Afghan women scrape living in Delhi with eco toys made from fashion waste

Afghan women scrape living in Delhi with eco toys made from fashion waste
Afghan women make crochet lace at a workshop run by social enterprise Silaiwali in New Delhi. (AN Photo)
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Updated 21 December 2023
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Afghan women scrape living in Delhi with eco toys made from fashion waste

Afghan women scrape living in Delhi with eco toys made from fashion waste
  • Social enterprise Silaiwali employs Afghan refugee women to stitch fabric toys
  • Certified as fair-trade entity, venture run by French designer, her Indian husband

NEW DELHI: At a bright workshop in New Delhi, a group of female artisans surrounded by pieces of colorful fabric, stitch dolls and accessories to earn a livelihood from recycled fashion waste.

A large map of Afghanistan on the wall behind them acts as a reminder of the homeland they fled and do not know when they will be able to see again.

The workshop belongs to Silaiwali, a social eco-friendly enterprise founded in 2018 by French designer Iris Strill and her Indian husband Bish Moitra with the twin objective of helping Afghan refugee women stay afloat and finding a way to upcycle waste fabric from fashion houses, which normally would end up in landfills.

The company is certified by the World Fair Trade Organization and sells handicrafts at shops in 25 countries and online.

Thirty Afghan refugee women are based at the Delhi workshop.

“Most of these Afghan women already were into embroidery, stitching, and other artisanal activities and had some basic training from their homes, when we met them,” Moitra told Arab News.

“Their skills were further polished into preparing marketable products by finetuning their craft through a little training given by Iris.”

There are approximately 15,000 Afghan refugees in India, most of them living in and around the capital city. But since India is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention, they are not allowed to take up any regular jobs.

The Afghan women working for Silaiwali earn between $250 and $350 a month — a sum that helps them and their families in their daily expenses.




Stuffed fabric toys are made by Afghan refugee women at a workshop run by social enterprise Silaiwali in New Delhi. (AN Photo)

When the company started, it employed around 130 Afghan women. Most of them have already relocated to Canada with their families, and now 30 remain, also hoping to migrate.

Mozghan Gawhary, 26, has been living in Delhi with her sister since 2018. They are waiting for their parents to join them. They would like to migrate together to Canada, which has been accepting Afghan refugees following Afghanistan’s takeover by the Taliban in 2021.

Gawhary is a computer science graduate from the University of Kabul, but she cannot find a proper job that would be related to her education. Stitching dolls, animal toys, and Christmas decorations, gives her some sense of stability.

“Despite being educated and degree holders, we are unable to get regular jobs in India as we don’t have Indian identity cards. We just get our stay visa extended every year,” she told Arab News.

“Our cousins, (parents) and grandparents are in Afghanistan, and we talk to them on the phone, as they can’t visit us, and we can’t go back there.”

For Nahid who has been living in India since 2012 and is raising her three children all by herself, working at Silaiwali is a way to make ends meet.

“Expenses are too much but we are managing,” she said, as she prepared cotton stuffing for toys.

The stories of her colleagues are similar.

Shekiba Ahmed, 45, traveled to India with her husband and five kids in 2013. Her husband does not work, and it is her and her elder son who are the family’s breadwinners.

She makes around 40 dolls a month and 15 animal toys to scrape by and while life is tough, she knows that at least her daughters can get an education in India. Back home, the Taliban have barred girls from school.

“My daughters can be educated here, which is not possible in Afghanistan,” she said.

“Me and my children feel safe here.”


Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses

Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses
Updated 11 sec ago
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Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses

Retired general’s testimony links private contractor to Abu Ghraib abuses
  • Taguba’s testimony was the strongest evidence yet that civilian employees of the Virginia-based military contractor CACI played a role in the abuse of Abu Ghraib inmates

