Afghan women in UK at risk of domestic violence: Rights charity

Afghan women in UK at risk of domestic violence: Rights charity
Female Afghan evacuees to the UK are facing heightened risks of domestic violence. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 May 2022

Afghan women in UK at risk of domestic violence: Rights charity

Afghan women in UK at risk of domestic violence: Rights charity
  • Human Rights Watch has urged the Home Office to step up efforts to house refugees, with 12,000 of the 18,000 evacuated from Afghanistan still in temporary accommodation
  • Having written to the home secretary, minister for refugees, and other relevant UK authorities in April to raise these concerns, HRW said it was still waiting on a response

LONDON: Female Afghan evacuees to the UK are facing heightened risks of domestic violence due to Home Office failures to find permanent accommodation for refugees eight months after Britain’s exit from Afghanistan, a rights charity said on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch has urged the Home Office to step up efforts to house refugees, with 12,000 of the 18,000 evacuated from Afghanistan still in temporary accommodation.

Assistant women’s rights researcher at HRW, Sahar Fetrat, said of five women interviewed by the charity, all, while grateful for being evacuated, were facing increased domestic violence, surveillance, and constraints on their movement while they remained in temporary housing.

“They dealt with a huge amount of trauma before and during their flight and are now dealing with conditions affecting their mental health and keeping them from integrating.

“The women I spoke with are resilient and eager to move ahead in beginning new lives in the UK, but they feel stuck right now, in environments that are often dangerous for women. They need more support from the UK government to rebuild their and their families’ lives,” Fetrat added.

Having written to the home secretary, minister for refugees, and other relevant UK authorities in April to raise these concerns, HRW said it was still waiting on a response.

The women said that the lack of personal space in temporary accommodation had increased levels of distress, while pressure from the evacuated community members had “intimidated” those women facing domestic violence from reporting it.

HRW reported that one woman said: “A woman was battered by her husband in our hotel. When she tried to report it, the community in the hotel stopped her by intimidating her over the consequences.”

Another woman said: “Several times, I have heard a couple fighting next door. The husband shouts and leaves, slamming the door, and the wife cries loudly. She has spent seven months in a hotel room and hasn’t seen anything but the hotel premises.”

The women said traditional gender roles meant some of the women would have faced limited freedom in Afghanistan, but the strains would be offset by the privacy of their own space.

Women from less traditional backgrounds were facing microaggressions and sexist comments from some men, with one woman describing having returned from a run to be confronted by a man who said, “I see you have integrated too soon, haven’t you?”

Young, single women were reportedly receiving harsher judgements, with the environment being described as “getting more toxic and intolerable day by day.”

Four of the women interviewed said they had been evacuated because they had worked outside the home, in some cases in prominent jobs, with the fifth woman evacuated due to her husband’s role in the previous Afghan government.

One of the women said: “The sense of constantly being watched for every action I take, everywhere I go, getting judged for not wearing a hijab, is restricting me. It is tiresome.”

HRW said the government must take the needs and preference of women into account, with special attention to concerns that single women or women-headed households may face, as it addresses the worsening refugee crisis.

“The government should have clear and effective policies to deal with domestic violence in temporary housing, including posted and outreach materials in Afghan languages.

“Staff in these facilities should be trained to recognize and respond to gender-based violence, should be made aware of and sensitive to the residents’ diverse backgrounds, and should treat all residents with respect,” it added.


Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s hottest city

Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s hottest city
Updated 8 sec ago

Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s hottest city

Extreme temperatures compound poverty in Pakistan’s hottest city
  • Jacobabad in Pakistan’s arid Sindh province grips with temperatures peaking at 51 degrees Celsius
  • Experts say the searing weather is in line with projections for global warming
JACOBABAD, Pakistan: By the time Pakistani schoolboy Saeed Ali arrived at hospital in one of the world’s hottest cities, his body was shutting down from heatstroke.
The 12-year-old collapsed after walking home from school under the burning sun, his day spent sweltering in a classroom with no fans.
“A rickshaw driver had to carry my son here. He couldn’t even walk,” the boy’s mother Shaheela Jamali said from his bedside.
Jacobabad in Pakistan’s arid Sindh province is in the grip of the latest heatwave to hit South Asia — peaking at 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) at the weekend.
Canals in the city — a vital source of irrigation for nearby farms — have run dry, with a smattering of stagnant water barely visible around strewn rubbish.
Experts say the searing weather is in line with projections for global warming.
The city is on the “front line of climate change,” said its deputy commissioner Abdul Hafeez Siyal. “The overall quality of life here is suffering.”
Most of the one million people in Jacobabad and surrounding villages live in acute poverty, with water shortages and power cuts compromising their ability to beat the heat.
It leaves residents facing desperate dilemmas.
Doctors said Saeed was in a critical condition, but his mother — driven by a desire to escape poverty — said he would return to school next week.
“We don’t want them to grow up to be laborers,” Jamali said, her son listless and tearful at her side.
Heatstroke — when the body becomes so overheated it can no longer cool itself — can cause symptoms from lightheadedness and nausea to organ swelling, unconsciousness, and even death.
Nurse Bashir Ahmed, who treated Saeed at a new heatstroke clinic run by local NGO Community Development Foundation, said the number of patients arriving in a serious condition was rising.
“Previously, the heat would be at its peak in June and July, but now it’s arriving in May,” Ahmed said.
Laborers forced to toil in the sun are among the most vulnerable.
Brick kiln workers ply their trade alongside furnaces that can reach up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.
“The severe heat makes us feel like throwing up sometimes, but if I can’t work, I can’t earn,” said Rasheed Rind, who started on the site as a child.
Life in Jacobabad is dominated by attempts to cope with the heat.
“It’s like fire burning all around. What we need the most is electricity and water,” said blacksmith Shafi Mohammad.
Power shortages mean only six hours of electricity a day in rural areas and 12 in the city.
Access to drinking water is unreliable and unaffordable due to scarcity across Pakistan and major infrastructure problems.
Khairun Nissa gave birth during the heatwave, her last days of pregnancy spent wilting under a single ceiling fan shared between her family of 13.
Her two-day-old son now occupies her spot under its feeble breeze.
“Of course I’m worried about him in this heat, but I know God will provide for us,” said Nissa.
Outside their three-room brick home, where the stench of rotting rubbish and stagnant water hangs in the air, a government-installed water tap runs dry.
But local “water mafias” are filling the supply gap.
They have tapped into government reserves to funnel water to their own distribution points where cans are filled and transported by donkey cart to be sold at 20 rupees (25 cents) per 20 liters.
“If our water plants weren’t here, there would be major difficulties for the people of Jacobabad,” said Zafar Ullah Lashari, who operates an unlicensed, unregulated water supply.
In a farming village on the outskirts of the city, women wake up at 3am to pump drinking water all day from a well — but it is never enough.
“We prefer our cattle to have clean drinking water first, because our livelihood depends on them,” said Abdul Sattar, who raises buffaloes for milk and sale at market.
There is no compromise on this, even when children suffer skin conditions and diarrhea.
“It is a difficult choice but if the cattle die, how would the children eat?” he said.
Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable country to extreme weather caused by climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index compiled by environmental NGO Germanwatch.
Floods, droughts and cyclones in recent years have killed and displaced thousands, destroyed livelihoods and damaged infrastructure.
Many people choose to leave Jacobabad in the hottest months, leaving some villages half empty.
Sharaf Khatoon shares a makeshift camp in the city with up to 100 people surviving on a few meagre rupees that male family members earn through menial labor.
They usually relocate the camp in the hottest months, 300 kilometers away to Quetta, where temperatures are up to 20 degrees Celsius cooler.
But this year they will leave late, struggling to save the money for the journey.
“We have headaches, unusual heartbeats, skin problems, but there is nothing we can do about it,” said Khatoon.
Professor Nausheen H. Anwar, who studies urban planning in hot cities, said authorities need to look beyond emergency responses and think long term.
“Taking heatwaves seriously is important, but sustained chronic heat exposure is particularly critical,” she said.
“It’s exacerbated in places like Jacobabad by the degradation of infrastructure and access to water and electricity which compromises people’s capacity to cope.”
Along a dried up canal filled with rubbish, hundreds of boys and a handful of girls in Jacobabad pour into a school for their end-of-year exams.
They gather around a hand pump to gulp down water, exhausted even before the day begins.
“The biggest issue we face is not having basic facilities — that’s why we experience more difficulties,” said headteacher Rashid Ahmed Khalhoro.
“We try to keep the children’s morale high but the heat impacts their mental and physical health.”
With extreme temperatures arriving earlier in the year, he appealed to the government to bring forward summer vacations, which normally begin in June.
A few classrooms have fans, though most do not. When the electricity is cut just an hour into the school day, everyone swelters in semi-darkness.
Some rooms become so unbearable that children are moved into corridors, with youngsters frequently fainting.
“We suffocate in the heat. We sweat profusely and our clothes get drenched,” said 15-year-old Ali Raza.
The boys said they suffered from headaches and frequent diarrhea but refused to skip lessons.
Khalhoro said his students are determined to break out of poverty and find jobs where they can escape the heat.
“They are prepared as though they are on a battlefield, with the motivation that they must achieve something.”

