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

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Woo the Muslim Community: BJP to Launch ‘Modi Mitra’ Campaign in 65 Muslim-Dominated Constituencies for 2024 Lok Sabha Polls

New Age Islam News Bureau

17 March 2023

 

Representative Image | Photo: PTI

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• Oman Invites Indian Fugitive and Islamic Preacher Zakir Naik to Preach Islamic Sermons during Ramzan

• European Countries Legalizing Islamophobia, Limiting Religious Practices of Muslims, Says Turkish-German University Expert

• Pakistan Financing Islamic State in Afghanistan, Attack on Embassy in Kabul a Drama: Former ISIS Leader, Sheikh Abdul Rahim Muslimdost

• Those Who Fear Other Religions ‘Spiritually Weak’, Says Academic of UCSI University

 

India

• No Change in India’s Position on Not Recognising Taliban: Foreign Ministry

• Deoband clerics upset with Mehbooba Mufti's 'puja offerings'

• UP Minority Panel Chief Says Loudspeakers Removed From Mosques, Seeks Best Facilities For Ramzan

• Mehbooba snubs critics after performing ritual inside Shiv temple in Jammu

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Arab World

• UAE President Meets Iran’s Top Security Official In Abu Dhabi

• Riyadh Hosts ‘Music Camp’ By International DJ to Nurture Next Wave of Saudi Talent

• 20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope

• Assad: US military base in Syria's strategic al-Tanf serves as base for training terrorists

• UAE orders provision of $3 million to rebuild West Bank village of Huwara

• Saddam’s rusting yacht serves as picnic spot for Iraqi fishermen

• At Israel-Lebanon border, Yoav Gallant vows reprisal for rare bomb attack

• Saudi air force contingent in UK for Cobra Warrior drills

• 5 killed in mysterious north Iraq helicopter crash; PKK militants reportedly onboard

• Nine out of 10 Syrian camp residents have fled fighting multiple times

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Europe

• UN Security Council Resolution Sets Out To End ‘Stalemate’ On Afghanistan

• UN Calls On Yemen to Take Advantage of Saudi-Iranian Deal and Choose Peace

• EU's top diplomat calls for redoubling diplomatic efforts to solve conflict in Syria

• 10 terror suspects, 1 convicted DHKP-C terrorist released from prison in Greece

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South Asia

• Taliban’s Policies on Women Affecting Afghanistan’s International Relations: Former Minister

• Ahmadiya attacks expose BNP-Jamaat decoupling drama in Bangladesh

• Bangladesh elected OIC Islamic Human Rights Council member

• UN Security Council Extends Afghan Mission Mandate by One Year

• Myanmar team to verify 400 Rohingya for repatriation from Bangladesh

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Southeast Asia

• Don’t Fan Racial Flames, Says PM in Stern Warning

• Fuziah: Previous administration's 'Jihad against Inflation' task force discontinued

• Johor Sultan: Mosque, surau officials can be dismissed for allowing talks by unaccredited speakers

• Nothing Islamic about PAS MP’s views, says Sarawak minister

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Pakistan

• ‘Islamophobia Represents False Sense That Rights of Muslims Do Not Matter’, says Dr Samina Yasmeen

• Lahore High Court Prohibits Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan's Party from Holding Rally at Minar-e-Pakistan

• Pakistan court to decide if police can move to arrest Imran Khan

• Minorities live in fear as incidents of forced conversion rise in Pakistan: Report

• Al-Mustafa Int’l University to Develop Scholarly Cooperation with Pakistani Universities

• ‘Dollar-starved’ Pakistan struggles to pay international airlines: report

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Mideast

• Iran to Halt Weapon Supplies to Houthis as Part of Deal with Saudi Arabia: Report

• Iran Child Protesters Subjected To ‘Horrific’ Prison Abuse: Amnesty

• Iranian activist rearrested after shouting anti-Khamenei slogans: Activists

• UAE collision course with Israel over torched Palestinian town

• Muslim bloc calls for more aid for Türkiye, Syria quake victims

• Israeli forces kill four Palestinians, including gunmen and teen in West Bank

• Erdogan's party pivots back to orthodox economic policies in draft manifesto: Report

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North America

• Bill to Nix Iraq War Authorizations Clears Procedural Hurdle in US Senate

• US General: Islamic State Afghan Affiliate Closer to Attacking Western Targets

• Antony Blinken brings aid worth $150 million to fight Islamist insurgents in Sahel

• US, Pakistan to jointly tackle climate change

• US, Europe powers demand Assad be held to account on Syrian uprising anniversary

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Africa

• UN Security Council Backs Initiative to Establish Libyan Panel for Elections

• Lagos Muslims Endorse Sanwo-Olu for Second Term

• Uranium said missing by IAEA in Libya recovered: Military

• Sudan generals face off in post-coup power struggle

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/muslim-community-bjp-mitra/d/129343

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 Woo the Muslim Community: BJP to Launch ‘Modi Mitra’ Campaign in 65 Muslim-Dominated Constituencies for 2024 Lok Sabha Polls

 

Representative Image | Photo: PTI

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16 March, 2023

By Aashique Hussain

New Delhi [India] March 16 (ANI): Before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has up the ante to woo the Muslim community.

In an aggressive approach to bringing Muslims to the party fold, BJP Minority Morcha will launch a special ‘Modi Mitra’ outreach program from April 20 onwards till February 2024.

Party has selected 65 Muslim-dominated Lok Sabha seats where the Muslim population is more than 30 per cent. BJP’s Minority Morcha will start this campaign after Eid.

“We are commencing a Muslim engagement programme ‘Modi Mitra’ post-April 20 till February 2024. For this, we have identified 65 Lok Sabha seats across the country, where Muslim population is more than 30 per cent. Under this outreach campaign, our target is those muslims who do not belong to any political party and are impressed with PM Modi’s schemes,” said BJP Minority Morcha President Jamal Siddiqui.

“As per our assessment, there are at least 5,000-10,000 people in every targeted Lok Sabha seat. We will talk to them and take their feedback on how the government schemes helped them and what further can be done for them to make improvements. We are also planning a ‘Samvad’ of PM Modi of all those in February next year,” added Siddiqui.

Under this campaign, BJP Minority Morcha will run different programmes in all these Lok Sabha seats. Starting from door-to-door campaigns to the use of social media, small seminars, advertising campaigns etc, the party will showcase the Modi government’s welfare works for the Muslim community.

BJP is planning to reach out to people will be from all walks of life be it doctors, engineers, social workers, journalists, professors etc. In other words, these people will not be political activists but have the power to influence society. To connect them with the party, they will be made ‘Modi Mitra’ so that the message and policies of the Modi government can be delivered among the Muslims in a better way, the BJP Minority Morcha chief said.

“The population of Muslims in the country is 14 per cent, which is considered very important politically. Since the formation of the government under the leadership of Narendra Modi, BJP has been trying to make its place among Muslims, but the hearts of the Muslims have not yet melted. BJP knows very well that if it connects with this community, then the way ahead will be much easier. That is why BJP is working in many ways to make a place in the hearts of Muslims,” Siddiqui said.

Out of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats across the country, there are 80 seats where the Muslim population is more than 20 per cent while 65 seats have more than 30 per cent Muslims. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won 58 out of 80 seats with a vote share of more than 20 per cent and had to face defeat in 22 seats. Whereas, Muslim MPs were elected on 27 seats in the 17th Lok Sabha.

Out of these 65 Muslim-majority Lok Sabha seats, 13 each from Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have been included. Five seats are from Jammu and Kashmir, four from Bihar, six each from Kerala and Assam, three from Madhya Pradesh, two each from Telangana and Haryana and one seat each from Maharashtra and Lakshadweep. In these seats, Siddiqui said along with the BJP, the ‘Rashtriya Muslim Manch’ associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is having ‘dialogues and contacts’ with the Muslims. (ANI)

Source: The Print

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://theprint.in/politics/bjp-to-launch-modi-mitra-campaign-in-65-muslim-dominated-constituencies-for-2024-lok-sabha-polls/1449789/

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Oman Invites Indian Fugitive and Islamic Preacher Zakir Naik to Preach Islamic Sermons during Ramzan

 

Zakir Naik, Islamic Preacher

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Subodh Kumar

Mar 17, 2023

The Oman government has invited Indian fugitive and Islamic preacher Zakir Naik to deliver two religious lectures in Oman’s capital Muscat on March 23 and March 25 during Ramzan. Zakir Naik faces multiple charges of money laundering and hate speech in India.

Zakir Naik is an Islamic preacher, founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Since 2017, he has been residing in Malaysia.

The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA) of Oman issued a statement stating, “The Ministry represented by the Department of Introducing Islam and Cultural Exchange in the Iftaa Office is organising a lecture by the preacher Dr Zakir Naik.”

“The lecture titled ‘The Holy Qur’an is a Global Necessity,’ will be conducted on the evening of Thursday, Ramadan 1, 1444 AH (March 23, 2023) at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Center (Madinat Al-Irfan Theatre),” the statement said.

The Ministry also stated that, in collaboration and partnership with Sultan Qaboos University, a lecture titled 'The Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) is a mercy to humanity' will be held on the evening of Saturday, the third day of Ramadan (March 25, 2023) at Sultan Qaboos University (Great Hall).

Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, 57, fled India in 2016 after his organisation, IRF was banned, and a first information report was lodged under his name. In 2019, he was also banned from delivering public speeches in Malaysia. Besides India, his Peace TV network is also banned in Bangladesh, Canada, Sri Lanka and the UK.

Zakir Naik is accused of instigating Muslim youth and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts.

Mohammed Shariq, the main accused in the November 19, 2022 Mangaluru auto blast case, was influenced and radicalised by Islamic preacher Zakir Naik's videos, which he shared with other co-accused. Karnataka Police officials seized Shariq's phone, which contained videos of Zakir Naik that he and his handlers shared via Telegram and other platforms such as Signal, Wire, Instagram, and Element.

Zakir Naik's speech is thought to have sparked the 2016 Dhaka bombing, which killed 20 people, and the Easter 2019 bombing in Sri Lanka that killed over 250. Zakir Naik is wanted in India and Bangladesh in connection with other cases.

Source: India Today

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/oman-invites-zakir-naik-preach-islamic-sermons-during-ramadan-2347761-2023-03-17

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European Countries Legalizing Islamophobia, Limiting Religious Practices of Muslims, Says Turkish-German University Expert

 

Photo: aa.com

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Rabia Ali

16.03.2023

Countries in Europe are allowing hate crimes against Muslims by legalizing Islamophobia, and introducing laws which are banning or limiting their religious practices, according to an expert.

“Each year, we see a new country come up with a new plan, with a new law, or a party in Europe to ban something, a religious practice of Muslims,” a professor at the Istanbul-based Turkish-German University, Enes Bayrakli, told Anadolu.

“This can be minaret ban, mosque ban, hijab ban, or burka ban. … These kinds of regulations are being materialized each year and it is becoming more and more normal in Europe.”

On the occasion of International Day to Combat Islamophobia, March 15, Bayrakli spoke to Anadolu about the current situation of Muslims in European countries.

“It (Islamophobia) is being institutionalized and legalized more and more. There are debates in different parts of Europe to legalize Islamophobia,” he said.

The co-editor of an annual report termed European Islamophobia Report, Bayrakli also shared highlights from the upcoming 2022 report, noting that three countries emerged as the most vulnerable ones for Muslims in 2022.

“Three countries are on the forefront -- France, Austria, and Denmark.

"Unfortunately, in these countries, debates on Muslims are very radical, and the governments are taking really harsh positions towards Muslim NGOs and the individuals who are combating Islamophobia.”

About the UN's International Day to Combat Islamophobia, he said this can be a corner stone in the global fight against Islamophobia.

Refugees debate

Speaking about the year 2022, which started with the Moscow-Kyiv war last February, Bayrakli said the war has changed political agendas in many European countries, stirring a new debate regarding refugees.

“This old debate about refugees and that Europe is full and cannot accommodate more refugees has suddenly collapsed. Suddenly, Poland was ready to accept millions of refugees, Germany was ready to shelter and accommodate millions of people from Ukraine.”

He also referred to the media coverage in Europe and the US, which suggested that refugees from Ukraine were welcomed because of their skin color, and some suggested that they were more civilized as compared to Syrian refugees.

Europe, on the other hand, has been closing borders and erecting walls to stop refugees coming from other regions through the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, resulting in deaths of thousands of people, he said, adding: “This has shown how racist this discourse was. It was all about religion, as these refugees were rejected because of their religion and skin color.”

Negative tendency towards Muslims to increase

The bias and negative sentiments about Muslims would likely increase this year, not only for individuals but also for the institutions, Bayrakli said.

“Each year, it is becoming more and more difficult for Muslim individuals but also for Muslim NGOs.”

Bayrakli explained that "Muslim NGOs," especially in France, were under immense pressure from the French government, and many had been closed down by the government without any court case or evidence of extremism or radicalism.

“This atmosphere of suspicion about Muslims, about their institutions, about their mosques, about their religious life, private life is being fed into the narratives in these countries by politicians, media, and intellectuals. Unfortunately this is becoming more and more acceptable and normal.”

Avoiding the term Islamophobia

Many countries in Europe now are refusing to acknowledge Islamophobia and are refusing to use it as a term in their speeches and narratives, Bayrakli also said.

Citing examples, he said the Council of Europe has appointed a coordinator against anti-Muslim hatred, while they refrain from using the word Islamophobia as they are under pressure from countries like France.

“There is a political resistance not to acknowledge the problem of Islamophobia. They are trying to get away and play around this problem so that they don’t use the word. When you don’t use a word, it, of course, means that you do not politically acknowledge that there is a problem," he said.

Report and findings

An annual report has been recording Islamophobia incidents and events each year since 2015, Bayrakli said.

The report for 2022, to be released next week, will shed light on the situation of Muslims in some 23 European countries, he noted.

Talking about policy recommendations that the report suggests, he said: “Islamophobia has to be acknowledged politically as a problem. I think this is the first step. Then, we can talk about the strategies on how to combat Islamophobia.”

The expert also stressed the significance of the daily recording of hate crimes against Muslims, as well as publishing the data annually.

He suggests NGOs and academics to work on Islamophobia from different perspectives, and to conduct field research.

Islamophobia is not only prejudice against Muslims, Bayrakli also said, adding: “It's all about racism, Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism. It is a new form of cultural racism. And It has to be understood this way, so that we can fight with this problem in a more systematic manner."

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/european-countries-legalizing-islamophobia-limiting-religious-practices-of-muslims-says-expert/2846965

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Pakistan Financing Islamic State in Afghanistan, Attack on Embassy in Kabul a Drama: Former ISIS Leader, Sheikh Abdul Rahim Muslimdost

 

Abdul Rahim Muslimdost, the founding member of the Islamic State's Khorasan branch, surrendered to the Taliban in March 2022. (Credits: Twitter/Afghan Analyst)

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By Fidel Rahmati

March 17, 2023

Sheikh Abdul Rahim Muslimdost, in a recent interview with al-Mersaad Media, claimed that Pakistan is financing the ISIS group in Afghanistan.

Muslimdost was a former founding member of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) who surrendered to the Taliban in March 2022, according to the media reports.

In his interview, he claimed that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba provided 50 Lakh Pakistani Rupee to the ISKP in 2015.

He added, “The PAK embassy attack in Kabul was just a drama. Nothing happened to the Pakistani Ambassador. Only a bodyguard was injured. They want to whitewash the ISKP group,” he said.

