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Pakistan's Beleaguered Ahmadis Decry 'Deplorable' Attempt to Isolate Them

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Jan 2020

In May 2018, a mob led by hard-line Muslim clerics destroyed a 100-year-old mosque belonging to the Ahmadi community in the eastern city of Sialkot, just one of many acts of sectarian violence inflicted on Ahmadis in Pakistan in recent years.


• UK Kashmiri and Pak Protesters, Pro-Khalistan Sikhs Expected To Besiege India Mission In London On Republic Day

• Amnesty International Welcomes ICJ Ruling on Myanmar and Rohingya Treatment

• Afghanistan President: Pakistan Still Shelters Insurgents

• NU Cleric Meets Pope Francis, Talks 'Social Activism' In Rome to Address Interfaith Conflicts

• Saudi Arabia Attempted to Spy on Khashoggi’s Fiancée

• Iran’s Regime Sentences Christian Convert to Prison for “Insulting Islam”

• Sudan Signs Preliminary Political, Security Deal With Rebel Group

• U.S. Says No Uptick In Violence From Islamic State In Syria, Iraq

• Raj’s Pro-Hindutva Agenda Inclusive Of All Indian Muslims

• Schools Can’t Give Religious Instructions of One Particular Religion, Rules Kerala HC



• Pakistan's Beleaguered Ahmadis Decry 'Deplorable' Attempt to Isolate Them

• Schools, Madrasas to Have One Curriculum: Shafqat

• Pak May Escape Financial Action Task Force Blacklist At Paris Plenary

• Religious Harmony: Hindu, Muslim Owners Build A Mosque At An Adjacent Plot Of Their Petrol Pump

• Pakistan reaches out to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to bolster tourism

• Pakistan looks to Africa to boost trade beyond traditional markets

• PML-N sees political change beginning from Punjab

• Old friends picked up the tab for Davos trip: PM

• Sindh’s First Batch of 500 Women Bikers Gets Training Certificates 

• Criticism on CPEC ‘nonsense’, Sino-Pak ties beyond BRI, says Imran

• COAS inaugurates state-of-art electronic warfare testing lab in KP



• UK Kashmiri and Pak Protesters, Pro-Khalistan Sikhs Expected To Besiege India Mission In London On Republic Day

• Amnesty International Welcomes ICJ Ruling on Myanmar and Rohingya Treatment

• Europe to avoid triggering sanctions, will tolerate Iran's JCPOA suspension steps: WSJ

• Germany bans neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland

• Anti-Muslim Protestors Show Up For Muslim Day At The Capitol

• Two prosecutions of Islam critics, but one worrying outcome

• US-UK potential trade war over Internet giant tax

• UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

• Turkey, Ukraine to boost defense cooperation

• Germany's ex-president: Europe needs Erdogan’s support

• UN envoy for Syria calls situation in Idlib 'disaster'


South Asia

• Afghanistan President: Pakistan Still Shelters Insurgents

• Afghanistan Is Ready for Major U.S. Troop Reduction, Ghani Says

• Polio Remains Threat in Militant-hit Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan

• 1 civilian killed, 6 others injured in grenade attack in Afghanistan

• What if Myanmar refuses to comply with ICJ ruling on Rohingya Muslims?


Southeast Asia

• NU Cleric Meets Pope Francis, Talks 'Social Activism' In Rome to Address Interfaith Conflicts

• Police nab East Jakarta resident for threatening to expel 'Chinese' from neighborhood

• Catholics on Riau Island in legal battle against Islamic extremists over church project

• Indonesia to increase imports from India amid Delhi-Malaysia spat: Report

• Malaysia in the middle of Israel-Palestine conflict

• Penang religious body accused of delay tactics in wakaf land case

• Muhammadiyah issues fatwa against e-cigarettes, vaping


Arab World

• Saudi Arabia Attempted to Spy on Khashoggi’s Fiancée

• Iraq’s Top Cleric Calls for Formation of New Government

• Tahrir Protesters Reject ‘Political’ Million-Man March, Foreign Influence

• Saudi Arabia’s al-Jubeir says Iranian regime must change its behavior

• Syria war: Jihadist assault 'kills dozens of soldiers'

• Militants set off car bombs, storm army positions in Syria's Idlib: state news agency

• Four workers of French Christian NGO, including Iraqi member, missing in Baghdad

• Six Iraqi protesters killed, 54 wounded in clashes with police: Sources

• Pro-Amal supporters shown attacking Lebanese protesters in southern Beirut

• We must pressure Iran to avoid bigger conflict: Prince Khalid bin Salman

• Saudi Arabia to host World Economic Forum Middle East Summit

• Iraq million-man demonstrated outright rejection of US occupation: Hezbollah

• Syria forces close in on key militant-held city in Idlib: Monitor

• 'Idiot' Trump had better pull out troops from Iraq voluntarily: Hashd al-Sha’abi leader

• Saudi-led military committee moves heavy weapons outside Aden



• Iran’s Regime Sentences Christian Convert to Prison for “Insulting Islam”

• Kuwait summons Iran envoy over Soleimani killing claim

• Powerful earthquake shakes eastern Turkey, killing 20

• We must pressure Iran to avoid bigger conflict: Prince Khalid bin Salman

• Yemeni troops, allies seize strategic areas east of Sana’a from pro-Hadi forces

• Several Palestinians injured as Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa Mosque

• Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque



• Sudan Signs Preliminary Political, Security Deal With Rebel Group

• Libya's Neighbors, Global Envoys Seek Solutions to Conflict

• Borno State Increasingly Isolated as Boko Haram Threatens Roads

• Nigeria: Terrorists Kill 8 Soldiers in Borno

• Libyan tied to Benghazi attack sentenced to 19 and half years

• Survivors of Burkina jihadi attack tell of terror and escape

• Italy’s Salvini under fire for asking Tunisian teenager about drug dealing

• Libya conflict to go on as long as arms pouring into country: Analyst

• Bomb blast kills 2, wounds 6 in Somalia


North America

• U.S. Says No Uptick In Violence From Islamic State In Syria, Iraq

• Pentagon Says Recent Iranian Strike on US Base In Iraq Injures 34 Troops

• Delta ordered to pay $50,000 fine over allegations it discriminated against Muslim passengers

• Muslim athletes share stories about discrimination

• NYC: Convicted Muslim Bomber Gets Life Term For New Jersey Shootout

• 34 US troops suffered concussion, brain injury in Iranian strike: Pentagon

• US plotting to break up Iraq to secure its troops’ presence: Report



• Schools Can’t Give Religious Instructions of One Particular Religion, Rules Kerala HC

• Raj’s Pro-Hindutva Agenda Inclusive Of All Indian Muslims

• Muslim Family Says Water Supply to Dalit Colony Was DiscontiNUed Due To Technical Issues

• Ahead Of Republic Day, A Mushaira Against CAA, NRC In Hyderabad

• CAA Effect? NUmber of Bangladeshi Illegals Exiting Up, Says BSF

• 80 Muslim leaders resign from Madhya Pradesh BJP over CAA

• Former AMU student leader refuses to apologise over 'Muslims can destroy anything' remark

• NIA Files Chargesheet against Two Members of Bangladeshi Terror Group, Ansar-Al-Islam

• NIA charge sheets 5 members of Bangladesh terror group JMB in Assam

• US diplomat urges India to release Kashmiri leaders detained without charge

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau




Pakistan's Beleaguered Ahmadis Decry 'Deplorable' Attempt to Isolate Them

JaNUary 24, 2020

By Frud Bezhan

To be considered Muslim, members of Pakistan's minority Ahmadi sect must deny the beliefs of their religion.

They must swear that the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet, and denounce the Ahmadi sect's 19th century founder as a false prophet and his followers as non-Muslim.

The Ahmadis, or Ahmadiyya, consider themselves Muslim, but that is a view rejected by mainstream Islamic sects.

And since they refuse to declare themselves non-Muslims, the Ahmadis have been stuck in legal limbo, leaving them without fundamental human rights such as access to education and the right to vote.

NUmbering almost 5 million, the community has been persecuted for decades, banned from publicly practicing their faith and the target of rising sectarian violence.

Authorities in the predominantly Muslim country of 208 million have done little to stem the attacks, with the government still refusing to grant the community equal status.

'Paranoia, Intolerance, And Bigotry'

In what Ahmadis say is the latest attempt to segregate its members, the Islamabad branch of Pakistan's Bar Association on JaNUary 15 made it mandatory for its 5,500 members to declare their religious affiliation. If they identify themselves as Muslim, members must sign an affidavit by JaNUary 31 declaring that they are not Ahmadis.

To be listed as a Muslim, the affidavit said the signatory must believe that Muhammad was "the last of the prophets"; that the founder of the Ahmadi sect was an "apostate, liar, and hypocrite"; and must not have ever referred to him/herself as "an Ahmadi."

The Islamabad Bar Association (IBA) said members who failed to comply would have their membership suspended and be publicly named.

The move has been condemned on social media and criticized by bar members and rights activists, who have alleged that it is an attempt to suspend Ahmadi lawyers from the association.

Amir Mahmood, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, told RFE/RL that the IBA's "deplorable" decision risked further pushing the sect towards "isolation."

"This shows the level of religious extremism in society and how religious differences are getting deeper," Mahmood said. "It is a deliberate attempt to isolate the Ahmadis in Pakistan."

Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a senator and member of the bar, said the move had "buried" the South Asian country's vision for a secular state "in heaps of paranoia, intolerance, and bigotry."

"I am deeply saddened to be put under the spotlight to prove my faith," said Khokar, who added that he would refuse to submit the declaration.

Khokar said that "some in the fraternity" were contemplating challenging the move in the Supreme Court.

IBA President Malik Zafar Khokhar said the purpose of the declarations was to simply "identify" the Ahmadi members of the association.

'Rights Are Being Violated'

"Ahmadis are being discriminated against and their basic human rights are being violated in every sphere of life," Mahmood said, citing freedom of religion, right of assembly, and voting rights.

Under Pakistani law, the Ahmadis cannot refer to themselves as Muslims or engage in any Muslim practices, including using Islamic greetings, calling their places of worship mosques, or participating in the hajj, or holy pilgrimage. Ahmadis risk imprisonment for up to three years and a fine if they break those laws.

Ahmadis are allowed to vote only for parliamentary seats reserved for non-Muslims and, since they refuse to declare themselves non-Muslims, most do not vote.

The world's roughly 12 million Ahmadis are followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the man who founded the movement in British India in 1889 and who Ahmadis believe was a messiah and prophet. For the mainstream Islamic sects, that contradicts a cornerstone of their belief that Muhammad was the final prophet.

Those beliefs have seen the Ahmadis come under pressure in a NUmber of countries, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In Pakistan, members of the community have been systematically persecuted by both mainstream Muslim sects and the government.

In the 1970s, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed an amendment to the Pakistani Constitution declaring anyone who does not believe Muhammad was the last prophet as non-Muslim. Under the rule of military dictator Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, the practice of the Ahmadi faith was declared a "blasphemous" criminal offense.

Ahmadis face a stark choice in Pakistan.

They can follow their faith and risk persecution and death or they can convert or leave the country. Thousands of Ahmadis from the subcontinent have left, with large communities in Britain, the United States, and Canada.

Growing Sectarian Violence

Religious discrimination and violence have increased in Pakistan, a mainly Sunni Muslim country, with attacks against Shi'a, Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs in recent years.

Ahmadis have become the target of the rising sectarian violence, with their burial grounds, mosques, and homes coming under attack. The community says the authorities have done little to stem the assaults.

In May 2018, a mob consisting of several hundred people led by hard-line Muslim clerics destroyed a 100-year-old mosque belonging to the Ahmadi community in the eastern city of Sialkot.

In August that year, a mob carried out a similar attack on an Ahmadi mosque in the eastern city of Faisalabad. Nearly 30 were wounded, and the mosque was largely destroyed.

In September 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan revoked the appointment of Atif Mian, an Ahmadi and a Princeton-educated economist, to a key advisory role following protests by a hard-line Islamist party and opposition from within Khan's own party.

It is not only Ahmadis, but also those seen sympathizing with them, who have faced threats and violence.

Pakistan's justice minister was forced to resign in 2017 after followers of a radical cleric accused him of blasphemy for changes to the electoral law that were seen as a concession to Ahmadis. Protesters forced the virtual lockdown of Islamabad for weeks.



UK Kashmiri and Pak Protesters, Pro-Khalistan Sikhs Expected To Besiege India Mission In London On Republic Day

Jan 24, 2020

LONDON: The Indian high commission building in London — which was the scene of violent protests on Independence Day — is expected to be besieged by protesters all weekend yet again as India celebrates Republic Day.

Up to 15,000 British Kashmiris plan to attend a “Kashmir protest” outside the building on Republic Day, whilst Indian students and other diaspora groups have scheduled a mass anti-NRC-NPR-CAA rally outside it on Saturday.

Slough-based Amjad Abbasi, chairman of overseas publicity for All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, one of the organisers of Sunday’s protest, said he was expecting 10,000 to 15,000 people to come. He said 100 coaches were coming from different cities and the police have not set any restrictions.

“This is a peaceful demonstration. We are not expecting any violence as we are a peaceful people,” he said.

A Metropolitan police spokesman said: “We are aware of a march taking place in central London on Saturday and a demonstration on Sunday. A proportionate policing plan is in place.”

On Thursday London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote to Gujarat-born London Assembly member Navin Shah expressing concern about Sunday’s protest, but added he did not have the power to ban marches, only home secretary Priti Patel did. He said the Metropolitan police had a robust policing operation in place and “anyone who acts unlawfully on Sunday will be held fully accountable by the police”.

Other groups organising Sunday’s protest, which starts at 1 pm, include Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, Sikhs for Justice (banned in India) and the World Sikh Parliament. Pro-Khalistan Sikhs, British Pakistanis and Britons who originate from PoK are expected to be those who take part.

Fahim Kayani, president of Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, told TOI there would also be a digital campaign whereby vans would go round the capital with posters “exposing” alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.

Leader of the opposition in the PoK assembly Ch Muhammad Yasin is expected to attend.

The Saturday protest, titled “The National Demonstration Against Fascism in India”, has been called by SOAS India Society, the South Asia Solidarity Group, CasteWatch UK, Tamil People in the UK, Coordinating Committee of Malayali Muslims, Kashmir Solidarity Movement, Indian Workers Association (GB), Ghadar International, Indian Muslim Federation (UK), Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO) and other groups. It will start with a rally at 1 pm at Downing Street and then a march to the Indian high commission.



Amnesty International Welcomes ICJ Ruling on Myanmar And Rohingya Treatment

JaNUary 24, 2020

LONDON: A ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) forcing Myanmar to take “provisional measures” to prevent genocidal acts against the Rohingya community “sends a message” to the country’s leadership, according to Amnesty International.

Nicholas Bequelin, the group’s regional director, said in a report published on Thursday that the ICJ decision shows that the world “would not tolerate atrocities” or “blindly accept Myanmar’s empty rhetoric on the reality in Rakhine State today.”

Amnesty International


Today’s decision sends a message to #Myanmar’s senior officials: the world will not tolerate their atrocities, & will not blindly accept their empty rhetoric on the reality in Rakhine State today. …

World court orders Myanmar to protect the Rohingya

Today’s decision sends a message to Myanmar’s senior officials: the world will not tolerate their atrocities, Amnesty International said today.


9:34 PM - Jan 23, 2020

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He added: “An estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain there are routinely and systematically denied their most basic rights. They face a real risk of further atrocities. Myanmar must comply with the ICJ’s ruling and take immediate action to cease ongoing violations against the community and to prevent the destruction of evidence.”

In November, Gambia filed a case at the ICJ, accusing Myanmar of breaching its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The complaint included the request for the court to order “provisional measures” to prevent acts that “may amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide.”

Bequelin said: “The decision comes just days after Myanmar published a summary report of the findings of the government-established ‘Independent Commission of Enquiry’. The Commission was neither independent nor impartial and cannot be considered a credible effort to investigate these crimes against the Rohingya.”

He added: “Meanwhile, there have been no efforts to investigate the serious and wide-ranging violations against other ethnic minorities or elsewhere in the country.”

Amnesty International urged the UN to take action and refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

But Dr. Azeem Ibrahim, director at the Center for Global Policy, told Arab News that officials in Myanmar are “unlikely” to take any notice of the ICJ ruling, and will “take the usual position” of not recognizing the court’s legitimacy.

However, Ibrahim said Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi “miscalculated” by attending The Hague, thus legitimizing the court.

Her decision to base her entire argument against the accusations on there being no genocide, but admitting that war crimes had been committed, had “backfired,” he added.

“Officials in Myanmar will be hoping that China will now protect them at the UN Security Council and buy them more time,” Ibrahim said.

“The only other option would be if the (UN) secretary-general intervenes,” he added while saying there had been little desire on Guterres’ part to do so.

In an Arab News column on Jan. 24, Ibrahim wrote that sanctions remain the West’s last form of leverage in forcing Myanmar to stop its actions against the Rohingya.

But he told Arab News on Friday that the EU is unlikely to impose sanctions because so far, it has been “unable to speak with a unified voice” on the issue.



Afghanistan President: Pakistan Still Shelters Insurgents

Jan. 23, 2020

DAVOS, Switzerland — Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday that Pakistan contiNUed to give sanctuary to an insurgent group that helps the Taliban in its war against Kabul and the United States, directly contradicting an earlier statement by Pakistan's prime minister.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan told reporters at the anNUal World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the Haqqani network, which the United States has designated as a terrorist group, had no activities or bases in Pakistan.

"And you believed him?" Ghani, also at Davos, asked on Thursday. "One can also say that the earth does not revolve around the sun."

"This is a denial that is not helpful. We need to engage in a constructive engagement where the special relation between the Taliban and Pakistan ends. It is good for both countries and it is good for the region and the world."

Reuters has contacted Pakistan's Foreign Ministry for comment.

Ghani also said that talks between the United States and the Taliban showed few signs of progress.

Afghanistan has long said it wants a full ceasefire before Kabul will join the talks.

"The outcome the public seeks is an end to violence," he said. "We want to see that the Taliban accepts a political process."

Ghani, who has led Afghanistan for six years, said that there was no chance the country would collapse when the United States withdraws its troops, as President Donald Trump has promised to do.

Violence in Afghanistan has increased in the past three years. But Ghani said his country's military forces are stronger than they were.

"The majority of the world thought we would collapse (following the withdrawal of 100,000 NATO troops in 2014)," he said. "Our military forces will not collapse."

"The capacity to uphold the state has been created."

While Afghanistan has seen four decades of conflict, the president said the country's biggest challenge was the environment.

"The elephant in the room is the environment, even more than conflict," Ghani said.

Warning that global warming, access to clean water and other environmental threats could push hundreds of millions around the world back into poverty, Ghani urged a regional approach to tackling climate change and said the environment could unite South Asia much as the community of steel and coal did Europe.

"Everybody is responsible (for dealing with climate change)," he said. "Nobody is innocent."



NU cleric meets Pope Francis, talks 'social activism' in Rome to address interfaith conflicts

JaNUary 17, 2020

Indonesia's largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) has highlighted the importance of social activism in addressing interreligious conflicts during a discussion with religious leaders held as part of the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative forum in Rome from Tuesday to Friday.

"The discussion, held from Wednesday morning to afternoon at the Gregorian University, Rome, focused on the stance and measures that we can take together in tackling crises that are heavily influenced by interreligious conflicts," NU supreme council secretary-general, Yahya Cholil Staquf, said in a statement on Thursday.

Following the discussion, Yahya and 17 other religious leaders held a meeting with Pope Francis at his residence in Vatican City on Wednesday evening to talk about conclusions from the earlier discussion.

Yahya said that during the visit, Pope Francis had emphasized that regardless of their conflicts, people must return to the roots of their beings, and that was to become each other's brothers and sisters.

In the statement, Yahya quoted Samuel Dale Brownback, the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who had expressed during the discussion his deep concern that such interfaith conflicts could further lead to killings if remained unaddressed.

"The statement is exactly the same as the analysis explained in Ansor's Declaration on Islam for Humanitarian Islam issued in 2017," he said, referring to NU's youth wing GP Ansor.

He also quoted Rev. Thomas Johnson of the World Evangelical Alliance, emphasizing that a mere declaration would not be enough as people might not read and study the declaration thoroughly.

Yahya concurred, saying that a declaration had to be prepared with real, follow-up strategic measures. He cited as an example of NU's social activism in serving the people, including by protecting the rights of minority groups, as one of the group's transformative strategies to curb interreligious conflicts.

Rabbi David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland who currently serves as director of the American Jewish Committee's Department of Interreligious Affairs, highlighted the need for political groups to resort to religions as their foundation for conflict resolution strategies instead of militaristic and economic approaches, Yahya said in the statement. (ars)



Saudi Arabia attempted to spy on Khashoggi’s fiancée

24 JaNUary 2020

American intelligence authorities tipped off their counterparts in the United Kingdom to a plan by Saudi Arabia to spy on Hatice Cengiz, the Turkish fiancée of the slain Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the UK last year.

The Guardian reported that the US believed Saudi Arabia had the “ambition and intention” to monitor Cengiz, who has been an outspoken advocate for justice for Khashoggi, in London last May, despite a global outcry over his brutal murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

According to the report, it is not clear if the intended surveillance of Cengiz was electronic or physical, or if it was successful.

The report said the revelation would highlight the concerns of human rights campaigners who have long argued the Saudis are using surveillance to monitor and intimidate opponents and the critics of Saudi Arabia.

‘Unlawful behavior contiNUes’

“Saudi Arabia is trying to put a lid on the whole [Khashoggi] thing, so it is understandable that they would try to make sure that Hatice’s voice and advocacy is limited,” Hala Aldosari, a Saudi activist and fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said. “All sorts of unlawful behavior contiNUes, nothing has changed.”

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to obtain some documents for his marriage to Cengiz, and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.

The Saudi government initially claimed Khashoggi left the consulate on that day, but Riyadh later said that he had been killed by a “rogue” group.

The Washington Post reported in November 2018 that the CIA had concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman had ordered the killing. Furthermore, an investigative team led by the United Nations also said it believed bin Salman was the prime suspect in the state-sponsored murder.

Earlier, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote that there were “reports” that Cengiz and one of Khashoggi’s sons had been “under Saudi surveillance in London last summer.”

According to The Guardian, the revelation about Cengiz suggests that Riyadh is reinforcing what a former official in the administration of Barack Obama called a “state policy” to monitor dissidents and critics.

“They use a variety of tools as a matter of course. It is state policy,” Andrew Miller, a Middle East expert who served in the Obama administration, said.

“The second point is that obviously the fallout from the Khashoggi murder has not fundamentally changed the Saudi state’s posture. Fortunately no one else has been kidnapped and killed but they are still pursuing information about their opponents,” he said.

