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China Uighurs: Detained for beards, veils and internet browsing

BBC – A document that appears to give the most powerful insight yet into how China determined the fate of hundreds of thousands of Muslims held in a network of internment camps has been seen by the BBC.

Listing the personal details of more than 3,000 individuals from the far western region of Xinjiang, it sets out in intricate detail the most intimate aspects of their daily lives.

The painstaking records – made up of 137 pages of columns and rows – include how often people pray, how they dress, whom they contact and how their family members behave.

China denies any wrongdoing, saying it is combating terrorism and religious extremism.

The document is said to have come, at considerable personal risk, from the same source inside Xinjiang that leaked a batch of highly sensitive material published last year.

One of the world’s leading experts on China’s policies in Xinjiang, Dr Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, believes the latest leak is genuine.

“This remarkable document presents the strongest evidence I’ve seen to date that Beijing is actively persecuting and punishing normal practices of traditional religious beliefs,” he says.

One of the camps mentioned in it, the “Number Four Training Centre” has been identified by Dr Zenz as among those visited by the BBC as part of a tour organised by the Chinese authorities in May last year.

Much of the evidence uncovered by the BBC team appears to be corroborated by the new document, redacted for publication to protect the privacy of those included in it.

It contains details of the investigations into 311 main individuals, listing their backgrounds, religious habits, and relationships with many hundreds of relatives, neighbours and friends.

Verdicts written in a final column decide whether those already in internment should remain or be released, and whether some of those previously released need to return.

It is evidence that appears to directly contradict China’s claim that the camps are merely schools.

In an article analysing and verifying the document, Dr Zenz argues that it also offers a far deeper understanding of the real purpose of the system.

It allows a glimpse inside the minds of those making the decisions, he says, laying bare the “ideological and administrative micromechanics” of the camps.

Row 598 contains the case of a 38-year-old woman with the first name Helchem, sent to a re-education camp for one main reason: she was known to have worn a veil some years ago.

It is just one of a number of cases of arbitrary, retrospective punishment.

Others were interned simply for applying for a passport – proof that even the intention to travel abroad is now seen as a sign of radicalisation in Xinjiang.

In row 66, a 34-year-old man with the first name Memettohti was interned for precisely this reason, despite being described as posing “no practical risk”.

And then there’s the 28-year-old man Nurmemet in row 239, put into re-education for “clicking on a web-link and unintentionally landing on a foreign website”.

Again, his case notes describe no other issues with his behaviour.

The 311 main individuals listed are all from Karakax County, close to the city of Hotan in southern Xinjiang, an area where more than 90% of the population is Uighur.

Predominantly Muslim, the Uighurs are closer in appearance, language and culture to the peoples of Central Asia than to China’s majority ethnicity, the Han Chinese.

In recent decades the influx of millions of Han settlers into Xinjiang has led to rising ethnic tensions and a growing sense of economic exclusion among Uighurs.

Those grievances have sometimes found expression in sporadic outbreaks of violence, fuelling a cycle of increasingly harsh security responses from Beijing.

It is for this reason that the Uighurs have become the target – along with Xinjiang’s other Muslim minorities, like the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz – of the campaign of internment.

The “Karakax List”, as Dr Zenz calls the document, encapsulates the way the Chinese state now views almost any expression of religious belief as a signal of disloyalty.

To root out that perceived disloyalty, he says, the state has had to find ways to penetrate deep into Uighur homes and hearts.

In early 2017, when the internment campaign began in earnest, groups of loyal Communist Party workers, known as “village-based work teams”, began to rake through Uighur society with a massive dragnet.

With each member assigned a number of households, they visited, befriended and took detailed notes about the “religious atmosphere” in the homes; for example, how many Korans they had or whether religious rites were observed.

The Karakax List appears to be the most substantial evidence of the way this detailed information gathering has been used to sweep people into the camps.

It reveals, for example, how China has used the concept of “guilt by association” to incriminate and detain whole extended family networks in Xinjiang.

For every main individual, the 11th column of the spreadsheet is used to record their family relationships and their social circle.

China’s hidden camps

Alongside each relative or friend listed is a note of their own background; how often they pray, whether they’ve been interned, whether they’ve been abroad.

In fact, the title of the document makes clear that the main individuals listed all have a relative currently living overseas – a category long seen as a key indicator of potential disloyalty, leading to almost certain internment.

Rows 179, 315 and 345 contain a series of assessments for a 65-year-old man, Yusup.