The IS-Khorasan branch has emerged as the primary security challenge to the Taliban government since 2021.

The group has intensified their attacks on several regions of the country, particularly Kabul, Balkh and Herat provinces.

The recent attacks in the Balkh province claimed by the Islamic State killed the governor and two others. A separate incident in Tebyan Cultural Center during the gathering’s journalists in an award ceremony killed 18 journalists and wounded more than seven. Both the responsibility of the attack claimed by the group.

The IS group is the main rival of the Taliban government, aiming to target Taliban officials, foreigners and Afghan civilians.

Source: Khaama Press

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.khaama.com/pakistan-financing-islamic-state-in-afghanistan-attack-on-embassy-in-kabul-a-drama-former-is-leader/

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Those Who Fear Other Religions ‘Spiritually Weak’, Says Academic of UCSI University

 

Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi said he has attended celebrations and events in other houses of faith without any issues.

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Tsubasa Nair

16 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: People who fear other religions are spiritually weak, says an academic.

Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi of UCSI University said he has been invited to celebrations by people of non-Muslim faith and that there is nothing wrong with that.

“I’ve been invited to Christmas celebrations, sometimes in hotels and sometimes in churches,” Tajuddin said during a book launch and forum at the Royal Lake Club here today.

“We accept all, and we invite all. It’s not that we want to convert, we’re not interested in any conversion.

“I’ve never tried to convert anyone to Islam in my whole life because it’s not my business to convert people.”

His comments come after Selangor decided to prohibit Muslims from attending programmes in non-Muslim houses of worship.

Yesterday, Selangor religious affairs committee chairman Zawawi Ahmad Mughni said any programme involving Muslims at non-Muslim houses of worship was not allowed.

On the negative reaction over the movie “Mentega Terbang”, Tajuddin said this was due to the Malay community’s “old-fashioned” thinking.

“The film was about them pondering about other faiths, as should be everyone’s prerogative and right.

“I have done that and was (once) lost before discovering what is now known as the Islamic reformist movement,” he said.

Calling it a “good film”, he said it should be awarded “all the accolades” for being courageous to tackle narratives and questions the nation needed so badly.

“Mentega Terbang”, which touches on the differences and similarities of the major religions in Malaysia, has drawn criticism from the public as well as artistes following its airing on streaming service Viu in January. It was first released online and through limited public screenings in 2021.

Following the uproar, it was pulled down from Viu on Feb 27.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2023/03/16/those-who-fear-other-religions-are-weak-in-their-own-faith-says-academic/

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India

 

No Change in India’s Position On Not Recognising Taliban: Foreign Ministry

By Fidel Rahmati

March 17, 2023

The External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday there had been no change in India’s position on not recognizing the de facto government in Kabul; the remarks came amid the reports of an Afghan policy body asking officials to attend an online program under the ITEC initiative.

At a media briefing, the spokesperson also said that the Indian side does not issue any note verbal to any entities that New Delhi does not recognize.

The comments came after the beginning of a four-day online course for Afghan diplomats, including Taliban officials.

The Online course was conducted by the E-ITEC from March 14 and will continue till 17 of this month with 18 Afghan participants. This was the first initiative since the Taliban retook power in Kabul.

However, the MEA spokesperson said there had been no change in India’s position on the Taliban regime.

“These courses are also open to nationals of various countries, including Afghanistan. Several Afghan nationals, based in India and Afghanistan, have been participating in these ITEC courses,” Arindam Bagchi said.

“Of course, the online courses do not involve travel to India,” he said.

The MEA spokeswoman stated that India’s stance on the Taliban regime has not changed.

“Our position on how we see developments in Afghanistan has not changed. I do not think anything should be read into ITEC courses vis-a-vis that. We certainly would not be issuing verbal notes, which are inter-governmental notes, to entities that are not recognized,” he said.

India has not yet recognized the Taliban administration in Afghanistan. It has been pitching for an inclusive and representative government while insisting that Afghan soil must not be used for terrorist activities against other countries.

Source: Khaama Press

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.khaama.com/no-change-in-indias-position-on-not-recognising-taliban-foreign-ministry/

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Deoband clerics upset with Mehbooba Mufti's 'puja offerings'

Mar 17, 2023

AGRA: Expressing displeasure over ex-CM of J&K and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti's purported 'puja' at Navagraha temple in Poonch district, some of the Deoband's clerics said that the "tradition of another religion is against their faith".

VC of madrassa Jamia Sheikh-ul Hind, Maulana Mufti Asad Qasmi, said, "Muslims should follow their religion only. There is no permission as per the Sharia to adopt traditions of other religions." Qasmi added that "this was not a 'fatwa', but his personal view". He said, "If anyone (Muslim) chooses other religious practices, then it is not appropriate...

Source: Times Of India

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/agra/deoband-clerics-upset-with-mehbooba-muftis-puja-offerings/articleshow/98719133.cms?from=mdr

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UP minority panel chief says loudspeakers removed from mosques, seeks best facilities for Ramzan

March 16, 2023

Urging the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure best facilities for Muslims during the holy month of Ramzan, the state minorities commission has claimed that the local authorities are forcibly removing even those loudspeakers from mosques that had been installed as per the rules.

The commission’s chief Ashfaq Saifi said he has received “lots of complaints” that loudspeakers that were installed adhering to the guidelines of the Allahabad High Court, including decibel limits, were removed by the local administration.

Saifi said he has written to the UP chief secretary, asking him to ensure that loudspeakers installed as per the law is not removed. He said he has also told the top government officer that Muslims must be “given a feeling of security and harmony”.

“I have written a letter to the chief secretary of the state and also advised all police chiefs and district magistrates to extend best facilities and security to Muslim community members during the month of Ramzan, expected to start from March 23,” Saifi said.

“I have received lots of complaints from Muslim community members that the loudspeakers mounted on mosques, even being in accordance with guidelines of the high court, are forcibly removed by the local administration. I have asked the chief secretary to ensure that loudspeakers installed as per the law must not be removed and Muslims must be given a feeling of security and harmony,” he said.

The state government had carried out a campaign to remove unauthorised loudspeakers from religious places. The directives issued by the government for the purpose were based on an order of the Allahabad High Court.

In December 2017, the court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to implement noise pollution control rules in religious places. The government later began removing the amplifiers installed without the requisite permission and those that violated the noise pollution norms.

The loudspeakers installed at public places cannot have a sound level more than 10 decibels above the ambient noise level at the periphery of a public place and 5 decibels above the ambient noise level at the periphery of a private place, say the norms.

Saifi, in his letter to the chief secretary, also asked him to ensure proper lighting, cleanliness and uninterrupted supply of electricity and water in all mosques during Ramzan. He said almost all mosques remain full in evening and at night when Muslims break their-day-long fast and offer namaz of ‘Taraveeh’ (prayers).

“There are huge crowds of namazis in mosques during Ramzan, specially on Eid, and also during Friday prayers. I have asked for proper security arrangements so that no untoward incident takes place,” he said.

Source: Indian Express

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/lucknow/up-minority-panel-chief-ramzan-mosques-8500813/

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Mehbooba snubs critics after performing ritual inside Shiv temple in Jammu

16th March 2023

Jammu: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday defended her recent visit to a Shiv temple in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch and performing a ritual there, saying “we live in a country that is home to the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb” and there is no need to discuss the matter further.

A video of the former chief minister offering water to Shivling inside Navgraha temple, Mandi-Ajote in Poonch on Tuesday has gone viral, drawing criticism from some quarters.

“We are living in a secular country that is home to Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb. The temple was built by Yashpal Sharma (former PDP leader who died last year) and his sons want me to visit the place. I went inside and someone gave me a small vessel filled with water with a lot of belief and love.

“I do not want to break his heart by refusing to pour water (on the Shivling). He asked for it and I did it (out of respect for him),” Mehbooba Mufti told reporters here.

Asked about some Islamic scholars from Deoband in Uttar Pradesh disliking it, she said she did not want to go into it and whether it is allowed or not in her religion.

Source: Siasat Daily

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.siasat.com/mehbooba-snubs-critics-after-performing-ritual-inside-shiv-temple-in-jks-poonch-2548552/

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Arab World

 

UAE president meets Iran’s top security official in Abu Dhabi

16 March ,2023

The United Arab Emirates’ President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed met with the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, the official WAM news agency reported.

During the meeting, they discussed “bilateral relations and means of building bridges of cooperation between the two countries in various fields to achieve common interests,” according to WAM.

The two also discussed “regional and international issues and developments of common concern, and the importance of working to support peace and cooperation in the region,” WAM added.

The meeting was attended by several senior Emirati officials, including National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who held a separate meeting with Shamkhani.

“We should try to increase the security, peace and well-being of the people of the region through dialogue and interaction... while preventing foreigners from playing a non-constructive role,” Shamkhani said during the meeting with Sheikh Tahnoun, according to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Shamkhani’s visit to the UAE comes soon after Saudi Arabia and Iran announced that they had reached an agreement, brokered by China, to reestablish diplomatic relations.

Shamkhani represented Tehran in the talks that led to the agreement, which was welcomed by the UAE.

The UAE sent an ambassador back to Iran in September, more than six years after Abu Dhabi downgraded ties with Tehran.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/UAE-president-meets-Iran-s-top-security-official-in-Abu-Dhabi

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Riyadh hosts ‘music camp’ by international DJ to nurture next wave of Saudi talent

NADA ALTURKI

March 16, 2023

RIYADH: An electronic music “boot camp” is being held in Riyadh by an international DJ to nurture local talent and inspire a new generation of Saudi artists.

Afrojack, a Dutch DJ and founder of the record label WALL Recordings, has joined MDBEAST and Merwas Studio to organize the WALL Music Camp in the capital between March 14-18.

Organizers say it will take an educational approach to navigating the music scene in Saudi, equipping 12 regional artists with the right tools and knowledge to thrive within the industry.

Afrojack, whose real name is Nick van de Wall, told Arab News: “There’s a very, very big chance that Saudi (Arabia) will become the next global hub for music.

“Right now, we’re in that moment of change. So, to be able to empower so many young artists, to give so many people the opportunity to finally take that leap of faith and follow their dreams, become a vocalist, become a singer, become a music producer, become a DJ — now it’s all possible.”

With initiatives driven by the Ministry of Culture and its Music Commission, the Kingdom’s potential is what pulls global artists to the region, including the Dutch producer.

Afrojack, whose most recent songs include “Shockwave” and “Back To Where We Started,” said: “Right now, the thing that drives me the most is the cultural revolution that is happening and the amount of efforts that are being put in by the country itself to maximize happiness.

“The focus that I’ve been seeing with Merwas and MDLBEAST is that we need to (create) fun for people. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where a country, the people, culture and music are so aligned. This doesn’t happen every day, so to be able to help this happen, it’s an honor for me.”

WALL supports local Dutch talent including Chico Rose, Rancido and Chasner to the stage. They have now come to Saudi Arabia to do the same.

“The entirety of WALL is only based on creating sustainable success for everybody,” Afrojack said.

In collaboration with MDLBEAST Records and arts and entertainment company MERWAS, the WALL music camp will provide masterclasses, workshops and studio production sessions under the guidance of some of the region’s top producers, including Zaid Nadeem.

Afrojack said: “Key tools I’m focusing on in this program are mentality and also the understanding of, if you want to become a producer or a DJ or singer, it’s an industry. It’s not just going to the studio or making music for fun.

“It’s a big part of it. There’s also a part of making music focused towards your goal, to define you as a person.”

“I always say I’m not the guy to teach you how to get to number one — I’m the guy that teaches you how to get a career in the music industry.”

With an abundance of learning resources, both online and through various Saudi initiatives, the music camp focuses on getting in the right mindset to tap into the greatest creative potential.

Afrojack said that the most important thing he teaches was “not necessarily the technicalities of making music, but the technicalities of making successful music.”

“Starting a career in the music industry, being able to create something that can reach people, being able to create a relationship with people, create fans, figure out a position in the international music industry — I’m trying to teach that and we've done very well so far.”

Saudi artists Dish Dash, Cosmicat, Malkin and EMAD were given one-on-one masterclasses and studio sessions in Antwerp with Afrojack in previous WALL camps held last July and October.

Afrojack said: “I try … to explain that it’s possible for anyone. Anyone can have the success that I had, but there are certain steps to be taken, and those are the steps that we’re covering.

“I’m not the guy to teach you how to get to number one, I’m the guy that teaches you how to get a career in the music industry.

“You need to stay true to who you are, but at the same time, you need to cater to whatever is happening in the world or whatever the consumer would want. What does the listener want to hear?

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2269846/saudi-arabia

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20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope

March 17, 2023

BAGHDAD: On the banks of the Tigris River one recent evening, young Iraqi men and women in jeans and sneakers danced with joyous abandon to a local rap star as a vermillion sun set behind them. It’s a world away from the terror that followed the US invasion 20 years ago.

Iraq ‘s capital today is throbbing with life and a sense of renewal, its residents enjoying a rare, peaceful interlude in a painful modern history. The wooden stalls of the city’s open-air book market are piled skyward with dusty paperbacks and crammed with shoppers of all ages and incomes. In a suburb once a hotbed of Al-Qaeda, affluent young men cruise their muscle cars, while a recreational cycling club hosts weekly biking trips to former war zones. A few glitzy buildings sparkle where bombs once fell.

President George W. Bush called the US-led invasion on March 20, 2003, a mission to free the Iraqi people and root out weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein’s government was toppled in 26 days. Two years later, the CIA’s chief weapons inspector reported no stockpiles of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons were ever found.

The war deposed a dictator whose imprisonment, torture and execution of dissenters kept 20 million people in fear for a quarter of a century. But it also broke what had been a unified state at the heart of the Arab world, opening a power vacuum and leaving oil-rich Iraq a wounded nation in the Middle East, ripe for a power struggle among Iran, Arab Gulf states, the United States, terrorist groups and Iraq’s own rival sects and parties.

For Iraqis, the enduring trauma of the violence that followed is undeniable — an estimated 300,000 Iraqis were killed between 2003 and 2019, according to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, as were more than 8,000 US military, contractors and civilians. The period was marred by unemployment, dislocation, sectarian violence and terrorism, and years without reliable electricity or other public services.

Today, half of Iraq’s population of 40 million isn’t old enough to remember life under Saddam or much about the US invasion. In dozens of recent interviews from Baghdad to Fallujah, young Iraqis deplored the loss of stability that followed Saddam’s downfall — but they said the war is in the past, and many were hopeful about nascent freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams.

In a marbled, chandeliered reception room in the palace where Saddam once lived, seated in an overstuffed damask chair and surrounded by paintings by modern Iraqi artists, President Abdul Latif Rashid, who assumed office in October, spoke glowingly of the country’s prospects. The world’s perception of Iraq as a war-torn country is frozen in time, he told The Associated Press in an interview.

Iraq is rich; peace has returned, he said, and there are opportunities ahead for young people in a country experiencing a population boom. “If they’re a little bit patient, I think life will improve drastically in Iraq.”

Most Iraqis aren’t nearly as bullish. Conversations begin with bitterness that the ouster of Saddam left the country broken and ripe for violence and exploitation by sectarian militias, politicians and criminals bent on self-enrichment or beholden to other nations. Yet, speaking to younger Iraqis, one senses a generation ready to turn a page.

Safaa Rashid, 26, is a ponytailed writer who talks politics with friends at a cozy coffee shop in the Karada district of the capital. With a well-stocked library nook, photos of Iraqi writers and travel posters, the café and its clientele could as easily be found in Brooklyn or London.

