Rohingya refugee children celebrate ‘lifeless’ Eid on remote Bangladesh island

Rohingya refugee children celebrate ‘lifeless’ Eid on remote Bangladesh island
Rohingya children play at a refugee camp in Bhasan Char island, Bangladesh. (AN Photo)
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Updated 02 May 2022

Rohingya refugee children celebrate ‘lifeless’ Eid on remote Bangladesh island

Rohingya refugee children celebrate ‘lifeless’ Eid on remote Bangladesh island
  • Nearly 30,000 refugees have been relocated to Bhasan Char since end of 2020
  • Refugee children say they miss friends, family, Eid festivities

DHAKA: Rohingya refugee children relocated with their families to a remote Bangladeshi island said on Monday they missed Eid Al-Fitr celebrations with friends and relatives.

Nearly 30,000 refugees have been moved to Bhasan Char — an island settlement in the Bay of Bengal several hours’ sail away from the mainland — since the end of 2020 with promises of a better life and livelihoods.

The facility, expected to eventually house 100,000 people, is part of Bangladesh’s effort to ease pressure on congested camps at Cox’s Bazar, where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar are living.

The second Eid Al-Fitr on Bhasan Char has not eased the feeling of isolation for its residents, with children reminiscing about the festivities they had experienced at Cox’s Bazar. 




Rohingya children play at a refugee camp in Bhasan Char island, Bangladesh. (AN Photo)

“My Eid celebrations are almost lifeless,” Mohammed Noman Yusuf, 16, told Arab News.

“Most of my friends are still living in Cox’s Bazar camps, and I am missing them a lot. It’s not possible to meet them in person so I resorted to phone calls.”

To mark Eid Al-Fitr, authorities have provided families with food packages and new clothes, but an estimated 7,000 children at Bhasan Char still long for more than what the island life has to offer.

“Where should I go wearing this new cloth?” Yusuf said. “It’s an island and definitely a confined place. There is little room to roam around here and there with friends, which is part of my Eid celebrations.”

Mohammed Ayub, 12, is among those missing his life at Cox’s Bazar, where he recalled far more things to do to mark the end of the Ramadan holy month. 




Rohingya children play at a refugee camp in Bhasan Char island, Bangladesh. (AN Photo)

“My Eid celebrations at Cox’s Bazar were much more colorful. Most of my friends and relatives are living there. I used to enjoy the merry-go-round rides during the Eid fair held at Cox’s Bazar,” Ayub told Arab News.

“But here we don’t get such things on the occasion of Eid.”

The boy’s spirits were significantly lifted when his father gifted him a pair of trousers to mark the religious holiday this year, but Ayub still dreams of the feast that had accompanied Eid celebrations.

“Having rich food like beef and chicken during Eid boosts our celebrations, but without them there’s nothing special in our kitchen on this Eid,” he said.

Nasima Akter, 12, told Arab News that she used to visit the beach at Cox’s Bazar to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, but noted that this year was better because they had more neighbors. However, she missed her relatives who remained at the mainland refugee camps.

“Many of our relatives are still living at Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar. I can’t see them on Eid days. It’s very sad for me,” Akter added.

Moazzam Hossain, Bangladesh’s additional refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told Arab News that authorities were making arrangements to add to the festivities for the children.

“With limited resources, we are trying our best to make Eid celebrations more colorful and joyful for the Rohingyas at the island,” Hossain said.


Russia ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine — Ifax

Russia ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine — Ifax
Updated 6 sec ago

Russia ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine — Ifax

Russia ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine — Ifax
Russia is ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine, the Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying on Wednesday.
Russia will discuss the possibility of holding a prisoner exchange with Ukraine once prisoners who surrendered have been convicted, Rudenko also said. Russian and separatist officials have said some of those who surrendered should be put on trial for war crimes.
He added it was premature to establish a Russian military base in the Russian-controlled area of Ukraine’s Kherson region.