His record shows two daughters who “wore veils and burkas in 2014 and 2015”, a son with Islamic political leanings and a family that displays “obvious anti-Han sentiment”.

His verdict is “continued training” – one of a number of examples of someone interned not just for their own actions and beliefs, but for those of their family.

The information collected by the village teams is also fed into Xinjiang’s big data system, called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP).

The IJOP contains the region’s surveillance and policing records, culled from a vast network of cameras and the intrusive mobile spyware every citizen is forced to download.

The IJOP, Dr Zenz suggests, can in turn use its AI brain to cross-reference these layers of data and send “push notifications” to the village teams to investigate a particular individual.

The man found “unintentionally landing on a foreign website” may well have been interned thanks to the IJOP.

In many cases though, there is little need for advanced technology, with the vast and vague catch-all term “untrustworthy” appearing multiple times in the document.

It is listed as the sole reason for the internment of a total of 88 individuals.

The concept, Dr Zenz argues, is proof that the system is designed not for those who have committed a crime, but for an entire demographic viewed as potentially suspicious.

China says Xinjiang has policies that “respect and ensure people’s freedom of religious belief”. It also insists that what it calls a “vocational training programme in Xinjiang” is “for the purposes of combating terrorism and religious extremism”, adding only people who have been convicted of crimes involving terrorism or religious extremism are being “educated” in these centres.

However, many of the cases in the Karakax List give multiple reasons for internment; various combinations of religion, passport, family, contacts overseas or simply being untrustworthy.

The most frequently listed is for violating China’s strict family planning laws.

In the eyes of the Chinese authorities it seems, having too many children is the clearest sign that Uighurs put their loyalty to culture and tradition above obedience to the secular state.

China has long defended its actions in Xinjiang as part of an urgent response to the threat of extremism and terrorism.

The Karakax List does contain some references to those kinds of crimes, with at least six entries for preparing, practicing or instigating terrorism and two cases of watching illegal videos.

But the broader focus of those compiling the document appears to be faith itself, with more than 100 entries describing the “religious atmosphere” at home.

The Karakax List has no stamps or other authenticating marks so, at face value, it is difficult to verify.

It is thought to have been passed out of Xinjiang sometime before late June last year, along with a number of other sensitive papers.

They ended up in the hands of an anonymous Uighur exile who passed all of them on, except for this one document.

Only after the first batch was published last year was the Karakax List then forwarded to his conduit, another Uighur living in Amsterdam, Asiye Abdulaheb.

“Regardless of whether there are official stamps on the document or not, this is information about real, live people,” she says. “It is private information about people that wouldn’t be made public. So there is no way for the Chinese government to claim it is fake.”

Like all Uighurs living overseas, Ms Abdulaheb lost contact with her family in Xinjiang when the internment campaign began, and she’s been unable to contact them since.

But she says she had no choice but to release the document, passing it to a group of international media organisations, including the BBC.

“Of course I am worried about the safety of my relatives and friends,” she says. “But if everyone keeps silent because they want to protect themselves and their families, then we will never prevent these crimes being committed.”

At the end of last year China announced that everyone in its “vocational training centres” had now “graduated”. However, it also suggested some may stay open for new students on the basis of their “free will”.

Almost 90% of the 311 main individuals in the Karakax List are shown as having already been released or as being due for release on completion of a full year in the camps.

But Dr Zenz points out that the re-education camps are just one part of a bigger system of internment, much of which remains hidden from the outside world.

More than two dozen individuals are listed as “recommended” for release into “industrial park employment” – career “advice” that they may have little choice but to obey. There are well documented concerns that China is now building a system of coerced labour as the next phase of its plan to align Uighur life with its own vision of a modern society.

In two cases, the re-education ends in the detainees being sent to “strike hard detention”, a reminder that the formal prison system has been cranked into overdrive in recent years.

Many of the family relationships listed in the document show long prison terms for parents or siblings, sometimes for entirely normal religious observances and practices.

One man’s father is shown to have been sentenced to five years for “having a double-coloured thick beard and organising a religious studies group”.

A neighbour is reported to have been given 15 years for “online contact with people overseas”, and another man’s younger brother given 10 years for “storing treasonable pictures on his phone”.

Whether or not China has closed its re-education camps in Xinjiang, Dr Zenz says the Karakax List tells us something important about the psychology of a system that prevails.

“It reveals the witch-hunt-like mindset that has been and continues to dominate social life in the region,” he said.

