Libyan politicians on both sides of the divide is (to) pay lip service to the necessity of elections and then do everything possible to throttle them so they can continue lining their pockets.

“We may have to stop hoping we can persuade these people to agree to elections and instead find a way to work around them.”

Friday’s meeting, convened by US Special Envoy Richard Norland, will look at how to hold elections and whether a deadline for establishing a national Libyan body to agree on them is necessary.

Unelected interim governments have run the country for nearly a decade now, with efforts to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and 2021 aborted, while last year’s elections were canceled due to disputes over the qualifications of candidates to stand.

Commentators said this disguised a deeper reluctance from interim politicians to risk a winner-takes-all process that would strip them of state patronage and power.

Stephanie Williams, former UN special adviser on Libya, said: “A transactional ruling class, some of whose network can be traced back to the days of the former regime, uses Libya’s state and sovereign institutions as cash cows.

“It could be described as a ‘redistributive kleptocracy,’ bringing into their circles on a regular basis just enough of their compatriots to sustain the system.”

Libyan politicians’ salaries rose by 42 percent for 2022 despite estimates that half the population are in poverty.

Critics have said the scale of salaries and disbursements evidenced an unaccountable political class eager to avoid the verdict of the ballot box.

Tim Easton, Libya expert at international affairs think tank Chatham House, said: “The central bank figures are still opaque, but clearly spending on salaries is staggeringly high.

Source: Arab News

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North America


New House Homeland Security Committee Chair Has History Of Anti-Muslim Comments

By Rowaida Abdelaziz

Jan 12, 2023

Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) is set to lead the House Committee on Homeland Security, which Muslim civil rights groups say is alarming because he has a history of making Islamophobic remarks.

Green — a physician, Iraq War veteran and former GOP state senator — once said he didn’t want students in Tennessee to learn about Islam and that Iraqis smelled like “curry mixed with sweat.” He has also made anti-LGBTQ remarks, including claiming that being transgender was a disease.

“If you hold stereotypes about communities, how can you effectively move on issues that are really nuanced and require a greater understanding of the issues?” said Sabina Mohyuddin, the executive director of the American Muslim Advisory Council, a Tennessee-based civic engagement organization.

Rachel Del Guidice, the communications director for Green’s office, told HuffPost that “some media outlets cut and spliced” Green’s remarks.

“Rep. Green has not, and will not ever, force his religion on anyone. He believes that every American has a right to defend their country,” said Del Guidice.

“Having served three tours of duty overseas during the War on Terror, Rep. Green acted as a steadfast protector of everyone in this nation. Vilifying people of faith because they don’t agree with progressive policies is against America’s founding principles — the very principles he fought to protect,” she added.

During a 2016 tea party meeting, Green told an audience that he didn’t want public school students in Tennessee to learn about the Islamic faith.

When an audience member read a passage from a textbook that correctly stated that Muslims believe in all the prophets in the Old and New Testament, Green replied, “When you start teaching the pillars of Islam ... we will not tolerate that in this state.”

If students did have to learn about Islam, Green added, they should only learn “the history of the Ottoman Empire” and “the assault of Islam out into the Levant and North Africa and into Constantinople.”

Then-President Donald Trump nominated Green to be Army secretary in 2017, but Green was forced to withdraw from consideration due to his anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ comments.

“Rep. Green’s well-documented history of hate speech against Muslims, LGBTQ people, and immigrants made him unfit to be Secretary of the Army, and that history makes him unfit to chair the House Homeland Security Committee,” said Sumayyah Waheed, senior policy counsel at Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights group based in Washington, D.C.

“As chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mark Green is a threat to Muslims ― especially to those that live at the intersections of the communities he has gleefully attacked for political gain,” she added.

As chair, Green is likely to clamp down on immigration at the southern border. He previously introduced legislation in favor of border wall construction and has earned the support of conservative border hawks.