Rashid was a child when the Americans arrived, but rues “the loss of a state, a country that had law and establishment” that followed the invasion. The Iraqi state lay broken and vulnerable to international and domestic power struggles, he said. Today is different; he and like-minded peers can sit in a coffee shop and freely talk about solutions. “I think the young people will try to fix this situation.”

Another day, a different café. Noor Alhuda Saad, 26, a Ph.D. candidate at Mustansiriya University who describes herself as a political activist, says her generation has been leading protests decrying corruption, demanding services and seeking more inclusive elections — and won’t stop till they’ve built a better Iraq.

“After 2003, the people who came to power” — old-guard Sunni and Shiite parties and their affiliated militias and gangs — “did not understand about sharing democracy,” she said, tapping her pale green fingernails on the tabletop.

“Young people like me are born into this environment and trying to change the situation,” she added, blaming the government for failing to restore public services and establish a fully democratic state in the aftermath of occupation. “The people in power do not see these as important issues for them to solve. And that is why we are active.”

Signs of the invasion and insurgency have been largely erased from Baghdad. The former Palestine Hotel, Ferdous Square, the Green Zone, the airport road pockmarked by IED and machine-gun attacks have been landscaped or covered in fresh stucco and paint.

The invasion exists only in memory: bright orange flashes and concussions of American “shock-and-awe” bombs raining down in a thunderous cacophony; tanks rolling along the embankment; Iraqi forces battling across the Tigris or wading into water to avoid US troops; civilian casualties and the desperate, failed effort to save a fellow journalist gravely wounded by a US tank strike in the final days of the battle for Baghdad. Pillars of smoke rose over the city as Iraqi civilians began looting ministries and US Marines pulled down the famous Saddam statue.

What appeared to be a swift victory for the US-led forces was illusory: The greatest loss of life came in the months and years that followed. The occupation stoked a stubborn guerrilla resistance, bitter fights for control of the countryside and cities, a protracted civil war, and the rise of the Daesh group that spread terror beyond Iraq and Syria, throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.

The long, staggeringly costly experience in Iraq exposed the limitations of America’s ability to export democracy and chastened Washington’s approach to foreign engagements, at least temporarily. In Iraq, its democracy is yet to be defined.

Blast walls have given way to billboards, restaurants, cafes and shopping centers — even over-the-top real estate developments. With 7 million inhabitants, Baghdad is the Middle East’s second-largest city after Cairo, and its streets teem with cars and commerce at all hours, testing the skill of traffic guards in shiny reflective caps.

Daily life here looks not so different from any other Arab metropolis. But in the distant deserts of northern and western Iraq, there are occasional clashes with remnants of the Daesh group. The low-boil conflict involves Kurdish peshmerga fighters, Iraqi army troops and some 2,500 US military advisers still in country.

It is but one of the country’s lingering problems. Another is endemic corruption; a 2022 government audit found a network of former officials and businessmen stole $2.5 billion.

Meanwhile, digital natives are testing the boundaries of identity and free speech, especially on TikTok and Instagram. They sometimes look over their shoulders, aware that shadowy militias connected to political parties may be listening, ready to squelch too much liberalism. More than a dozen social media influencers were arrested recently in a crackdown on “immoral” content, and this month authorities said they would enforce a long-dormant law banning alcohol imports.

In 2019-20, fed-up Iraqis, especially young people, protested across the country against corruption and lack of basic services. After more than 600 were killed by government forces and militias, parliament agreed to a series of election law changes designed to allow more minorities and independent groups to share power.

The sun bakes down on Fallujah, the main city in the Anbar region that was once a hotbed for Al-Qaeda of Iraq and, later, the Daesh group. Beneath the iron girders of the city’s bridge across the Euphrates, three 18-year-olds are returning home from school for lunch.

In 2004, this bridge was the site of a gruesome tableau. Four Americans from military contractor Blackwater were ambushed, their bodies dragged through the streets, hacked, burned and hung as trophies by local insurgents, while some residents chanted in celebration. For the 18-year-olds, it’s a story they’ve heard from their families — distant and irrelevant to their lives.

One wants to be a pilot, two aspire to be doctors. Their focus is on getting good grades, they say.

Fallujah today is experiencing a construction renaissance under former Anbar Gov. Mohammed Al-Halbousi, now speaker of Iraq’s parliament. He has helped direct millions of dollars in government funding to rebuild the city, which experienced repeated waves of fighting, including two US military campaigns to rid the city of Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group.

Fallujah gleams with new apartments, hospitals, amusement parks, a promenade and a renewed gate to the city. Its markets and streets are bustling. But officials were wary of letting Western reporters wander the city without an escort. The AP team’s first attempt to enter was foiled at a checkpoint.

The prime minister’s office intervened the next day, and the visit was allowed, but only with police following reporters at a distance, ostensibly for protection. The disagreement over security and press access is a sign of the uncertainty that overhangs life here.

Still, Dr. Houthifa Alissawi, 40, an imam and mosque leader, says such tensions are trifling compared with what his congregation lived through. Iraq has been engulfed in war for half of his life. When the Daesh group overran Fallujah, his mosque was seized, and he was ordered to preach in favor of the “caliphate” or be killed. He told them he’d think about it, he said, and then fled to Baghdad. He counted 16 killings of members of his mosque.

“Iraq has had many wars. We lost a lot — whole families,” he said. These days, he said, he is enjoying the new sense of security he feels in Fallujah. “If it stays like now, it is perfect.” ___

Sadr City, a working-class, conservative and largely Shiite suburb in eastern Baghdad, is home to more than 1.5 million people. In a grid of thickly populated streets, women wear abayas and hijabs and tend to stay inside the house. Fiery populist religious leader Moqtada Al-Sadr, 49, is still the dominant political power, though he rarely travels here from his base in Najaf, 125 miles to the south. His portraits, and those of his ayatollah father, killed by gunmen in Saddam’s time, loom large.

On a clamorous, pollution-choked avenue, two friends have side-by-side shops: Haider Al-Saady, 28, fixes tires for taxis and the three-wheeled motorized “tuk-tuks” that jam potholed streets, while Ali Al-Mummadwi, 22, sells lumber for construction.

Thick skeins of wires hooked up to generators form a canopy over the neighborhood. City power stays on for just two hours at a time; after that, everyone relies on generators.

They say they work 10 hours every day and scoff when told of the Iraqi president’s promises that life will be better for the young generation.

“It is all talk, not serious,” Al-Saady said, shaking his head. Sadr City was a hotbed of anti-Saddam sentiment, but Al-Saady — too young to remember the fallen dictator — nevertheless expressed nostalgia for that era’s stability.

His companion echoes him: “Saddam was a dictator, but the people were living better, peacefully.” Dismissing current officials as pawns of outside powers, Al-Mummadwi added, “We would like a strong leader, an independent leader.”

When news spread recently that a musician born and raised in Baghdad whose songs have gotten millions of views on YouTube would headline a rap party hosted at a fancy new restaurant in western Baghdad, his fans shared their excitement via texts and Instagram.

Khalifa OG raps about the difficulties of finding work and satirizes authority, but his lyrics aren’t blatantly political. A song he performed under strobe lights on a grassy lawn next to the Tigris mocks “sheikhs” who wield power in the new Iraq through wealth or political connections.

Fan Abdullah Rubaie, 24, could barely contain his excitement. “Peace for sure makes it easier” for young people to gather like this, he said. His stepbrother Ahmed Rubaie, 30, agreed.

The Sunni-Shia sectarianism that led to a pitched civil war in Iraq from 2006 to 2007, with bodies of executed victims turning up each morning on neighborhood streets or dumped into the river, is one of the societal wounds that the rappers and their fans want to heal.

“We had a lot of pain ... it had to stop,” Ahmed Rubaie said. “It is not exactly vanished, but it’s not like before.”

Secular young people say that unlike their parents who lived under Saddam, they’re not afraid to make their voices heard. The 2019 demonstrations gave them confidence, even in the face of backlash from pro-religious parties.

“It broke a wall that was there before,” Ahmed Rubaie said.

Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, took office in October. A former government minister for human rights and governor of Maysan province, southeast of Baghdad, he won support from a coalition of pro-Iranian Shiite parties after a yearlong stalemate. Unlike other Shiite politicians who fled during the Saddam era, he never left Iraq, even when his father and five brothers were executed.

Working in a former Saddam palace that US and British officers and civilian experts once used as headquarters for their frenetic attempts at nation-building, Al-Sudani still grapples with some of the issues that plagued the occupiers, including restoring regional relations and balancing interests among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. He said building trust between the people and government will be his first priority.

“We need to see tangible results — job opportunities, services, social justice,” Al-Sudani said. “These are the priorities of the people.”

One of the Shiite militias that took part in that campaign against the Daesh group is Ketaib Hezbollah, or the Hezbollah Battalions, widely viewed as a proxy for Iran and a cousin to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. It also is part of the political coalition that established Al-Sudani’s government.

Ketaib Hezbollah’s spokesman, Jafar Al-Hussaini, met AP at an outdoor restaurant in Baghdad’s Dijlas Village, an opulent, 5-month-old complex of gardens, spas and a dancing fountain overlooking a bend in the Tigris, an idyllic Xanadu that looks like a transplant from uber-wealthy Dubai.

Al-Hussaini voiced optimism for the new Iraqi government and scorn for the United States, saying the US sold Iraq a promise of democracy but failed to deliver infrastructure, electricity, housing, schools or security.

“Twenty years after the war, we look toward building a new state,” he said. “Our project is ideological, and we are against America.”

Far from such luxury, 18-year-old Mohammed Zuad Khaman, who toils in his family’s kebab café in one of Baghdad’s poorer neighborhoods, resents the militias’ hold on the country because they are an obstacle to his dreams of a sports career. Khaman is a talented footballer, but says he can’t play in Baghdad’s amateur clubs because he does not have any “in” with the militia-related gangs that control sports teams in the city.

He got an offer to train in Qatar, he said, but a broker was charging $50,000, far beyond his family’s means.

War and poverty caused him to miss several years of school, he said, and he’s trying to get a high school degree. Meanwhile, he takes home about $8-$10 a day wiping tables and serving food and tea. He is among those Iraqis who would like to leave.

“If only I could get to London, I would have a different life.”

In contrast, for Muammel Sharba, 38, who managed to get a good education despite the war, the new Iraq offers promise he did not expect.

A lecturer in mathematics and technical English at the Middle Technical University campus in Baquba, a once violence-torn city in Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, Sharba left in 2017 for Hungary, where he earned a Ph.D. on an Iraqi government scholarship.

He returned last year, planning to fulfil his contractual obligations to his university and then move to Hungary permanently. But he’s found himself impressed by the changes in his homeland and now thinks he will stay.

One reason: He discovered Baghdad’s nascent community of bicyclists who gather weekly for organized rides. They recently rode to Samarra, where one of the worst sectarian attacks of the war happened in 2006, a bombing that damaged the city’s 1,000-year-old grand mosque.

Sharba became a biking enthusiast in Hungary but never imagined pursuing it at home. He noticed other changes, too: better technology and less bureaucracy that allowed him to upload his thesis and get his foreign Ph.D. validated online. He got a driver’s license electronically in one day. With infrastructure improvements, he’s even seen some smoother roads.

Security in Diyala isn’t perfect, he said, but it’s less fraught than before. Not all his colleagues are as optimistic, but he prefers to focus on the glass half-full.

“I don’t think European countries were always as they are now. They went through a long process and lots of barriers, and then they slowly got better,” he said. “I believe that we need to go through these steps, too.”

On a recent evening, a double line of excited cyclists threaded a course through the capital’s busy streets for a night ride, Sharba among them. They raised neon-green-clad arms in a happy salute as they headed out.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2270221/middle-east

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Assad: US military base in Syria's strategic al-Tanf serves as base for training terrorists

16 March 2023

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says US occupation forces have turned their military base in the Arab country’s strategic al-Tanf region near the borders with Iraq and Jordan into a bastion for Takfiri terrorists.

“We are in a state of direct confrontation with terrorist groups near al-Tanf region. Al-Tanf serves entirely as a base for training terrorists, and has no purpose other than that. What benefits do American forces drive from their deployment in the desert region?” Assad, who is in Moscow on an official trip, said in an exclusive interview with the Arabic-language service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency.

He added, “There is no doubt that the US has barracks for terrorists, where tens of thousands of them and their families are accommodated. They are transferred between different areas from time to time in order to carry out terror attacks against Syrian army soldiers, and cause chaos. We are quite sure of these moves, and have abundant pieces of evidence in this regard.”

Assad’s remarks come days after Syria’s official news agency SANA, citing local sources, reported that US occupation forces had airlifted dozens of members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from a prison in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakah to nearby military facilities before transferring them to al-Tanf base.

A number of captured Daesh terrorists have already confessed to close cooperation with US military forces stationed at al-Tanf base in the central Syrian province of Homs on carrying out various acts of terror and sabotage.

During confessions broadcast on Syria’s state-run television network in May 2020, several terrorists revealed that they were instructed by American forces to target Syrian government troops in and around the ancient city of Palmyra, the Tiyas Military Airbase – also known as the T-4 Airbase, the Shaer gas field as well as nearby oil wells.

Separately, Assad said in an interview with Russia's RT Arabic television news network that Syrian and Turkish nations harbor no enmity towards each other, lashing out at Turkey’s ruling AK Party over its hostile policies against Damascus.

“The top priority of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is solely the country’s next parliamentary and presidential elections – which are scheduled to take place on May 14. This is while our number-one priority at present is the withdrawal of foreign forces, namely Turkish and US soldiers, from the Syrian soil,” the Syrian president pointed out.

Assad also condemned a surprise visit by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley to an army base in Syria’s northeast, which is under the control of the Kurdish-led and so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), saying that the unannounced trip shows that the US is the most rogue state in the world.

In his snap visit on March 4, Milley met US troops stationed in areas of war-torn Syria under the control of the SDF.

About 900 US soldiers are deployed in several bases and posts across northeastern Syria, in what Washington claims to be as part of the fight against Daesh remnants.

Following the visit, a Syrian foreign ministry official said that Damascus “strongly condemns the illegal visit of the American chairman of the chiefs of staff to an illegal American military base in northeast Syria.”

Milley’s visit was “a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity” of Syrian territory, the official added, according to SANA, calling on “the US administration to immediately cease its systematic and continued violation of international law and support for separatist armed groups.”

In his remarks, the Syrian president also hailed a Chinese-mediated rapprochement  agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties.

He also praised Damascus-Tehran ties, saying they have developed a strong friendship over past four decades.

After several days of intensive negotiations hosted by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia finally clinched a deal on Friday to restore diplomatic relations and re-open embassies and missions within two months.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by the Saudi government, stormed its embassy in Tehran

The Syrian leader also commented on recurrent Israeli airstrikes on his country, stating that the regime has frequently bombed Syria and aggravated the situation since 2013. He also slammed Tel Aviv for helping the US in creation of the Daesh terrorist group.

Israel frequently carries out missile attacks on targets in Syria, mostly using the airspace of Lebanon or the occupied territories.

The regime frequently violates Syrian sovereignty by targeting military positions inside the country, especially those of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement, which has played a key role in helping the Syrian army in its fight against foreign-backed terrorists.

Israel mostly keeps quiet about its attacks on the Syrian territories, which many view as a knee-jerk reaction to the Syrian government’s increasing success in confronting terrorism.