Indonesian police arrest 24 suspected militants in raids

Indonesian police arrest 24 suspected militants in raids
Updated 25 min 52 sec ago

Indonesian police arrest 24 suspected militants in raids

Indonesian police arrest 24 suspected militants in raids
  • Twenty-two of the suspects were arrested over the weekend in Poso, an extremist hotbed in Central Sulawesi province

PALU, Indonesia: Indonesian police said Wednesday they arrested 24 suspected militants believed to have links to extremists accused of beheadings in remote mountain jungles and who pledged allegiance to the Daesh group.
Twenty-two of the suspects were arrested over the weekend in Poso, an extremist hotbed in Central Sulawesi province, and two others were arrested in East Kalimantan province on Borneo and in Jakarta’s satellite city of Bekasi, said Central Sulawesi Police Chief Rudy Sufahriadi.
The suspects are active supporters of the East Indonesia Mujahideen, Sufahriadi said. The extremist network has claimed responsibility for the killings of police officers and minority Christians in Central Sulawesi, some by beheading, and pledged allegiance to the Daesh group.
The group has been weakened over the past decade by a sustained crackdown on militants by joint military and police forces. More than 40 of its remaining members have plotted and launched attacks from the mountainous jungles of Poso district.
Security operations in the area killed the group’s leader, Abu Wardah Santoso, in 2016. Dozens of other leaders and members of the group have been killed or captured since then, including Ali Kalora, another leader, who was killed by security forces last year. Police are pursuing two other members of the group who remain at large in the jungle.
The suspects arrested over the weekend attended military-style militant training in Central Sulawesi, Sufahriadi said. They also supplied weapons and food to militants in the jungle and have hidden information about them from the authorities.
Police seized a revolver, 10 air guns, an arrow and 26 machetes in the raids and were interrogating the suspects, Sufahriadi said.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, launched a crackdown on militants following bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly Western and Asian tourists.
Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces, and people militants consider to be infidels, inspired by Daesh group tactics abroad.


Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term

Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term
Updated 41 min 32 sec ago

Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term

Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term
  • China President Xi Jinping agrees to hold more comprehensive discussions of issues

MANILA: Incoming Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Wednesday said his country’s relations with China will be expanded and shift to a higher gear under his administration, and Beijing had given assurances it would support his independent foreign policy.
Marcos in a statement said China President Xi Jinping had agreed to hold more comprehensive discussions of issues and also recognized his late father’s role in opening diplomatic relations between the two countries.


Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine

Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine
Updated 18 May 2022

Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine

Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine

JERUSALEM: Israel has delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests for emergency and civilian organizations in Ukraine, Israel’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz last month said he would authorize the delivery of helmets and vests, signaling a shift in Israel’s position on providing such equipment. It follows a request by Ukraine for the supplies.


