By Rong Xiaoqing
Monday, April 30, 2012
As Vladimir Putin begins his third term as president, we ask if Russia can become a superpower once again.Russia is the largest country on the planet. It straddles nine time zones, is the largest energy producer and possesses half the world's nuclear warheads. But Russia is not the former Soviet Union. Since the Cold War ended two decades ago, the new emerging Russia has been largely defined by two men, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin presided over the dismemberment of the old Soviet Union and the reckless privatisation of state assets. Washington saw this chaotic free-for-all as a new wild west and assisted the plunder. When Putin took over the presidency in 2000, he was determined to rid Russia of Yeltsin's embarrassing legacy and to stop the rot. As Putin begins his third term as president, flexing his muscles at home and abroad, we ask: Can Russia be a superpower once again?
rediff.comVictims of forced conversions are often girls from poor backgrounds who are unable to defend themselves against extremists because their community is deprived, defenceless and marginalised, reports Amir Mir While Pakistan's Hindu minority community is already disturbed over the rising incidents of kidnapping of young Hindu girls and their forced conversion to Islam, the conditions for the country's Christian minority are equally antagonising. They too are being forced by fanatic Muslims to convert to Islam, making them wonder if they still have a place in Pakistan. "There is no compulsion in religion," is a well-known saying that most Pakistanis who live in the land of the pure often tend to forget. While religion encourages conversions, it in no way tolerates coercion. But that is what the Christian community in Pakistan says is happening. With 1.6 per cent of the population and some three million believers, the Christian minority in Pakistan is the second largest religious minority after Hindus. Available figures show that on average, eight to ten Christians are being forced every month by fanatic Muslims to convert to Islam, mostly in Sindh and Punjab provinces. Victims are often poor girls The victims of forced conversions are often girls from poor backgrounds who are then subjected to harrowing and extremely traumatic ordeals. Most of them are extremely vulnerable and are unable to defend themselves against extremists because their community is deprived, defenceless and marginalised. Christians, who constitute just about two percent of the Pakistani population, are paying a high price for being a part of the minority community. This is despite the fact that at the time of independence, the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had pledged to create a secular and liberal environment in the country where all religions could thrive. But a gradual Islamisation of the Pakistani state and the society in the 1970s by the martial law regime of General Ziaul Haq led to the enforcement of controversial blasphemy laws in Pakistan to force more and more Hindu and Christian minority members to abandon their religions and convert to Islam. Allegations of forced conversion of Hindu women, which were endorsed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), have already brought to light the dilemma faced by the minority Hindu community. However, many recent examples of forced conversion of Christian girls in Sindh and Punjab have come to light recently. In the first instance, Sidra Bibi, 14, was abducted and raped by a Muslim in her village in the Sheikhupura district of the Pakistani Punjab. Her abductor instantly converted her to Islam by threatening to kill her. Although Sidra became pregnant as a result of the abuse, she was lucky enough to have managed to escape from her abductor and find her way back to her family. Sidra and her family members tried to lodge a complaint with the police in a bid to get justice, but they were refused the chance due to the fact that the abductors were influential people of the area.
Rights groups have urged the United Arab Emirates to immediately end crackdowns on perceived political opponents and release nine activists in custody. On Monday, two international rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on authorities to stop threatening to revoke the citizenship of some of the detainees because of their political activities. The appeal follows the detention of Sheikh Sultan bin Kayed al-Qasimi, who is a reformist relative of the ruler of the Ras al-Khaimah Emirate and one of the elders of the UAE sheikhs. Al-Qasimi was arrested without a warrant. The rights organizations say UAE officials are holding at least nine activists, with seven of them connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been critical of some policies of the country's Western-allied leaders. Rights groups said some of the men are among 130 people who signed a petition in March 2011 seeking political reforms in the UAE. The UAE has arrested pro-reform activists and charged them with serious crimes to prevent the Arab Spring, a popular uprisings that swept some Arab countries last year, from reaching its territory. Formation of political parties is banned in the small Persian Gulf state.