The Tel Aviv regime has been a main supporter of terrorist groups that have battled the government of Assad since foreign-backed militancy erupted in Syria in early 2011.

Source: Press TV

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/03/16/699975/US-military-turns-Syria%E2%80%99s-al-Tanf-base-into-bastion-for-terrorists,-Assad-says

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UAE orders provision of $3 million to rebuild West Bank village of Huwara

16 March ,2023

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed has ordered the provision of $3 million to help rebuild the West Bank village of Huwara and support those affected after it was set ablaze by hard-line Jewish settlers.

The initiative, which is in line with the UAE’s humanitarian efforts to support “the Palestinian brotherly people,” will be implemented through Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipalities and Transport in cooperation with the Emirati Palestinian Friendship Club, state news agency WAM reported on Thursday.

Huwara, a Palestinian village near a major road checkpoint, has become the latest flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians after months of worsening violence in the occupied West Bank.

Scores of Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage in Huwara last month, setting dozens of cars and homes on fire after two settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman there.

The rampage prompted international condemnation. But Israel’s government, which is made up of pro-settlement ultranationalists, expressed little outrage and only called on the perpetrators not to take the law into their own hands.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2023/03/16/UAE-orders-provision-of-3-million-to-rebuild-West-Bank-village-of-Huwara

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Saddam’s rusting yacht serves as picnic spot for Iraqi fishermen

16 March ,2023

Capsized in a river in southern Iraq, the rusting wreck of a yacht that belonged to Saddam Hussein serves as a stark reminder of his iron-fisted rule that ended with the US-led invasion two decades ago.

The 121-metre (396 ft) “al-Mansur,” a symbol of Saddam’s wealth and power when it was built in the 1980s, is today a destination for sightseers and fisherman who clamber aboard the wreck to picnic and drink tea.

“When it was owned by the former president, no one could come close to it,” said fisherman Hussein Sabahi, who enjoys ending a long day on the river with a cup of tea aboard the wreck.

“I can’t believe that this belonged to Saddam and now I’m the one moving around it,” he said.

Saddam issued orders for the yacht, which he never boarded, to leave its mooring at Umm Qasr to Basra for safekeeping a few weeks after the invasion got underway on March 20, 2003.

But it was targeted by US-led forces, and later capsized in the Shatt al-Arab waterway as it fell into decay.

In the turmoil that followed Saddam’s downfall, the yacht was stripped bare and looted, with everything from its chandeliers and furniture to parts of its metal structure removed.

One of three yachts owned by Saddam, the yacht could accommodate up to 200 guests and was equipped with a helipad.

US officials estimated in 2003 that Saddam and his family may have amassed up to $40 billion in ill-gotten funds.

Another of his yachts has been turned into a hotel in Basra.

Though some Iraqis say the wreck should be preserved, successive governments have not allocated funds to recover it.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/Saddam-s-rusting-yacht-serves-as-picnic-spot-for-Iraqi-fishermen

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At Israel-Lebanon border, Yoav Gallant vows reprisal for rare bomb attack

16 March ,2023

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday said those responsible for a rare roadside bomb attack this week which officials said may have involved Lebanon’s Hezbollah, would be found and held accountable.

Israel’s military said on Wednesday that security forces had killed a man carrying an explosive belt after he apparently crossed from Lebanon into Israel and detonated a bomb on Monday, seriously wounding a motorist.

It was examining whether Iran-backed Hezbollah was involved.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/At-Israel-Lebanon-border-Yoav-Gallant-vows-reprisal-for-rare-bomb-attack

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Saudi air force contingent in UK for Cobra Warrior drills

March 16, 2023

RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Air Force is one of seven detachments currently in action at RAF Coningsby in the UK for the Cobra Warrior 2023 exercise.

On behalf of Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force, Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al-Shahri, assistant commander of King Fahd Air Force Base, witnessed the events and drills of the group participating in the exercise.

Al-Shahri said the efforts of the group were reassuring and demonstrated professionalism.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2270066/saudi-arabia

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5 killed in mysterious north Iraq helicopter crash; PKK militants reportedly onboard

March 17, 2023

DOHUK, Iraq: A mysterious helicopter crash in northern Iraq has killed at least five people, allegedly including militants belonging to an outlawed Kurdish insurgency group, according to statements Thursday from the Iraqi Kurdish-run counterterrorism agency and the region’s president.

The AS350 Eurocopter crashed in the district of Chamanke in Dohuk province in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday night, the counter-terrorism agency said in a statement posted on social media.

At least five passengers were killed, said Lawk Ghafuri, spokesperson for the Kurdish region’s President Nechirvan Barzani.

“The investigations are ongoing by security officials to determine the ownership of the helicopter,” Ghafuri said in a post on Twitter.

At least seven were on board, according to an investigator at the crash scene speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation with the media.

The helicopter was carrying militants belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, the counter-terrorism statement said. No party has of yet claimed ownership of the chopper.

Iraq’s government, the U.S-led coalition and Turkiye had been contacted by the Iraqi Kurdish regional government about the crash, but each denied the helicopter was theirs, the statement added.

Zagros Hiwa, a PKK spokesperson, said the group does not possess helicopters and they were also investigating the incident. He also cast doubt on the presence of PKK militants onboard the flight, saying they may have a coalition helicopter carrying fighters with the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a Syrian Kurdish group allied with the US-led forces.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition declined to comment, saying the crash fell outside the scope of the coalition’s operations.

Turkish defense ministry officials said that initial reports that the helicopter had been Turkish were “completely untrue” and that there was no helicopter flight belonging to the Turkish military in the region.

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2270211/middle-east

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Nine out of 10 Syrian camp residents have fled fighting multiple times

March 16, 2023

LONDON: Nine out of 10 Syrians living in camps in the north-west of the country have suffered multiple bouts of homelessness during the civil war, UK-based Action for Humanity has said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has estimated that 1.8 million people have been forced into 1,420 camps within Syria since the start of the country’s civil war, which began 12 years ago this Wednesday.

The AFH found that 92 percent of 263 internally displaced households surveyed in north-western Syria had been made homelessness multiple times since the conflict started, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

Around two-thirds (64 percent) said they had moved between four and seven times, while 23 percent said they had moved eight or more.

The UK charity said that earthquakes in February had exacerbated the crisis, leaving an estimated 98% of Syrians living in camps without safe shelter.

“As a Syrian, the past 12 years have been heartbreaking for me. So many of our people have been killed, injured and lost their homes,” Hani Habbal, a frontline responder in northern Syria managing AFH humanitarian projects, told the Guardian.

He added that the earthquake then “destroyed or damaged their accommodation or made them feel that it was unsafe”.

“Many have lost their homes multiple times. When the war started, people were in places like Damascus, Dara, all across the country, and were displaced when the fighting came to their town or village.

“They fled for their lives to places like Aleppo, like Raqqa, to be displaced once again to places like Idlib, only to be displaced once again when fighting arrived there.

“In some extreme examples, people have had to leave their homes over 20 times. Can you imagine a life where you and your family have been forced to be homeless, in fear of your lives, four, five or six times? This is the reality for millions of people in north-west Syria.”

In November, the UN expressed concerns over deadly strikes at several IDP camps.

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband has criticized the international community’s “loss of attention” to Syria, the Guardian reported.

“Limbo is no lifestyle for millions in the north-west,” Miliband stated

Source: Arab News

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https://www.arabnews.com/node/2270056/middle-east

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Europe

 

UN Security Council resolution sets out to end ‘stalemate’ on Afghanistan

EPHREM KOSSAIFY

March 16, 2023

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Thursday adopted a draft resolution calling for a team of independent experts to assess the international strategy on Afghanistan, and develop a “coherent and integrated approach” to address the challenges facing the country.

Resolution 2679 was authored by the UAE and Japan, the two penholders of the Afghan file at the Security Council.

The two countries also authored a second resolution extending the mandate of UN assistance mission to Afghanistan for another year, until March 17, 2024.

Both resolutions were adopted unanimously.

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, told Arab News after the vote that “there is an extraordinary set of circumstances in Afghanistan today, and we needed an extraordinary response from the council. So, I hope this (resolution) contributes to that effort.”

The penholders, who are responsible for following up on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan by drafting resolutions, requesting emergency meetings, and organizing mission visits, have argued that there is a need for a coherent international political strategy, and that maintaining the status quo will not lead to positive development on the ground.

The resolution highlights the importance of the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and upholding human rights, including those of women, children, minorities, and people in vulnerable situations.

It also expresses concern at the lack of progress on the Security Council’s expectations for the Taliban.

The text requests that the secretary-general provide an independent assessment to the council by Nov. 17 this year, following consultations with “all relevant Afghan political actors and stakeholders, including relevant authorities, Afghan women, and civil society, as well as the region and the wider international community.”

The assessment must include recommendations for an “integrated and coherent approach” among relevant political, humanitarian, and development actors within and outside the UN system “in order to address the current challenges faced by Afghanistan, including in relation to human rights, the rights of women and girls, religious and ethnic minorities, economic and social challenges, dialogue, governance and the rule of law; and to advance the objective of a secure, stable, prosperous and inclusive Afghanistan.”

Nusseibeh told fellow council members after the vote that “in requesting this assessment, the Security Council is not only demonstrating its deep concern with the alarming trajectory in Afghanistan, but also choosing to do something about it.”

She added that “without a persistent and coordinated international effort, the status quo that contributed to the worst women’s rights crisis in the world is likely to continue.

“If we all share the objective of a secure, stable, prosperous, and inclusive Afghanistan — and we believe that today we’ve shown that we do — then we all must be working toward the same objective, in unity.

“The scale of the crisis demands a departure from business as usual,” said Nusseibeh, adding that “the work truly begins now.”

Ishikane Kimihiro, Japan’s permanent representative to the UN, welcomed the unanimous adoption of the two resolutions, and said the council’s support for the UN assistance mission comes at a time of “enormous challenges confronting Afghanistan and its people, including the dire humanitarian and economic situation, the persistent threat of terrorism, and above all, the depreciation of opportunities for women and girls in education and employment.”

Nusseibeh said the council’s unanimous extension of the UNAMA’s mandate highlights its “strong and unified message: Afghanistan, and in particular its women and girls, will not be abandoned.”

Taliban fighters took control of the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15, 2021, after US and NATO forces withdrew from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. They have since then enacted a series of edicts denying women and girls access to education beyond the sixth grade, and banning women from working for humanitarian organizations, among other restrictions of their rights.

Multiple international efforts to persuade the Taliban rescind their bans have failed.

One effort earlier this year was led by Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the UN, who told Arab News after her visit to Afghanistan that “it is important to maximize whatever leverage is available to steer the Taliban toward the universal principles that underpin participation in the international community.”

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2270041/world

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UN calls on Yemen to take advantage of Saudi-Iranian deal and choose peace

March 15, 2023

NEW YORK: The UN special envoy for Yemen on Wednesday welcomed the recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic ties, and said the region is witnessing a “step change in the scope and depth” of talks to end the long-running Yemeni conflict.

In a Security Council meeting on Yemen, Hans Grundberg commended mediation efforts by the Kingdom and Oman, and urged all Yemeni parties to seize the opportunity provided by this “renewed regional diplomatic momentum” and take “decisive steps toward a more peaceful future.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed last week in Beijing to restore diplomatic relations that had been suspended since 2016.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the agreement, underscoring the importance of good relations between Iran and the Kingdom “for the stability of the Gulf region.”

Geng Shuang, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said the agreement is “uplifting news for today’s world that is fraught with uncertainties and instability. It has injected a positive element into the peace, stability, solidarity and cooperation landscape of the region.”

Geng expressed hope that the agreement will create conducive conditions for improving the situation in Yemen.

“The Beijing dialogue was a success story of diplomacy,” the Chinese envoy said, vowing that his country will continue its “unwavering efforts toward resolving the Yemeni issue, and maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East.”

US ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis also expressed hope that the Saudi-Iranian agreement will contribute to efforts to “secure a durable solution to the conflict in Yemen, address the continued flow of Iranian lethal aid to the Houthis, and ensure Iranian support for a Yemeni political process.

“Efforts to achieve stability in the region are welcome,” DeLaurentis added.

Yemen is experiencing its longest lull in fighting since the April 2022 truce between the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia. However, there have been sporadic clashes since the agreement expired in early October 2022.

Grundberg said the security situation remains fragile, and called on the parties to avoid destabilizing the situation by exercising “maximum restraint” and refraining from escalatory rhetoric.

“With the security situation remaining relatively stable, but no agreement on the way forward, Yemen may seem to be in a precarious political holding pattern. Yet, intense diplomatic efforts are ongoing at different levels to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end,” he said.

He also indicated progress in talks on a prisoner exchange between the internationally recognized government and the Houthis that are co-chaired by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. He urged the parties “to finalize the details of the current phase they have agreed on, including the implementation plan.”

Joyce Msuya, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator, told council members that the number of people going hungry in Yemen has fallen by 2 million, and the worst cases of hunger have dropped to zero.

She attributed the improvement to the “tireless efforts” of humanitarian workers, the “generous support of donors,” and to the truce itself.

“But we must not rejoice too much,” warned Msuya, “because Yemen remains a staggering emergency.”

She said that 17 million Yemenis depend on aid for survival and protection, amid challenges to access and security, funding shortages and economic problems that are “pushing even more people into destitution.”

Msuya welcomed Houthis’ acceleration of approvals for aid projects in areas they control, but said despite “these rays of light,” the overall picture on access and security remains gloomy.

“In Houthi-controlled areas, Yemeni female aid workers are still unable to travel without male guardians,” Msuya said. “This is causing serious disruptions in the ability of agencies to assist women and girls safely and reliably.”

The humanitarian official called on the Houthis to lift all movement restrictions on aid operations.

She also called for the immediate release of two UN staff who remain in detention in Sanaa following their arrest by the militia in November 2021.

However, Msuya urged donor states to honor their promises at the recent Yemen pledging event and immediately fulfill their pledges, adding that $4.3 billion in humanitarian aid is needed to help 17 million Yemenis.

Mohammed Abushahab, UAE deputy permanent representative, called on the Houthis to “heed the call for peace and genuinely responded to proposals aimed at ending the conflict.”

He added that if militias persist in pursuing their own interests, “we will hold them fully accountable for the continued to plight of the many people.”

The Emirati envoy commended Saudi efforts in providing humanitarian economic and political support to the Yemeni people, and reiterated his country’s backing for the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council.

Abushahab also called for a halt to “violations of international humanitarian law, and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Houthis against civilians and civilian infrastructure.

“We strongly condemn these violations, which range from attacks on Yemeni ports to the use of blockades and shelling mines, arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearance.”

Violations against women and children are of particular concern, he said.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2269201/middle-east

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EU's top diplomat calls for redoubling diplomatic efforts to solve conflict in Syria

Agnes Szucs 

17.03.2023 -

BRUSSELS

The international community must “redouble its efforts” to reach a solution to the conflict in Syria, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said Thursday.

In a statement marking the 12th anniversary of protests leading to the Syrian civil war, Josep Borrell called on the international community to “redouble its efforts to reach a durable and comprehensive political solution for Syria.”

He said the EU continues to support the work of UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen for this purpose.

Borrell called the support of the Syrian people a “priority” for the EU, which is the largest provider of international aid to the country.

The EU will host a fundraiser Monday for the victims of last month’s earthquake in northern Syria and will organize the 7th Syria donors' conference on June 15, he said.

At the same time, Borrell ruled out the normalization of relations with the Assad regime, which is responsible for the “brutal repression” of its own people.