Feature Image : OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

16 Rohingya Muslims die after boat capsizes, 40 missing

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA): At least 16 Rohingya Muslim refugees died early Tuesday when their boat capsized near Saint Martin’s island in the Bay of Bengal, said an official.

“We have initially come to know that all the dead are members of the Rohingya community living in the refugee camps,” local administration chief Md. Kamal Hossain told Anadolu Agency.

Hossain said the dead have been brought to the nearest coast.

“Our team is there, and we are still continuing the rescue operation,” he added.

The Bangladesh Coast Guard and a naval force are jointly conducting the rescue drive, said the coast guard’s media wing.

“We have also rescued 63 people alive, mostly Rohingya,” an official from the media wing told Anadolu Agency.

The official, who preferred not to be named, added that at least 40 people were still missing.

Meanwhile, citing a coast guard commander, local private television channel Jamuna TV reported that 20 bodies have been recovered, most of them Rohingya.

The death toll may rise, he said, adding they were trying to locate the missing.

More than one million Rohingya refugees are currently living in squalid makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar amid sub-human conditions.

Several attempts to peacefully repatriate Rohingya to their homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have failed in the past year, leading to frustration among the persecuted people over their future in the camps and prompting them to choose risky sea routes to illegally migrate to Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries.

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience”.

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down while 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

Source: Muslim News, By Md. Kamruzzaman
Feature Image : AP/PTI file

Joburg residents warned of intruders posing as City Power contractors

Joburg residents have been warned to stay alert and not allow intruders posing as City Power contractors onto their properties. 

The suspected intruders have been using a modus operandi of telling unsuspecting residents that they have been sent by Joburg City Power to check meters as the system is offline. 

Joburg City Power issued the alert at 1am on Friday morning. 

It said the syndicate were known to be driving a blue Mercedes-Benz V Class vehicle, with   North West province number plate. 

They were particularly rife in the Johannesburg South region in recent days. 

On Thursday, City Power reported that the syndicate had targeted residents in the Kibler Park and Bassonia suburbs. 

City Power said the intruders were not legitimate, and that they posed as workers from the organisation in an attempt to gain access onto the property. 

“City Power would like to warn residents of Bassonia, Kibler Park and other suburbs in the south of Johannesburg against people who are driving a blue Mercedes Vito with North West registration number. They masquerade as if they are City Power contractors.

“Yesterday they were in Bassonia and today they are in Kibler Park. They are telling the customers that City Power is offline and they need to access their properties to check their meters. Our customers are advised not to open for them but call 011 490 7911.

“These people are not genuine City Power contractors and they are not carrying City Power identity cards,” a statement posted on their Twitter account read. 

City Power had not specified what harm or threat the intruders had posed to residents. 

Meanwhile, Stage 2 load shedding is expected to resume for much of Friday and into the weekend.

Eskom said in a statement that their system remained vulnerable and they had no choice but to load shed further on Friday, and possibly into the weekend.

“Demand exceeded 30 000MW during the peak hours on Thursday, reducing the operating reserves and necessitating Stage 2 load shedding,” the power utility said.

Residents have been urged to call 011 490 7911 or 011 490 7504 or their nearest police station, if the suspected intruders show up at their properties. 

Source : IOL

Headscarves are allowed in ID photos: DHA

Voice of the Cape – The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has apologised to a Cape Town Muslim woman who was told to remove her headscarf in order to take her ID (identification document) photograph. Saadiqah Saffodien had visited a Home Affairs branch last week to apply for the smart ID card when she was told by the female DHA official that she needed to take off her scarf. Following a post on Facebook by community activist Moeshfikah Botha, Home Affairs was contacted to respond to the matter.

“I was in a state of shock. Sitting there, I felt naked,” she said.

The department’s Western Cape district coordinator, Sam Plaatjies, described the incident as “unfortunate” and said it was not supposed to happen.

“In terms of passport/ ID photograph specifications which deals with the do’s and don’ts, if your religious preference requires you to wear something on your head, that is allowed. The official acted in an incorrect manner and we will rectify the matter,” said Plaatjies.

Plaatjies stressed that it was an isolated incident and the matter has been handed to the office manager and the official will be dealt with accordingly.

He explained that he had called the woman to apologise and she has accepted their apology due to the quick response regarding the incident. The photograph that was taken will not be used and the new photograph of her wearing her headscarf will be used for her ID smart card.

Plaatjies said official policy regarding ID photos states that “head coverings are not permitted except for religious reasons, but your facial features from bottom to chin, top of forehead and edges of face needs to be visible.”

