Indonesian authorities offer free tattoo removal for Muslims in Jakarta

Special Indonesian authorities offer free tattoo removal for Muslims in Jakarta
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An Indonesian undergoes a tattoo removal procedure in Jakarta, Apr. 1, 2024. (Bazis Baznas DKI Jakarta)
Special Indonesian authorities offer free tattoo removal for Muslims in Jakarta
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A woman gets a tattoo removed during an event held by Bazis Baznas DKI Jakarta, Indonesia, Mar. 26, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 April 2024
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Indonesian authorities offer free tattoo removal for Muslims in Jakarta

Indonesian authorities offer free tattoo removal for Muslims in Jakarta
  • Tattoo removal program targets low-income communities
  • 600 people signed up for Ramadan initiative this year

JAKARTA: Hundreds of Indonesian Muslims have signed up for free tattoo removal procedures organized by the national alms agency in Jakarta, in a Ramadan program targeting low-income communities in the Indonesian capital.

The initiative, which was first launched by the Jakarta chapter of Indonesia’s national alms agency in 2021, has been held across the capital’s administrative regions throughout Ramadan in partnership with the Islamic Medical Service.

“On this occasion of Ramadan, there are a lot of Muslims who want to get closer to their religion and remove their tattoos,” Nasir Tajang, a deputy chairman at the agency, told Arab News on Monday.

“We have held this program for the fourth year because there’s a lot of interest from the public. This year alone we have seen 600 people signed up.”

The program especially sought to reach those from low-income groups, Tajang said, as tattoo removal procedures were often costly.

“In terms of cost, removing the tattoos can cost millions (of Indonesian rupiah), so this program is aimed at helping the people, especially those from low-income groups, to remove their tattoos,” he added.

“We also want to inspire people, to let them know that even if they have a dark past, the door of repentance is always open.”

In the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, tattoos carry negative connotations due to the common association with hard lifestyles.

Eko, a 30-year-old resident of West Jakarta, was among those who signed up for the procedure last week.

“I removed two tattoos on both my hands … so I can worship solemnly without feeling conflicted,” he said.


French court rules against Israeli ban from arms expo: lawyer

Updated 2 sec ago
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French court rules against Israeli ban from arms expo: lawyer

French court rules against Israeli ban from arms expo: lawyer
The decision by Coges Events to ban 74 Israeli exhibitors from Eurosatory was “discriminatory“

PARIS: A French court on Tuesday ordered organizers of a defense trade show to suspend a ban on Israeli firms, the lawyer for the Franco-Israeli chamber of commerce told AFP.
The Paris Commerce Tribunal said the decision by Coges Events to ban 74 Israeli exhibitors from Eurosatory was “discriminatory,” said the lawyer, Patrick Klugman.

Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza

Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza
Updated 3 min 57 sec ago
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Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza

Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza
  • Indonesia Hospital was one of the first targets hit by Israeli attacks last year
  • Facility is still unable to perform major surgeries due to lack of equipment

JAKARTA: The Indonesia Hospital in Gaza has resumed limited operations, the nongovernmental organization that funded it said on Tuesday, months after the facility was severely damaged by a deadly Israeli siege and attacks.

The hospital in northern Gaza, a four-story building located near the Jabalia refugee camp, was built from donations organized by the Jakarta-based Medical Emergency Rescue Committee. 

It was one of the first targets hit by Israeli air raids in October and one of the last to remain operational until late last year. But Israeli bombardments forced staff and thousands of people seeking shelter on the hospital’s premises to move to Gaza’s south. 

“Praise be to God, the hospital has resumed operations under limited capacity,” MER-C Chairman Dr. Sarbini Murad told Arab News. 

“The Indonesia Hospital is relying on solar energy, but even solar is limited. Most of the medical equipment is damaged. The staff are making the most of what’s available because the most important thing is that the hospital can function to help the isolated residents of northern Gaza.” 

According to Murad, the medical facility began to resume some services last month and is now able to take in patients, although doctors still cannot perform major surgeries. 