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia: An Army general who investigated the abuse of prisoners 20 years ago at Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison testified Tuesday that a civilian contractor instructed prison guards to “soften up” detainees for interrogations.
The retired general, Antonio Taguba, told jurors that the contractor, Steven Stefanowicz, even tried to intimidate the general as he investigated the Abu Ghraib abuses.
“He would lean on the table staring me down. He did not answer questions directly,” Taguba said. “He was trying to intimidate me.”
Taguba’s testimony was the strongest evidence yet that civilian employees of the Virginia-based military contractor CACI played a role in the abuse of Abu Ghraib inmates.
Three former inmates at the prison are suing CACI in federal court in Alexandria, alleging that the company contributed to the tortuous treatment they suffered. The trial, delayed by more than 15 years of legal wrangling, is the first time that Abu Ghraib inmates have been able to bring a civil case in front of a US jury.
The lawsuit alleges that CACI is liable for the three plaintiffs’ mistreatment because the company provided civilian interrogators to the Army who were assigned to Abu Ghraib and conspired with the military police who were serving as prison guards to torture the inmates.
In a report Taguba completed in 2004, he recommended that Stefanowicz be fired, reprimanded and lose his security clearance for “allowing and/or instructing” military police to engage in illegal and abusive tactics.
“He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse,” Taguba’s report concluded.
In testimony Tuesday, Taguba said he personally questioned Stefanowicz for about an hour as part of his investigation.
“He was a very coy type of personality,” Taguba said of Stefanowicz, often referred to as “Big Steve” by Abu Ghraib personnel.
Taguba said his investigation was focused on military police, and his probe of civilian interrogators’ role was limited. But he felt obligated to delve into it, he said, because he received credible testimony from the military police that the civilians were playing an important role in what occurred.
The MPs told Taguba that they weren’t getting clear instructions from within their own military chain of command, and that Stefanowicz and other civilian personnel ended up filling the void. Taguba said the military chain of command was unclear, and that various commanders were not cooperating with each other, all of which contributed to a chaotic atmosphere at the prison.
Taguba said he was several weeks into his investigation before he even understood that civilians were carrying out interrogations at Abu Ghraib. He said he and his staff heard multiple references to CACI but initially misunderstood them, believing that people were saying “khaki” instead.
On cross-examination, Taguba acknowledged the limits of his investigation. A second report, completed by Maj. Gen. George Fay, looked more directly at the role of military intelligence and civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib.
Taguba also acknowledged that his report contained several errors, including misidentifying a CACI employee as an employee of another contractor, and another civilian contractor as a CACI employee.
CACI’s lawyers emphasized that Stefanowicz was never assigned to interrogate any of the three plaintiffs in the case.
As Taguba testified about Stefanowicz, a lawyer asked him if he was indeed intimidated by the CACI contractor.
“Not on your life,” Taguba responded.
The jury also heard Tuesday from one of the three plaintiffs in the case, Asa’ad Hamza Zuba’e, who testified remotely from Iraq through an Arabic interpreter. Zuba’e said he was kept naked, threatened with dogs, and forced to masturbate in front of prison guards.
CACI’s lawyers questioned his claims. Among other things, they questioned how he could have been threatened with dogs when government reports showed dogs had not yet been sent to Iraq at the time he said it happened.

 


Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown

Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown
Updated 17 April 2024
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Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown

Trump goes from court to campaign at a bodega in his heavily Democratic hometown
  • The visit would be Trump’s first campaign appearance since his criminal hush money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial

NEW YORK: Donald Trump plans to visit New York’s Harlem neighborhood Tuesday after spending his second day in a lower Manhattan courtroom as a criminal defendant.
Trump was expected to stop by Sanaa Convenient Store, a tiny bodega that sells chips, sodas and other snacks. Trump aides said the former president and current Republican nominee chose the store because it has been the site of a violent attack on an employee. He will also highlight consumer inflation under President Joe Biden, aides said.
The visit would be Trump’s first campaign appearance since his criminal hush money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial.
Trump will be confined to the courtroom on most days, dramatically limiting his movements and his ability to campaign, fundraise and make calls. Aides have been planning rallies and other political events on weekends and Wednesdays, the one weekday when court is not supposed to be in session. Plans also include local appearances Trump can make after court recesses each day.
Trump’s stop in Harlem demonstrates the former president’s determination to amplify familiar campaign arguments even within the strictures of being a criminal defendant.
In July 2022, Jose Alba, a clerk at the store in Hamilton Heights, a heavily Hispanic section of Harlem, was attacked by 35-year-old Austin Simon. The resulting altercation, captured on surveillance video, ended with Alba fatally stabbing Simon. Alba was arrested and charged with murder but the Manhattan district attorney dropped the charges within weeks, saying they could not prove Alba had not acted in self-defense.
On another evening in August 2022, according to the New York Post, owner Osamah Aldhabyani was in the store when a customer entered and an altercation between the two ensued. The customer was arrested, the newspaper reported.
Before his arrival, Trump’s campaign distributed materials to journalists criticizing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his handling of the stabbing case, including the weeks Alba spent jailed at Rikers Island without bail. Bragg oversees the office now prosecuting Trump.
The former president’s local appearance also affirms his intentions to campaign in his home state, even though New York remains overwhelmingly Democratic. In 2020, Biden garnered more than 60 percent of the vote in the state and ran up even wider margins in New York City. Trump insists he can win New York in November anyway, and he has mused about holding rallies in the South Bronx and Queens, where the former president was born and grew up, and even Madison Square Garden.
“I may rent Madison Square Garden,” he said in an interview with Breitbart News. “That’s the belly of the beast, right?”
That would be a prohibitively expensive proposition, particularly as his campaign has worked to save cash as it confronts a fundraising gap with Biden.
“You know, the president is very keen on New York,” Chris LaCivita, Trump senior campaign adviser, told The Associated Press last month as he talked up the campaign’s efforts to put more states in play. Still, LaCivita laughed when asked whether he agrees. “I don’t get out in front of the boss. I do what the boss says. The boss drives,” he said.
Trump has argued that the ongoing influx of migrants to the city, where he grew his real estate empire and became a tabloid fixture, has made New Yorkers more willing to vote for him since his 2020 loss to Biden. The city has struggled to house the new arrivals, putting many up in city hotels.
“I think we have a chance. New York has changed a lot in the last two years,” he told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo. “The people of New York are angry. People that would have never voted for me because I’m a Republican — I mean they’re Democrats ... I think they’re going to vote for me. So I think we’re going to give New York a heavy shot.”
Trump cited the 2022 New York governor’s race, when Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul prevailed over Republican former Rep. Lee Zeldin — but by a much tighter margin than usual for her party’s statewide nominees.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a top Trump ally, said Monday that Trump will be campaigning all over the state while he’s forced to be on trial in New York.
“He’s going to make the best out of this,” she said, adding that “Democrats in New York and the judge and everyone, they’re really going to regret it.”
At the least, Trump, long a famous figure for New Yorkers, showed Tuesday that he can still turn heads in the city.
“Papito Trump is coming. Yeah!” said one passerby ahead of the former president’s arrival.
Lesandra Carrion, 47, who lives in the neighborhood, came out to see the former president when she heard he might be visiting.
She said she doesn’t agree with everything Trump says or does but declared that “he speaks the truth.” Carrion cited the rising migrant population and strained city resources. “I think that he will make a difference,” she said of Trump.
As for his troubles at the courthouse at the south end of Manhattan, Carrion was dismissive. “He’s going to beat that,” she said. “We all make mistakes at the end of the day. But he’s the truth and light. I feel that God is in him.”


Uncertainty surrounds US Republicans’ plan for separate Ukraine, Israel aid bills

Uncertainty surrounds US Republicans’ plan for separate Ukraine, Israel aid bills
Updated 17 April 2024
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Uncertainty surrounds US Republicans’ plan for separate Ukraine, Israel aid bills

Uncertainty surrounds US Republicans’ plan for separate Ukraine, Israel aid bills
  • The proposal fueled uncertainty about the long-awaited aid package, particularly for Ukraine, given fierce opposition toward from some far-right Republicans, who have threatened to oust Johnson if he allows a House vote on assistance for Kyiv