The matter will be investigated as the official acted independently. There are meetings done in the morning to brief officials on the policies and rules of Home Affairs. Photograph specifications are displayed on boards at Home Affairs before taking photographs.

“There are international standards when taking a photograph, no smiling etc. The official should communicate how the photograph should be taken; in case a first-time applicant does not know the rules of the policies,” said Plaatjies.

Plaatjies said that the news about green ID books being stopped while applying for new ID smart card is fake news. He said that the department has not stopped it as there are several people who do not have an ID smart cards; therefore, it cannot be said it is not valid. He does recommend that people apply for the ID smart card as it is a more secure identification document (ID).

The cost of a new ID smart card is R140, although if you turned 16 and are a first-time applicant your ID smart card is free. It is also free for persons 60 years and older who has a ‘’Green book’’.

There has been extended hours for this month at Home Affairs from 16h00 – 19h00, although in most cases, they close the doors at 18h30 to deal with clients that are inside.

Also, if applicants do not want to apply for ID smart cards at the Home Affairs branches, one can apply online in the comfort of your own home. The application is very easy and payment can be made online as well. To communicate any queries or information, you can speak to the DHA office manager. If you’re not happy with the response, then speak to the district manager who should be able to assist you.

Saudi student: FBI saved me from being killed like Khashoggi

A Saudi dissident living in the US has claimed that the FBI saved him from suffering a similar fate to that of Jamal Khashoggi. Twenty-seven-year-old Abdulrahman Almutairi, a former student at the University of San Diego, spoke of his ordeal with the Daily Beast.

Almutairi, a YouTuber with hundreds of thousands of followers, attracted the attention of the Saudis after he criticised Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman over the October 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi. “The Saudi government realized I was a threat,” Almutairi told The Daily Beast.

According to Almutairi an unidentified Saudi man accompanied his father on a flight to collect him against his will and bring him back to Saudi Arabia. The FBI foiled the plot and it was only due to their timely intervention that Almutairi was rescued.

“If I go back to Saudi Arabia,” Almutairi said, “I’ll be killed in the airport.”

While it’s hard to corroborate Almutairi’s claim at this stage, the grisly reality of Riyadh’s brutal drive to crush dissent is well known. The crown prince in particular is notorious for the way he treats critics. A UN investigation concluded that the future king of Saudi Arabia ordered Khashoggi’s killing. The CIA has also reached a similar conclusion.

Many others have been victims of the kingdom’s growing network of spies authorised to silence critics. Last year, the CIA warned a Palestinian activist living under asylum in Norway of a potential threat against him from Saudi Arabia.

Critics are not the only ones to be targeted by the kingdom. As the alleged hacking of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos shows, anyone deemed a threat to the kingdom’s interest are at risk. Similarly Saudi dissidents living in the UK revealed details of the risk they face on a daily basis. Spyware developed in Israel is used to track them down.

Source : MEMO
Feature Image : [in McNamee/Getty Images

ICJ orders Myanmar to protect Rohingya

The Hague-based International Court of Justice has ordered Myanmar to take emergency measures to prevent genocide of the Rohingya.

In a unanimously-ruled order issued by a panel of 17 judges, and read by presiding Judge Abdulaqawi Ahmed Yusuf, the court upheld the provisions of the 1948 Genocide Convention – saying Myanmar had “caused irreparable damage to the rights of the Rohingya”.

According to the Statute of the ICJ, the court has the power to order provisional measures when “irreparable prejudice could be caused to rights which are the subject of judicial proceedings”. The court found that the condition of urgency had been met in this case.

In November the Gambia filed a suit against Myanmar alleging it was committing “an ongoing genocide against its minority Muslim Rohingya population” and violating the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Provisional measures are steps to take aimed at preventing further harm and comes as the first step in the legal case.

Judge Yusuf took care to emphasise the ordering of provisional measures did not “prejudge” the case. As Mike Becker, adjunct lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin and a former legal officer at the ICJ, emphasises: “This is a preliminary decision that is without prejudice to the merits of the case.”

Because of the gravity of the crimes of which Myanmar has been accused, Becker and other legal experts described the case as an “historic legal challenge”. 

Urgent measures requested and ordered

In its application to the court, the Gambia requested six provisional measures requiring Myanmar to act “with immediate effect” to prevent further genocide of the Rohingya group and to take steps not to destroy or render inaccessible any evidence already described in the application.

The Gambia also urged both sides not to take any action which might aggravate the dispute or render it more difficult to resolve, and to provide a report to the court on implementing such measures.