“For the sake of our national security and homeland security, ending the border crisis Biden created is our top priority,” said Green in a press release published on Monday. “And make no mistake, we will hold President Joe Biden and [Homeland Security] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas accountable for their complete dereliction of duty in failing to respond to this crisis.”

Mohyuddin said she hopes lawmakers will push back on Green’s rhetoric to help keep marginalized groups safe.

Source: Huff Post

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Connecticut Man Pleads Guilty To Trying To Join ISIS: 'I Need Islamic Law'

January 12, 2023

A Connecticut man pleaded guilty on Thursday to attempting to travel to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

Kevin Iman McCormick, 29, was arrested in October 2019 at a private airport in Connecticut, where he was allegedly tried to board a flight to Canada and then to Amman, Jordan.

In the months leading up that arrest, McCormick pledged his allegiance to ISIS and its then-leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

"I gotta fight bro, because those people, Abu Masa and ISIL, they fought for me bro, I know it, I can feel it, in my heart. So it’s my time to fight… It just is what it is bro, it’s just my – it’s just my time to go bro," McCormick said in one conversation in October 2019, according to prosecutors.

McCormick later said that he wants to travel to Syria, or "whatever place I can get there the fastest, the quickest, the easiest, and where I can have a rifle and I can have some people."

"I need Islamic law, I need, that’s what I need, because if I have these things, it’s gonna to be very hard to kill me," McCormick said, according to prosecutors.

Before his arrest on Oct. 19, 2019, McCormick attempted to board another flight from Connecticut to Jamaica and then Syria, but was stopped by the Department of Homeland Security.

McCormick faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 6.

Source: Fox News

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US extends visa interview exemption for Pakistani citizens

January 13, 2023

KARACHI: The United States embassy on Thursday extended interview waiver eligibility for Pakistani citizens wanting to extend their tourist and business visas.

The US embassy made the announcement in a sta­te­ment released on Thursday.

“In an effort to improve customer service, the US government allows non-immigrant visa applicants to apply for their visas without an interview under the interview waiver programme,” the statement said.

“This process is not for first-time applicants. It only applies to certain applicants applying for their visas, and some restrictions may also apply.”

The exemption is granted to citizens applying for the renewal of their B1/B2 tourist and business visas.

According to the US embassy, all Pakistani citizens regardless of age, whose B1/B2 visas are valid or have expired within the last 48 months can benefit from the exemption.

FM expresses gratitude

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari thanked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for interview waivers. “Allowing interview waivers for those who have already in the past held US visas across all age groups is extremely helpful,” he said on Twitter.

Source: Dawn

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‘Daesh Beatle’ Alexanda Kotey no longer in US prison, records reveal

January 12, 2023

LONDON: Alexanda Kotey, one of the so-called Daesh “Beatles” serving a life sentence for the torture and murder of Western hostages, has disappeared from the US prison system, the Daily Mail reported on Thursday.

Kotey was imprisoned in the US in August 2022 after pleading guilty to eight charges related to the abduction, torture and killing of Daesh hostages in Syria between 2012 and 2015.

The 39-year-old Londoner was the fourth member of an extremist cell that held up to two dozen Westerners captive. Hostages dubbed the group the “Beatles” because of their English accents.

Kotey was sent to Pennsylvania’s high-security Canaan prison, regarded as “one of the most dangerous penitentiaries in the country,” according to the Daily Mail.

However, Federal Bureau of Prisons records have recently revealed that he is no longer being held at Canaan.

A prisons spokesperson told the Daily Mail on Thursday that Kotey is not currently in the custody of the bureau, but did not explain why.

The official said that there are “several reasons” an inmate might be listed as not being in the system.

“Inmates who were previously in BOP custody and who have not completed their sentence may be outside BOP custody for a period of time for court hearings, medical treatment, or for other reasons,” the spokesperson said.

The bureau added that it does not disclose specific details about an inmate due to “safety, security or privacy reasons.”