“Huge human rights abuses and grave violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict continue to be perpetrated, in particular by the Syrian regime and its allies,” he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/eus-top-diplomat-calls-for-redoubling-diplomatic-efforts-to-solve-conflict-in-syria/2847980

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10 terror suspects, 1 convicted DHKP-C terrorist released from prison in Greece

Derya Gulnaz Ozcan

16.03.2023

At least 11 people, including one convicted DHKP-C terrorist, have been released from prison in Greece, according to local media on Thursday.

Out of 11, only one of them was sentenced to 18 months after being found guilty for possession of weapons, while 10 others were acquitted, the EFSYN newspaper reported.

However, that convict was released as he was remanded in custody for three years.

In March 2020, Greek counter-terrorism police carried out operations against the terror group in Exarcheia and Sepolia regions in the capital Athens.

During the raids, security forces found a tunnel under a house in Exarcheia and seized many heavy weapons, while they arrested over 20 terror suspects.

The DHKP-C has been responsible for numerous terror attacks in Türkiye, including the 2013 attack on the US Embassy in Ankara that killed a Turkish security guard.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/10-terror-suspects-1-convicted-dhkp-c-terrorist-released-from-prison-in-greece/2847315

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South Asia

 

Taliban’s policies on women affecting Afghanistan’s international relations: Former minister

17 March, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], March 17 (ANI): Taliban’s policy on women’s education and work will impact negatively Afghanistan’s relations with the international community, former Minister of Finance, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal said, TOLOnews reported.

In an interview with TOLOnews, the former Minister of Finance said that the constitution and the people’s support are important for governance.

“There were policies that made the space unfavourable. The trust that the people needed has not been formed. Our relations with the world countries have been undermined,” Zakhailwal said.

He even suggested that the issue of women’s education should be solved within Afghanistan so that the international community won’t interfere in internal affairs.

“A government is legitimate when it has a constitution and the support of the people. No government has full legitimacy without the support of the people,” TOLOnews quoted Zakhailwal saying.

Political analyst Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, said on the remarks of Zakhailwal: “The policies of the Islamic Emirate about the education and work of women created problems for the Islamic Emirate inside and outside the country. It almost isolated the Islamic Emirate. It created problems about recognition and reduced the attention of the international community to Afghanistan.”

The closure of girls’ schools in Afghanistan has drawn criticism from all over the world.

Since the Taliban retook control in August 2021, numerous limitations have been placed on women. One of these restrictions, the university ban, has outraged people worldwide, particularly Muslims.

Earlier, the Taliban banned girls from going to school and after that, they have been banned to visit universities as well.

The Taliban regime issued the ban after accusing female students of disobeying the university’s rigorous dress code and requiring them to travel to and from campus with a male relative.

TOLOnews recently reported that, as Afghan women continue to grapple with challenges related to education due to Taliban-imposed bans, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a statement said that the females in war-torn Afghanistan are living in exile in their own country.

Source: The Print

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://theprint.in/world/talibans-policies-on-women-affecting-afghanistans-international-relations-former-minister/1450192/

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Ahmadiya attacks expose BNP-Jamaat decoupling drama in Bangladesh

Sahidul Hasan Khokon

Mar 16, 2023

The recent spate of attacks on the Ahmadiyas, that left at least three dead and dozens of houses torched, has once again blown the lid of the much-hyped decoupling drama by the leading parties in Bangladesh’s Islamist opposition – the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (Jamaat).

Months back, an announcement was made by leaders of both parties that were drawing apart. Analysts said this was because the BNP was trying to cozy up to India and the West, where the Jamaat is viewed as hardline Islamists, and also project an acceptable image to secular nationalists in Bangladesh who may be opposed to the Awami League.

But a close look at the response of the two allies on the Ahmadiya question exposed the truth and laid bare how close the two are on the religious question and how intolerant they are when it comes to other faiths.

Vehemently opposed to the status the Ahmadiyas enjoy in Bangladesh as “Muslims”, the Jamaat-e-Islami, after the attack, issued a statement to mount pressure on the government to declare the community as non-Muslims. The Jamaat-backed social media assets launched a barrage of “boycott Ahmadiya” campaigns.

The Ahmadiyas are a group that originated in British-controlled India in the 19th century who see themselves as a reformist Islamic movement but are regarded as heretical by orthodox Muslims and forbidden from calling themselves Muslims or using Islamic symbols in their religious practices in countries such as Pakistan, where they face massive persecution.

On the other hand, just days after the attacks, the BNP leaders, including the party’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, upped their ante, accusing the government of “orchestrating the attack to gain political mileage out of the attack” but seemed conveniently ignorant about such sweeping slurs despite the community leaders decrying such Jamaat-sponsored campaign as “hate campaign”.

BNP’s response

Days before a group of BNP leaders met a high-profile European delegation, BNP’s top leaders, including Fakhrul, blamed the government squarely and called the attack “premeditated and orchestrated for political gains by putting the blame on the opposition”.

Speaking at a press conference, Fakhrul said, “The government mainly tried to weaken the BNP's ongoing movement to restore democracy and tarnish the party's image both at home and abroad by implicating it with communal violence.”

However, a day after a BNP delegation met EU leaders in the country, Fakhrul took a dig at the Ahhmediays and called the attempt to hold a religious congregation “controversial” and slammed the government for “allowing such an event”.

Outraged at Fakhrul’s calling the Ahmadiya rally “controversial”, the minority community rejected the statement, calling it “tantamount to their constitutional rights to hold such events as these are peaceful in nature”.

Rejecting Fakhrul’s statement where he termed the congregation a controversial one, Ahmad Tabsir Chowdhury, a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyas, cited two separate statements by Fakhrul in a span of two days.

First, Fakhrul blamed the government and said the attack “was staged by the government to divert attention”. “But a day later he found it convenient to call our effort to hold the rally a controversial one. We unanimously reject this statement,” observed Ahmad.

Reminding Fakhrul of constitutional obligations that allow citizens to hold rallies, Ahmad went on record saying “our rally was scheduled to be held inside our premises. We did not seek permission to take it on busy streets like the capital’s Paltan and we believe it is our right to hold such events as these are peaceful in nature”.

Article 37 in the constitution denotes “every citizen shall have the right to assemble and to participate in public meetings and processions peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of public order or public health”.

Jamaat response

Fakhrul's remark comes at a time when Basherkella - a pro-Jamaat-e-Islami Twitter account - condemned the police action to stop the violence over the Ahmadiyya religious event and called for "boycotting" the community. The Ahmadiyya community has called it a "hate campaign" against them.

Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami's acting Secretary General, Maulana ATM Masum, issued a statement on March 5, asking the government to officially declare the Ahmadiyya community as "non-Muslim".

Since violence broke out, at least eight tweets were posted from the Basherkella account with "police brutality" and "boycott Qadiani (Ahmadiyya)" hashtags.

Calling these tweets a "hate campaign" against the Ahmadiyyas, Amanur Rahman, a university graduate from the community, said the social media platform is being used to "instigate further attacks".

According to Amanur, "All these tweets asking people to boycott our community and the false portrayal of police action is a clear attempt to glorify the attackers and justify the attack.”

Basherkella, earned notoriety as a "Jamaat mouthpiece" for staunchly supporting war criminals, and propagating religious extremism.

BANGLADESH PM STANDS WITH AHHMEDIAYS

Following the attack, several ministers from the Awami League rushed to Panchagarh, met the affected families and directed officials to ensure security to stop any further recurrence of such events.

Moreover, at the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a total of 206 families were given humanitarian assistance from the prime minister's fund today.

Based on the local administration's primary assessment following arson and looting, the authorities distributed cheques between Bangladeshi rupees 4,803 and 5,26,366 among the victims’ families, reported Bangladesh media.

DECODING LONG-HELD BNP-JAMAAT’S NEXUS AND ANTI-AHHMEDIYA STANCE

Though Jamaat leaders and activists went every extra mile, including perpetrating genocide for all-weather friend Pakistan Occupational forces back in 1971, with the singular objective of stopping the birth of Bangladesh, the long-standing much coveted ties between the BNP and the Jamaat can be traced back in the aftermath of the gruesome killing of country’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, four years into country’s independence in 1975.

The assassination was a part of a larger international conspiracy to avenge the defeat of 1971 as the Pak army, even with the backing of the US, made a public surrender.

Right after the assassination of Mujib along with 19 of his family members, the country witnessed the rise of military dictators. These self-confessed war criminals from the Jamaat got a new lease of life. On impact, a slew of attempts were set in motion to whitewash the litany of war crimes, Jamaat leaders were rehabilitated and embarked on a chilling mission to introduce Pak-style rule in the country.

Bangladesh’s first military dictator, Gen Ziaur Rahman, who founded the BNP, offered an olive branch to the Jamaat, allowing the self-confessed war criminals a free run on the country’s political landscape. The scrapping of secularism from the constitution was another victory for these nexus.

Under Gen Zia’s successor, his wife Begum Zia and their son Tarique Rahman, between 2001 and 2006, top Jamaat leaders were made ministers.

That alliance in power provided full scale state patronage to theocratic groups and Islamist militants enjoyed a free run. They stepped up targeted attacks on liberal thinkers and writers, and minorities were burnt to death indiscriminately.

Ruthless attacks on progressive leaders, including an assassination attempt on Sheikh Hasina, by rabidly radical outfits under the direct patronage of the BNP-Jamaat regime was another pointer that triggered top investigative journalists to compare Bangladesh as the “next Afghanistan”.

Between 2001 and 2006, the last rule of the BNP-Jamaat regime, a series of unprecedented attacks took place across the country.

The attack on Ahmadiyya’s headquarters in Dhaka in 1992, the killing of an Ahmadiyya Imam in 2003, and the besieging of Ahmadiyya mosques in 2004 are just some among a myriad such attacks on the community with offenders reportedly enjoying state patronage.

Moreover, the sheltering of several anti-Indian insurgent groups has been another controversial aspect of the BNP-Jamaat regime that had been rejected outright by the people in the national election in 2008.

Source: India Today

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/ahmadiya-attacks-expose-bnp-jamaat-decoupling-drama-in-bangladesh-2347603-2023-03-16

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Bangladesh elected OIC Islamic Human Rights Council member

Mar 17,2023

Bangladesh has been elected as a member of the Islamic Human Rights Council of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The other members from Asia are Turkey and Iran.

Bangladesh has also been elected as the vice-president of the OIC, the world's largest body of Muslim-majority nations. Other vice-presidents are Palestine and Nigeria.

Mauritania, the host country, got elected as president of the 57-nation OIC.

Source: New Age Bangladesh

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.newagebd.net/article/197051/bangladesh-elected-oic-islamic-human-rights-council-member

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UN Security Council Extends Afghan Mission Mandate by One Year

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 17, 2023

The UN Security Council on Thursday voted to extend the UNAMA mandate in Afghanistan for a one-year, as UNAMA is considered a lifeline for the Afghan people during these difficult times.

While reviewing the resolution, the participating members agreed the UNAMA plays a significantly important role towards peace and stability in Afghanistan. With the extension of UNAMA’s mandate, the UN will be able to continue its important work to restore Afghans’ ability to exercise their human rights, especially those of women and girls and members of minority communities.  

Furthermore, UNAMA will continue to address widespread humanitarian emergencies and economic crises, promote peace and stability, and facilitate dialogue among all Afghan political parties and stakeholders. Doing so will eventually pave the way for a better mechanism to find solutions to major challenges and restore sustainable peace in the war-torn country.

It is believed that the Council’s action directly supports the empowerment of women and girls, their human rights, and fundamental freedoms. However, in Afghanistan women and girls have been deprived of their basic rights. They are barred from attending education, work, or sports. These restrictions were imposed by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities under the watch of UNAMA, which are still in place.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood praised the efforts of UNAMA staff in Afghanistan, who are operating in a deteriorating security situation throughout the country.

“Today and every day, the United States stands firmly in support of the UN’s work to support peace, security, and stability in Afghanistan and to advance respect for all Afghans’ human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Robert Wood said.

Source: Khaama Press

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.khaama.com/un-security-council-extends-afghan-mission-mandate-by-one-year/

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Myanmar team to verify 400 Rohingya for repatriation from Bangladesh

SHEHAB SUMON

March 16, 2023

DHAKA: A team from Myanmar is verifying Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps this week, with authorities expecting that 400 of them will be cleared to return to their homeland in a pilot repatriation project.

Bangladesh is hosting and providing humanitarian support to 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled violence and persecution in neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017.

Most of the refugees live in squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar district, a coastal region in the country’s southeast, which with the influx of Rohingya has become the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Their return to Myanmar has been on the UN agenda for years, but a UN-backed repatriation process has not taken off until now.

The arrival of the delegation of Myanmar immigration officials and the start of the pilot project were mediated by China. The 400-plus people who are being verified are part of more than 1,100 listed as a potential first batch of returnees. The documents of the rest have already been cleared by Myanmar authorities remotely.

“The team of Myanmar officials started verification of more than 400 Rohingyas at Cox’s Bazar refugee camps on Wednesday,” Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mizanur Rahman told Arab News after the first day of verifying potential returnees.

“The members of the Myanmar team started talking with each of the individuals from Wednesday. The Myanmar team will work here for the next five to six days.”

The next stage of the repatriation process will depend on the findings of the team visiting Bangladesh.

“We are still unsure when the actual repatriation will begin,” Rahman said.

Bangladesh has been pressing for the repatriation of Rohingya for years as it has been hosting the refugees despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Supporting the Rohingya costs the Bangladeshi government an estimated $1.2 billion a year.

The sum is huge given the challenges the developing country battered by the coronavirus pandemic is already facing and as international aid for the Rohingya has been dropping since 2020.

Last month, the UN World Food Program decided to cut food rations for the Rohingya as its pleas for donations had not been met.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2269956/world

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Southeast Asia

 

Don’t fan racial flames, says Malaysian PM Anwer in stern warning

17 Mar 2023

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has issued a stern warning against sowing racial or religious hatred, saying the government will not tolerate such actions.

At a press conference today, Anwar said he had instructed the authorities to be on the watch for any attempts to “fan the flames of hatred”.

“Certain people who are desperate or feel challenged will use these sentiments, and the poor will be exploited to cause disharmony.

“The Cabinet and I will ensure that peace and harmony among all races is defended. We will not tolerate any action that will disrupt the peace of the country,” he said after a Cabinet meeting.

Anwar said the government will firmly uphold the freedom of religion as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

He said the government, with its clear direction towards a Madani society, will uphold the values, morals and spirit of unity among the various races and religions.

“Any issues that arise must be solved amicably to prevent enmity, misconception or prejudice,” he said.

On Monday, FMT reported that a police report had been lodged against blogger Badrul Hisham Shaharin, better known as Chegubard, for linking a sports ministry organisation to Christian evangelism.

The report, lodged by an aide to youth and sports minister Hannah Yeoh, said Badrul’s Facebook posting gave the impression that Yeoh had become an evangelist soon after she was appointed the youth and sports minister.

Badrul, a member of Bersatu, had shared a poster by Impact Malaysia, a non-profit organisation under the ministry, about a visit to a church in Klang. He then asked if evangelists had begun their groundwork.

Yesterday, during the debate on the Supply Bill 2023, PAS MP Ahmad Yunus Hairi urged the government not to build non-Muslim houses of worship in the same vicinity as mosques due to “sensitivities”.

Flood situation in Malaysia

Separately, Anwar urged NGOs and volunteers to go down to the ground immediately to assist with flood relief efforts in Johor.

