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Islamic World News ( 22 March 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Zakir Naik Who Said 'All Muslims Should be Terrorists' May be Deported from Oman

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 March 2023


Zakir Naik, a radical Islamist preacher


• Kelantan Islamic Law Enforcers Haul Up Seven Men For Wearing Shorts Baring Thighs Not Covering Their “Aurat”

• Iran’s Protest Anthem ‘Baraye’ Played At White House Nowruz Celebration

• Bangladeshi, Indonesian Envoys Share Tips For ‘Robust’ Family Planning

• Human Rights Watch Pakistan Calls For End To ‘Over The Top’ Use Of Terror Charges Against Opposition Protesters


Arab World

• Why Daesh is still not a spent force despite facing terminal decline in Iraq

• Saudi-Iranian diplomatic deal could boost support for the Palestinian cause

• Advisor to Iran’s supreme leader meets with Syria’s Assad

• Lebanon to sell unlimited US dollars to prop up collapsing pound

• UAE pardons more than 1,000 prisoners ahead of Ramadan

• King Salman sends best wishes for Ramadan to Saudi citizens and all Muslims

• GCC, Indian officials hold political dialogue meeting


Southeast Asia

• Malaysian Body Backs Muslim Visits To Other Worship Sites

• ‘Immoral’ Thai Hunk Waiters At KL Club During Ramadan Raise Ire Of Malaysia Politicians

• Education minister: School canteens must remain open during Ramadan even if fewer than 10pc students are non-Muslim

• Saifuddin Nasution: Be mindful of Muslim sensitivities when organising events

• Hannah Yeoh contributes RM129,000 from MP allocations to suraus, mosques in Segambut ahead of Ramadan

• Zahid announces formation of PM-led 'Madani Council' which will support Islamic groups, scholars


North America

• US ‘Extremely Troubled’ By Israeli Parliament Vote To Legitimize Settlements

• More US sanctions against Iran for drone and weapons programs

• US says it 'has nothing' to do with helicopters that crashed with PKK terrorists onboard

• Racial Discrimination Day: How Turkish Embassy’s ‘Jazz Diplomacy’ helped battle racism in US

• US renews opposition to Assad normalization after UAE trip

• US report on human rights in Palestinian territories reflects ‘positive change,’ activists say


South Asia

• Banning women’s education a very serious issue for Afghanistan, says former Prez Karzai

• Security Forces Destroyed Important ISIS Hideout in Kabul: Mujahid

• EU condemns large-scale, gender-based discrimination by Taliban in Afghanistan

• Afghan Taliban raid in Kabul kills 3 Islamic State members

• Strong earthquake has people fleeing homes in Afghanistan, Pakistan



• Imran Khan Inspired Me To Convert To Islam, Says Former MTV Presenter Kristiane Backer

• Afghan Taliban Delegation Quietly Visits Pakistan to Discuss TTP Issue: Report

• Zakat and Ushr Department Speakers Stress Implementing Islamic Philosophy of Zakat

• At least 9 dead as powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake jolts Pakistan

• Imran Khan gets protective bail in 2 terrorism cases

• ISI brigadier killed in terror attack in South Waziristan

• Govt targets youth in election year with Rs150bn package

• 7.8m Families In Sindh To Get Rs2,000 Each For Purchase Of Flour In Ramazan



• Post-Partition India A ‘Hindu Rashtra’, Says BJP General Secretary Vijayvargiya

• UP Power Corporation SDO Sacked For Calling International Terrorist Osama Bin Laden ‘Best Engineer’

• Why Waqf Board Not Taking Action Against Illegal Occupants, Including Government And Religious Institutions Of Mosques: Haryana Congress MLA

• PDA pastes show-cause notice on house of Guddu Muslim in UP

• NIA chargesheet against Hizbul OGW in J&K terror conspiracy case

• 6.6 magnitude earthquake hits Afghanistan, strong tremors felt across Delhi-NCR

• Turkey & Kuwait seek more than doubling of flying rights to India

• Ramzan in India: Moon sighting committee to meet today in Hyderabad



• Match Officials Asked To Pause Evening Matches For Muslim Players Across Premier League And EFL To Break Fast

• UK inquiry into allegations of SAS extra-judicial killings of Afghans to begin

• France calls Israeli minister's remarks denying existence of Palestinians 'irresponsible'

• Bosnian students send toys to earthquake victims in Türkiye, Syria

• Socioeconomically Weak Muslims, Immigrants, Refugees Most Prone To Becoming Targets Of Islamophobia In Denmark: Expert



• Palestinian Prisoners Begin Major Hunger Strike At Israeli Jails

• Iran Vows to Take Tit-for-Tat Action Against EU, UK Fresh Round of Sanctions

• President Rayeesi Offers Greetings to Nowruz-Celebrating Nations

• Iran's Leader Names New Year as Year of "Inflation Control, Growth in Production"

• Iran Raps Biden's Nowruz Message

• Iran's UN Envoy Urges Human Rights Council to Stop Political Attitude

• Ten soldiers killed in renewed fighting in Yemen despite peace efforts: Sources

• Türkiye, Iraq reaffirm commitment to fight all forms of terrorism

• Israel announces restrictions on Palestinian entry to Al-Aqsa during Ramadan



• Nigerian Opposition Leader Petitions Court Over Election Results

• Jordan says Israel rejects ‘racist’ comments by minister

• Tunisia rejects ‘overblown’ EU warnings of collapse

• As Ramadan arrives, inflation assails North African nations

• Claiming secularity, Kalu opposes Muslim Senate presidency

• Jordan deputy PM discusses efforts to solve Syria crisis with UN envoy

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Zakir Naik Who Said 'All Muslims Should be Terrorists' May be Deported from Oman


Zakir Naik, a radical Islamist preacher


MARCH 21, 2023

Zakir Naik, a radical Islamist preacher, is likely to be deported from Oman, sources told News18. Indian intelligence agencies are already in contact with Oman officials in order to apprehend Naik on his March 23 visit.

Naik has been invited to Oman to give two lectures. His first lecture, “The Quran as a World Need," is set for the first day of Ramadan, March 23, by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs of Oman. The second lecture, “Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] A Kindness to Humankind," is slated for March 25 evening at Sultan Qaboos University. Read the full report here

Amid the development, take a look at who Zakir Naik and why he ran into trouble with Indian authorities:


As per reports, that India banned Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in the latter half of 2016 on the basis that he had incited and supported the group’s members in their efforts to sow enmity, hostility, and other unfavourable feelings among diverse religious communities and groups. Naik migrated to Malaysia after departing from India.

A PTI report in 2018 stated that Malaysia had ruled out deporting Naik unless he broke Malaysian laws. Naik holds permanent residency status in the country.

Then, in March 2022, the Islamic IRF was ruled an unlawful association and consequently banned for five years by the Union Home Ministry. According to the MHA notification, IRF founder Zakir Naik’s talks were objectionable since he had been praising known terrorists.

When Theresa May was home secretary in the UK, she also banned him after he praised Osama bin Laden and declared that “all Muslims should be terrorists."


An MHA notification (2022) said that the IRF founder has also advocated for the forced conversion of youth to Islam, supported suicide bombings, and published offensive comments that are insulting to other religions and against Hindus, Hindu Gods, and other religions.

The notification continued, “Naik has further inspired Muslim youth and terrorists in India and abroad to execute terrorist crimes."

Source: News18

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Kelantan Islamic Law Enforcers Haul Up Seven Men For Wearing Shorts Baring Thighs Not Covering Their “Aurat”


Covering the 'Aurat' is part of the Islamic modesty concept. — File picture by Sayuti Zainudin


By Keertan Ayamany

22 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Seven men who wore shorts exposing their thighs were hauled up by the Kelantan Islamic Religious Affairs Department (Jaheik) for not covering their “aurat” during a raid on a shop in Tanah Merah suspected of selling shisha last Friday.

Jaheik enforcement division deputy director Mohd Fadzuli Mohd Zain said the men whose ages were reported to range from their teens to their 20s were let off with warnings and ordered to attend a counselling session, news portal Malaysiakini reported last night.

"As a result of the operation, seven men who were wearing shorts and exposing their aurat were given warning notices under Section 23 and could be punished according to the Syariah Criminal Code (I) Enactment 2019, which carries a fine of up to RM1,000 or six months' imprisonment,” Mohd Fadzuli was quoted as saying.

Covering the “aurat” is part of the Islamic modesty concept. For men, the areas of the body deemed a must to be covered are from the navel to the knees while women are compelled to cover every part of their bodies except for their hands and face.

The raid was jointly conducted by Jahiek, the Tanah Merah District Council, the Tanah Merah District Health Office, and the National Anti-Drug Agency, according to the news portal.

The operation also reportedly saw six shisha apparatus seized, as well as 16 compounds issued under the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 and the Food Hygiene Regulations 2009, amounting to RM3,400.

Source: Malay Mail

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Iran’s Protest Anthem ‘Baraye’ Played At White House Nowruz Celebration


US President Congratulates for Nowruz

21 March ,2023

Iran’s protest anthem “Baraye” played at a White House celebration Monday marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

A video of Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour performing the massively popular song played in the ornate East Room just before President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden entered to host the Nowruz event.

In his speech to a cheering audience including many Iranian-Americans, Biden said the traditional New Year inspired “hope for women of Iran who are fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

“Baraye” instantly became associated with the political upheaval in Iran sparked by the September 16 death, while in custody, of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old ethnic Kurd had been arrested for an alleged breach of strict Islamic dress rules for women.

Hajipour was detained after his song went viral and later freed on bail. He is not allowed to leave Iran.

In February, Jill Biden presented a special Grammy for Best Song for Social Change, calling “Baraye” a “powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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Bangladeshi, Indonesian Envoys Share Tips For ‘Robust’ Family Planning


 Representative Image


Ikram Junaidi

March 22, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Envoys of Indonesia and Bangladesh said population management was central to their agenda for human development, as they shared how the Muslim-majority states managed to control the fertility rate through non-partisan political commitment and welfare packages.

“Bangladesh invested in a robust family planning programme and women’s empowerment through employment and education, which helped the country achieve the majority of its development goals and improve its social indices and economic benchmarks, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Pakistan Md. Ruhul said while speaking at the 8th meeting of the Parliamentary Forum on Population organised by the Population Council with the support of the UN.

The envoy said, “Because of initiatives like subsidies for entrepreneurship, specific economic zones for women, and awards for continuing their education, there are currently six million women who work in the clothing business. Bangladesh was able to accomplish its population management goals due to a strong, nonpartisan political commitment.”

The high commissioner said that the government ensured that family planning services were delivered to people’s doorsteps, together with sanitation, mother and child healthcare, and other components of a comprehensive health package.

He said that intense media efforts and the engagement of clerics played a major role in lowering the nation’s overall fertility rate and bringing it down to sustainable levels.

Speaking at the event, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Pakistan Adam Mulawarman Tugio stated, “Family planning has long been a top priority of the Indonesian government’s human development programme as the fourth most populous country in the world.”

“From 5.41 children per woman in 1971 to 2.27 children per woman in 2020, Indonesia has seen a dramatic drop in fertility. The total fertility rate decreased by 54pc in 2000 from 5.6 to 2.6 births per woman... The next goal is to stabilise population growth by 2025 by achieving a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman.”

He emphasised the importance of committed family planning institutions, which improved information and access and promoted the National Family Planning Program to all segments of society, as well as the continued political resolve of succeeding governments.

In her welcome remarks, Dr Zeba Sathar, country director for the Population Council stated, “We need to follow in the footsteps of Muslim countries and learn how Indonesia and Bangladesh achieved their development targets.”

“Legislators played a key role in the investment of human development goals in these countries which are similar to Pakistan as far socio-cultural and religious background is concerned,” she added.

The general secretary of the forum, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed claimed that the only way to address economic issues was to bring down the population growth rate.

The parliamentarians also stressed the need for the present financial distribution formula, NFC, to be revised so that it is no longer linked to population numbers and is instead focused on the achievement of human development goals. In order to change the NFC distribution formula, they underlined the importance of conducting a national debate on NFC with the participation of the leaders of all political parties, the prime minister, chief ministers, and key ministers.

Source: Dawn

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Human Rights Watch Pakistan Calls For End To ‘Over The Top’ Use Of Terror Charges Against Opposition Protesters


Pakistani journalists and civil society activists take part in a demonstration called by the journalists’ union to condemn attacks on journalists, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 28, 2021. © 2021 AP Photo/Anjum Naveed


March 22, 2023

KARACHI: Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday expressed concerns over the recent political violence taking place in Pakistan and asked the government to de-escalate the situation and minimise ‘overbroad anti-terrorism provisions’ against opposition protesters.

In a statement, HRW termed the current political situation ‘very worrying’ and said that police in Pakistan have used abusive measures against supporters of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

“The use of Pakistan’s vague and overbroad anti-terrorism provisions against opposition protesters is very worrying,” said Patricia Gossman, Associate Asia Director at HRW.

She said if the PTI supporters had taken the law into their own hands and their actions resulted in violence, they should be charged under the appropriate laws.

HRW noted that police have used abusive measures in the escalating the confrontation between wit Mr Khan’s supporters.

It also added that the protesters have a responsibility to be peaceful and respect the country’s laws.

Source: Dawn

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Arab World


Why Daesh is still not a spent force despite facing terminal decline in Iraq


March 22, 2023

IRBIL, KURDISTAN: Having once controlled roughly a third of the country at the height of its power, including several major cities and oilfields, there are now growing signs that what remains of the Daesh terrorist organization in Iraq is in terminal decline.

Unable to attract new recruits to shore up its dwindling numbers, nor able to mount significant offensive operations, the group that had in 2014 proclaimed its own “caliphate” today looks like a spent force — in Iraq at least.

On March 12, Iraqi General Qais Al-Mohamadawi revealed that Daesh has about 500 active militants remaining in the country. However, he stressed that they are confined to remote desert areas and mountains and have lost their “ability to attract new recruits.”

The following day, the US-led coalition tweeted that Daesh networks “remain under intense pressure,” with the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga having “removed from the battlefield at least 55” of the militants in February alone.

Joel Wing, author of the “Musings on Iraq” blog and who tracks security incidents in Iraq attributed to Daesh, recently wrote that recorded incidents from the start of March are a reminder that Daesh is in its “death throes in Iraq” and “remains barely active in the country.”

Only three incidents were attributed to Daesh in the first week of March, down from eight in the last week of February. Furthermore, since the start of 2023, eight out of nine weeks have witnessed security incidents in the single digits, which Wing says continues a trend that began in 2022, when the majority of weeks saw fewer than ten attacks.

“I don’t see a Daesh revival any time soon,” Wing told Arab News, using another name for Daesh. “They’ve had five years to recover from their defeat in Mosul and all signs point to the group getting weaker, not stronger.”

Mosul is Iraq’s second city and the largest urban center the group annexed into its self-styled caliphate, which, at the height of its power in the mid-2010s, covered about one-third of Iraq and one-third of Syria.

Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul with the support of the US-led coalition in July 2017 after months of intense fighting. Iraq declared victory over the group the following December.