The “Beatles” group is believed to have abducted and killed 27 people, including British aid worker David Haines. Propaganda videos posted online showed victims paraded in orange jumpsuits before being beheaded.

Haines’ daughter Bethany, 24, told the Daily Record on Wednesday that Kotey is most likely “assisting authorities” with investigations into another case.

“I don’t think it is right that he can just disappear from the system and the families whose lives were devastated by his actions are left to wonder where he is,” she said.

“In the past he has been traceable, as we have access to data via the US victim notification scheme, and we at least had the reassurance that he was in a high-security facility,” she added.

After being captured by Kurdish militia in Syria in January 2018, Kotey was handed over to American forces in Iraq in 2020 and later faced trial in the US over the killing of four American hostages. In exchange for his extradition, US authorities agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Source: Arab News

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US says monitoring Iran’s plans to send warships to Panama Canal

13 January 2023

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price says Washington is closely monitoring Iran’s plans to deploy naval forces to the strategic Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.

Iranian Navy chief Rear Admiral Shahram Irani said at the first national conference on maritime civilization in the southeastern port city of Konarak on Wednesday that his forces will establish a presence in the Panama Canal later this year, marking the first time Iran's military has entered the Pacific Ocean.

“We are aware of this claim by Iran’s navy. We continue to monitor Iran’s attempts or at least its statements of its intent to develop a military presence in the Western Hemisphere,” Price said at a press briefing on Thursday.

Irani stated that Iranian naval forces have so far been deployed to almost all strategic straits throughout the globe, except for two.

The senior commander noted that Iranian Navy forces will sail into one of those remaining straits this year, while plans are being drawn up for the presence of the Iranian units in the Panama Canal.

“My comrades are about to approach the coasts of the Americas and showcase signs of Iran’s [military] prowess. Iranian naval forces have been deployed for the time to the Pacific Ocean. Even though Australia and France made some threats during that missions and sought to renege on the regulations that they themselves had introduced on sailing past their coasts, Iranian forces stood firmly in the face of such threats and responded to them mightily,” the Iranian Navy commander said.

Iran-Russia military cooperation

Elsewhere in his remarks on Thursday, Price touched down upon military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, and repeated allegations that Iran has supplied Russia with arms for use in the Ukraine war.

“Our overarching assessment has not changed. Iran is and remains Russia’s most important source of security assistance. This is a burgeoning partnership between Russia and Iran that has deepened in recent months but even over the longer time horizon. We’ve released significant detail regarding the provision of UAV technology from Iran to Russia. We have also detailed our concerns that Russia may also seek ballistic missiles, ballistic missile technology, that Iran has,” he said.

The claims first emerged in July, with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan alleging that Washington had received “information” indicating that the Islamic Republic was preparing to provide Russia with “up to several hundred drones, including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline” for use in the war.

Back in December last year, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said Ukrainian officials had failed to provide any evidence for their claim that Russia was using Iranian drones in its war on Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian side did not present any evidence of Russia’s use of Iranian drones in the war with this country at the technical meeting,” he said following a technical meeting between Ukrainian and Iranian specialists.

Ashtiani emphasized that claims about Russian forces’ alleged use of Iranian-made drones in the war in Ukraine are not important because they are based on “baseless statements and rumors.”

Source: Press TV

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US must be held accountable for Kabul drone strike that killed civilians: Activist

12 January 2023

Drones have become the weapon of choice for the US military in many countries as they significantly lower the risk of injury and death to US soldiers while providing a measure of deniability when civilian casualties are involved.

On Aug. 29, 2021, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone shot a Hellfire missile in a neighborhood near the Kabul airport, killing 12 civilians.

Speaking with Press TV’s Spotlight program on Wednesday, peace and justice activist Judith Bella said the explanations provided by US officials regarding the drone attack were not sufficient at all. They cannot justify their mistake because the Americans monitor a place for a long time and check the movement of people before any strike is ordered, she said.

