Locked away, forgotten: Muslim Uighur wives of Pakistani men

Locked away, forgotten: Muslim Uighur wives of Pakistani men
Scores of Pakistani men like Aman, whose Muslim Uighur wives have disappeared into internment camps in China, feel helpless, fighting a wall of silence as they struggle to reunite their families. (AP)
Updated 17 December 2018

Locked away, forgotten: Muslim Uighur wives of Pakistani men

Locked away, forgotten: Muslim Uighur wives of Pakistani men
  • Beijing has been accused of interning members of its Muslim population to “re-educate” them away from their faith
  • Pakistanis often rally loudly in defense of Islam and Muslims whenever they are perceived offended around the world

ISLAMABAD: The last time Chaudhry Javed Atta saw his wife was over a year ago — the Pakistani trader in dried and fresh produce was leaving their home in northwestern China’s heavily Muslim Xinjiang region to go back to his country to renew his visa.
He remembers the last thing she told him: “As soon as you leave, they will take me to the camp and I will not come back.”
That was August, 2017. By then, Atta and Amina Manaji, from the Muslim ethnic Uighur group native to Xinjiang, had been married for 14 years.
Atta is one of scores of Pakistani businessmen __ and he says there are more than 200 __ whose spouses have disappeared, taken to what Chinese authorities tell them are education centers.
Beijing has been accused of interning members of its Muslim population — by some reports as many as 1 million — to “re-educate” them away from their faith. It is seen as a response to riots and violent attacks that the government blamed on separatists.
“They call them schools, but they are prisons,” Atta said. “They can’t leave.”
Pakistanis often rally loudly in defense of Islam and Muslims whenever they are perceived offended around the world — most recently over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. In 1989, protests spread from Pakistan elsewhere, leading to the fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini against author Salman Rushdie for his depiction of Islam in his book Satanic Verses.
But political and economic factors, including concerns about losing out on vast Chinese investments, have kept Pakistan and other Muslim countries silent about the plight in China of fellow Muslims, the Uighurs.
“Cold, hard interests will always carry the day” in international relations, said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center. “The Muslim world’s deafening silence about China’s treatment of Muslims can be attributed to its strong interest in maintaining close relations with the world’s next superpower.”
China is financing major development projects in cash-strapped Pakistan. Islamabad says Beijing’s up to $75 billion development project known the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — part of an effort to reconstruct the historic Silk Road linking China to all corners of Asia — will bring new prosperity to Pakistan, where the average citizen lives on just $125 a month.
For Atta, it’s not just the separation from his wife.
He has also had to leave their two sons, who are 5 and 7 years old and whose passports were confiscated by the Chinese government, in the care of his wife’s family. Otherwise, he said, the authorities would have put them in an orphanage.
He went back to China twice for a few months but both times his visas expired and he had to return to Pakistan. Getting in touch with family in Xinjiang is a circuitous route that involves reaching out to Pakistani friends still there, who then track down family members willing to talk.
“Now especially I am worried. It is now eight, almost nine months, that I have not seen my children,” he said. “I haven’t even been able to talk to them.”
Last week, Atta finally talked to his brother-in-law after a friend discovered he had a heart attack and was recovering in a hospital in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.
“He said my sons were good, but he had no news of my wife,” said Atta.
China routinely responds to queries on Uighurs by saying its policies are aimed at creating “stability and lasting peace” in Xinjiang but President Xi Jinping’s campaign to subdue a sometimes restive region, including the internment of more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, has alarmed a United Nations panel and the US government.
Mushahid Hussain, chairman of Pakistan’s Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said the cardinal principle of Pakistan-China relations is to refrain from commenting on anything to do with the other country’s domestic issues.
“Given the relationship of Pakistan with China, and in the Muslim world in particular, the Chinese narrative is apparently being accepted across the board as the one that is correct,” Hussain said.
A steady stream of Pakistani men has visited Beijing in recent months , lobbying for the release of their wives to little avail. Some say they met Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khalid, on multiple occasions, and were told their issues were raised privately with the Chinese.
Another Pakistani man in a similar predicament, Mir Aman, went to China more than 25 years ago as a poor laborer in search of work.
There, he met his wife, Maheerban Gul, they worked hard and eventually bought a hotel. The couple has two daughters, Shahnaz, 16, and Shakeela, 12, both now with their father in Pakistan.
Last year, Aman first tried to go back to China alone, but the authorities denied him entry at a border crossing without his wife. Then they returned together to Xinjiang. There, she was ordered to report every morning to the police, who gave her books on the Communist Party to read.
“When they would see anything written in Urdu, a prayer mat or something related to religion, they would seize it,” he said. “They want to eliminate Islam.”
After a few weeks, Aman was ordered to leave even though he had a six-month visa. He was told he could return after one month. When he did, his wife was gone.
For four months he pestered police every day, threatened to take his life in public. He was finally allowed to see his wife, who was brought to a local police station, for just an hour.
They cried. When the meeting ended he was told to go home to Pakistan “and stop making trouble for the administration,” Aman said.
He has no idea where she is being held.