“If a permanent ceasefire is implemented, hopefully (MER-C) can go there and begin repairing the hospital,” Murad said, adding that the facility may be the only one providing medical aid in north Gaza. 

For months, Palestinians in northern Gaza have been isolated from the rest of the besieged enclave and hit hardest by hunger as Israeli forces denied aid convoys entry to the area. 

In early November, the Israeli military said that Gaza-based militant group Hamas was using the Indonesia Hospital “to hide an underground command and control center.” 

The claim was immediately refuted by MER-C, which said that it was a “precondition to attack” the medical facility.

A few weeks later, Israeli tanks and snipers indeed laid siege to the hospital, severely damaging the building and destroying its equipment, as they turned it into a new base for their attacks.


Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan

Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan
Updated 18 June 2024
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Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan

Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan
  • Pakistan forcibly deported thousands of Afghans last year who were allegedly living in country without legal documents
  • War-ravaged Afghanistan deals with refugees returning as it reels from humanitarian, climate and economic crises

MOYE MUBARAK, Afghanistan: Seven months since fleeing Pakistan out of fear of deportation, Jan Mohammad marked the Eid Al-Adha holiday on Monday struggling to feed his family, still living in a tent in Afghanistan in the border province of Nangarhar.

“We are spending Eid as if we were in prison,” the 30-year-old father of six told AFP.

“We have absolutely no money. We are still grateful to Allah that we are alive but sometimes we regret that as well. We can’t do anything. This year, and this Eid, we became fully bankrupt.”

He and his family crossed from Pakistan at the end of last year, not long after a deadline set by Islamabad for Afghans without legal right to stay in the country to leave.

Hundreds of thousands Afghans have hurriedly packed up their belongings to start fresh in their homeland, a place many of them had never seen before, in the months since the November 1, 2023 deadline.

But months later, many have still not found their feet.

Mohammad and his family were living in a tent encampment in the Moye Mubarak area of Nangarhar with other recently returned Afghan families.

He worked as a trainer at a sports club in Pakistan but is now jobless, unable to provide sufficient food for his family, let alone take part in Eid Al-Adha traditions of buying new clothes or a sheep for the ritual sacrifice or gathering with extended family and friends.

“My children don’t have proper food to eat or clothes to wear (for Eid), or shoes, while the children in the nearby villages have good clothes and shoes. My children want the same things. It is very difficult but we are helpless,” Mohammad said.

“It breaks my heart, I sit in a corner at home and cry.”

In a nearby tent, Sang Bibi is also holding on by a thread. Where other families were buying new clothes for Eid, she and her six children can rarely wash and beg for hand-me-downs to wear.

“We even beg for the clothes of dead,” the 60-year-old widow, the sole breadwinner for her family, told AFP.

“We have been in a terrible situation these past two Eids,” she said, referring to Eid Al-Fitr, which fell at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in April this year.

The influx of returnees into Afghanistan from both Pakistan and Iran came as the war-ravaged country grapples with economic, climate and humanitarian crises.

UN refugee agency UNHCR said last year that Afghans make up the third-largest group of displaced people globally, with around eight million Afghans living across 103 countries as of 2023.

The Taliban government, which took power almost three years ago, provided some support for the returnees, but struggled to cope with the surge.

“We want the government to help us by providing shelter,” said Sana Gul, who has lived in a tent with her husband and their two daughters since coming from Pakistan.

In the days ahead of Eid, markets were bustling with shoppers buying sweets and food for the holiday, with many families sharing meat with poorer relations during the holiday.

But having spent years, if not their whole lives, abroad, fleeing Afghanistan’s successive conflicts, many returnees have few networks to support them.

“We don’t even have bread to eat,” said Gul’s husband Safar.


Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’

Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’
Updated 18 June 2024
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Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’

Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’
  • Manila's national task force on the West Philippine Sea later said the Chinese vessels had "engaged in dangerous manoeuvres, including ramming and towing"
  • This month, Manila accused Chinese boats of illegally seizing food and medicine airdropped to the Philippine outpost in the area

Manila: The Philippines said Tuesday one of its navy personnel was severely injured after the China Coast Guard rammed a Philippine vessel near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
"A Philippine Navy personnel sustained severe injury after the CCG's (China Coast Guard's) intentional high-speed ramming during the rotation and resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre (LS57) on June 17," a military statement said.
The shoal, which hosts a tiny Philippine garrison stationed on a deliberately beached old warship, has been a focus of escalating confrontations between Chinese and Philippine ships in recent months as Beijing steps up efforts to push its claims to the disputed area.
Shortly after the incident, the Chinese coast guard reported that a Philippine resupply ship in the area had "ignored many solemn warnings from the Chinese side".
It "approached the... Chinese vessel in an unprofessional way, resulting in a collision", Beijing said, accusing the ship of having "illegally broken into the sea near Ren'ai Reef".
"The Chinese Coast Guard took control measures against the Philippine ship in accordance with the law," it added.
But the Philippine armed forces called China's version of events "misleading", decrying "the illegal presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone".
Manila's national task force on the West Philippine Sea later said the Chinese vessels had "engaged in dangerous manoeuvres, including ramming and towing".
"Their actions put at risk the lives of our personnel and damaged our boats," it said.
In an update, the Philippine military on Tuesday made its first casualty report from the incident, adding that the injured navy personnel "has been safely evacuated and received prompt medical treatment".
It gave no details on the sailor's injury and also did not comment on news reports that a sailor had lost a finger and that Chinese personnel also boarded a Philippine vessel and seized several guns and inflatable boats.
The Second Thomas Shoal lies about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometres from China's nearest major landmass, Hainan island.
Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and an international ruling that its stance has no legal basis.
It deploys coast guard and other boats to patrol the waters and has turned several reefs into militarised artificial islands.
It has in recent months stepped up moves against Philippine vessels in the area around Second Thomas Shoal.
This month, Manila accused Chinese boats of illegally seizing food and medicine airdropped to the Philippine outpost in the area.
It was the first time supplies had been seized, the military said.
Chinese personnel on the boats later dumped the items in the water, Philippine Navy spokesman for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said.
It was not clear if they belonged to the Chinese coast guard or navy, the military said.
China in response insisted the Sierra Madre was illegally grounded on the reef and urged the Philippines to "stop making trouble".


China accuses US of ‘malign intention’ to discredit its COVID-19 vaccines

China accuses US of ‘malign intention’ to discredit its COVID-19 vaccines
Updated 18 June 2024
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China accuses US of ‘malign intention’ to discredit its COVID-19 vaccines

China accuses US of ‘malign intention’ to discredit its COVID-19 vaccines
  • US military launched a clandestine program during the COVID-16 pandemic to discredit China’s Sinovac inoculation in the Philippines

MANILA: China’s embassy in the Philippines accused the US military of “hypocrisy, malign intention and double standards” in response to a report of secret US campaign to undermine confidence in a Chinese vaccines and other aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The remarks made by the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Tuesday were in response to a Reuters investigative report that said the US military launched a clandestine program during the COVID pandemic to discredit China’s Sinovac inoculation in the Philippines.
The investigation found the US military aimed to sow doubt about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and other life-saving aid supplied by China. Through phony Internet accounts meant to impersonate Filipinos, the military’s propaganda efforts morphed into an anti-vax campaign, according to the report.
“People around the world are indignant about the US military’s actions which lay bare the hypocrisy, malign intention and double standards of the United States,” an embassy spokesperson said in a statement.
“While talking about respecting human rights, the United States does just the opposite regarding the fundamental human rights of life and health of the Filipino people.”
The US Embassy in Manila referred a request for comment to its Department of Defense.
In the Reuters report, a senior Defense Department official acknowledged the US military engaged in secret propaganda to disparage China’s vaccine in the developing world, but the official declined to provide details.
A Pentagon spokeswoman was cited in the report as saying the US military “uses a variety of platforms, including social media, to counter those malign influence attacks aimed at the US, allies, and partners.” She also said China had started a “disinformation campaign to falsely blame the United States for the spread of COVID-19.”