“Everywhere the United States has a base, they have a special set of rules where the host country will not prosecute any Americans for any crime and it has been a horrific problem,” she added.

An internal military investigation into the Kabul attack reportedly found that erroneous assumptions and biases by US analysts during the Pentagon’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 led to the Kabul drone attack that killed 12 civilians, including seven children.

Three days prior to the drone attack, a bomber had killed more than a dozen US soldiers and scores of Afghan civilians at a main gate of the Kabul airport. Then, officials had intelligence that there would be another attack there and that it would involve a white Corolla. Then, US military analysts observed a white Toyota Corolla parked at what they believed was a Daesh compound. US officials hastily authorized a drone strike on the Toyota Corolla to thwart a suspected bombing attack. Hours later, US officials announced they had successfully thwarted the attack. As reports of civilian deaths started to emerge, the US military issued statements saying they had “no indications” of civilian casualties but would assess the claims and were investigating whether a secondary explosion may have killed civilians.

A US Central Command investigation into the drone attack, which was partially obtained by The New York Times (NYT), showed that military analysts reported within minutes of the drone strike that civilians may have been killed, and within three hours, it had assessed that at least three children were killed in the attack.

“Since no country under any law holds the American soldiers accountable for the crimes they commit in the countries of the world, they continue their wrongdoings in any way possible, and it is only one of the American standards in war, because the United States is not a member of any international convention, so no law can hold American soldiers accountable,” Bella pointed out.

The documents obtained by the Times also provided detailed examples of how assumptions and biases led to the deadly blunder that US military officials had wanted to cover up.

Central Command declined to provide additional comment beyond statements it had previously made about the strike. The Pentagon previously acknowledged that the strike was a “tragic mistake”, and told The Times that a new action plan intended to protect civilians drew on lessons learned from the incident.

Back in 2017, the Trump administration replaced old guidelines with a looser set of rules for drone engagement that led to a 330 percent rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Research by an independent media organization shows that from 2015 to 2020 alone, between 300 to 900 civilians lost their lives to US drone operations. Experts say that even with the new policy adopted, US drones in Afghanistan are still dangerous.

Source: Press TV

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Arab World


Jeddah airport starts free shuttle service to Makkah Grand Mosque

January 12, 2023

JEDDAH — King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah has launched a free shuttle service for pilgrims.

The new service will take pilgrims from Terminal 1 at the airport to the Grand Mosque in Makkah, the airport announced on Twitter.

“Beneficiaries of the service must wear the Ihram and produce the national ID for Saudis or the passport for foreigners.”

Source: Saudi Gazette

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Improved Syria-Turkey ties should seek end to ‘occupation’: Assad

12 January ,2023

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday that a Moscow-brokered rapprochement with Turkey should aim for “the end of occupation” by Ankara of parts of Syria.

The comment, in a statement from his office, was Assad's first on meetings between officials from Ankara and Damascus after more than a decade of enmity during Syria's civil war.

Ankara became a sworn enemy of Damascus when it began backing rebel efforts to topple Assad at the start of the civil war 12 years ago.

But in late December the defense ministers of Turkey and Syria held landmark negotiations in Moscow -- the first such meeting since 2011.

Analysts say Moscow is trying to bridge the divide between its two allies, united by a common “enemy” -- US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Ankara describes those forces as “terrorists”.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched several incursions in northern Syria against Kurdish forces that have allowed it to control areas along the border.

Following the defense ministers' meeting, Ankara's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he and his Syrian and Russian counterparts would meet.

On Thursday he confirmed the gathering will be in Moscow.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar gain the cultural upper hand with heavy investments in the creative economy

January 12, 2023

DUBAI: After the lockdowns, closures and travel bans of the COVID-19 pandemic, which devastated tourism, entertainment and concert-going, 2022 saw what might be described as a mad dash to make up for lost time.

Even as the prospects of a post-pandemic economic recovery dim for the rest of the world owing to the war in Ukraine, the Gulf energy-exporting countries — particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar — are plowing back a good portion of their windfall profits into activities in the field of culture.

