Alabama woman who joined Daesh stuck in refugee camp

The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who left home in Alabama to join Daesh and is now in a Syrian camp, but has decided she wants to return to the US. (AP/Reuters/File Photos)
The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who left home in Alabama to join Daesh and is now in a Syrian camp, but has decided she wants to return to the US. (AP/Reuters/File Photos)
Short Url
Updated 13 January 2022

Alabama woman who joined Daesh stuck in refugee camp

The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who left home in Alabama to join Daesh and is now in a Syrian camp, but has decided she wants to return to the US. (AP/Reuters/File Photos)
  • Hoda Muthana and her 4-year-old child, the son of a man she met while with Daesh, have been living in a Syrian refugee camp

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama: Attorneys for a woman who left her Alabama home to join Daesh plan to continue fighting for her and her young son even though the Supreme Court declined to consider her lawsuit seeking to re-enter the United States, one of the lawyers said Wednesday.
Hoda Muthana and her 4-year-old child, the son of a man she met while with Daesh, have been living in a Syrian refugee camp for nearly the entire life of the child, and it’s unclear what steps might come next to argue for their admittance into the United States, said Christina Jump, who represents the woman’s family.
But Jump, who works with the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, said attorneys are considering options.
“We intend to stand by Hoda and her son and their rights to citizenship,” she said. “We do intend to keep working on her behalf.”
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of a lawsuit filed by relatives on behalf of Muthana, who was born in New Jersey and fled her home in suburban Birmingham in 2014 to join Daesh, apparently after becoming radicalized online.
She later decided she wanted to return to the United States, but the government determined she was not a US citizen and revoked her passport while she was overseas, blocking her return. The government cited her father’s status as a diplomat from Yemen at the time of her birth in 1994.
While the Supreme Court refused to consider overturning lower court rulings that said Muthana could be kept out of the country, Camp said she still believes “the Department of State does not have the authority to revoke citizenship in the manner that was done to Ms Muthana.”
Both relatives and lawyers have a hard time maintaining regular contact with Muthana because she isn’t allowed to have her own cellphone in the camp where she lives and Internet service is spotty, said the attorney.
Muthana has renounced Daesh and both she and her son have been threatened because of her stance, Camp said. The child’s father is dead.
The decision to revoke her passport was made under former President Barack Obama. The case gained widespread attention because former President Donald Trump tweeted about it, saying he had directed the secretary of state not to allow her back into the country.


Uyghurs urge UN rights chief to ask hard questions in Xinjiang

A security person watches from a guard tower around a detention facility in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. (AP)
A security person watches from a guard tower around a detention facility in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. (AP)
Updated 8 sec ago

Uyghurs urge UN rights chief to ask hard questions in Xinjiang

A security person watches from a guard tower around a detention facility in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. (AP)
  • Campaigners have voiced concern that Chinese authorities will prevent Bachelet from conducting a thorough probe into alleged rights abuses and instead give her a stage-managed tour with limited access

BEIJING: Uyghurs have urged UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to avoid falling victim to a public relations stunt as her trip to China enters a delicate new phase on Tuesday with a visit to the remote Xinjiang region.
The ruling Communist Party is accused of detaining over one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region as part of a years-long security crackdown the United States has labelled a “genocide.”
China vehemently denies the allegations, calling them the “lie of the century.”
Bachelet is expected to visit the Xinjiang cities Urumqi and Kashgar on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of a six-day tour.
“I hope she can also ask the Chinese government for the whereabouts of my mother,” said Jevlan Shirememet, adding that he had not been able to contact her in four years.
The Turkey-based 31-year-old — from the province’s northern reaches near the border with Kazakhstan — also said he hoped Bachelet would venture further than her itinerary.
“I don’t know why she can’t visit these places,” he told AFP.
Nursimangul Abdureshid — another Uyghur living in Turkey — was “not very hopeful that her trip can bring any change.”
“I request them to visit victims like my family members, not the pre-prepared scenes by the Chinese government,” she told AFP.
“If the UN team cannot have unlimited access in Xinjiang, I will not accept their so-called reports.”