Having lost its territorial caliphate, Daesh mounted an insurgency from rural and mountainous redoubts. For years, there were fears that the group had reverted to its pre-2014 status as an insurgent threat and could one day retake significant swathes of territory.

It now seems that dire prospect is a remote one.

“They haven’t been able to recruit many new Iraqis to their cause,” Wing said. “Their main activities appear to be trying to smuggle members and their families from Syria into Iraq and protecting the rural areas they control. There are hardly any offensive operations and they are completely absent from Iraq’s urban centers.”

And while Daesh could feasibly continue in this state for years to come, since there are few people and a minimal government presence in the areas where they operate, Wing says that they have “little to no effect upon Iraq anymore.”

Michael Knights, the Jill and Jay Bernstein Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, sees two different scenarios potentially unfolding.

“If current trends continue, Daesh is headed in the same direction as Algeria’s terrorist groups — disintegration into criminal gangs, inability to destabilize the country, and occasional terrorist outrages that are easy to quickly forget,” he told Arab News, using another acronym for Daesh.

“The question is whether — as in 2011-2014 — the Iraqi government will politicize the security forces and adopt a sectarian agenda, thus breathing life back into Daesh,” he said.

The government of former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki adopted just such an agenda after the US withdrew the last of its troops from Iraq in 2011. Consequently, when Daesh entered Mosul in June 2014, the ISF infamously did not fight, despite having vastly superior numbers.

Daesh invaded northern Iraq in 2014 after gaining a sizable foothold in Syria amid the chaos of that country’s brutal civil war. If the security situation in eastern Syria again deteriorates, there are fears this could reenergize diminished Daesh remnants in Iraq.

After visiting prisons holding thousands of Daesh militants in northeast Syria earlier this month, General Michael Kurilla, head of the US military’s Central Command, CENTCOM, warned of a “looming threat” posed by these detainees. 

“Between those detained in Syria and Iraq, it is a veritable ‘ISIS army in detention,’” he said in a CENTCOM statement. “If freed, this group would pose a great threat regionally and beyond.”

The Al-Hol camp in eastern Syria also houses tens of thousands of the relatives of alleged Daesh militants, roughly half of whom are Iraqi citizens.

In January 2022, Daesh detainees in Ghwayran prison in the northeast Syrian city of Hasakah rioted in coordination with an external attempt to free them, igniting 10 days of bitter fighting with Kurdish-led security forces. Daesh reportedly had similar plots for Al-Hol.

“Sneaking people out of Al-Hol and getting them into Iraq is a major priority because they haven’t been able to bring many new people to their cause in Iraq,” said Wing. “So they’re relying upon getting their current members out of the Syrian camp to try to bolster their numbers, but it hasn’t added to their capabilities at all.”

Ryan Bohl, a senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at the risk intelligence company RANE, emphasizes the importance of recalling the context in which Daesh initially emerged to “better understand the conditions that would allow it to return in the future.”

“ISIS emerged in a power vacuum, one first caused by the US invasion of Iraq and then the Syrian civil war that began in 2011,” Bohl told Arab News. “It was best able to grow and exploit local grievances for its radical agenda when its rivals were split and when it was not the focus of a major power, like the US, Turkiye, or Russia.

“Today, Iraq, despite deep political dysfunction and violence, is not nearly as divided as it was during the run-up to the Daesh blitz in 2014 into Iraq. Syria’s civil war has stabilized, leaving little room for them to grow there as well.”

Nevertheless, completely eradicating a group such as Daesh will remain a difficult, if not impossible, task for Iraqi authorities.

“There will always be online recruitment and localized grievances that can turn into small cells or radicalized individual attackers,” Bohl said. “Iraq’s social contract also remains fractured, and until there is a strong, sustained governing consensus, radicalism of all stripes will find a home there.”

While he believes Syria is the most likely place from which Daesh can make a resurgence in the region, there would first have to be a strategic shift, such as a US withdrawal or some power vacuum caused by Damascus forcibly reestablishing its rule over the area.

“Under those conditions, it would become possible for Daesh to retake some initiative in that area and use Syria’s northeast to attack Iraq,” he said.

“However, it shouldn’t be entirely ruled out that Daesh could resurge in Iraq, particularly if political problems there grow so severe that it reignites sectarian war.

“Under those (more remote) circumstances, Daesh would once again have a shot at restoring territorial control within Iraq, even if Syria remained stable.”

Knights also stresses that any chance of Daesh making a successful resurgence in Iraq depends on Baghdad’s management of its security forces.

Source: Arab News

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Saudi-Iranian diplomatic deal could boost support for the Palestinian cause


March 21, 2023

RAMALLAH: The agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic ties could help mobilize support for the Palestinian cause and might even pave the way for possible reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, according to Palestinian sources.

Politicians and analysts described the deal as a positive step that could enhance security and stability in the region, thereby improving the ability of Arab and Islamic countries to respond collectively and effectively to threats and challenges, and to defend the interests of Palestinian people and support their cause.

On March 10, following talks in Beijing sponsored by China, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced that diplomatic relations will resume and their embassies reopen within two months. Many political analysts and experts said that the agreement is likely to negatively affect Israel by weakening its position and strengthening the Palestinian cause.

Jibril Rajoub, the secretary general of Fatah’s Central Committee, told Arab News that he believes the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement represents a strategic step that will significantly affect security, stability and other regional interests and issues, including the Palestinian cause.

At the start of the weekly Palestinian Authority cabinet session in Ramallah, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh welcomed the agreement.

According to Ahmed Majdalani, the Palestinian minister of social development, the agreement between Riyadh and Tehran will undoubtedly have a positive effect on security and stability in the region, and on the Palestinian cause. It might also help to improve the relationship between Fatah and Hamas, he told Arab News.

Nasser Al-Kidwa, a former Palestine Liberation Organization representative to the UN, told Arab News he believes the agreement would aid the Palestinian cause by weakening Israel.

Islam Shahwan, an expert on security and political affairs from Gaza, said: “The effect (of the Saudi-Iran agreement) will focus on strengthening support for the Palestinian cause.”

The Kingdom’s influence on the Palestinian Authority and Iran’s influence on Hamas and Islamic Jihad might, in turn, result in Hamas agreeing a long-term truce in the West Bank, he told Arab News.

Saudi Arabia might also be more open to dealing with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, contribute more to projects that support Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and generally strengthen the Kingdom’s role and image as the most prominent Islamic country, Shahwan added.

Political analyst Majdi Halabi said that the Saudi rapprochement might influence Tehran’s point of view and persuade it to support a two-state solution to end the occupation of Palestinian territory, rather than calling for the elimination of Israel.

“Saudi Arabia’s adopted perspective, represented in the Arab Peace initiative of 2002, is closer to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict than Iran, which talks about liberating Jerusalem and erasing Israel from existence, but these hollow slogans do not benefit the Palestinian cause,” Halabi told Arab News.

Noting the overwhelming Israeli anger over the agreement, he added that the Kingdom is one of the few countries capable of persuading Israel to return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians, thanks to its regional and international political influence.

However, Halabi is less optimistic about the ability of Saudi Arabia or Iran to bring about a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, pointing out that Saudi Arabia has previously tried to encourage this and failed.

Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, agreed that there still appears to be little prospect of Fatah and Hamas resolving their differences. But he told Arab News that there would be no chance of the Kingdom normalizing relations with Israel, as some other Arab nations have done in recent years, until the Palestinian issue is resolved.

Source: Arab News

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Advisor to Iran’s supreme leader meets with Syria’s Assad

21 March ,2023

A senior foreign policy advisor to Iran’s supreme leader met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Tuesday to discuss international and regional developments, Iranian state media reported.

The talks between Kamal Kharrazi and Assad included developments in Syria’s foreign relations and the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic relations, the semi-official ISNA agency reported.

Iran has been a key ally of Assad’s regime since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Kharrazi, who served as Iran’s foreign minister from 1997 to 2005, said on Monday that Iran considers Saudi Arabia “an important country in the region and influential in the Islamic world.”

“Iran and Saudi Arabia cannot exclude each other and instead, as the two main powers of the region, they should use each other’s capacities synergistically to ensure peace and stability and development of the region,” ISNA quoted Kharrazi as saying at a seminar on Tehran’s foreign policy in Damascus.

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

Source: Al Arabiya

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Lebanon to sell unlimited US dollars to prop up collapsing pound

21 March ,2023

Lebanon’s central bank will begin selling unlimited amounts of US dollars in a bid to halt the spiraling devaluation of the Lebanese pound, Governor Riad Salameh said on Tuesday.

Salameh set a new rate for Sayrafa, the central bank’s exchange platform, at 90,000 Lebanese pounds per dollar on Tuesday. He set the rate at 70,000 on March 1 but it has steadily crept up, trading at 83,500 on the platform on Monday.

The Lebanese pound’s parallel market rate weakened from roughly 121,000 to the US dollar on Tuesday morning to 140,000 by the afternoon, prompting residents to briefly seal off roads in anger over their declining purchasing power.

The pound has lost more than 98% of its value since the economy began unravelling in 2019. The central bank revalued the pound officially from 1,507.5 to 15,000 per US dollar in February but it has traded at a much lower and varying rate on Sayrafa.

Tuesday’s move came with the approval of the caretaker premier and caretaker finance minister and aimed to “limit the devaluation of the Lebanese pound in the parallel market,” Salameh said.

Those willing to trade could use Grade A exchange houses or banks which lift their strike, he said. Lebanese banks resumed a strike last week to protest against legal measures taken against them.

The pound began rising in value on the parallel market immediately after the decision was announced.

Unifying multiple exchange rates is one of several steps sought by the International Monetary Fund for Lebanon to clinch a $3 billion aid package that would help it emerge from the meltdown.

But as Lebanon approaches the one-year mark since it signed a preliminary deal with the IMF, residents are still dealing with a dizzying array of exchange rates.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UAE pardons more than 1,000 prisoners ahead of Ramadan

21 March ,2023

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has pardoned more than 1,000 prisoners ahead of Ramadan, official news agency WAM reported on Tuesday evening.

Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered the release of the prisoners ahead of the Holy Month which is set to begin on Thursday in the UAE.

“The move comes as part of President Mohamed's humanitarian initiatives and is reflective of the values of forgiveness and tolerance to give pardoned inmates an opportunity to start a new life and ease the suffering of their families,” WAM said in a statement.

The UAE pardons prisoners every year for Ramadan, as well as ahead of other holy festivals.

Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on July 6 last year ordered the release of 505 prisoners from correctional and punitive establishments in the emirate ahead of Eid al-Adha in 2022.

The Ramadan crescent moon was not sighted in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday evening, meaning the holy month will officially begin on Thursday.

Muslims follow a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days. Sighting a crescent moon heralds the start of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Source: Al Arabiya

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King Salman sends best wishes for Ramadan to Saudi citizens and all Muslims

March 22, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Tuesday sent his best wishes for Ramadan to citizens of the Kingdom and Muslims everywhere, expressing his hope that the holy month will bring hope and peace to Muslims and the entire world.

He instructed authorities involved in providing services for visitors to the Two Holy Mosques to continue to work with the highest levels of efficiency and excellence to ensure that pilgrims can perform their rituals with ease and tranquility, the Saudi press Agency reported.

The king was speaking as he chaired the weekly Cabinet session at Irqah Palace in Riyadh, after the Supreme Court announced that Ramadan would begin on Thursday.

Minister of Media Salman Al-Dosari said ministers reviewed a number of issues that were discussed during meetings involving senior Saudi officials in the past week that aimed to develop relations and cement the regional and international status and role of the Kingdom.

Ministers reviewed Saudi Arabia’s participation during the 49th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, during which its representatives affirmed the Kingdom’s continued support for joint action, particularly in the humanitarian and development fields, and its unwavering stance in support of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect worldwide.

The Cabinet noted the Kingdom’s pledge, during an International Donors’ Conference in Brussels on Monday, to support the victims of the earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, help mitigate the effects of the disaster, and assist the recovery process.

Ministers affirmed that such efforts reflect the Kingdom’s constant commitment to showing solidarity with communities in need around the world and helping to address their needs.

The Council of Ministers said that recent positive evaluations by credit-rating agencies of the Kingdom’s economy reflected the effectiveness of the reforms implemented by the state, including the development of public-finance management, improvements to the quality of financial planning, and the more efficient use of resources under the financial sustainability program.

Al-Dosari said that the fact the Kingdom climbed 15 places on the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Global Innovation Index 2022 is a reflection of the continued interest in and support for upgrading the quality of the research, development and innovation sector, which is helping to enhance the Kingdom’s global competitiveness and leadership in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

The Cabinet approved a memorandum of understanding for cultural cooperation between the Saudi and Mexican cultural ministries, and another relating to the digital economy between the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and its Chinese counterpart.

It also authorized the minister of Islamic affairs, dawah and guidance to sign a draft memorandum of understanding in the field of Islamic affairs with the Somali Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs.

Ministers approved two agreements with South Africa, one for cooperation in a feasibility study for establishing a joint fund to encourage direct investment, and another for cooperation in the field of maritime transport.

They authorized the minister of transport and logistics and the chairman of the board of directors of the General Authority of Civil Aviation to sign a draft agreement for air services with the Polish government.

The Cabinet also authorized the chairman of the Education and Training Evaluation Commission to sign a draft cooperation agreement for the evaluation and accreditation of Arab language curricula and programs with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization.

Ministers approved an agreement between the Saudi Public Prosecution Office and its Tajik counterpart for combating terrorism and its financing, money laundering, and other related offenses.

Source: Arab News

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GCC, Indian officials hold political dialogue meeting

March 21, 2023

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council recently hosted a political dialogue meeting in Riyadh for senior officials from the foreign affairs ministries of GCC countries and India.

The Indian delegation was led by Dr. Ausaf Sayeed of the Indian foreign ministry department responsible for consular affairs, passports, visas, and Indian affairs abroad, while Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, the GCC’s assistant secretary-general for political and negotiation affairs, headed the council’s representatives.

Aluwaisheg said members discussed political and regional security issues, and ways to improve strategic dialogue and cooperation following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in September.

He added that matters related to a framework agreement for economic, commercial, investment, and technical cooperation, that concluded in 2004, were also on the agenda.

Source: Arab News

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Southeast Asia


Malaysian body backs Muslim visits to other worship sites

March 21, 2023

A major interfaith council in Muslim-majority Malaysia has backed a state-run youth program involving visits to worship sites of various faiths and dismissed allegations it covertly promotes proselytizing of Muslims.

In a statement, Jagir Singh, president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Taoism said that visits to different houses of worship must be encouraged to promote understanding, respect, and harmony, the Malay Mail reported on March 18.

Singh urged the government and Islamic authorities to refrain from imposing a possible ban on Muslims from visiting worship places of other faith amid allegations of proselytization from opposition politicians and Muslim hardliners.

“The unity walks to places of worship are to see and understand the different cultures. There is no propagation of any religion involved,” Singh said.

“It is necessary for all races to work together in a spirit of goodwill, mutual respect to enhance harmony and unity in the country,” he added.