He said the number of displaced flood victims has reached 82,831, of whom 26,879 are still in 102 temporary evacuation centres in Johor.

Anwar said the Cabinet has agreed to involve the whole of the government’s machinery in post-flood relief efforts, adding that an extra RM150 million has been allocated for the same.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2023/03/17/dont-fan-racial-flames-says-pm-in-stern-warning/

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Fuziah: Previous administration's 'Jihad Against Inflation' task force discontinued

16 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — The Special Task Force on Jihad Against Inflation that was established under the administration of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been discontinued, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Cost of Living, Fuziah Salleh said this was because it was ineffective in reducing the rate of inflation in the country.

“If we observe, the inflation rate has been the same from last year until now, only this year, we see a slight reduction in terms of the increase (inflation rate).

“The meeting was not continued and there was no point holding the meeting twice a week,” she said in reply to a supplementary question from Tan Kar Hing (PH-Gopeng) who asked if the task force still exists and how effective it had been in dealing with the rising cost of living, during the question and answer session.

The special task force was established on June 29 last year to help keep inflation and food prices at low rates.

Meanwhile, in reply to a supplementary question from Datuk Seri Shahidan Kasim (PN-Arau) on whether the government plans to withdraw the increase in electricity tariffs imposed on medium voltage (MV) and high voltage (HV) users in the industry to allow the price of goods to be lowered, Fuziah said the move would be of no help

Source: Malay Mail

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/03/16/fuziah-previous-administrations-jihad-against-inflation-task-force-discontinued/59985

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Johor Sultan: Mosque, surau officials can be dismissed for allowing talks by unaccredited speakers

16 Mar 2023

ISKANDAR PUTERI, March 16 — Mosques and surau committee members in the state can be dismissed if they allow unaccredited speakers to give lectures in Johor.

The Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said any religious speaker who wants to give a talk in the state must obtain accreditation from the State Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ).

The Ruler said any mosque and surau committees wishing to organise a religious talk must get the approval of MAINJ through the District Kadi Office.

He said the person delivering the talk must state in detail the title and the topics to be covered in the talk.

“If any mosque or surau fails to comply with this rule, action will be taken and all its committee members will be dismissed.

“We are not stopping programmes that spread Islamic knowledge, but to control the spread of teachings that deviate from the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah Islamic faith as practised in this country.”

Sultan Ibrahim said this when officiating at the opening of the first meeting of the second session of the 15th Johor legislative assembly at Sultan Ismail Building, here today.

According to Sultan Ibrahim, the move must be taken to control religious extremists who could cause confusion among Muslims and young people who are easily influenced.

Source: Malay Mail

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/03/16/johor-sultan-mosque-surau-officials-can-be-dismissed-for-allowing-talks-by-unaccredited-speakers/59979

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Nothing Islamic about PAS MP’s views, says Sarawak minister

17 Mar 2023

PETALING JAYA: A Sarawak minister has slammed PAS MP Ahmad Yunus Hairi for urging the government not to build non-Muslim houses of worship in the same vicinity as mosques.

Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, who is the state youth, sports and entrepreneur development minister, said such “extreme views” were “definitely not Islamic”.

“Islam does not preach to its believers to hate or treat their non-Muslim neighbours this way,” he told FMT.

Yesterday, during the debate on the Supply Bill 2023, Yunus suggested to the local government development ministry that houses of worship should be in different places for different religions.

The Kuala Langat MP said, for example, the lot to build a Muslim house of worship should be different from that used to build a non-Muslim house of worship because of “sensitivities”.

He cited the example of a Hindu temple at Canary Garden, Klang, which is situated near a Malay settlement, and had caused uneasiness and protest from those living in the area.

Karim called on the government to “put a stop to all this nonsense”, adding that those who preach hatred in multi-religious, multi-racial Malaysia must be brought to book.

“They must learn how believers of different faiths are able to live harmoniously and peacefully in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said, adding that Malaysia is not only for Muslims.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2023/03/17/nothing-islamic-about-pas-mps-views-says-sarawak-minister/

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Pakistan

‘Islamophobia Represents False Sense That Rights of Muslims Do Not Matter’, says Dr Samina Yasmeen

March 17, 2023

Islamabad: Dr Samina Yasmeen, Director, and Founder, the University of Western Australia's Centre for Muslim States and Societies, has said that Islamophobia represents a false sense that Muslims are outside the system and their rights do not matter.

Dr Samna was delivering a keynote address online at a Roundtable Discussion to commemorate the “International Day to combat Islamophobia” organised here by the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS).

Prof Samina warned that this can have generational impacts, particularly on children. Peace and cooperation in society can be achieved if Muslims themselves become agents of change against Islamophobia in society, she concluded.

Source: The News Pakistan

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1050837-islamophobia-represents-false-sense-that-rights-of-muslims-do-not-matter

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Lahore high court prohibits former Pakistan PM Imran Khan's party from holding rally at Minar-e-Pakistan

Mar 16, 2023

LAHORE: Observing that the recent pitched battles between the security personnel and defiant supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan in Lahore have “tarnished the image of Pakistan across the world”, a top court on Thursday prohibited the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party from holding a rally at the historic Minar-e-Pakistan here.

On Tuesday, Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, announced that he would stage a public gathering at the Minar-e-Pakistan -- considered the national emblem of the country and an expression of post-colonial identity -- on March 19 as part of his party's ongoing election campaign in Punjab province.

Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh of the Lahore High Court (LHC) presided over the hearing and said the current situation in the provincial capital “tarnished the image of Pakistan across the world."

Justice Sheikh ordered that authorities should be informed about a rally at least 15 days in advance so that necessary security arrangements can be made, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Justice Sheikh also directed the PTI leadership to hold a meeting with Inspector General Police Punjab and the additional chief secretary to reach a consensus on their concerns that include “implementation of Imran Khan's non-bailable arrest warrant, security plan and imposition of Section 144”, it added.

Lahore's upscale Zaman Park area, where Khan, 70, resides, turned into a battleground after his defiant supporters engaged in pitched battles with policemen on Tuesday to stop them from arresting their leader in the Toshakhana case, resulting in injuries to more than 60 people.

Following the LHC order, police and other law enforcers withdrew from Khan's residence on Wednesday, putting a halt to clashes.

Khan, the former Pakistan Prime Minister has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.

Meanwhile, a district court judge in Pakistan said on Thursday that he would halt attempts by the Islamabad police to arrest Khan in a corruption case if the ousted premier surrendered before the court.

Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.

Since his ouster, Khan has been asking for early elections to oust what he termed an "imported government" led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Source: Times Of India

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/lahore-high-court-prohibits-former-pakistan-pm-imran-khans-party-from-holding-rally-at-minar-e-pakistan/articleshow/98693307.cms

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Pakistan court to decide if police can move to arrest Imran Khan

Mar 17, 2023

LAHORE, PAKISTAN: Scores of supporters of Imran Khan barricaded his home on Friday to protect him as the former Pakistani prime minister waited to hear a ruling on whether security forces could launch an operation to arrest him for failing to show up in court.

Ahead of the court decision, a tense calm prevailed in Khan's Lahore neighbourhood which earlier this week was the scene of pitched battles between hundreds of supporters and security forces that had tried to force the former international cricketer to attend a hearing in a case in which he is accused of selling state gifts given to him while he was prime minister.

Khan denies the charges.

Even though there was no police presence on Friday, witnesses said Khan's supporters, armed with batons and iron rods, remained stationed outside his home.

Khan's aide Fawad Chadhury said his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had filed another plea on Friday at the Islamabad high court to suspend the warrant after a lower court rejected a similar plea a day earlier.

"Our supporters are outside Imran Khan's house but I don't think matters will become extreme," he added.

Police are waiting for the court ruling on the warrant before taking any action, the provincial government's information minister Amir Mir said.

The violence on Tuesday and Wednesday, in which protesters hurled petrol bombs and security forces used tear gas and water cannon, had raised fears of a new political stand-off in nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is already grappling with an economic crisis.

The arrest warrant was issued by a court in Islamabad when Khan, 70, failed to appear before it over charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

The Election Commission of Pakistan had found him guilty and barred Khan from holding public office for one parliamentary term.

Khan has said he was willing to submit a written undertaking that he would voluntarily appear before the court on Saturday, but the court said such an undertaking was insufficient. It was unclear whether the court hearing on Friday would take this undertaking into consideration.

The legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has been demanding a snap election and holding nationwide protests, and was shot and wounded in one of those rallies.

Source: Times Of India

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/pakistan-court-to-decide-if-police-can-move-to-arrest-imran-khan/articleshow/98725910.cms

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Minorities live in fear as incidents of forced conversion rise in Pakistan: Report

17 March, 2023

Islamabad [Pakistan], March 16 (ANI): Hindus and Christians continue to live in fear as incidents of forced conversions of girls are on the rise in Pakistan, especially in Sindh, The Friday Times reported.

In March 2022, an 18-year-old Hindu girl was killed for resisting abduction, forced marriage and conversion of religion in Sindh’s Sukkur district. Six months later, a 14-year-old girl was abducted, raped and converted to Islam, as per the news report.

The FIR was lodged after the court intervened. Later, the police recovered her and performed a medical test to determine her age. She was found to be minor and was sent to Dar-ul-Aman, The Friday Times reported.

In December 2022, a Hindu man named Laloo Kachhi in Sindh was beaten up by a Muslim mob as he tried to resist the abductors of his sister, Laali. Later, Kachhi succumbed to his wounds in the hospital. Cases of abduction, rape and forced conversions are routinely reported from Sindh and Punjab.

A recent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report, titled ‘A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021-22, states that around 60 cases of forced conversion were reported in the local media, of which 70 per cent were girls below the age of 18, as per the news report.

The HRCP reported 21 cases of alleged forced conversion from Sindh in 2022. The HRCP said forced conversions occur disproportionately among young girls from low-income families in the Hindu and Christian communities, their vulnerability compounded by their gender and class.

“The bulk of forced conversions occur in Punjab and Sindh, which account for a larger population of Hindu and Christian households. Many such cases follow a similar pattern — a minor girl from either the Hindu or Christian community is abducted and coerced into converting to Islam, often followed by a marriage sans consent to her assailant or captor,” the HRCP report said as per The Friday Times report.

Faqir Shiva Kachhi, a minority rights activist, said that more than 500 cases of abduction and forced conversions were reported in 2022. Kachhi further said that the police did not lodge a “missing” complaint on time in the Chanda Maharaj case. He said that they had to urge the police to file a case.

“There is dual judiciary system for minority and majority. When a Muslim under-aged girl can get permission from the court to go with her parent then why can’t a Hindu minor girl go with her parents? Why are they sent to Dar-ul-Aman,” he said as per The Friday Times report.

In October 2021, the federal parliamentary committee scrapped a proposed bill that would have criminalised forced conversions by proposing up to 10 years of imprisonment, as per The Friday Times report. In 2016, the Sindh province passed a law declaring forced conversion a punishable offence carrying a life sentence. However, the province’s governor refused to ratify the legislation, as per the news report.

The Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013 bans the marriage of any child under the age of 18 years and penalises the person who solemnises the marriage and the parents or guardians concerned. According to legal experts, the act has not been implemented properly and child cases are rising day by day due to the negligence of the government, as per the news report.

In January this year, Human rights experts raised alarm at the rise in abductions of girls as young as 13 in Pakistan, who are forced to marry and convert their religion, as per the news report. They called on the government to take “immediate steps” to stop and investigate these acts objectively and as per the domestic legislation and international human rights commitments, The Friday Times reported citing UN news.

Source: The Print

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https://theprint.in/world/minorities-live-in-fear-as-incidents-of-forced-conversion-rise-in-pakistan-report/1449862/

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Al-Mustafa Int’l University to Develop Scholarly Cooperation with Pakistani Universities

March 16, 2023

TEHRAN (IQNA) – The president of Al-Mustafa International University said he has signed several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with universities and research centers in Pakistan on development of cooperation.

Hojat-ol-Islam Ali Abbasi, who has traveled to Islamabad at the head of a scholarly delegation, told Pakistani media that the MoUs and documents on joint cooperation were inked with Quaid-i-Azam, Minhaj al-Quran, Alhamd Islamic University, Jamiat al-Naeemiya and JC universities, among others.

He said the delegation’s visit to the neighboring and brotherly country will help boost the ties among Iranian and Pakistani scholars and elites and cooperation between the two sides’ universities and religious centers.

The cleric underlined the good ties between Iran and Pakistan and their role in strengthening unity in the Muslim world, stressing the importance of Islamic unity and describing discord as the main threat facing Muslim nations.

He expressed Al-Mustafa International University’s readiness to help Pakistan on the path of boosting Islamic unity.

Al-Mustafa International University is an Iranian academic center with many overseas branches for non-Iranian Muslims who seek to study Islam and related subjects.

Source: IQNA

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https://iqna.ir/en/news/3482835/al-mustafa-int%E2%80%99l-university-to-develop-scholarly-cooperation-with-pakistani-universities

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‘Dollar-starved’ Pakistan struggles to pay international airlines: report

Mohammad Asghar

March 17, 2023

RAWALPINDI: The global air transport body has warned of an ‘aviation crisis’ in Pakistan as airlines are struggling to recover $290 million due to a severe financial crisis, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has said it was trying to pay the airlines on time and has been in contact with relevant authorities over the issue.

The Financial Times, while quoting the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it has become “very challenging” for carriers to serve Pakistan as they struggle to repatriate their dues which are paid in dollars.

The IATA, which represents some 300 airlines comprising 83 per cent of global air traffic, said $290m were stuck in Pakistan as of January up by almost a third since December.

“Airlines are facing long delays before they are able to repatriate their funds,” Philip Goh, the IATA’s Asia-Pacific head, was quoted as saying by FT. “Some airlines still have funds stuck in Pakistan from sales in 2022.”

Financial Times says outstanding dues reached $290m

“If conditions persist that make the economics of operation to a country unsustainable, one would expect airlines to put their valued aircraft assets to better use elsewhere,” Mr Goh added.

While talking to Dawn, PCAA DG Khaqan Murtaza confirmed airlines were facing some delays in the repatriation of their payments but added that the authority was in contact with the State Bank and the finance minister for timely payments to the airlines.

In December 2022, the global aviation body said Pakistan has blocked $225m it owed to international airlines, making it one of the top markets where airline funds have been blocked from repatriation.

The development coincided with Pakistan’s balance of payment crisis with fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves, standing at a low mark of $4.3bn.

The ongoing crisis has also hit the aviation industry where airlines sell tickets in local currency but repatriate dollars to pay for expenses such as fuel costs.

The FT, citing data from an aviation analytics company Cirium, shared that foreign airlines have been reluctant to return to Pakistan, with fewer total flights scheduled for March 2023 than the same month in 2019.

“If you can’t take money out of a country, then there’s no point in you even going there,” said Mark Martin, chief executive of aviation consultancy Martin Consulting, in the FT report.

Last month, Virgin Atlantic announced the suspension of its operations in Pakistan.

Although the airline said that the decision was part of its plan to revamp operations, the FT, citing a person familiar with the matter, said the decision was based on the economics of the route.

Source: Dawn

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1742627/dollar-starved-pakistan-struggles-to-pay-international-airlines-report

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Mideast

Iran to halt weapon supplies to Houthis as part of deal with Saudi Arabia: Report

16 March ,2023

Iran has reportedly agreed to cease covert weapons shipments to the Houthi militia in Yemen as part of the China-brokered agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic relations, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal citing US and Saudi officials.

