Friday, December 20, 2013
The campaign against Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving has shifted tactics to increasingly challenge the law ahead of a new nationwide day of defiance on Dec. 28 Women activists are now driving weekly and documenting their confrontations with law enforcement on social media to increase pressure on the conservative monarchy and keep the issue in the public eye. The campaigners are also trying to discern subtle but mixed signals from the secretive monarchy for encouragement that change may be afoot. They said authorities have used different tactics with different drivers, creating some uncertainty over where the government stands. "I kind of feel that the government wants us to drive, but at the same time it doesn't want to make it official yet because it doesn't want to face the religious establishment," said Tamador Alyami. She spoke by phone after riding in the passenger seat with another woman driving in the coastal city of Jeddah on Dec. 12. Ms. Alyami said she planned to drive on Dec. 28 and doesn't think the government will take drastic measures to stop her. "I think they got the message," she said. In a video of her Dec. 12 drive posted on YouTube, the two women chatted nervously, scanning for police cars that soon converged upon them. The sound of Talal Maddah, a late Saudi singer, came from the car stereo: "My beloved country, you are the land of pride and a beacon of shining light." Seven police patrols surrounded the car, stopped it, then towed it away. Authorities had the women sign a pledge not to drive again and released them. A day earlier, two other women drove for half an hour in the capital Riyadh, before police stopped them. They were held in the police station for 10 hours until they and their male guardians signed similar pledges. But their car wasn't towed. While Saudi police continue to stop those who defy the ban, no woman has been jailed for driving since 2011. When activists announced a first driving day on Oct. 26 in the revived campaign, the Interior Ministry came out with a strongly worded statement saying women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Authorities detained a man who wrote in support of women driving, but have stopped short of more politically sensitive arrests of female drivers. With no hint of a change, women drivers and their supporters make weekly visits to the Shoura advisory council, the royal court, and cabinet ministers with petitions and reports. In one key meeting, women's rights activist Hala al Dosari and another activist managed to book a meeting with powerful Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. They were in the same complex, but met by videoconference—standard practice for ministry meetings with females. The prince told the women that a decision wasn't in his hands—something they had heard before from other Saudi officials, Ms. Dosari said. The prince assured them the driving ban "was on the table" with the proper authorities, she said, adding this was the same answer Saudis pushing for change always get. "Just a vague response to keep us satisfied," she said. The ministry didn't respond to requests to comment. But even the religious establishment appears split. Sheik Abdulatif al Alsheikh, head of the feared religious police, said in September that Islamic law doesn't have a text forbidding women from driving. The country's grand mufti, Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, said last month, however, that the ban protects society from "evil." More than 22 years have passed since Saudi women first demanded the right to drive. Nevertheless, some remain upbeat that change could come soon. But change in the kingdom comes from the top down. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, often seen as a cautious reformer, announced in 2011 that women will be allowed to vote and run in local elections, and this past February, he appointed the first 30 women to the advisory Shoura Council. The nonagenarian monarch told American journalist Barbara Walters in 2005 that it will be possible to lift the ban on women driving. But he said the "issue will require patience."
Domestic workers protested outside the Indian consulate in New York on Friday, calling for justice for a housekeeper allegedly mistreated by a Indian diplomat and demanding an end to slavery. More than 30 workers and their allies took part in the spirited but peaceful protest on a sidewalk outside the mansion house used by the Indian government in New York. "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Slavery has to go!" chanted the group of mostly women wrapped up against the cold in hats and puffer jackets on behalf of the maid identified as Sangeeta Richard. "Free, free domestic workers! End, end slavery!" They called on the Indian government to recognize that the housekeeper had been "verbally abused" and called on all countries to create minimum legal standards of work for maids. They held up homemade placards carrying slogans such as "does immunity protect human rights violations?" "justice now" and "hold diplomats accountable, justice for domestic workers." "There are diplomats trafficking domestic workers all over this city," shouted one of the organizers. "It's been happening for years with impunity." "We demand that the Indian government recognize that her rights were violated. We demand respect and protection for the family of this worker in India," said another. India on Friday angrily brushed aside fresh efforts by the United States to defuse the row over the December 12 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general in New York. She was taken into custody and released on bail for allegedly defrauding a visa application, lying to U.S. officials and underpaying her housekeeper. Revelations that she was stripped by U.S. Marshals and subjected to a body search have caused outrage in India, whose government wants Washington to drop the case and offer an apology. The protesters condemned that Khobragade was strip-searched, but said it was a disgrace that, in one of the richest cities in the world, a housekeeper was paid as little as $3.31 an hour. They called for justice for the maid, including a fair trial and compensation, and an end to labor trafficking. India is trying secure full diplomatic immunity for Khobragade by shifting her to its U.N. mission in New York, although such a move needs State Department approval. One of the protesters, Meches Rosales, told Agence France Presse that she estimated around 70 percent of domestic workers in New York City suffer from some kind of problems related to their employers. "I would never survive on $3.31 an hour. Enough is enough. We need to end exploitation," she said.