Philippine court orders compensation for victims of 1993 mining disaster

Philippine court orders compensation for victims of 1993 mining disaster
Updated 36 min 6 sec ago

Philippine court orders compensation for victims of 1993 mining disaster

Philippine court orders compensation for victims of 1993 mining disaster
  • Incident made mining a highly contentious issue in a country with vast underdeveloped mineral reserves

MANILA: A Philippine court has ordered a mining company to pay damages to 30 people for negligence in a 1993 dam burst that was one of the country’s worst mining disasters, a verdict cheered on Wednesday by environmentalists and the industry.
The case was filed in 2001 by residents in the island province of Marinduque, who sought compensation after a typhoon caused Marcopper Mining Corp’s Maguila-guila dam to burst, submerging nearby communities and destroying property, crops and livelihoods.
The court in Marinduque ruled the plaintiffs must be paid 300,000 pesos ($5,734) each, plus a share of 1 million pesos for exemplary damages, according to the May 16 decision, which was made available to media this week.
The incident made mining a highly contentious issue in a country with vast underdeveloped mineral reserves. The Philippines is currently the biggest nickel ore supplier to top metals buyer China.
Marcopper, which folded after the incident, had denied liability and negligence in its maintenance and operations of the dam, according to the court decision. It was not immediately clear who would pay the compensation.
Marcopper’s parent company, Placer Dome, was acquired by Canada-based Barrick Gold Corp. in 2006, which absorbed its workforce and projects. Barrick did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the ruling.
Activists and industry groups said the incident underlines the importance of compliance by mining firms.
“The decision sends an encouraging signal to communities gravely affected by mining,” said the Alyansa Tigil Mina (Stop Mining Alliance) group.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Wilfredo Moncano said the decision “serves as a reminder to all mining companies to strictly comply with environment laws and regulations.”
The industry lobby group, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, said the incident has been “a constant reminder to miners all over the world that the safety of all stakeholders in host mining communities is paramount.”


Ukraine’s Zelensky says will only talk directly to Russia’s Putin

Ukraine’s Zelensky says will only talk directly to Russia’s Putin
Updated 47 min 9 sec ago

Ukraine’s Zelensky says will only talk directly to Russia’s Putin

Ukraine’s Zelensky says will only talk directly to Russia’s Putin
  • Zelensky: Moscow should withdraw its troops back to the lines in place before Russia began its invasion

DAVOS: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that he was only willing to talk directly to Vladimir Putin and not via intermediators.
He added that if the Russian President “understands reality” there was the possibility of finding a diplomatic way out of the conflict.
Zelensky, speaking to an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said that Ukraine would fight until it recovered all of its territory.
The Ukrainian President said that Moscow should withdraw its troops back to the lines in place before Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24.
“That might be a first step toward talks,” he said, adding that Russia has been playing for time in its talks with Ukraine.


Pakistan’s capital Islamabad blockaded ahead of opposition protest

Pakistan’s capital Islamabad blockaded ahead of opposition protest
Updated 25 May 2022

Pakistan’s capital Islamabad blockaded ahead of opposition protest

Pakistan’s capital Islamabad blockaded ahead of opposition protest
  • Ousted prime minister Imran Khan plans to lead thousands of people to the capital in a showdown with his rivals

ISLAMABAD: All roads leading into Pakistan’s capital Islamabad were blocked on Wednesday ahead of a major protest planned by ousted prime minister Imran Khan and his supporters.
Since being removed from power through a no-confidence vote last month, Khan has heaped pressure on the country’s fragile new coalition government by staging mass rallies across the country.
The international cricket star-turned-politician plans on Wednesday to lead tens of thousands of people from his power base in the northwestern city of Peshawar to the capital demanding fresh elections — in a center-piece showdown with his rivals.
The coalition government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has pledged to stop Khan’s supporters from pouring into the city, calling the rally an attempt to “divide the nation and promote chaos.”
“Nobody should be allowed to besiege the capital and dictate his terms,” interior minister Rana Sanaullah said on Tuesday.
Entry and exit points on key highways that lead to the capital were blocked by police around the nearest main cities of Peshawar, Lahore, and Multan.
Islamabad police on Wednesday published a traffic plan showing a complete blockade of the city and a heavy security presence.
On Tuesday, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) accused police of arresting and detaining hundreds of its supporters in overnight raids.
Police sources in Lahore who asked not to be named said more than 200 supporters were detained on public order offenses.
The government and police have said that protesters had been planning to join the march with weapons.
One police officer was shot dead during the raids, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz Sharif said.
But a defiant Khan told reporters in Peshawar he would lead the largest march in Pakistan’s history.
“I don’t consider it politics but jihad,” Khan said, referring to a term used by Muslims to describe a struggle.
In 2018, Khan was voted in by an electorate weary of the dynastic politics of the country’s two major parties.
The popular former sports star — who enjoyed the backing of the country’s powerful military — had promised to sweep away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism but is believed to have fallen out with Pakistan’s generals.
He was brought down in part by his failure to rectify the country’s dire economic situation, including its crippling debt, shrinking foreign currency reserves and soaring inflation.