Saudi Arabia and Iran announced last week that they had reached an agreement, brokered by China, to reestablish diplomatic relations.

If Iran stops arming the Houthis, it could put pressure on the Tehran-backed militia to come to a deal to end the conflict in Yemen, the report said, citing US and Saudi officials.

Following the announcement of the agreement to re-establish diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, officials in both countries said that Iran would urge the Houthis to end attacks on Saudi Arabia, according to the report.

The deal to resume relations has raised hopes for a potential resolution to the Yemen conflict in the near future, the report cited a US official as saying.

Iran’s approach to the conflict will be a “litmus test” for the success of the Beijing-brokered detente, the official said.

The United Nations Yemen mediator urged the warring parties on Wednesday to “seize the opportunity” to take decisive steps toward peace and said momentum to end the conflict had been renewed by the deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“The parties must seize the opportunity presented by this regional and international momentum to take decisive steps towards a more peaceful future,” Hans Grundberg told the 15-member Security Council.

An Arab coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The US and its allies have accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with missiles, drones and other weapons used in attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemeni forces trying to defeat the Iran-backed militants.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/Iran-to-halt-weapon-supplies-to-Houthis-as-part-of-deal-with-Saudi-Arabia-Report

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Iran child protesters subjected to ‘horrific’ prison abuse: Amnesty

16 March ,2023

Amnesty International on Thursday accused Iran of subjecting children arrested in a crackdown on women-led protests to “horrific” abuse including beatings, electric shocks, and rape.

The London-based human rights group said it estimated that thousands of children had been arrested in the crackdown, with minors as young as 12 suffering treatment equating to torture.

Protests erupted in Iran in September over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for an alleged violation of Iran’s mandatory dress code for women.

The authorities have responded with a crackdown that has seen, according to rights groups based outside Iran, thousands arrested, and hundreds killed by security forces.

Amnesty said security forces have been committing acts of torture against detained children, “including beatings, flogging, electric shocks, rape and other sexual violence” against child protesters as young as 12 to quell their involvement in the protests.

While authorities have given no clear breakdown on those detained, Amnesty said it estimated that “thousands of children could have been among those swept up in the wave of arrests.”

It said children, like adults, were first taken, often while blindfolded, to detention centers and moved to recognized prisons only after several weeks of being held incommunicado.

Based on the documented cases of seven children, and eyewitness accounts related to dozens of others, it said state agents used rape and other sexual violence -- including electric shocks to genitals -- as well as rape threats as a weapon against child detainees to break their spirits.

In one case, a mother said state agents raped her son with a hosepipe while he was forcibly disappeared.

Other torture methods included floggings, administering electric shocks using stun guns, the forced administration of unidentified pills, and holding children’s heads under water, it said.

One boy meanwhile recounted that in a humiliation tactic, detained children were told to make chicken noises for half an hour “for so long that we lay eggs.”

“Iranian state agents have torn children away from their families and subjected them to unfathomable cruelties,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/Iran-child-protesters-subjected-to-horrific-prison-abuse-Amnesty

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Iranian activist rearrested after shouting anti-Khamenei slogans: Activists

16 March ,2023

Iranian activist Sepideh Qolian has reportedly been rearrested just hours after her release on Wednesday from more than four years in prison.

In a video posted on her social media accounts, Qolian was seen shouting slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei outside Evin prison in Tehran after her release.

In the video, she is seen shouting: “Khamenei the tyrant, we’ll drag you into the ground!”

She was also not wearing a headscarf, in defiance of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

Activists said Qolian was rearrested after security forces stopped her car while she was on her way to her home city of Dezful in Iran's southwest.

Reports of her rearrest were shared by several sources, including the US-based HRANA rights group and US-based activist Masih Alinejad.

Qolian, 28, one of the most prominent women held in Iran and seen as a political prisoner by activists, was first detained in 2018 after reporting on a labor protest in the west of the country.

She was then briefly released on bail but arrested in January 2019 to serve a five-year sentence on national security charges.

“Now I am free, hoping for the freedom of Iran!” Qolian wrote on her Twitter and Instagram accounts after her release.

She expressed hope for the release of other women seen as political prisoners by activists, including the environmental campaigner Niloufar Bayani, the women’s rights campaigner Bahareh Hedayat and German-Iranian dual national Nahid Taghavi.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) hailed Qolian as “a courageous women’s and human rights activist” and described Evin as “notorious for holding peaceful prisoners of conscience.”

In prison she has, through letters and messages to supporters, become a strong voice against the abuses that she says women are subjected to in Iranian jails.

In a lacerating letter published by BBC Persian in January, Qolian described the methods used by interrogators to force confessions and the screams heard within the prison.

“Today the sounds we hear... across Iran are louder than the sounds in interrogation rooms; this is the sound of a revolution, the true sound of ‘Woman, life, freedom’,” she said, using the main slogan in women-led protests that broke out in Iran six months ago.

Many of the women held in Iran were arrested well before the protests sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurd who had been detained for allegedly violating the dress code for women.

But their numbers swelled in the ensuing crackdown.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/Iranian-activist-rearrested-after-shouting-anti-Khamenei-slogans-Activists

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UAE collision course with Israel over torched Palestinian town

March 16, 2023

DUBAI: The UAE was on a collision course with Israel on Thursday over a Palestinian town torched during a rampage by radical Jewish settlers.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE president, pledged $3 million for the reconstruction of Huwara in the occupied West Bank, days after a minister in Israel’s new far-right extremist government said the town should be destroyed.

One Palestinian died and dozens of homes and cars were set on fire when gangs of radical settlers rampaged through Huwara on Feb. 26, and settlers have tried to attack the town on several occasions since then.

After the Feb. 26 attack, Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also has ministerial responsibility for civil administration in the West Bank and is effectively Israel’s “governor” of the territory, said: “Huwara needs to be wiped out.”

Smotrich is a notorious religious bigot accused of hate crime, who himself lives in an illegal settlement. His comments were condemned by the US and the UN, throughout the Arab world, and within Israel.

Now the UAE has taken action with “the provision of $3 million to support the reconstruction of the Palestinian town of Huwara and those affected by the latest events,” Emirati authorities said. The aidreflected “the UAE’s humanitarian efforts to support the brotherly Palestinian people.”

Anwar Gargash, a senior adviser to the president, said the $3 million pledge was an “authentic expression of the country’s consistent and firm support for the Palestinian people.”

The UAE is a key signatory of the Abraham Accords, the historic 2020 agreement normalizing relations with Israel, but ties have become strained since the formation in December of the most far-right extremist government in Israel’s history. Israeli violence has killed 81 Palestinian adults and children since the start of this year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also facing growing opposition inside Israel. Protesters returned to the streets on Thursday to rally against proposed judicial reforms that critics describe as a power grab by Netanyahu, after he rejected a compromise proposed by President Isaac Herzog.

The changes would give politicians control over the appointment of Supreme Court judges and wide powers to overrule the court’s decisions. They are “the end of democracy,” according to a placard at demonstrationsin Tel Aviv on Thursday.

“I am afraid we will become a religious state, that the laws of Judaism will come first and the democratic freedom we have will not be there any more,” said protester Liat Tzvi, a researcher at Tel Aviv University.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2270161/middle-east

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Muslim bloc calls for more aid for Türkiye, Syria quake victims

Mohammed Al-Bakay 

16.03.2023

Hissein Brahim Taha, the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), on Thursday called for continued assistance to help people in quake-hit regions of Türkiye and Syria.

“I renew our sincere condolences and solidarity with the Republic of Türkiye and the Syrian Arab Republic following the devastating earthquake that struck several areas in both countries last month,” Taha said at the 49th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers OIC held in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott.

The OIC chief said he is also “calling for more humanitarian aid to be provided to them.”

On Feb. 6, magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 quakes struck 11 provinces – Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Hatay, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa – in southern Türkiye.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkiye/muslim-bloc-calls-for-more-aid-for-turkiye-syria-quake-victims/2847899

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Israeli forces kill four Palestinians, including gunmen and teen in West Bank

16 March ,2023

Israeli forces killed four Palestinians, including at least two gunmen and a teenager, during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian medics and militants said.

The Israeli police said its special forces had shot two militants in Jenin as well as a Palestinian who had attacked them with a rod and had exchanged fire with several gunmen.

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Jenin is among areas of the West Bank that have seen intensified Israeli raids over the past year as tensions over the Palestinians’ long-stalled statehood hopes have surged.

The Jenin Brigade, a local militant group, said its gunmen clashed with an armed Israeli unit disguised as Palestinians.

The Israelis had “carried out a cowardly assassination of resistance fighters,” a Jenin Brigade statement said. It named one of the dead as leading figure in the group. The Islamist group Hamas claimed a second dead gunman as its member.

Videos on social media appeared to show armed men in civilian clothes running along a shop-lined road on which two male figures can be seen lying next to toppled motorcycles.

One of the videos appeared to show a man shooting one of the prone figures in the head. Other footage showed scores of youths, some throwing furniture or rocks, converging on a car before scattering as shots ring out.

Reuters could not immediately verify the videos.

The police statement accused one of the shot militants of planning a “significant terrorist action” and the other of being involved in attacks on Israeli forces and manufacturing bombs.

The West Bank, among territories where Palestinians seek statehood, has seen a surge of confrontations in recent months, with near-daily military raids and escalating settler violence amid a spate of attacks by Palestinians.

Israel’s hard-right government is set on expanding West Bank settlements and includes members who rule out a Palestinian state. The Gaza Strip, another Palestinian territory, is ruled by Hamas, which rejects coexistence with Israel.

Over the past year, Israeli forces have made thousands of arrests in the West Bank and killed more than 200 Palestinians, including fighters and civilians. More than 40 Israelis and three Ukrainians have died in Palestinian attacks in the same period.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/16/Israeli-raid-in-West-Bank-kills-three-Palestinian-ministry-

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Erdogan's party pivots back to orthodox economic policies in draft manifesto: Report

17 March ,2023

The draft election manifesto of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party marks a return to more orthodox, free market economic policies, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Turkey is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14 and opinion polls show that Erdogan will face his biggest electoral challenge yet in his two decades in power.

Erdogan's popularity has suffered mainly due to an erosion of living standards caused by the depreciation in the Turkish lira at a time when Ankara began pursuing a controversial economic model that was based on low interest rates. In 2021 Turkey embarked on a rate-cutting cycle in the face of soaring inflation, defying traditional monetary policy and running against a global trend of rising borrowing costs. The Turkish central bank slashed its benchmark rate by 500 basis points in 2021 and then again in 2022, after calls for rate cuts from Erdogan.

Combined with soaring energy and food prices triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, this led inflation in Turkey to spike to more than 85 percent last year.

Turkey's fiscal woes were also exacerbated when a huge earthquake struck its southern regions on Feb. 6, killing thousands and leaving millions of people homeless and causing billions of dollars worth of damage.

According to the sources familiar with the draft, the AK's manifesto for the upcoming election will make no reference to Ankara's more recent economic policies but instead to return to his party's prior, more orthodox approach.

The sources, declining to be named as they were not authorized to speak on the subject, also said Erdogan wanted to give a top role in running the economy to former deputy prime minister and finance minister Mehmet Simsek, who is highly regarded in international circles.

Turkish inflation hit a 24-year high above 85 percent in October, stoked by the series of unorthodox interest rate cuts sought by Erdogan that triggered the lira's crash in late 2021.

Since August, the currency has been largely stable thanks to authorities' heavy hand in the forex market.

“The approach to the economy is very similar to that of the 2002 AK Party election manifesto. In other words, the AK Party is returning to its origins,” one government official said about the draft, adding that work on it had reached the final stage.

He said that its priorities included free market economy rules and practices parallel to those applied in the global economy, with “no sign of any kind of non-market practices.”

The AK Party declined to comment on the issue.

Simsek was not available for comment.

“A pivot back to orthodox economic policy would be welcomed by investors,” said Blaise Antin, head of EM sovereign research at asset manager TCW in Los Angeles.

“But foreign investors are likely to treat such news with extreme caution”, he added, “given multiple past head-fakes by Turkish authorities and President Erdogan’s very public skepticism about conventional monetary policy and market-oriented economic policies more generally.”

A senior AKP official said the manifesto made no reference to the new economy model but emphasized principles previously advocated by the AKP, such as fighting inflation, accountability in the public sector and transparency in tenders.

He said Erdogan's final approval of the manifesto would be required and so far he had not conveyed any dissenting opinion.

“If he does accept, it will eventually bring radical changes in both the cabinet and the management of the economy,” he said.

Among Erdogan's goals was the appointment of Simsek.

“All Turkey knows Simsek's approach and success. If he takes office, a radical change is inevitable in economic policies, the bureaucracy and cabinet members to work in harmony with him,” the AKP official said.

Another source with knowledge of the issue said that as well as the AKP, three parties from the main opposition alliance wanted to work with Simsek.

In 2012, when Simsek was actively involved in running the economy, the foreign share of the lira-denominated bond market peaked around 25 percent. It stood at 0.8 percent at end-January, Treasury data shows. Simsek was deputy prime minister until 2018.

Four senior sources in the opposition alliance told Reuters previously that the alliance planned to make former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan a vice president responsible for the economy if it wins the presidential election.

Babacan, like Simsek, is well regarded by foreign investors.

Devastating earthquakes that killed more than 48,000 people in Turkey have further added to the fiscal challenge faced by the government in winning over voters in the May elections.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2023/03/17/Erdogan-s-party-pivots-back-to-orthodox-economic-policies-in-draft-manifesto-Report

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North America

 

Bill to nix Iraq war authorizations clears procedural hurdle in US Senate

Michael Hernandez 

16.03.2023

WASHINGTON

A bill ending a pair of decades-old authorizations for war against Iraq cleared a procedural hudle in the US Senate Thursday with a final vote expected next week.

The bipartisan bill, which cleared what is known as a cloture vote ending debate 68-27, would repeal two Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs). One relates to the 1991 Gulf War, and the second was used to launch the 2002 US invasion that led to ex-leader Saddam Hussein's ouster.

Introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine and Todd Young, the barely two-page legislation cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 8.

The bill seeks to reassert Congress' constitutionally-mandated authority to declare and end wars, and bolster the US-Iraq relationship by closing open-ended authorizations used to carry out US military activities in the Middle Eastern nation.

"Although the 1991 Gulf and 2002 Iraq wars are over and Iraq is no longer an enemy, the Authorizations for Use of Military Force remain on the books," Kaine, the Democratic sponsor, said in a statement issued when his bill cleared committee.

"Congress has a constitutional and moral responsibility to repeal them so that future presidents can’t use these authorizations as a blank check to send servicemembers into harm’s way," he added.

About 2,500 US troops remain in Iraq working alongside local forces to conduct operations against the Daesh/ISIS terror group.

Kaine and Young's legislation would not touch a 2001 AUMF authorizing the US to continue operations against terrorist groups worldwide, which was passed in the wake of the devastating Sept. 11 attacks on the country.

Young, the Republican co-sponsor from Indiana, said repealing the Iraq war authorizations "will demonstrate America’s commitment to Iraqi sovereignty."

"Just as important, it is vital to restoring the proper role of Congress in authorizing the use of military force and affirmatively stating when conflicts are over," he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/bill-to-nix-iraq-war-authorizations-clears-procedural-hurdle-in-us-senate/2847902

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US General: Islamic State Afghan Affiliate Closer to Attacking Western Targets

March 16, 2023

Jeff Seldin

WASHINGTON —

One of the Islamic State terror group’s most dangerous affiliates has its sights set on the West and could launch an attack before the year is out, according to a top U.S. military official.