WASHINGTON: US Democrats said on Tuesday they would wait to decide how to respond to a proposal from the Republican-led House of Representatives to consider national security assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan separately, rather than as one bill.
More than two months after the Senate approved a $95 billion package of security assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and other US partners in the Indo-Pacific, House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Monday that the House would consider the aid this week, but would do so as separate pieces of legislation.
The proposal fueled uncertainty about the long-awaited aid package, particularly for Ukraine, given fierce opposition toward from some far-right Republicans, who have threatened to oust Johnson if he allows a House vote on assistance for Kyiv.
Democrats in the House and Senate — and the White House — said they would look at Johnson’s proposals, even as they stressed that the best and quickest strategy would be for the House to pass the legislation approved by the Senate in February.
Johnson’s plan was endorsed on Tuesday by the leaders of the House Appropriations, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, and the chairperson of the defense appropriations subcommittee.
“We don’t have time to spare when it comes to our national security. We need to pass this aid package this week,” Representatives Tom Cole, Mike Rogers, Michael McCaul, Mike Turner and Ken Calvert said in a joint statement.
Turner and Representative Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, said separately in a statement after a classified briefing that Ukraine’s situation on the ground was critical and aid must be passed now.
Consideration of separate bills could add weeks to the timeline for the aid to become law, as it must pass the House and then go back for a vote in the Senate, before it can be sent to the White House for Democratic President Joe Biden’s signature.
“I am reserving judgment on what will come out of the House until we see more about the substance of the proposal and the process by which the proposal will proceed,” Senator Chuck Schumer said as the Senate opened.
“Hopefully, we will get details of the speaker’s proposal later today. Again, time is of the essence,” Schumer said.
Representative Pete Aguilar, a member of the House Democratic leadership, told a press conference he would wait for the substance of the bill before drawing any conclusions.
“We don’t want to sink any plan that delivers aid to our allies,” he said.

TEXT, TIMELINE STILL TO COME
The text of the bills was not released — it was expected as soon as late Tuesday — but there would be separate measures providing assistance to Ukraine as it fights a Russian invasion, Israel after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and a weekend air assault by Iran, and partners in the Indo-Pacific as they face an increasingly aggressive China.
It also was not clear which country’s assistance the House would consider first. Republicans have tried repeatedly to push through aid for Israel without anything for Ukraine, an approach Democrats have rejected.
The White House has also opposed standalone aid for Israel.
When asked whether the White House would support the four separate bills, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said the administration was awaiting more information.
“It does appear at first blush that the speaker’s proposal will, in fact, help us get aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel and needed resources to the Indo-Pacific for a wide range of contingencies there. We just want to get more detail,” he told reporters.
Johnson told Fox News on Tuesday that the fourth bill would include additional sanctions on Russia and Iran as well as the “REPO Act,” a provision regarding the seizure of Russian assets to help Ukraine.
Ukraine backers have been pushing Johnson to allow a vote on supplemental funding since last year. But Johnson had given a variety of reasons to delay, including the need to focus taxpayer dollars on domestic issues.
Many hard-right Republicans, especially those closely allied with former President Donald Trump, who is challenging Biden in the November presidential election, fiercely oppose sending billions more dollars to Ukraine.
At least two far-right Republicans have threatened to seek Johnson’s removal as speaker if he allows a vote on assistance for Ukraine. Johnson said he would not resign.
It was not clear whether he would be removed in case of a hard-right rebellion, as some Democrats have said they would vote to save Johnson’s job to prevent chaos in the House. Last year, conservatives ousted then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and it took three weeks before Johnson was elected.


Petition calling for suspension of UK arms sales to Israel handed to Downing Street

Petition calling for suspension of UK arms sales to Israel handed to Downing Street
Updated 8 min 3 sec ago
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Petition calling for suspension of UK arms sales to Israel handed to Downing Street

Petition calling for suspension of UK arms sales to Israel handed to Downing Street
  • Document by UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign signed by almost 70,000 people
  • Protest against arms sales to Israel will take place outside Parliament on Wednesday

LONDON: A petition calling for the UK government to halt arms sales to Israel was handed in to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday by a pro-Palestinian activist organization and a cross-party group of lawmakers.

Launched on April 2 and signed by almost 70,000 people, the document, which is addressed to UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, also urges the government to publish any legal advice it has received regarding possible breaches of international law.

“On 2nd April 2024, Israel killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, including UK citizens, in targeted air strikes in the Gaza Strip,” the petition, drawn up by the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said.

“This attack, on an agency distributing food to a population facing famine, is part of the broader Israeli war crime — as acknowledged by the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell — of intentionally using starvation as a weapon of war.

“It also comes following Israel’s two week siege on Al-Shifa hospital, killing over 400 Palestinians and leaving the hospital complex in ruins.”

The UK’s Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, under which all arms exports are assessed, specifies that the government will not grant a license if it determines “there is a clear risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate internal repression … or a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” according to a January 2023 report on developments in UK strategic export controls.

