ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail
Deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi had until last week been spared jail and was held in an undisclosed location, despite having several convictions for relatively minor offenses. (AFP)
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Updated 27 June 2022

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail
  • Deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to a prison in the capital Naypyitaw and kept in solitary confinement

PHNOM PENH: A special Southeast Asian envoy for the crisis in Myanmar on Monday urged its military rulers not to hold deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in prison, appealing for leniency ahead of a visit later this week.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn will make his second trip to Myanmar from Wednesday, a spokesperson for his ministry said, as part of the junta’s peace commitment with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Suu Kyi, who has been on trial accused of at least 20 crimes since a coup against her elected government last year, has been moved to a prison in the capital Naypyitaw and kept in solitary confinement. She denies all charges.
The 77-year-old had until last week been spared jail and was held in an undisclosed location, despite having several convictions for relatively minor offenses.
Prak Sokhonn in a letter to the junta urged compassion.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is regarded internationally and by many in Myanmar as having a critical role in your country’s return to normalcy and national reconciliation through a peaceful political solution,” he wrote, according to a statement.
Activists denounced Prak Sokhonn’s last visit in March as a failure that favored the junta and overlooked its opponents, criticism that he said he understood.
In his letter, he said a successful peace process was impossible with one side excluded.
“A peaceful political resolution to a conflict, no matter how complex it is, must involve the sharing of political space by all involved,” he added.


Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel

Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel
Updated 09 August 2022

Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel

Traffickers offer migrants, refugees ‘summer sale’ to cross English Channel
  • Smugglers use TikTok to advertise trips for as little as £1,500, claiming France will not stop crossings
  • Thousands of Albanians said to be claiming they are victims of slavery to get around UK asylum laws

LONDON: People traffickers smuggling migrants across the English Channel are offering a “summer sale” to people wanting to reach the UK, promising safe passage and that “the French won’t stop you.”

The Daily Mail reported on Tuesday that traffickers are advertising trips across the Channel for as little as £1,500 ($1,815) on social media, with talk of limited intervention from French authorities and unusually good weather contributing to an uptick in numbers attempting the journey.

The UK has seen a steady increase in people making the dangerous Channel crossing over the past year, with many coming from Syria and Iraq, but in particular from Afghanistan, following the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021.

However, the recent swell is also thought to have been driven by large numbers of Albanians — who made up more than one-third of arrivals by boat in the past six weeks — exploiting a loophole in UK asylum law, claiming that although their country is not at war nor do they face persecution, they are victims of trafficking and slavery.

One advert on TikTok said: “Don’t pay £17,800-£18,000. They are passing by every day, it has never been cheaper.” Another showed a group of people holding an Albanian flag smiling in a dinghy crossing the sea.

The price of a journey by dinghy across the Channel has dropped significantly in the past year after previously costing as much as £20,000 per person.

Competition has helped lower the price, with up to nine gangs now known to be operating trafficking routes by boat from France — and fears abound that the UK’s plans to deport people to Rwanda will make it more difficult to cross in the near future.

One smuggler using a TikTok account called @franc_gomone_angli1 told an undercover reporter from The Sun posing as a migrant that the UK’s Rwanda policy had been canceled, and that the country would put asylum seekers up in hotels.

“The French won’t stop you. On the contrary, they will escort you safely until you reach the UK water border,” he said.

“I can give you a number of a solicitor (in the UK) I have used for my relatives. They have managed to secure documentation (permission to stay) for half the Albanians in London.”

He added: “Three months ago one boy was kept in detention for a month, then he was freed by his solicitor. All others I have talked to after they arrived were sent to hotels, then they disappeared. They went to their relatives.”

The former director-general of the UK Border Force, Tony Smith, told the Telegraph: “It may be the business model is struggling to handle new markets like Albania, and may have to do a bit more of this sales pitch to encourage more people to do it.”

On Monday, 150 migrants, including young children and a baby, were rescued in the Channel. More than 500 people reached the UK by dinghy over the weekend, with the total for the year climbing above 18,000. At least 28,526 crossed in 2021, up from 8,404 the year before.

Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, which bears the brunt of the influx, told the Mail: “It’s clear many Albanians coming to the UK in small boats are not fleeing war or persecution — they are economic migrants. 

“This is blatant criminality, and it underlines the urgency of getting on with Rwanda and similar schemes.”

Tom Hunt, Conservative MP for Ipswich, said: “It’s so critical that the government gets on and introduces the Rwanda scheme.

