Ben Stiller says ‘really tough’ to see Ukraine refugees’ plight

Ben Stiller says ‘really tough’ to see Ukraine refugees’ plight
Goodwill Ambassador actor Ben Stiller embraces children at a UNHCR Protection Hub providing psycho-social support, SGBV prevention and response and child protection and legal aid services in Medyka, Poland. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 21 June 2022

Ben Stiller says ‘really tough’ to see Ukraine refugees’ plight

Ben Stiller says ‘really tough’ to see Ukraine refugees’ plight
  • Stiller travelled to Poland and Ukraine over the last few days to meet those who had fled their homes
  • "It's really tough to see and I'm very glad I came to get a different sense that you don't get from just watching television," he said

LONDON: Actor Ben Stiller, a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, has said it was “distressing” to hear the experiences of people displaced by the Ukraine conflict, adding he hoped to shine a light on their plight with his visit to the country.
He added that it was crucial for people not to turn away from and lose interest in the war, now that it had been going on for several months.
Stiller, a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, traveled to Poland and Ukraine over the last few days to meet those who had fled their homes since Russia’s invasion began.
“It was definitely a different experience to be here in person and see the effects of the war and see how people are having to cope. It’s distressing to see and hear the experiences that these people have gone through,” Stiller told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“It’s really tough to see and I’m very glad I came to get a different sense that you don’t get from just watching television.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began in February, has claimed thousands of civilian lives, displaced millions of Ukrainians and reduced cities to rubble. Moscow says it is involved in a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
During his trip which began in Poland, Stiller visited a UNHCR warehouse in Rzeszow as well as the Medyka border crossing. In Ukraine, he traveled to Lviv, Irpin, which was heavily damaged at the start of the conflict, and Kyiv, where he met President Volodymyr Zelensky, telling him “You’re my hero.”
He has shared pictures of his trip and on Monday put out a message calling for compassion on World Refugee Day. More than 12 million people have fled their homes since the start of the war, according to UNHCR.
“It’s natural for people to want to turn away, especially in a situation like this with a war that has been going on for a while now... while dealing with our own personal issues,” Stiller told Reuters. “But I think it’s also important to be aware of what’s going on in different parts of the world.”
Stiller was appointed a goodwill ambassador in 2018 and has previously met refugees in Germany, Jordan, Guatemala and Lebanon.


For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal
Updated 24 June 2022

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal
  • Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players
  • The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022

BAGHDAD: As a seven-year-old boy in Baghdad, Mohamed Ali dreamt of becoming a goalkeeper — until a car bomb in the central Tahrir Square ripped away his left arm.
The child had become another casualty of the sectarian blood-letting that raged in Iraq in the years after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
“I was deprived of playing football,” he said, recalling the traumatic event of 2007 that also ended his time with the junior football team of the Air Force Club in Baghdad.
Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players who lost arms or legs in Iraq’s many years of war and turmoil.
“The creation of this team brought me back to life,” he said. “It helped me regain my self-confidence.”
The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022.
Its founder Mohamed Al-Najjar was studying in England when he discovered a Portsmouth amputee team and decided to replicate the experience.
Back in Iraq, he posted an announcement on social networks.
“Applications started pouring in and we formed the team in August 2021,” recalls the 38-year-old lawyer.
Najjar’s right leg was amputated after he was wounded in 2016 “while taking part in the fight against the Daesh group.”
At the time Najjar, like several of his teammates, was fighting with the pro-Iranian Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force that has since been integrated into Iraq’s regular forces.
Three times a week, he now meets up with the group to train on one of the fields of the brand new Al-Chaab complex in Baghdad.
Using crutches, one-legged players warm up by sprinting in the green jersey of the national team, then practice penalty kicks.
The goalkeeper, his left arm amputated, intercepts the ball by blocking it with his stomach.
Before they found the camaraderie of the team, Najjar said, “most of the players were suffering from severe depression.”
“Some even had thought of suicide because they had lost a limb and they had been professional players before.
“But we overcame these psychological problems,” he said, adding that it pleased him to now see his players “posting their pictures with the team on social networks.”
In the official competition, matches are played in teams of seven on fields measuring 60 by 40 meters (about 200 by 130 feet).
The goals are two meters high and five meters wide — smaller than the 2.4 by 7.3 meter goals used in traditional football.
The Iraqi state offers financial aid to victims of attacks and of battles against jihadists. The players receive monthly allowances of between $400 and $700.
Most make ends meet by working as day laborers in the markets, said Najjar.
But a major obstacle for the team is a lack of official recognition, and therefore funding, from Iraqi sports bodies.
The Poland-based International Amputee Football Federation is not part of the International Paralympic Committee.
The Iraqi team therefore receives no state subsidies, said Aqil Hamid, the head of the parliamentary committee on disability sports.
For equipment and transport, the team depends on donations from associations, said Najjar. There is also occasional help from some Hashed bodies.
“They helped us with a trip to Iran, they paid for the plane tickets,” said Najjar, adding that he hoped for “wider support.”
Another team member, Ali Kazim, lost his left leg to a Baghdad car bomb in 2006, which abruptly ended his professional football career with the Air Force Club.
“I couldn’t pursue my ambitions, I stayed at home,” said the 38-year-old.
Today, his four children are his biggest supporters.
“They are the ones who pack my sports bag,” he said. “They tell me: ‘Daddy, go train’. My morale has totally changed.”


Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media

Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media
Updated 24 June 2022

Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media

Girls arrested for removing hijab at Iran skateboarding event: media
  • A video purporting to show Tuesday's "Go Skateboarding Day" event went viral in Iran on social media
  • Shiraz governor Lotfollah Sheybani said the event was "held with the intention of breaking social, religious and national rules and norms"

TEHRAN: Iranian police have arrested several teenage girls for not wearing headscarves at a skateboarding day in the southern city of Shiraz, along with some of the event’s organizers, state media reported Friday.
A number of girls “removed their hijab at the end of the sports event without observing the religious considerations and legal norms,” state news agency IRNA quoted Shiraz police chief Faraj Shojaee as saying.
“With the coordination of the judiciary, a number of perpetrators and people related to this gathering were identified and arrested on Thursday,” he said.
A video purporting to show Tuesday’s “Go Skateboarding Day” event went viral in Iran on social media.
“Holding any mixed sports or non-sports gathering without observing the religious and legal norms is prohibited... and the organizers will be dealt with according to the law,” Shojaee added.
Shiraz governor Lotfollah Sheybani said the event was “held with the intention of breaking social, religious and national rules and norms,” IRNA reported.
Under Islamic law in force in Iran since its 1979 revolution, women must wear a hijab that covers the head and neck while concealing the hair.
But many have pushed the boundaries over the past two decades by allowing their head coverings to slide back and reveal more hair, especially in Tehran and other major cities.
Iranian media on Sunday reported that police had arrested 120 people for alleged “criminal acts” including drinking alcohol, mixed-sex dancing and uncovering the hijab at a party in the forest in the country’s north.
Under Iranian law, only non-Muslim citizens are permitted to consume alcohol for religious purposes, while dancing with the opposite sex is forbidden.


Egyptian TV presenter slammed over claims murdered uni student should have worn veil

Egyptian TV presenter slammed over claims murdered uni student should have worn veil
Updated 24 June 2022

Egyptian TV presenter slammed over claims murdered uni student should have worn veil

Egyptian TV presenter slammed over claims murdered uni student should have worn veil

LONDON: Social media users have slammed an Egyptian TV presenter who claimed that murdered university student Nayera Ashraf had been at fault for not wearing a veil.

In a video post, Mabrouk Attia, who is also a professor of Islamic Shariah at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, suggested women should “fully cover up” if they did not want to “meet the same fate” as the Mansoura university student.

“Go ahead. Let your hair down and wear tight clothing. (Men) will hunt you down and kill you. Go on – personal freedom,” Attia, 63, said in the clip.

“A woman should be veiled, in order to live. She should wear loose clothing so as not to provoke … you are amid monsters. If your life is precious to you, leave your house looking like a burlap sack,” the presenter added.

A number of women’s rights supporters, the National Council for Women, and social media users condemned Attia’s statements and filed official complaints before the prosecutor general, accusing him of several legal offences, including “inciting hate speech and violence against women.”

In a tweet, one user said: “This is how Mabrouk Attia responded to the senseless slaughter of Nayera Ashraf. This lunatic sociopath is a disgrace and has nothing to do with Islam. Blaming the victim is phony nonsense.”

Another shared the video on Twitter, and said: “This video contains hate speech, criminal incitement, justifying and promoting terrorism against every woman who dares to leave her house.”

Another social media post said: “Mabrouk Attia is disgracefully victim blaming Nayera Achraf because she wasn’t wearing the hijab. We’re always told ‘cover yourself,’ ‘don’t provoke men,’ ‘be modest.’ It’s never about teaching men how to behave and respect women. We refuse to live in fear,” said another user.

Al-Azhar University distanced itself from Attia’s comments.

Later, in a video posted on his official Facebook page, Attia said that he would be suspending his social media accounts as a result of the backlash.

Ashraf was on Monday stabbed to death in broad daylight by a man as she stepped off a bus outside the university in central Egypt.

Her father claimed his daughter had been harassed more than once by the suspect, who he allegedly was upset after she refused to marry him.


