Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests
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Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. (Reuters/File)
Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests
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Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests
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Updated 04 July 2020

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests

Bangladeshi Nobel laureate says COVID-19 vaccine must be free from commercial interests

DHAKA: The only way to contain the coronavirus pandemic is to have COVID-19 vaccines free from commercial interests, Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus told Arab News in an exclusive interview, as over 100 statesmen, academics, activists and religious leaders joined his campaign to declare coronavirus vaccines a global common good.
“I believe that, ultimately, the only way to definitively eradicate the pandemic is to have a vaccine that can be administered to all inhabitants of the planet,” Yunus said. “The effectiveness of the upcoming vaccination campaign will depend on its universality. To ensure the availability of the vaccines to all people on the planet almost at the same time, it has to be free from ownership.”
Vaccine research requires huge investments and many laboratories in the private sector are engaged in it. Yunus urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to design an action plan to put the vaccine into the public domain.
“To do so we intend to make a global pharmaceutical social business operational as soon as possible. I am looking for partners to help us achieve this goal,” said the economist, who pioneered tiny loans for village entrepreneurs as a way to fight poverty.
The “Declare COVID-19 Vaccine a Global Common Good Now” campaign launched by Yunus on Sunday has already gained the support of 19 Nobel Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Iranian political activist and lawyer Shirin Ebadi, Poland’s first democratically elected president Lech Walesa, British molecular biologist Sir Richard John Roberts, and former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev.
Yunus said he was expecting a huge response from global leaders to ensure that, in the case of a COVID-19 vaccine, there would be consensus for free universal access. He warned that this would not happen as long as the vaccine remained a commercial product owned by companies.
“It has to be freed from commercial interest. The polio vaccine was declared as a common good, not owned by anybody. Why not (have) the corona vaccine follow the same path?”
As of Friday, 112 former presidents, prime ministers, business leaders, artists and social activists joined his mission. Everyone can support the initiative through the website www.vaccinecommongood.org.
More than 11 million people around the world have contracted COVID-19 since late December. The disease has already claimed 524,700 lives.


Syrian refugee to set up charity using libel cash from far-right figure 

When Jamal Hijazi was 15 he was filmed being assaulted and bullied by his classmates in a school in Huddersfield, UK. (Screenshot)
When Jamal Hijazi was 15 he was filmed being assaulted and bullied by his classmates in a school in Huddersfield, UK. (Screenshot)
Updated 29 July 2021

Syrian refugee to set up charity using libel cash from far-right figure 

When Jamal Hijazi was 15 he was filmed being assaulted and bullied by his classmates in a school in Huddersfield, UK. (Screenshot)
  • Jamal Hijazi, from Homs, was falsely accused of violence against female classmates by Tommy Robinson
  • Robinson rose to prominence as the founder of the Islamophobic English Defence League

LONDON: A teenaged Syrian refugee, who won £100,000 ($139,632) in damages from a British Islamophobe, has said he wants to use the money to establish a charity for young people. 

When Jamal Hijazi was 15 he was filmed being assaulted and bullied by his classmates in a school in Huddersfield, UK. He was beaten, and pupils were seen pouring water over his face in an apparent effort to “waterboard” him. 

Following the attack, Tommy Robinson, a well known far-right figure in the UK whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, published two videos in which he falsely accused the refugee of attacking young English girls at his school and threatening to stab other pupils. 

Hijazi, who is originally from Homs, faced death threats and other serious disruptions to his life and education following those claims — which were viewed nearly a million times — and took Robinson to court for libel.

Robinson, who rose to prominence as the founder of Islamophobic far-right group the English Defence League, was ordered to pay Hijazi the damages, as well as foot his legal costs. 

Speaking for the first time since the case’s resolution on July 23, Hijazi, now 17, said: “I want to use this money to set up a charity to help young people of any race who go through problems at school or anywhere. 

“Not just bullying, but racism or any other problems that young people experience,” he told the i newspaper.

“I have been through a lot and I want other young people to have the support that I had and I want to help people.” 

He added that it “felt good” to have won the case but, when asked about Robinson, he said: “I don’t want to go into that.”