The latest developments will spark further criticism of Saudi Arabia as independent United Nations rights experts earlier this week called for an investigation into the involvement of bin Salman in the hacking of the phone of Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist.

Last year, Norwegian police temporarily moved Iyad el-Baghdadi, a Palestinian human rights campaigner and a vocal critic of bin Salman, to a secure place after being alerted by the CIA about a possible threat against him from Riyadh.


Iran’s regime sentences Christian convert to prison for “insulting Islam”

JANUARY 24, 2020

A court for the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced a 65-year-old convert to Christianity to a three year prison term for insulting Islamic beliefs that included forwarding a message sent to his mobile phone that made fun of the mullahs who rule over Iranians.

The religious freedom organization Article 18 reported Tuesday on its website that  Ismaeil Maghrebinejad, a 65-year-old convert to Christianity, has been sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs.”

Maghrebinejad was sentenced under Article 513 of the Islamic Penal Code, which metes out a punishment between one and five years in prison.

Iran’s opaque justice system sentenced Maghrebinejad on JaNUary 11. He now has 20 days to appeal his prison sentence.

Article 18 said Ismaeil, who was arrested at his home in JaNUary 2019, faced two additional charges: “propaganda against the the Islamic Republic”, “membership of a group hostile to the regime”.

A judge said at a November hearing him that criminal chargeof  “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” was “applicable”, because he had created a Telegram channel in which he had “promoted evangelical Christianity,” wrote Article 18.

The JaNUary hearing dealt with “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs in the cyberspace." Article 18 said was Maghrebinejad "was found guilty because he had forwarded a message that had been sent to his phone, which poked fun at the ruling Iranian clerics."

Mansour Borji,Research and Advocacy Director for Article 18, told the Jerusalem Post: “These excessive sentences constitute a grave violation of Iran’s constitutional and international legal obligations to guarantee freedom of religion and belief, as well as freedom of expression. We believe these loosely defined charges are used to punish individuals for adopting a religion of their choice in accordance with article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is signatory. We call for the verdict against Mr Ismaeil Maghrebinejad to be overturned, and urge the Iranian authorities to ensure due process in this and other cases involving Christians.”

Borji also said the sentence was a “disproportionate reaction to something so ordinary."

“The other charges that Ismaeil is facing, as well as the now-quashed charge of apostasy, related to his conversion to Christianity. This may reveal the real reason why he’s been charged for something that most ordinary Iranians do on a daily basis.”Ismaeil’s defence team had pointed out that he was not even the originator of the joke," he added.

The US has classified the Islamic Republic as a “Country of Concern” since 1999, because its regime violates religious freedom as defined by the US International Religious Freedom Act (1998).

The State Department’s 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom and was reviewed by The Jerusalem Post.

The section on Iran read in part: “Christians, particularly evangelicals and converts from Islam, contiNUed to experience disproportionate levels of arrests and detention, and high levels of harassment and surveillance, according to Christian NGO reports. NUmerous Christians remained imprisoned at year’s end on charges related to their religious beliefs. Prison authorities reportedly contiNUed to withhold medical care from prisoners, including some Christians, according to human rights groups.”

Article 18 wrote that Maghrebinejad "converted to Christianity nearly 40 years ago and has since been regularly harassed by Iran’s security forces, despite Iran’s own constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran ratified in 1975, both guaranteeing freedom of religion, including the right to hold a religion of one’s choosing and to propagate that religion."

Maghrebinejad 's daughter, Mahsa, told Article18 last year that " she believed her father was being harassed in part because she and her husband, Nathan, who now live in America, contiNUe to pastor Christians in Iran through the Internet."



Sudan signs preliminary political, security deal with rebel group

25 JaNUary 2020

Sudan and one rebel group signed a preliminary deal on political and security arrangements on Friday, paving the way for eventual reconciliation through ongoing talks.

Sudan’s ruling council and rebel groups restarted peace talks last October to end years-long conflicts, after a transitional government was put in place following the fall of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Friday’s deal, which was signed in neighboring South Sudan, grants special status to two regions, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which are partly under the control of the rebel groups.

Representatives of the government in Khartoum signed the agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) at a ceremony overseen by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

“After this signing we are going to finalize the full agreement and the SPLM-North will be part of the new system in Khartoum,” said Yasir Said Arman, deputy head of the SPLM-N.

Under the terms of the deal, South Kordofan and Blue Nile will be allowed to draw up their own laws, Arman said. It also seeks to resolve long-standing disputes on the sharing of resources such as land.

The agreement also seeks to unify all the various militias and government troops involved in Sudan’s multiple conflicts into a single military, Arman said.

There was no comment from Abdelaziz al-Hilu, leader of a rival SPLM-North rebel group, the main fighting faction on the ground.

Sudan’s ruling council is committed to the peace process, said General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, a key figure in Sudan’s top transition council and head of Khartoum’s delegation at the peace talks.

“The government of Sudan is more willing than before to reach a peaceful settlement in Sudan”, Dagalo said at the signing ceremony.



U.S. says no uptick in violence from Islamic State in Syria, Iraq

JANUARY 23, 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has seen no uptick in Islamic State activity in Iraq and northeastern Syria, U.S. special representative for Syria James Jeffrey said on Thursday, weeks after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad.

Jeffrey said U.S.-led coalition operations have been on pause in Iraq as the focus has been on force protection and talks with the Baghdad government on the way forward after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel foreign troops.

The lawmakers were furious at the Jan. 3 drone strike on Iraqi soil that killed Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s drive to extend its influence across the region, and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

“We have not seen an uptick in violence in Iraq by Daesh in this period,” Jeffrey told reporters at the State Department, using a term for Islamic State.

Jeffrey said officials will meet in Copenhagen on Wednesday to discuss the way forward in the U.S.-led operation against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

“The coalition is very, very much committed to this mission,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey acknowledged the pause in Iraq could hamper the fight against Islamic State if it contiNUes.

“Over time, obviously there is a possibility of a degradation of the effort against Daesh if we’re not able to do the things that we were doing so effectively up until a few weeks ago,” he said.



Raj’s pro-Hindutva agenda inclusive of all Indian Muslims

JaNUary 24, 2020

MUMBAI: Taking a sharp right turn, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray on Thursday set forth an aggressive pro-Hindutva agenda which would be anti-Pakistani and anti-Bangladeshi infiltrators but inclusive of all geNUine Indian Muslims.

Starting his speech on the same note, he greeted the huge gathering as “My Hindu brothers and sisters”, and asked: “Did you like the new party flag?”

Addressing the 13-year-old party’s first-ever mega-convention at the NSE Grounds, Goregaon, Raj Thackeray also endorsed his support to the CAA-NRC-NPR policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government.

Earlier in the day, several party leaders who spoke, proclaimed that henceforth, Raj Thackeray would be the new ‘Hindu Hridaysamrat’ – a honorific usually reserved for his uncle and founder of Shiv Sena, the late Balasaheb Thackeray, whose 94th birth anniversary was celebrated on Thursday.

Interestingly, hoping to prevent any such eventuality, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Wednesday announced that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray would visit and pray at the Ram Temple in Ayodhya to mark the completion of 100 days of his government in early March.

Nevertheless, the proclamation of Raj Thackeray as ‘Hindu Hridaysamrat’ sparked off sharp reactions from several Sena leaders like Eknath Shinde, Anil Parab, Raut, etc.

Raj Thackeray did not hesitate to take potshots at his estranged cousin and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, and put the Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) on notice by announcing that the MNS would set up a ‘Shadow Cabinet’ to monitor the government’s performance in key areas.

He made it clear that he would not oppose merely for the sake of opposition, but deal with all issues on merits before opposing, if they are not in the public interest on the stage adorned with a bust of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and pix of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Savitribai Phule, Prabodhankar Thackeray and Vinayak Damodar ‘Veer’ Savarkar.

“If anybody attempts to touch even a toenail of any Hindu, we will pounce on them as Hindus. But, as I have been saying past 14 years, the geNUine Indian Muslims are ‘ours’ always. We cannot reject people like (the late President) A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Zaheer Khan or Javed Akhtar,” he thundered.

But there was also a veiled punch for Indian Muslims when he said Muslims are free to offer ‘namaz’, but not use loudspeakers. “Do our temple ‘aartis’ disturb anybody? Loudspeakers cannot be tolerated.”

Before anybody could shout, “Laav re te video” (Play that video), his famed refrain during the last Lok Sabha elections when he wholeheartedly attacked the BJP, Raj Thackeray hurriedly admitted: “Yes, I criticized PM Narendra Modi wherever he went wronga But I also praised him for his good works like revocation of Article 370, the Ayodhya judgement and others.”

Referring to the CAA-NRC-NPR protests, he made it clear that while it can be debated for our (Indian) people, it cannot be compromised for the outsiders/infiltrators and those supporting them.I feel that all these protests (against CAA-NRC-NPR) in the country are an expression of the pent-up anger against the revocation of Article 370 and the Ayodhya verdict,” he said.

He demanded to know how many Pakistani-Bangladeshi Muslims have sneaked into the country and whether “India is some kind of a ‘dharamshala’ (inn)’ where anybody can enter and settle down.

“First and foremost, throw out all these illegal Pakistani-Bangladeshi Muslims… Stop the Samjhauta Express and the India-Pakistan bus service. What the government is trying to do through CAA-NRC-NPR is correct, and I fully support it. On February 9, MNS will take out a procession in Mumbai demanding that these infiltrators should be chased out of India. I will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Maharashtra CM on this issue,” he said.

Referring to the new party flag bearing the royal seal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, he said it was “the flag of his dreams” when the MNS was launched nearly 14 years ago, and the saffron colour was the same as the one used by the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement’s flag in the 1960s.

“This Royal Seal is our inspiration. The party flag is new, but the election symbol (Railway Engine) will contiNUea The flag colour has changed, its a mere coincidence. This colour is our ‘DNA’… But I have not ‘changed’ my colour just to form the government,” he said, in a swipe at his CM cousin.

However, barely had the flag started fluttering, there were gales of protests from the Sambhaji Brigade, the Maratha Kranti Morcha and others who demanded that it should be withdrawn, launched a police complaint and threatened to file court cases against MNS.

On the momentous occasion, Raj Thackeray formally anointed his 27-year old son, Amit Thackeray as a MNS ‘Leader’, paving the way for another member of the state’s NUmero uno Thackeray clan’s gen-next to enter politics.

Humbly acknowledging the ‘abhishek’ honour, Amit Thackeray folded his hands took a leaf out of his uncle Thackeray’s book to step forward on the stage, bow and prostrate, to express his gratitude.

When Uddhav Thackeray was sworn-in as CM at a mega-function in Shivaji Park on November 28, he had prostrated himself on the stage to express his thanks to the people of the state.

While Amit Thackeray’s anointment was welcomed by leaders of Congress, NCP, BJP and others, the BJP stiffened over the MNS’ new Hindutva agenda and the proclamation of ‘Hindu Hridaysamrat’ – which Raj Thackeray did not deny!


Schools can’t give religious instructions of one particular religion, rules Kerala HC

Jan 24, 2020

The Kerala High Court on Friday said that schools functioning under the right to education act can’t impart exclusive religious instructions using religious materials of a particular community bypassing other religions.

The single bench of Justice Muhammad Mushtaq made the observation while upholding the state’s decision to shut down a school that provided exclusive religious instructions and admitted children only from a particular community. A private unaided school, Hidaya Educational Charitable Trust of Thiruvananthpauram, had moved the court against the closure last year.

The court said a school that imparts religious lessons of only a particular community and bars children from other religion poses a serious threat to the secular fabric of the society.

The school in question didn’t have any government recognition or CBSE affiliation and was imparting religious instructions to at least 200 students, all Muslims. The state government acted on an intelligence report and ordered the closure of the school. The school contended that since it was not receiving any government aid or support, it was entitled to follow its own curriculum.

The High Court said the private school, which requires recognition, can give religious instruction or study based on religious pluralism after it has received such permission from the government.

“A private body that discharges public functions must adhere to constitutional values in regard to the discharge of public functions. It cannot adopt any character contrary or repugnant to constitutional morality or value. Individual freedom available to a private body to promote its own belief or faith is not available to a private body when it discharges public function. It is bound by public morality conceived in the Constitution,” the court said.

The court added that there was a difference between religious instruction and religious study and added that while the latter was allowed in educational institutions as per the Indian Constitution, exclusive religious instructions were not permitted.





Schools, Madrasas to have one curriculum: Shafqat

Atika Rehman

JaNUary 25, 2020

LONDON: Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood has said that a national curriculum developed with the input of all stakeholders will be implemented across private and public schools as well as Madrasas.

In a conversation with Dawn here on Thursday, Mr Mahmood hailed madressah reform as a historic step and said having a centralised curriculum across schools and seminaries would end social disparities which create problems in society.

“The English-speaking elite has perpetuated inequality and class-based educational apartheid,” he said. “A student going to a madressah has no chance of getting into a civil service exam. Why should 400,000 to 800,000 people determine the future of the country?”

The minister was in the United Kingdom to attend the Education World Forum 2020 seminar where government officials from across the world got together to debate the best practices in education.

In the past, Mr Mahmood courted controversy when a daily newspaper quoted him as saying that A and O levels would be scrapped in private schools once the national curriculum is formulated. However, he clarified to Dawn that the change would be optional.

“The Cambridge, American and Baccalaureate systems will not be scrapped altogether. But they will become optional. There was scepticism in the beginning but now private schools are working with us. Elite schools have been sending their representatives to the national curriculum council meetings and they will adopt the national curriculum,” he said.

Mr Mahmood said the move to bring Madrasas into the mainstream educational system will allow those students to apply for jobs like the rest of the graduates in the country.

“Right now, the only career open to madressah students is that of becoming a prayer leader. In four years, they will be taking matriculation and FA, FSC exams and they can have careers in the military, the police, or anywhere in the mainstream job market.”

Mr Mahmood lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan for taking the lead on the issue. He also said that Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa was involved in bringing the Madrasas on board and that the military’s role in this step was necessary.

“Without a strong military, Pakistan would not survive. All institutions, including the military, being on the same page gets things done.”

Last year, Mr Mahmood told a newspaper that a group of top Islamic scholars of the country met Gen Bajwa to discuss the issue of madressah reforms. At the time, Mufti Naeem of Jamia Binoria had said that the army chief told the Ulema that he would personally ensure what the government was doing will not adversely affect the Madrasas.

Mr Mahmood added that the question of civilian supremacy is a non-issue created by “fake liberals” and that people should focus on real issues of governance.

“Our reforms are not anti-madressah. This is something our liberals never acknowledge, the poorest of the poor go to the Madrasas. There are 2.5 million students in 25,000 Madrasas in Pakistan and for years they have been picking up the slack of what that the government was unable to deliver,” he said.

When pressed for details, the education minister said the national curriculum policy meetings were considering the very important question of the role of the English language. “English will be taught as a second language and will be part of the curriculum but the curriculum will not be in English. Some subjects will be taught in Urdu. My view is that Math and Science should be taught in English. Regional languages should also be taught. More than that, the curriculum will promote tolerance and we will also evaluate the role of citizen education.”

He appreciated the role of all stakeholders, including private schools, Madrasas, provinces and the military.

“Students in Madrasas want a change. There are many areas where the government and madressah can work together, for eg they need visas for foreign students and we can facilitate that. The response has been positive, we have opened one registration office in Lahore and there is an avalanche of registrations.

“Every madressah in the country will be registered and will be required to give data that is required in the form; anyone who violates the conditions through sectarianism or hate speech will not be allowed to function.”

He said that the initiative would be rolled out for primary schools by March/April 2021.

“Private schools shouldn’t be worried because the quality of the curriculum will be as good as any in the world. The blowback from Madrasas is not the major concern for me, I am more concerned about the fuss that is created by private schools and their owners who are resistant to change,” he added.



Pak may escape Financial Action Task Force blacklist at Paris plenary

Jan 25, 2020

NEW DELHI: With Pakistan getting the all clear on 14 out of 27 action plans by the FATF at the recent review meeting, chances of it escaping the dreaded blacklist are much brighter as geopolitical considerations and some clever diplomatic moves by Islamabad might make things easier at February’s FATF plenary in Paris.

Sources at the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) which wrapped up in Beijing on Thursday, said it was left to India to ask tough questions of Pakistan on its compliance of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations. The four initial sponsors for Pakistan’s greylisting — US, UK, Germany and France — had been more demanding earlier.

According to sources, there is a definite softening of the western position on Pakistan. China has pushed to get Pakistan off the hook at the FATF and will contiNUe to make efforts in the next meeting.

However, French diplomatic sources, when questioned about a possible softening of stance on Pakistan and terror, told TOI, “France is determined to contiNUe combating money laundering and terror financing, and on this occasion, will objectively evaluate, without any concession, Pakistan’s actions.”

They said the meeting in Beijing “analysed Pakistan’s situation from a technical point of view”. A report on actions undertaken by Pakistan for implementing its plan of action will be presented in February, during the FATF plenary meeting in Paris. However, other sources suggested the US and the EU had moved quite a distance to accommodate Pakistan, even being critical of India’s repeated questioning of Islamabad’s compliance record.

The current desire to give Pakistan a reprieve may have its roots in the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan. The US needs Pakistan to deliver the Taliban on the peace deal, which would allow Donald Trump to bring back US troops from Afghanistan before the elections scheduled for November. This unofficial timetable has seen a renewed push on a deal with the Taliban. The latter may agree to a short “reduction of violence” as a concession. The Taliban has to agree to an intra-Afghan dialogue which it has been resisting.

For all this, Pakistan is back in favour with the US. Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was in the US requesting assistance with the FATF — that quid pro quo may be in play. It would explain Trump’s outreach to Pakistan as well as improved US-Pakistan relations. There is little chance of Pakistan getting into the blacklist, but it is likely to stay on the greylist, perhaps with fewer restrictions, sources said. Keeping Pakistan on its side helps the US try to build some distance with China.

Full report at:



Religious Harmony: Hindu, Muslim Owners Build A Mosque At An Adjacent Plot Of Their Petrol Pump

Babar Ali Awan

JaNUary 25, 2020

KARACHI: A Muslim and a Hindu owner of a fuel station at Shahra-e-Faisal area of Karachi turned their petrol pump into a mosque during Namaz timings where Friday and daily prayers are regularly being offered.

The manager of the fuel station Ghulam Haider told the The News that Haji Akhtar Ali Sheikh and Pahlaj Roy jointly ventured a fuel station and later they built a mosque along with the outlet allowing the commuters and others to perform their prayers peacefully.

He said the owners later decided to build a mosque at an adjacent plot of the station to provide opportunities for the faithful to perform their prayers accordingly and timely as four years ago there was no mosque in the surrounding area.

During the prayers, the fuel station stops selling petrol. The manager said gradually the NUmber of Namzis was getting increased as the office workers, commuters and others were paying their prayers in the mosque.

Full report at:



Pakistan reaches out to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to bolster tourism

JaNUary 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is holding talks with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Malaysia to bolster tourism, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday, a few hours after the UK announced it had eased travel restrictions for British nationals aiming to visit Pakistan.

The UK made a major change to its travel advice regarding Pakistan, telling its nationals following a “wide-ranging assessment” that they could now “travel by road to the North of Pakistan as well as the Kalesh and Bamboret Valleys”.

FM Qureshi said credit for the change in the UK’s travel advisory goes to the entire nation and its armed forces.

“Change in Britain’s travel advisory is a major progress,” he said. “I have spoken to the British foreign minister and we have also held talks with President Trump about it.”

The foreign minister expressed the hope that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Malaysia would help Pakistan in promoting tourism, saying that Islamabad was already in talks with the three countries about tourism investment.

“Prime Minister Imran has requested Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to help Pakistan by investing in its tourism,” he said.

Full report at:



Pakistan looks to Africa to boost trade beyond traditional markets

JaNUary 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is launching a top-level drive to expand its trade ties with African nations, a sign of the country’s eagerness to boost its stagnant exports beyond traditional markets, a statement said on Friday.

“Under the ‘Look Africa Policy initiative’, the ministry of commerce is organising the Pakistan - Africa Trade Development Conference in Nairobi, Kenya from JaNUary 30-31, 2020, which is first of its kind, as over two hundred delegates (officials and businessmen) from twenty African countries, arranged by Pakistan Missions abroad, are going to participate in the conference,” the ministry said.

“Main reason of the low trade volume had been low level of engagement of Pakistan with Africa,” the statement said.

Previous government of Pakistan Muslim League (N) had rolled out ‘Look Africa Plan’ in August 2017 with stringent measures to boost bilateral trade between Pakistan and Africa in the upcoming years.

Pakistan’s trade with Africa has remained stagnant at $3 billion/year from 2012-13 to 2016-17, which has increased to $4.6 billion in 2018-19. Pakistan’s share in total trade of African countries is 0.4 percent.

The statement said the commerce ministry launched ‘Look Africa Initiative’, which envisaged various measures to enhance trade with Africa and increase outreach to major African economies

In 2019, the government had relocated six commercial sections from Europe to Africa taking the total NUmber to ten, to cover top ten economies of Africa.

The participating countries in the planned conference include Pakistan, Kenya, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Niger, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Mauritius, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.

“The advisor to Prime Minister on trade and minister for foreign affairs will lead Pakistani delegation,” the statement added.

“The foreign minister and trade minister of Kenya have confirmed participation and Kenyan government is providing full support for the event. The state minister of trade from Uganda is also going to attend the conference.”

The statement said Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, will inaugurate the conference. “A delegation of over hundred leading Pakistani companies, in major export sectors, having potential in Africa, has been arranged by TDAP (Trade Development Authority Pakistan).”

The statement said Pakistan-Africa relations will be discussed in the conference, specially, “ways and means to enhance trade, develop banking and transportation channels, improve engagement and connectivity and remove tariff and non-tariff barriers”.

Full report at:



PML-N sees political change beginning from Punjab

Zulqernain Tahir

JaNUary 25, 2020

LAHORE: As a power struggle between the ruling lawmakers and bureaucracy intensifies in Punjab, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is waiting for the right moment to try and bring down the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government in the country’s largest province.

Governance issues in Punjab have become headache for Prime Minister Imran Khan whose recent move to fully empower Chief Secretary retired Major Azam Suleman, Inspector General of Police Shoaib Dastgir and other top bureaucrats to minimise political role in administrative affairs has deepened the crisis.

The emergence of a ‘disgruntled’ group of 20 PTI lawmakers from southern parts of the province that wants distribution of public funds and public welfare projects and powers to transfer police and other officials of their choice in their respective constituencies is said to be a move planned by none else but Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar to clip the powers of the top bureaucracy and establish himself as ‘not-so-weak’ chief executive of the province.

“Mr Buzdar wants his say in provincial matters to oblige the MPAs from south [Punjab] from where he hails [D.G. Khan],” says a PTI insider.