Singh said that instead of imposing a blanket ban on Muslims from visiting non-Muslim worship sites, the government and Islamic authorities should clearly state that “there should not be any propagation of other faiths to Muslims.”

His response came after Mohd Zawawi Ahmad Mughni, a Selangor state executive councilor who oversees Islamic affairs in the nation, issued a statement that apparently suggested that even unity walks to houses of worship was not allowed for Muslims.

Mughni commended the interfaith activities but warned that “the regulations establish that any program involving Muslims in the houses of worship of religions other than Islam is absolutely prohibited,” in a March 15 statement.

Earlier, a Muslim politician accused Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh of using the “Jom Ziarah” program to take Muslim youths to visit other places of worship for evangelization.

The program aims to promote a better understanding of the different races, religions, and cultures in Malaysia.

In a Facebook post, Badrul Hisham Shaharin, a former People’s Justice Party member slammed the Impact Malaysia event saying "Christian evangelist has started its work" prompting mixed responses from various quarters of Malaysian society.

Yeoh, a Christian, refuted the allegations stating that there was no Muslim youth in the team that visited various places of worship including a visit to a church in Klang city.

Singh pointed out that the visits under the Jom Ziarah program aimed to only understand the differences between various faiths and there was no proselytization involved.

“If there is no propagation of other faiths to Muslims, no offense is committed. Therefore, the mere visiting of places of worship cannot be an offense,” Singh pointed out, the Malay Mail reported.

He cited the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) Enactment 1988 enacted under Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution which prohibits only “propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”

Singh also pointed out that for more than 10 years the council with various NGOs including Islamic ones had taken part in unity walks to various places of worship to show respect and tolerance which included events organized by the National Unity and Integration Department.

He said that these visits “created great goodwill amongst the different races and religions.”

Christians make up about 10 percent of the estimated 32 million citizens in Muslim-majority Malaysia. The majority of Christians live in Sarawak and Sabah states where they make up two-thirds of the population and form decisive voting blocs.

Media reports suggest that Muslim hardliners and Islamist politicians attempted to vilify Christians by accusing them of running campaigns to convert Muslims.

In 2016, politician Andul Hadi Awang from the Islamist Party of Malaysia accused Christian missionaries of “preying on poor and uneducated people” in impoverished communities in Malaysian states like Sabah and elsewhere by paying them off to convert to Christianity, in an article.

In 2014, in a controversial book, Pendedahan Agenda Kristian (Exposing the Christian Agenda), a unanimous author labeled Christians “the enemies of Islam” who harbor ill intentions and spread lies.

In 2021, a Facebook page called Hud Hud Crew published a doctored video that claimed Archbishop Julian Leow of Kuala Lumpur insulted Muslims in a speech.

Source: UCA News

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‘Immoral’ Thai hunk waiters at KL club during Ramadan raise ire of Malaysia politicians

Lok Jian Wen

After Thai K-pop singer Lisa and her Blackpink bandmates, a group of Thai hunks are the latest performers to draw flak from local politicians as they prepare to go on stage in Malaysia.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) on Wednesday denounced the coming opening of Privacy Club Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur, which will feature waiters from Thai restaurant Staneemeehoi, famed for their cross-dressing, dancing employees in Bangkok.

“It is clear that this event promotes a culture of hedonism, obscenity and free sex based on the notice,” said PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan in a statement.

“It is in conflict with local culture and insensitive to the position of Islam as the official religion, let alone it being held in the month of Ramadan,” he added, urging the Kuala Lumpur city authorities to reconsider the legitimacy of holding this event.

An aide to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, political secretary Azman Abidin, on Wednesday said that he had been informed by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) that the bar has not applied for an entertainment licence or for permission to carry out entertainment activities.

DBKL will carry out a review on whether to take action if it is found that the organisers have violated any rules and regulations, he added.

The event is slated for next Thursday, during the month of Ramadan when most Muslims will, during daylight hours, abstain from food and drink, sex and immoral behaviour ahead of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Ramadan starts on Thursday this week.

Apart from the waiters set to headline a programme billed simply as “Thai Hot Guy”, Privacy Club Tun Razak will invite DJs to make up part of the evening’s entertainment.

PAS also expressed opposition towards the club referencing former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak in its name, saying it “insults the good name of the country’s leader”.

Staneemeehoi has been noted for serving up the beefy waiters as a unique selling point that differentiates it from other seafood eateries in the Thai capital.

Videos on social media show its well-sculpted employees dressed in women’s lingerie or ‘sailor moon’ outfits cavorting with diners at their tables while music played at regular intervals on regular nights at the restaurant.

The photogenic waiters have also been spotted in similarly stripped-down attire riding motorcycles as live advertising machinery for the restaurant while delivering meals and posing sultrily for photos with the restaurant’s customers.

Earlier, PAS youth chief Fadhli Shaari had rallied opposition against the club’s choice of guests.

“There is no need for a programme like this to be given permission to operate, even more so in the honourable month of Ramadan! Please, stop it. Voice a mass protest,” he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

While the club’s opening has not been called off, Malaysia’s government attempted to distance itself from the event.

Responding to a question from Mr Fadhli in Parliament on Wednesday, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wilson Ugak Kumbong said the Thai Hot Guy event should not be associated with the government’s Malaysia Madani agenda, adding that such “unhealthy” programmes should not take place in Malaysia.

PAS’ disapproval towards the Thai waiters comes after previous resistance against foreign performers.

Source: Straits Times

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Education minister: School canteens must remain open during Ramadan even if fewer than 10pc students are non-Muslim

22 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 ― Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek advised school canteen operators to continue operating throughout the month of Ramadan even if the school has less than 10 per cent non-Muslim students.

She said this is because not all Muslim children are required to fast especially, at an early age, in addition to respecting non-Muslims during Ramadan.

“This is the MADANI government, an inclusive government, where both sides respect each other, those who fast must be polite to those who are not fasting, and those who are not fasting must learn to respect those who are fasting.

“So we don't want a scenario where students eat at the (school) store or by the side of drains, I don't want that kind of situation.

“(Even if less than 10 per cent of students are non-Muslims) Canteens need to continue to be open, and they (operators) need to discuss with the school, because I'm sure there are Muslim children who do not fast at an early age and there is no obligation for them to fast unless they want to because they want to learn to fast,” she told reporters after attending the handover ceremony of Yayasan Petronas' 2023 Back to School Packs at Sekolah Pendidikan Khas Jalan Batu (L) here today.

Fadhlina said this when asked about the recommendation of Persatuan Pengusaha Kantin Sekolah Malaysia (PPKSM) not to open school canteens during the month of Ramadan if the schools have less than 10 per cent non-Muslim students.

Media reports yesterday had quoted PPKSM secretary-general Siti Normah Md Desa as saying that the Ministry of Education (MoE) should leave the decision whether to open school canteens based on the considerations of school administrations and canteen operators according to the needs of students.

She said that if the school canteens remain open, the operators have to bear the operating costs which cannot be covered by the sales value obtained.

Meanwhile, Fadhlina said her ministry welcomes the views of the Down Syndrome Community Rehabilitation Organisation (PPDKSD) in improving the learning syllabus for children with Down Syndrome to prepare them for the workforce.

“We have engagement sessions from time to time to ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of Down Syndrome children, in addition to taking into account the progress cycle.

“We have expertise in MoE for changing the curriculum and the engagement sessions will continue and take into account the inputs from all (parties),” she said.

According to media reports yesterday, PPDKSD chairman Hanizan Hussin had suggested that specific measures should be taken including on training and skills to prepare the group for the world of work.

At today's event, 30 students with disabilities were the first recipients of the 'Back to School' packs donated by Yayasan Petronas containing vouchers for a set of school uniform, shoes, socks and sports attire, in addition to equipment kits such as school bags, stationery sets, colour pencils and scientific calculators.

Yayasan Petronas Chief Executive Officer, Shariah Nelly Francis said a total of 21,000 primary and secondary school students nationwide will receive the packs from mid-March to May.

“Since its launch 10 years ago, Yayasan Petronas through this programme continues to be committed to its goal of alleviating the burden of low-income people and is concerned about their situation in providing school necessities for children.

Source: Malay Mail

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Saifuddin Nasution: Be mindful of Muslim sensitivities when organising events

By Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam

22 Mar 2023 

PUTRAJAYA, March 22 — Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail today advised organisers to cancel any events that touch on Muslim sensitivities.

Addressing a question on a night club launching ceremony that involved cross-dressing muscular men in lingerie dubbed “Thai Hot Guy”, he said that such an event would only issue a cause for concern and anxiousness among Muslims in the country.

“It is best for such events not to be continued because it could create certain uneasiness. This is because Muslims worldwide will be welcoming Ramadan.

“There must be mutual respect from those living in a multicultural society. They need to be aware of certain sensitivities of respective communities,” he said during a press conference.

He also said that the ministry needed to establish the facts of the event before taking any further action against the organisers.

Source: Malay Mail

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Hannah Yeoh contributes RM129,000 from MP allocations to suraus, mosques in Segambut ahead of Ramadan

By Kenneth Tee

22 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — In the spirit of Ramadan, Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh has today contributed a total of RM129,000 to suraus and mosques within her constituency.

Yeoh said the contributions were sourced from federal government allocations given to parliamentarians and it is customary for her to use said allocations for Ramadan events organised by Muslim houses of worship.

“My hope is that with the federal government allocations provided to members of Parliament, more programmes for the rakyat will be organised.

“However, I will not be organising any programmes but merely wish to ‘top up’ existing programmes organised by Muslim houses of worship so there will not be wastage,” she said during a handover ceremony at Taman Tun Dr Ismail here.

On the breakdown of contributions, Yeoh said nine mosques will receive RM5,000 each while 42 suraus will receive RM2,000 each.

Source: Malay Mail

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Zahid announces formation of PM-led 'Madani Council' which will support Islamic groups, scholars

By Zarrah Morden

21 Mar 2023

BANGI, March 21 — A "Madani Council", chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, will be formed and one of its functions will be to support the work of Islamic non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The prime minister will announce the formation of the council, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters at a press conference after the Islamic NGOs Unity Convention 2023 at Tenera Hotel in Bangi.

"[The council] will hold official programmes in administration and definitely to support the work of Islamic NGOs and Islamic scholars, without leaving behind scholars from other religions and backgrounds,” he said.

He expressed his certainty that people of all ethnicities and religions will support the formation of the Madani Council once its concept and philosophies are understood.

There is no word yet as to whether the council will endorse all or just some of the various Islamic sects, schools of jurisprudence, and schools of thought.

Besides that, Ahmad Zahid also said that he would ensure that the prime minister will agree to the tenth resolution of the Unity Convention, in which the Islamic NGOs requested a complex with facilities such as offices, seminar halls, multipurpose halls and training rooms for their use.

"It will require funds and maybe I can suggest to him directly that he can find room for the request in the Budget 2024 speech.

"And if he is more kind-hearted, he can announce it before the Budget,” Ahmad Zahid said.

He added that a suitable location would have to be found and that he will aid in the search for an appropriate location.

The other resolutions were: the acknowledgement that Malaysia Madani will aid in the unification of the Muslim community while fulfilling demands of the current time; that the voices and wishes of the NGOs and government agencies must synergise; to continue initiatives towards a constructive action plan for the Islamic NGOs; and to empower Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia’s (Yadim) Majlis Amal Islami Malaysia.

Besides that, the resolutions also called for Yadim to coordinate funds from the government to the NGOs; to tackle the country’s social issues through Islamic teachings; for proactive and reactive measures towards academic and social issues to ensure the younger generation is nurtured with Islamic morals; inclusive programmes between governmental agencies and Islamic NGOs to produce dedicated and skilled youths; and the formation of a strategic action plan in raising awareness about the importance of the economic agenda to produce entrepreneurs and to empower institutions that will fight for the economic development of Muslims.

Source: Malay Mail

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North America


US ‘extremely troubled’ by Israeli parliament vote to legitimize settlements

21 March ,2023

The United States said Tuesday it was “extremely troubled” by the Israeli parliament's vote legitimizing some settlements, calling the move "provocative" and in violation of promises to ally Washington.

“The United States is extremely troubled that the Israeli Knesset has passed legislation rescinding important parts of the 2005 disengagement law,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

“The legislative changes announced today are particularly provocative and counterproductive to efforts to restore some measure of calm as we head into the Ramadan, Passover and Easter holidays,” he said.

Patel said the move was in “clear contradiction” of promises made by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon to then-US president George W. Bush as well as assurances made just two days ago by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

“The US strongly urges Israel to refrain from allowing the return of settlers to the area covered by the legislation, consistent with former prime minister Sharon and the current Israeli government's commitment to the United States,” he said.

The vote pushed by the hard-right government annulled part of a law that banned settlers from living in areas of the West Bank evacuated in 2005.

Source: Al Arabiya

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More US sanctions against Iran for drone and weapons programs

21 March ,2023

The US issued more Iran-related sanctions on Tuesday, targeting four companies and three individuals in Turkey and Iran accused of aiding Tehran’s drone programs.

The latest sanctions target what the US says is involvement in procuring equipment, including European-origin engines of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in support of Iran’s drone and weapons programs.

This procurement network is working on behalf of the Iranian ministry of defense and armed forces logistics (MODAFL), according to the Treasury Department.

“Iran’s proliferation of weapons destabilizes the Middle East,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. And the US will continue to act to disrupt Iran’s proliferation of UAVs and work with allies and partners to counter Iran’s weapons proliferation, the top US diplomat vowed.

For his part, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said that “Iran’s well-documented” proliferation of UAVs and conventional weapons to its proxies continues to undermine both regional security and global stability. “The United States will continue to expose foreign procurement networks in any jurisdiction that supports Iran’s military-industrial complex,” Nelson added.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US says it 'has nothing' to do with helicopters that crashed with PKK terrorists onboard

Servet Günerigök



The Pentagon said Tuesday that the US has nothing to do with two helicopters that crashed in northern Iraq carrying members of the YPG/PKK terror group which uses the name, SDF.

When asked by Anadolu if the US had a military role in the alleged training of the helicopter pilots and if funds used in the mission were provided by the US, Pentagon Spokesman Brig. Gen Pat Ryder said the SDF conducts its operations.

"The United States had nothing, no participation whatsoever in the SDF helicopter flights. The SDF is its own force, they conduct their own operations, we do partner with the SDF on Defeat ISIS operations regularly," Ryder told reporters.

"But again, there was no US or coalition involvement in the helicopter incident, nor do we have any knowledge either before that mission took place," he added.

Anadolu also asked how confident the US was that funds provided by Washington would not be used by the SDF against Türkiye.

"We train a lot of forces around the world, many of which conduct their own operations. But again, in this case, again, we had no involvement," he said.

The chopper crashed in the Duhok region Wednesday. One day later Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) said some on board were members of the PKK terror group.

Initial findings indicate that it was a Eurocopter AS350 helicopter and some of the victims were PKK terrorists.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Racial Discrimination Day: How Turkish Embassy’s ‘Jazz Diplomacy’ helped battle racism in US

Rabia Iclal Turan



A Turkish ambassador and his two sons paved the way for racial integration in the US several decades before the Black rights movement began.