Regional capital Urumqi — population four million — houses major government bodies believed to have orchestrated the province-wide campaign China described as a crackdown on religious extremism.
It is home to a sizeable Uyghur community and was the site of deadly ethnic clashes in 2009 as well as two terrorist attacks in 2014.
Meanwhile, Kashgar — home to 700,000 people — lies in the Uyghur heartland of southern Xinjiang.
An ancient Silk Road city, it has been a major target of Beijing’s crackdown, researchers and activists say, with authorities accused of smothering the cultural hub in a high-tech security blanket while bulldozing Uyghur homes and religious sites.
The outskirts of both cities are pockmarked with what are believed to be detention camps, part of a sprawling network of recently built facilities stretching across the remote province.
Campaigners have voiced concern that Chinese authorities will prevent Bachelet from conducting a thorough probe into alleged rights abuses and instead give her a stage-managed tour with limited access.
The US has said it is “deeply concerned” that she had not secured guarantees on what she will see, adding that she was unlikely to get an “unmanipulated” picture of China’s rights situation.
Speaking in Guangzhou where she met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday, Bachelet said she would be “discussing some very important issues and sensitive issues.”
“I hope this will help us build confidence, and enable us to work together,” she added.
Bachelet also gave assurances on her access to detention centers and rights defenders during a Monday virtual meeting with the heads of dozens of diplomatic missions in China, according to diplomatic sources in Beijing.
Caroline Wilson, the UK’s Ambassador to China, was on the call and said she stressed “the importance of unfettered access to Xinjiang and private conversations with its people.”
“There is no excuse for preventing UN representatives from completing their investigations,” Wilson wrote on Twitter.
Bachelet’s office has also said she will meet with civil society organizations, business representatives and academics.
In addition to mass detentions, Chinese authorities have waged a campaign of forced labor, coerced sterilization and the destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage in Xinjiang, researchers and campaigners say.
Uyghurs overseas have staged rallies in recent weeks pressing Bachelet to visit relatives believed to be detained in Xinjiang.


Moscow not sure it needs resumed ties with West, will work on ties with China -Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Reuters)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Reuters)
Updated 10 min 1 sec ago

Moscow not sure it needs resumed ties with West, will work on ties with China -Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (Reuters)
  • “Now that the West has taken a ‘dictator’s position’, our economic ties with China will grow even faster,” Lavrov said

MOSCOW: Russia’s Foreign Minister said on Monday that Moscow will consider offers of re-establishing ties with the West and think whether that is needed, but will focus on developing ties with China.
“If they (the West) want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, then we will seriously consider whether we will need it or not,” Lavrov said in a speech, according to a transcript on the foreign ministry’s website.
He also said Moscow’s goal now is to further develop ties with China.
“Now that the West has taken a ‘dictator’s position’, our economic ties with China will grow even faster,” Lavrov said.

 


UN unequivocal about right of Afghan girls to education, World Economic Forum told

UN unequivocal about right of Afghan girls to education, World Economic Forum told
Updated 23 May 2022

UN unequivocal about right of Afghan girls to education, World Economic Forum told

UN unequivocal about right of Afghan girls to education, World Economic Forum told
  • Steiner said first thing that must be reestablished in country is “a rule of law in the sense of fundamental rights”
  • He added that the most urgent priority is saving Afghanistan’s economy from collapse