6 die in crash of Vietnam-era helicopter in West Virginia

6 die in crash of Vietnam-era helicopter in West Virginia
Updated 23 June 2022

6 die in crash of Vietnam-era helicopter in West Virginia

6 die in crash of Vietnam-era helicopter in West Virginia
  • The Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter crashed along Route 17 in Logan County about 5 p.m. Wednesday
  • It was featured in movies like “Die Hard, “The Rock” and “Under Siege: Dark Territory“

LOGAN, West Virginia: A Vietnam-era helicopter showcased in action movies crashed on a rural West Virginia road, killing all six people on board, during an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter crashed along Route 17 in Logan County about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
All six people on board were killed, said Ray Bryant, chief of operations for the Logan County emergency ambulance service authority. The helicopter crashed in clear weather on a road near the local airport, he said.
“The entire cab of it was on fire,” Bryant said in a phone interview Thursday.
“It was recognized by the first responders as being a helicopter from this area because we see it a lot,” he said.
The crash occurred during an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts at MARPAT Aviation in Logan. It was scheduled to begin Tuesday and end Sunday, according to MARPAT’s website.
During the event, visitors could sign up to ride or fly the historic helicopter, described by organizers as one of the last of its kind still flying.
The helicopter was flown by the 114th Assault Helicopter Company, “The Knights of the Sky,” in Vinh Long, Vietnam, throughout much of the 1960s, according to MARPAT. After the Huey returned to the US in 1971, the website says, it was featured in movies like “Die Hard, “The Rock” and “Under Siege: Dark Territory.”
Neither reunion organizers nor MARPAT officials returned requests for comment Thursday.
Patty Belcher, who lives nearby, was driving to the store when she came upon the crash.
“There was smoke so thick that you couldn’t hardly see nothing but smoke and flames,” she said by phone Thursday. “It was coming down the ditch line on the righthand side, and I said, ‘My God, I better turn around. It might catch this truck on fire.’ So I turned around and came back.”
The crash was near the Battle of Blair Mountain historic sites, where a deadly clash erupted a century ago as thousands of coal miners marched to unionize in West Virginia.
Bobbi Childs saw smoke and flames and got close enough to see a man who was trapped.
“I saw that there was a guy trapped, I guess the captain. I tried to get down to the door where he was at. You could see him plain as day. I tried to get to him, but the fire was too hot. I couldn’t get to him,” Childs told WOWK-TV.
The road was expected to remain closed for at least 24 hours. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
Willingham reported from Charleston, W.Virginia Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky


Eurovision chiefs insist Ukraine cannot host 2023 show

Eurovision chiefs insist Ukraine cannot host 2023 show
Updated 23 June 2022

Eurovision chiefs insist Ukraine cannot host 2023 show

Eurovision chiefs insist Ukraine cannot host 2023 show
  • Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra last month won the world's biggest live music event
  • The European Broadcasting Union said the war-torn country would not be able to host the 2023 show

GENEVA: The Eurovision Song Contest’s organizers confirmed Thursday that the 2023 edition cannot be held in Ukraine due to the Russian war, despite angry protests from Kyiv.
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra last month won the world’s biggest live music event, and by convention, the country should host the kitsch annual pop extravaganza next year.
But on June 17, the European Broadcasting Union said the war-torn country would not be able to host the 2023 show — triggering upset among fans across the continent and demands from the Ukrainian government to reverse the decision.
“The EBU fully understands the disappointment that greeted the announcement that the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest cannot be staged in Ukraine, this year’s winning country,” it said in a statement.
“The decision was guided by the EBU’s responsibility to ensure the conditions are met to guarantee the safety and security of everyone working and participating in the event, the planning of which needs to begin immediately,” it explained.
The EBU said more than 10,000 people are usually accredited to work on Eurovision, including crew, staff and journalists.
“A further 30,000 fans are expected to travel to the event from across the world. Their welfare is our prime concern,” it said.
Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision final on May 15 in Turin, thanks to the votes from national panels of judges and the general public, with European audiences demonstrating their solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.
The EBU said Eurovision’s rules clearly state that an event can be moved in situations such as an ongoing war.
The union said the severe risk of air attacks and the high risk of a mass casualty event factored into the decision, while the conflict would make delegations and participants reluctant to go to Ukraine.
As for hosting the contest in a border location within Ukraine, the specifications of suggested venues and the lack of surrounding infrastructure, do not meet Eurovision’s needs.
“All this contributes to the EBU’s overall assessment that in terms of security and operational guarantees, the necessary requirements for hosting... are not met.”
The EBU said it would keep searching for a suitable location for the next Eurovision, but said earlier this month that it was considering the possibility of the contest being held in Britain, which finished second.
Founded in 1950, the Geneva-based EBU is the world’s biggest public service media alliance. It has 112 member organizations in 56 countries, plus 31 associates in Asia, Africa and the Americas.