March 21 is annually observed as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which originates in Sharpeville, South Africa, where in 1960 police opened fire at a peaceful demonstration, killing 69 people.

Several years later, the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to honor the lives of those who died fighting for equal human rights for all in South Africa during apartheid, an institutionally racist system built upon racial discrimination.

The legal framework of the apartheid in South Africa was repealed by votes in 1991 but racism remains a global problem that millions of people face throughout the world every day.

However, the story of a Turkish ambassador and his two sons offers a beacon of hope as it shows the world that there is still a way out even during the darkest times.

Munir Ertegun, Türkiye’s second ambassador to the US who served between 1934-1944, and his two sons, Ahmet and Nesuhi, challenged racism in the US by inviting African-American jazz performers to the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. during the 1930s and 1940s.

At a time when racism was at its peak in the US and segregation was in full flow as Black Americans were not allowed to sit next to whites in various places, the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. broke down prejudices and opened its doors to these musicians despite warnings from some US politicians.

Among the many jazz musicians who were attending the concerts at the Turkish embassy were the most famous performers at the time, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Teddy Wilson, and Lester Young.

According to Maurice Jackson, associate professor of History and African-American Studies at Georgetown University, the Turkish embassy’s jazz concerts during the 30s and 40s were significant in the anti-racism fight in the US.

“The important thing is that what it did was to show people the possibilities, and after people saw that they would never go back,” Jackson told Anadolu when asked about how significant Ertegun brother’s jazz concerts were in terms of battling racism in the US.

“A couple of years after this concert, there was a protest at the US State Department,” he recalled, explaining that Black officers were not allowed to eat in the cafeteria at the State Department at the time.

Jackson said those were times when African-American opera singer Marian Anderson was not allowed to perform at Constitution Hall in 1939 because of her race.

Against the backdrop of such racial tensions, the Ertegun family organized jazz concerts and jam sessions at the Turkish ambassador’s residence at the Everett House in Washington DC, in a neighborhood that is home to many embassies and diplomatic buildings.

Noting other demonstrations against segregation of Black Americans at restaurants and public places, Jackson said: “The musicians set an example of what the possibilities were.”

When a US Senator complained to Ambassador Ertegun for allowing Black Americans to enter the embassy from the front door at that time, he responded by saying: "We take our guests in from the front door, whoever they are."

Jazz concerts at Turkish embassy create ‘new venue’

The Ertegun brothers went further by organizing the city’s first integrated concert in 1942 at the Jewish Community Center on 16th Street.

“Two Muslim men bring Black music to a Jewish own institution. I don't even know that happens today. So you see the progress,” Jackson said.

Those jazz concerts also created a “new venue” for Black people to record, Jackson said, adding that Ertegun Brothers ended up launching Atlantic Records in 1947, playing a role in the nurturing of the careers of many artists and bands, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin.

When asked about the role of those concerts in the African-American history, he answered: “Jazz in itself. Music in itself is not going to make the change.”

“It has to have a big sweep. And this helped create that big sweep”, he said.

“So when people saw this and so these Blacks going in there and people started thinking, well, perhaps we can do this,” he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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US renews opposition to Assad normalization after UAE trip

21 March ,2023

The United States on Tuesday stood firm against nations normalizing relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after he paid his second visit in as many years to the United Arab Emirates, a close US partner.

“We will not normalize with the Assad regime nor will we encourage others absent authentic and enduring progress towards a political resolution,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

“We continue to urge anybody engaging with Damascus to consider sincerely and thoroughly how their engagements can help provide for Syrians in need no matter where they live,” he said. UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan received Assad on Sunday and told him that it was time for Syria to return to the Arab fold.

A growing number of nations have been repairing relations with Assad, believing he has effectively won in a brutal war that broke out in 2011.The United States under domestic law rules out any assistance for reconstruction in Assad-ruled Syria without accountability for abuses.

Assad, helped by Russian airpower, has largely restored control over Syria after the conflict that has killed half a million people, displaced half the country’s pre-war population and saw the rise of the ISIS.

Source: Al Arabiya

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US report on human rights in Palestinian territories reflects ‘positive change,’ activists say


March 21, 2023

RAMALLAH: Palestinian politicians and human rights activists believe that the US State Department’s 2022 report on the status of human rights in the Palestinian territories reflects a positive change, whether for the presence of terminology that was absent during the reign of former US President Donald Trump or for its clear facts about the scale of Israeli violations against Palestinians.

“There were reports that (Israeli Security Forces) members committed abuses. The Israeli military and civilian justice systems occasionally investigated such incidents and, in some cases, found ISF members to have committed abuses,” the report stated.

The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Social Development Ahmed Majdalani told Arab News that the report reflects the “reality” of “crimes and violations committed by the Israeli government against Palestinians” as well as its “violation of international and humanitarian law.”

He added, however, that it cannot be “considered a fundamental change in the US position toward Israel without the US taking practical steps to condemn Israel and hold it accountable for these violations.”

The report detailed that in 2022, the “ISF killed 152 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 36 Palestinian children, compared with 17 in 2021.”

It also noted that “Israel prosecutes Palestinian residents of the West Bank under military law and Israeli settlers in the West Bank under criminal and civil law.”

Jibril Rajoub, Fatah Central Committee secretary-general, told Arab News that the scale and brutality of Israeli crimes committed against the Palestinians had embarrassed the US administration to such a degree that it could no longer ignore them.

“When the reports of three credible international organizations — Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and B’Tselem — speak of unprecedented Israeli violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories, the US cannot ignore this, especially since the Israeli crimes have become more evident,” Rajoub told Arab News.

Veteran Palestinian politician Nabil Amr told Arab News that Israel’s actions against Palestinians had crossed all lines.

“The burning of Hawara cannot be attributed to a person but rather to a state, and the continuation of this occupation...embarrasses the US,” Amr told Arab News.

Israel has used military courts to prosecute Palestinians from the West Bank since 1967, and 95 percent of cases tried in military courts have ended in conviction.

Source: Arab News

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South Asia


Banning women’s education a very serious issue for Afghanistan, says former Prez Karzai

21 March, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], March 21 (ANI): Banning females from attaining education is a very serious issue for Afghanistan and the children of our country, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement to a Canada-based news organisation, reported Khaama Press on Tuesday.

Calling girls’ education a ‘primary concern’ for the Afghan people, he added that education is the foundation of a country’s well-being, not only for Afghanistan but for every other society.

He also expressed his concern about how young people are leaving the country at a tremendous rate since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, which in return has proved to be a massive loss for the country.

“Leaving people from the country, especially young, educated ones adding that this is a disaster and a massive loss for the country, as it is already suffering the lack of proper human capital,” Khaama Press quoted Karzai as saying.

The de facto authorities of Afghanistan, after seizing power in August 2021 have restricted women’s and girls’ freedom of movement, barred girls from attending secondary school, excluded women from the majority of the workforce, and forbade women from using public restrooms and gyms, reported the Afghan news agency.

Taliban has imposed draconian restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls.

The Taliban’s decision to ban female students above grade six from going to school has drawn widespread criticism at the national and international levels.

Source: The Print

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Security Forces Destroyed Important ISIS Hideout in Kabul: Mujahid

By Fidel Rahmati

March 22, 2023

The security forces of the Afghan interim government destroyed an important ISIS hideout in the capital city of Kabul Tuesday night, according to Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban senior spokesperson.

According to Mujahid, three important Islamic State (ISIS) members were killed late on Tuesday night after Taliban security forces attacked an important hideout during a special operation in Kabul’s provincial district 12.

He also said that several weapons, grenades, explosives, many remotes, and much mine-making equipment were seized during the operation.

The statement added that ISIS used the hideout to plan and carry out an attack on holy places and civilians of Kabul in the month of Ramadan, which was discovered and destroyed in advance, Mujahid said.

The ISIS militants have claimed responsibility for many terror attacks in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, and other parts of the country.

In a recent attack, the group claimed two separate attacks in Balkh province; the first one occurred in the governor’s office, killed the governor of the province, and the second occurred in an Afghan journalist’ gathering in Tebyan cultural centers killing many journalists and injuring several others.

The Islamic State Khorasan terrorists have also carried out several terror strikes that have left dozens of people dead or injured, including at the Russian Embassy, Pakistani Diplomatic Mission, and a Chinese-run hotel.

Daesh is considered to be the main enemy of the Taliban administration, targeting their forces, Afghan citizens, and foreign nationals.

Source: Khaama Press

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EU condemns large-scale, gender-based discrimination by Taliban in Afghanistan

22 March, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], March 22 (ANI): As gender-based discrimination continues to remain prevalent in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, the European Union (EU) in an official statement has said that the decision of the Taliban to deny education to females and work at NGOs has hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid in the country, TOLOnews reported.

In its official statement, the EU said, “large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination by the Taliban who, through their discriminatory decision to ban women from working for national and international non-governmental organisations, are impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance and basic needs support to the Afghan people.”

The de facto authorities have restricted women’s and girls’ freedom of movement since August 15, 2021, preventing girls from attending secondary education, excluding them from the majority of the workforce, and forbidding them from utilising public parks, gyms, and bathrooms.

The statement, which was released by the EU on March 20 underlined the importance of women’s participation in the country’s affairs and added the EU remains committed to continuing its assistance to alleviate the severe humanitarian and socio-economic crisis.

“Where activities cannot be continued in line with the EU’s principled approach, the EU support to those activities will be reconsidered,” the statement said.

Moreover, the European Union also raised the issue of terrorism and how it’s holding tight on Afghan soil. “Afghanistan should not once again serve as a base for terrorism and violent extremism to other countries, and the EU demands that the Taliban cease all direct and indirect ties with terrorism and reiterates the Taliban’s responsibility in combatting terrorism,” the statement reads.

However, the Taliban rejected the idea that there were terrorist organisations in Afghanistan.

“There is no group, movement or element, whose existence here anyone can provide evidence for. No one can show a particular area,” said Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman of the Islamic Emirate, TOLOnews reported.

Afghanistan remains the country most impacted by terrorism for the fourth consecutive year, despite attacks and deaths falling by 75 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively, terrorism-index” Global Terrorism Index (GTI) reported on Tuesday, according to Afghanistan-based Khaama Press.

As per the FTI, Afghanistan recorded 633 fatalities in 2022, despite terrorism-related deaths declining by 866 in 2022, a 58 per cent improvement over 2021.

Source: The Print

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Afghan Taliban raid in Kabul kills 3 Islamic State members

March 22, 2023

Islamabad An overnight raid by Taliban forces in Afghanistan’s capital killed three members of the extremist Islamic State group, a Taliban spokesman said on March 22.

The regional affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group — known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province — has been the key rival of the Taliban since their takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

The militant group has increased its attacks, targeting both Taliban patrols and members of Afghanistan’s Shiite minority.

According to Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban Government spokesman, the operation on March 21 targeted an IS hideout in Kabul and killed three prominent members of the militant group who were plotting attacks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which starts at sundown on March 22.

“The IS members used the hideout to carry out attacks in Kabul city and planned to target religious places and civilians during the upcoming month of Ramadan,” Mujahid said.

The Taliban swept across Afghanistan in mid-August 2021, seizing power as U.S. and NATO forces were withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war.

Source: The Hindu

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Strong earthquake has people fleeing homes in Afghanistan, Pakistan

Mar 21, 2023

KABUL: A strong earthquake lasting for at least 30 seconds was felt across much of Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India Tuesday night, with the United States Geological Survey putting the magnitude at 6.5.

"People ran out of their houses and were reciting the Koran," an AFP correspondent in Pakistani city of Rawalpindi said, with similar reports coming from elsewhere in the country and in Afghanistan.

USGS said the quake was centred near Jurm in northeastern Afghanistan and had a depth of 187 kilometers (116 miles).

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Source: Times Of India

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Imran Khan Inspired Me To Convert To Islam, Says Former MTV Presenter Kristiane Backer

22 Mar, 2023

Former MTV presenter Kristiane Backer said that he was inspired to convert to Islam by former prime minister Imran Khan.

Talking to Pakistani media at an event, Backer said that Imran Khan influenced her conversion to Islam. She became a Muslim in 1995.

“I wish Imran Khan will remain safe and that Pakistan should treat him with respect that he is due. He is hugely popular. He is a great leader and he has a vision, not everything worked out the way he envisioned. But his heart is on the right place. He inspired me so much and I converted to Islam because of his teachings and inspiration. I can tell you one thing, have you seen a Sufi terrorist?.”

Source: Daily Pakistan

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Afghan Taliban Delegation Quietly Visits Pakistan to Discuss TTP Issue: Report

MARCH 21, 2023

An Afghan Taliban delegation, comprising intelligence and security officials, quietly visited Islamabad recently to discuss a way forward towards addressing Pakistan's concerns regarding the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), according to a media report on Tuesday.

Taliban ranks in Kabul also confirmed that a mid-level delegation led by Abdullah Ghazanavi, the head of the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI), travelled to Islamabad for discussion on the TTP and threats to Pakistan, the Express Tribune newspaper reported, citing sources.

The visit was a follow-up of last month's trip to Kabul by a high-powered delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, which received a briefing on the steps taken by the Afghan government to deal with the TTP.

The Pakistani delegation, however, deemed those steps unsatisfactory and sought concerted actions. Pakistan also confronted the Afghan Taliban leadership with proofs about the whereabouts of the TTP leadership.

According to the paper, during its stay in Islamabad, the Afghan delegation met with the relevant authorities to discuss the security situation and the fate of the TTP and its affiliates.

Citing a source in Kabul with knowledge of the matter, the paper said that the delegation, comprising 10 members from the Taliban’s intelligence, visited Islamabad last week.

The delegation was also assisted by GDI official Muhammad Wardak, the source said, adding that the delegation was mandated to deliver a message from Kabul that the concerns of Pakistan would be addressed.

Both sides stayed mum on the visit. The sources in Islamabad said that given the sensitivity of the issue, both sides decided to discuss such matters away from the media glare.

The source in Kabul revealed that both sides made progress on various issues, but he was not authorised to make public statements.

The TTP has become a thorny issue between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan expected the Afghan Taliban to address its concerns regarding the TTP after its return to power in August 2021. But contrary to the expectations, the TTP attacks only went up.

The Afghan Taliban’s reluctance to take on the TTP stemmed from its fears that the group's fighters might join Da’esh (Islamic State). Second, the Afghan Taliban and the TTP share the same ideology as they fought alongside the US-led foreign forces.

Nevertheless, the two sides have been trying to find a way out of the TTP problem as it has threatened to undermine their future cooperation, according to the paper.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in TTP violence since peace talks between the militant group and the government began to falter last year. The TTP formally ended the ceasefire on November 28.

The TTP, which has ideological linkages with the Afghan Taliban and is also known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of several militant outfits in 2007. Its main aim is to impose its strict brand of Islam across Pakistan.

The TTP, which is believed to be close to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for several deadly attacks across Pakistan, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases and the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

In 2012, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was attacked by TTP. She suffered bullet injuries and was admitted to the Military Hospital (CMH) Peshawar and then taken to London for further treatment. The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Yousafzai was a "Western-minded girl".