Over the past decade, these countries have invested billions in cultural enterprises, establishing new museums, exhibition spaces and music venues to boost tourism, economic growth and instill a sense of national pride.

These investments appear to be paying off, with the Gulf states enjoying a cultural renaissance, propelled by both state-led and private patronage. This at a time when governments elsewhere in the world are slashing their arts budgets.

In the UK, for instance, leading galleries and museums have seen drastic cuts to their Arts Council England funding for 2023, while the former Arab cultural capitals of Damascus, Baghdad and Beirut, devastated by wars, instability and talent drain, are today mere shadows of their former selves.

When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched Vision 2030 in 2016, he placed culture and the forging of a new creative economy at the center of the Kingdom’s development agenda.

The plan was to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil and gas and to implement economic, educational and administrative reforms along with social transformation.

Since it was established in 2018, the Ministry of Culture has spearheaded a growing roster of cultural events around the Kingdom and internationally. In 2021, it reported that Saudi Arabia had hosted 100 cultural events led by 25 new cultural organizations.

Among its recent and forthcoming highlights are the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, first held in December 2021, and the Islamic Arts Biennale, due to open on Jan. 23 in the Hajj Terminal at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport.

According to the ministry’s “Report on the State of Culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2021: Culture in Public Spaces,” some 10.5 million domestic tourists visited the nation’s cultural sites in the first 10 months of 2021 — exceeding the 8.5 million total for 2019.

In December, the ministry opened a cultural center, Fenaa Alawwal, at the former headquarters of the Kingdom’s first commercial bank in Riyadh. It established the center as part of its effort to fulfill the Vision 2030 goal of “encouraging culture as a way of life.”

The center, which will be used for a range of cultural activities, aims to bring together Saudi and international creatives.

While the idea of a renaissance signals a flourishing of artistic activity, it also points to the idea of breaking down barriers, providing a platform for the free exchange of ideas.

“In history, there are many turning points which have been important to artistic movements, from the Renaissance in Italy to the Nahda in the Arab world, all of which have been characterized by immense creativity and a blossoming artistic scene,” Manuel Rabate, director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, told Arab News.

“It is undeniable that the Gulf has undergone significant cultural development in recent years, and this is powered by continuous investment, cross-cultural collaborations, and recognition of the importance of culture and arts in building a deeper understanding and fostering dialogue.”

The social transformation in the Kingdom is nothing if not palpable. From gigantic raves in the desert to festivals such as Riyadh Seasons, art biennales and film schools, the process is inspiring creative thought and intercultural dialogue.

“For the community there’s certainly an increase in the variety, quantity and quality of art exhibitions in every major city in Saudi,” Qaswra Hafez, founder and director of Jeddah’s Hafez Gallery, told Arab News.

“We are contributing like we always have, by producing professionally curated exhibitions, mainly for Saudi artists, and by facilitating exposure for our artists through participating in local, regional and international art fairs.”

Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Qatar has its own state-led cultural plans. For more than a decade, Qatar has been investing billions in its cultural scene, which has developed in parallel with the country’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Its goal, like that of Saudi Arabia, is to move its economy away from an overreliance on petroleum and natural gas and toward tourism and cultural activities.

At the helm of Qatar’s culture drive is Sheikha Al-Mayassa Al-Thani, a global art patron and collector and sister of the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

In March 2022, Sheikha Mayassa announced that Qatar would build three new museums — the Lusail Museum, Art Mill Museum, and the Qatar Auto Museum.

The new venues will be operated by Qatar Museums, a government entity founded in 2015 to oversee cultural institutions, including the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Islamic Art.

“Culture is the most powerful tool. It has no religion, no language; it’s just open,” wrote Sheikha Al-Mayassa in her book, “The Power of Culture,” published in 2022. But, as she stressed in her 2014 TED talk, art and culture are also about building a national identity.