MPA Sardar Shahabuddin is leading the ‘angry’ group, with a pledge to contiNUe raising voice till all their grievances are addressed.

PTI’s internal strife, ally’s demands, row with bureaucracy threaten govt

Although Mr Buzdar had never been a strong chief minister since assuming office about one and a half years ago, PM Khan’s reported move to run Punjab through the provincial bureaucracy did not augur well for him (CM Buzdar) and the ruling lawmakers.

Ruling lawmakers be it Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, PTI’s Punjab Assembly members or even those belonging to its key ally, the PML-Q, complain about having no powers in administrative matters.

Mr Khan’s close confidant Jehangir Tareen has reportedly assured the PML-Q of administrative share in the districts where it has a strong base and its leadership Moonis Elahi has expressed satisfaction over the government commitments after which the coalition partner seems to have fallen silent, at least for the time being.

Governor Sarwar, in a private TV channel talk, admitted that he had issues with the bureaucracy. “The bureaucracy does not bother to respond whenever my office contacts it on any issue. I wonder [how] a minister’s request to the bureaucracy for any work is termed illegal but it becomes legitimate when an officer asks for the same,” Mr Sarwar said.

The governor said since PTI lawmakers had to address the issues of people in their constituencies, power should be devolved to the grassroots level. “We will take up this matter with the PM, the chief secretary and the IGP. Our lawmakers should be given respect by the bureaucracy,” Mr Sarwar said.

A provincial bureaucrat told Dawn that he had orders from the ‘top’ not to take political pressure and uphold merit.

“Our bosses told us not to oblige any political pressure and work on merit,” he said, adding the lawmakers’ main job was policy making and they should not pressure them (bureaucrats) for transfers and postings of SHOs, patwaris or other officials to ‘oblige their voters’.

The party insider said PM Khan could not afford to have Mr Buzdar replaced with anyone in the PTI. “Imran Khan has been in the catch-22 situation… if he removes Buzdar, then who will take vote of confidence for the chief minister keeping in view a very thin majority in the Punjab Assembly.

“Other obvious choice he has from the ally party is Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi but that decision he will have to take under some ‘compulsion’ if he (Khan) is stuck in a blind alley at the end of the day,” the insider observed.

Interestingly, Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan insisted Mr Buzdar had “full powers” of the chief executive of the province and the bureaucracy was under him.

While speaking to Dawn, Mr Chohan said: “This is a wrong impression that the chief minister has formed any pressure group of MPAs to seek powers from bureaucracy. There has been no forward bloc in the PTI. However, difference of opinion among the ruling lawmakers is the beauty of democracy.”

Asked if the governor or the chief minister of Punjab would speak to PM Khan over these issues, Mr Chohan said: “There is no need for this.”

PML-N move

Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz had a day ago declared that they were open for talks with ‘others’, a reference to the ruling coalition partner, the PML-Q.

“In-house change is a democratic process,” he added.

In reply to a question about joining hands with the PML-Q or other government allies, Mr Shahbaz said: “We have kept our doors open.”

PML-N lawmaker Samiullah Khan, who recently met the Sharif brothers in London, told Dawn that the way the PML-Q had questioned the rising corruption, local body system proposed by the PTI and other matters indicated that it might soon quit the ruling coalition.

“Once the PML-Q is out of the coalition, we would like to have good relations with it, while matters like who will take the chief minister office can be discussed later,” he said, adding it seemed a matter of “a few months” that the Punjab government would fall. If the PTI government was sent packing in Punjab, the Centre would follow, the PML-N lawmaker believed.

About approaching PTI’s ‘forward bloc’, the PML-N leader said: “If the group sticks to its stance of ‘supremacy of parliament’ we may join hands and form a mutual strategy in days to come.”

Nisar factor

Meanwhile, PML-N circles have rejected the rumours that disgruntled party leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan could be a possible choice of the party to pitch him for the top slot in Punjab government in coming months.

“PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is still calling the shots in the party and without his approval Chaudhry Nisar cannot be welcomed in the party,” a party leader close to the Sharif family told Dawn.

He said neither PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif nor any other senior leader had spoken to Mr Nawaz so far about ‘pardoning’ the disgruntled Nisar and considering him for the slot of Punjab CM due to his close association with the powers that be.

It is worth mentioning that Mr Nisar has not yet taken oath of the MPA in Punjab Assembly.

Full report at:



Old friends picked up the tab for Davos trip: PM

Ramsha Jahangir

JaNUary 25, 2020

KARACHI: Terming his participation in the World Economic Forum (WEF) anNUal meeting “cheapest” official visit, Prime Minister Imran Khan disclosed that his trip was sponsored by his friends and well-known businessmen Ikram Sehgal and Imran Chaudhry.

Addressing the ‘Breakfast at Davos’, an event jointly organised by Pathfinder Group and Martin Dow Group on Thursday, the prime minister said his Davos trip cost 10 times less than those of the previous leaders.

He recalled that his trip to the UN General Assembly last November was the least costly with $160,000 as compared to former president Asif Zardari’s $1.4 million expenditure, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s $1.3m and even $800,000 of former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Thanking Ikram Sehgal, a retired military officer and chairman of the Pathfinder Group, Mr Khan said: “He is instrumental in getting me here. Otherwise, I would not have burdened my government to pay a sum of $450,000 for two nights.”

It is perhaps the first time that the expenses of a prime minister’s official travel have been covered by private citizens or businessmen.

Reiterating that this was an ‘austerity programme’, PM Khan said the government should rely on the over nine million Pakistanis residing overseas. “The GDP of those nine million overseas Pakistanis in my opinion is almost 50pc of Pakistan’s [overall] GDP of 200m people. So we can use this resource and they can sponsor these things,” he said.

The premier said he had stopped his ministers from going on junkets. “Whenever they say they want to go somewhere, I immediately cancel the trip until they convince me that it will be productive for the country. I don’t allow them to go anywhere,” he said.

Expenses at Davos

To be able to attend the WEF anNUal meeting, a person has to be invited — in which case the event is free — or has to be a member of the Forum.

A membership of the WEF costs about $60,000 to $600,000, plus an additional fee needed to acquire an attendance badge, which runs about $27,000 per person to get into the conference.

Earlier in a press release issued prior to the PM’s visit, the government had said that the trip was expected to cost only $68,000 to the exchequer.

“Saving is part of the prime minister’s ongoing robust drive in which he has also directed that the expenditures upon his upcoming WEF participation be minimised,” said the press release.

‘Sponsored’ breakfast

According to an article authored by Ikram Sehgal in a local newspaper, the Pathfinder Group joined by the Martin Dow Group has been working at Davos since 1992 towards projecting a soft image of Pakistan before the world.

Among the many initiatives taken by the group at the meeting is the ‘Pakistan breakfast’ that is held every year since 2002. The breakfast event is entirely funded by private corporate entities, mainly the Pathfinder Group that provides security services and Martin Dow Group that is a multinational pharmaceutical company.

Prime Minister Khan has previously attended the Pakistan breakfast in 2011, 2012 and 2013 as a chief guest. Former prime minister Abbasi, former army chief Raheel Sharif and former chief justice Saqib Nisar among many others have also spoken at the event in the past.

Who is Imran Chaudhry?

Prime Minister Khan’s decades-old close friend Imran Chaudhry has been an ardent donor towards his charitable causes, mainly the Shaukat KhaNUm Memorial Hospital. Mr Chaudhry is a Dubai-based businessman and philanthropist, having investment in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

According to media reports, Mr Chaudhry played a pivotal role in supporting and promoting Princess Diana’s visit to Pakistan in 1996 and generating contributions for the cancer hospital.

Full report at:



Sindh’s First Batch of 500 Women Bikers Gets Training Certificates 

Shazia Hasan

JaNUary 25, 2020

KARACHI: Sindh’s first Women on Wheels (WOW) graduation ceremony and issuance of driving licences saw the Arts Council of Pakistan auditorium packed with so many women, especially young women cheering for each other on Friday.

Shaheen Sultan was not sure where she was supposed to go when she reached the Arts Council gates.

“You know, I’m going to receive my certificate today. I can ride a motorbike now. I am so happy,” she beamed, as someone directed her to the auditorium.

She told Dawn that she got married very early and was now a mother of five too. “I always used to feel bad about burdening my husband with errands such as getting groceries or dropping the kids to school. I used to think if I could ride a bike like my husband I could do it myself. And now I can. The only thing I need now is my own bike. Then there will be two shiny motorcycles parked in our little parking lot at home,” she smiled.

The Women on Wheels, a project of Salman Sufi which started from Punjab in 2018, has now come to Karachi with the support of the Sindh government.

In its first phase, some 500 women learned how to ride motorcycles at the University of Karachi. Two months on, the first batch was ready to receive their certificates. A select few were also awarded licences. And saving the best for last, Careem presented one of them with a brand new motorcycle through a lucky draw.

Senior journalist Mubashir Zaidi, the moderator for the event, said that the man behind the project, Salman Sufi, was aiming to have 10,000 women riding their bikes in Sindh by Women’s Day on March 8. “Women on Wheels is not just a trend, it is a way to see women enter practical life by getting jobs,” he said.

Mr Sufi said that thanks to the project there was no reason why women should be left behind at home while the men went about their work. “We were also used to seeing women seated at the back, behind the men on bikes. That image should soon become history now,” he said.

“Women are not second-class citizens. They need to be encouraged and empowered. We will also launch this project in the interior of Sindh,” he said.

Low-interest loans for women to get bikes

Asad Khan of Careem also said that females riding motorbikes on the road was a powerful statement.

“Having more women riding bikes on the road can change mindsets and perception. It can change the entire narrative. Female representation is important for the country to grow. Mobility can give lots of women independence,” he said, adding that their company would soon be launching a new women customer-specific transport service for which they will be hiring some 10,000 female riders.

He also said that partnering with JS Bank they would also be helping women buy bikes with a five per cent mark-up.

Sindh Women Development Minister Shehla Raza said that if the women in Nepal could ride motorbikes so could the women in Pakistan. “Even I would like to learn how to ride a motorbike,” she said, adding that they would be introducing the WOW project in the Sindh budget for allocation.

She also urged the women to take self-defence seriously. “It is also a part of the bike riding training programme,” she said.

PPP MPA Faryal Talpur said that it was strange that women who constitute 51 per cent of Pakistan’s population are always seen behind the men here.

She said that in India even the rural women know how to ride bikes. “They take the food they have cooked for their husbands to the fields on their bikes. They also drive tractors. There is always a need to make your women independent,” she said.

She also pointed out how in Tharparkar there were some 50 women truck drivers doing the work of men. “Change is also happening here. As their parents or as members of society, we should encourage our women to step out of their homes like the men do. The PPP is always there to support you,” she said before distributing certificates among the first batch of 500 women.

Five women were also presented with motorcycle licences while Rizwana Shireen was also presented with a free motorcycle as her name came up in the lucky draw.

Full report at:



Criticism on CPEC ‘nonsense’, Sino-Pak ties beyond BRI, says Imran

JaNUary 25, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan has rejected the notion that Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative was a debt trap for Pakistan and termed the critcisim against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as ‘nonsense’.

Speaking to CNBC along the sidelines of the World Economic Forum 2020 (WEF) in Davos, the premier underscored Islamabad’s gratefulness to China’s help.

He said Pakistan had “hit rock bottom” when the “Chinese came to help us with the BRI and then CPEC.”

“We’re really glad the Chinese came and rescued us,” he said and added that the money pumped in by China is “barely five or six per cent” of the country’s total loans.

“This is nonsense that China indebted us,” he asserted. He added that China had in fact helped with investment and also provided an opportunity to attract more investment.

“We’ve created these special economic zones where we are giving special concessions to industries.”

PM Imran said Sino-Pak ties were beyond BRI. “There is also technology transfer under CPEC. Especially in agriculture because Chinese technology is much better. Our productivity is very low. They are also developing skills centres in Pakistan,” he said.

“They’re really helping us,” he contiNUed. “We’re grateful.”


When asked about the possible role of US President Donald Trump to curtain Narendra Modi-led government’s anti-minority rhetoric in India, PM Imran said he believed Kashmir to be a far more serious problem that the world realised.

Shedding light on the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir situation, the premier highlighted that eight million people were under siege since August 5 when the Modi government revoked IOJ&K’s autonomy.

“I say it’s a serious situation because I’m worried it would spill over… already their army chief has given a statement that the Pakistani side of Kashmir belongs to India.”

“These are two NUclear-armed countries,” he stressed. “That’s why I want Trump – head of the most powerful country in the world – to intervene right now.”

He said the United Nations came into being to resolve conflicts.

Elaborating on the possible course the international community can take to contain the situation, the premier said the UN and UN Security Council should act as deterrents and “stop this nonsense”.

“India passed two legislations that have alarmed 200 million Muslims in India,” he contiNUed. He added that the ongoing protests in India were joined by non-Muslims including minorities and intellectuals because “they realise where this is headed”.

Responding to host Hadley Gamble’s question if the situation in India was on the same lines of Uighurs in China, Imran pointed out that New Delhi had already passed an Act that deregistered 200 million people in Assaam. “And because two million out of those were Hindus, the Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) legislated Citizens Amendment Act 2019.”

“Is this leading to genocide?” asked Gamble. “In Kashmir, I am scared,” said Imran. “It’s a disputed territory between Pakistan and India – confirmed by UN resolutions that add that a Kashmiri referendum could decide who they want to join.

“Now the disputed territory has been annexed by India,” he contiNUed. “They are trying to change the demography of Kashmir – which is a war crime according to the fourth Geneva Convention.”

Reflecting on the estranged ties between Washington and Islamabad, Imran blamed former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s over ambitiousness.

“Why did the ties between Pakistan’s security forces and the US suffer? I did not want Pakistan to become a part of the war on terror post 9/11 because Pakistan had nothing to with it. There was no Pakistani involved, the al Qaeda were in Afghanistan. I felt why are we going in this war?”

“Initially,” he contiNUed. “There was this romance because Musharraf was fighting US’ war. After a while when he could not deliver – and he could not deliver. He should never have promised he could deliver what was beyond him.”

“He could not win the war in Afghanistan for the Americans,” he asserted. “No one could.”

But they kept asking him, he added. “And he [Musharraf] kept promising. So that’s where the mistrust began.”

Imran emphasised that this time things were different. “This time it’s based on common objectives – on the fact that I always believed there was no military solution in Afghanistan and Trump shares the idea.”

The premier said that he and Trump were both working towards a peace process. “We’re trying our best. It’s not easy – its 19 years of turmoil. But it is the only way.”

Imran said he was convinced the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government could work out a political settlement if they sit on a negotiating table.


Elaborating on the first year of his government, Imran said it was spent on stabilising the economy. “We inherited a bankrupt economy with huge fiscal and current account deficit… Our currency lost value – but fortunately, it stablised without any government support and found its market value.

Imran said the market sentiment had improved. “It’s the highest in one year while foreign direct investment (FDI)increased 200% in one year.”

The premier said the country was headed in the right direction. “[We are headed] towards an export-led growth rather than a consumption or import-led growth. Which is why we had the imbalance and had to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”

Imran said the tough economic decisions are the only way to get out of the 30-year cycle to rely on IMF loans.

“I feel we are on the right track,” he explained. “The only thing is that people are hurting because of the measures we’ve taken.” Imran said now that the economy had been stablised, the government was concentrating on growth and creating employment.

Responding to a question regarding business community’s reservsations, Imran said the people he held responsible for corruption was “always the political elite”.

“If the political elite is clean then there won’t be chronic capitalism. The problem in Pakistan was that we had two political houses that competed in syphoning off money out of the country.”

Imran stressed that the system fails because of a corrupt political leadership. “It’s not the business community I blamed. In fact, this is the first government to go out of its way to promote industrialisation since the 1960s.”

Full report at:



COAS inaugurates state-of-art electronic warfare testing lab in KP

JaNUary 25, 2020

RAWALPINDI: Army chief General Qamar Bajwa on Friday inaugurated state-of-the-art Electronic Warfare (EW) and Ground Surveillance Radar (GSR) testing laboratories in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the military said.

The ceremony was held during his visit to the National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC), an Information Communication Technology (ICT) & electronic equipment maNUfacturer and solution providers to public and private sectors, in Haripur.

General Bajwa lauded the role and unrelenting efforts made by NRTC during the last three years, and assured his full support in its “innovative initiatives”.

Separately, Japan’s Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kanasugi Kenji called on General Qamar Bajwa at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

“During the meeting matters of mutual interest, overall regional situation and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed,” according to the military’s media wing.

Full report at:





Europe to avoid triggering sanctions, will tolerate Iran's JCPOA suspension steps: WSJ

24 JaNUary 2020

The Wall Street Journal has cited European diplomats as saying that Britain, France, and Germany - collectively known as the EU3 – will avoid triggering sanctions against Iran and tolerate Tehran's suspension of its 2015 NUclear deal commitments.

The US daily reported on Thursday that European diplomats don't expect Iran to reverse the suspension of its NUclear deal commitments and that the diplomats "privately say they are prepared to tolerate those steps".

Earlier this month, the three European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) triggered the dispute settlement mechanism featured in the NUclear deal in response to what they claimed was Iran’s violations of the deal.

Iran has rejected the accusations, saying it has suspended its JCPOA obligations as permitted under the deal in cases where other JCPOA signatories fail to uphold their commitments.

The dispute mechanism can lead to the restoration of United Nations sanctions previously lifted under the landmark deal within a 60-day deadline.

According to the WSJ report, however, European diplomats are preparing to extend JCPOA-related discussions for the "foreseeable future" and "well beyond" the mechanism's 60-day deadline.

The diplomats say that the measure seeks to persuade Tehran against taking major "new NUclear steps Iran has not taken yet" and "restrain" the expansion of its NUclear activities.

The report added that European officials are currently divided, however, on what would constitute as a restrained approach from Iran, with some proposing that Tehran’s "modest" contiNUed expansion of its uranium production would be acceptable. 

Earlier this month, Iran announced that it will no longer observe any JCPOA-related operational limitations on its NUclear industry and that it will contiNUe activities based on its "technical needs".

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the announcement marked Iran's final step in its gradual and reciprocal suspension of its JCPOA obligations in the face of US sanctions and the European signatories to meet their commitments.

The sanctions are part of Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy which the US administration hopes would ultimately force Iran to negotiate a sweeping deal, covering its ballistic missile program and its role in Middle East.

The Islamic Republic, however, has held its ground and said it will not renegotiate a 2015 NUclear deal which President Donald Trump abandoned in May 2018 and announced the most draconian sanctions ever on the country.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Trump administration was seeking to keep pressure on Iran after assassinating top military commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Senior US officials, the paper said, are urging Trump to keep imposing economic sanctions and wait to see if European leaders move to reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran.

Tehran has repeatedly said it is ready to resume fulfilling its commitments under the landmark NUclear deal if sanctions imposed on the country are removed and it can avail itself of the JCPOA's promised benefits.

Europe's triggering of the dispute mechanism came after Trump threatened to impose tariff on France, Britain and Germany if they do not accuse Iran of breaking the 2015 NUclear deal, according to reports.


Germany bans neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland

23 Jan 2020

Germany is banning the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland in what the country’s top security official said was a “clear message” against far-right extremism and antisemitism.

More than 200 police officers carried out raids in six German states early on Thursday, seizing mobile phones, computers, unspecified weaponry, Nazi memorabilia and propaganda material, the interior ministry said.

The group had spread “far-right extremism and antisemitic hatred” in German society by producing neo-Nazi music and staging concerts for extremist bands, Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, said.

The group is an offshoot of Combat 18, which was founded in Britain in the early 1990s as a militant wing of the British National party (BNP). The NUmber 18 is intended to represent the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, A and H, the initials of Adolf Hitler.

The German chapter of Combat 18 “enjoys great respect within the far-right extremist scene” and is regarded as a symbol of violent extremism, Seehofer said.

Some of the group’s members were convicted of illegally importing ammunition to Germany as they returned from firearms training in the Czech Republic in September 2017.

Full report at:



Anti-Muslim Protestors Show Up For Muslim Day At The Capitol

JaNUary 25, 2020

More than 200 Muslims, many of them children, came to Frankfort earlier this week.

It was the first Muslim Day at the Capitol. While it focused on legislative education and engagement, not everyone welcomed the Muslim visitors and their faith.

The day began with a formal ceremony in the capitol rotunda and then Muslims met with lawmakers.  Mariam Addarrat of Lexington was there with her fifth grade son.

She says many Muslims work in the private and public sectors. “All the issues and situations that affect all Kentuckians, they affect the Muslim community just like all citizens. We just wanted to make sure that we have a seat at the table,” said Addarrat.

Well over a hundred children from Islamic schools in Lexington and Louisville came to Frankfort.  Durr Ajgzi who’s 14, came to the U.S. seven years ago. Her family fled Iraq and spent time in Syria.

Jgzi was asked what law she would like to see. “I kind of feel like guns shouldn’t be allowed since there are school shootings and stuff.  Just to protect us and protect everybody around. I feel it should be just for the military and not for just random people,” Ajgzi said.

One man with a bull horn demeaned the Islamic faith, calling it a false religion, while two other men held signs.

One read “Repent or Perish.” Aysha Aljijakli from Louisville had this reaction to the onslaught of commentary. “Yes they have their freedoms, but Muslims aren’t like that.  We’re nice people. We’re just like every other human beings and everyone has different religions.

Full report at:



Two prosecutions of Islam critics, but one worrying outcome

JaNUary 24, 2020

ON October 25, 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) approved the conviction in Austria of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff for hate speech after she described the Prophet Mohammed as a paedophile.

Yet on 5 December 5, 2019, the same court censured the government of Azerbaijan for convicting two journalists who were highly critical of Islam.

Whilst a member of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan is at the same time a member of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC). Members of the OIC subscribe to the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which allows freedom of expression only within the demands of sharia law.

In November 2006, the Azerbaijani journalists, Rafig Nazir oglu Tagiyev and Samir Sadagat oglu Huseynov, wrote an article entitled ‘Europe and us’ in Sanat Gazeti,  a newspaper were Mr Huseynov was editor-in-chief. In the article they dared to openly compare Islam and Europe, to the detriment of Islam.

Their comparison of the two cultures led them to acknowledge the superiority of Western culture, and the ‘stupidity’ and the ‘madness’ of Muslim philosophers.

They also came to the conclusion that ‘in comparison with Jesus Christ, the father of war fatwas the Prophet Mohammed is simply a frightful creature’. They wrote that such is the inherent nature of Islam that it can only develop in Europe through ‘tiny demographic steps’ and not through its own qualities.

The article was immediately condemned by Azerbaijani and Iranian Islamic scholars and a fatwa was pronounced followed by public demonstrations demanding their death. Shortly after the publication of the article, they were prosecuted for inciting religious hatred and hostility.

