Afghan women stage rare protests on International Women’s Day

Afghan women stage rare protests on International Women’s Day
Protesters hold placards at a demonstration calling for women’s rights in Afghanistan, in Parliament Square in London on Mar. 8, 2024, on International Women’s Day. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 March 2024
Follow

Afghan women stage rare protests on International Women’s Day

Afghan women stage rare protests on International Women’s Day
  • A handful of women in several provinces gathered to demand restrictions be lifted
  • In northern Takhar province, images circulated by activists showed seven women holding papers obscuring their faces, reading “Rights, Justice, Freedom”

KABUL: Small groups of Afghan women on Friday staged rare demonstrations to mark International Women’s Day in private spaces, after a crackdown by Taliban authorities forced activists off the streets.
Since surging back to power in August 2021, Taliban authorities have imposed a strict interpretation of Islam, with women bearing the brunt of curbs the United Nations has labelled “gender apartheid.”
Women have been squeezed from public life, barred from traveling without a male relative and banned from certain jobs, secondary school and university, as well as from parks, fairs and gyms.
A handful of women in several provinces gathered to demand restrictions be lifted, according to activists from the Purple Saturdays group, which protests Taliban government curbs on women.
In northern Takhar province, images circulated by activists showed seven women holding papers obscuring their faces, reading “Rights, Justice, Freedom.”
“Our silence and fear is the biggest weapon of the Taliban,” a demonstrator whose face was covered said in a video.
In Balkh province, several women also held up signs saying, “Don’t give the Taliban a chance” in front of a banner reading “Save Afghanistan Women.”
On Thursday, around 20 women gathered at an office for an event organized by the Afghanistan Association of the Blind in northern Mazar-i-Sharif city.
“The gates of schools, universities and offices should be opened for all women,” said one attendee, who remained anonymous for security reasons, during the meeting.
“It is very painful that a woman has no value in our society today. She cannot use any of her rights.”
“Women make up half of human society as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and teachers. The holy religion of Islam is not against women’s work and education,” another added.
Also on Thursday, the Independent Coalition of Afghanistan Women’s Protest Movement issued a statement demanding “immediate and serious action from the international community against the clear violation of human rights and obvious crimes the Taliban are committing against Afghan women.”
The UN mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, on Friday urged the Taliban government to lift restrictions on women and girls, saying not doing so risked “further pushing the country into deeper poverty and isolation.”
“The space for Afghan women and girls continues to shrink at an alarming pace, and with it Afghanistan’s future prospects to escape a vicious cycle of war, poverty, and isolation,” said Alison Davidian, Special Representative for UN Women in Afghanistan, in a statement.
Taliban authorities have repeatedly dismissed such international criticism as propaganda.
On Friday, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban government was committed to women’s rights within the framework of Islam, according to an interview with Tolo News.
Women have protested sporadically against rules handed down by the Taliban authorities, but often in small groups and indoors out of fear of reprisals, after several activists were detained for months.
On Friday, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, called on the Taliban government “to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arbitrarily detained for defending human rights, especially the rights of women and girls.”
Street protests in Afghanistan have in the past been broken up by security forces firing guns into the air, including during a demonstration last summer after beauty salons were shut down.
Last March, about 20 women held a rare protest in the streets of Kabul for International Women’s Day.


Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah
Updated 11 sec ago
Follow

Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

Canada pledges more visas for Gazans, says it’s ‘horrified’ by Israeli attack in Rafah

OTTAWA: Canada said on Monday it will issue visas to 5,000 Gazans, more than it originally pledged, and said it was “horrified” by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah that triggered a blaze causing 45 deaths.

The visas for Canadians’ relatives living in the enclave represent a five-fold increase from the 1,000 temporary resident visas allotted under a special program that Canada announced in December.

“While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time. With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said.

A spokesperson for Miller said 448 Gazans had been issued a temporary visa, including 254 under a policy not related to the special visa program, and 41 have arrived in Canada so far.

An Israeli airstrike late on Sunday night triggered a fire in a tent camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, prompting an outcry from global leaders including from Canada.

“We are horrified by strikes that killed Palestinian civilians in Rafah,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement, adding that Canada does not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah.

“This level of human suffering must come to an end. We demand an immediate ceasefire,” Joly said, echoing global leaders who urged the implementation of a World Court order to halt Israel’s assault.

Canada has repeatedly supported calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, including at the United Nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that the strike in Rafah had not been intended to cause civilian casualties and that something had gone “tragically wrong.” Israel’s military, which is trying to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, said it was investigating.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the local health ministry, and an estimated 1.7 million people, more than 75 percent of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, according to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

Israel launched its military campaign after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.


Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

Spain pledges €1bn in military aid to Kyiv

MADRID: Spain on Monday pledged one billion euros in military aid to Ukraine as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a security deal in Madrid.

The deal “includes a commitment for one billion euros in military aid for 2024,” Sanchez told a joint news conference

“It will allow Ukraine to boost its capabilities including its essential air defense systems to protect its civilians, cities and infrastructure which are still suffering indiscriminate attacks as seen this weekend in Kharkiv,” he said, referring to a Russian strike on the northeastern city that killed at least 16 people.