North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data

North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data
Updated 18 May 2022

North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data

North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data
  • Country’s anti-virus headquarters announced 232,880 new cases of fever and another six deaths
  • Outside experts believe most of the fevers are COVID-19 but North Korea lacks tests to confirm so many

SEOUL: North Korea said Wednesday more than a million people have already recovered from suspected COVID-19 just a week after disclosing an outbreak it appears to be trying to manage in isolation as global experts express deep concern about the public health threat.
The country’s anti-virus headquarters announced 232,880 new cases of fever and another six deaths in state media Wednesday. Those figures raise its totals to 62 deaths and more than 1.7 million fever cases since late April. It said at least 691,170 remain in quarantine.
Outside experts believe most of the fevers are COVID-19 but North Korea lacks tests to confirm so many. The outbreak is almost certainly larger than the fever tally, since some virus carriers may not develop fevers or other symptoms.
It’s also unclear how more than a million people recovered so quickly when limited medicine, medical equipment and health facilities exist to treat the country’s impoverished, unvaccinated population of 26 million. Some experts say the North could be simply releasing people from quarantine after their fevers subside.
Globally, COVID-19 has killed about 6.3 million people with the true toll believed to be much higher. Countries with outbreaks of a similar size to North Korea’s official fever tally have confirmed thousands of deaths each.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday that North Korea has not responded to its request for more data about its outbreak.
Before acknowledging COVID-19 infections for the first time last week, North Korea had held to a widely doubted claim of keeping out the virus. It also shunned millions of vaccine shots offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, likely because of international monitoring requirements attached to them.
North Korea and Eritrea are the only sovereign UN-member countries not to have rolled out vaccines, but Tedros said neither country has responded to WHO’s offers of vaccines, medicines, tests and technical support.
“WHO is deeply concerned at the risk of further spread in (North Korea),” Tedros said, also noting the country has worrying numbers of people with underlying conditions that make them more likely to get severe COVID-19.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said unchecked transmission of the virus could lead to new variants but that WHO was powerless to act unless countries accepted its help.
The North has so far ignored rival South Korea’s offer to provide vaccines, medicine and health personnel, but experts say the North may be more willing to accept help from its main ally China. South Korea’s government said it couldn’t confirm media reports that North Korea flew multiple planes to bring back emergency supplies from China on Tuesday.
North Korean officials during a ruling party Politburo meeting Tuesday continued to express confidence that the country could overcome the crisis on its own, with the Politburo members discussing ways for “continuously maintaining the good chance in the overall epidemic prevention front,” the official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday.
There’s suspicion that North Korea is underreporting deaths to soften the blow for Kim, who already was navigating the toughest moment of his decade in power. The pandemic has further damaged an economy already broken by mismanagement and US-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear weapons and missiles development.
At the Politburo meeting, Kim criticized officials over their early pandemic response, which he said underscored “immaturity in the state capacity for coping with the crisis” and he blamed the country’s vulnerability on their “non-positive attitude, slackness and non-activity,” KCNA said.
He urged officials to strengthen virus controls at workplaces and redouble efforts to improve the supply of daily necessities and stabilize living conditions, the report said.
North Korea has also deployed nearly 3,000 military medical officers to help deliver medicine to pharmacies and deployed public health officials, teachers and students studying health care to identify people with fevers so they could be quarantined. The country has been relying on finding people with symptoms and isolating them at shelters since it lacks vaccines, high-tech medicine and equipment, and intensive care units that lowered hospitalizations and deaths in other nations.
While raising alarm over the outbreak, Kim has also stressed that his economic goals should be met. State media reports show large groups of workers are continuing to gather at farms, mining facilities, power stations and construction sites, being driven to ensure their works are “propelled as scheduled.”
North Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak came amid a provocative run in weapons demonstrations, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in nearly five years, in a brinkmanship aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of the North as a nuclear power and negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength.
US and South Korean officials also believe North Korea could conduct its seventh nuclear test explosion this month.
The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to top agenda when US President Joe Biden meets South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a visit to Seoul this week. Kim Tae-hyo, Yoon’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters Wednesday that North Korea probably won’t conduct a nuclear test this week but that its preparations for another ICBM test appeared imminent.
Kim Jong Un during Tuesday’s Politburo meeting affirmed he would “arouse the whole party like (an) active volcano once again under the state emergency situation” to prove its leadership before history and time and “defend the wellbeing of the country and the people without fail and demonstrate to the whole world the strength and the spirit of heroic Korea once again,” KCNA said. The report did not make a direct reference to a major weapons test.
Recent commercial satellite images of the nuclear testing ground in Punggye-ri indicate refurbishment work and preparations at a yet unused tunnel on the southern part of the site, which is presumably nearing completion to host a nuclear test, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Beyond Parallel, a website run by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.