Tagiyev was found guilty of incitement to religious hatred over the article and Huseynov was convicted of incitement to religious hatred for having authorised publication.

Tagiyev was sentenced to three years in prison and Huseynov to four years. Their guilt was based on a ‘forensic linguistic and Islamic assessment’ of the article carried out by the religious expertise department at the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations.

They appealed, but their convictions were upheld. After 13 months in prison, they received a presidential pardon and were released. The two journalists subsequently appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights in 2008.

Sadly, before the appeal could be heard, Mr Tagiyev was stabbed to death by a stranger while walking home from work in Baku in November 2011. As is often the case with religious killings in the Muslim world, the judicial authorities failed to complete the investigation. The price of freedom of expression in Islamic countries can be high. His widow nevertheless, bravely contiNUed the case.

Mayila Tagiyev refuses to be intimidated. She also has a separate case pending over her husband’s killing, which is important for Press freedom in Muslim countries. Mrs Tagiyev is claiming that the Azerbaijani government failed to protect his right to life and that he was targeted over his journalistic activities.

Last month, the ECHR finally ruled in the journalists’ favour. It found that the Azerbaijani courts had not justified why their conviction had been necessary when the article had clearly only been comparing Western and Eastern values.

According to the ECHR, the Azerbaijani courts should have assessed the content of the disputed statements themselves and considered them in the broader context of a public interest debate on the role of religion in society.

The ECHR also considered that the criminal conviction of the journalists was too severe and likely to deter the Press ‘from openly discussing matters relating to religion (and) its role in society’. On December 5, 2019, Azerbaijan was ordered to pay 24,000 euros in compensation.

Just a year earlier, the same chamber of the ECHR had approved the conviction in Austria of Mrs Sabaditsch-Wolff for hate speech after she compared the union of Mohammed with his nine-year-old wife Aisha to paedophilia. In its judgment, the ECHR said it considered her comments to be capable of ‘arousing justified indignation’ of Muslims.

This decision was condemned by many in the West as a serious attack on freedom of expression and an abdication of reason. Meanwhile, the highest Islamic authorities saw it as the ECHR giving approval to their repression of blasphemy.

In a signed opinion column, published on March 15, 2019 in the French weekly news magazine Valeurs Actuelles, about 20 leading figures had asked the European Court, in vain, to refer the case back to its Grand Chamber for a retrial. 

We cannot doubt that this strong reaction was taken into account when the appeal by the Azerbaijani journalists was heard. A strict application of the case law which led to the approval of Mrs Sabaditsch-Wolff’s conviction could have led to the approval of the conviction of the journalists. Indeed, their words were far more subjective, significant and scandalous to Muslims than those of Mrs Sabaditsch-Wolff.

It can be argued that the court saw a priority in protecting minorities – that is, Muslims in Austria and free thinkers in Azerbaijan.

Full report at:



US-UK potential trade war over Internet giant tax

24 JaNUary 2020

Sajid Javid, the British Chancellor, has declared his commitment to enforcing a digital services tax on large American owned tech firms, such as Google and Facebook, stirring tensions between the US and UK governments, whilst the UK is preparing to enter into a post-brexit period of uncertainty.

If the UK government does introduce taxes upon internet giants, it could result in a trade war between the United States and the UK, something that some people here are feeling a little bit anxious about, if the consequences were to be dire.

The Trump administration in the United States has already threatened to apply taxes on British car companies, which has stoked anger on the streets of the British capital.

With British Premier Boris Johnson currently appearing close to US President Donald, in the perceived hope of achieving a groundbreaking trade deal with the US, the current crisis may prove to drive a wedge between the two allies.

Full report at:



UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

JaNUary 24, 2020

LONDON: The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed by Tehran over charges of espionage has urged the UK to be “tougher” with the regime.

Richard Ratcliffe made the comments after a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Thursday.

Ratcliffe said there had been “no breakthrough” in discussions between the two nations to secure her release, and his wife was being used as a “chess piece” by Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for “plotting to topple the Iranian government.” She and her family maintain that she was in the country to visit relatives.Speaking outside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, Ratcliffe told reporters that the meeting had been warm in nature, but hinted that the government was not doing enough.

“The prime minister was there, the foreign secretary was there, (we) talked quite openly about having tried a NUmber of different things to get Nazanin home,” he said.

“We pressed him (Johnson) to be brave. I want him to push forward on improving relations. You need to be imposing a cost on Iran for holding innocent people as leverage, you’ve got to be brave there as well. The government doesn’t always say it, but in my view, Nazanin is being held hostage.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Arab News.

The Downing Street meeting comes ahead of an impending court case over a long-term trade dispute between the UK and Iran, with London accused of owing Tehran debts over an arms deal from the 1970s.

Labour Party MP Tulip Siddiq, who represents the parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family live, called on the government to settle the debt in order to help facilitate her release.

But MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, told the BBC that the issue was “extraordinarily difficult.”

He suggested that setting a precedent of capitulating on legal disputes in return for the release of UK nationals could entice foreign governments and groups to threaten other UK citizens abroad. “The risk that would pose to British citizens traveling abroad would be very considerable,” he said.

Johnson was blamed by many in 2017, when he was foreign secretary, for having worsened Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation in Iran when, in a statement to the House of Commons, he claimed that he had been briefed that she was in Tehran training journalists.

Full report at:



Turkey, Ukraine to boost defense cooperation

Emre Gurkan Abay



Turkish and Ukrainian officials gathered in Ukraine's capital to address ways to enhance strategic cooperation in the defense industry. 

The seventh edition of Turkey-Ukraine Defense Industry Cooperation meeting was held in Kiev, where steps to be taken for armament and military equipments were discussed, according to a statement from Ukrainian Defense Ministry on Friday.

Turkish Ambassador in Kiev Yagmur Ahmet Guldere called the defense industry as one of the rising stars of the multifaceted cooperation between the two countries.

Full report at:



Germany's ex-president: Europe needs Erdogan’s support

Ayhan Şimşek 



Germany’s former president Joachim Gauck called for closer cooperation between the EU and Turkey to address common challenges, including the refugee crisis.

“In Europe, we are in a difficult position, and we require certain support from [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan,” Gauck told German press agency DPA ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Istanbul on Friday.

Gauck, who served as Germany’s president from 2012 to 2017, voiced support for the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee agreement, and backed further financial support for Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey.

“If one meets Turkey’s expectations for financial support in this field, that would be good,” he stressed.

Germany, which hosts nearly a million refugee from Syria and Iraq, has been a key supporter of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, which aimed at discouraging irregular migration and improving the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The agreement has been successful in significantly reducing illegal migration across the Aegean, and preventing the loss of many lives. But the EU’s bureaucratic hurdles and delays to mobilize promised funds led to sharp criticism by Turkish politicians.

The 28-member bloc promised €6 billion ($6.6 billion) of aid for 2016-2019 to improve living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey. But so far, only €3.71 billion were contracted and €2.57 billion disbursed.

Full report at:



UN envoy for Syria calls situation in Idlib 'disaster'

Elena Teslova 



The UN special envoy for Syria on Friday called the humanitarian situation in the conflict-hit province of Idlib "a disaster".

Speaking at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Geir Pedersen said the civilians in Idlib pay "too high a price" for the fight against terrorism.

He asserted the normalization in Idlib as a key component for the return of refugees back to Syria.

"The problem is that more than 50% of the population of Syria left their homes. So what we want to achieve now is to create the situation where they start to return. Then we need the political process and to stabilize the situation in Idlib.

"We understand the challenges when it comes to fighting terrorism, but we always also said that what we see now, that the price that the civilian population is paying, is too high."

He went on to say that 700,000 people have been displaced since last April and more than 1,500 civilians killed.

The envoy praised establishment of the Syrian constitutional committee as "an important step forward".

"The establishment of the constitutional committee was for the first time where the two parties agreed on a written document, it's the basis for coming together and negotiating. And it was also a way for the two parties to recognize each other," he said.

Pedersen added that the interactions within the format is a way "to build the confidence between the parties".

"We understand that it will take time, we are not rushing this, and we hope it will have effect to the broader political process, and improve the lives of the Syrians that live in the country and push the return of refugees," he said.

Pedersen also announced his visit to Damascus next Wednesday on Jan. 29 where he will have talks with the Syrian government.

For his part, Lavrov focused on the economic and humanitarian aspects of the crisis.

"We appreciate the approach you and your team took to create the conditions for the negotiators to create the dialogue culture, to establish trust, this is a very important component for the settlement.

"We do not dramatize the very fact that few months after the constitutional committee, no great results have been achieved, it was not expected. We will support in every way your efforts aiming to create conditions for the progress during next session of the editorial commission, whenever you see suitable to run the event," he said.

Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to turn Idlib, Syria into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

Since then, more than 1,300 civilians there have been killed in attacks by the Bashar al-Assad regime and Russian forces as the cease-fire contiNUed to be violated.

Full report at:



South Asia


Afghanistan Is Ready for Major U.S. Troop Reduction, Ghani Says

By Rebecca Blumenstein and Mujib Mashal

Jan. 23, 2020

DAVOS, Switzerland — Afghanistan is prepared for a major reduction in United States forces there, President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday, adding that he had given that message to President Trump, a step toward winding down the costly American military presence as diplomats struggle to finalize a peace deal with the Taliban.

About 12,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 100,000 eight years ago. The eventual withdrawal of those forces has been one of the strongest pieces of leverage American negotiators have in talks with the Taliban to end the 18-year war.

A gradual reduction in United States troops in the country has taken place over the last year, despite the absence of a settlement emerging from peace negotiations in the Gulf state of Qatar over the past year. Mr. Trump declared the talks “dead” in September, just as the two sides were on the verge of finalizing an agreement. They later resumed, but have since stalled.

Mr. Ghani has been a vocal critic of the United States’ negotiations with the insurgents, because the talks have excluded his government. But speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, he said he had told Mr. Trump that the Afghan government was ready for a further reduction of 4,000 American troops, one-third of those remaining.

An official close to Mr. Ghani said his stance was in keeping with the Afghan government’s longstanding efforts to offer cost savings to an American president who complains about the price of deployments overseas. In return, Mr. Ghani hopes the United States will reconsider what he sees as a rushed deal that legitimizes the Taliban and leaves the Washington-backed government to fend for itself.

“We are totally ready for a withdrawal of 4,000 troops anytime the president decides,” Mr. Ghani told reporters at the economic gathering, a day after he met with Mr. Trump.

American negotiators have been in Qatar for the past several weeks, trying to kickstart the stalled peace process.

In exchange for returning to the pact that they were close to approving in September, they have demanded that the Taliban agree to significantly reduce violence before the deal is signed. The signing of the American-Taliban deal would open the way for negotiations between the insurgents and other Afghans, including Mr. Ghani’s government, over power-sharing.

On a visit to Afghanistan in November, Mr. Trump caused confusion over United States policy toward the insurgents, repeating the Afghan government’s demand for an extensive cease-fire before talks could resume. American negotiators had long believed that holding out for a cease-fire before announcing a troop withdrawal was too ambitious and that the Taliban was unlikely to agree to it.

In recent weeks, the Taliban came to the negotiating table with an offer of a brief period of “violence reduction,” a vague term that officials say could amount to holding back attacks on major cities and highways.

As American diplomats evaluate that offer, Mr. Trump seems to have toned down his earlier demand, aligning it with his negotiators’ position. An official summary of his Wednesday meeting with Mr. Ghani made no mention of a cease-fire, instead citing “the need for a significant and lasting reduction in violence by the Taliban.”

But Mr. Ghani’s government has insisted on pushing the Taliban for nothing short of a cease-fire to show that the insurgents are geNUine about peace and negotiating a shared political future, saying that a “reduction of violence” is meaningless.

“It’s like pregnancy,” Mr. Ghani said. “We really can’t be half pregnant.”

In another sign that significant differences remain between the Afghan government and the White House over the peace process, a close adviser to Mr. Ghani lashed out at the Taliban on Thursday and said that “foreigners” would not be able to impose a deal on the Afghan people.

Speaking at the Kabul-based Institute of War and Peace Studies on Thursday, Amrullah Saleh, Mr. Ghani’s running mate in a recent election whose result is being disputed, said that Taliban violence had predated the United States invasion in 2001, and expressed concern that a deal between Americans and the insurgents might not mean an end to the fighting.

“It is possible that the U.S. and Taliban negotiations in Doha might end the war between the U.S. and the Taliban, but it is impossible for those negotiations to end the Taliban’s war with the Afghan nation,” Mr. Saleh said.

In a response that signaled how fraught any direct talks between the Afghan government and insurgents would be, a former Taliban minister alluded to the barbarity that predated the Taliban government of the 1990s.

He said the Taliban had arisen to end the anarchy and violence created when several armed factions fought to fill a power vacuum left by the Soviet withdrawal.

Agha Jan Motasim, who was finance minister during the Taliban government, said all sides of the 40-year conflict, including the Taliban, had made mistakes. Reaching a peace agreement required looking beyond past grievances and thoughts of revenge, he said.

“If we repeat the Taliban’s wrongdoings and not mention their good,” Mr. Motasim said, “we will just be fanning the flames.”

Rebecca Blumenstein reported from Davos, Switzerland, and Mujib Mashal from Kabul, Afghanistan.



Polio Remains Threat in Militant-hit Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Niala Mohammad, Mohammad Habibzada

JaNUary 24, 2020

WASHINGTON - Afghanistan and Pakistan witnessed a spike in reported polio cases last year, further highlighting what local officials call an imminent threat to the border region between the two countries caused by militant threats and misinformation.

“2019 has really been a bad year for polio eradication in Pakistan,” Rana Muhammad Safdar, Pakistan national coordinator for polio eradication, told VOA.

“Misconceptions about the vaccination and polio eradication are seen as a Western agenda especially after the Shakil Afridi episode,” said Safdar, referring to a Pakistani doctor who allegedly helped the CIA to track and ultimately kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011 through a fake hepatitis vaccination program.

In Afghanistan, officials say parents refused to immunize their children because of fear of being targeted by the Taliban, which sees medical teams as a threat to its control in the region.

“One of the reasons for Taliban’s oppositions to house-to-house vaccination is that they suspect the vaccinators might spy on them,” said Hedayatullah Stanikzai, a polio eradication representative to the Afghan health ministry.

Polio is a disabling and potentially deadly infectious viral disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus spreads from person to person and can infect an individual’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only countries in the world where polio has not been eliminated. While WHO is on the verge of declaring Nigeria polio-free, Afghanistan and Pakistan are seeing an uptick in new cases since 2018.

Current statistics show the NUmber of Wild Polio Virus (WPV1) cases in 2019 to be 137 in Pakistan and 28 in Afghanistan, a significant increase since 2018 when 12 polio cases were reported in Pakistan and 21 in Afghanistan. Pakistan in 2019 reported an additional 18 cases of Circulating Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus (cVDPV2), a strain of polio declared eradicated several years ago.

Afghan and Pakistani officials say the majority of the reported cases come from predominately ethnic Pashtun areas along the border between the two counties. For years, the area has been infiltrated with militants who often target vaccination teams.

Militant targeting

While no incidents have been reported in Afghanistan in 2019, at least 11 polio workers were killed on the Pakistan side of the border, raising the NUmber to 92 deaths since 2012. A Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attack in December on a vaccination team in Lower Dir District of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa last month left two policemen dead.

In addition to militant threats, polio workers complain that they are also faced with hostility from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

Zalija, a female polio worker in Quetta, Baluchistan, told VOA that many polio workers are forced by parents to put fake polio markers on their children who were not vaccinated. Those workers who refuse are threatened with violence.

“They even threatened my life. Some tell me they will shoot me with their gun or pistol; they push me, they swear at me, and say all kinds of things to scare me away from giving their children drops,” said Zalija, adding that many unvaccinated children were given markers on their fingers because of pressure from local parents.

Both governments in Kabul and Islamabad have made the vaccinations compulsory to motivate parents. Programs remain difficult to enforce because of a lack of trust in the vaccines, however.


Afghanistan’s national immunization director Gula Khan Ayub told VOA that during the nationwide vaccination drive in 2019, some 10 million children were targeted but only 8 million were vaccinated. Pakistan’s Health Minister Zafar Mirza previously reported about 200,000 vaccine refusal cases out of 40 million.

Polio campaign workers say many parents fall victim to anti-polio propaganda by extremist groups who claim anti-virus drops are a ploy by the West to create infertility amongst Muslims.

“The parents that refuse to give their children polio vaccinations tell me that the drops make you infertile. Some tell me that that the vaccination is made of pig fat or the urine of Americans. Others refuse, saying that it is a Western conspiracy,” IrfaNUllah, a polio-worker in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa told VOA.

According to the World Health Organization, the vaccine and the oral drops are produced primarily using the Sabin vaccine seeds or through inactivated poliovirus strains.

A Peshawar schoolteacher last April made a video that went viral on social media, claiming that the government administered polio drops were “poisonous” causing illness among children. Following the video, thousands of parents refused to vaccinate their children.

Raising awareness

Some officials charge that local communities also use eradication campaigns as “bargaining points” to voice their grievances with the government. Officials in Baluchistan cited “demand-based refusal” as a major hurdle in high-risk polio endemic areas where local residents conditioned accepting polio drops in return for more government services.

Said Mohammad Omar, a resident of Qila Abdullah who refused to give his child polio drops, accused the Pakistani government of neglecting the community’s basic health care needs.

Omar told VOA, “I will not give polio drops to my child. Polio teams keep coming to my home, yet we do not have doctors in our hospitals here. The government is concerned about eradicating polio but they don’t care about our basic health needs,” he told VOA.

Governments on both sides of the border have tried to combat the misinformation, including seeking out help from local religious institutions and international organizations such as WHO and the UN’s children agency UNICEF.

“People in some conflict-stricken areas, where schools are closed and the level of awareness is low, don’t know about the importance of polio vaccines,” said Stanikzai of Afghanistan’s health ministry. Afghan health officials, he added, “believe that religious scholars can play a vital role with the issue of awareness and have asked the local Imams to speak out about the importance of polio vaccination during their sermons.”

Regardless the efforts, many local communities maintain their anti-vaccine views, according to officials.

Full report at:



1 civilian killed, 6 others injured in grenade attack in Afghanistan


MAIMANA, Afghanistan, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- One civilian was killed and six others were injured after a few militants attacked a medical store with grenade in Dawlatabad district of the northern Faryab province on Wednesday, police spokesman in the restive province Abdul Karim Yurash said Thursday.

The militants threw a grenade to a medical store in Dawlatabad district on Wednesday evening, killing the owner of the store and wounding six others, the official said.

He said police had arrested one person in this regard and the arrested man admitted to his affiliation with the Taliban outfit.

Taliban group has yet to make comments.

Full report at:



What if Myanmar refuses to comply with ICJ ruling on Rohingya Muslims?

24 Jan, 2020

The ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague that Myanmar cooperates in a genocide inquiry relating to its Rohingya Muslim group raises huge questions, and a potentially nightmarish scenario for the United Nations and international community if Myanmar does not comply.

The court, in a stern and unanimous ruling on Thursday, ordered Myanmar’s government to take special measures to protect the Rohingya, a stateless group living in the western state of Rakhine who have suffered persecution by the country’s Buddhist majority for decades and were subjected to brutal assaults by the military in 2017 that killed thousands and included mass murder, rape, torture and the razing of villages.

Stating that the Rohingya remain in grave peril, the judges ordered measures including protecting them from genocidal acts and other acts of violence, preserving evidence of genocide, and requiring the Myanmar government to report back to the court within four months on the steps it has taken to do so.

The ICJ was acting on an application by Muslim-majority Gambia last November which accused Myanmar’s military of committing genocide to wipe out the Rohingya population. More than 780,000 Rohingya fled across the border into neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the onslaught.

“Thursday’s order was momentous as it effectively places Myanmar’s obligations to protect the Rohingya pursuant to the Genocide Convention under the judicial supervision of the court,” said Kingsley Abbott, senior legal adviser and coordinator of the Global Accountability Initiative of the International Commission of Jurists.

“Myanmar is legally bound to comply with the order and periodically report back to the court on the steps it has taken. It will be under significant pressure to meet its international legal obligations as it was made by the highest court in the United Nations system, whose jurisdiction it has already recognised,” he said.

But what if Myanmar refuses to comply with the IJC’s ruling, which effectively rejected claims by the government of Aung San Suu Kyi that there was no evidence of a genocide?

After all, the country’s military rulers chose to remain in isolation for decades rather than abide by the wishes of the international community to open up and move toward civilian rule, and ironically, they kept Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate, under house arrest for years.

“Then that becomes an international political question that could go to the [UN] Security Council or General Assembly,” said Priya Pillai, an international law specialist and head of the Asia Justice Coalition Secretariat. “It’s not in their interests to not comply. It was a unanimous decision by the court.”

Under the ruling, Myanmar is required to report back to the court in four months, and again six months later, which will keep its government under pressure for nearly the entire year.

Intense pressure could also come from Myanmar’s neighbours, who along with Yangon are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The government of Muslim-majority Malaysia released a statement saying the ruling was “a step in the right direction”.

“The decision reflects the serious concern of the international community on the need to address effectively the plight of the Rohingya and establish accountability and justice in respect to alleged serious human rights violations,” it said.

Human Rights Watch said the court’s order “is crucial for protecting the remaining Rohingya in Rakhine State”, calling the ethnic group “one of the world’s most persecuted people”.

It could take years for the ICJ to make a determination as to whether Myanmar’s government and military employed a deliberate policy of genocide, and while there is no deadline for the court to rule, only around 600,000 Rohingya remain in Rakhine State today.

Just hours before the court’s globally televised announcement, Yanghee Lee, the departing UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, held a press conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh, during which she cited accounts by Rohingya refugees there of “killings, torture, dismembering of body parts, slitting of throats and breasts, children being thrown into fires and gang rapes”.

Some experts fear the IJC ruling could send Myanmar’s military into a rage and prompt it to carry out revenge attacks, or incite Buddhist paramilitary units or other armed groups to do so.

“It will be interesting to see how the government will react to this,” said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, which documents the human rights situation of the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.

While noting that Suu Kyi’s government finally acknowledged that serious crimes had taken place – but still contiNUes to deny it was genocide – Lewa said it was “highly significant” the court did not include an expected provision ordering that UN investigators be allowed into Rakhine State to investigate specific crimes by the military and armed proxy groups.

This could enable Myanmar to cover up or gloss over the most heinous atrocities by its military that could be considered genocide, according to analysts.

“As the court’s jurisdiction only extends to determining state obligations, there must still be parallel criminal investigations and prosecutions to bring to justice those individuals responsible for serious human rights violations,” Abbott said.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Police nab East Jakarta resident for threatening to expel 'Chinese' from neighborhood

JaNUary 24, 2020

The Jakarta Police on Wednesday named an East Jakarta resident a suspect of hate speech after he threatened to expel "the Chinese" from the neighborhood.