The Gambia later also requested Myanmar cooperate with United Nations bodies that seek to investigate the alleged acts.

Judge Yusuf said the court was not constrained to ordering the measures requested by the Gambia and that it had the power to order additional measures. Yusuf further said that, in ordering provisional measures in this case, it was not necessary to decide on the question of the presence of genocidal intent, as claimed by Myanmar. 

The court ordered Myanmar should take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of article two of the Genocide Convention. It particularly cited clause one – killing members of the group, clause two – causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, clause three – deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part, and clause four – imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

Myanmar must further ensure that its military does not commit genocide or attempts to commit genocide or conspires to commit genocide. Myanmar was also ordered to prevent the destruction of evidence and to ensure the preservation of evidence related to the alleged genocide.

In its application to the court, the Gambia asked for the measures to be implemented “with immediate effect”. In an unusual decision, the court requested the Gambia report to the court within four months after the order had been made, and every six months thereafter – until the final decision is made by the court.

Legal experts have applauded the court’s decision. Reed Brody, Commissioner at the International Commission of Jurists who was instrumental in the prosecution of Hissene Habre, said to Al Jazeera:  “This is a great day for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who have been displaced, killed and raped. The UN’s highest court has recognised their suffering.” 

Brody added: “There is still a long way to go before this order becomes reality and we see actual improvements in the lives of the Rohingya, but today this persecuted people will have a first taste of justice. This is further a stunning rebuke of Aung San Suu Kyi, especially after she went personally to The Hague to defend the actions of the Myanmar military. There will now be huge pressure on the court to comply with the government’s ruling.” 

According to Gleider Hernandez, professor at Catholic University of Leuven, the ICJ has made clear that it intends to supervise the implementation of the judgement. He said “Though not unprecedented, the regularity with which Myanmar had to submit reports is striking.” 

The ICJ’s orders are legally binding. Brody says the fact that the decision was unanimous will give additional weight to the court’s measures.

Source : Al jazeera
Image : AP/PTI file

Iran MP offers $3m ‘to anyone who kills’ Donald Trump

An Iranian lawmaker offered a $3m (R43.4) reward to anyone who killed US President Donald Trump and said Iran could avoid threats if it had nuclear arms, ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday amid Tehran’s latest standoff with Washington.

US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood dismissed the reward as “ridiculous”, telling reporters in Geneva it showed the “terrorist underpinnings” of Iran’s establishment.

Tensions have steadily escalated since Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions. The standoff erupted into tit-for-tat military strikes this month.

“On behalf of the people of Kerman province, we will pay a $3-million reward in cash to whoever kills Trump,” lawmaker Ahmad Hamzeh told the 290-seat parliament, ISNA reported. He did not say if the reward had any official backing from Iran’s clerical rulers.

The city of Kerman, in the province south of the capital, is the hometown of Qassem Soleimani, a prominent Iranian commander whose killing in a drone strike ordered by Trump on January 3 in Baghdad prompted Iran to fire missiles at US targets in Iraq.

“If we had nuclear weapons today, we would be protected from threats … We should put the production of long-range missiles capable of carrying unconventional warheads on our agenda. This is our natural right,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA.

The United States and it Western allies have long accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran insists it has never sought nuclear arms and never will, saying its nuclear work is for research and to master the process to generate electricity.

The 2015 nuclear agreement overall was designed to increase the time Iran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb. Parties to the deal believed, at the time, Iran could produce enough material in two to three months if it wanted. Under the deal, known as the JCPOA, Iran received sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear activities.

In response to Washington’s withdrawal from the pact and pressure from US sanctions, Iran has rolled back its commitments to the deal. This month, Iran announced it was scrapping all limits on its uranium enrichment work, potentially shortening the so-called “breakout time” needed to build a nuclear weapon.

Reports issued by the UN nuclear watchdog have suggested Tehran is still far from sprinting ahead with its work.

After Iran’s latest step, Britain, France and Germany triggered a dispute mechanism in the nuclear pact, starting a diplomatic process that could lead to reimposing UN sanctions. Iran said on Monday that Tehran would pull out from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if international sanctions were reimposed.

The US envoy Wood said Iran’s threat to quit the treaty, the foundation of global nuclear arms control since the Cold War, would send a “very, very negative message”.

Source: Reuters
Image : Photo by Annie Spratt

US lawmakers urge action on ‘crimes against humanity’ in China

US lawmakers called on Wednesday for President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions over rights abuses in China as they released a report describing “crimes against humanity” towards the Uighur minority.