Asked about his future, Hijazi said he is now “a lot happier,” and that he hopes to take up an apprenticeship. 

Tasnime Akunjee, the teeanger’s lawyer, said it was disgusting that Robinson “thought it was in any way appropriate to add to the burden of a child who had been seriously bullied.”

He added: “This outcome shows there are limits to what society will tolerate and that when someone crosses the line, there will be support for the victim and that those responsible will be held to account. 

“For Jamal and his family, it is a great relief that the horrific lies which were told about Jamal have been resoundingly put to bed and his name has been cleared.”


Germany to require proof of COVID immunity or negative test on arrival — sources

Germany to require proof of COVID immunity or negative test on arrival — sources
Updated 29 July 2021

Germany to require proof of COVID immunity or negative test on arrival — sources

Germany to require proof of COVID immunity or negative test on arrival — sources
  • Rising caseloads in tourist destinations could help fuel a fourth wave when Germans come home from holiday
  • Rules are now also applied differently at airports and road crossings

BERLIN: All travelers arriving in Germany will be required from this weekend to demonstrate immunity from COVID-19 either from a vaccine or previous infection, or present a negative test result, government sources reported.
The plan reflects growing concern among Germany’s regional and national leaders that rising caseloads in tourist destinations could help fuel a fourth wave when Germans come home from holiday.
Germany now requires a negative test or proof of immunity only from those arriving from so-called “risk areas,” “high-incidence areas” and “virus-variant areas,” which in Europe now include Britain, Spain and the Netherlands.
Rules are now also applied differently at airports and road crossings, and regional leaders are keen to make them more consistent.
Germany saw 3,142 new infections on Thursday, according to its main disease fighting agency, the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases. Average daily new cases in Britain stand at almost 30,000.
After an initial slow start, Germany has swiftly implemented widespread vaccination, with 61.3 percent of the population receiving at least one shot, dramatically reducing the disease’s severity and lethality.


Lawyers warn Danish Syria policy could set ‘dangerous precedent’ for refugees

Lawyers warn Danish Syria policy could set ‘dangerous precedent’ for refugees
Updated 29 July 2021

Lawyers warn Danish Syria policy could set ‘dangerous precedent’ for refugees

Lawyers warn Danish Syria policy could set ‘dangerous precedent’ for refugees
  • More than 1,200 Syrians, mostly women and the elderly, set to be affected after parts of Damascus marked safe for return
  • Denmark does not recognize Assad regime on account of human rights abuses

LONDON: Lawyers taking the Danish government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over its efforts to deport Syrian refugees warn that the move will set a “dangerous precedent.”
Denmark recently began rejecting temporary residency status renewal applications from many Syrians in the country after it determined that security in parts of Syria had “improved significantly,” including the capital Damascus.
This comes despite the government in Copenhagen having no diplomatic ties to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad over ongoing human rights abuses, which would lead to many proposed deportees being left indefinitely in detention centers.
About 1,200 of the 35,000 Syrians living in Denmark are set to be affected by the change in policy, as the Scandinavian nation, previously considered one of the world’s most tolerant and open societies, feels the political impact of a rise in support for the far-right Danish People’s Party.
A similar policy in 2018 revoking the status of hundreds of Somalis in Denmark led to many leaving or disappearing altogether, with the Danish Refugee Council saying they had moved to other countries without official status.
Lawyers from London-based international human rights chambers Guernica 37 said in a note: “The situation in Denmark is deeply concerning. While the risk of direct conflict-related violence may have diminished in some parts of Syria, the risk of political violence remains as great as ever, and refugees returning from Europe are being targeted by regime security forces.
“If the Danish government’s efforts to forcibly return refugees to Syria is successful, it will set a dangerous precedent, which several other European states are likely to follow.”
Guernica 37 is part of a group including 150 Danish law firms pushing back against the new policy.
Carl Buckley, the lead barrister from the chambers, said: “The ECHR is a slow-moving system, but we would make an application asking the court to consider interim measures, which would involve ordering Denmark to stop revoking residencies until a substantive complaint has been considered and ruled upon.”
Jens Rye-Andersen, a Danish immigration lawyer, said that he believed public opinion was on the side of refugees and that he believed the government would change its stance before the case reached the ECHR.
“There have been a lot of changes in the asylum system in the last two years and clearly it’s not working very well. Experts who compiled the initial report the government used to show the security situation in Syria has improved are saying that their work has been misquoted. So I think the government doesn’t have a choice except to reconsider.”
As a result of the Syrian regime’s policy of conscripting young men to serve in its armed forces or punishing others for desertion, the majority of those set to lose their residency status are women or the elderly — with several refugees saying it could end up splitting families.
Ghalia, a 27 year old who arrived in 2015, had her residency permit revoked in March. She told The Guardian newspaper: “I feel nothing but fear about going into the immigration center by myself, but I can’t return to Syria … it is like they believe we have a choice but if I go back, I will be arrested.
“I have no control over my life and I feel like I haven’t done anything to deserve this.”
Faeza, a 25-year-old nurse who had her residency revoked in January, said: “I was interviewed for eight hours. I was asked over and over why hadn’t I returned to Syria? I said because it wasn’t safe.” The ruling was overturned in July, but she added: “I am now worried (in case it happens again). As Syrian refugees, we are subject to unjust decisions.”