German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists
German police found over 60,000 ammunition cartridges in raids against Nordkreuz members across the country. (File/Reuters)
Updated 46 min 26 sec ago

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists
  • Extremist group Nordkreuz was stockpiling weapons to seize power during an expected armed Muslim uprising
  • Germany has struggled to contain rising violence from country’s far right

LONDON: At least 20 German police officers are suspected of stealing service-issue pistol, submachine gun and sniper rifle ammunition and giving it to a shooting range linked to a far-right extremist group.

Nordkreuz, the group at the center of the investigation, was stockpiling weaponry, ammunition and other supplies in the belief that Germany would collapse into civil war amid an armed Muslim uprising.

Its 50 or so members, thought to include army and police officers, had planned to exploit the chaos of civil war by seizing power through a military coup using weapons stashed in “safe houses” across the country, according to messages sent on an encrypted messaging app.

A police raid on one of the group’s founders, a police officer known as Marko G, 50, uncovered 55,000 cartridges for various weapons.

That stash included 90 sniper rifle bullets believed to have been stolen from a special forces armory in the south-eastern state of Bavaria.

In a separate raid on other Nordkreuz members, authorities found 7,000 more cartridges for various weapons stolen from a Saxony armory.

Prosecutors say the ammunition was handed to the Baltic Shooters range in the town of Gustrow, in the northeast of the country, in exchange for unauthorized firearms lessons.

Seventeen officers from the police special forces unit in Saxony, and at least three from its Bavarian counterpart, are under investigation.

Petric Kleine, president of Saxony’s state police force, said: “These allegations feel like a slap in the face for my agency. I’m furious and disappointed that a whole special operations unit not only deliberately ignored their orders, but that some of them abused our trust for their criminal activities.”

The Gustrow shooting range is said to have been used as a hub for Nordkreuz. Marko G periodically worked there as a firearms instructor, and was given a 21-month suspended sentence for violating weapon laws.

The investigation into Nordkreuz has also drawn in one of Germany’s top competitive shooters.

Frank Thiel, a 42-time national shooting champion across various events, ran classes at Baltic Shooters and has provided officially sanctioned training to elite police and army special operations units from Germany and across the world. One shooting magazine described him as a mentor to the “crème de la crème of elite units.”

Thiel was briefly a member of Nordkreuz but denied any extremist leanings. He was added to a Nordkreuz chat group in 2015, but left after a month after realizing that “the group is moving in a direction that isn’t mine.” Thiel is currently being treated as a witness, not a suspect, in the Nordkreuz investigation.

Germany has worked to counter the growing influence of the country’s far and extreme right. A 2019 report by the Interior Ministry warned of an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists in the country, nearly 13,000 of them inclined toward violence.

In October 2019, a right-wing terrorist shot dead two people near a synagogue in the city of Halle, and in February 2020, a neo-Nazi committed two mass shootings at shisha bars in the town of Hanau, killing nine people, all of whom had an immigrant background.


Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge
Updated 12 April 2021

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

YANGON: Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge on Monday, her lawyer said.
“She has been charged in six cases altogether — five charges in Naypyidaw and one in Yangon,” Min Min Soe told AFP, saying the latest charge was under the country’s natural disaster management law.


US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired
Updated 12 April 2021

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired
  • Police officer caught on camera pepper-spraying army officer
  • Caron Nazario says he was also threatened with execution

RICHMOND, Virginia: One of two police officers accused of pepper-spraying and pointing their guns at a Black Army officer during a traffic stop has since been fired, a Virginia town announced late Sunday, hours after the governor called for an independent investigation into the case.
The town of Windsor said in a statement that it joined calls from election officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, in requesting an investigation by Virginia State Police into the December 2020 encounter in which two Windsor officers were accused of drawing their guns, pointing them at US Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.
Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was also pepper-sprayed and knocked to the ground by the officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, according to the lawsuit he filed earlier this month against them.
The two sides in the case dispute what happened, but Crocker wrote in a report that he believed Nazario was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop.” Attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press that Nazario wasn’t trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area.
In the statement Sunday, Windsor officials said an internal investigation opened at the time into the use of force determined that department policy wasn’t followed. Officials said disciplinary action was taken and Gutierrez has since been fired.
Officials added that departmentwide requirements for additional training were also implemented beginning in January.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement said. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”
Northam called the December 2020 encounter “disturbing” in a tweet Sunday, adding that he directed State Police to review what happened.
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” Northam said in his statement calling for a review of the actions.
The Windsor police chief didn’t respond to messages sent through the police department’s Facebook page over the weekend.
Windsor is about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Richmond.


Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first
A group of Afghan models participated in Afghanistan's first fashion show in Kabul to depict the plight of war victims in the country. (Photo by Haqiqi Fashion)
Updated 12 April 2021

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first
  • Organizers wanted to show ‘bitter and harsh reality’ of conflict

KABUL: After nearly a week of planning, 12 Afghan models walked the runway on Saturday as part of the country’s first fashion show to highlight the impact of the decades-long conflict.

Dressed in blood-stained shrouds to resemble war victims, two women and 10 men took part in the first round of “The Shroud Fashion Show.”

Event organizer Ajmal Haqiqi said there were plans to host similar events in the future.

“Through this event, we wanted to show the bitter and harsh reality of the ongoing situation in our country, to show the impact of suicide bombers, blasts and attacks,” Haqiqi told Arab News on Sunday. “We will hold more of such programs among the public, on the streets, and in this way draw the attention of our leaders and the world that Afghans more than any other nation badly need and deserve peace.”

Haqiqi Fashion, which he set up 13 years ago, is the country’s first modelling agency.

He said the main idea behind the event was to draw attention to the “war’s calamities.”

“People want and need peace. It was a campaign to emphasise peace, not on modelling or peace for modelling,” Haqiqi added.

Some Afghans went on social media to show their support for the event.

“Afghans are tired of the war and use any medium to show that,” school student Sayed Sameer posted on Facebook. “The fashion show was one way.”

A group of Afghan models participated in Afghanistan's first fashion show in Kabul to depict the plight of war victims in the country. (Photo by Haqiqi Fashion)

There have been more than 40 years of fighting in Afghanistan, claiming the lives of an unknown number of people.

More than 100 civilians and members of the security forces died last week, according to estimates released by Tolo News on Saturday, and the US said in a February report that civilian casualties had seen a sharp uptick since peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives began in Doha last September.

According to a UN report, 3,035 Afghan civilians lost their lives last year. It blamed the Taliban for most of the deaths, but did not say how many insurgents and government forces had been killed during the same period.

The US, which has led a coalition of foreign troops since the Taliban’s ousting in 2001, has been trying for months to persuade the militants and the government to agree on a future political roadmap that would pave the way for the group to participate in an interim administration.

Later this week Turkey, at the request of the US, will host a major conference between the two sides to accelerate the peace process.

While Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government has shown a willingness to attend the conference, the Taliban have yet to confirm their participation at the meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for April 16.

Ghani, whose second term will end in 2024, has vehemently rejected Washington D.C.’s proposal to form an interim government but, in recent months, it has offered to organize a snap election.

“One of our key goals was to draw the attention of participants in Turkey’s meeting that our only demand is peace,” Haqiqi added. “We want peace for everyone, not for our models alone.”

 


France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief
Updated 11 April 2021

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief

France says Turkey ‘deliberately’ snubbed EU Commission chief
  • Europe Minister Clement Beaune says Turkey set 'trap' for Ursula von der Leyen
  • Erdogan's snub dubbed 'sofagate' has sparked a diplomatic storm between Turkey and Europe

PARIS: France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune said Sunday that Turkey had set a “trap” for European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen by forcing her to sit off to the side on a visit to Ankara, in a photo-op faux pas quickly dubbed ‘sofagate’.
The Turkish presidency’s failure to place a chair for von der Leyen alongside President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and EU Council chief Charles Michel was “an insult from Turkey,” Beaune said on RTL television.

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“Turkey behaved badly,” he added, calling it “a Turkish problem done deliberately toward us... we shouldn’t be stirring up guilt among Europeans.”
Von der Leyen’s being shunted aside prompted recriminations from European capitals to Turkey, but also within Brussels.
For its part, Ankara insists the incident was down to tangled wires between the Council and Commission, separate EU institutions.
Michel’s staff claimed they had no access to the meeting room before the Tuesday event, but also highlighted that the Council chief comes before the Commission president under strict international protocol.
“It was a kind of trap... between the one who laid it and the one who walked into it, I’d rather place the blame on the one who laid it,” France’s Beaune said.
Echoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who called Erdogan a “dictator” in response to the sofa incident, Beaune charged that there was “a real problem with lack of respect for democracy and an autocratic drift in Turkey” that should prompt Europeans to be “very firm with the Turks.”
Nevertheless, “in future, it would be good if there was one single presidency of the European executive,” Beaune acknowledged.
“We need stronger European institutions.”