The Express TribuneA community police personnel was killed and a policeman sustained serious injuries after a bomb exploded on Charsadda Road near Garhi Sobat Khan in Peshawar on Monday evening. Police officials talking to The Expess Tribune said that a police party, mix of regular police and community police personnel, were on a routine patrol within the remits of Khazana Police Station when they came under a bomb attack which injured two police men. One of the injured was identified as Javed. They were rushed to the hospital where Javed succumbed to his injuries. DSP Riazul Islam told The Express Tribune that it was a powerful bomb attack which targeted a police patrol. “Gulzar and Javed are among the injured men. Javed is a community police personnel, who was hired on a two year contract,” he explained. Islam said that the entire area has been cordoned off and a search operation is underway in the area. “Javed expired in the hospital while the other injured is out of danger now,” said the DSP. Earlier on April 16, a six year old student was killed, while another one was injured when unidentified miscreants threw a hand grenade into a school in the Chargo Kalay area of Peshawar. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Peshawar has been regularly targeted by militants, attacking schools and tribal leaders for supporting the government in quashing militancy in the province.
DAILY TIMESInterior Minister Rehman Malik took on the Sharif brothers again on Sunday when he accused them of ‘robbing’ the country’s banks of billions of rupees. Continuing his tirade for the second consecutive day, Malik, at a news conference, said he would present all documentary evidence against Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif in court to help unearth their corruption. He claimed that he had evidence that the PML-N leaders had embezzled public funds worth $32 million. Referring to the long march threats by the PML-N, Malik said the PPP’s reconciliation policy should not be taken as its weakness, adding it is being pursued for consolidation of democracy and in the best national interest. He threatened that hardcore PPP workers would march against the PML-N if they continued confronting the ruling party. “We are not wearing bangles. PPP jiyalas from all over Pakistan will march to Raiwind against Sharif brothers,” he added. The minister announced to present evidence of the Sharifs’ alleged corruption before the Supreme Court within a week, adding that if Nawaz and Shahbaz had the “courage” they could challenge his claims. He said people wanted to know about the money they allegedly embezzled, their empire at Raiwand and other places in and outside the country. “If PML-N leadership, including Pervaiz Rashid, thinks that the allegations levelled against the Sharif brothers are false, why don’t they file a libel case against the interior minister? They should approach the courts and get a verdict against the interior minister. He would welcome any defamation suit against him,” said a note distributed on the occasion.
theaustralian.comHORRIFIED agencies yesterday condemned the murder of a Red Cross worker taken hostage in Pakistan whose bullet-riddled body was found in an orchard yesterday, decapitated, with a note attached to his body saying he had been killed because no ransom was paid. Khalil Rasjed Dale, 60, a Scot who was engaged to be married to a nurse in Australia, was seized by armed men in January in Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan. "This was a shocking and merciless act by people with no respect for human life and the rule of law. Khalil Dale has dedicated many years of his life to helping some of the most vulnerable people in the world," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. The director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord, condemned the "barbaric act". "It's unbelievable what they've done to Ken," a friend and former colleague, Sheila Howat, said. "It's soul-destroying. For someone who has ... devoted their life to caring for others - it's just so wrong. Ken was an absolutely lovely person who saw good in everybody. He wanted to make the world a better place for people who had nothing."Ms Howat said Mr Dale's fiancee, Anne, lived in Australia. "I was so happy that he had finally found happiness. I think their engagement happened quite recently." Mr Dale, 60, had been awarded the MBE for his humanitarian work overseas. He changed his name from Ken when he became a Muslim. Quetta police chief Ahsan Mahboob said the note attached to it read: "This is the body of Khalil who we have slaughtered for not paying a ransom." Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, lies close to the Afghan border and for decades has hosted thousands of refugees from that country. The Red Cross operates clinics in the city. A Pakistani foreign office statement condemned the crime, promising to bring its perpetrators to justice. However, arrests for this type of crime are rare. Much of Baluchistan and the tribal regions close to Afghanistan are out of Pakistani government control, and make good places to keep hostages. Large ransoms are often paid to secure their release, but such payments are rarely confirmed. Last August, a 70-year-old American humanitarian aid worker was kidnapped from his house in the Punjabi city of Lahore. Al-Qa'ida claimed to be holding the man, Warren Weinstein, and said in a video he would be released if the US stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
by:Bob Cook,In my area of the United States, Muslim girls play sports, with or without wearing a hijab. The only contentious issue regarding Muslim girls on my 6-year-old daughter’s T-ball team last year was whether the post-game snack was halal. My 12-year-old daughter’s junior high basketball team had Muslim players, part of a team that collectively spoke five languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, Polish, and text. But in Saudi Arabia, the idea of Muslim girls playing sports is a radical concept in Saudi Arabia, where a conservative interpretation of Islam means women should not exercise, lest they, as one cleric put it in 2009, risk losing their virginity by tearing their hymens. Really. In a reverse of how it goes in the United States, private schools, more free from religious requirements, have let girls play sports, but state-run schools, which are under religious requirements, officially ban them. But one state-run school is flouting that ban. From Reuters: A girls’ school in Saudi Arabia has defied a religious ban on female sports by erecting basketball hoops and letting pupils play at break-time, the