8.2 magnitude earthquake off Alaskan peninsula, tsunami warning

8.2 magnitude earthquake off Alaskan peninsula, tsunami warning
Updated 29 July 2021

8.2 magnitude earthquake off Alaskan peninsula, tsunami warning

8.2 magnitude earthquake off Alaskan peninsula, tsunami warning
  • Tsunami warning sirens could be heard on Kodiak, an island with a population of about 6,000 people
  • Alaska was hit by a 9.2-magnitude earthquake in March 1964, the strongest ever recorded in North America

WASHINGTON: An 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the Alaskan peninsula late Wednesday, the United States Geological Survey said, prompting a tsunami warning.
The earthquake hit 56 miles (91 kilometers) southeast of the town of Perryville, the USGS said. The US government issued a tsunami warning for south Alaska and the Alaskan peninsula.
“Hazardous tsunami waves for this earthquake are possible within the next three hours along some coasts,” the US Tsunami Warning System said in a statement.
Perryville is a small village about 500 miles from Anchorage, Alaska’s biggest city.
Tsunami warning sirens could be heard on Kodiak, an island with a population of about 6,000 people, along Alaska’s coastline.
The quake struck at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday (0615 GMT Thursday).
A broadcaster on local radio station KMXT said a tsunami, if it was generated, would hit Kodiak at 11:55 pm.
Videos posted on social media by journalists and residents in Kodiak showed people driving away from the coast as warning sirens could be heard.
A tsunami watch was also issued for Hawaii, meaning residents are required to stay away from beaches.
Five aftershocks were recorded within 90 minutes of the earthquake, the largest with a magnitude of 6.2, according to the USGS.
Alaska is part of the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.
Alaska was hit by a 9.2-magnitude earthquake in March 1964, the strongest ever recorded in North America.
It devastated Anchorage and unleashed a tsunami that slammed the Gulf of Alaska, the US west coast, and Hawaii.
More than 250 people were killed by the quake and the tsunami.
A 7.5 magnitude earthquake also caused tsunami waves in Alaska’s southern coast in October, but no casualties were reported.


India, US push for peace in Afghanistan, decry Taliban’s military advances

India, US push for peace in Afghanistan, decry Taliban’s military advances
Updated 29 July 2021

India, US push for peace in Afghanistan, decry Taliban’s military advances

India, US push for peace in Afghanistan, decry Taliban’s military advances
  • Blinken, Jaishankar agree to expand multilateral security partnership

NEW DELHI: Growing concerns over China and turmoil in Afghanistan dominated talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on Wednesday, with both officials urging the Taliban and Kabul to resolve issues to create a country that is “at peace with itself and its neighbors.”

Jaishankar said in a joint press conference in New Delhi at the end of a two-hour meeting with his US counterpart: “We spoke at length about regional concerns, multilateral institutions and global issues.”

It is Blinken’s first visit to India after assuming charge as US President Joe Biden’s secretary of state.