Despite sporadic skirmishes between Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban and Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, known as IS-Khorasan or ISIS-K, the terror group is closer to taking its fight beyond Afghanistan’s borders, U.S. Central Command’s General Michael Kurilla told lawmakers on Thursday.

"They can do external operations against U.S. or Western interests abroad in under six months with little to no warning," Kurilla said.

The CENTCOM commander said there was a “higher probability” that IS-Khorasan operatives would target Western or U.S. interests in Asia or Europe, noting it would be “much harder” for them to carry out an attack against the U.S. homeland.

Kurilla’s assessment comes more than a year and a half after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan, severely degrading the ability of the United States and its partners to gather intelligence on groups like IS-Khorasan or its rival, al-Qaida.

It follows similar assessments by other top U.S. officials, who see evidence IS-Khorasan is looking to make a statement on the global stage.

"It's a matter of time before they may have the ability and intent to attack the West," the chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, told lawmakers at a hearing last week.

In January, the top U.S. counterterrorism official told a virtual audience that IS-Khorasan is the "threat actor I am most concerned about.”

“We see concerning indications of ISIS-Khorasan in Afghanistan and its ambition that might go beyond that immediate territory," said National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid, declining to elaborate on how soon the IS affiliate might try to strike.

Other countries are also seeing signs of a rising IS-Khorasan.

Intelligence shared by member states for a U.N. report last month warned IS-Khorasan has anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 fighters who have established cells in Kabul and in Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan provinces.

Smaller groups of IS-Khorasan fighters are thought to have established themselves in as many as five additional provinces, and the group is actively recruiting in multiple languages, from Pashto to Persian to Russian.

The report further warned that IS-Khorasan is seeking to “undermine the relationship between the Taliban and neighboring countries … by targeting diplomatic missions."

Kurilla is not the first U.S. official to suggest that an attack by the group on a Western target could be imminent.

In October 2021, just months after the U.S. withdrawal, the No. 3 official at the Pentagon warned that IS-Khorasan was positioned to conduct external operations in as little as six to 12 months.

That dire prediction did not come to pass, and until several months ago, most U.S. officials agreed the IS Afghan affiliate had shown few indications it could strike outside the region.

U.S. military and intelligence officials have said getting a more accurate gauge on developments in Afghanistan has been difficult because of the lack of a presence on the ground and the distances American surveillance planes and drones have to cover before they can conduct surveillance.

“Our intelligence is degraded,” Kurilla told lawmakers on Thursday.

“We're working to close that gap with alternative airborne ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and some of our other intelligence," he added, cautioning, “I believe we can see the broad contours of an attack, [but] sometimes we lack the granularity to see the full picture."

Syria and Iraq

There are also concerns about IS activity in Syria and Iraq.

“While ISIS is significantly degraded in Iraq and Syria, the group maintains the capability to conduct operations within the region and has the desire to strike outside of it," Kurilla told lawmakers.

A major worry is the 10,000 IS fighters being held in 26 mostly makeshift prisons across northeastern Syria.

Kurilla said CENTCOM is working with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to consolidate those prisons by constructing newer, more secure facilities.

Also concerning are the wives, children and other relatives of jailed or dead IS fighters, especially those at the al-Hol displaced-persons camp in northeastern Syria, which holds about 51,000 people, including more than 30,000 children.

Source: VOA News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-general-islamic-state-afghan-affiliate-closer-to-attacking-western-targets/7008633.html

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Antony Blinken brings aid worth $150 million to fight Islamist insurgents in Sahel

Mar 17, 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced $150 million in new humanitarian aid for Africa's Sahel region during a visit on Thursday to Niger, a country Washington views as an important ally in the fight against Islamist insurgencies.

Blinken's visit to Niger is the first by a US Secretary of State and a strong show of support for an impoverished nation that has had relative success in containing rebel groups and managed a democratic transition in a coup-prone region.

"It will help provide life-saving support to refugees, asylum seekers, and others impacted by conflict and food insecurity in the region," Blinken said in a statement about the new aid, which will go to Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania as well as Sahelian refugees in Libya.

Blinken's trip is the latest in a series of visits to Africa by US government figures as Washington seeks to boost ties with a continent where China's influence is strong, and many countries maintain cordial relations with Russia.

Landlocked Niger and its neighbours Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Chad are all struggling to repel Islamist insurgents who have killed thousands of people, displaced millions more and in some cases seized control of vast swathes of territory.

Groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State have carried out dozens of attacks in southwestern Niger, including some in which dozens of Nigerien soldiers were killed, but the violence has not spread across the whole country as it has done elsewhere.

Shortly after landing in the capital Niamey, Blinken met with people involved in a program, partly funded by the U.S., to disarm and rehabilitate defectors from extremist groups.

'RIGHT CHOICES'

While violence in Mali and Burkina Faso led to military coups and a shift in alliances away from Western nations and towards Russia, Niger managed a democratic transfer of power in 2021 and has retained smooth relations with the West.

"They're making the right choices, we think, to help deal with the kind of threats that are common across the Sahel. So, we're trying to highlight a positive example," a senior State Department official told reporters.

The official praised Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum for speaking out against Russia's private Wagner group of mercenaries, which has been hired by Mali's junta to help fight insurgents there. Mali describes the Wagner personnel on its territory as "trainers".

Blinken said the use of Russian mercenaries had not proven an effective response to insecurity.

"It's not just we know this is going to end badly, we've already seen it end badly in a number of places," Blinken said.

A French-led international force has been on the ground in Mali for a decade but has fallen out of favour with Mali's leadership. Anti-French sentiment has been on the rise in Mali and several other former French colonies in West Africa.

Ghana has asserted that Burkina Faso has also hired Wagner mercenaries. Burkina Faso's junta has neither confirmed nor denied that.

When thousands of French soldiers were kicked out of Mali during a dispute with the junta there last year, they moved their base into Niger.

Source: India Today

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/antony-blinken-brings-aid-150-million-fight-islamist-insurgents-sahel-africa-2347696-2023-03-17

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US, Pakistan to jointly tackle climate change

Jamal Shahid

March 17, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Uni­ted States and Pakistan on Thursday committed to partner with each other in various areas, including a $4.5 million programme from the US Department of Agriculture to stren­g­then fertiliser efficiency and effectiveness for local farmers.

The commitment was made at the conclusion of the second meeting of the Climate and Environment Working Group.

Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman and the US Department of State’s Assistant Secre­t­a­­ry for the Bureau of Oce­a­­ns and International Envi­ronmental and Scientific Affairs Monica Medina led their respective delegations at the meeting.

Officials and experts of the two countries discu­s­sed the impacts of the last year’s devastating floods in Pakistan and emphasised the importance of building resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The US expressed support for Pakistan’s Living Indus Initiative to restore the ecological health of the Indus River Basin. The two governments recommitted to tackling the climate crisis through cooperation on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

They resolved to conti­nue deepening their bilateral partnership through the US-Pakistan Green Alliance framework.

Regarding agriculture, the delegations discussed the importance of adopting modern farming practices and innovative seed varieties to bolster resilience against climate change.

On water management, the two governments identified technical assista­n­­ce, governance, and water efficiency mechanisms as areas ripe for cooperation.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1742633/us-pakistan-to-jointly-tackle-climate-change

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US, Europe powers demand Assad be held to account on Syrian uprising anniversary

17 March ,2023

France, Germany, Britain and the US marked the 12th anniversary of the Syrian uprising with a joint call to hold the Assad regime responsible for atrocities.

The four countries said they would not normalize relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government nor fund reconstruction in the country “until there is authentic and enduring progress towards a political solution.”

Some 500,000 Syrian civilians have been killed since the uprising, and amid widespread suffering and the displacement of millions, another 10,000 died in the massive earthquakes that struck in early February.

“We remain committed to supporting Syrian civil society and ending the human rights violations and abuses the Syrian people have suffered -- from the Assad regime and others -- long before the earthquakes struck,” the four countries said in a statement.

“The international community must work together to hold the Assad regime and all perpetrators of abuses, violations, and atrocities accountable,” they said.

“The ongoing conflict has created a permissive environment for terrorists and drug traffickers to exploit, further threatening regional stability,” they added.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2023/03/17/US-Europe-powers-demand-Assad-be-held-to-account-on-Syrian-uprising-anniversary-

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Africa

UN Security Council backs initiative to establish Libyan panel for elections

Betül Yürük 

17.03.2023

The United Nations Security Council backed an initiative Thursday to form a UN-facilitated Libyan high-level panel for the country's stalled elections.

The 15-member Security Council in a joint statement reaffirmed its strong commitment to an inclusive, Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process as well as its strong support for the people of Libya to determine who governs them through elections.

The UN envoy for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, unveiled details of his initiative for holding Libya’s long-awaited elections this year last Saturday.

The Security Council urged all stakeholders to engage fully, constructively, transparently and in a spirit of compromise with the UN envoy and to uphold guarantees concerning the independence and integrity of the inclusive electoral process and election results.

The Council also called on the Libyan authorities and institutions to organize elections in a neutral way across the country in 2023.

The UN initiative won support from the head of the Tripoli-based unity government, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, and chairman of Libya's Presidential Council, Mohamed Menfi.

Khalid al-Mishri, the head of the Tripoli-based High Council of State, also said his assembly has a strong political will to hold the elections.

There was no comment yet from the East Libya-based parliament on the initiative.

Oil-rich Libya has remained in turmoil since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted after four decades in power.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/un-security-council-backs-initiative-to-establish-libyan-panel-for-elections/2847944

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Lagos Muslims endorse Sanwo-Olu for second term

By Shakirah Adunola

16 March 2023

The Executive Chairman of Lagos Central Mosque and Baba Adinni of Lagos State, Sheikh AbdulAfeez Abou, said the Muslims in Lagos state endorsed Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for a second term for the continuity of the developmental projects.

Sheikh Abou said the Muslim community cannot sacrifice the landmark achievements Lagos state has recorded over the years on the altar of religious bias.

The revered cleric said: “It is true that we have Muslims contesting against Governor Sanwo-Olu; our interest lies in the continuity of the developmental agenda started by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the state governor. We believed with him at the Presidency and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) retaining Lagos, the infrastructural development in Lagos state would be fast-tracked.

“We also considered Governor Sanwo-Olu’s passion for the growth of the state’s economy coupled with an experienced Deputy, Dr Kadri Obafemi Hamzat. Our conclusion is that Lagos should continue to be entrusted in the hands of experienced personalities.

“Our declaration to support the governor for a second term was to see the progress of the state not stunted and the dream of Asiwaju Tinubu for the state come to fruition. Tinubu’s blueprint for the state has over the years made it an envious one for others to emulate.”

Sheikh Abou enjoined the state government to enlarge the membership of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to include Muslim professionals.

The Executive Vice Chairman of Lagos Central Mosque, Alhaji Sikiru Alabi-Macfoy, enjoined Lagosians to vote massively for Sanwo-Olu.

According to him, Sanwo-Olu deserves another term in office going by his track record.

Source: Guardian Nigeria

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://guardian.ng/news/lagos-muslims-endorse-sanwo-olu-for-second-term/

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Uranium said missing by IAEA in Libya recovered: Military

16 March ,2023

More than two tonnes of natural uranium reported missing by the UN’s nuclear watchdog in war-scarred Libya have been found, a general in the country’s east said Thursday.

General Khaled al-Mahjoub, commander of eastern general Khalifa Haftar’s communications division, said the containers of uranium had been recovered “barely five kilometers (three miles)” from where they had been stored in southern Libya, and after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported their disappearance earlier Thursday.

Earlier, the IAEA said its inspectors have found that roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium have gone missing from a Libyan site that is not under government control.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/north-africa/2023/03/16/Uranium-said-missing-by-IAEA-in-Libya-recovered-Military

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Sudan generals face off in post-coup power struggle

March 16, 2023

KHARTOUM: Sixteen months since Sudan’s top generals ousted a transition to civilian rule, the coup leaders are embroiled in a dangerous power struggle with deepening rivalries within the security forces, analysts warn.

Army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo worked together in October 2021 to remove the short-lived transitional authorities put in place following the toppling of Omar Bashir’s regime in 2019.

Magdi Al-Gizouli, from the Rift Valley Institute think tank, said their once united front has devolved into “brinkmanship.”

“The power struggle in Sudan is no longer between military and civilians,” Gizouli said. “It is now Burhan against Daglo, each with his own alliance.”

The coup triggered international aid cuts and sparked near-weekly protests, adding to the deepening political and economic troubles of one of the world’s poorest countries.

Burhan, a career soldier from northern Sudan who rose the ranks under the three-decade rule of now jailed general Bashir, has said the coup was “necessary” to include more factions into politics.

But Daglo, also known as Hemeti, the commander of the much-feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, has since called the coup a “mistake.”

Created in 2013, the RSF force emerged from the Janjaweed militia that Bashir unleashed a decade earlier in the western region of Darfur against non-Arab rebels, where it was accused of war crimes by rights groups.

Daglo — from Darfur’s pastoralist camel-herding Arab Rizeigat people — said the coup had not brought change but rather the return of Bashir-era regime loyalists, angering religious factions.

Disagreements between the two generals also reflect long-running divisions between the regular army and Daglo’s RSF, said military expert Amin Ismail.

“Burhan wants the RSF to be integrated into the army in accordance with the rules and regulations within the army,” said Gizouli.

“Daglo seems to want restructuring of the top army command to take place first, so that he can be part of it before the integration.”

In December, Burhan and Daglo signed a tentative deal with multiple factions — including the key civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change — as part of a two-phase political process toward a civilian-led transition.

But critics called the deal “vague” and cast doubt on the generals’ pledge to exit politics after a civilian government was installed.

“The December deal highlighted the disagreements which have their different aspirations at its core,” said Ismail.

Gizouli says the accord was “a delaying tactic” for Burhan, while Daglo sought “to improve his competitiveness” and bill himself as “an ally to the FFC.”

He said: “It is clear that neither of them has any intention to exit politics, as they have been investing in alliances that would allow them to continue.”

Daglo has been jet-setting across the region drumming up support, traveling to neighboring Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea, two African nations with close ties with Russia.

The day after Burhan visited Chad last month, Daglo started a visit of his own.

Analyst Kholood Khair said a recent initiative by Egypt has appeared to favor Burhan and “catalyzed renewed tensions between the generals.”

In February, Cairo hosted a workshop among multiple Sudanese factions including those who opposed the December deal, notably two ex-rebel commanders — Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim and Darfur governor Minni Minnawi.

Khair, in an article for the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, said the Cairo initiative left political groups seeking to make pacts “with one general over the other.

“This is a false choice, and one that can only lead to further polarization of the political space and, potentially, an armed confrontation between Burhan and Hemeti’s forces, with disastrous consequences.”

Daglo, in a recent speech to RSF troops, said his disagreement was not with the armed forces.

“The disagreement is with the people clinging on to power,” said Daglo, insisting he backed the installation of a civilian government.

“We are against anyone who wants to be a dictator.”

On Saturday, Sudan’s armed forces hit back, dismissing accusations of “the unwillingness” of the army’s generals “to complete the process of change and democratic transformation.”

It said in a statement: “It is an open attempt to gain political sympathy, and to obstruct the transitional process.”

On Sunday, Sudan’s ruling sovereign council said Burhan and Daglo held security talks.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2270086/middle-east

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