LONDON: The UN is clear about the human rights it expects authorities in Afghanistan to uphold, one of which is the right of girls to education, an official from the organization said on Monday.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Achim Steiner, the administrator of the UN Development Program, said that girls in the country should be free to complete their education and pursue careers.
The UN “is unequivocal about the fundamental human rights that we expect a country like Afghanistan to uphold and to respect and that includes … the right of girls to attend educational institutions,” he said. “And not just primary school but also secondary school, and their ability to pursue careers and to go to university.
“It is without doubt a grave misjudgment that up to now the Taliban have not fulfilled the commitment that they have repeatedly made to their own public, but also to the international community, that they would reopen the secondary schools” to girls, Steiner added.
The Taliban has barred girls from attending school after the sixth grade, reversing previous promises made by Taliban officials when they took control of the country last year that girls of all ages would be allowed to continue their education.
The group has placed other strict restrictions on females, including ordering all women to wear clothing in public that covers them head to toe with only their eyes visible. They also issued a decree stating that women should leave their homes only when necessary and that male relatives would face punishment for any violations of the women’s dress code, starting with a summons and escalating to court hearings and jail time.
Steiner said the first thing that must be reestablished in the country is “a rule of law in the sense of fundamental rights.” He added: “I think this is perhaps the greatest single litmus test that the international community holds up to the Taliban — and I think quite rightly.”
However, Steiner warned that the most urgent need in Afghanistan is action to save its economy from complete collapse.
“We cannot abandon 40 million Afghans simply on the principle of moral outrage,” he said. “That is why the UN stepped back into Afghanistan and became the backbone of an international community’s presence.
“We are there because we see the desperation of the Afghan people. And while the international community finds a way with the Taliban to conclude a process of political rapprochement, we are trying to essentially intervene in an economy that has to keep people alive.”
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan nine months ago following the withdrawal of US troops triggered an economic crisis. Underpinning this was the decision of the Biden administration to freeze about $9.5 billion deposited by the Afghan central bank in American financial institutions.
President Joe Biden has signed an order to release $7 billion of these frozen assets but only half will be released for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The remainder will go to the families of Sept. 11 victims.


UN Security Council explores pros and cons of new digital technologies

UN Security Council explores pros and cons of new digital technologies
Updated 23 May 2022

UN Security Council explores pros and cons of new digital technologies

UN Security Council explores pros and cons of new digital technologies
  • The latest tech has benefited human rights work and efforts to battle bigotry and racism but malicious use has quadrupled in seven years, UN official said
  • Rosemarie DiCarlo called on members to build a consensus on the use of digital technologies for the good of people and the planet, and on addressing the risks

NEW YORK: Digital technologies have profoundly transformed every facet of society. They offer endless opportunities for development, education and social inclusion, and are transforming the process of advocacy on issues such as human rights and humanitarianism, making it possible to mobilize large numbers of people around the world quickly around important topics that require urgent attention.

However, technological advances are also increasingly being misused by governments and terrorist groups to cause instability and exacerbate conflicts, including through the online spread of disinformation and hate speech.

These were among the main points made by Rosemarie DiCarlo, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs on Monday during a Security Council meeting on technology and security. It was the second signature event organized by the US delegation, which holds the rotating presidency of the council this month, after a debate last week about conflict and food security.

The Security Council has become increasingly involved in efforts to address cybersecurity issues and the role of information and communication technologies in influencing and shaping events in modern societies. The UN has also been working to leverage digital technologies to enhance its work in the field.

During a briefing at the start of the American presidency of the council, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, said that the issue is “a new and important focus for the Security Council” and that “it is long past time for the council to fully grapple with the impact of digital technologies.”

DiCarlo said that digital tools are helping to strengthen the UN’s information-gathering and early-warning capacities in many places. In Yemen, for example, the UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement has used mapping, geographic information systems and satellite technology tools to enhance its monitoring of the ceasefire in the governorate.

New technologies have also helped to remove barriers to access for groups that traditionally have been excluded from political and mediation processes and, therefore, have helped to promote inclusion, DiCarlo said. She gave as an example of this the digital discussions conducted with thousands of Libyans from all walks of life, which were broadcast on TV and social media.

“This effort increased the legitimacy of the process, as different communities saw that their voices could be heard,” she added.

Similarly, in Yemen digital technologies have enabled the UN’s special envoy to engage with hundreds of women across the country, DiCarlo said, “which provided insight on the gender dimensions of the war.”

However, she also warned that incidents involving the malicious use of digital technologies for political or military ends have quadrupled since 2015, and said that activities targeting infrastructure that helps to provide essential public services is particular concern.

A report by the UN Secretary General published in May 2020 noted that new technologies were too often used for surveillance, repression, censorship and online harassment, and called for greater efforts to develop guidance on how human rights standards apply in the digital age.

