Indian farmers’ protest turns violent; historic fort stormed

The 16th-century Mughal fort holds significance for India. (Reuters)
The 16th-century Mughal fort holds significance for India. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 January 2021

Indian farmers’ protest turns violent; historic fort stormed

Indian farmers’ protest turns violent; historic fort stormed
  • Thousands from neighboring states break police barricades to enter New Delhi

DELHI: A protest march in Delhi on Tuesday by thousands of farmers demanding the repeal of three controversial farm laws turned violent, leading to one death and several injuries.
Clashes took place between farmers and police at several places in the national capital when farmers staged a “tractor rally”  to coincide with India’s 72nd Republic Day.
Thousands of people from neighboring states stormed the heart of Delhi, breaking police barricades.
Elaborate security arrangements were planned by Delhi Police in anticipation of the march, but the rally turned aggressive, while some Sikh farmers entered the historic Red Fort and hoisted a Sikh religious flag.
“Our idea was not to disrespect India’s flag but to tell the Modi government that it should listen to our voice and repeal the three laws it has passed,” Gurmeet Singh, a protesting farmer, told Arab News.
The 16th-century Mughal fort holds significance for India. It is where the prime minister hoists the national flag on Independence Day every year on Aug. 15.
Police suspended internet access in several areas of the capital to control the chaos.
For the last two months, thousands of farmers and their families from across the country have held sit-in protests at different borders of Delhi demanding the repeal of three farm acts passed in September. They say the laws would leave them at the mercy of corporate giants and prevent the government from buying crops at guaranteed prices.
The government held 10 rounds of talks with farmers to resolve the issue and offered to suspend the new laws for 15 months in order to reach an agreement. However, farmers rejected the proposal and demanded an abrogation of the three laws before withdrawing the protest.
To intensify the rally, farmers decided to hold a tractor rally to mark India’s Republic Day.
Farmer leaders blamed the police for the chaos.
“Our protest was pre-planned and farmers were marching with their tractors, but the police created barriers at several places and used force to stop people,” Savit Malik of the Farmers’ Union told Arab News.
“The government wants to weaken the farmers’ movement by provoking violence at the protest march. But no matter what happens, farmers are not going to dilute their protests,” Malik added.
Some farmer leaders appealed to their supporters to maintain peace and stick to the predefined route of the march.
“I appeal to the people to maintain peace and not allow the protest to turn violent. This will weaken our movement,” Indian Farmers’ Union leader Rakesh Tikait told reporters in Delhi.
Media reports say that India’s Home Minister Amit Shah is holding a special meeting with security forces to take stock of the situation.
Political analysts blamed the government for the violence and chaos in the city.
Delhi-based analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News: “I believe that the government deliberately wielded this to happen this way. When they allowed the procession to come inside Delhi they knew what they were playing with and they wanted this to happen.
“The government has no other strategy except discrediting this movement which has been going on for months.”

The agitation is the biggest political crisis that the Narendra Modi led-Bharatiya Janata Party has faced in the last six years.
Mukhopadhyay said that the only way out of this logjam for the government is to call the movement anti-national, blame Sikh separatists, create problems for anybody who is supportive of it and “give a fresh task to the majoritarian
Hindu crowd.”
He said if New Delhi does not stop playing politics with the farmers’ protest, “it might have a major national security fallout.”