Source: News18

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Zakat and Ushr Department Speakers Stress Implementing Islamic Philosophy of Zakat

March 22, 2023

Speakers at a conference organised under the auspices of Zakat and Ushr Department on the topic of ‘Importance and usefulness of Zakat system in the present era’, emphasised the need for implementation of the Islamic philosophy of Zakat in letter and spirit.

The conference, held at the auditorium of Services Institute for Medical Sciences (SIMS) Lahore, was presided over by Caretaker Minister for Zakat and Ushr Punjab Barrister Azfar Ali Nasir, while Caretaker Minister for Specialised Healthcare Dr Javed Akram and Education Minister Dr Mansoor Qadir attended the event as special guests. Secretary Zakat and Ushr Mian Abrar, Administrator Zakat Punjab Rana Sajjad Babar, Ulema Maulana Raghib Naimi, Maulana Yusuf Khan, Maulana Ramzan Sialvi and others were also present.

The speakers stressed that along with the government, the rich of society must come forward to help the deserving people.

Source: Pak Observer

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At least 9 dead as powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake jolts Pakistan

Mar 22, 2023

ISLAMABAD: An earthquake of 6.8 magnitudes shook parts of Pakistan on Tuesday, killing nine people and injuring over 160 others, local media reported.

The epicentre of the earthquake was Afghanistan's Hindu Kush region, while its depth was 180 kilometres, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

Earthquake tremors were felt in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Peshawar, Kohat, Lakki Marwat, and other areas of the country.

Strong tremors were also felt in Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Kot Momin, Madh Ranjha, Chakwal, Kohat and in Gilgit-Baltistan areas, local media reported.

Television footage showed panic-stricken citizens out on the streets.The earthquake killed nine people, including two women, and injured over 160 others as well as causing many buildings to collapse, authorities said, according to a Geo News report.

At the time of the earthquake, a stampede was reported in the markets of Rawalpindi, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has asked disaster management officials to remain vigilant to handle any situation, according to state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

An emergency was declared in the hospitals of the federal capital on the instructions of Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel, The Express Tribune reported.

According to the international seismological centre, apart from Pakistan, tremors were also felt in India, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China and Kyrgyzstan.

Source: Times Of India

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Imran Khan gets protective bail in 2 terrorism cases

Mar 21, 2023

LAHORE: Pakistan's ousted premier Imran Khan on Tuesday secured protective bail from the Lahore High Court in three cases, including two related to terrorism, registered against him over the violence that took place outside the judicial complex in Islamabad last week.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Shehbaz Rizvi and Justice Farooq Haider granted protective bail to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief in the terrorism cases till March 27.

The former premier also appeared before the Lahore High Court's (LHC) Justice Baqir Naqvi in the NAB investigation in Toshakhana case. The court granted him protective bail till next Tuesday.

"Mr Khan told the court today that he came to the court 'secretly' as a heavy contingent of police was deployed near to his house to stop him from reaching the court," a court official told PTI after the hearing.

Khan, 70, said he has no issue to appear in any case but during his appearance in court the government should make sure no chaos is created.

The number of cases registered against the PTI chief in the last 11 months of the PMLN-led government has swelled to around 100.

Unlike his recent appearances in courts, Khan on Tuesday was not accomapained by party workers to the LHC from his Zaman Park residence here.

The PTI appears to have changed its strategy on Tuesday regarding sending a huge number of its workers along with the party chairman to the LHC apparently after the law enforcement agencies intensified crackdown on them.

The Punjab and Islamabad police have arrested over 500 PTI workers from different parts of the province.

Police said the arrested PTI workers were wanted in the recent incidents of violence in Lahore and Islamabad.

Khan appeared before the LHC in two terrorism cases registered against him by the Islamabad police after intense clashes erupted outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex on Saturday when he arrived in the capital from Lahore to attend the hearing in the Toshakhana case.

The PTI chief also appeared before LHC's Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh in a petition seeking details of all the cases registered against him in Punjab province.

Khan informed Justice Sheikh that the Punjab government violated his (judge) order and "attacked my house in Lahore as my wife was alone who got frightened during the police attack."

Khan requested the court to order the police on his plea to register a case against Punjab caretaker chief minister Mohsin Naqvi and the Inspector General Police for violating the LHC's order restraining police action at his Zaman Park residence.

Earlier, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad on Tuesday reserved the decision on ousted premier Khan's plea for an exemption from hearing in a case registered against him under the provisions of terrorism.

The terrorism case was lodged against the PTI chief in October last year at Islamabad's Sangjani police station after PTI workers held protests and demonstrations outside ECP offices across the country after it disqualified Khan in the Toshakhana case.

Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.

Khan's lawyer Sardar Masroof Khan appeared before the court.

The lawyer said Khan has to appear before the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday.

"As soon as he leaves, thousands of workers come out with him. Imran Khan wants to come, but every time people come out and attack and then cases are registered against him," the lawyer was quoted as saying by The News.

During the confrontation between PTI workers and police in Islamabad on Saturday, over 25 security personnel were injured, prompting Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal to defer the court hearing till March 30.

Khan had moved the LHC for contempt of court proceedings against the police operation at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on March 18.

Soon after Khan departed for Islamabad to attend the hearing in the Toshakhana case on Saturday, over 10,000 armed Punjab police personnel stormed his Zaman Park residence in Lahore and arrested dozens of his party workers.

The police personnel, using a power shovel, removed the barricades and tents at the entrance of the PTI chief's residence and evicted hundreds of his supporters camping there to prevent Khan's arrest in the Toshakhana case.

They conducted a search at the house after demolishing its main gate and walls. Punjab Police, whose action ended later, were reportedly met with resistance from PTI workers from inside, resulting in violence. About 10 workers were reportedly injured in the police operation in Lahore.

Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan in October last year for not sharing details of the sales.

The top electoral body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him, under criminal laws, for selling the gifts he had received as prime minister of the country.

Source: Times Of India

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ISI brigadier killed in terror attack in South Waziristan

Mar 22, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army said on Tuesday night that a brigadier from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was killed during an encounter with “hardcore terrorists” in South Waziristan tribal district.

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Pakistan army’s media arm, said in a statement that intense fire was exchanged between the two sides at Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan. It said Brigadier Mustafa Kamal Burki was “martyred while leading the encounter from the front” while seven others were injured, including two who were critically wounded.

The ISPR said Brigadier Burki and his team “put up a valiant resistance” against the terrorists during the encounter and the officer sacrificed his life. “Defence forces of Pakistan and intelligence agencies pledge to reaffirm and demonstrate firm resolve to eliminate the menace of terrorism from every inch of the country,” the ISPR said.

In another incident, three soldiers and three terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire in Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, ISPR said. Terrorists had opened fire on a police check post last night in Khutti area, prompting security forces to immediately block all possible escape routes. The fleeing terrorists were intercepted in the Saggu area in Dera Ismail Khan district and three of them were killed after an intense exchange of fire, the ISPR said, adding that weapons and ammunition were also recovered.

Source: Times Of India

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Govt targets youth in election year with Rs150bn package

Khaleeq Kiani

March 22, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Moving into election mode, the gov­ernment on Tuesday rolled out a series of fun­ded programmes for the country’s youth by putting together a total of 15 sch­emes worth about Rs150 billion, some of them already in place for a few years.

The government has now brought all the sche­mes under the umbrella of the Prime Minister’s Youth Development Initiatives.

The rollout — formally launched by Planning Min­ister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday in the absence of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif — came a day after the government announ­ced that it would provide a fuel subsidy for bikes and rickshaws and cars of up to 800cc. The mechanism for the youth-oriented scheme has yet to be worked out.

The 15 youth development initiatives include 60,000 internships, technical and vocational training for 100,000 youths, 100,000 laptops, 5,000 scholarships for students of Balochistan and the erstwhile Fata, 1,000 PhD scholarships at the top 100 US universities, 75 scholarships at top 25 universities of the world, 21 university campuses in remote districts, 250 sports complexes, youth peace and development student councils in 80 universities, 75 leadership awards, 500 innovation grants worth Rs5-20 million each, Rasta grants for research, 12 Seerat chairs, seven centres of excellence, and uplift of 20 poorest districts in Pakistan.

“The two-thirds of the country’s population is based on young people who must be empowered through education and skills so that they can contribute to the socio-economic development of the country,” Mr Iqbal told the ceremony participants.

He hoped the country would cater to the youth bulge until 2050 in a manner that they utilise their abilities for economic growth.

Prime Minister’s Ba-Ikhtiyar Naujawan (Empowered Youth) Internship Programme is Pakistan’s largest internship scheme and is aimed at addressing critical entry barriers to the market and enhancing employability. Under this programme, 60,000 paid internships will be given to young graduates nationwide, both in the public and private sectors.

This included 30,000 internships in the public sector development projects with an estimated cost of Rs9.6bn and 30,000 interns in the private industrial sector at the cost of Rs9bn — both through the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) — for up to one year.

In addition, about 100,000 youth would be provided free laptops at the cost of Rs10bn. These projects are in addition to the Rs87bn already approved by the government for development schemes in the constituencies of 174 MNAs supporting the prime minister.

Under the Talented Youth Internship Programme, 30,000 unemployed, graduated youth would be provided Rs25,000 per month internship for six months in the private sector with an additional cost of Rs9bn through the Public Sector Development Programme.

The government also revived a project to provide laptops to 100,000 youth, including 20,000 youngsters in Balochistan. In addition, about 75 shining students who secure admissions to the top 25 universities would be fully funded by the government.

The minister said the incumbent government was trying its best to eradicate the deprivation of Balochistan, which remained neglected in the past, by initiating a scholarships programme for the students of Balochistan and ex-Fata.

Under this programme, 5000 scholarships will be given to the students of these two regions. These scholarships will help the students to pursue their higher education in their respective fields, he said.

He said that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the government had started a project to uplift the 20 poorest districts of the country and Rs40bn has been earmarked for this purpose.

Source: Dawn

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7.8m families in Sindh to get Rs2,000 each for purchase of flour in Ramazan

Tahir Siddiqui

March 22, 2023

KARACHI: The Sindh government on Tuesday approved a Rs15.6 billion Ramazan package to give relief to over 7.8 million low-income families registered under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) by providing them Rs2,000 extra for purchase of wheat flour.

Briefing journalists about decisions taken in the meeting of the provincial cabinet held on Tuesday, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon and Chief Minister’s Law Adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that the relief would be extended to the families having Rs50,000 or less monthly income, adding that Rs2,000 per family would be disbursed for one month under the initiative.

The information minister said that the cash transfer to the targeted families would be made through the BISP for which eligible families would receive a message on their cell phone.

He said those who do not receive such a message but their average income is less than Rs50,000 per month could send a message/CNIC number on 8171 for inquiring about eligibility for the subsidy.

He said at present there were 7.8m families in the data of BISP having Rs50,000 or less monthly income. “But if it becomes 10 million, the Sindh government is committed to providing them relief,” he said.

Amendment to price control law — fine increased

Minister Memon said that the cabinet also approved amendments to the Sindh Essential Commodities Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act-2005 to improve price control mechanism during Ramazan.

He said that under the amendments, the fine for failure to display the price list of essential commodities had been increased from Rs50,000 to Rs100,000 for producers or dealers, Rs20,000 for retailers other than pushcart vendors, and Rs10,000 to Rs20,000 for pushcart vendors.

The minister said that the fine had also been increased over a retailer’s failure to declare stock of essential commodities from Rs50,000 to Rs100,000 and sale of different commodities at a higher price than the notified/company price the fine had been increased from Rs50,000 to Rs100,000.

Besides, he said that the chief minister had directed the chief secretary to ensure establishment of Bachat Bazaars in each Taluka, where the subsidised provision of flour, sugar, ghee, and other essential edibles would be ensured.

He said that the cabinet decided to launch a drive against profiteering and hoarding. The market committees were directed to ensure the provision of vegetables and other items at reduced prices.

“In some areas fruit associations are being encouraged to establish their own stalls with lower prices,” he added.

The minister said that the Ghee Mills Association would provide oil and ghee at subsidised rates from 10am to 4pm at the designated markets to be notified by commissioners.

Mr Memon said that the cabinet also decided to enforce an ordinance to discourage hoarding and profiteering, under which powers of magistrate were being given to food department officers and other relevant officers.

“Amount of fine for profiteering and selling goods above official rates is also being increased,” he said.

Reservations on census

The information minister said that the provincial cabinet had also expressed serious reservations over the ongoing digital census process.

He said that the provincial government was not satisfied with the measures taken by the federal government till now. “If our reservations are not removed, the census will become controversial,” he warned.

He said that great injustice had been done to Sindh in the previous census, which was not accepted by the provincial government.

Responding to a question, he said that the cabinet meeting included the agenda of revision of fare of the Peoples Bus Service; however, the chief minister decided to defer it till the end of Ramazan so that maximum relief could be provided to the people.

Meanwhile, the cabinet was also told that under the provincial policy directive for the security of oil pipeline system approved by the provincial cabinet on Feb 6, 2023, the responsibility of neutralising all threats posed to the national network of oil pipeline system from short to long term basis had been assigned to the home department — the police and district administrations concerned.

Source: Dawn

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Post-Partition India A ‘Hindu Rashtra’, Says BJP General Secretary Vijayvargiya

21st March 2023

Indore: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya on Tuesday said post-independence and Partition in 1947, whatever was left of India constituted a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Asked about the demand from a section of religious leaders to declare India a Hindu Rashtra, Vijayvargiya told reporters in Indore, “When India was divided, it was on this issue (on religious lines). After Partition, Pakistan Was formed and the remaining country is a Hindu nation.”

The former state cabinet minister claimed a Muslim friend of his living in Bhopal recites the Hanuman Chalisa every day and also visits a Shiva temple.

“I asked my Muslim friend how he was inspired to worship Lord Hanuman and Lord Shiva. My friend replied that when he read the history of his family, he came to know that his ancestors were Rajputs of Rajasthan and some of his relatives are still Rajputs who live in Rajasthan and also in Uttar Pradesh,” Vijayvargiya said without revealing the man’s identity.

The BJP leader said like his Muslim friend, there are many people in the country who feel their ancestors once recited the Hanuman Chalisa.

The veteran politician said he was considering forming a “Hanuman Chalisa Club” to wean youths away from drugs.

Source: Siasat Daily

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UP Power Corporation SDO Sacked For Calling International Terrorist Osama Bin Laden ‘Best Engineer’

Mar 22, 2023

KANPUR: The UP Power Corporation Ltd has sacked an engineer for eulogising the slain international terrorist Osama bin Laden. Sub-divisional officer Ravindra Prakash Gautam, had been suspended in June 2022 after he put a picture of the al-Qaeda chief at his Kayamganj subdivision-II office in Farrukhabad.

UPPCL chairman M Devraj issued his termination order on Monday, after a probe committee found him guilty of “indulging in an anti-national act that tarnished the image of the department”.

A video of Gautam's Kayamganj office with Osama's picture hanging in it had gone viral last year. The caption of the picture called him “Respected Osama bin Laden, world's best engineer”. His colleagues said that he used to idolise the former al-Qaeda chief as he had an engineering degree. Gautam also accepted that the video was true.