The UN Human Rights Council last month adopted a resolution concerning the role of states in countering the negative effects of disinformation on human rights. It called on members to refrain from conducting or sponsoring disinformation campaigns.

“Non-state actors are becoming increasingly adept at using low-cost and widely available digital technologies to pursue their agendas,” DiCarlo said.

“Groups such as (Daesh) and Al-Qaida remain active on social media, using platforms and messaging applications to share information and communicate with followers for the purposes of recruitment, planning and fundraising.”

Referring to the pernicious use of technology by “super-empowered, non-state actors,” Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, said that commercially available drones are now capable of flying faster, traveling greater distances, carrying larger payloads and leveraging artificial intelligence and other tools to operate without manual control.

“Drones do not just operate in the air,” she said. “On March 3, 2020, the Houthi terrorist group used a remotely operated drone boat laden with explosives to attack an oil tanker off the coast of Yemen.

“If successful, the attack would have had devastating effects not only on the tanker and the crew but on the environment, on local supply routes and on communities along the Yemeni coast who depend on the sea for their livelihood.”

The misuse of social media can also fuel polarization and violence, spread disinformation, radicalization, racism and misogyny, DiCarlo said.

She also expressed concern about the increasing use of internet shutdowns in times of active conflict which, she said, “deprive communities of their means of communication, work and political participation.”

She called on member states to seize what she described as a critical opportunity to build consensus on how digital technologies can be used for the good of people and the planet, while addressing their risks.


Global economic impact of Russian invasion of Ukraine to be felt for years: WEF panel

Global economic impact of Russian invasion of Ukraine to be felt for years: WEF panel
Updated 23 May 2022

Global economic impact of Russian invasion of Ukraine to be felt for years: WEF panel

Global economic impact of Russian invasion of Ukraine to be felt for years: WEF panel
  • Former Finnish PM Alexander Stubb: Zelensky can’t give up, and it’s much easier to defend your country and your identity than to attack
  • Alexander Stubb: The Russian military is surprisingly weak, and it’s difficult for Putin to define a victory

DAVOS: The war in Ukraine is likely to continue impacting the economies of Europe and the wider world for years to come, former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said during a panel at the World Economic Forum on Monday.

Stubb said the global economy would feel the pinch as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, especially in terms of inflation, energy prices and food security.

While Vladimir Putin remains in power in Russia, Stubb said he could not see the return of an equilibrium between Moscow and Europe and that it would be hard for either the Russians or the Ukrainians to define a victory in the conflict.

“Zelensky can’t give up, and it’s much easier to defend your country and your identity than to attack,” he said. “The Russian military is surprisingly weak, and it’s difficult for Putin to define a victory,” he added.

“I think it has to be a territorial definition; for Putin, it’s only Donetsk, perhaps a little bit more, including Crimea.

“Whereas for Zelensky, he could never approve that. I don’t have an answer for when this is going to end.”

Stubb also said he believes that the driving force behind the war is Putin’s desire to make himself a great leader in Russian history.

Stubb’s co-panelist Karin von Hippel, director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, said more definition was needed between Putin and the Russian people, calling the Ukraine invasion “Putin’s war.”

She continued: “It’s hard to say if he knows the truth about what’s really going on in Ukraine; we don’t know how far he’s willing to go.”

She said that under Russia’s leadership, Putin would not abandon the ideology that Ukraine should form part of Russia.

“No Western country can shake hands with him after this. Some may, but a large part can’t,” she added.

Von Hippel said that while she believed in global governance and was a supporter of the UN project, she felt “deeply disappointed” by its response to the Ukraine conflict, saying it had “failed” in its duty.

Samir Saran, president of the Observer Research Foundation, said he believed the developing world — in Asia, Africa and Latin America — should not be paying for what he called a war of European making. 

“When will the world start blaming the West for this inflation?” he asked, before concluding the moment would come sooner than European leaders think.

Saran also said that if a reported disconnect between Putin and the Russian people were to disappear and they were to fully supported the conflict, the consequences would be felt by the global economy for at least another decade.