The chairman of the Betawi Islam Movement (Goib), Andy M. Saleh, was arrested in his house in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta.

Andy allegedly was the mastermind behind a banner containing disturbing messages that went viral earlier this month. The banner was an invitation for people, particularly Muslims, to join a protest against the construction of a cinema near a mosque in Pusat Grosir Cililitan (PGC) shopping center in Kramat Jati.

“He made the concept, ordered the banner and put it up himself,” Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Yusri YuNUs said on Thursday as quoted by

“We’re still investigating his motives. He said he did it for financial reasons. He made and put up the banner a few days before Jan. 17, the day a protest against the theater construction was slated to be held,” he said.

The police did not elaborate on how putting up the banner would have benefited Andy financially.

The banner reads: “Join the protest to defend Islam and the pribumi (natives), and object to the construction of XXI theater near As-Sinah Mosque in PGC. The protest will be on Friday, JaNUary 17, 2020, at 1 p.m. (after Friday prayer). Let’s get the [expletive] Chinese out of our Cililitan.”

Less than 24 hours after the banner was put up, officers from the police, the military and the Public Order Agency tore it down. Shortly after that, Andy was summoned by the police to be questioned as a witness.

However, he told the press that he didn't do it for money. He said he just hated the idea of seeing a theater and a mosque close to each other.

“I didn’t want us [Muslims] to feel attacked [by the presence of the theater], hence the banner. I only wanted to invite people to stop the theater construction. I didn’t want money,” he said.

He went on to call for a negotiation between Kramat Jati residents and the PGC management regarding the matter. He claimed that the PGC management once made an agreement with the residents. However, he failed to explain what the agreement was.

“I made the banner so that the PGC management and the residents would talk,” he added.

Andy is now being detained in a Jakarta Police detainment center. He is charged under articles 156 and 55 of the Criminal Code on hate speech and Article 16 of Law No. 40/2008 on the elimination of racial and ethnic discrimination – which carry a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment. (vla)



Indonesia to increase imports from India amid Delhi-Malaysia spat: Report

JaNUary 24, 2020

Indonesia has agreed to immediately increase imports of Indian buffalo meat, sugar and auto parts after India boosted purchases of Indonesian palm oil amid a spat with rival supplier Malaysia, two Indian government sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Friday.

Indonesia and Malaysia account for 85% of the world's palm oil output while India is the biggest buyer of edible oil. India has effectively halted imports of refined palm oil from Malaysia since early JaNUary in retaliation for Malaysia's accusation that recent Indian policies discriminate against Muslims.

India is a Hindu-majority country while Malaysia is mainly Muslim.

Indonesia, the world's biggest palm oil producer and exporter, is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of India's row with Malaysia. Indonesian crude palm oil has sold at a premium to Malaysian oil since India this month placed curbs on imports of refined palm oil.

The trade ministers of India and Indonesia, which want to more than double their bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2025, met in Davos on Thursday and agreed to fast-forward trade between them, one of the informed sources said.

"This is a goal we agreed upon earlier, now the process accelerates," said the Indian source. Both declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media.

"Starting now, they have promised that they will buy a lot more meat, a lot more sugar and autos/autoparts. Palm oil imports from Indonesia will increase and there are many areas where we will export more."

The sources declined to give figures.

An Indian government document, reviewed by Reuters, said that Indonesia had "informally agreed" to double the anNUal quota for Indian bovine meat exports to 200,000 tonnes.

Indian-Indonesian trade was worth $21.2 billion in the last fiscal year that ended in March, $15.84 billion of which comprised Indian purchases.

Indonesian Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto will visit India next month to hold further talks on enhancing trade, according to one of the Indian government sources.

A spokeswoman for Indonesia's trade ministry had no immediate comment. An Indian trade ministry spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Indonesia imported 94,500 tonnes of Indian buffalo meat worth $323 million in the 2018/19 fiscal year. It is the third biggest buyer of Indian buffalo meat after Vietnam and Malaysia.

Indonesia, however, bought only 555 tonnes of sugar from India last fiscal year.

"They have now changed some of their norms to let more Indian sugar come in," said one of the sources. "In other areas, there's an ongoing process of discussion on easing regulations or standards, or increasing quotas in these areas."

Full report at:



Malaysia in the middle of Israel-Palestine conflict

JANUARY 24, 2020

In ordinary circumstances, Kuala Lumpur would be an unlikely place to find an Israeli historian.

Malaysia and other Muslim-majority countries in Southeast Asia have long been steadfast in their support for the Palestinian cause and generally refuse entry for Israeli passport holders as part of a policy of diplomatic non-recognition of Israel. Ilan Pappé, however, is no ordinary Israeli historian.

The 65-year-old academic has published over 20 books on the history of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular and has been labelled a “traitor” by some in his country for his opposition to Zionism, Israel’s national ideology and the explicitly Jewish character of the Israeli state it denotes.

“It is an ideology which believes that as much of Palestine as possible should be a Jewish state, and in it there should be as few Palestinians as possible, to put it simply,” said Pappé in an interview with Asia Times, relaying a central theme of his “Palestine Is Still The Issue” lecture delivered recently in the Malaysian capital.

During his visit, Pappé met privately with veteran politician Anwar Ibrahim, the man widely presumed to become Malaysia’s next prime minister. Anwar wrote afterwards in an Instagram post that Pappé’s books On Palestine (2005) and The Idea of Israel (2014) had “opened my eyes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Like elsewhere in the Muslim world, support for Palestine is articulated by those in the highest positions of government in Malaysia and can often unify otherwise divided political forces. Critics, however, regard such activism as religiosity-infused domestic posturing rather than a broader recognition of human rights.

Even so, Pappé acknowledges Malaysia as being particularly proactive in its recognition of Palestinian statehood and even sees glimmers of a solution in the Southeast Asian nation’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious social compact. That is despite persistent allegations that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad holds anti-Semitic views.

At a summit of Islamic leaders and state representatives held in Kuala Lumpur last month, the 94-year-old premier accused the world of closing “both eyes, and their mouths and their ears” to Israeli aggression against Palestinians and called for Tel Aviv to face justice in an international tribunal.

Analysts regarded the summit – attended by the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Qatar – as underscoring divisions within the Muslim world following criticism of the gathering by Saudi Arabia, the traditional gatekeeper of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which some regard as having quietly cozied up to Tel Aviv in recent years.

Pappé left Israel in 2007 after losing his teaching position at the University of Haifa and has received death threats over his political activism and revisionist historical account of Israel’s creation in 1948. He says his advocacy for the human and civil rights of Palestinians was shaped by the trauma of the Holocaust.

“My parents escaped from Germany in the 1930s before the rise of the Nazis to power, but most of their immediate family were killed. It’s an important factor that shapes my moral position,” said Pappé, who is now a professor at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies.

The nature of the Israeli state under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he maintains, is one that consciously enforces “an apartheid model”, describing the global divide over Palestine as pitting solidarity-committed activists and civil society groups against political elites aligned with Tel Aviv for strategic, commercial and ideological reasons.

Israel has worked to establish closer military and security ties with Southeast Asia in recent years, becoming a key arms supplier to the Philippines, Myanmar and others. But for the region’s Muslim-majority countries, Israel’s adherence to the two-state solution set out in the 1993 Oslo Accords remains a general pre-condition for diplomatic engagement.

Political currents in Israel, however, are flowing in the opposite direction.

In July, Israel adopted a divisive law declaring the country a Jewish state in which Jews enjoy “an exclusive right to national self-determination”, stoking the ire of Arab lawmakers in the Knesset or parliament who regard the legislation as institutionalizing discrimination toward Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up around 20% of the nation’s nine million population.

Muslim-majority Southeast Asian states are making countervailing moves. In October, Malaysia announced plans to open an embassy accredited to Palestine in the Jordanian capital Amman to better facilitate aid to Palestinians. This followed Tel Aviv’s refusal to grant Malaysian officials access to the West Bank city of Ramallah over what the Israeli foreign ministry called Mahathir’s “extremist anti-Israel and anti-Semitic policy.”

The outspoken 94-year-old Malaysian premier, now in his second teNUre after ruling from 1981-2003, is known to brush aside such criticisms. Mahathir famously alleged that Jews “rule the world by proxy” at a 2003 summit of the OIC and refused to walk back his description of Jews as “hook-nosed” in a BBC interview last year.

“I think that in the past he used to generalize about the Jews, which was not helpful,” Pappé remarked.

Nonetheless, in the wake of controversial decisions by the US, Brazil and others to relocate their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Israeli academic praised Malaysia’s opening of an embassy for Palestinians in Jordan as a move that would help to “re-politicize” the issue.

“An important part of the present coalition against the Palestinians is their attempt to depoliticize the Palestine issue and turn it into an economic issue, and to say that Palestinians have no national rights, no political rights and so on,” he said in reference to the Donald Trump administration’s so-called “deal of the century.”

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, last year unveiled a $50 billion Middle East peace plan aimed in part at lifting the economies of the West Bank and Gaza. The offer was widely panned by Palestinian officials for papering over the political and security dimensions of Israel’s occupation, the resolution of which Palestinians regard as a prerequisite for their prosperity.

“Palestine is still a political issue. It’s an issue of human rights, of civil rights, of collective rights, of self-determination, of the right of return and not an economic problem of poverty or unemployment,” said Pappé. “This aspect of Mahathir’s policy I think is welcome.”

The dissident Israeli scholar also maintains that Tel Aviv has unreasonably leveled accusations of anti-Semitism against critics. For example, Netanyahu last month accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of anti-Semitism over its chief prosecutor’s plan to pursue a war crimes probe in the Palestinian Territories.

“Israel has weaponized anti-Semitism in order to stifle any criticism and debate because its international legitimacy, its moral standing, has been dramatically eroded,” claimed Pappé, who called for a clear distinction to be made between criticism of Zionism as an ideology and prejudice against followers of Judaism when evaluating anti-Semitic labelling.

“It’s meant to intimidate. It’s meant to stifle people. But it depends a lot about you, whether you’re willing to be intimidated,” he told Asia Times. “From the very beginning of my writing, I have dealt with accusations of betrayal, of treason. If you believe in what you do and you are at peace with yourself, you can withstand even worse than that.”

As a proponent of a democratic bi-national state where Israelis and Palestinians would live as equal citizens under a single flag, Pappé remarked that he found multi-ethnic Malaysia to be “important not just in terms of establishing the solidarity movement, but also in terms of thinking about a solution.”

Malaysia, he said “offers many ways of looking at Islam’s relationship with other religions. The ability of people here to be of different faiths and different religions, both secular people, less secular, more religious – and without claiming this is a love story – it looks on the face of it, and in many parts of it, a good solution.”

While mindful not to overstate the degree to which geNUine harmony across racial and religious lines have been realized in Malaysia, Pappé opted to describe the country as “a people that have boarded a train headed in the right direction.”

Full report at:



Penang religious body accused of delay tactics in wakaf land case

Predeep Nambiar

JaNUary 24, 2020

GEORGE TOWN: Lawyers acting for the family of a Penang real estate tycoon in the 1800s today slammed the Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP) for allegedly employing stalling tactics by getting a new legal team midway through the hearing of the suit involving wakaf land.

This was after MAINPP let go of their three lawyers led by ZaiNUl Rijal Abu Bakar, who is also the Malaysia Muslim Lawyers’ Association chief, late last month.

The trading of barbs began today when MAINPP’s new lead counsel Shaikh Mohamed Tawfeek Badjenid told the court they would need three months to look into the facts of the case and evidence tendered in court in the suit brought by the family of Shaik Eusoff Shaik Latiff.

Tawfeek said he and his team were appointed on Jan 16, with a wakalah or authorisation letter from the MAINPP today. He also told the court that the previous lawyers have yet to surrender the case files to them.

“This request is to allow us to prepare our expert witnesses and as you know it is not a straightforward case,” Tawfeek said.

This angered lawyer for the plaintiff Rafie Mohd Shafie who said that such a long extension would only put the court process in contempt as the trial had been going on since 2017.

“The action by MAINPP to let go of their earlier lawyers is mala fide (in bad faith) and unreasonable. How are we to guarantee that there would be no change of lawyers midway again?

“They ask for a three-month extension which is too long. If they were to have their way, we would have to wait another 100 years for justice. Are you asking us to wait for another 100 years?” he asked.

Another lawyer for the plaintiff Akberdin Abdul Kader said with two more expert witnesses to be called, an extension of time was not possible as it was difficult to get an appointment with them.

“MAINPP is clearly changing horses in midstream. This is unacceptable,” he said.

Tawfeek said there was no bad faith on the part of the council.

“This is not a tactic to delay the case. We are here not to win but to get the truth out, that is our purpose” he said. “The lawyers were not let go, they quit halfway.”

Judge Mohd YuNUs Mohamad Zin then reminded MAINPP’s new lawyers that the case was of public interest.

“The MAINPP must also order the earlier lawyers to give all necessary documents to the new lawyers right away,” he said.

YuNUs then told Tawfeek and his team that they would have a month before the next court dates on March 30 and 31 to look into the case. He also vacated the earlier trial dates and set new dates for the case.

The new dates are Apr 17 and 24; May 12 to 15; and June 23 to 25.

Besides Rafie and Akberdin, Yuslinov Ahmad, also appeared for the plaintiff. Assisting Tawfeek as defence counsel were Faizal Arif Tajul Ariffin, and Ahmed Muzambir Abd Razak.

The case involves a RM300 million wakaf land left by the late tycoon, where he willed that the land be used for Muslim endowment purposes for 21 years and returned to the family after that.

The MAINPP had claimed that the land had to be in endowment in perpetuity, while Shaik Eusoff’s lawyers said that the will was essentially unIslamic as no property could be partially given up for 21 years.

The family lawyers also say hence the land was wrongly acquired by the MAINPP, as it was willed to their family under civil law.

Full report at:



Muhammadiyah issues fatwa against e-cigarettes, vaping

JaNUary 25, 2020

Muhammadiyah has declared electronic cigarettes and vaping as haram in a fatwa issued recently by the second biggest Muslim organization in the country.

The organization’s central executive board's tarjih (lawmaking) and tadjid (reform) council outlined the fatwa in a decree on e-cigarettes issued on Jan. 14 in Yogyakarta.

Wawan Gunawan Abdul Wahid, a member of the council's fatwa and guidance development division, said the fatwa was issued to underline Muhammadiyah’s stance against all kinds of cigarettes.

“Smoking electronic cigarettes is haram, just like smoking conventional cigarettes, because it is categorized as a form of consumption that can damage or endanger [the user's health]," Wawan said on Friday as quoted by

Like conventional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes contain addictive substances and toxic chemicals, Wawan said, emphasizing that e-cigarettes were as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes.

“Those who do not smoke should not let themselves or their family members [smoke] electronic cigarettes, while those who are already active smokers must try their best to stop,” Wawan said.

He also said Muhammadiyah had advised the central government and regional governments to institute a total ban on tobacco products and e-cigarettes, including banning sales, distribution, ads, promotions and sponsorships.

Muhammadiyah is by far the first of the biggest Islamic group in the archipelago to declare a fatwa against vaping. The country's biggest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and even the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) have yet to issue a fatwa that strictly declares e-cigarettes as haram.

Full report at:



Arab World


Iraq’s top cleric calls for formation of new government

24 JaNUary 2020

Iraq’s leading Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani, urged Iraq’s political parties on Friday to form a new government as soon as possible, and urged authorities to respect protesters’ right to express themselves.

Sistani, who delivered his message through a representative at Friday prayer in the holy city of Karbala, reiterated calls to foreign powers to respect Iraq's sovereignty.



Tahrir Protesters Reject ‘Political’ Million-Man March, Foreign Influence

24 JaNUary 2020

A short distance from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, Reem al-Obeid sat and watched as, next to the tent that has been her home for some four months, a group of young men fashioned makeshift shields from discarded oil drums.

Some drilled holes into the walls of the barrels, cut vertically down the middle, in order to attach a handle for better maneuverability. Others painted satirical slogans directed against the security forces, whose excessive use of force has seen hundreds of Reem’s fellow protesters killed since a massive popular uprising began last October.

A few kilometers away, thousands had gathered at a parallel march called by prominent Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr calling for the expulsion of American troops from Iraq. For Reem, it was a distraction from the real goals of the uprising.

“The march today had a political purpose, we don’t have any relationship with it,” said the young protester, her black hair and red sweater mirroring the colors of the Iraqi flag wrapped around her shoulders on this cold JaNUary morning.

“Our demands are clear, and our position is stronger than theirs,” she said.

Reem and her fellow protesters have for months been demanding an end to foreign interference, an end to widespread government corruption and economic mismanagement, and an improved electoral law.

However, since a US airstrike in Baghdad killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on JaNUary 3, a huge spike in tensions between the US, Iran, and their local allies has threatened to draw attention away from the popular anti-government uprising.

Friday’s march saw Iraqis in their thousands congregate from around the country, trampling US flags on the ground and shouting, “No, no America.”

The administration of US President Donald Trump has so far said it will not pull its 500-plus troops out of Iraq, although during a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Trump simply said, “We’ll make a determination soon.”

Fresh from the march, one attendee said it had been against any foreign interference. “None of us want anyone to come in and interfere with Iraqi concerns, whether Iran or America or Turkey,” said Walid, a teacher with a grey beard and an Iraqi flag stuck into his camouflage baseball cap.

For protesters in Tahrir, however, the morning march was too closely tied to America’s regional foe, Iran, which has been for some years increasing its influence in Iraq. Sadr himself visited Shia groups in Iran earlier this month to discuss the withdrawal of US forces, while the event was backed by pro-Iran factions such as the Popular Mobilization Units, a group of militia backed to varying degrees by Tehran.

Rejecting foreign influence

Supervising the shield makers was Abu Mustafa, a 49-year-old man with a kindly expression. His primary concern was to help the young men around him to protect themselves. Over 600 protesters have been killed since the uprising began, with 12 killings reported this week alone, according to an Amnesty International report.

As the shield makers worked on Friday, six of their fellow protestors were killed nearby and 54 others wounded, according to medical sources

These rudimentary shields, he said, were designed to protect against the military-grade smoke and tear-gas grenades that Iraqi security forces have been shooting directly at protesters, to deadly effect.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia’s al-Jubeir says Iranian regime must change its behavior

24 January 2020

"How can we engage in dialogue with Tehran," when the Iranian constitution instructs that the Iranian regime must export the Islamic revolution, says Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir.

Al-Jubeir was speaking during his official visit to Hungary on Friday and where he met with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs also said that the Iranian narrative was twofold and that the Iranian regime must change its behavior.

"Sanctions were imposed on Iran because of its behavior in the region and not at our desire," al-Jubeir said.

“The Kingdom did not target Iran neither by missiles nor by militias, so it should stop this,” he added.

Full report at:



Syria war: Jihadist assault 'kills dozens of soldiers'

23 JaNUary 2020

Up to 40 Syrian soldiers have been killed in an assault by hundreds of militants in north-western Syria, according to Russia's defence ministry.

The ministry, which supports Syria's government, said there were several attacks in which the militants seized two settlements in Idlib province.

Syrian state media said members of a jihadist alliance had set off car bombs and used heavy fire as they targeted positions in the Maarat al-NUman area.

But they did not mention casualties.

A Syrian military source was cited as saying army units were redeployed to the area and eventually repelled the attacks "with high efficiency".

A spokesman for National Liberation Front rebel alliance, Naji Mustafa, said the assault had taken place earlier this week.

Idlib is the last stronghold of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad and home to three million people, of whom 76% are women and children.

Meanwhile, rescue workers reported that Russian air strikes killed at least eight civilians across the region on Thursday.

The Syria Civil Defence, whose volunteers are known as the White Helmets, said a women and her two children had died in the village of Arnabah after midnight, and that three children and two adults died when the town of Saraqeb was bombed.

On Tuesday, air strikes by Russian and Syrian government warplanes reportedly killed at least 28 people, including a family of eight in the village of Kfar Taal.

The European Union condemned the repeated air strikes and shelling of targeting civilians on Thursday, saying they were "unacceptable and must cease".

"The EU will keep the sanctions against the Assad regime under review as long as these brutal attacks contiNUe," it added.

The incidents came as pro-government forces contiNUed their offensive in Idlib.

Almost 350,000 civilians, 80% of them women and children, have been displaced by the fighting since hostilities escalated at the start of December, the United Nations has said.

An estimated 400,000 fled their homes between May and August. The International Rescue Committee has warned that 650,000 could be at risk of displacement if the violence contiNUes

A cessation of hostilities agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey, which backs the opposition, went into effect earlier this month, but the violence has contiNUed.

The UN has said the current crisis is compounding an already dire humanitarian situation in north-western Syria, where 32% of the newly displaced are living in camps or individual tents.

The winter weather is adding another layer of urgency to the situation, with flooding frequently affecting camps and informal settlements, and many families seeking shelter in unfinished buildings.

Full report at:



Militants set off car bombs, storm army positions in Syria's Idlib: state news agency

JANUARY 23, 2020

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Militants in Syria set off car bombs and used heavy gunfire to storm army positions in Idlib on Thursday, state news agency SANA reported.

The militant attack forced the army to redeploy and clashes were ongoing, SANA added.

Idlib is the last rebel-held swathe of territory in the country and hundreds of thousands of people in the area have fled in recent weeks amid heavy airstrikes by Russian and Syrian forces.



Four workers of French Christian NGO, including Iraqi member, missing in Baghdad

24 JaNUary 2020

Four employees of a French Christian NGO, three French nationals and one Iraqi, have been missing in Baghdad since Monday, the charity announced Friday.

The four members of the influential SOS Chretiens d’Orient (Christians of the Middle East) charity went missing near the French embassy in the Iraqi capital, the organization’s director Benjamin Blanchard told a press conference in Paris.

No ransom demand has been received as yet and no group has claimed responsibility for their disappearance, he added.

SOS Chretiens d’Orient has been working with Christians in Iraq since 2014 when ISIS overran the province of Mosul, displacing tens of thousands of minority Christians and Yazidis.

It is principally active in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil, where many Christians sought refuge.

Full report at:



Six Iraqi protesters killed, 54 wounded in clashes with police: Sources

24 JaNUary 2020

At least six protesters were killed and 54 others wounded on Friday in clashes with security forces in central Baghdad, according to medical sources.

The police used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse a protest that broke out in the early evening at Baghdad’s Mohammed al-Qassim highway, they said.



Pro-Amal supporters shown attacking Lebanese protesters in southern Beirut

24 JaNUary 2020

Pro-Amal supporters were seen attacking Lebanese protesters, including women, with sticks in southern Beirut, videos circulated by activists have shown.