daily al-Watan reported … . The school in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province has now become the first state-run girls school openly to encourage sports, Watan reported, quoting a supervisor as saying it would expend pupils’ energy “in a positive way.” … “The school administration is hoping to instill the importance of sports among the students and introduce them to its benefits, as well as allowing them to spend their spare time doing something beneficial,” Amina Bu Bsheit, a school supervisor, was quoted as saying by Watan. She added that the school, which was not named in Watan’s report, still does not provide a physical education class but that the students play during weekly “activities classes.” How did the school get so brave to defy convention? In part, because world pressure on Saudi Arabia’s retrograde attitude on women — include Human Rights Watch’s call Saudi Arabia be banned from the 2012 Olympics for having no women athletes — is causing King Abdullah to, slowly and slightly, loosen restrictions on Saudi women. King Abdullah in 2011 allowed women to vote and run for office in municipal elections, and he has called for more education and employment opportunities for them. Despite the apparent risk of inadvertently losing their virginity, women are getting involved in sports clubs in Saudi Arabia, to the point that al-Watan — which is owned by a member of the Saudi royal family, by the way — also has reported that the country is considering forming a ministerial committee to consider the possibility of making those clubs legal. Again, from Reuters: Abdullah al-Zamil, a senior official from the General Presidency of Youth Welfare, the top Saudi sporting body, said the committee was being formed to end the “chaos” surrounding women’s sports clubs, which are effectively unregulated, Watan reported. The General Presidency of Youth Welfare only regulates male clubs and its head was recently quoted saying he would not endorse Saudi women athletes at the 2012 Olympics. Before we in the modern Western world get too smug about how Saudi Arabia treats its women — which is deplorable — we should realize that women were denied athletic opportunities in the United States not all that long ago, that it took federal law to get schools and organizations committed to girls’ athletics in any wide-ranging way, and that there are still Christians in this country that believe it is an affront to God for girls to play sports.
'Fast turnaround' militants are able to stay below radar before returning home to launch attacks, analysts sayWestern security officials are worried about a wave of so-called "fast turnaround" volunteers who travel to Pakistan and obtain training from militant groups so quickly that they escape detection before returning to their home countries to launch attacks. Analysts say the unprecedented speed with which new militants are being accepted for training by groups such as al-Qaida poses major problems for intelligence services as such individuals are likely to stay "below the radar". The fears have been reinforced by one recent episode when, security sources say, British volunteers arrived in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, found their way to a religious school that has a reputation as a gateway to militant groups and, though they appear to have had no references, were within days participating in a training course run by al-Qaida or a linked extremist organisation in the rugged tribal zone along the frontier with Afghanistan. After only a short stay in Pakistan, the volunteers had returned to the UK. Previously volunteers would have had to travel with reliable references from individuals known and trusted by extremist groups in Pakistan and would spend weeks "in quarantine" before being accepted. Frequently they would be tested in combat or in other ways to ensure they were not spies. Richard Barrett, head of the expert committee established by the UN security council to oversee sanctions against the Taliban and al-Qaida, said: "People are going in for a shorter time and so are much harder to spot. They are not seeing senior people, just lower-level trainers and maybe a middle-ranking leader, so security issues [for the extremist group] are less." Barrett said some intelligence indicated that Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old gunman who killed seven people in France in March, had spent possibly less than a day with a group known as Jund al-Khalifa in Pakistan. One earlier plot cited by security officials as indicating the new "fast turnaround" trend is an al-Qaida bomb plot against the New York subway in 2009. A US court has heard how three volunteers travelled to Pakistan from the US in August 2008, hoping to enter Afghanistan and join the Taliban. Turned back at the border, they were invited by al-Qaida operatives to a compound in Waziristan, where they spent about a week listening to lectures and watching videos of al-Qaida attacks. A second week was spent at another compound learning bomb-making techniques. They then were sent home. European officials have also circulated a document found on two militants – an Austrian and a German of Turkish origin – detained in Germany last year on their return from the zones along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and tried earlier this year. The document is thought to have been authored by a senior figure within al-Qaida and recommends that westerners who seek out the group should be trained quickly and sent back to their home countries as soon as possible. Almost all the most serious plots in the UK have all involved the training of volunteers in Pakistan by al-Qaida. However, the flow of extremist volunteers from the UK to Pakistan has reduced substantially in recent years. Other high-profile successful attacks in Europe, such as the Madrid bombing of 2004, have been by self-forming networks following the ideology of the group but not formally linked to it. Though the White House has said it has no "credible information" of a threat before the first anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden in a US special forces raid, high-profile events such as the London Olympics this summer remain a target, experts say. A recent Home Office report spoke of "a high-level threat of AQ-inspired extremism from males aged between 20 and 38" to the Olympics. "The individuals of interest to the police are predominantly British-born second and third-generation migrants from south-east Asia. There is also interest from a number of Middle Eastern political movements and AQ-affiliated groups from north Africa," the report said.