Managing director of Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam, Amit Kishore, said Gautam was suspended immediately and a probe initiated against him. The inquiry committee of DVVNL levelled several other charges against him.

Source: Times Of India

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Why Waqf Board Not Taking Action Against Illegal Occupants, Including Government And Religious Institutions Of Mosques: Haryana Congress MLA

Mar 22, 2023

Questioning why the Waqf Board is not taking action against illegal occupants of mosques and other properties of Muslim community, Congress MLA Mamman Khan on Tuesday alleged that 1,089 mosques have been under illegal possession of private individuals, including government and religious institutions.

Responding to the issues the Congress MLA had raised in his question, parliamentary affairs minister Kanwar Pal said the majority of the properties in question occupied by other communities are those left behind by the Muslim occupants during the Partition.

The MLA wanted to know the details of cases filed/action taken by the Waqf Board for eviction and recovery of rent against the 12,436 lessees who are defaulters of lease condition and are in encroachment/illegal possession of waqf properties in the state. Khan also wanted to know reasons behind no action by the Waqf Board to remove the illegal possession from 1,089 mosques which he said have been under illegal possession of private individuals, government, semi- government or religious institutions in the state.

The parliamentary affairs minister said the board has issued letters to the existing defaulting lessees to get their leases renewed/regularised as per the terms and conditions of the board and issued reminders for the same.

He informed that about 600 defaulting lessees have got their lease renewed out of 12,436.

Now, the board is initiating legal action against the defaulting lessees by issuing legal notices. The board is trying to get the mosques vacated from illegal possession by persuasive means and also through legal enforcement, he said.

“The state government will closely monitor and take the required steps through the Waqf Board for the restoration of the legal possession of the Waqf properties,” he said.

The minister said in 2013- 2014 after an Act was passed by the Centre as per which the land of the Waqf Board would be given through bidding, the lease renewal stopped and these lease holders kept on becoming defaulters and this number reached to 12, 436.

Source: Hindustan Times

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PDA pastes show-cause notice on house of Guddu Muslim in UP

Mar 22, 2023

PRAYAGRAJ: A show-cause notice has been pasted on the house of Guddu Muslim at Manja Chaqniratul locality in Chakia locality. Guddu Muslim is carrying Rs 5 lakh cash reward on his head, and is wanted by the police in connection with Umesh Pal and two of his police gunners killing case.

Guddu was the one among the five key assailants involved in the February 24 Dhoomanganj shootout incident. His photograph while hurling bombs was also captured in the CCTV footage. The notice directs the house owner to present the required documents before the authorities of Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) on March 25, stating that the house has been constructed without getting the map sanctioned from the agency concerned. On failure, the PDA authorities seal or raze the house. Officials said the notice was in fact issued on March 10.

Source: Times Of India

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NIA chargesheet against Hizbul OGW in J&K terror conspiracy case

Mar 22, 2023

SRINAGAR: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday filed the first supplementary chargesheet against a Hizbul Mujahideen overground worker, Mohammad Rafi Najar, in a terror conspiracy case in Jammu and Kashmir.

The case pertains to a conspiracy by terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and their offshoots TRF, PAFF, etc., with their overground workers (OGWs) operating in J&K to carry out terror attacks in Kashmir Valley and in other major cities of India, including Delhi, an agency spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“Investigations in the case had earlier established the connections of the Pakistan-based commanders of these proscribed organisations with their operatives in Kashmir Valley to recruit and train youth in handling arms and explosives,” the spokesperson said. The outfits had floated numerous propaganda materials in cyberspace to target gullible youth and recruit them as sleeper cells to carry out terror attacks as well as targeted killings while acting individually or in small groups, the spokesperson added.

During further probe, the agency identified and arrested accused Mohammad Rafi Najar, a close associate of Pakistan-based designated terrorist Imtiyaz Kundoo. A dealer of handicrafts, Najar was based out of Pokhara, Nepal, and was found channelising funds for terror outfits on the pretext of the legitimate trade of Kashmiri handicrafts. The profits obtained from the sale of handicrafts were then directed to Kashmir Valley through hawala channels and distributed amongst terrorists operating in the Valley through another OGW, also named in the chargesheet.

Source: Times Of India

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6.6 magnitude earthquake hits Afghanistan, strong tremors felt across Delhi-NCR

Mar 21, 2023

NEW DELHI: Strong tremors that lasted several minutes were felt across northern India as a magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit northern Afghanistan late on Tuesday.

Panic-stricken people rushed out of buildings as the earthquake struck around 10.20 pm and tremors were felt across parts of north India including Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.

"I was sitting on the sofa and talking to my son when everything started shaking. I raised an alarm. Everyone rushed out ... we felt very strong tremors," said a Delhi resident.

A Noida resident said he first noticed the dining table shaking. "Soon after we saw that the fans were also shaking. The earthquake was strong in terms of intensity and stayed for a longer period," the resident said.

There was no immediate report of any loss of life or property.

The earthquake struck the Hindu Kush region near the remote northern Afghan province of Badakhshan. The quake was at a depth of around 180 km.

Initial magnitude and depth figures varied across various monitoring stations.

Source: Times Of India

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Turkey & Kuwait seek more than doubling of flying rights to India

Mar 21, 2023

NEW DELHI: The CEOs of Turkish Airlines and Kuwait’s budget carrier Jazeera have sought more flights to more Indian cities as they say the existing bilaterals are fully exhausted while demand for travel has risen several fold.

The air service agreement (ASA) between India and Turkey allows a daily flight between Istanbul and Delhi and Mumbai each. Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi told TOI at a CAPA summit here Tuesday: “We have requested additional seven weekly frequencies for Delhi and Mumbai routes each. We have also requested to be allowed to operate to at least six more Indian destinations including Ahmedabad.”

Jazeera CEO Rohit Ramachandran told TOI that an air service agreement (ASA) of 2007 allows 12,000 weekly seats per direction between Kuwait and eight Indian cities. He said Kuwait has requested for an additional 16,000 weekly seats and also sought to be allowed to fly to eight more Indian cities. “Kuwait’s population is 45 lakh, of which 11 lakh are Indians.

When the bilaterals were given, there were 3 lakh Indians in Kuwait. Over 55% of people travelling between the two counties do so via the Gulf. So neither Indian nor Kuwait carriers are able to benefit from the rising travel,” Ramachandran said.

Jazeera currently flies to places like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kochi. Jazeera currently has 20 Airbus A320s in its fleet and will add 13 more over the next 12 months. “We want to fly to places like Trichy, Goa, Lucknow, Amritsar and Jaipur. Over 90% of the traffic on our India flights is point to point and the beyond connecting traffic is in single digits,” he said.

India — a mega source for international traffic — has in the past few years not been giving additional bilaterals while taking steps to strengthen desi airlines. Now the Tata Group has drawn up major plans for its airline business led by Air India. Over 300-aircraft strong IndiGo has still has over 500 planes on order. New player Akasa will soon be eligible to fly abroad. The government’s bilateral policy keeps the interest of Indian carriers and Indian passengers in mind as bilaterals are now aligned to demand coming to both from Indian side and not just the foreign side.

Source: Times Of India

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Ramzan in India: Moon sighting committee to meet today in Hyderabad

Zahed Farooqui

22nd March 2023

Hyderabad: Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee President Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Deccan will hold its monthly meeting on March 22, 2023, at 6:00 pm at Khanqah Kamil, Astana Shutaria Dabeerpura, Hyderabad to declare the date for the beginning of Ramzan in India. The meeting will be held under the supervision of Hazrat Maulana Syed Mohammad Qabool Pasha Quadri Al-Shatari, Secretary, Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Deccan.

Members of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee have been requested to participate. Apart from it, whoever sees the moon before 8 pm should inform the phone number 24603597 and after 8 o’clock on the phone numbers 24513246, 24576832, 24521088 or mobile numbers 9866112393, 9391964951, 9885151354, 900008138. The Ruet-e-Hilal Committee has made reasonable arrangements for ruet to facilitate the acquisition of information.

Ramzan in India

The date for the beginning of Ramzan in India will be decided based on the sighting of the crescent. If it is sighted today, then the holy month in India will begin tomorrow else, it will start on Friday.

Meanwhile, many business establishments and restaurants in Hyderabad and other cities in India completed their preparation for Ramzan.

During the month, most of the business establishments remain open beyond their normal hours. All most all restaurants in Hyderabad are gearing up special menus for ‘Sehri’ and haleem.

Ramzan in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, Ramzan will begin on Thursday as the crescent was not sighted on Tuesday evening.

In other middle east countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ramzan will begin on Thursday.

The date for the beginning of the fasting month is determined by both lunar calculations and the sighting of the new moon. Muslims follow a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days. The sighting of a crescent heralds the beginning of Ramzan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Ramzan is observed by more than 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. Fasting during the holy month is one of the five pillars of Islam and is obligatory for all healthy Muslims. However, young children, sick people, travellers and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating are exempt.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Match officials asked to pause evening matches for Muslim players across Premier League and EFL to break fast

March 21, 2023

To allow players to break their fast during Ramadan, referees in the Premier League and English Football League have been asked to pause evening matches, according to Sky Sports.

The holy period of Ramadan, which is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is set to start on Wednesday and will end on the evening of Friday, April 21.

Match officials have been advised to allow participants to break their fast by consuming beverages, energy gels, or supplements on the sidelines during the pause in play.

Referees have also been asked to identify players who would need to break their fast during the game before kickoff and, where feasible, agree on a rough time for this to occur.

Several Muslim players, including Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante and Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez are among players who are expected to abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

However, this is not the first time that matches in the Premier League have been paused for players to break their fast. Two years ago, Leicester City’s game against Crystal Palace was stopped to allow players to break their fast, and it is thought to be a Premier League first.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea Foundation on Sunday, March 26, will hold an unprecedented Open Iftar, along the side of the pitch at the iconic Stamford Bridge stadium, marking an exciting milestone for the club and the whole Premier League, according to the club’s official website.

Source: Indian Express

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UK inquiry into allegations of SAS extra-judicial killings of Afghans to begin

22 March ,2023

A public inquiry into allegations that members of British special forces carried out dozens of extra-judicial killings during night raids in Afghanistan gets underway in London on Wednesday.

Britain’s defense ministry ordered the inquiry after a BBC TV documentary last year reported that soldiers from the elite Special Air Service (SAS) had killed 54 people in suspicious circumstances.

It also came after two families, who accuse the SAS of killing their relatives in 2011 and 2012, began legal action to demand judicial reviews of their cases.

The inquiry, led by senior judge Charles Haddon-Cave, will examine whether there was unlawful activity by British military personnel between mid-2010 and mid-2013 during ‘deliberate detention operations’, and whether there is credible information of extra-judicial killings.

It will also look at whether investigations by the Royal Military were properly conducted and if any unlawful killings were covered up.

“The UK’s armed forces rightly hold themselves to the highest possible operational standards,” junior defense minister Andrew Murrison told parliament when he announced the inquiry in December.

“Operations must be conducted within the clear boundaries of the law and credible allegations against our forces must always be investigated thoroughly.”

Source: Al Arabiya

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France calls Israeli minister's remarks denying existence of Palestinians 'irresponsible'

Esra Taskin 



France on Tuesday rejected remarks by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich concerning Palestinians, describing them as "irresponsible"

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry called on the Israeli government to refrain from using words that could escalate tensions in the region.

"We call on persons who have been called to high office within the Israeli government to show the required dignity," it said.

During an event in Paris on Sunday organized in memory of French-Israeli Zionist activist Jacques Kupfe, Smotrich said there were "no Palestinians because there isn't a Palestinian people."

Citing biblical "prophecies" that are "beginning to come true," he said that "after 2,000 years...God is gathering his people. The people of Israel are returning home."

"There are Arabs around who don't like it, so what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights to the Land of Israel, only to fight the Zionist movement," he added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Bosnian students send toys to earthquake victims in Türkiye, Syria

Talha Ozturk 



Students from a primary school in a village in Bosnia and Herzegovina collected toys to send to children affected by earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.

Students from the Abdulvehab Ilhamija Primary School in Zeljezno Polje, along with their teachers and parents, packaged the gifts and staged a play in honor of the victims of two powerful earthquakes that struck southern Türkiye on Feb. 6.

And in neighboring Montenegro, about $100,000 in cash was collected by the Association of Pensioners for victims.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkan countries have launched aid projects and donation drives to help quake victims.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Socioeconomically weak Muslims, immigrants, refugees most prone to becoming targets of Islamophobia in Denmark: Expert

Rabia Ali 


In Danish society, Muslims who are socially and economically backward, those who migrated to the country in recent years, or those seeking asylum are the ones most likely to suffer from anti-Muslim discrimination and racism, according to an expert.

“My worry is that these policies (against Muslims), they often vilify Muslims in general but the ones they hit the most are the ones who are socioeconomically vulnerable, the ones who don’t have citizenship, the ones who are more recent migrants or asylum seekers. I think that’s where my big contention is with Islamophobia in Denmark,” sociologist Amani Hassani told Anadolu.

Hassani, a Danish Muslim and a research director at the Center for Muslim Rights in Denmark, shared her views on the current state of Muslims in Denmark.

The European Islamophobia Report 2022 released on Tuesday named Denmark as the most vulnerable country for Muslims, along with France and Austria.

According to Hassani, Muslims on the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder, as well as refugees, face discrimination not only due to the rising anti-Muslim sentiments but also stricter citizenship and the country’s ghetto policies targeting low-income Muslim communities.

Islamophobia is taking away their avenues to have a voice in society, and one way of doing that is by removing citizenship or the ability to gain citizenship, she said.

The World Population Review of 2019 reported that 313,713 Muslims are living in Denmark -- around 5.4% of the country's overall population.

The discourse against Muslims is not sudden, the sociologist said, adding that the hate speech of politicians against Muslims, which are often openly acceptable in society, has been the case for several years.

“What we saw in 2022 has been (happening for) many years leading up to that point. .... Now, it has become much more acceptable in a political speech to specifically say ‘Muslims are the problem.

"This won’t come out in policies themselves as they (politicians) have to adhere to the Danish constitution which says you can’t discriminate against religious minorities. But it will come out in different ways, so instead of saying Muslims, the politician will then write non-Westerners in policy documents and in legislation,” she stressed.

Vilifying Muslims, Muslim citizens, and Muslims coming into the country, and seeing them as potentially problematic have become more acceptable within political rhetoric, according to Hassani.

Different levels of anti-Muslim discrimination

As a Muslim, one can experience different kinds of discrimination, starting from "microaggressions" from people that question Muslims’ belonging to Denmark and Danish society.

People can also undergo structural discrimination, which is seen in policies, where someone from a Muslim-majority country may have harder access to housing or jobs.

“Another way of expressing discrimination is actual hate and violence on the streets. We have seen an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in recent years,” said the expert, who was born and raised in Denmark.

A 2018 report by the Danish National Police indicates that out of 112 hate crimes that were religiously motivated, 56% were Muslim victims.