“We need to bring this farce to a close. Legislation to bring the Rwanda scheme to fruition should be top of the in-tray when Parliament gets back after summer recess.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement: “No one should question this government’s determination to break the gangs’ business model.

“Social media posts promoting illegal crossings are totally unacceptable. We are looking at reforming the system we use to identify victims of modern slavery, so that we can support genuine victims while making sure that the system is not misused.”

 


Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit

Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit
Updated 09 August 2022

Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit

Kashmiri calligrapher’s 500-meter Qur’an sets record amid hopes for Middle East visit
  • Mustafa Jameel spent seven months completing the copy on a single scroll of paper
  • He was recognized for his work by the Lincoln Book of Records in late May

NEW DELHI: When Mustafa Jameel began to study Arabic calligraphy in 2016, he practiced it to improve his handwriting — an effort that six years later resulted in a record-winning Qur’anic manuscript, and stirred the young calligrapher’s hope to display it in the Middle East.

Born in Gurez Valley, in the northern Bandipora district of Indian-administered Kashmir, Jameel completed his work earlier this year. In late May, the 27-year-old was registered by India’s Lincoln Book of Records in New Delhi for the “new world record for the first time in the world to write the Holy Qur’an on a 14.5 inch and 500-meter scroll paper.”

In Muslim societies, calligraphy is not only the art of properly forming written characters. Known as khatt (line) in Arabic, it signifies “the art of the line.” This art has not only been written in Arabic, but also numerous other languages that have adopted the same alphabet following the spread of Islam, including Persian, Urdu, Ottoman Turkish, and even old Malay.

There are a variety of graphic styles which calligraphy masters have developed throughout the ages. The oldest script used for copying the Qur’an is Kufic, a square and angular script which by the 11th century went out of general use, replaced by Naskh — a cursive style which until today remains one of the most popular scripts in the Arab world.

Naskh is also the style that Jameel used in his manuscript, which he learned by observing the work others had produced.

While calligraphers usually follow an established master, there have been countless exceptions to the rule, as many practitioners have learnt the artform through repetition and consistency.

“I learnt calligraphy by myself. I am self-taught,” Jameel told Arab News. “I am a first-generation calligraphist. There is no one in my family who is involved in calligraphy.”

He focused on the art after failing in his secondary high school exam. After a year of laborious study, he noticed his writing improving and focused all his efforts on copying the Qur’an.

“Then in 2021 the idea came into my mind that I can do this work properly, and if Allah has given me this talent, I should do the work of (copying) the Qur’an in a proper and professional manner. Then I thought that I should prepare the Qur’an in a single paper,” Jameel said.

The kind of paper he needed was not available in Kashmir, so he went to New Delhi and after finding the right scroll began to copy the scripture. The whole project was financed with the help of his relatives.

“I finished the whole project in Delhi,” he said. “It took seven months to finish and get the work laminated,” he said.

After he made headlines in India, now Jameel’s dream is to show his work abroad, especially in the Middle East, where the art of calligraphy is where the art of Islamic calligraphy is known and recognized.

“I would like to exhibit it in Dubai, where such creativity gets appreciated,” he said. “There is a museum in Madinah, and if I get an opportunity to exhibit my work there, I would love to do that.”

The most important appreciation, however, he has already won by making his family proud.

“When I could not clear my math in 10th standard, my family was very upset and lost hope in me. They would say that I would not do anything in life. But now they understand that Allah sends all individuals with different talents to this world,” he said. “My family is very happy now.”


Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine

Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine
Updated 09 August 2022

Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine

Agency donates breathing devices for premature babies to Ukraine
  • The new bubble nasal continuous positive airway pressure devices are now available in 25 facilities across Ukraine
  • Unitaid funds medical innovation programmes mainly in poor countries, and is hosted by WHO

GENEVA: Global health aid agency Unitaid is donating 220 specialized portable breathing devices to Ukraine that can help save lives of premature babies even in frontline hospitals where there is no electrical power.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has seen hundreds of hospitals damaged or destroyed, disrupting supply lines and placing newborn babies at risk of death or disability from a lack of access to equipment and oxygen.
Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson for Unitaid, told a media briefing that the war was causing extra stress on pregnant women, leading to an increase in the number of premature births, which had tripled in some areas.
The new bubble nasal continuous positive airway pressure (bCPAP) devices are now available in 25 facilities across Ukraine, Verhoosel said.
Unitaid funds medical innovation programs mainly in poor countries, and is hosted by the World Health Organization.
WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said that on a recent visit to a paediatric hospital close to the frontline in Ukraine she had seen medical staff who sleep in the basement every night, and constantly have to move children on ventilation machines.
“So having very portable devices that can function offline is absolutely critical,” she told the briefing.
Unitaid partnered with Vayu Global Health, a non-profit that specializes in low-cost health care equipment for developing countries, to provide the Kenya-made bCPAP machines, which cost around $500 each, as well as 125 oxygen blender systems.