In a wide-ranging annual report, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which tracks human rights in the Asian power, voiced alarm at Beijing’s incarceration of more than one million Uighurs and other Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.

“The Commission believes Chinese authorities may be committing crimes against humanity against the Uighur people and other Turkic Muslims,” it said.

Representative Chris Smith, a member of the commission, pointed to Uighur witnesses who said they were targeted for their Muslim faith.

“We are talking about crimes against humanity on a massive scale,” Smith told a news conference.

“We are talking, with regards to what is being done to the Uighurs, something we have not seen since World War II. And the Chinese government, particularly (President) Xi Jinping, needs to be held accountable for this egregious behaviour,” he said.

China’s foreign ministry on Thursday dismissed the commission’s report and accused US lawmakers of making “unwarranted accusations against China.”

“This so-called committee is blind from its prejudices,” said spokesperson Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

“It has no credibility,” he said.

Senator Marco Rubio, a close ally of President Donald Trump and co-chair of the commission, vowed that Congress would soon pass an act that seeks sanctions on officials over abuses and restricts exports of surveillance and other equipment seen as assisting in repression in Xinjiang.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives and Republican-led Senate need to reconcile similar acts they approved last year.

“The House and Senate agree on what we’re trying to do. Just the language has to be identical,” Rubio said, without promising a date.

Lawmakers said it was crucial that the Trump administration implement the Uighur rights law – as well as a separate act on Hong Kong and an upcoming initiative on Tibet.

Congress last year nearly unanimously approved an act that ties US favourable trading status for Hong Kong to certification that Beijing has preserved the semi-autonomous status of the city, which has seen massive pro-democracy protests.

Trump signed the law after musing on how it could jeopardise his efforts to press China in an intense trade war.

Rubio said lawmakers across the partisan divide wanted to prioritise human rights but acknowledged that the administration was also concerned about trade.

“I do think that, by and large, they are supportive of what we are saying but, again, the proof will be in the implementation” of the act, Rubio said.

Source: AFP
Image :

Palestine flag

Israel killed 149 Palestinians, including 33 children, in 2019

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA): Israeli forces kill 149 Palestinians during the year 2019 in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian group said Tuesday. Israel detained more that 5,500 Palestinians , including 889 children, in 2019

The National Gathering of Palestinian Martyrs’ Families said the martyrs include 33 children and 12 women.

According to the group, the Israeli authorities continue detaining the bodies of 306 Palestinians including 15 from this year.

Israeli authorities arrested more than 5,500 Palestinians during 2019, including 889 children and 128 women, several Palestinian advocacy groups announced Monday.

The figures were released through a statement issued on Monday by a number of Palestinian prisoners’ affairs groups including the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

Israeli forces arrest Palestinians on a nearly daily basis, with some released after short investigations and others referred to Israeli courts.

According to the statement, detainees currently languishing in prison have reached 5,000, including 50 women and 200 children while the number of detainees under “administrative detention” without trial or accusation have stands at 450.

The statement added that about 700 prisoners suffer from various illnesses, including 10 cancer patients and 200 others of chronic diseases.

“In 2019, Israeli authorities intensified arbitrary arrest campaigns against children and women, who suffered different forms of torture both during arrest and after,” the joint statement underlined.

It added that during 2019, five Palestinian detainees died in Israeli prisons due to lack of proper medical treatment and deliberate medical negligence.

By Qais Abu Samra

Source : Muslim News
*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

Protesters storm US embassy compound in Baghdad

Dozens of protesters broke into the US embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire.

Witnesses reported rising from inside the compound and said they saw at least three US soldiers on the roof of the main building inside embassy.

It was not clear what caused the fire at the reception area near the parking lot.

A man on a loudspeaker urged the protesters not to enter the compound, saying: “The message was delivered.”

The US ambassador to Iraq and other staff were evacuated from the embassy.

Earlier, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the embassy to decry US air attacks in Iraq and Syria that killed 25 fighters from an Iran-backed Shia group.

Shouting “Down, Down USA!” the crowd hurled water bottles and smashed security cameras outside the embassy grounds.

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called on the protesters to leave the compound “immediately.”

“We recall that any aggression or harassment of foreign embassies will be firmly prohibited by the security forces,” Abdel Mahdi’s office said several hours after the attack began.

The US military carried out the strikes on Sunday against the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah. Washington claimed it was acting in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it blamed on the group.