Government of Pakistan has honoured the undisputed queen of the golden era (1960-80) of Pakistani cinema and her musician husband Robin Ghosh with Lifetime Achievement Award. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani conferred the award in a ceremony organized by Pakistan Television (PTV) in Lahore on Saturday night.The Bangladesh-born actress and her husband are visiting Paksitan after over a decade to attend the PTV event held to pay tribute to the couple for their contribution to Pakistan’s silver screen. PM Gilani while addressing the ceremony glorified the services rendered by the duo."Their departure to Bangladesh had caused great loss to the Pakistani filmdom", the prime minister said. While terming both the artists as ambassadors of both Bangladesh and Pakistan, he stressed the need to strengthen ties between the two countries in all sectors.
In the political battle over college student loans, where will the SMART MONEY go? Democrats and Republicans both say they want to keep the interest rate on subsidized loans at 3.4 percent, but remain at odds over where the money should come from. Of course, what makes the issue so volatile in the first place is that college costs have been skyrocketing, but why?
Recent media claims that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi sought to fund the French President Nicolas Sarkozy campaign in 2007 have hampered his hopes of re-election.
French presidential frontrunner Hollande promises a new era for France as Sarkozy hopes to close gap ahead of May 6 election.
THE NEWSTwo policemen including a CID officer, a citizen and two miscreants were killed while 20 others sustained injuries in a gun-battle in Lyari on Sunday, as the armed operation against gangsters continued for the third consecutive day. The death toll in three days of fierce battle between law enforcers and criminals has climbed to 24. Those injured in rocket and hand grenade attacks also included police personnel and media men. The situation remains volatile in Lyari as criminals are putting up tough resistance by using hand grenades, rockets and sophisticated weapons against law enforcement agencies. Several residents have fled from their homes due to the ongoing wave of violence. However, police and FC personnel have captured some parts of the area and taken positions on rooftops of tall buildings, as crack down on gangsters continues in the troublesome area. At Juman Shah plot, an Armored Personnel Carrier's (APC) tyres were destroyed when it came under rocket and grenade attack. However, the policemen inside the carrier remained unhurt. A CID official, Fayaz Ahmed lost his life in a rocket and fire attack in Cheel Chowk area. Rockets fired from unknown direction on police personnel and representatives of media near Cheel Chowk, injuring over a dozen people including 2 media persons and 2 DSPs. SSP CID, Chaudhry Aslam talking to Geo News termed as 'negative propaganda' the reports of help provided to police by Lyari gang war's ring leader Arshad Pappu, Ghafar Zikri and Akram Baloch to enter Lyari area. At least 24 people including a SHO have been killed since the start of the operation. The armed operation launched by police in coordination with FC against criminal elements on Friday still continues in Lyari where law enforcement agencies have been facing resistance and retaliation from miscreants in the area. The terrified residents of Lyari claimed that due to the operation, they had been confined to their homes and in the exchange of fire between the police and gangsters, bullets had entered their homes, creating fear and panic among the residents.