The incident took place in the Jnah suburb of southern Beirut on Friday close to the Council for South building.

One video, in particular, showed a woman who was filming the gathering before being approached by two men holding sticks before being hit by one of the men. The women shouted that she is from the area before falling to the ground upon being attacked.

Another video showed a group of Amal supporters attacking a bus filled with protesters who planned to gather in the area to demonstrate.

According to one Lebanese activist on Twitter, at least 15 people were injured during the attacks on protesters in Jnah.

Supporters of Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal have attacked peaceful demonstrators on several occasions since the widespread protest movement first began in October.

Full report at:



We must pressure Iran to avoid bigger conflict: Prince Khalid bin Salman

24 JaNUary 2020

Saudi Arabia has a strong relationship with the US and is working to counter Iranian escalation to avoid a regional war, said Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman in a wide-ranging interview, obtained in full by Al Arabiya English, in which he also discussed Yemen and Lebanon.

“The Saudi-US relationship is strong and it has been strong for seven decades,” said Prince Khalid who also pointed to the importance of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and cooperation on counterterrorism in the region.

In contrast to Saudi Arabia’s “forward-moving vision,” epitomized by the Vision 2030 reform plan, Iran is working to destabilize the region, said Prince Khalid in an interview with VICE media channel conducted on July 27, 2018.

“We have Vision 2030, they have vision 1979,” he said, referring to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which led to the establishment of the current regime.

“Iran wants to export the revolution. Iran has an expansionist ideology. Iran wants other states in the region not to be partners, but to be under the Iranian expansionist project,” added Prince Khalid.

Al Arabiya English


"We have Vision 2030 that is moving us forward, and they have vision 1979 that is trying to move the region and Saudi Arabia backward," says Saudi Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman, referring to Iran. …

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One way in which Iran has promoted its malign influence is through terrorism, said Prince Khalid, who said the Iranian regime and its proxies, and ISIS and al-Qaeda, were the two main terrorist threats to the region and “two sides of the same coin.”

Prince Khalid was also asked about Saudi Arabia and Iran’s respective role in Lebanon and Yemen.

“We send tourists to Lebanon, Iran sends terrorists to Lebanon. We send businessmen, Iran sends military advisers,” he said, referring to Iran’s military and political support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by countries including the US and UK.

“We want the Lebanese people to advance, to be a prosperous country. Iran wants Lebanon to fight its own wars. Iran wants Lebanon to be their own expansionist project in Tehran,” he added.

When asked about the conflict in Yemen, Prince Khalid said that Saudi Arabia had become involved to end the war, which he said was started when the Houthis moved south and started “killing and slaughtering the Yemeni people and threatening the central government of Yemen.”

Prince Khalid added that Saudi Arabia remained committed to a political solution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council resolution 2216, which calls for the UN-recognized government to reestablish control over the country.

“[The Houthis] need to choose between being an Iranian militia in Yemen, another Hezbollah in Yemen, launching ballistic missiles and having heavy weapons, or being a political party in Yemen. We want them to be part of Yemen, not part of Iran,” he said.

Full report at:



Saudi Arabia to host World Economic Forum Middle East Summit

24 January 2020

Saudi Arabia will host a World Economic Forum (WEF) “special meeting” on the Middle East in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in April, WEF President Borge Brende announced in Davos.

“The next Middle East summit will be held in Saudi Arabia on the 5 and 6 of April this year,” Brende said.

In partnership with Saudi Arabia’s G20 Secretariat, the WEF aims to “provide the region’s stakeholders the opportunity to assume a proactive posture,” according to the official announcement on the WEF website.

The Kingdom also assumed the presidency of the G20 in December of last year, making it the first time the summit will be hosted by an Arab nation.

The WEF meeting considers Saudi Arabia’s presidency “a unique opportunity for the entire region to take a global view of its future.”

The theme of the WEF meeting will be the Fourth Industrial Revolution, highlighting the complex technological change and the attendant need for industry, government, and civil society to work together to shape it.

Other transformative issues that the WEF has long-standing work on will also serve as a base to build on during the meeting, the announcement added.

Full report at:



Iraq million-man demonstrated outright rejection of US occupation: Hezbollah

25 January 2020

The Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has lauded Friday’s million-strong march in Iraq against the presence of US troops in the Arab country, stating that the demonstration well exhibited Iraqis’ total rejection of American occupation.

“The Iraqi people confirmed today their outright rejection of US occupation of their country once again. These blessed and loyal masses displayed the unity of the Iraqi nation in the face of American occupation and hegemony,” Hezbollah said in a statement released on Friday.

It added that the mass protest in Baghdad against US troop presence in Iraq was a “true representation of the status quo in Arab and Muslim societies, where people are fed up with US occupation and its dominion over their resources.”

Hezbollah expressed hope that the anti-US demonstration in Iraq would spell the beginning of huge protest rallies across the Muslim world that would eventually result in the expulsion of US forces and their proxies from the entire West Asia.

“The great Iraqi nation, including all political parties and diverse inclinations, will be faithful to this great march, its principles, goals as well as mottos,” the Lebanese resistance movement pointed out, hoping for a “free, unified and independent Iraq free from foreign occupation forces and their interference.”

Sadr thanks Iraqi nation for high turnout

Meanwhile, influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has praised the Iraqi nation for heeding to his call and gathering on the streets of Baghdad on Friday to protest the United States military presence, describing the huge turnout as a matter for pride.

“Oh Iraqis, you melted our hearts. You brought us glory and raised our hopes. You angered our enemy. So, God recorded a good deed for you all. May God reward you with the best reward for Iraq and its nation,” Sadr wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page.

‘Iraq mass protest a step towards expulsion of US forces’

Separately, Yemeni Information Minister Dhaifallah al-Shami hailed the million-man demonstration against US military presence in Iraq, describing it as a historical event and a step towards expulsion of American troops.

“The massive demonstration in Iraq marks a historical event and a step in the right direction to expel US forces from the region,” Shami wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page.

He added, “Yemen has proved that mass demonstrations are capable of bringing down US hegemony, and that the people of the region are able to end the US presence.”

US forces advised to pack up and leave Iraq immediately

Additionally, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq has lauded the mass turnout in the anti-US demonstration in Baghdad, stating that the million-strong march to demand the withdrawal of US troops from the country brought glory to Arabs and Muslims worldwide.

Sheikh Humam Hamoudi highlighted that Iraqis do not accept by means the violation of their sovereignty, calling on American soldiers to pack their bags and leave right away.

Ameri: US administration must heed Iraqis’ call

Moreover, the leader of the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance at the Iraqi parliament, Hadi al-Ameri, said the Iraqi people sent out a clear message to US statesmen by their mass turnout in Friday’s demonstration.

“The Iraqi people demanded the departure of American forces from Iraq. The US administration must therefore respect it,” he wrote in a statement on Friday.

He added, “We thank all strata of the Iraqi society, who participated in the million-strong demonstration. We express gratitude to His Eminence Muqtada al-Sadr for his call to the demonstration. We also thank all national forces that reject foreign military presence in Iraq. We have been able and are able to achieve security and preserve sovereignty throughout Iraq.”

On JaNUary 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill demanding the withdrawal.

Later on JaNUary 9, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Full report at:



Syria forces close in on key militant-held city in Idlib: Monitor

24 January 2020

Syrian forces have made decisive advances towards a key city in the northwestern province of Idlib, which contains the largest remaining concentrations of Takfiri terrorists in the Arab country, a monitor says.

The UK-based so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the forces had seized two villages to the south of Maaret al-NUman on Friday, which gave them the strategic edge they need to return the city under government control.

"Deir Sharqi and Deir Gharbi [villages] are the keys to capturing Maaret al-NUman," it reported.

The Syrian forces were now only four kilometers (two miles) from Maaret al-NUman, it added, saying as many as 23 were killed during the battles that enabled the advance.

Over the past many years, Damascus has been enlisting the assistance of its allies, Iran and Russia, to help it contain the foreign-backed militancy and terrorism that has cost thousands of lives since affecting the country in 2011.

President Bashar al-Assad has invariably pledged to bring back every inch of Syria’s soil under sovereign control.

The joint counter-terrorism drive has been consistently pushing against the deadly outfits. In late 2017, it led to the defeat of the Takfiri terror group of Daesh, and has forced hordes of other Takfiri terrorists to retreat almost entirely to Idlib.

Full report at:



'Idiot' Trump had better pull out troops from Iraq voluntarily: Hashd al-Sha’abi leader

24 JaNUary 2020

President Donald Trump had better voluntarily order the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq before they are forced out, says a high-ranking official from the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi.

“Today all Iraqis, men and women, have poured out onto the streets to send out one clear message to the whole world: There is no place for foreign forces to be present on the Iraqi soil. Thanks to all Iraqis who heeded the call to attend the demonstration and participated in it. Thanks to the support offered by politicians, tribal figures, academics as well as journalists,”  Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, which is part of the PMU, said in a statement released on Friday.

He also expressed profound gratitude to influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who initially called on Iraqis to join protests against the presence of US forces in the country.

“As for idiot Trump, the million-man march put across a clear message: If you do not leave willingly, you will then deserve a kick in the face,” the PMU leader stated.

Iraqis want sovereign state far from interference, diktats: President Salih

The Iraqi president, Barham Salih, says his nation wants a state whose sovereignty is not violated by any means and its decisions are not manipulated by foreign interference and diktats at all.

“Iraqis insist on a state whose sovereignty is not violated, and is far from (foreign) interference and diktats. Iraqis desire a state that guarantees their security and rights, and maintains peace and stability in relations with its neighbors,” Salih wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page on Friday.

'All options on table to remove US forces'

Furthermore, an Iraqi parliamentarian has said “all options are on the table” concerning the removal of US forces, either through diplomacy or by force.

“American proxies will be not be able to break the will of the Iraqi people regarding the removal of the occupier from the country. We stand with the demonstrators’ demands. We want a homeland as they wish. They are looking for a homeland, where the occupier, murderers, terrorists and those responsible for the assassination of leaders of victory have been expelled, away from the will of the US embassy,” Mohammad Karim, a member of the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance at the Iraqi parliament, told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency on Friday.

“All options have been offered to remove US forces from Iraq in a peaceful, calm and diplomatic manner. If they refuse to leave, they will then be treated as occupying forces, and will be driven out by force accordingly.”

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis demonstrated in central Baghdad on Friday, calling for the expulsion of US troops.

On JaNUary 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill demanding the withdrawal.

Late on JaNUary 9, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Full report at:



Saudi-led military committee moves heavy weapons outside Aden

JaNUary 25, 2020

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A military committee led by Saudi officers in Yemen has transported heavy weapons from bases in the southern port city of Aden, a committee member told Arab News on Friday.

“We’ve moved tanks, cannons and ammunition from Aden military bases to a military outpost in Ras Abbas, on the outskirts of Aden,” said the member on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Under the Riyadh Agreement, the internationally recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council are obliged to hand over their heavy weapons to the Saudi-led military committee, which is tasked with collecting them at a location outside Aden before dispatching them to battlefields.

The committee is also charged with making other security and military arrangements, including the withdrawal of forces from the southern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan.

The Riyadh Agreement, signed in the Saudi capital in November, was designed to defuse tensions between both sides following bloody clashes last year in Aden, Shabwa and Abyan.

Residents in Aden reported seeing columns of lorries carrying tanks leaving military bases and heading to the city’s outskirts.

Despite failing to meet some deadlines included in the Riyadh Agreement, many of its terms have been implemented.

These include the return of the prime minister, the partial withdrawal of forces, an exchange of prisoners and the process of disarmament.

Following the relocation of military units, Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is expected to appoint a new governor for Aden before forming a new government.

On the battlefield, heavy fighting contiNUed on Friday in the Nehim district just outside Houthi-held Sanaa as government forces, backed by Saudi-led warplanes, pushed forward to pave the way for the liberation of the capital. Dozens have been killed since Wednesday as both sides claimed gains on the ground.

In Marib, senior army commanders on Friday said the army would keep pressing its offensive until the Houthis are expelled from Sanaa.

At a meeting attended by the Saudi-led coalition commander in Marib, Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamed Al-Muzaini, Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Mohammed Ali Al-Maqdashi said the Yemeni Army is determined to push the Houthis out of Sanaa and other areas under their control, and to work on restoring state institutions.

Full report at:





Kuwait summons Iran envoy over Soleimani killing claim

25 JaNUary 2020

Kuwait’s foreign ministry summoned Iran’s ambassador Friday after a high-level Iranian official implicated the emirate in the US drone attack that killed top general Qassem Soleimani, official news agency KUNA reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah expressed Kuwait’s “amazement” at the claim that one of its air bases had been among those used to carry out the JaNUary 3 attack, KUNA said.

It said he was referring to a statement by Brigadier-General Amirali Hajizadeh, aerospace commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

“MQ-9 UAVs (drones) were flying in the region (at the time of the attack) that had mostly taken off from Kuwait’s Ali al-Salem” base, Hajizadeh told Iranian state television Thursday.

Jarallah told the ambassador, Mohammed Irani, that Kuwait had already denied any role in the deadly attack in Baghdad.

He said such a claim “risks damaging relations” between Kuwait and Iran.

Soleimani had been at the center of power-broking in the region for two decades as chief of Iran’s external operations Quds Force of the elite Revolutionary Guards.



Powerful earthquake shakes eastern Turkey, killing 20

24 JaNUary 2020

The toll from a powerful earthquake that hit eastern Turkey on Friday has risen to 20 people dead, the government's disaster agency said.

Thirteen people died in Elazig province and five more were killed in the neighbouring province of Malatya, the disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD).

The earthquake of magnitude 6.9 struck eastern Turkey on Friday, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said. The quake had a depth of 10 kilometers, according to EMSC.

State media in neighboring Syria reported the earthquake was felt in several areas of the country. Local media in Lebanon reported the same in the cities of Beirut and Tripoli.

Full report at:



We must pressure Iran to avoid bigger conflict: Prince Khalid bin Salman

24 JaNUary 2020

Saudi Arabia has a strong relationship with the US and is working to counter Iranian escalation to avoid a regional war, said Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman in a wide-ranging interview, obtained in full by Al Arabiya English, in which he also discussed Yemen and Lebanon.

“The Saudi-US relationship is strong and it has been strong for seven decades,” said Prince Khalid who also pointed to the importance of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and cooperation on counterterrorism in the region.

In contrast to Saudi Arabia’s “forward-moving vision,” epitomized by the Vision 2030 reform plan, Iran is working to destabilize the region, said Prince Khalid in an interview with VICE media channel conducted on July 27, 2018.

“We have Vision 2030, they have vision 1979,” he said, referring to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which led to the establishment of the current regime.

“Iran wants to export the revolution. Iran has an expansionist ideology. Iran wants other states in the region not to be partners, but to be under the Iranian expansionist project,” added Prince Khalid.

Al Arabiya English


"We have Vision 2030 that is moving us forward, and they have vision 1979 that is trying to move the region and Saudi Arabia backward," says Saudi Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman, referring to Iran. …

Embedded video


8:06 PM - Jan 24, 2020

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One way in which Iran has promoted its malign influence is through terrorism, said Prince Khalid, who said the Iranian regime and its proxies, and ISIS and al-Qaeda, were the two main terrorist threats to the region and “two sides of the same coin.”

Prince Khalid was also asked about Saudi Arabia and Iran’s respective role in Lebanon and Yemen.

“We send tourists to Lebanon, Iran sends terrorists to Lebanon. We send businessmen, Iran sends military advisers,” he said, referring to Iran’s military and political support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by countries including the US and UK.

“We want the Lebanese people to advance, to be a prosperous country. Iran wants Lebanon to fight its own wars. Iran wants Lebanon to be their own expansionist project in Tehran,” he added.

When asked about the conflict in Yemen, Prince Khalid said that Saudi Arabia had become involved to end the war, which he said was started when the Houthis moved south and started “killing and slaughtering the Yemeni people and threatening the central government of Yemen.”

Prince Khalid added that Saudi Arabia remained committed to a political solution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council resolution 2216, which calls for the UN-recognized government to reestablish control over the country.

“[The Houthis] need to choose between being an Iranian militia in Yemen, another Hezbollah in Yemen, launching ballistic missiles and having heavy weapons, or being a political party in Yemen. We want them to be part of Yemen, not part of Iran,” he said.

Full report at:



Yemeni troops, allies seize strategic areas east of Sana’a from pro-Hadi forces

24 JaNUary 2020

Yemeni army forces, backed by allied fighters from the Popular Committees, have reportedly seized strategic areas in the country’s capital province of Sana’a from Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network, citing Yemeni military sources, reported on Friday that Yemeni soldiers and their allies have managed to wrest control over key areas in the Nihm district, which lies east of the capital Sana’a.

The sources added that the areas cover an expanse of some 3,000 square kilometers, and oversee regions in the neighboring Ma’rib province.

The report added that Yemeni army soldiers and fighters the Popular Committees had taken control of dozens of positions belonging to militants from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Salafist Islah Party.

Also on Friday, three civilians suffered gunshot wounds when Saudi border guards opened fire at residential neighborhoods in the Shada'a district of Yemen’s mountainous northwestern province of Sa’ada.

Elsewhere in Yemen's northwestern province of ‘Amran, Saudi fighter jets carried out three airstrikes against a NUmber of areas in the Dhi Bin district. There were, however, no immediate reports about possible casualties and the extent of damage caused.

Saudi Arabia and a NUmber of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past four and a half years.

Full report at:



Several Palestinians injured as Israeli forces storm Al-Aqsa Mosque

24 JaNUary 2020

Israeli forces have injured a NUmber of Palestinians in an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds aimed at preventing worshipers from performing Friday prayers.

Palestinian media say the Israelis stormed the mosque in order to keep Palestinian worshipers from performing Friday prayers.

The Israeli troops fired rubber bullets, injuring a NUmber of Palestinians, according to Palestinian media. Several others were also detained.

Earlier Friday, another mosque in Beit Safafa neighborhood of the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds was set ablaze by Israeli arsonists. The blaze was brought under control and there was no serious damage to the mosque, Israeli media reports said.

There was also a graffiti on a nearby wall attacking Arabs.

A photo from the scene showed graffiti in Hebrew that reads: “Destroying Jews? Kumi Ori is destroying enemies!”

Kumi Ori is a flash point and illegal outpost neighborhood of the Yitzhar settlement in the West Bank, accommodating seven Israeli families along with roughly a dozen extremists known as hilltop youth.

Israeli forces have on various occasions stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque which is holy to Muslims. The Palestinian people consider the Israeli attacks an act of aggression.

The fresh attacks come as US President Donald Trump is to unveil his so-called "Deal of the Century" initiative. Palestinians say they will reject the US president’s plan.

Full report at:



Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

JaNUary 25, 2020

JERUSALEM: Israeli police launched a manhunt on Friday after an apparent arson attack, accompanied by Hebrew-language graffiti, at a mosque in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

“Police were summoned to a mosque in Beit Safafa, in Jerusalem, following a report of arson in one of the building’s rooms and spraying of graffiti on a nearby wall outside the building,” a police statement said.

“A wide-scale search is taking place in Jerusalem,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. “We believe that the incident took place overnight. We are searching for suspects.”

The spokesman would not say if police viewed it as a hate crime. The graffiti, on a wall in the mosque compound and viewed by an AFP journalist, contained the name Kumi Ori, a small settlement outpost in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Times of Israel newspaper said on Friday that the wildcat outpost “is home to seven families along with roughly a dozen extremist Israeli teens.”

“Earlier this month security forces razed a pair of illegally built settler homes in the outpost,” it reported.

All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.

The paper said: “A NUmber of young settlers living there were involved in a string of violent attacks on Palestinians and (Israeli) security forces.”

Police said that nobody was injured in the mosque incident.

The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property in revenge for nationalistic attacks against Israelis or Israeli government moves against unauthorized outposts like Kumi Ori.

“This is price tag,” Israeli Arab lawmaker Osama Saadi told AFP at the scene.

“The settlers didn’t only write words, they also burned the place and they burnt a Qur’an,” said Saadi, who lives in the area.

Ismail Awwad, the local mayor, said he called the police after he found apparent evidence of arson, pointing to an empty can he said had contained petrol or some other accelerant and scorch marks in the burned room.

“The fire in the mosque burned in many straight lines which is a sign that somebody poured inflammable material,” he said.

There was damage to an interior prayer room but the building’s structure was unharmed.

In December, more than 160 cars were vandalized in the Shuafaat neighborhood of east Jerusalem with anti-Arab slogans scrawled nearby.

Full report at:





Libya's Neighbors, Global Envoys Seek Solutions to Conflict

Jan. 23, 2020

ALGIERS, Algeria — Top diplomats from Libya's neighboring countries and beyond met in the Algerian capital on Thursday amid intensifying international efforts to end the conflict tearing apart the oil-rich North African country.

The meeting brought together foreign ministers from Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia and Mali. All of the nations but Mali border Libya, and all have suffered fallout from the fighting between the forces of Libya's U.N.-backed government in Tripoli and eastern-based forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

World powers are pushing both sides to respect a tentative truce.

“Libya has been in turmoil. The conflict there has increasingly turned into a proxy war by foreign powers that are far away and much less affected by what is happening," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who also took part in the meeting.

Maas, whose country hosted a Libya peace summit on Sunday, said much of the fallout from the conflict, including organized crime, terrorism, smuggling of weapons and humans, and flows of refugees, has been borne by Libya's neighbors.

“It is therefore the neighbors that have the most interest in peace and stability in Libya,” he said.

Algeria said countries attending the meeting agreed to respect Libya's sovereignty and integrity, want the African Union to be involved in resolving the conflict, and back efforts to stop weapons from flowing to warring parties.

Hifter’s forces, which control the east and much of southern Libya, receive support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. The Tripoli-based government is backed by Turkey and to a lesser degree, Qatar and Italy.

Germany's Maas said international actors must maintain “persistent pressure” on the warring parties to turn the temporary truce into a stable cease-fire.

Maas said the Berlin summit managed to win support from “key actors” for efforts to end the proxy conflict, nine years after long-term Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was deposed.

He said Germany would support efforts by the United Nations to shore up the tentative truce through a meeting between representatives of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, the head of the Tripoli government, and Hifter.

“For this the persistent pressure of all international partners on the conflict parties is required,” Maas said.

Basic questions about a concrete political process remain unresolved.

The Tunisian president’s office said Maas also stopped in Tunis and told President Kaïs Saied that Germany regretted not inviting Tunisia in time for a representative to attend the Sunday summit and wants to involve Tunisia in Libya peace efforts going forward.

Separately, the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord in Libya decided Thursday to reopen Tripoli's Mitiga International Airport, which was shut down a day earlier following an attack and threats from Hifter's forces.

Airport authorities Wednesday said six Grad missiles crashed into the tarmac, forcing the capital's only functioning airport to suspend all flights. When calm returned, flights resumed.