The protesters raised flags of the powerful paramilitary group Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), of which Kataib Hezbollah is part, and several people climbed over the wall of the embassy and chanted “death to America” and “no, no America”, witnesses said.

Tuesday’s attempted embassy storming took place after mourners held funerals for fighters killed in a Baghdad neighbourhood, after which they marched on to the heavily fortified Green Zone and kept walking until they reached the embassy. 

Security guards were seen retreating to the inside of the embassy. Protesters were also seen hanging yellow flags belonging to the Kataib Hezbollah on the walls of the embassy.

Reporting from Baghdad, Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn said there was no indication of an armed confrontation.

“This entire funeral procession, consisting mostly of PMF members and their followers, has entered through these gates without any resistance whatsoever from the Iraqi security forces that are supposed to guard the Green Zone,” she said, speaking outside the US embassy.

“We’ve seen in the past when anti-government protesters were able to enter the Green Zone but I don’t believe we’ve seen such a large number of people come this close to the US embassy,” she continued, calling the development “significant”.

“It remains to be seen how the authorities will react and more importantly, how the US will react,” Foltyn added.

The US raids – the largest attack targeting an Iraqi state-sanctioned group in recent years – and the calls for retaliation represent a new escalation in the proxy war between the US and Iran playing out in the Middle East.

The US military said “precision defensive strikes” were conducted against five sites belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, which is a separate force from the Lebanese group Hezbollah, in Iraq and Syria.

Rejecting US influence

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that the embassy storming is indicative of Iraqis’ rejection of US influence in their country.

“In terms of the United States, here is a country that has spent trillions of dollars in Iraq 16 years after its invasion and occupation to wins the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and ends up having its embassy surrounded the way it is,” he said.

The “surreal” events on the ground have forced the US to go “on the defensive”, Bishara added, where it “doesn’t have much of an alliance either on the street or government institutions within Iraq.”

He said on the other hand, Iraqis have also been protesting against Iranian influence over the past few months.

“Countless people have demonstrated against Iranian presence and influence in the country, burning Iranian consulates,” Bishara said.

“But there are others who are with the PMF and Kataib Hezbollah that remain loyal to Iran and are more than happy to deflect pressure on Iran by attacking the US embassy.

“So all in all, the tensions between Iran and the US continue, Iraq suffers in the process but Iran has a far easier win against the US because of its religious and ethnic influence within certian groups in the country,” he said.

Source : Al Jazeera
Feature Image : Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

‘More like a cover-up’: Critics of Saudi Arabia decry ‘sham’ Khashoggi trials

If the aim of sentencing five people to death over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was to quell the outrage over the killing, the announcement by the Saudi public prosecutor on Monday had the opposite effect.

A “sham trial”, a “show”, a “travesty”, the “antithesis of justice”. That’s how some observers and US legislators described the Saudi verdicts, which also cleared top officials in the kingdom of responsibility for killing and dismembering the Washington Post journalist.

Critics were particularly incensed that the verdicts cleared Saud al-Qahtani, former top aide of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Ahmed al-Assiri, former deputy intelligence chief – who are believed to have played a major role in the killing.

Moreover, the Saudi judicial system never looked into the involvement of royal family members in the murder. Last year, the CIA concluded that bin Salman ordered the assassination.

The Washington Post editorial board was quick to call Monday’s sentences a “travesty of justice”.

“The result is an insult to Khashoggi’s family and to all those, including a bipartisan congressional majority, who have demanded genuine accountability in the case,” the board wrote in an op-ed.

It also warned world governments against welcoming the results of the Saudi trials.

“International acceptance of the result would not only be morally wrong but dangerous, too: It would send the reckless Saudi ruler the message that his murderous adventurism will be tolerated,” the article reads.

Several Democratic members of Congress also voiced strong opposition to the verdicts.

“The CIA concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This sham trial, carried out by a despotic and lawless regime, looks more like a cover-up,” Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, wrote on Twitter.

“Maybe Donald Trump might want to stop proclaiming his love and affection for the Saudi dictatorship.”

‘Trump is also culpable’

Trump has emerged as a fierce defender of Saudi Arabia over the past three years. After the murder of Khashoggi, he shielded bin Salman from the blame, repeatedly emphasising Riyadh’s arms deals with Washington. 

Khashoggi, who also wrote for Middle East Eye, was killed by Saudi government agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. He was a frequent critic of bin Salman’s policy. 

Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat who represents Virginia where Khashoggi lived, also cited the CIA’s assessment that bin Salman was behind the murder, urging the Trump administration to seek justice for the slain US resident.