“We are revising ourselves through our cultural institutions and cultural development,” she said at the time. “Art becomes a very important part of our national identity.”

Reem Al-Thani, acting deputy CEO of exhibitions and marketing and director of centralized exhibitions at Qatar Museums, says there is a strong desire to share the nation’s cultural identity with the outside world.

“We want to present our history and the larger context of our nation; it is not just that all of sudden we are here because of oil,” she told Arab News.

“This is who we are. This is our history, this is where we come from, these are our traditions, our wisdoms and our intellect.

“It is also the role of the museums to present this in a very succinct manner. We also want to make sure the present Qatari generation understands their past.”

For more than a decade, the UAE has been pursuing a similar strategy, while at the same time trying to attract big-name international galleries to the Arabian Peninsula.

The Saadiyat Cultural District in the UAE capital is home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2017 as part of a $27 billion tourist and cultural development project on Saadiyat Island

It is also home to the Guggenheim, due for completion in 2025, the Abrahamic Family House, due in 2023, and the Zayed National Museum, due in 2025.

“All of these museums represent the UAE’s commitment to cultural development and its desire to be a global leader in the arts,” Rabate told Arab News.

The UAE, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has implemented state-funded plans to grow the cultural sector and its contribution to the economy.

In 2018, the UAE’s cultural authorities agreed to a country-wide cultural strategy that would work in “a more strategic, sustainable and ambitious direction,” dubbed the Culture Agenda 2031.

The UAE’s National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries, launched in 2021, aims to increase the contribution of the cultural and creative industries’ sector by 5 percent of gross domestic product by 2031.

Among its principal aims are “strengthening the UAE’s position on the global cultural and creativity map” and to “inspire creative thinking and attract cultural talents and creative entrepreneurs from around the world.”

The road map places a strong emphasis on business and entrepreneurship with objectives that include “attracting freelancers and creative start-ups to set up, live and work in the UAE.”

The private art sector in Dubai in particular has been spurred on by the arrival of foreign players. Of note are the number of international galleries that have opened in recent years, including that of the French art dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, who opened his first space in Dubai in 2022.

Others, such as Efie Gallery, Dubai’s first African-owned contemporary art gallery, was launched in 2021 with a mission “to be at the forefront of the rapidly burgeoning contemporary African art scene worldwide,” according to its co-founder Kwame Mintah.

“The selection of Dubai as our first location is due to the relative nascence of the local art scene here, which in turn has offered the perfect terrain for expansion and innovation,” he told Arab News.

Foreign gallerists are not only flocking to Dubai to participate in the UAE’s cultural expansion; they are drawn to the welcoming business environment opening up across the Gulf.

“It is the ease of doing business here — probably easier than anywhere else in the world — as well as the huge government support that made us open here,” Indian collector and art entrepreneur Tushar Jiwarajka, who launched Mumbai’s Volte Art Projects in Dubai in September 2021, told Arab News.

Source: Arab News

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Families of Beirut port blast victims stage mass sit-in


January 12, 2023

BEIRUT: Families of the victims of the Beirut port explosion staged a mass sit-in to protest at the obstruction of the official investigation that has been in limbo for more than a year.

The investigation into the August 2020 blast has sunk into the murk of Lebanese politics, as suspects including ministers and former prime ministers evade questioning and counter-sue the lead investigator Tarek Bitar.

The Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah and Amal are all pushing for the removal of Bitar to force through the release of suspects, including the head of customs Badri Daher, who are being held in custody.

Families gathered outside the Justice Palace in Beirut on Thursday as members of the Higher Judicial Council attempted to force through Bitar’s replacement. The motion however failed after two judges, including the council’s president, Suhail Abboud, refused to attend.

William Noun, brother of one of the victims and the families’ spokesman, thanked “the judges who caused the loss of quorum.” He said: “We don’t have a problem with the judges or the court, but with those who are trying to obstruct the investigation. Those who died in the explosion are not numbers and the court is for justice.”