“Regarding Afghanistan, it is essential that peace negotiations are taken seriously by all parties,” Jaishankar said, adding: “The world wishes to see an independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbors.”

Blinken appreciated India’s contributions to Kabul’s development and talked about working together to stabilize the war-ravaged country.

“We discussed regional security scenarios, including Afghanistan,” Blinken said in his opening statement.

“India and the US share a common view on a peaceful, secured and stable Afghanistan. India has made and continues to make vital contributions to Afghanistan’s stability and development,” he added.

New Delhi has spent billions on development projects in Afghanistan in recent years and is a firm backer of the Kabul government.

However, the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan forced India to evacuate 50 staff from two consulates in the country as the Taliban gained even more territory amid a drawdown of US-led foreign forces.

In April, President Biden ordered the complete withdrawal of about 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, effectively ending the US’ longest war.

Earlier this month, Biden gave an updated timeline and said that the US military mission would end by Aug. 31.

Taliban fighters have swept across the country in recent weeks, with the Pentagon admitting on July 21 that half of all district centers — surrounding 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals — were now in the hands of the Taliban.

Blinken said that he disapproved of the Taliban’s “military adventure” as it “does not serve the objective of peace” in Afghanistan.

“Taking over the country by force and abusing the rights of the people is not the path to achieve those objectives. There is only one path, and that is at the negotiation table to resolve the conflict peacefully,” the US official said.

He emphasized that the Taliban’s military advances were “troubling” and that Washington remains engaged in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban is making advances in district centers; there are reports of them committing atrocities in Afghanistan. It’s deeply troubling. It certainly doesn’t speak well about their intentions for the country. We remain engaged in Afghanistan,” he added.

India’s human rights issues was also brought up in discussions, with Blinken holding talks with civil society leaders in Delhi ahead of his meeting with Jaishankar.

“Shared values — freedom and equality — are key, and none of us have done enough. We need to strengthen our democratic institutions. This is at the core of our relationship, beyond strategic and economic ties,” Blinken said.

Since being elected to office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have faced allegations of suppressing dissent, pursuing divisive policies to appeal to Hindu voters and enacting the Citizenship Amendment Law two years ago, which Muslims argue is discriminatory.

Debate over India’s human rights record became even more pronounced following the death in custody of 87-year-old Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, who was arrested on charges of supporting ultra-Maoists while awaiting bail.

“One of the elements Americans admire most is a fundamental freedom and human rights. That’s how we define India. India’s democracy is powered by free-thinking citizens,” Blinken said.

The US secretary of state also met a Tibetan delegation in Delhi and ended his short visit to the capital by meeting with Modi.

Both sides also discussed the upcoming meeting in September of the Quad group of countries comprising India, Japan, Australia and the US. The Quad will hold the summit in Washington, which Modi is expected to attend.

Blinken, however, denied that the Quad had been created to counter China’s interests in the Indo-Pacific region following Beijing’s accusations that the “Asian NATO” group was designed to harm China.

The US has long viewed India as a key partner in efforts to overpower China’s economic and military might in the Indo-Pacific region, but Blinken rejected the view that the Quad was a “military alliance.”

He said: “What is Quad? It’s quite simple but important. Its purpose is to advance cooperation on regional challenges while reinforcing international rules and values that we believe together underpin peace, prosperity, and stability in the region.

“We share a vision — India and the US — of a free, open and secure atmosphere in the Indo-Pacific and will work together to make that a reality,” he added.

Foreign policy experts see Blinken’s visit as a “sign of maturity” in India-US ties.

“The press conference was indicative of how the US-India relationship has matured,” Pranay Kotasthane, deputy director of the Takshashila Institution based in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, told Arab News.

“There was no mention of our western neighbor, and the focus was on regional security, economic recovery and global issues such as climate change,” he added, before noting the convergence between the two countries on the situation in Afghanistan.

“On Afghanistan, both countries seem to agree that a Taliban that forces itself on the people of Afghanistan will face the consequences in terms of international recognition and access, and both the countries feel the need for resolution through the intra-Afghan dialogue,” Kotasthane said.