“Senior Saudi officials continue to escape accountability for the state-sponsored murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Kaine said. 

“The Trump Administration should be demanding justice for the brutal killing of a journalist and VA resident instead of ignoring the CIA’s assessment of who killed him.”

For his part, Senator Richard Blumenthal directly blamed Trump.

“After a sham trail, the masterminds behind Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder walk away scot-free,” Blumenthal said. 

“Trump is also culpable – having done next to nothing to hold the Crown Prince accountable for murdering a brave, truth-seeking journalist.”

‘Premeditated murder’

Congressman Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, rejected the Saudi prosecutor’s assertion that the killing of Khashoggi was not planned.

“This sentence is a continuation of the Kingdom’s effort to distance Saudi leadership, including the Crown Prince, from the brutal assassination of a journalist and US resident, Jamal Khashoggi,” Schiff wrote on Twitter.

“This was a premeditated murder, not a ‘snap decision’ or rogue operation.”

It took Saudi Arabia 17 days to admit that Khashoggi was killed. Initially, top Saudi officials kept insisting that the journalist had left the building alive. After eventually coming around to acknowledging the murder, the kingdom said it was an unauthorised operation that the crown prince and other top officials took no part in. 

“I don’t think that the international community is going to forget this. I think that the Khashoggi affair will continue to be a problem for Saudi Arabia in conducting its foreign policy,” said Imad Harb, director of research and analysis at the Arab Center Washington DC.

He added that the trials allowed the powerful officials who orchestrated and ordered the killing to get away with murder while punishing “small operatives” for the crime. 

Even those sentenced to death, Harb predicted, may eventually be pardoned after some form of state-brokered reconciliation is reached with Khashoggi’s family.

As for the US role, Harb said the Trump administration will likely be satisfied with the verdict, but Congress, including some members of the president’s own Republican party will continue to push against the kingdom.

“Maybe Congress will do some things to try to punish [Saudi Arabia],” Harb told MEE. “But at the same time when it comes to the president’s desk, it’s going to be vetoed whatever decision Congress will arrive at.”

Trump has used his presidential veto powers twice this year to protect the kingdom from congressional efforts to end US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen and withhold weapon sales to Riyadh.

A senior State Department official welcomed the Saudi verdicts on Monday. US report on Khashoggi murder must reveal individuals involved: UN’s Callamard

“Today’s verdicts were an important step in holding those responsible for the terrible crime accountable,” the official said. 

“We’ve encouraged Saudi Arabia to undertake a fair and transparent judicial process, and we will continue to do so. We’ve urged for the full accountability for Khashoggi’s murder since day one.”

But UN expert Agnes Callamard, who has investigated the killing, said the sentences represent the opposite of accountability. 

“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death,” Callamard wrote in a Twitter thread detailing the flaws of the verdicts.

“The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery.”

Source : MEE, By Ali Harb , Umar A Farooq
Feature Image : [Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Ayodhya verdict: India top court rejects review pleas by Muslims

India’s Supreme Court has dismissed petitions seeking a review of its recent ruling in favour of building a Hindu temple on a disputed site in northern India where a 16th-century mosque was torn down by a Hindu mob in 1992.

The petitioners, representing the Muslim litigants, had said they were aggrieved by the court’s decision and sought reconsideration of the verdict. A total of 18 petitions were heard by the court.

“We have carefully gone through the review petitions and the connected papers filed therewith. We do not find any ground, whatsoever, to entertain the same. The review petitions are, accordingly, dismissed,” a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said. READ MORE

Muslim petitioners who pressed for a review said they found the verdict unfair and a majority of India’s Muslim population was against the ruling.

The petitioners still have a last legal recourse of filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court, asking it to “cure” perceived defects in the verdict.

Ayodhya dispute

On November 9, the court held that the site in Ayodhya will be given to a government-run trust for the building of a Hindu temple, while Muslims were allotted five acres (two hectares) of land at an alternative site to construct a mosque there.

The ruling was seen as a major victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has promised to build a Hindu temple at the demolished site as part of its election strategy for decades.

The dispute over the site of the Babri mosque in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state has lasted for more than 70 years.

Hindus believe what they call Lord Ram, which they believe is a warrior diety, was born at the site and that a Mughal Muslim ruler built a mosque on top of a temple there.

A December 1992 riot following the destruction of the mosque sparked communal violence in which about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

Source: Al Jazeera
Image: deccanherald.com

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