Deputy Melhem Khalaf, former president of the Bar Association in Beirut, told Arab News that the attempt to replace Bitar was “an attempt to mess with the crime of the century and to turn against justice, the judiciary, and the law.”

The protest came a day after victims’ families threw stones at the Justice Palace, shattering the glass of some windows.

Several protesters were summoned for questioning on charges of vandalism and damaging offices. This further enraged the group, who said that they were being treated “as criminals, while they are families of innocent victims.”

Khalaf described the summoning as “a suspicious and unjust act toward the families of the victims who are already abused. We will not allow them to overthrow the case and insult the families of the victims.”

Many Kataeb and reformist deputies, including Sami Gemayel, Waddah Sadek, Elias Hankash and Michel Doueihy, joined the protest in solidarity with the families who were holding pictures of their victims.

Deputy Hankash said: “It’s shameful that the victims’ families are being summoned, while those accused of the crime don’t attend their hearings and consider themselves above the law. They are outsmarting the judiciary. How can they ask the victims’ families to remain peaceful?”

Deputy Ghassan Hasbani, who joined Thursday’s protest, said that “no one can escape punishment no matter how long it takes because right holders are always more powerful.”

The port explosion was caused by 1,750 tons of ammonium nitrate and other explosive material stored in a warehouse. More than 230 people were killed and 6,500 injured as the blast tore through Beirut’s waterfront and nearby neighborhoods.

Bitar had subpoenaed former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, and three former ministers — Ali Hassan Khalil (Finance), Ghazi Zeaiter (Public Works) and Nohad Machnouk (Interior) — to be prosecuted for “possible intentional killing” and negligence.

It is alleged that all knew the ammonium nitrate was stored in unsafe conditions but did nothing to secure it.

Source: Arab News

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Syria’s Assad ties rapprochement with Turkey to 'end of occupation'

12 January 2023

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has tied a Russian-brokered rapprochement with Turkey to the end of Ankara’s occupation of the northern parts of the Arab country and its support for militant groups wreaking havoc and fighting against the Damascus government.

Assad made the remarks at a meeting with Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and his accompanying delegation in Damascus on Thursday.

The comment was Assad's first on meetings between officials from Damascus and Ankara after more than a decade of enmity following the breakout of conflict in Syria in March 2011.

Analysts say Moscow is trying to bridge the divide between its two allies, united by a common “enemy” – US-sponsored and Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

Also on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing in Moscow that a meeting between Russian, Syrian and Turkish foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov, Faisal Mekdad and Mevlut Cavusoglu, is being hammered out, but the date has not yet been set. “There is no concrete date yet. We have already talked about it, such a meeting is in the works,” she said. “We will let you know the details, including the date, the issues to be discussed, the participants and formats as soon as it will be coordinated with the parties.”

Back on December 28 last year, defense ministers of Russia, Turkey and Syria held talks in Moscow in a clear sign of normalization between Ankara and Damascus.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and the head of the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT), Hakan Fidan, met Syrian Defense Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk along with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Turkish Defense Ministry said at the time.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously talked about the possibility of a face-to-face meeting with Assad. That meeting, he said, should be preceded by talks among the heads of the intelligence services, defense and foreign ministers.

Turkish-language daily newspaper Aydinlik, citing sources, reported on January 10 that Erdogan may meet with Assad before the June presidential election in Turkey. The report said the meeting between the two leaders is expected as part of the third stage of normalization of Turkey-Syria relations.

Turkey cut off its relations with Syria in March 2012, a year after the Arab country found itself in the grip of rampant and hugely deadly violence waged by foreign-backed militants and terrorists, including those allegedly supported by Ankara.

Since 2016, Turkey has also conducted three major ground operations against US-backed militants based in northern Syria.

The Turkish government accuses the militants, known as the People's Protection Units (YPG), of bearing ties with the Kurdistan Workers' Party militant group.

Source: Press TV

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