However, flights were grounded again after a spokesman for Hifter's forces, Ahmed al-Mosmari, said they were imposing a no-fly zone over the Mitiga airbase and “any civilian or military aircraft that breaches the airspace will face a strong and immediate response."

The Tripoli-based government issued a statement saying that Mosmari's threats reflected the intention of Hifter's forces to commit war crimes.

As the sole landing strip for the U.N.-backed government as well as its major military base, Mitiga is a strategic target for the opposition forces.



Borno State Increasingly Isolated as Boko Haram Threatens Roads

by John Campbell

JaNUary 23, 2020

Over the last couple of weeks, Boko Haram has increased attacks on the road from Maiduguri to Kano, the only remaining safe highway of the six major roads that connect Maiduguri with the rest of the state and country, according to Nigeria media. A major report on the increasing isolation of Maiduguri closely follows Boko Haram attacks on transmission lines supplying the city with electricity. Destroyed bridges and frequent attacks on travelers have cut off not only Maiduguri residents, but many other residents of Borno state from accessing or travelling to Borno’s neighboring states. In response, the Nigerian army has evacuated many villages along the highway, causing hardship and anger among the residents and friction between the governor of Borno state and the army.

Borno state and its capital, Maiduguri, have been ground zero for Boko Haram. Mohammed Yussuf founded the movement in Maiduguri, the police murdered him there in 2009, and Boko Haram emerged there in 2011 as a deadly terrorist movement. By 2015, Boko Haram controlled a territory as large as Belgium in Borno and adjacent Yobe and Adamawa states. The Nigerian army, assisted by Chadian forces and South African mercenaries, pushed Boko Haram back. But, there has been a Boko Haram resurgence. Though it is unclear the extent to which either Boko Haram faction actually governs territory, it is now able to operate in three states, especially Borno, and in some places it even provides a modicum of governance. It has seemingly pushed the security services back into fortified super camps, particularly Maiduguri. Local resident fear that Boko Haram will, with the closing of the Maiduguri-Kano highway, completely cut off Maiduguri and Borno state from the rest of Nigeria. The faction that is most active appears to be the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), though Abubakar Shekau’s faction has also been active.

Nominally, Borno has a population of more than four million, and Maiduguri has a population of more than two million. However, because of the flow of internally displaced persons, it is hard to know how many people are now living there. Traditionally the state has been a center of trade, agriculture, and fishing. Borno was a center of the cattle industry, and a transit point for fish caught in Lake Chad. These activities are all dependent on the roads.

Full report at:



Nigeria: Terrorists Kill 8 Soldiers in Borno

23 JANUARY 2020

By Olatunji Omirin & Uthman Abubakar

Maiduguri — No fewer than eight soldiers including a lieutenant have been killed, and many others injured, with several missing after insurgents of the Islamic West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked a military formation in Kaga Local Government Area of Borno State on Tuesday, security sources have said.

The ISWAP stormed a remote village of Mainok at about 1pm along Maiduguri/Damaturu road in Kaga LGA and opened fire on troops digging trenches to protect their base.

The security source said two gun trucks belonging to 121 Task Force Battalion were also forcefully taken by the ISWAP but later recovered by the Police Force.

"We thought they were a friendly force because they rode on a Police Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and headed towards us while we were digging trenches to fortify our base near Mainok town.

"They then opened fire on our soldiers, unfortunately, eight soldiers including a lieutenant were killed instantly and many of our soldiers are still unaccounted for," the source said.

Similarly, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives of Borno Police Command on Tuesday successfully foiled an ambush and killed five Boko Haram insurgents at Mainok village after they attacked a military base earlier.

It was gathered that though the insurgents had engaged in a heavy gun battle with the SARS unit, the unit responded swiftly and overpowered the insurgents.

In a video clip obtained by Daily Trust, the SARS Commander who led the operation, explained to the GOC 7 Division of the Nigerian Army on patrol at Mainok, that his men gallantly, professionally and fearlessly repelled the attack, eliminating some of the Boko Haram members and recovered several gun trucks.

The GOC of 7 Division, while hailing the SARS troop, appealed for a strong joint-collaboration between the army and police in prosecuting the counter-insurgency war in Borno, and other parts of the North-East.

A top police source told Daily Trust that about five insurgents were killed by the police while others escaped with injuries during the gun duel.

The source added that police recovered four trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns from the terrorists, two of which were earlier taken away from troops in the axis.

Meanwhile, the attack on Mainok, about 56 kilometers from Maiduguri along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road by Boko Haram at noon of last Tuesday has aggravated the fear and dejection among the public in Borno and Yobe states over the prospect of ending the insurgency as promised by the military.

The Theater Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen Olusegun Adeniyi, assured the public that the Maiduguri-Damaturu main supply route was now safe for motorists and commuters, after series of attacks on the route in the last one month.

Just about 18 hours after he gave the assurance, the terrorists dared the troops to a fight on the road by engaging them in broad daylight fight.

Last Sunday night, there was an 'attempted' attack in which the Theater Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, said he and other officials on patrol had a gun dwell with terrorists along the road, without saying the exact location.

The second was the recent Mainok attack, over 50 kilometers to Maiduguri, in Kaga Local Government Area, by 1pm of Tuesday, where the troops and, later, the police (SARS) had a fierce encounter with the terrorists leading to the killing of several troops and terrorists, as well as the recovery of some gun trucks.

These have deepened the fear and despair among the public, especially motorists and commuters, and affected the main section of the economy flowing to Borno State from other parts of the country.

"The attacks in the last one month have reduced commercial trips, but I can tell you that the Mainok clash by the troops and Boko Haram has deepened our despair and drastically reduced the NUmber of commercial trips from Maiduguri to Kano by road," a Monday Market, Maiduguri textile materials trader, Abubakar Hassan, told Daily Trust.

"I cannot say of NUmber of visits by our kinsmen the attacks have halted in the last two days," Mohammed Kawu of Shehuri Ward, said, adding, "I was to travel to Damaturu yesterday to give out my niece in marriage, but I could not; in fact the wedding has been postponed."

Full report at:



Libyan tied to Benghazi attack sentenced to 19 and half years

By David Shortell

JaNUary 23, 2020

Washington (CNN)A Libyan man who acted as a scout for the Islamist militia that stormed the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012 was sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison Thursday by a federal judge in Washington.

Mustafa al-Imam was convicted last summer of destroying property at the US diplomatic compound in the Libyan city and conspiring to support terrorists, but he escaped more severe punishment when a jury was unable to reach a verdict on more than a dozen other counts, including murder charges related to the deaths of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Judge Christopher Cooper, who delivered the sentence, said al-Imam was not simply "guilty by association" but had likely acted as the "eyes and ears" of the attack's mastermind that night.

Cooper also evoked the separate siege of the US Embassy in Baghdad late last year, noting that he was punishing al-Imam in part to deter other would-be attackers from targeting US diplomats and service members abroad.

"Those folks are very exposed and very vulnerable targets, as recent events have shown," Cooper said. "Anyone contemplating harming them needs to know they will face serious consequences."

The sentencing marks one of the final acts in the years-long fallout from the Benghazi attack, which spurred several investigations and sparked a political firestorm. The hearing room was at one point lined with family members of the attack's victims, as well as personnel from the State Department and CIA who had responded to it.

Al-Imam, a slight 47-year-old who wore an orange jail uniform, did not noticeably react when the sentence was handed down.

After the hearing, Barbara Doherty, the mother of a CIA contractor who was killed in the attack, Glen Doherty, hugged the lead Justice Department prosecutor and told him, "Thank you for all your hard work."

Doherty told CNN that she was "pleased" with the sentence.

An attorney for al-Imam, Matthew Peed, said he planned to appeal the sentence. "We're disappointed by the sentence. It was based on conclusions that the jury did not find," Peed said.

While prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of 35 years in prison for al-Imam, the Libyan's defense team had argued that 41 months -- a little over three years -- would be fair.

In court documents, al-Imam's lawyers described him as a "frail, uneducated, and simple man" who made a "tremendous mistake."

"He is not a fighter, an ideologue, or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family," they wrote in a sentencing memo submitted earlier this month.

Role in the attack

Al-Imam was described as a "scout" for the militia on the night that it burned and ransacked the US diplomatic mission and a CIA building. He arrived as the attack was ongoing, in a convoy alongside Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the militia's leader and the accused ringleader of the attack.

Using phone records, prosecutors had shown that al-Imam had spoken throughout the evening with Abu Khatallah as the attack progressed. Prosecutors had also alleged that al-Imam handled a map stolen from the wrecked mission, suggesting that he may have helped militia members locate the nearby CIA annex, where more Americans were later killed.

Prosecutors also showed surveillance video from the area on the night of the attack as they argued that al-Imam would have known that he was walking into a battle that could result in the deaths of Americans.

"That's not an errand boy, that is somebody who's a member of a militia," said John Cummings, the prosecutor.

The attack on the mission was "designed to maximize pain and humiliation" for America, Cummings said, adding that a stiff sentence was necessary to deter future terrorists' plans.

In sentencing Abu Khattalah in 2018, Cooper also disappointed the government with a lower sentence than prosecutors had requested. Abu Khattalah is serving a 22-year sentence, after a jury acquitted him of murder and attempted murder charges. He was convicted on four charges, including conspiracy and providing support to terrorists.

In a statement before the court on Thursday, Greg Doherty, the brother of CIA contractor Glen Doherty, had urged Cooper to impose the maximum 35-year sentence on al-Imam, calling Cooper's decision in the Abu Khattalah case a "travesty to the process" that "deflates our standing abroad."

"I do feel compassion as I sense that you do for the defendant," Doherty said. "I'm sad that he made the choices that he did. However those are important life and death decisions that he made and the consequences matter for our family and the nation."

In their arguments, al-Imam's attorneys had emphasized the context in Libya: The attack took place in a country that had gone through a bloody revolution and where splintered militias were thriving.

Full report at:



Survivors of Burkina jihadi attack tell of terror and escape


Mechanic Robert Ousseni Sawadogo was tinkering with repairs in his Burkina Faso village when dozens of militants suddenly streamed into the marketplace on motorbikes opening fire on anyone in their path.

Their faces wrapped in turbans, the jihadists split up, cutting off escape routes as villagers fled. Sawadogo managed to escape, but others near him were cut down in Monday's attack that left 36 people dead.

"They rode through the market on motorbikes and they opened fire," Sawadogo said. "They closed down the three entrances to the market. When they attacked, we ran. I managed to escape, but others close to me didn't."

Hundreds of people fled the area in Sanmatenga province, trekking past existing camps for displaced people to reach Kaya, a town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital Ouagadougou.

The assault is the latest to target civilians in northern Burkina Faso, where the poorly trained and under-equipped armed forces are struggling against a rising jihadist threat.

Militant attacks have killed more than 750 in Burkina Faso since 2015 when jihadist violence to spill across from neighbouring Mali and spead across the Sahel region. Violence has displaced more than half a million people in Burkina Faso alone.

Survivors of Monday's attack in Nagraogo village described how about 40 militants roared into the marketplace surprising villagers as they sped through the streets.

In Nagraogo, jihadists slaughtered 32 people. They killed four more people in nearby Alamou village as they withdrew.

"They wore turbans and we couldn't see their faces," Sawadogo said in Kaya. "They moved fast, they rode through the market and shot at people. I was lucky to be able to escape."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though the government blamed an "armed terrorist group".

Jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has been blamed on militants linked to both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliated groups.

Attacks appear to be increasingly targeting civilians, analysts say. In December, 35 people, mostly of them women, were killed in a massacre in the northern city of Arbinda.

— Bullet struck helmet —

Market trader Lamine Sebogo, 27, also escaped death in Nagraogo attack, showing where his motorbike helmet was struck by a bullet when he sought to cross the dried-up bed of a stream.

"They stopped me," he said. "There were six of them. I was scared and wanted to turn round but I saw there were others behind me. I had no choice but to ride straight at them. As I passed, I got this bullet in the helmet."

"I warned a vehicle that was coming in the opposite direction and I rode fast to get straight here," Sebogo said from where he found shelter with 16 others in Kaya.

He is used to make trips between Nagraogo and Kaya for business, but he is not sure he wants to go home. He clutched his mobile phone, awaiting news of those who stayed or might still be on the road. But he said he had been told few people were left in his village.

Mechanic Sawadogo also ruled out going back to his village as long as "it hasn’t been stabilised" and said he planned to find work in Kaya.

Sawadogo said other villagers said jihadists visited Nagraogo two days before their assault, telling residents to pass a message to the army that jihadists were in the area and they did not fear the military.

"Two days later, they came back, once the.. (army) had already come to the village and headed off somewhere else."

— Civilian volunteers —

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore declared two days of national mourning to honour victims of the Monday's attack.

Sanmatenga is located south of Soum province on the border with Mali, which has become an epicentre for jihadist activity in West Africa. Many camps for displaced people and refugees are scattered across the province.

Burkina Faso's parliament on Tuesday passed a law to enable the recruitment of local civilian volunteers in the anti-jihadist struggle. After 14 days of military training, the recruits will undertake missions of surveillance, information and protection.

According to the United Nations, jihadist attacks in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso killed some 4,000 people in 2019 alone.

Full report at:



Italy’s Salvini under fire for asking Tunisian teenager about drug dealing

24 JaNUary 2020

Leader of Italy’s far-right League party Matteo Salvini is under fire after a visit to a working-class neighborhood in Bologna when he seemingly accused a Tunisian teenager of dealing drugs.

Ahead of a key regional election in the country, Matteo visited a working-class neighborhood, rang the doorbell of a Tunisian family and asked, “Is it true that you are drug dealers as your neighbors, tell me?”

The 17-year-old son teenager who answered the door said his father was deeply saddened by the episode.

The teenager denied all allegations to Salvini.

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“I don’t deal drugs, my dad works hard to provide for us. I go to school and play soccer like everyone else my age,” he said, adding that his older brother had problems with drugs in the past but is now clean and no longer lives there.

The episode sparked a diplomatic reaction by Tunisia’s Ambassador to Italy Moez Sinaoui who told Al Arabiya English this type of conduct was unacceptable, particularly from a senator of the Italian Republic.

“You cannot stigmatize the entire [Tunisian] community. There are excellent relations between our two countries. These incidents damage the image of the Italian people in the world,” said Sinaoui.

Sinaoui expressed his dismay in a letter to the president of the Italian Senate, Elisabetta Casellati, stating he was “appalled by the deplorable act of provocation which also represents a violation of privacy.”

This is not the first time Salvini’s comments have sparked a diplomatic row with Tunisia. In 2018, Salvini accused Tunisia of sending ‘convicts’ on migrant boats across the Mediterranean.

The Bologna incident captured on tape has now gone viral in Italy. It showed Senator Salvini’s remarks: “Oh, so both father and son are dealers? Nice family!” as well as the family’s name and address.

Salvini’s Lega party is expected to score significant results in key regional elections this weekend in the region of Emilia-Romagna which has traditionally voted center-left.

Full report at:



Libya conflict to go on as long as arms pouring into country: Analyst

24 JaNUary 2020

Several multinational meetings have recently been held to negotiate a way out of years of conflict in Libya; none of them, however, has culminated in an agreement or a solution. According to a political analyst, as long as the rival groups are being provided with weapons, there would be no end to the conflict in the North African country.

Former lecturer at West Chester University, Lawrence Davidson, believes that there would be no end to the fighting in Libya “as long as it’s fueled.”

“As long as arms [are] pouring into both sides, you are going to get this fighting,” Davidson told Press TV’s The Debate program on Friday.

He said the first step toward stopping the conflict is to “place sanctions to stop the arms coming in.”

Back in December, the United Nations Security Council called on all countries to implement an arms embargo on the North African nation.

It also urged all countries “not to intervene in the conflict or to take measures that would exacerbate the conflict” and expressed concern at “the growing involvement of mercenaries.”

A long-awaited UN report, however, said recently that UN member states, Jordan, Turkey and the UAE have been systematically arming Haftar's forces.

Davidson further argued that “the deeper problem is, I think, the West particularly, as well as its allies now in the [Persian] Gulf that have seem to commit themselves to the notion of regime change.”

He also believed that neither side in Libya “really wants a ceasefire,” because that “would bring the other into a sort of competitive influence.”

When asked about ambitions perused by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt in Libya, Davidson said, “They want to control resources” in the oil-rich country.

Haftar, who is mainly backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive in April to capture Tripoli and unseat the Seraj government; however, his forces have been bogged down near the capital.

Haftar's eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) is backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Political analyst, Hatam Yavuz, who was also talking to Press TV, said the UN-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj “is trying to negotiate a settlement to bring back the other factions together or on a same pool of leadership.”

“But Haftar, unfortunately, is becoming egotistical, arrogant and non-compliant by other world leaders" including Turkey and Russia,” he said.

Hatar also said that former dictator Qaddafi “did a very good job in the country and that “Libya was one of the top free countries on the planet.”

The oil-rich county has been plunged into chaos since 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and his execution by unruly fighters.

Gaddafi's ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of rival militant groups.

Full report at:



Bomb blast kills 2, wounds 6 in Somalia

Mohammed Dhaysane  



At least two people were killed and six wounded when a roadside bomb blast targeted a military vehicle near Bal'ad Middle in the Shabelle region Friday, officials said.

The vehicle was traveling from Jowhar, the administrative capital of Hirshabelle State, to Bal'ad district.

Mohamud Abdi Hassan, a police official told Anadolu Agency the wounded soldiers were airlifted and admitted to Bal'ad district hospital.

Four soldiers sustained serious injuries and are currently receiving treatment, he said.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but al-Shabaab militants carried out recent attacks in the region.

The group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Afgoye in lower Shabelle region, that killed at least three people and wounded more than 25 others, including six Turkish nationals.

Full report at:



North America


Pentagon says recent Iranian strike on US base in Iraq injures 34 troops

24 JaNUary 2020

Nearly three dozen US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries or concussion in the recent Iranian airstrike on a military base in Iraq housing American personnel, the Pentagon said Friday.

“Thirty-four total members have been diagnosed with concussions and TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.

US President Donald Trump had initially said that no Americans were injured in the strike on the Ain al-Asad base in western Iraq earlier this month although authorities later reported that 11 troops were injured.

Hoffman said that 17 of the victims had been initially transferred to Germany to receive treatment, eight of whom arrived back in the US on Friday.

“They will contiNUe to receive treatment in the United States, either at Walter Reed (a military hospital near Washington) or at their home bases,” he told a press conference at the Pentagon.

The nine other victims who were flown to Germany “are still undergoing evaluation and treatment there,” he added.

Seventeen other troops who were treated in the region have returned to duty in Iraq.

The airbase was targeted in retaliation for the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on JaNUary 3.

The base is one of the largest in Iraq, with 1,500 US troops making up the bulk of a coalition presence directly adjacent to thousands of Iraqi forces.



Delta ordered to pay $50,000 fine over allegations it discriminated against Muslim passengers

JaNUary 25, 2020

(CNN)The US Department of Transportation ordered Delta Air Lines on Friday to pay a $50,000 fine to settle allegations it violated federal law by discriminating against Muslim passengers.

The department released a consent order that alleges Delta "engaged in discriminatory conduct" against three Muslim passengers on two separate incidents in 2016, including one flight from Paris to Ohio and another flight from Amsterdam to New York City. In both instances, the passengers were removed from their seats after flight attendants and fellow passengers became nervous, citing their behavior, according to the order.

The order notes that the captain of an aircraft "is the final authority as to the operation of that aircraft, including any decision to refuse to transport a passenger." But the order says that authority does not allow discrimination based on "race, color, national origin, religion, ethnicity, or sex."

In both cases, Delta's corporate security department informed the flight crews of "no red flags" regarding the passengers.

The airline said in a statement to CNN that it strives to "model inclusion."

"While we understand that our best customer service was not reflected in how the incident was handled, we disagree with the Department of Transportation's contention that Delta engaged in discriminatory conduct," said Delta spokeswoman Emma Kate Protis. "For that reason, we have worked to improve our investigative process since these incidents and we have supporting programs, policies, training and procedures that back up our commitments in this area."

Delta disagrees with government's contention that it discriminated

In the order, Delta wrote that it disagreed with the department's contention that it engaged in discriminatory conduct.

"While Delta does not dispute that each of these two incidents could have been handled differently, Delta asserts that this fact does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Delta acted improperly," according to the order.

In the Paris incident, a married couple, both US citizens, were boarding a flight from Paris to Cincinnati, Ohio, when a fellow passenger raised concerns with a flight attendant, although the passenger did not explain everything that made her nervous, according to the order

According to the order, "The flight attendant stated that as she walked through the cabin on a routine task, she observed Mr. X texting on his cell phone using the word 'Allah' several times. As the flight attendant approached Mr. X, the flight attendant reports that Mr. X made eye contact with her but did not smile and reached over to pat his wife's hand."

Another flight attendant walked through the cabin and observed Mr. X texting on his phone and as she passed, he changed his screen, according to the order.

The two flight attendants shared their observations with the captain, who then requested security officers remove the passengers for additional vetting, according to the order.

The couple was interviewed and cleared before the plane departed, but the captain "refused to accept" the passengers back on board because the flight attendants were "uncomfortable" having the couple travel on the flight, according to the order.

"It appears that but for Mr. and Mrs. X's perceived religion, Delta would not have removed or denied them re-boarding," the order says.

In its response, Delta wrote in the order that another customer, who identified herself as a retired Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector, reported what she considered to be suspicious conduct on the couple's part and provided a signed statement with her contact information.

The Amsterdam flight several days later returned to the gate over passengers' concerns that a fellow passenger had received "a small package" from "a person of similar ethnicity in the gate area," according to the order.

The plane began departing but "returned to the gate" because "the flight attendants expressed, without any intervening incident, that they remained uncomfortable," according to the order.

"Moreover, even though security inspected the area surrounding Mr. A's seat and his baggage was offloaded, Mr. A was not subjected to additional security screening prior to being rebooked," the order said.

Delta said that both flight attendants observed the passenger switch seats while on board and behave nervously.

"In short, in both cases, Delta maintains that it acted on observations of behavior, rather than identity," the order said.

Delta has improved its processes, airline says

All three passengers were booked onto later flights, the order says.

The order requires Delta to not commit additional violations and requires additional civil rights training for Delta employees.

"That training must make clear that, in the absence of a valid safety or security concern, passenger or crew discomfort is not an acceptable basis to deny transportation," the order states.

The three passengers were not identified by name in the order and so could not be contacted for comment.

Delta said that after both incidents, the airline reviewed and clarified its procedures to investigate suspicious activity to make them more collaborative and objective than they were at the time of the incidents.

Full report at:



Muslim athletes share stories about discrimination

JAN 25, 2020

For as long as NoorAlexandria Abukaram believes her story can help bring change, then she’s going to keep telling it.