Contenders tout credentials in close vote to replace Merkel

Contenders tout credentials in close vote to replace Merkel
Updated 7 sec ago

Contenders tout credentials in close vote to replace Merkel

Contenders tout credentials in close vote to replace Merkel
BERLIN: The contenders to succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor sought to mobilize voters Friday as the election campaign neared its close.
They touted their credentials to lead Europe’s biggest economy into a new era as it grapples with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
Merkel is stepping down after 16 years in power, and the race is wide open ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election. Polls show the outgoing leader’s center-right Union bloc, with Armin Laschet as its candidate for chancellor, a little behind or nearly level with the center-left Social Democrats, who have Finance Minister Olaf Scholz seeking the chancellorship.
The Greens, with Annalena Baerbock making the party’s first run for chancellor, are trailing in third place but could end up playing the kingmaker in forming a government.
Experts say one reason why this year’s German election is tighter and less predictable than usual is that the candidates are relative unknowns to most voters.
“It’s certainly not the most boring election,” University of Leipzig political scientist Hendrik Traeger said. “There were those in which Angela Merkel stood as the incumbent and it was simply a question of who she would govern with.”
This time, Merkel’s party has struggled to energize its traditional base, which has so far failed to warm to Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state.
“The key question is whether these voters will overcome the Laschet hurdle and vote for the Union despite Laschet” said Peter Matuschek of polling company Forsa. “Or will they abstain from the vote or even choose another party?”
Scholz, whose party has made steady gains in opinion polls during the campaign on the strength of his relative popularity, touted the outgoing government’s success in preserving jobs during the pandemic.
“What we have seen is that we are succeeding in avoiding the major economic and social crisis that otherwise would have hit us,” he said at a rally in Cologne. “We put a lot of money into bringing jobs and companies through this crisis, and today, we can say that we have succeeded. We see an upswing ahead of us.”
Scholz, who wants to raise Germany’s minimum wage and increase taxes for top earners, argued that anyone calling for tax relief for the rich now “can’t count, doesn’t understand anything about finance.”
The Union bloc, an alliance of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, contends that any tax increases would be counterproductive as the German economy recovers. Laschet said at a rally in Munich that it would be “exactly the wrong way” out of the pandemic.
“The pandemic is now in its final phase, and (the Social Democrats) are beginning again with their old socialist classics from the 80s — bureaucracy, tax increases, patronizing people,” he said.
Merkel declared that “for Germany to remain stable, Armin Laschet must become chancellor and (the Union) must be the strongest party.” She was making the second of three appearances in the final week of a campaign from which she has been largely absent.
Laschet praised Merkel’s record. “It’s up to us to carry this legacy forward,” he said. “If we get it wrong now, everything that was achieved in 16 years could be squandered.”
Baerbock, the Greens’ candidate, focused her pitch on fighting climate change, her party’s central issue.
“This election is a choice of direction,” she said in Duesseldorf. “This election is a climate election.”
“We can’t afford half-measures anymore,” said Baerbock, whose party wants to ramp up carbon prices and end the use of coal earlier than planned. “We need finally to have a climate government — with all its strength, with all its heart and with full passion.”
“Yes, it’s a risk to do something new, but where has government experience alone brought us, if that’s the standard for a parliamentary election?” asked Baerbock, the only candidate for chancellor who lacks government experience. “It has led us to a dead end.”
Tens of thousands of environmental activists staged a rally outside Germany’s parliament earlier Friday to demand that politicians take stronger action to curb climate change.
Migration has been less of a concern to many voters than in 2017. Foreign policy has not come up much during the campaign but became an issue during the final television debate Thursday, with the Greens calling for a tougher stance on China.
About 60.4 million Germans are eligible to vote for a new parliament on Sept. 26. The strongest party will be best-placed to form a governing coalition, though that isn’t automatic.
The business-friendly Free Democrats are angling for a place in government after pulling the plug on coalition talks after the 2017 election. The far-right Alternative for Germany is expected to do well in the country’s east, but other parties refuse to work with it.
The Left Party, which opposes NATO and German military deployments abroad, remains a possible governing partner for the Greens and Social Democrats, a prospect that has drawn alarm from conservatives. Friday’s center-right rally was larded with warnings that such an alliance would damage Germany’s economy and international standing.
Election officials say many more people will vote by mail this year due to the pandemic, but this isn’t expected to affect turnout significantly.

‘Loss and pain’: Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial

‘Loss and pain’: Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial
Updated 24 September 2021

‘Loss and pain’: Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial

‘Loss and pain’: Families testify at Dutch MH17 trial
  • Relatives of the victims of flight MH17 denounced the "senseless and brutal" deaths of their loved ones during the trial of four suspects accused in the disaster
  • Their testimony concluded three weeks of statements from 90 relatives from eight countries.