European Islamophobia Report 2022 shows that people from Africa or the Middle East have a significantly greater risk than Danes of being arrested or charged without being convicted.

"According to the analysis, the risk of being charged without a conviction is 27% higher for immigrants and 45% higher for descendants compared to people of Danish origin," the Institute of Human Rights in Denmark noted, adding that there is a problem with discrimination and ethnic profiling within the police force.

Human rights activist Lamies Nassri in the Islamophobia report also noted the ongoing discussion about the government’s attempt to close Muslim schools in 2022. In Denmark, the Commission for the Forgotten Women’s Struggle, last year recommended a hijab ban in elementary schools, Nassri said.

'Good Muslim' vs 'bad Muslim'

The Danish society makes a distinction between professionally and financially sound Muslims possessing Danish citizenship and those who might be asylum seekers or recent immigrants, according to Hassani.

“There’s (also) a counter-narrative within society that celebrates ‘the good ones,’ (that) the good Muslims are the ones who are well-educated and have a good position, and (that) we (Denmark) want to keep them. ... You see that in political rhetoric as well. ... We want to do everything we can to celebrate the doctors, the engineers. ... and then, there are the ‘bad ones,’ we got to do everything we can to make sure that they don’t come in the country in the first place, and when they are here, try to make it (their life) as difficult as possible,” she stressed.

Stricter policies for Muslim immigrants

People coming to Denmark from MENAPT (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Türkiye), to apply for Danish citizenship are likely to be treated differently, Hassani warned.

“I am worried that in the future, we will see policies that will try to limit people from this region entering the country and gaining asylum at the same level as anyone else, you know seeking refuge. We haven’t seen it yet, but it is in the rhetoric in recent years.”

While Ukrainian refugees were welcomed to the country, and got jobs and housing, with their asylum applications accepted, the treatment was not the same for Syrian refugees, who are being pushed back, she also said.

On average, it takes 19 years for people to get Danish citizenship, according to Hassani, who said the recent anti-migrant wave might make things harder.

“What I worry for the future in Denmark is that we are going to have a growing population ... born and raised in Denmark, who do not have access to citizenship, which is the main thing that I predict, will be a major issue for democracy in Denmark essentially.”


Hassani, whose family migrated from Yemen to Denmark in the late 1960s, finds it problematic that discussions of Muslim integration in society are still being held today.

“I think it's problematic that we are still talking about integration, as politicians ... can’t accept the fact that Muslims are part of Danish society and very much part of the Danish landscape and history," she said.

"You know, many of us have families who came in the 1960s, over half a century ago, and then, politicians have this idea of wanting to go back to some sort of pure Danish nation which I think is the central problem here.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Palestinian prisoners begin major hunger strike at Israeli jails

21 March 2023

A group of Palestinian inmates in an Israeli jail has gone on an open-ended hunger strike in protest against the regime’s repressive policies.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said more than 2,000 prisoners were also set to join the strike action on Thursday, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

The major grievance of the prisoners is the repressive measures adopted upon orders from the far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

The hunger strike is to draw attention to violations of the basic rights of the Palestinian prisoners. The inmates are denied access to basic medical care and are frequently subjected to torture.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are held under administrative detention, in which Israel keeps the detainees without charge for up to six months, a period which can be extended an infinite number of times. Rights groups say Israel’s use of administrative detention is a ‘bankrupt tactic.’

There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Israeli jail authorities keep the prisoners under deplorable conditions without proper hygienic standards.

On Monday, the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, voted to allow settlers to return to areas in the northern part of the occupied West Bank which were evacuated in 2005.

The move prompted a strong denunciation from the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas. Spokesman Jihad Taha said the passing of the bill was meant to Judaize Palestinian territories, but that it would only boost the spirit of resistance among the Palestinian youth.

Source: Press TV

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Iran Vows to Take Tit-for-Tat Action Against EU, UK Fresh Round of Sanctions


"The confrontational and sanction policy will be met with Iran's proportional response," Amir Abdollahian told his Belgian counterpart Hadja Lahbib during a telephone conversation on Monday.

Earlier in the day, the European Union announced that it was imposing restrictive measures on additional eight individuals and one entity, including members of the Judiciary, a member of the Iranian parliament, clerics, and a senior official of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Also on Monday, Britain imposed sanctions on more senior officials of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), including those whom it claimed were responsible for managing the elite force's financial investments.

Both Brussels and London have alleged that they have resorted to the coercive measures over, what they called were, Tehran's treatment of foreign-backed unrest that followed the death of a young Iranian woman in police custody last year.

The Iranian minister condemned the EU and the UK's recent bans, stressing, "Some European parties accuse others of seeking recourse to violence, while themselves have a dark history of dual behavior concerning the issue of human rights and [tow a history of] systematic violation of these rights."

He cited the French police's treatment of recent protests against Paris' plans to raise the retirement age as a case in point.

The Belgian official, for her part, condemned any instance of dual approach, insisting on the need for resolution of standing differences between Tehran and Brussels through negotiation.

Protests erupted in several cities across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini who fainted at a police station in mid-September and days later was pronounced dead at a hospital. The demonstrations soon turned violent.

An official report by Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization announced that Amini’s controversial death was caused by an illness rather than alleged blows to the head or other vital body organs.

Iranian officials blame Western countries for orchestrating the riots to destabilize the country.

The unrest has claimed the lives of dozens of people and security forces, while also allowing acts of terror and sabotage across the country. Iran's Interior Ministry has confirmed the enemy waged a hybrid war against the country to weaken national solidarity and hinder the country's progress, stressing that some 200 people lost their lives in the riots sparked by separatist and terrorist groups.

Source: Fars News Agency

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President Rayeesi Offers Greetings to Nowruz-Celebrating Nations


President Rayeesi in a message congratulated the arrival of Nowruz and the New Persian year to the leaders of the countries of Nowruz civilization field.

He wished the New Year to be a year accompanies by benevolence for the leaders of Nowruz civilization field and their people.

Nowruz, the start of the year according to the Persian calendar which marks arrival of spring was celebrated across Iran.

Nowruz, which coincides with the first day of spring on the solar calendar is mostly celebrated in 10 countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The International Day of Nowruz was registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in February 2010.

For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and change, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran's Leader Names New Year as Year of "Inflation Control, Growth in Production"


Ayatollah Khamenei addressed the nation on the occasion of the Persian New Year on Tuesday morning local time.

The following is the full text of the Leader’s New Year message:

In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

O’ Changer of hearts and sights,

O’ Director of nights and days,

O’ Transformer of situations and circumstances,

Transform our circumstances to the best of circumstances

I would like to congratulate each and every member of the Iranian nation on the arrival of Nowruz, especially the respected families of the martyrs, the wounded and the veterans of the war and those who are serving the people, as well as all other nations who honor Nowruz and place importance on it. May God bless all of you on the occasion of this noble Eid.

This year, the spring of nature coincides with the spring of spirituality – the month of Ramadan. Regarding spring, it is said that one should not cover one’s body from the spring breeze. Similarly, regarding the spiritual spring of Ramadan, we should also adhere to this sentence [by the Prophet (pbuh)]: "Expose yourself to them" – "Indeed, during your life [you encounter] fragrant breezes, expose yourself to them" [Awali al-Laali, Vol. 4].

The breeze of spirituality that exists in the holy month of Ramadan embraces everyone and we must prepare ourselves for it. We should expose our hearts to this spiritual, divine, and sweet-scented breeze.

In this speech and at this hour, I will briefly look at the year 1401 SH, and I will also take a quick look at the year that will begin from now, the year 1402 SH. The year 1401, was a year full of various events – economic events, political events, social events – some were sweet, some bitter, like all the years of a person’s life, and overall, like the years that the Iranian nation has experienced, especially after the Islamic Revolution.

In my opinion, in 1401, the most important issue for the nation was the issue of the country's economy, which is directly related to people's livelihoods. On the matter of the economy, there were bitter moments but also sweet ones. There was bitterness in some sectors which I will mention, and there were also sweet moments in some cases concerning the economy. These matters should be seen together, alongside each other, and then an overall evaluation can be made about them.

The bitterness was mainly because of inflation and high prices, which is truly upsetting, especially the increase in the price of food and the basic necessities of life. When there is a significant increase in food prices and the prices of basic necessities, the economically weaker sectors of society are the ones who are impacted the most, because food items and the main, essential living supplies have the largest share in their household basket. As a result, the pressure is mainly on them, and this of course, was one of the bitter occurrences. In my opinion, regarding the major economic issues of the country, this issue was a more fundamental, significant matter that was bitter.

Of course, good work has also been done in the economic field and the achievements that affect the economy, which I will talk about. These achievements should be pursued so they can affect and be linked to people’s lives and their livelihoods. There was support for production. Based on the information I have received, production was supported in the country in the year 1401. Thousands of factories that had been shut down or were semi-operational started operating again.

There was an upsurge in knowledge-based companies. Of course, it was not as much as what I had asked for in the previous year, but there was still a significant increase in the numbers of these companies. There was also an increase in the product value of these companies.

The issue of employment improved. That is to say, unemployment decreased by a percentage – even though it was a small percentage – and employment increased a bit, which is something that should be valued. The exhibition that was organized by governmental and non-governmental manufacturers, as well as the meeting in the [Imam Khomeini] Hussainiyah, where the country’s major manufacturers gathered and spoke, was truly a pleasing event.

I pass positive judgement on the products that the country’s manufacturers have produced, they have performed well. There has been growth in several economic indicators. We have had a good growth index in the insurance industry and we have performed well in the field of construction, water, gas, roads and environmental sectors. Of course, as I mentioned before, and I say this with emphasis now, these tasks must be linked to people’s lives, they must create relief in people’s lives.

When will it happen? When will this situation occur in such a manner? When it continues, when detailed plans have been made about it and God willing, these constructive activities must continue this year, in the year 1402, so that they can create prosperity in people’s lives and bring food to their tables, especially among the weaker social classes.

Of course, we need to also keep in mind that we are not the only ones faced with economic problems. Many countries around the world today, or perhaps one can say all countries have certain economic problems. Even the world’s wealthy countries [are not immune from this]. Countries that have strong, advanced economies, are truly plagued by a large number of problems and dilemmas. Some of them are even worse off than us in this sense. Strong economies are faced with bank failures, which you heard about recently. Of course, some of them were reported, and others were not, but you will hear about them soon. In some countries there are bank bankruptcies and massive, trillions of dollars of debts. There are problems over there and there are problems here as well.

They are trying to overcome it and we should do the same. We need to make an effort. The officials must work hard. Government officials should do everything they can, in addition to the endeavors that are being made by those working in the economic, political and cultural fields, to make the year 1402, a sweet and pleasant year for the Iranian nation. In other words, we all have a duty to God willing, make this a year full of sweet moments for the Iranian people. The bitterness should be reduced and the sweetness increased and we should God willing, add to our achievements.

Now, as for the year 1402. I believe that in 1402, the economy will continue to be the main issue that we should focus on. This is not to say that we do not have other problems. We have various other problems too, such as in the cultural and political fields. However, the main and central issue this year is the issue of the economy. So, if God willing, we are able to reduce the economic problems and if God willing, our officials make an effort, practice diligence and work hard on important tasks in this field, many of the country’s other problems will also be solved.

[This applies to] the administration, the Islamic Parliament, those active in the economic field, and young, motivated public groups, some of which I know about and am truly fond of. I am aware that they are accomplishing great tasks in these economic fields. All of these groups should focus their attention on helping to solve the country’s problems and the problems that people are faced with. Now, sometimes, solving these problems is achieved through basic economic activities, such as production. So, production is a fundamental task in the economy. [Sometimes it is achieved with] humanitarian and Islamic activities, such as public aid and assistance and public cooperation with the more disadvantaged sections of society.

So, I spoke about production and I place importance on it, but investment is also important alongside production. I would like to draw the attention of both the respected government officials and the private sector to this matter. In the last decade, we fell behind greatly in terms of investment. The issue of investment is one of the important gaps in our country. Investment needs to take place. This too is an important task.

Considering all these different aspects, the things that are important, including both inflation and domestic production – inflation is the main problem and domestic production is definitely one of the keys to saving the country from economic problems. So, considering these matters, I would like to announce that this year’s slogan is: "Inflation control, growth in production." This is the slogan for this year.

The country’s officials should focus all their attention on these two matters. The country’s officials are the ones who primarily need to focus on these, and secondly, as I mentioned before, those active in the economic field and members of the public who are able to do something, and also those working in cultural fields, such as the radio and television networks, need to create cultural awareness in these areas.

All of these groups need to pay attention to these two important issues: They need to firstly focus on controlling inflation. They need to truly curb and reduce inflation as much as possible and they need to also focus on boosting production. Therefore, [the slogan of the year] is "Inflation control and growth in production."

I pray that Almighty God will grant everyone success. I offer my greetings, devotion and sincerity to the spirit of the existent universe, to the vestige of God remaining on earth - may our souls be sacrificed for his sake.

I ask Almighty God to elevate the status of our late magnanimous Imam and the pure souls of our dear martyrs to the highest levels.

And I pray that Almighty God will grant the Iranian nation prosperity, happiness, and rejuvenation.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran Raps Biden's Nowruz Message


On Monday, Biden said the US stands with the “brave women and all the citizens of Iran” who are inspiring the world with their conviction and courage as they fight for their “human rights and fundamental freedoms".

Speaking at a White House event celebrating Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, Biden added Washington and its partners will “continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for their attacks against their people".

In response, Kana'ani criticized the Nowruz message of the US leader.

"Enmity with the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation is an unchangeable part of the US regime's foreign policy, which is also reflected in the Nowruz message of its officials every year," he wrote on Twitter.

"The claim of supporting Iranian women while simultaneously maintaining and intensifying the cruel sanctions against the Iranian nation is a display of the hypocrisy and hostility of the American regime and its anti-Iranian leaders," the spokesperson added.

Iran blasts the blatant violations of human rights in the US and Europe, stressing for the US, human rights is merely a tool for exerting political pressure on independent states to advance their foreign policy objectives. Officials in Tehran call on the international community to hold the US accountable for its crimes. They mocked the US claim over supporting Iranian women and girls amid harsh sanctions which have disrupted the ordinary lives of the people.

Tehran has also denounces the disturbing human rights situation in the European countries, and note the West does not have the authority to be the flag-bearer in this field.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Iran's UN Envoy Urges Human Rights Council to Stop Political Attitude


Bahraini made the remark on Monday while addressing a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

He said the conduct of those who deprive the Iranian nation of their basic rights while alleging to be advocating their human rights is nothing but “sheer hypocrisy".

“It is a sheer hypocrisy that the perpetrators of crimes against Iranian people advocate for the human rights of Iranians and table draft resolutions against Iran while depriving the same people of their basic rights to health, to education, and to life,” Iran’s ambassador added.

Bahraini also slammed false reports prepared on the human rights situation in Iran, including by UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman, who also addressed the Monday session of the council before the Iranian envoy’s speech.

Iran’s ambassador stated such biased reports ignored the realities on the ground in Iran, adding that Rehman refrained from mentioning the foreign-backed terrorist attacks in the country, which led to the deaths of dozens of security forces and innocent people.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Bahraini touched on the role of the foreign-backed media in inciting terrorism in the country.