Zelensky’s visit comes as Ukraine has been battling a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region which began on May 10 in Moscow’s biggest territorial advance in 18 months.

With the Russian assault now in its third year, Ukraine has been pleading for more weapons for its outgunned and outnumbered troops, notably seeking help to address its lack of air defense systems.

According to El Pais newspaper, the deal would include new Patriot missiles and Leopard tanks. Zelensky has already signed bilateral security agreements with several countries including France, Germany and the UK.

Sanchez said the security agreement would cover a range of a different issues.

“The agreement is based on a comprehensive overview of security and covers various areas such as military, humanitarian and financial support, as well as collaboration between Spanish and Ukrainian defense industries, as well as help with reconstruction and de-mining among other things,” he said.


Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’

Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’

Italy says violence against civilians in Gaza ‘no longer justifiable’
  • Defense Minister Guido Crosett said ‘We are watching the situation with despair’

ROME: Italy said on Monday Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza were no longer justifiable in one of the strongest criticisms Rome has made so far against Israel’s campaign.

“There is an increasingly difficult situation, in which the Palestinian people are being squeezed without regard for the rights of innocent men, women and children who have nothing to do with Hamas and this can no longer be justified,” Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told SkyTG24 TV.

“We are watching the situation with despair.”

Crosetto said Italy agreed in principle with the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas militants on southern Israeli communities, but he added that a difference had to be made between the militant group and the Palestinian people.

On Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani met Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa in Rome, reiterating their support for a ceasefire and urging Hamas to release Israeli hostages.

Italy has repeatedly said that Israel had a right to defend itself from Hamas. Last week, Rome said an International Criminal Court prosecutor’s decision to seek an arrest warrant for Israeli leaders was “unacceptable.” 


British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country

British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country

British foreign ministry official says some Muslims in UK want to ‘challenge values’ of the country
  • Was responding to comments made by right-wing politician Nigel Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK

LONDON: A British foreign office minister said on Monday some Muslims in the UK wanted to “challenge the values” of the country.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s was speaking after right-wing politician Nigel Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK, told Sky News on Sunday there was a growing proportion of British Muslims who “loathed” the UK’s values, citing a study that claimed 46 percent supported Hamas.

Trevelyan told LBC Radio on Monday that she believed a small minority of British Muslims matched the description.

“The vast proportion of British Muslims are wonderful, peace-loving, community-minded people, certainly in the northeast where I’m based, we have fantastic communities and they are a really important part of our social fabric,” she said.

“There are a very small proportion for whom they want to challenge those values that we hold dear in the UK, which are British values, and there we need to continue to work in community to bring those people to this.

“The UK has incredible values of freedom of speech, freedom of choice … these are incredibly important values, but they have to be nurtured and looked after, and where there are those who would threaten them we need to make sure that we deal with that,” she said.

Bridget Phillipson of the Labour Party, the shadow education secretary, slammed Farage’s comments as “incendiary rhetoric,” and told the same LBC show: “What we need in this election is a sense of how we bring our country together, how we focus on a more positive and hopeful mission for what our country can be — not this kind of division.”


WHO chief urges countries to quickly seal pandemic deal

WHO chief urges countries to quickly seal pandemic deal
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

WHO chief urges countries to quickly seal pandemic deal

WHO chief urges countries to quickly seal pandemic deal
  • Scarred by COVID-19, nations have spent two years trying to forge binding commitments on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response

GENEVA: The World Health Organization chief on Monday urged countries to nail down a landmark global agreement on handling of future pandemics after they missed a hard deadline.
Scarred by COVID-19 — which killed millions, shredded economies and crippled health systems — nations have spent two years trying to forge binding commitments on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
Negotiators failed to clinch a deal ahead of this week’s World Health Assembly — the annual gathering of WHO’s 194 member states — the deadline for concluding the talks.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opened the assembly Monday, saying he was confident that an agreement would be secured.
“Of course, we all wish that we had been able to reach a consensus on the agreement in time for this health assembly and crossed the finish line,” he said.
“But I remain confident that you still will, because where there is a will, there is a way.”
Tedros said the task before negotiators had been “immense, technically, legally, and politically,” and that they had been “operating on a very ambitious time line.”
“You have demonstrated a clear commitment to reaching an agreement,” he said, adding that negotiators had “worked long days and nights,” closing meetings as late as 4:00 a.m.
He hailed their dedication to push forward despite “a torrent of misinformation that was undermining your negotiations.”
While missing Friday’s deadline, countries have voiced a commitment to keep pushing for an accord.
Negotiators are due on Tuesday to present the outcome of the talks to the assembly, which runs until June 1, and the assembly will take stock and decide what to do next.
“I know that there remains among you a common will to get this done, so, there must always be a way,” Tedros said.
“Meaning the solution is in your hands,” he stressed.
Parallel talks have also taken place on revising the International Health Regulations, which were first adopted in 1969 and constitute the existing international legally binding framework for responding to public health emergencies around the world.
The proposed amendments to the IHR, including adding more nuance to a system meant to alert countries to potential health emergencies of global concern, might have a better chance of being adopted during this week’s assembly, observers said.