AMSTERDAM: A woman whose daughter was among 298 people who died when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine said on Friday she wanted to look the suspects in the eye and “make them feel our loss and pain.”
Relatives of the victims of flight MH17, brought down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014, denounced the “senseless and brutal” deaths of their loved ones during the trial of four suspects accused in the disaster.
Their testimony concluded three weeks of statements from 90 relatives from eight countries. They told the judges about the impact of the loss on their lives and their hopes for justice.
Prosecutor Alwin Dam said many relatives have issues with the “amount of misinformation and conspiracy theories that are spread about MH17” and the fact that no one has claimed responsibility.
The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by what international investigators and prosecutors say was a Russian surface-to-air missile.
Jeanne Hornikx’s daughter Astrid, 31, and Astrid’s partner Bart, 40, were among those on board.
Hornikx showed the judges a tattoo of her daughter’s fingerprint, saying “that is how she was identified.”
“I would like to look the suspects straight in the eye and make them feel our loss and pain. That our suffering becomes their suffering, that maybe grief shared — and remorse — can become grief halved,” Hornikx said.
Dutch prosecutors have brought charges against three Russians and a Ukrainian citizen, all suspected of having key roles in transporting the missile system. They went on trial for murder last year.
Two-thirds of the victims were Dutch citizens and the Netherlands blames Moscow for the attack.
Russia, which maintains that it has not funded or supported pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops, has refused to extradite the suspects. Only one defendant has appointed a lawyer.
The court adjourned until November with the prosecution closing statement expected on Nov. 15, judges said. A verdict will likely be handed down late next year.


Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia

Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia
Updated 24 September 2021

Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia

Rome to host 1st International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia
  • Event, co-funded by European Commission, seeks ‘more inclusive’ society, organizers tell briefing attended by Arab News
  • 65% of Italian Muslims say they have suffered violence, prejudice or discrimination: Study

ROME: The first International Youth Forum Against Islamophobia will be held this weekend in Rome.

The online forum, organized as part of the Youth Empowerment Support project, aims to raise awareness about Islamophobia so as to effectively combat it.

“Free to believe, free to think, free to be” is the title of the event, which is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Program of the European Commission.

The forum “aims to be a space and an opportunity for young people to discuss and think concretely about how to build a more inclusive and diverse society, free from stereotypes and discrimination, through debates, workshops and exchanges of experiences,” the organizers said at a press conference attended by Arab News.

The goal, they added, is “to create new connections between communities in Europe and to transfer knowledge” so as to help young Italians and Europeans — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — provide information and guidance on the rights of religious minorities.

At the end of the forum, a youth manifesto against Islamophobia will be approved. The event will include panels of experts with representatives from Muslim organizations, civil society, and Italian and European institutions.

Triantafillos Loukarelis, director of the European Network Against Racism, said Muslim females, “particularly if they wear religious symbols, are victims of multiple discrimination — based on gender, religion and origin — which results in verbal aggression in public, hate speech on social media and social exclusion, with difficulties in accessing the labor market and training courses.”

Islam is the second-largest religion in Italy with about 2.5 million faithful, over 1 million of them with Italian citizenship.

According to a study published recently by ENAR, 65 percent of Italian Muslims say they have suffered violence, prejudice or discrimination.


Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption

Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption
Updated 24 September 2021

Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption

Spanish volcano remains volatile 5 days after eruption
  • The lava has destroyed almost 400 buildings on La Palma
  • The Spanish government will provide aid for rebuilding homes and public infrastructure