Iran’s ambassador said hundreds of foreign-based TV and radio channels as well as social networks encourage violence in Iran by providing tutorials on how to make weapons and engage in armed conflict.

Bahraini’s remarks came after Rehman presented his report to the council, claiming that Iran's authorities have committed violations in recent months that may amount to crimes against humanity, including by cracking down on foreign-backed violent riots that swept the country for three months.

The Iranian envoy stated that Rehman’s allegations were imaginary and Iran was being singled out and targeted in the council.

"They try to portray their imaginations as the reality of the situation in Iran," he added.

Protests erupted in several cities across Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini who fainted at a police station in mid-September and days later was pronounced dead at a hospital. The demonstrations soon turned violent.

An official report by Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization announced that Amini’s controversial death was caused by an illness rather than alleged blows to the head or other vital body organs.

Iranian officials blame Western countries for orchestrating the riots to destabilize the country.

The unrest has claimed the lives of dozens of people and security forces, while also allowing acts of terror and sabotage across the country. Iran's Interior Ministry has confirmed the enemy waged a hybrid war against the country to weaken national solidarity and hinder the country's progress, stressing that some 200 people lost their lives in the riots sparked by separatist and terrorist groups.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Ten soldiers killed in renewed fighting in Yemen despite peace efforts: Sources

22 March ,2023

At least 10 soldiers were killed in renewed fighting in Yemen, military sources told AFP, despite diplomatic efforts to halt the long-running war in the Arab world’s poorest country.

The clashes took place in oil-producing Marib province, one of the main battlegrounds and the scene of sporadic fighting even during a lull in hostilities over the past year.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia attacked a mountainous area and have been engaged in a build-up of forces in the region, two military sources told AFP.

“The Houthis launched an attack on hills overlooking Harib district, south of Marib, and made progress on that front, causing the displacement of dozens of families,” one of the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“At least 10 soldiers were killed, in addition to an unknown number of attackers,” the source added. The details of the clash were confirmed by a second military official.

The fighting comes a month after at least four soldiers were killed in the same district.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Türkiye, Iraq reaffirm commitment to fight all forms of terrorism

Merve Aydogan 


Türkiye and Iraq on Tuesday reiterated their commitment to combat all forms of terrorism.

It is clear that terror groups such as the PKK, Daesh/ISIS, and FETO “pose a threat to both countries,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a joint news conference with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in the capital Ankara.

“During our meeting, we discussed all aspects of our bilateral relations. We reaffirmed our determination to fight all forms of terrorism,” he said, adding that their talks focused on Türkiye’s efforts against the terrorist organizations.

“Our expectation from our Iraqi brethren is that they will designate the PKK as a terror group and clear their lands of this bloodthirsty terrorist organization,” Erdogan said.

PKK terrorists have hideouts in northern Iraq, across the Turkish border, which they use to plot attacks on Türkiye.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

"Türkiye, again, is the greatest defender of Iraq's political unity and territorial integrity," Erdogan said.

Although differences in understanding may arise between neighbors at times, Türkiye and Iraq have always proved that they are determined to solve the issues in line with neighborhood law, he added.

Erdogan also thanked the Iraq government and its people for their solidarity after the two powerful earthquakes that shook Türkiye's southern regions on Feb. 6, and said the premier's visit is viewed as a token of the friendship of the Iraqi people.

On transportation corridor from Türkiye's border to the southern Basra province of Iraq, Erdogan said "We have assigned our ministers who will carry out the work to realize the development road project extending from Basra to Türkiye."

"I believe that we will transform the this project into the new Silk Road of our region," he said, adding that the projects is also strategically important for the entire region.

The Turkish president also affirmed that Ankara and Baghdad share the same sensitivities on further increasing bilateral trade, and the leaders exchanged views on solutions to solve issues that business people and citizens face.

On Türkiye’s water issue with Iraq, Erdogan said Ankara views it “not as a conflict, but an area of cooperation that can serve our common interests.”

“We have decided to increase, as much as possible, the volume of water released from the Tigris River for one month to help alleviate Iraq’s distress,” he said.

Al-Sudani thanked the Turkish president for the decision on increasing water.

In Iraq, 98% of its surface water, which is in the high water stress category, comes from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

The country depends on water from the two rivers, which flow from Türkiye and Iran, but in recent years the outflow decreased due to low rainfall.

Al-Sudani said Iraq conveyed to Türkiye its “desire to enhance relations in all fields.”

On the fight against terrorism, he stressed that Iraq will not allow any terror group to use its territory for attacks on Türkiye.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Israel announces restrictions on Palestinian entry to Al-Aqsa during Ramadan

Zain Khalil 


Israel has announced various restrictions on Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan with regard to entering Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“Women of all ages, male children up to 12 years old, and men over 55 years old will be allowed to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan without a permit,” the coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alyan, said in a statement on Monday.

Israel will “impose a permit on men from 45 to 55 years old,” he added.

The Israeli official also said a "security approval" is required for Palestinians in the West Bank to visit their relatives in the 48 territories, or for foreigners to visit their relatives in the West Bank.

He stressed that "working hours will be increased at the various West Bank crossings during the month of Ramadan."

With regard to the Gaza Strip, according to the statement, Israel imposed a "limited quota" for women aged 50 and over, and men aged 55 or over, from Sunday to Thursday, to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Tension has been rising across the occupied West Bank in recent months amid repeated Israeli military raids into Palestinian towns.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Nigerian opposition leader petitions court over election results

Timothy Olanrewaju 



Nigeria's opposition Labour Party leader Peter Obi has filed a court petition seeking the cancellation of last month’s presidential election, an official said Tuesday.

The head of Obi's media team, Diran Onifade, told Anadolu that Obi is challenging the process that led to the declaration of Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party as the winner of the hotly contested polls.

"Yes, Mr. Obi filed a petition at the Presidential Election Tribunal on Monday night in Abuja," he said.

In the petition, the opposition leader is also asking the court to order fresh elections, challenging the qualifications of Tinubu and his running mate Kashim Shettima.

The country's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 1 declared Tinubu the winner after he secured over 8.7 million votes.

Obi came third with 6.1 million votes while Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar garnered 6.9 million votes.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Jordan says Israel rejects ‘racist’ comments by minister

21 March ,2023

Jordan’s foreign minister on Tuesday decried an ultra-nationalist Israeli cabinet minister’s comment as “racist” after the latter spoke from a podium adorned with a map depicting Israel as including all of Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

An official source told Reuters on Tuesday that Amman had received assurances from Israel that the statements by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich did not represent Israel’s position.

Smotrich, who heads a religious-nationalist party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition, said on Sunday there was “no such thing as a Palestinian people,” or Palestinian history or culture.

Amman late on Monday summoned the Israeli ambassador in Jordan over the map and said Smotrich’s move violated international norms and Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel.

“These statements are provocative, racist and come from an extremist figure and we call on the international community to condemn it,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The official source said Israel’s national security advisor had called Safadi to assure him that Israel respected his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Safadi said his government could adopt further steps if Israel repeated such provocations but did not elaborate.

“Israel has to stop the measures that are leading to a deterioration on the ground and fueling the violence,” he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates also condemned the map and Smotrich’s comments about Palestinians.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank has seen a surge of confrontations in recent months, with near-daily Israeli military raids and escalating violence by Jewish settlers, amid a spate of attacks by Palestinians.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter, “Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan. There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom.”

Jordan was stepping up a diplomatic campaign to pressure Israel to lift heavy-handed security measures during the fasting month of Ramadan beginning later this week, Safadi said.

In previous years, Ramadan has seen violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians, particularly around Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, revered as the Temple Mount by Jews. Ramadan coincides this year with Judaism’s Passover and Christian Easter.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Tunisia rejects ‘overblown’ EU warnings of collapse

21 March ,2023

Tunisia on Tuesday dismissed as “overblown” concerns of a looming economic or social collapse after the EU’s top diplomat warned of a “very, very dangerous” situation in the North African country.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had warned Monday that if crisis-torn Tunisia “collapses economically or socially then we will be in a situation where new flows of migrants will come to Europe.”

Tunisia’s foreign ministry rejected his comments as “overblown, both in view of the well-established resilience of the Tunisian people throughout its history, and in view of the threat of migration to Europe from the south.”

An EU delegation was set to visit Tunisia on Tuesday to examine “the political and socio-economic situation” and discuss cooperation over irregular migration, according to an EU statement.

In the statement, it blamed the country’s leadership in the years following the 2011 pro-democracy revolution for the country’s woes.

Tunisia has suffered over a decade of economic and political crisis, culminating in a July 2021 power grab by President Kais Saied, whose rivals have accused him of mounting a coup.

Saied has since overturned the country’s post-revolution constitution and granted himself almost limitless powers, as well as launching a crackdown against the opposition.

Tunisians have continued to struggle with joblessness and surging inflation, exacerbated by the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pushing many to try to leave the country.

Tunis is in prolonged talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $2-billion bailout package to help the heavily indebted treasury balance its books.

Southern European leaders, particularly Italy’s far-right government, are concerned at inflows of irregular migrants from and via Tunisia, which lies just 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Tunisians make up a large proportion of those attempting the dangerous journey, but many other Africans escaping violence and poverty from south of the Sahara also try to reach Europe via Tunisia.

Saied in February made an incendiary speech blaming “hordes of illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa” for a crime wave and saying a “criminal plot” was underway to change the nation’s demographic make-up.

The World Bank effectively suspended new lending to Tunisia after Saied’s remarks, a move that put pressure on the IMF not to approve a bailout.

Beyond the economic situation, the EU has been upset by Saied’s increasing authoritarianism and a crackdown on opponents that has seen more than 20 political figures arrested in recent weeks.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s happened,” Borrell said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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As Ramadan arrives, inflation assails North African nations

March 22, 2023

With Ramadan starting, households in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia will be struggling to supply their pantries. Ongoing inflation has pushed up food prices and caused shortages.

Inflation was supercharged by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Morocco, Tunisia and especially Algeria are key wheat importers and saw higher prices weigh down state budgets during 2022.

Higher prices for fertilizers and transportation have also pushed up food production costs globally. But in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the weeks leading up to Ramadan typically add to inflation, as households stock up for festivities during the holy month.

Algeria’s national statistics agency reported overall annual inflation at 9.49% in January, and food inflation reached 13.53%. Algerians have been especially penalized by the price of fresh goods, which in the capital, Algiers, jumped by 23.58% year on year.

The country spends over $10 billion yearly importing food, according to estimates by the United States Department of Agriculture. Main imports include cereals, powdered milk, cooking oil and sugar.

But Algeria’s inflation has also been driven by an injection of money into the system, after higher energy prices raised the country’s oil and gas export revenues. Mourad Ouchichi, an economist and lecturer at the University of Bejaïa in Algeria, told Al-Monitor, “This money is being distributed through a nominal increase in salaries and unemployment benefits. The government is using the money to buy social peace, and this has added to inflation.”

Some key ingredients for Ramadan are especially weighing down on Algerians. The price of onions in January rose by more than 96% year on year, while orange prices jumped by 70%. Lamb meat and egg prices rose by 43% and 33% respectively, according to figures by the national statistics agency.

Annual inflation in Tunisia reached 10.4% in February, with food prices growing by 15.6%. The country's economic crisis has devalued the currency and left the cash-strapped government often unable to pay for imports of subsidized goods. This has led to cyclical shortages and higher prices.

On average, household consumption in Tunisia rises by 34% during Ramadan. But most Tunisians are struggling to make ends meet. The price of vegetable oils in February rose 24.6% year on year, chicken increased by 25.3%, and milk by 16.1%.

On Thursday, Tunisia’s Ministry of Commerce announced maximum sale prices and margins for basic goods such as eggs, fruits, and chicken until the end of Ramadan.

In Morocco, annual inflation accelerated to 8.9% in January 2023, with food inflation reaching 16.8%. Besides global commodities such as wheat, Moroccan inflation is also being driven by transport costs and fragmented distribution channels.

Since it eliminated fuel subsidies in 2015, Moroccan domestic fuel prices have fluctuated according to global prices. Because it imports over 90% of the hydrocarbons it consumes, Morocco is especially vulnerable to energy and transport price surges.

Rachid Aourraz, an economist and a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told Al-Monitor, “If inflation continues to climb over the coming months, it is highly probable that we will see street protests.”

North African governments have long been aware of how sudden food price increases can trigger popular discontent. Faced with escalating high prices, authorities in the region have been clamping down on speculation by traders.

In Tunisia, the government passed a law in March 2022 that includes jail terms of up to 30 years for people or groups accused of food profiteering. Tunisian media regularly shows security forces seizing food items from warehouses and detaining alleged speculators.

Algeria, too, has jailed traders accused of buying subsidized goods such as semolina and cooking oils to sell in neighboring Tunisia at a profit.

But speculation is the easiest aspect of inflation to deal with, rather than its biggest driver. “You cannot eliminate speculation with a law,” says Mourad Ouchichi. “Governments like to showcase speculation as the main cause for inflation mostly to show they are working to fight inflation.”

Source: Al Monitor

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Claiming secularity, Kalu opposes Muslim Senate presidency

By From John Akubo, Abuja

22 March 2023

Lays claim to seat as ‘most senior’ lawmaker

Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu has indicated that the 10th Assembly could not afford to vote for a Muslim Senate President, citing Nigeria’s secularity.

The former Abia State governor, who backed the same faith ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that produced President-elect Bola Tinubu and Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima, observed that having another Muslim as Senate President would not augur well for the country.

The ruling party’s National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is equally a Muslim from Nasarawa State.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja, Kalu noted: “In a secular state, you will need to accommodate interest and spread to maintain the secularity of the country.

“I believe in a Muslim-Muslim presidency, but I do not believe in a Muslim Senate President because it will not go fine for our country.”

Indicating interest for the seat and stating it was his turn, he restated: “I will not be comfortable with a Muslim Senate President because this is a secular state.”

The chief whip urged APC to zone the office to his South East geopolitical zone.

“And so, I will like the party to zone it to my zone, to my village in Igbere because President-elect Tinubu needs people of high character to turn around the economy and work for the masses. I am an economic person, an entrepreneur,” he said.

Kalu insisted that he is the most qualified lawmaker for the seat going by Senate rules and his pedigree.

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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Jordan deputy PM discusses efforts to solve Syria crisis with UN envoy

March 21, 2023

AMMAN: Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi and UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen on Tuesday discussed an initiative to solve the Syrian crisis through direct Arab-Syrian government dialogue.

Safadi, who is also minister of foreign affairs and expatriates, reaffirmed his country’s full coordination with the UN on all details of the initiative, reported Jordan’s News Agency.

During their meeting in Amman, the deputy prime minister briefed the UN envoy on the kingdom’s aid to survivors of the earthquakes that struck Syria and Turkiye last month.

Coordination is continuing with Arab countries on a date to launch the Syria initiative, Safadi said, adding that Arab countries are entitled to lead the dialogue.

He reiterated Jordan’s support for Pedersen’s efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution No. 2254.

Source: Arab News

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