Miss Abukaram, a 16-year-old junior at The Bounty Collegium in Sylvania and a member of the Sylvania Northview High School Girls Cross Country Team, was disqualified from the district cross country meet in mid-October for wearing her hijab.

As part of her fight against discrimination in sports, her organization, LetNoorRun, hosted an event Friday evening at Lourdes University to encourage a conversation about incidents that have not only affected her, but other Muslim athletes as well.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a University of Memphis basketball player who competed while wearing a hijab, and Amaiya Zafar, the first boxer to wear a hijab in a sanctioned bout, took part in a panel discussion with Miss Abukaram during the event.

Ms. Abdul-Qaadir was prevented from playing international professional basketball because of a rule from the International Basketball Federation that prohibits players from wearing head coverings. Ms. Zafar was at one point barred from boxing because she wore a hijab.

“It was like I knew them for 30 years,” Miss Abukaram said about meeting Ms. Abdul-Qaadir and Ms. Zafar. “I’m not even 30 years old.”

The panelists discussed that athletes are often allowed to go so far before suddenly the rules stop them from going further. For example, Ms. Abdul-Qaadir played basketball through college, and it was only when she tried to play professionally that she couldn’t play in a hijab.

Ms. Abdul-Qaadir had to fill out waivers to wear a hijab while playing basketball, but the enforcement of the rule varied.

“In college, which was surprising, nobody ever asked for the waiver,” Ms. Abdul-Qaadir said. “The waivers are, honestly, they should be obsolete at this point.”

Ms. Zafar emailed officials with USA Boxing for a month to try and get permission to wear a hijab in the ring, and eventually she was told no. She then decided the best way to fight was to get her story out there.

“I was going to elementary schools,” she said. “I was doing everything I could to get the story out there.”

When nothing changed, she decided to fight and be disqualified, she said. Ms. Zafar’s record states that she lost her first fight because of the disqualification. Within a year of that, the rules changed to allow her to fight locally with a waiver.

For this kind of discrimination to affect three different athletes in three different sports shows that it’s more prevalent than people believe, Miss Abukaram said. That’s why it’s important for athletes to tell their stories and encourage dialogue, especially with people who haven’t had the same experiences and might not understand.

Faten Froukh, Miss Abukaram’s cousin-in-law, said when members of the family vacationed in a cabin in Michigan, Miss Abukaram would get up every day at 5 a.m. to run. She was so dedicated to preparing for her races, Ms. Froukh said, and it was disheartening to see her torn up by being disqualified for wearing a hijab during a cross country meet.

“But she took it and she did something powerful with it,” Ms. Froukh said. “I’m proud of her.”

After the disqualification, Miss Abukaram's coach, Jerry Flowers, took responsibility for not turning in the required paperwork to allow her to wear a hijab as she raced, and for also deciding not to tell her about her disqualification until after she competed in the event.

Miss Abukaram has said that she was not angry toward the school, her coach, or her teammates, rather her frustration was with the rule that had never been an issue before.

Full report at:



NYC: Convicted Muslim Bomber Gets Life Term For New Jersey Shootout

JaNUary 24, 2020

An Afghan-born U.S. citizen already serving life in prison for a bombing in New York City was sentenced Friday to an additional life term for a shootout with police in New Jersey as he attempted to avoid arrest in 2016.

State Superior Court Judge John Deitch sentenced Ahmad Khan Rahimi for actions he said were “completely abhorrent to civilized society.” The sentence will run consecutive to the life term Rahimi is serving for the New York bombings.

The shooting occurred in Linden, New Jersey, two days after a bomb exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 30 people. After police responded to a call and found Rahimi sleeping in a doorway, he fired at one officer, who was saved by his protective vest. Another officer was struck in the head by a bullet fragment that pierced his windshield.

The ensuing gun battle contiNUed through the New Jersey town’s streets until Rahimi was captured.

Officer Angel Padilla, who was the first to come upon Rahimi in the doorway and has since retired as a result of the shooting, was in court Friday and recalled their confrontation.

“It was a call for a man sleeping on a vestibule,” he said after the sentencing. “I never thought I would confront the person they had been looking for. I knew that I would have to take my time asking him questions and waiting for my backup to show up, but never in a million years did I think it would end the way it did.”

In October, a jury convicted Rahimi on all 30 counts he faced, including attempted murder and aggravated assault counts against several officers, plus several weapons charges.

Rahimi is a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan but grew up in New Jersey. He was previously convicted in a separate trial of planting the two bombs in New York. The bomb that detonated was powerful enough to hurl a 100-pound trash bin more than 120 feet, shatter windows and leave metal scraps strewn on the street.

No one was killed, but 30 people suffered injuries, including cuts caused by flying metal and glass. A second bomb planted on the street failed to explode.

The bombing came just hours after a small pipe bomb detonated harmlessly along the route of a Marine Corps charity road race in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

Investigators identified Rahimi as a suspect through a mobile phone attached to the Manhattan bomb that didn’t detonate.

As authorities hunted for him, they discovered a backpack containing additional explosives near a New Jersey transit station in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Rahimi graduated from high school in New Jersey in 2007 and later attended community college, where he majored in criminal justice but didn’t graduate. His family operated a chicken takeout restaurant in Elizabeth not far from the courthouse where he was tried.

At Friday’s sentencing, Deitch said Rahimi has “not shown one iota of remorse for his actions.”

Rahimi sat quietly during the sentencing and declined to make a statement to the court.

At Rahimi’s previous sentencing in New York, prosecutors also had criticized him for not showing remorse and for seeking to radicalize fellow prisoners at the federal jail in New York where he had been imprisoned since his arrest.

Full report at:



34 US troops suffered concussion, brain injury in Iranian strike: Pentagon

JaNUary 25, 2020

Friday, 24 JaNUary 2020The Pentagon has said that dozens of US troops were wounded in an Iranian retaliatory missile attack earlier this month despite Washington's initial claim denying casualties.

The Pentagon said on Friday 34 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury following the Iran strike on JaNUary 8. They suffered concussions.

"Thirty-four total members have been diagnosed with concussions and TBI (traumatic brain injury)," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters a press conference at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

Hoffman said that the eight injured troops who had been previously transported to Germany had been moved to the United States, but nine of them still remain there.

"They will contiNUe to receive treatment in the United States, either at Walter Reed (a military hospital near Washington) or at their home bases," he said.

The nine other victims "are still undergoing evaluation and treatment there (in Germany)," he added.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Asad, a large airbase hosting about 1,500 US troops, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The missile operation was in response to Washington's JaNUary 3 assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who led the IRGC’s Quds Force.

The assassination also resulted in the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Speaking on the morning following Iran's reciprocal military operation, US President Donald Trump had said that "no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack".

"We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases," he added.

The Pentagon had also initially ruled out any casualties from the attack.

Speaking last week, however, US Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said that 11 of their troops were injured from the Iranian missile strikes, and they had been taken to US bases outside Iraq for further treatment "out of an abundance of caution.”

On Wednesday, Trump appeared to play down the injuries, saying he "heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things."

The development marks the latest report in a string of recent revelations undermining initial US claims downplaying casualties and damage following Iran's retaliatory missile attack.

Full report at:,-brain-injury-in-Iranian-strike



US plotting to break up Iraq to secure its troops’ presence: Report

24 JaNUary 2020

The US is reportedly seeking to carve out a “Sunni state” in Iraq’s Anbar province in a bid to secure the presence of its military forces in the Arab country amid the Iraqi nation call for the expulsion of all foreign troops.

Washington has in recent weeks been promoting a plan to create an autonomous Sunni region in western Iraq, a new report by the Middle East Eye reveals.

Officials from both countries have told the MEE that the US efforts come in response to the Iraqi Parliament’s attempts to expel American troops from their country.

The US has long been pursuing the break-up of the Arab country in order to secure its interests in the region, particularly by exploiting the country’s rich oil resources. The idea of carving out an autonomous Sunni region dates back to a 2007 proposition by Joe Biden, who is now vying to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

Thirteen years on, the US is now reviving the plot under the administration of Donald Trump amid efforts to expel the US troops.

The Americans have worked on "taking this project out of the drawer and putting it on the table,” a former US official familiar with the project confirmed.

“The creation of a Sunni region has always been an option for the US,” the former US official said.

Saudis come to US help

The plot to create the Sunni autonomous region has been discussed at a secret meeting nine months ago between Saudi ambassador to Jordan and a group of Iraqi politicians and businessmen from Anbar, Salah al-Din and Nineveh provinces, the MEE reveals.

The meeting, which was held in Amman, was hosted by Saudi minister for Persian Gulf affairs, Thamer bin Sabhan al-Sabhan, who is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s point man for the region.

On the agenda was a plan to push for a Sunni autonomous region, akin to Iraqi Kurdistan. The meeting reportedly ended in vigorous agreement.

A bigger meeting was held some weeks later, this time attended by a US and Israeli representative. The MEE has quoted the US envoy as telling his Saudi counterpart: “If you can do it, it’s welcome.”

A third meeting was held in Dubai, this time attended by Iraq’s Sunni Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi. He has denied that plans to create a Sunni region were discussed or agreed upon, but Sunni members of the Iraqi Parliament have broken the cover. One of the most vocal of this group, deputy for Anbar province Faisal al-Issawi, said that “practical steps” had started towards forming an autonomous province on the lines of Iraqi Kurdistan in the north of the county.

Washington is fully behind the plan following the recent developments.

Anbar comprises 31 percent of the Iraqi state’s landmass. It has significant untapped oil, gas and mineral reserves. It borders Syria.

If US troops were indeed to be forced by the next Iraqi government to quit the country, they would have to leave the oil fields of northern Syria as well because it is from Anbar that this operation is supplied. Anbar has four US military bases, the MEE reports.

A source has told MEE that the “creation of a Sunni region is just one of the options being considered by Washington” as part of its broader plot to disintegrate the Arab country.

Iraq’s unity “is no longer a priority now for the US,” the source said.

In his latest article, Abdel Bari Atwan, the well-known Arab author and editor-in-chief of Rai al-Youm, has also warned about the White House’s project to break up Iraq based on ethnic and sectarian divisions.

The US plot comes as major crowds of people gathered in the capital city of Baghdad to denounce US military presence in the country after the US assassinated top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was second-in-command of the Iraq's PMU, in Baghdad earlier this month.

The rally comes after influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on Iraqis to stage "a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations" last week.

Full report at:





Muslim Family Says Water Supply To Dalit Colony Was DiscontiNUed Due To Technical Issues

Latheef Naha

JANUARY 24, 2020

Authorities say the decision of the Muslim family has nothing to do with CAA; Muslim family says water supply was discontiNUed due to technical issues.

The decision of a Muslim family to discontiNUe water supply to the residents of a Dalit colony near Valanchery in the district has kicked up a row, with the Sangh Parivar linking the issue with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

District authorities said here on Friday that it was a personal issue and had nothing to do with the CAA.

The BJP alleged that the residents of the CherukunNU SC colony were denied drinking water after some members of the colony attended the party’s Janajagratha Sadas in support of the CAA.

The issue assumed wider and murkier proportions when BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje tweeted saying that Malappuram was taking baby steps to become a Pakistan.

The Muslim family in question denied the allegation, saying that the water supply was discontiNUed because of technical issues.

The water supply system of the panchayat to the Dalit colony had not been functioning for about a year. Several households at the colony have been depending on the benevolence of the Muslim family in the neighbourhood for water.

Local residents said that the timing of the discontiNUation of the water supply coincided with the CAA protests, and it was used as a weapon to further the hatred between two communities.

ReveNUe authorities said there were working to re-establish water supply to the colony.



Ahead of Republic Day, a mushaira against CAA, NRC in Hyderabad

Jan 25, 2020

Srinivasa Rao Apparasu

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and United Muslim Action Committee will be holding a unique protest meeting of Urdu poets from various parts of the country in Hyderabad on Saturday evening to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) on the eve of the 70th Republic Day.

Though the MIM had planned the rally from 7 pm till midnight, culminating in a tricolour hoisting ceremony, the Hyderabad police gave permission only till 11 pm. Originally, the rally was proposed to be held at the historic Charminar, but following the directions from the high court, the veNUe was shifted to Khilwat grounds, closer to Charminar.

AIMIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted on Friday that the veNUe had been shifted, but said he would hoist the national flag later at midnight.

“Police rejected permission for protest meeting at Charminar, they’d advised us to instead move it to nearby Khilwat Ground which we’ve accepted. Poets’ Protest Meeting against CAA-NPR-NRC will begin on 25 night and we’ll welcome India’s Republic Day by hoisting tiranga at 12 AM,” he tweeted.

The organisers are hosting the event under the banner of “Alliance Against CAA and NRC. “There will be a mushaira (poetry recitations). Big names in Urdu poetry including Bollywood lyricist Rahat Indori, Sampat Saral and Lata Haya; and young voices such as Nabiya Khan, Aamir Aziz and Husain Haidry will be among the literary figures who will recite poems and ghazals in protest against the CAA and NRC,” an MIM spokesman said.

Indori’s poem “Kisi ke baap ka Hindustan thodi hai” has been a rage in anti-CAA protests being staged across the country. So is Aziz’s poems “Acche Din Blues” and “Main inkaar karta hoon” have also received wide acclaim on the internet in recent past.

The programme will end with singing of the national anthem and hoisting of national flag. Invitations for the event have been extended to members of civil society and religious scholars of all faiths, the spokesman said.

Apart from Owaisi, several other leaders from Muslim organisations including Jamat-e-Islami, Ahle Hadith, Jamiatula Ulema and Tameer-e-Millat are scheduled to address the gathering.

The MIM spokesman said the aim of the event was not only to celebrate Republic Day and Constitution, but also to emphasise the dangers to the Constitution from the CAA, NPR and NRC.

Full report at:



CAA effect? NUmber of Bangladeshi illegals exiting up, says BSF

Jan 25, 2020

KOLKATA: The NUmber of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants trying to exit India through the porous land border has “increased substantially”, though it can’t be called an “exodus” as of now, according to the Border Security Force.

BSF troops along the 913-km south Bengal frontier apprehended 268 Bangladeshi nationals — nearly 90% of them going back to Bangladesh from India — in the first 23 days of 2020, BSF inspector-general (South Bengal Frontier) Y B Khurania said in Kolkata on Friday. Most of them used the international border in North 24 Parganas’ Ghojadanga, he added.

Prodded by journalists whether this rise could be attributed to the new citizenship law, Khurania said that might be the case. “We believe that it is because of our increased vigil that fewer people from Bangladesh are trying to illegally enter India. Most of those without valid documents apprehended by us near the border were on their way out. But there seems to be no exodus-like situation,” Khurania said.

Full report at:



80 Muslim leaders resign from Madhya Pradesh BJP over CAA

Jan 24, 2020

INDORE: Around 80 Muslim leaders of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh on Friday resigned from the primary membership of the party in protest over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, calling it a "divisive" measure.

One of the leaders, Rajik Qureshi Farshiwala, said around 80 Muslim partymen have resigned from the BJP's primary membership after writing to the newly-appointed national president, J P Nadda, on Thursday.

These leaders, who dubbed the CAA "a divisive provision made on religious grounds", include several office- bearers of the BJP's minority cell, he said.

"It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to participate in our community's events after the CAA came into existence (in December 2019).

"At these events, people used to curse us and ask us how long we plan to keep quiet on a divisive law like the CAA?" he said.

"Persecuted refugees of any community should get Indian citizenship. You cannot decide that a particular person is an intruder or a terrorist merely on the basis of religion," Farshiwala added.

In their letter, the Muslim leaders stated, "Citizens have right to equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. But the BJP-led Central Government is implementing the CAA on religious grounds.

"This is an act of dividing the country and against the basic spirit of the Constitution."

Some of the leaders who have resigned are considered close to BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.

Full report at:



Former AMU student leader refuses to apologise over 'Muslims can destroy anything' remark

JaNUary 24, 2020

Former students' union president of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Faizul Hasan who earlier said Muslims can destroy anything if they wish to do and the community has constantly been tested since 1947, has now refused to apologise for his remarks.

A case is being registered against Faizul under Section 153(A) of CRPC over his remarks.

According a report in ANI, Faizul has said that he is from a community that can destroy anything 'if it resolves to do the same'.

"If you want to see the limits of patience, then see Indian Muslims' limit of patience after 1947 till 2020. We never tried to break up India, otherwise we are from that community that if we resolve to destroy, we have enough anger to not leave anything," Faizul Hasan said while addressing a anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest.

A day later, he refused to apologise and said that in 2014 Narendra Modi had promised "sabka saath, sabka vikas" and now he doesn't want to take the Muslims along and that is a breach of trust.

He also challenged the Union Home Minister for a debate on the issue of CAA and said, "Amit Shah should come and debate with our class 12th student. Hopefully, he won't be able to win. Even if they give five points, then I will stand with him (Shah) and protest in favour of CAA".

While speaking to ANI, Hasan invoked the bravery of Param Vir Chakra awardee Abdul Hamid to assert that support from minority community will strengthen the country.

"Veer Abdul Hamid destroyed 22 tankers of Pakistan, alone. If Amit Shah and Yogi had shown love and 22 crore Muslims were with them, then no country would have dared to look upon them (koe bhi desh inki taraf aankh uthakar nahi dekh pata)", he told ANI.

Full report at:



NIA files chargesheet against two members of Bangladeshi terror group, Ansar-al-Islam

Jan 24, 2020

GUWAHATI: NIA on Friday filed chargesheet against two members of Bangladeshi terror group, Ansar-al-Islam, who were detained by villagers of Silsuri in Mamit district in Mizoram on suspicion of being illegal migrants in July last year.

During investigation, NIA established the identity of the two as Mahmud Hassan alias, Shariful Islam and Mohamad Sa’ad Hussain of Bangladesh. Both the accused are members of Ansar-al-Islam, who crossed the international border illegally and entered through Tripura in November, 2018 and since then have been concealing their location and identity based on fake Aadhaar cards given to them by their handlers in Bangladesh.

NIA found that Mahmud Hassan had travelled from Agartala to Bangalore as a part of conspiracy of terrorist acts in India and stayed in Bangalore for eight to nine months (November, 2018 to July, 2019).

“During his stay in Bangalore, he conducted recce of some public places in Bangalore. Investigation has also revealed that on instructions of his handler, the accused financially assisted another arrested ABT (Ansarullah Bangla Team, another banned terrorist organization in Bangladesh) member lodged in Kolkata jail,” the NIA added.

"Both the accused later criminally conspired, as per directions of their handlers in Bangladesh and tried to procure weapons from various places in the state of Tripura and Mizoram in pursuance of the conspiracy of committing terrorist acts in India. During investigation, large NUmber of incriminating documents were recovered from their seized digital devices," the NIA said.

The NIA also filed a chargesheet in NIA special court in Guwahati against five members of banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB), who hail from Barpeta district of Assam. They were all trained at Simulia Madrasa in West Bengal for the outfit which is based in Bangladesh, where also it has been declared banned organization.

A NIA statement said that Hafizur Rahman, Yakub Ali, Sariful Islam, Mustafizur Rahman and Mohhamed Hafiz Safikul Islam have been charged under the Arms Act and the UAPA in case registered on December 21 last year.

"Acting on a source information about the presence of one trained JMB suspect, Barpeta police conducted a search on July 30, 2017 at the house of one Hafizur Rahman at Karagarigaon, Barpeta. During the search, one country made revolver, four rounds of live ammunitions and Jehadi literature were recovered from his possession. Accordingly, a case was registered by Barpeta police against Hafizur Rahman. On the disclosure of Hafizur Rahman other trained cadre of JMB were subsequently arrested. The local police carried out the initial investigation of the case, which was subsequently handed over to NIA," the statement said.

Full report at:



NIA charge sheets 5 members of Bangladesh terror group JMB in Assam

Utpal Parashar

Jan 25, 2020

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed a charge sheet in a special court in Guwahati against five members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a Bangladeshi terror outfit banned in the neighbouring country and in India.

The charge was filed against Hafizur Rahman, Yakub Ali, Sariful Islam, Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammed Hafiz Safiqul Islam, all residents of Barpeta district in Assam arrested in July last year.

According to the charge sheet, the case came to light with the arrest of Hafizur Rahman from his house in Barpeta and the seizure of a country made revolver, several rounds of live ammunition and some Jihadi literature.

Based on his interrogation, the local police registered a case and arrested the four other accused. The case registered under sections of Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was later transferred to the NIA.

Investigations by the NIA revealed that all the accused were recruited to JMB by one SahaNUr Alom, a resident of Barpeta who was arrested by the agency in 2014 for his involvement in the Burdwan blast case of West Bengal in which two people were killed.

Alom has already been convicted and is serving a eight year jail sentence on charges of “conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in India and recruiting and training other members of JMB”.

“Accused persons in the instant case have undergone training as JMB cadres in Barpeta at the house of SahaNUr Alom and some accused were also trained at Simulia Madrasa in West Bengal,” said a NIA release.

Full report at:



US diplomat urges India to release Kashmiri leaders detained without charge

Jan 25, 2020

India is moving away from having a passive foreign policy to the one vigorously advancing its interests, a top American diplomat said Friday, attributing the trend to New Delhi’s “broadening strategic horizons” over the past two decades.

“It’s clear that India’s broadening strategic horizons over the past two decades have resulted in a shift away from a passive foreign policy to the one that advances Indian interests more vigorously,” acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells told reporters at a news conference.

Wells, who has just returned from a trip to the region besides attending the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, said nowhere this shift is more visible than in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Whether it’s in our growing maritime and naval cooperation, the Quad, India’s Act East Policy, there’s virtually no daylight in our approaches to the Indo-Pacific,” she said. Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger’s remarks at Raisina Dialogue endorsing an Indo-Pacific region stretching from California to Kilimanjaro only further reinforced the strategic convergence, she added.

While in New Delhi, she had meetings with her Indian counterparts, which she said were focused on how to build on the diplomatic and defence gains achieved during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue last December. With contiNUed progress on defense cooperation, peacekeeping operations, space, counterterrorism, trade, people-to-people initiatives, and more, she said the quality and frequency of India-US naval cooperation, especially the information sharing, have reached unprecedented levels. The two countries also remain focused on achieving a trade deal that promotes fairness and reciprocity, she noted.

“The visit also offered an opportunity to hear more regarding developments with India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, which is undergoing, I would say, a vigorous democratic scrutiny, whether it’s in streets, by the political opposition, media, or the courts. We contiNUe to underscore the importance of the principle of equal protection under the law,” Wells said.

“On Jammu and Kashmir, I was pleased to see some incremental steps, including the partial return of internet service in Kashmir,” she told reporters. She also described the visit by US ambassador and other foreign diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir as “a useful step”.

Full report at:




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