TODOQUE, Canary Islands: A volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands continued to produce explosions and spew out lava Friday, five days after it erupted, authorities said.
The lava has destroyed almost 400 buildings on La Palma, including many homes, on the western side of the island of 85,000 people, a European Union monitoring program said.
It said the lava stretches over 180 hectares (almost 20,000 square feet) and has blocked 14 kilometers (9 miles) of roads. Islanders make a living mostly from farming and tourism, and some may lose their livelihoods.
The government of La Palma Island said officials had recorded 1,130 quakes in the area over the past week as the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge shook with blasts of molten lava.
On a visit to La Palma, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a package of measures to help get the island back on its feet and “rebuild lives.”
The Spanish government will provide aid for rebuilding homes and public infrastructure, such as roads, irrigation networks and schools, as well as relaunching the island’s tourism industry, Sánchez said. He did not say how much money would be made available, but said a Cabinet meeting next week would provide more details.
The blasts are sending ash up to 4500 meters (almost 15,000 feet) into the air, the Guardia Civil police force said in a tweet. Local authorities advised people to protect themselves from the ash with face masks.
Two rivers of lava continued to slide slowly down the hillside, with experts doubting whether they would cover the remaining 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) to the sea due to their slowing progress.
One of the lava flows has almost ground to a halt and a second one is moving at between 4 and 5 meters an hour, the Guardia Civil said.
Both are at least 10 meters (33 feet) high at their leading edge and are destroying houses, farmland and infrastructure in their path.
Scientists say the lava flows could last for weeks or months.
Authorities haven’t reported any casualties from the eruption. Scientists had been monitoring the volcanic activity and had warned of a possible eruption, allowing almost 7,000 people to be evacuated in time.


Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community
Updated 24 September 2021

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community
  • Imam tells Arab News of ‘catastrophic consequences on youth’
  • Drug use in US up 61% between 2016 and 2020, with 93,000 overdose deaths last year

DEARBORN: Despite an abundance of studies and preventive efforts, drug addiction is growing more than ever in the US, including at alarming rates in the Arab-American community, leaders in Greater Detroit have told Arab News.
There were more than 70,000 overdose deaths in 2019 and 93,000 last year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Today, drug abuse among youth in particular is a high public-health concern as at least one in eight teenagers, some as young as 13, use an illicit substance. Drug use increased 61 percent between 2016 and 2020.

Half of teenagers have misused a drug at least once, and it is estimated that 43 percent of college students use illicit drugs.
 “The issue of drugs and its catastrophic consequences on the youth of the Arab-American community has become apparent to any sane person,” Imam Mardini, the imam of the American Islamic Center in the city of Dearborn, told Arab News.
 “Everyone is at risk. We’ve had cases from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and some were even from wealthy conservative families.”
 Adel Mozip, a Dearborn school board trustee, told Arab News: “Drug abuse is alive in the Detroit community, where youth lose their lives consistently due to overdoses and addiction, and Arab and Muslim students are impacted greatly.”
 Dr. Omar Reda — a board-certified psychiatrist, Harvard-trained trauma expert, author and family advocate — advised parents: “You can detect the symptoms of drug use by monitoring certain changes in children such as language, behavior, weight loss, sleep disturbance, tendency to be secretive, skin marks, or even leaving home. Some other dangerous symptoms might include delusions, hallucinations, violence, or expressing suicidal thoughts.”
 He said the main social and behavioral reasons for youth drug addiction in Arab communities are isolation — which has become worse since the coronavirus pandemic — marginalization, despair, poor family and social support, and stigma because of cultural and religious taboos.
Takween Katrous, mental wellness coordinator at the American Islamic Center, told Arab News: “Many young adults in the Arab community have self-esteem issues and can be affected by peer pressure because they’re eager to fit in, and can easily succumb to societal pressures.” 
She said there is a clear lack of emotional support from immigrant parents, including from Arab and Muslim communities, due to generational differences that lead to misunderstanding and conflict within families.
Mozip said part of the problem is related to the easy accessibility of drugs. As such, doctors and pharmacists should “stop writing prescriptions that lead to addiction, and in addition they must closely monitor their patients.”
Experts said another important factor is the stigma surrounding mental health in the Arab community, as parents prefer to hide family problems than deal with them because of perceived shame.

In this context, Mardini advises parents to pinpoint the problem and confront it courageously at an early stage. Mozip said: “Please don’t be ashamed of treating your child.”  
As for the role of the community in confronting this issue, Katrous said: “It should offer youth more recreational programs in order to make sure they’re preoccupied with activities that benefit them emotionally, physically and academically.” 
Until authorities find effective solutions to the problem, and Arab and Muslim communities acknowledge and take it more seriously, drug addiction will worsen, Arab community leaders warn.

They say local communities, religious institutions and families must work together with openness, sincerity and solidarity to save their children.