A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa

A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa
Updated 09 August 2022

A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa

A British-Muslim mother has been fatally shot while holidaying in South Africa
  • Fatima Issa, a 47-year-old mother of 4, was visiting family and friends in Johannesburg
  • Confusion surrounds the circumstances of her death

LONDON: A British-Muslim mother of four has been shot dead by an apparent stray bullet while visiting family and friends in Johannesburg.

Fatima Issa, a 47-year-old school teacher from Leicester, was with her daughter Humairah, 19, in a house on the Meyersdal View Estate in the city when she was shot.

Confusion surrounds the circumstances of her death. Issa’s husband Fayaz, who remained in Britain with their three other children, was informed that the gunshot was fired by someone playing with a loaded gun when it was discharged.

But Yusuf Abramjee, an anti-crime advocate, said a relative was cleaning the gun it when it fired.

Abramjee later said the pistol “went off accidentally when a family member was showing it to a third person,” although the case remains under investigation by the police.

Paramedics rushed to the scene of the shooting, but Issa died soon after. South African police have yet to comment on the cause of death.

Issa’s brother Ebrahim Lambat took to Facebook to mourn her loss: “Request duas (prayers) for my sister Fatima Issa. She has returned to the mercy of Allah.”


Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe

Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe
Updated 09 August 2022

Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe

Mounting proof of crimes against humanity in Myanmar: UN probe
  • Investigators claim women and children are particularly being targeted
  • Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 last year, ousting the civilian government

GENEVA: UN investigators on Tuesday reported mounting evidence of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and sexual violence, committed in Myanmar since last year’s military coup.
The United Nations’ Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) said women and children were particularly being targeted.
“There are ample indications that since the military takeover in February 2021, crimes have been committed in Myanmar on a scale and in a manner that constitutes a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population,” the investigators said in a statement.
Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 last year, ousting the civilian government and arresting de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The junta has waged a bloody crackdown on dissent, with the violence leaving more than 2,100 civilians dead and nearly 15,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.
The investigation team warned in its annual report that over the 12 months to the end of June, “the scope of potential international crimes taking place in Myanmar has broadened dramatically.”
The IIMM was established by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018 to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes and prepare files for criminal prosecution.
It cooperates with the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court among others.
“Perpetrators of these crimes need to know that they cannot continue to act with impunity,” said IIMM chief Nicholas Koumjian.
The report said that according to the evidence collected, “Sexual and gender-based crimes, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, and crimes against children have been perpetrated by members of the security forces and armed groups.”
Koumjian said the investigators were focusing in particular on crimes committed against women and children, which are “among the gravest international crimes, but they are also historically under-reported and under-investigated.”
Children in Myanmar had been killed, tortured and arbitrarily detained, including as proxies for their parents, the report found.
They had also been subjected to sexual violence and conscripted and trained by security forces and armed groups.
The team, which has never been permitted to visit Myanmar, said it had nonetheless now collected nearly three million “information items,” including interview statements, documents, photographs and geospatial imagery.
The investigators said the evidence they had collected indicated that “several armed conflicts are ongoing and intensifying on the territory of Myanmar.”
They said they were drawing up case files on specific incidents of war crimes committed in the context of those armed conflicts, including intentional attacks directed at civilians, indiscriminate killings and the widespread burning of villages and towns.
Other UN experts and the IIMM itself had already warned that war crimes and crimes against humanity were being committed.
But on Tuesday, the investigators cautioned that more and more regions were becoming engulfed in the violence, and that “the nature of the potential criminality is also expanding.”
They pointed to the junta’s execution of four political prisoners last month, marking the first executions in the country in decades.
The IIMM also highlighted the ongoing plight of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority, five years after a bloody 2017 crackdown that resulted in the displacement of nearly a million people.
Most of the around 850,000 Rohingya who were driven into camps in neighboring Bangladesh are still there, while another 600,000 are in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“While the Rohingya consistently express their desire for a safe and dignified return to Myanmar, this will be very difficult to achieve unless there is accountability for the atrocities committed against them, including through prosecutions of the individuals most responsible for those crimes,” Koumjian said.
Last month, the International Court of Justice in The Hague threw out objections from Myanmar’s military rulers and decided to hear a landmark case accusing the country of genocide against the Rohingya.