Russia seeks to put stranglehold on twin Ukrainian cities

Russia seeks to put stranglehold on twin Ukrainian cities
Updated 25 May 2022

Russia seeks to put stranglehold on twin Ukrainian cities

Russia seeks to put stranglehold on twin Ukrainian cities
  • More than 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its war of aggression
  • EU’s von der Leyen says Moscow weaponizing food

More than 6.5 million people have fled abroad, uncounted thousands have been killed and cities have been reduced to rubble.

 

KYIV/SLOVYANSK, Ukraine: Russian forces sought to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin eastern cities straddling a river as President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Moscow was seeking to destroy the industrial Donbas region where it has focused its attacks.
Russia is attempting to seize the separatist-claimed Donbas’ two provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, and trap Ukrainian forces in a pocket on the main eastern front.
Russian forces took control of three towns in the Donetsk region including Svitlodarsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told an affiliate of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
“The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult. All the remaining strength of the Russian army is now concentrated on this region,” Zelensky said in a late Tuesday address. “The occupiers want to destroy everything there.”
Russia’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment out-of-hours.
The easternmost part of the Ukrainian-held Donbas pocket, the city of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets River and its twin Lysychansk, on the west bank, have become a pivotal battlefield. Russian forces were advancing from three directions to encircle them.
“The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, where the two cities are among the last territory held by Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military said it had repelled nine Russian attacks on Tuesday in the Donbas where Moscow’s troops had killed at least 14 civilians, using aircraft, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and missiles.
Reuters could not immediately verify the information.
In a sign of Ukrainian success elsewhere, authorities in its second-largest city, Kharkiv, re-opened the underground metro, where thousands of civilians had sheltered for months under relentless bombardment.
The re-opening came after Ukraine pushed Russian forces largely out of artillery range of the northern city, as they did from the capital, Kyiv, in March.

WORLD WAR THREE?
Three months into the invasion, Russia still has only limited gains to show for its worst military losses in decades, while much of Ukraine has suffered devastation in the biggest attack on a European state since 1945.
More than 6.5 million people have fled abroad, uncounted thousands have been killed and cities have been reduced to rubble.
The war has also caused growing food shortages and soaring prices due to sanctions and disruption of supply chains. Both Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of grain and other commodities.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of using food as a weapon.
Billionaire financier George Soros, also speaking in Davos, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have marked the start of World War III.
“The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible,” he said.
Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Tuesday lambasted President Vladimir Putin, casting the Kremlin chief as a doomed madman who was butchering the people of both Ukraine and Russia.
“This is a stupid war which your Putin started,” Navalny told an appeals court in Moscow via video link from a corrective penal colony. “This war was built on lies.”
Underlining the global tensions unleashed by the war, major US ally Japan scrambled jets on Tuesday after Russian and Chinese warplanes neared its airspace as US President Joe Biden visited Tokyo.
Meanwhile, in a decision that could push Russia closer to the brink of default, the Biden administration announced it would not extend a waiver set to expire on Wednesday that enabled Russia to pay US bondholders.
Russia had been allowed to keep paying interest and principal and avert default on its government debt.
Russian lawmakers gave the first stamp of approval to a bill that would allow Russian entities to take over foreign companies that have left the country in opposition to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, a government online portal showed. 
On Monday, Starbucks Corp. became the latest Western brand to announce it was pulling out of Russia, following a similar decision by McDonald’s. The hamburger chain’s trademark “Golden Arches” were lowered near Moscow on Monday.

DRAWN OUT CONFLICT
Senior Russian officials suggested in comments on Tuesday the war, which Russia calls a “special operation,” may be drawn-out.
Nikolai Patrushev, head of Putin’s security council, said Russia would fight as long as necessary to eradicate “Nazism” in Ukraine, a justification for the war that the West calls baseless.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia was deliberately advancing slowly to avoid civilian casualties.
Zelensky dismissed such statements as “absolutely unreal.”
In Kharkiv, hundreds of people were living underground in trains and stations when the authorities asked them to make way on Tuesday.
“Everyone is crazily scared, because there is still shelling,” said Nataliia Lopanska, who had lived in a metro train for most of the war.
Russian shelling continued in the city and wider area, regional governor Oleh Sinehubov said.
The Donbas fighting follows Russia’s biggest victory in months: the surrender last week of Ukraine’s garrison in the port of Mariupol after a siege in which Kyiv believes tens of thousands of civilians were killed.
Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to Mariupol’s Ukrainian mayor now operating outside the city, said the dead were being found in the rubble.
About 200 decomposing bodies were buried in debris in a basement of one high-rise building, he said. Residents had refused to collect them and Russian authorities had abandoned the site.