“The ICJ (International Court of Justice) ruling of plausible genocide therefore requires the UK to immediately halt arms transfers to Israel,” the petition said.

“It is also understood the government has received — though not published — legal advice that Israel is breaking international humanitarian law which would also require a suspension of arms exports.”

The ICJ issued a landmark ruling in January finding it plausible that Israel’s acts could amount to genocide, offering the first concrete step toward possible sanctions.

“UN experts have called on all states to immediately suspend arms exports to Israel, as required by the 1949 Geneva Conventions and to comply with the Genocide Convention,” the petition said.

“The UK is putting itself at legal risk by ignoring this advice, and is also isolating itself from key international partners including Canada, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy, who have all suspended their arms exports to Israel.”

Conservative Party MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on Friday said the UK Foreign Office “has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law, but the government has not announced it.”

On Monday in parliament, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to deny the Foreign Office had received such advice and when asked by Labour Party MP Zarah Sultana whether Kearns was telling the truth said: “Israel is committed to and capable of complying with international humanitarian law.”

Ben Jamal, director of the PSC, said: “Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestinians and its attacks on Lebanon, Syria and Iran prove that arming it not only makes the UK complicit in violating international law but also in the sparking of a regional war with catastrophic consequences.

“Continuing to arm Israel cannot help the cause of peace or justice in the Middle East. Any government truly committed to upholding international law does not sell weapons to a state that continually breaches it.”

The Palestinian Health Ministry said on Tuesday that more than 33,000 Palestinians had been killed since Israel launched its assault on Gaza on Oct. 7, 70 percent of them women and children. Most of the civil infrastructure in the besieged enclave has been destroyed and the UN has issued warnings that famine is imminent for its population of 2 million people.

Israel uses British weaponry, surveillance technology and military equipment on Palestinians, and 15 percent of the components used by its F-35 aircraft to bomb Gaza are provided by the UK, according to the pro-Palestinian nongovernmental organization Friends of Al-Aqsa.

“Israeli bomber aircraft are being used in the ongoing genocide taking place in Gaza,” the UK-based group said.

According to a statement by the PSC, more than 1,000 lawyers, academics and retired judges, including the former President of the Supreme Court Baroness Brenda Hale, have signed an open letter stating that the “continued supply of arms to Israel puts the UK in breach of international law.”

On March 27, Sultana and a cross-party group of 134 UK lawmakers wrote to Cameron and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch asking them to immediately suspend export licenses for arms transfers to Israel as “the case for this is overwhelming.”

Earlier this month, Cameron said the UK would not suspend arms sales to Israel, despite Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Spain and Belgium announcing they would do so.

The PSC said it would lead a “Stop Arming Israel” rally outside parliament at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.


US university pulls student speech after Jewish groups object

A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2024
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US university pulls student speech after Jewish groups object

A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed at least 33,843 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory

LOS ANGELES: A top US university has canceled its plans for a graduation speech by a Muslim student over what it says are safety concerns, after pro-Israel groups criticized her selection.
The decision by the University of Southern California is the latest controversy to roil American higher education since the conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted in October.
Asna Tabassum, who has been attacked online for “antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric,” had been selected as class valedictorian — an honorary role whose holder traditionally gives an address in front of up to 65,000 people.

Asna Tabassum. (Photo/ social media)

But on Monday the university’s provost, Andrew Guzman, announced the May 10 ceremony would go ahead without the speech.
“Unfortunately, over the past several days, discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor,” Guzman said in a statement.
“The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security.”
Guzman’s statement gave no specifics, but the Los Angeles Times quoted Erroll Southers, the university’s associate senior vice president for safety and risk assurance, as saying the institution had received threats by email, phone and letter.
Individuals “say they will come to the campus,” he said.
Tabassum criticized the decision, which she said was the result of the university “succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice.”
“Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all,” she said in a statement.
The Hamas attack that started the war on October 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,843 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The fallout from the conflict has been felt around the world, and is particularly intense on US college campuses, where both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups say they are being victimized and silenced.
On Wednesday the president of the prestigious Columbia University in New York will become the latest campus leader to face questions from US lawmakers about whether her institution is doing enough to combat anti-Semitism in the student body.