EDITORIAL:THE FRONTIER POSTInterior Minister Rahman Malik has definitely added to an already hot political temperature that rose after the Supreme Court verdict in a contempt of court case against Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on April 27 and the PML-N, seeking the premier to step down, threatening a long march to force the prime minister to resign. The interior minister threw the bombshell when he accused the Sharif family on Saturday of 'robbing' 31 banks, development finance institutions and non-bank financial institutions of over Rs6 billion to build "their industrial empire". The allegations came a day after Nawaz Sharif asked prime minister to relinquish his office after the SC verdict. He threatened to use all options to send the government packing if the demand was not met. Rahman Malik hurriedly called a news conference at his office to level the allegation that the Sharif family had used coercive tactics against banks and other financial institutions to arrange the "staggering sum for their 19 industrial units". With a pile of files lying in front of him, the minister claimed he was dishing out the "first installment of the corruption of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif and more evidence in other fraud cases will soon be made public". He said that he had in his possession all documentary evidence and threatened to file a reference with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) next week. He suggested the NAB as well as the Supreme Court to take notice of what he called fraudulent extraction of money by the Sharifs. He alleged that the Rs6 billion default had forced Nawaz Sharif to join hands with former president Farooq Ahmed Leghari to dislodge the Benazir government. The deal had been finalised between the two during investigations into the Mehran Bank scam as both were beneficiaries, the interior minister claimed. He alleged that Mr Leghari had sold his "barren land in Dera Ghazi Khan for billions of rupees". The minister accused the Sharif family of defaulting on payment of $32 million for paper manufacturing machinery leased from a British-based firm, Altowfeek Company, in Feb 1995. The amount was paid after the High Court of Justice, Queen's bench division, ordered the British authorities to charge four properties owned by the Sharif family in Britain. He alleged that the Sharif family was involved in money laundering and had deposits in 10 banks in Switzerland. The PML-N hit back to repudiate Rahman Malik's allegations saying they were a bunch of lies. In a statement to media, Senator Pervaiz Rashid leveled the counter allegation that the rule of People's Party was a story of loot and plunder, bringing forth a fresh scam every other day. The PML-N lawmaker, however, did not present any evidence that his leaders were not involved in the money laundering scandal; he rather confined his statement to tit for tat rhetoric that charged the PPP leadership in the same coin. The interior minister's allegations are not new but date back to the period when Nawaz Sharif took over as prime minister for the second time. Mr Sharif also surrendered four of his family industries, including the Ittefaq Foundry, and the matter went to the Lahore High Court to recover his bank loans amounting to more than Rs6 billion. The LHC appointed a commission to evaluate the worth of the industries and it reported that all the machinery was removed from the industries soon after the offer was made. The commission valued the value of the land and said it was not more than Rs2 billion in worth. Later, more shareholders of the Ittefaq Group of Industries approached the LHC that Sharifs were not entitled to offer their share in the group and that they were not responsible for loan obtained by Mr Nawaz Sharif. The issue saw a lengthy litigation which has not yet ended decades after the Sharifs offered the property to adjust bank loans against the outstanding bank loans. Even otherwise, the PML-N chief has not so far clarified his position and given no evidence to repudiate allegations. The very fact that Nawaz Sharif surrendered four units of his family's industries and the LHC underwent a lengthy process of litigation which is yet to see the final disposal of the case, is a major evidence that he faltered in repayment of loans. The issue needs an in-depth as it would be in the interest of the Sharifs themselves to offer them for a probe to vindicate themselves.
http://www.timesofisrael.comArab-Israeli film star Hiam Abbass
http://www.timesofisrael.comCrisis in relations sees lawyer arrested, embassy held; ex-security chief also makes headlines he detention of Egyptian lawyer Ahmad Gizawi in Saudi Arabia, and his subsequent sentencing to 20 lashes and one year in prison, has sparked a wave of controversy that mixes religion, politics, and national pride. The issue is part of the broader issue of Saudi-Egyptian ties, which is headline news in nearly every Arab daily Sunday. Egypt’s most widely circulated paper, Al Ahram, reports that the Saudi ambassador to Egypt was recalled following “unwarranted demonstrations and protests” outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Giza, Cairo. The article emphasizes the importance of keeping the relationship between the two countries intact. The bond between Egypt and Saudi Arabia is referred to as “the thermometer of inter-Arab relations,” but one that for now is suffering from a “summer cloud.” Various columnists in the Egyptian press are also choosing to highlight the importance of this connection by referring to historical precedents. An editorial in the Egyptian daily Youm7 discusses Camp David, saying that this is “the worst rift since 1979… when diplomatic ties were severed with Egypt for signing a peace agreement with Israel.” Another columnist for Al Ahram focuses on the Yemeni civil war in the 1960s, and speaks optimistically about a quick resolution. While Egyptian papers point to Gizawi’s human rights lawsuit against Saudi Arabia as the motive behind his arrest, the Saudi Arabian press focuses its explanation elsewhere. Reformist Saudi Arabian paper Al Watan quotes a Saudi official saying that the story suffers from “misinformation,” and was “made up from the outset.” Saudi-owned Al Arabiya claims Gizawi is being held on drug smuggling charges including “21,389 Xanex pills…hidden in cartons of baby milk.” The website also features a video of the contraband allegedly seized and claims to have a “video recording [of him] verbally acknowledging it.”
http://www.muslimnews.co.ukSaudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC), President, Prince Nawaf bin Faisal said that they would again not any female competitors to London 2012 Qatar’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) has announced that it will send at least three female athletes to the London 2012 Olympic Games, and Brunei has indicated that 400-metre-runner Maziah Mahusin could be selected for their team, the first time either country has sent female athletes to the Olympics. Qatar’s announcement has intensified calls for Saudi Arabia to be kicked out of this summer’s games after its officials announced they will not prevent female citizens from competing in the Olympics but it will not officially endorse them either. Qatar’s NOC revealed on April 8 that swimmers Wafa Arakji and Noor Al-Malki as well as air rifle shooter Bahia Al-Hamad, 19, will be sent to the games. Al-Hamad won a silver medal at the Arab Championships last month to add to the three gold medals and two silver she won at the 2011 Arab Games in Doha. All three have been granted quota places rather than qualifying automatically, arranged by the world governing bodies and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The decision to send Qatari female athletes to the Olympics for the first time since they made their debut at Los Angeles in 1984 will help Doha’s campaign to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, where they are facing rivals Baku, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. “We are absolutely delighted that we have been able to secure another place for one of our young female athletes at London 2012,” Qatar Olympic Committee General Secretary, Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the IOC for their support in helping make this happen.” “Athletes like Bahia, Nada and Noor will also provide inspiration to the next generation of female Qatari sports,” he added. The announcement came just four days after Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) President, Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, said that they would again not send any female competitors to London 2012. Speaking at a press conference in Jeddah, the Prince said, “Female sports activity has not existed [in the kingdom] and there is no move thereto in this regard. At present, we are not embracing any female Saudi participation in the Olympics or other international championships.” The Prince also said recently that Saudi women living and training abroad may represent the kingdom and could participate but only if they are accompanied by a male guardian and are modestly dressed. Prince Nawaf acknowledged there was a growing demand for sport among Saudi women. “There are now hundreds or thousands who practice sports but in a private way and without any relationship to the General Presidency of Youth Welfare,” he said. A spokesperson for the IOC told The Muslim News they are “still in discussion and working to ensure the participation of Saudi women at the Games in London.” Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Middle East and North Africa Division, Christoph Wilcke, told The Muslim News the issue is “more complicated than just the participation or non-participation” of Saudi women at the games. In a February report titled Steps of the Devil’: Denial of Women’s and Girls’ Rights to Sport in Saudi Arabia HRW documented the systematic discrimination against women in sport in Saudi Arabia, including their exclusion from the 153 sports clubs regulated by Nawaf’s ministry, the SAOC and the 29 national sporting federations, which are also overseen by Nawaf in his capacity as head of the NOC. Wilcke called on the IOC to abandon its “minimalist approach that is not going to help bring real change…if the IOC keeps talking forever it’s saying we have no serious interest in protecting the Olympic Charter based on fairness and justice.” “The IOC can say lets see what we can do to help” adding that there is existing working models of other conservative Muslim countries where men and women are segregated but both are provided access with facilities. He added that HRW would like to see more than “a symbolic gesture or just a token” of allowing women living and training outside of the kingdom to participate in the games “if Huda [Abdullmoheen] or Manaal [Sari], (expats) won a medal and the women in Saudi Arabia felt inspired they could not do the same; they can not train in Saudi Arabia.”
Jordan’s Prime Minister-designate Fayez Tarawneh says the country is facing a critical situation amid popular demonstrations demanding reform and an end to corruption.Tarawneh said the transitional government is trying to pave the way for political reforms at a time when Jordan is in a “critical situation.” Tarawneh made the comments during a parliament meeting in the capital, Amman, on Sunday. The Jordanian prime minister-designate served as the premier and head of Jordan’s royal court under the rule of King Hussein, father of Jordan’s King Abdullah II. King Abdullah II ordered Tarawneh to form a new government following the resignation of former Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh on April 26. Khasawneh resigned six months after forming a government he had promised would implement reforms in Jordan. Thousands of Jordanians, however, took to the streets in Amman on April 27 to protest the appointment of Tarawneh to form a new government. The latest development comes at a time when Jordanians have been holding demonstrations since January 2011 to demand political and economic reforms and an end to corruption.