Ten international human rights groups have sent a letter to the United Nations, denouncing the arrest and torture of Bahraini journalists by the Al Khalifa regime. The letter, which had been signed by the Media Legal Defense Initiative and the International Federation for Human Rights, among other rights groups, was sent to UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression Frank La Rue, and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez on Friday. The rights groups called for a probe into the arrest, detention and capture of three Bahraini journalists Mohamed Hassan, Hussain Hubail and Qassim Zain al-Deen. The three have been in the regime’s custody since August and face trial on charges related to their coverage of the anti-regime demonstrations across the Persian Gulf kingdom. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested. Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The United Nations' human rights office raised concerns Friday over the treatment of a Saudi activist punished for advocating a constitutional monarchy in the conservative oil-rich kingdom. "We are deeply concerned about the intimidation and sometimes prosecution of individuals in Saudi Arabia for exercising their right to freedom of expression," said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The West has started admitting that Bashar Assad heading Syria is not that dangerous as terrorists could be in case they take control over the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_12_20/West-admits-Assad-heading-Syria-is-better-than-terrorists-Lavrov-8769/"Both in private conversations and public comments some western politicians have started voicing their thoughts that given that Jihadists and terrorists who are building up their influence in Syria, occupying territories, immediately introducing Sharia law after it, massacring minorities and burning people alive only because they are adherents of a different faith, Bashar Assad being the leader of Syria is a lesser threat for the country than terrorists taking over it," the Russian Foreign Minister stated. Assad didn’t ask Russia to grant his safety in case he steps down Syrian President Bashar Assad hasn’t asked Russia to grant his safety in case he steps down, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview. "We have received no such requests either from Assad or anyone in Damascus," the Minister said answering a query from a journalist. Lavrov also reminded that Assad "repeatedly said he wasn’t going to leave his country and wished to stay with his people and fulfill his duties". According to the Russian Foreign Minister, Assad might run for presidency next year. "Indeed, he said he didn’t exclude the possibility of running for presidency once again next year. He will make a decision closer to an election and it will depend on whether he would feel the support from the people," Lavrov underlined. Russia ready to discuss EU-Ukraine association agreement at summit in January 2014 - Lavrov Russia is ready to discuss the issue of an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine at a Russia-EU summit in January 2014, Russian Foreign Minister said in an interview. "We’ll be ready for it. We were ready for it before, amid the tensions in Ukraine. Everything will depend on EU readiness to solve the problem taking into consideration the best interests of Russia and member countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership project," the Minister stated. He also reminded that it was Ukrainian authorities who set out the proposal to hold trilateral consultations between Russia, Ukraine, and the EU. "The proposal to hold trilateral consultations in order to fairly consider trade terms existing between Russia and Ukraine, Ukraine and the EU, Russia and the EU, hiding nothing from each other and without trying to deceive one another, was a very good one. President Putin backed it immediately, but the EU rejected it or European officials rejected it, to be exact. When I was in Brussels a week ago and met all the 28 EU Foreign Ministers, some of them said that the proposal of trilateral consultations was a good one. They said it was a right and constructive way, not the confrontational one. So European bureaucrats seem to have taken upon themselves a bit more than EU member countries would want them to take. And I reiterate that the proposal of consultations is a good one," he concluded. Western nations have indicated to the Syrian opposition that peace talks next month may not lead to the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, adding that he must remain in power to prevent an al-Qaeda takeover of the country. "Our Western friends made it clear in London that Assad cannot be allowed to go now because they think chaos and an Islamist militant takeover would ensue," said one of the senior members of the Syrian National Coalition at a meeting of the anti-Assad Friends of Syria alliance in London last week Western diplomats confirmed the shift, saying that the rebels have been warned that any "transitional administration" would have to include a major presence from Alawites, and that Assad could stay as president with "diminished powers." If the rebels reject that plan "they will lose most of the West," one diplomat said, reflecting the dwindling confidence in the secular rebels’ ability to accomplish anything on their own. The shift in Western priorities, particularly the United States and Britain, from removing Assad towards combating Islamist militants is causing divisions within international powers backing the nearly three-year-old revolt, according to diplomats and senior members of the coalition. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_12_20/West-admits-Assad-heading-Syria-is-better-than-terrorists-Lavrov-8769/
www.shiitenews.comHamid Mir, an Islamabad-based journalist who is known for his pro-Taliban reporting, has again sided with the Yazidi terrorists by proposing that Shiites should change the route of anniversary of Chehlum of Imam Hussain (AS) in Rawalpindi. He argued that in view of security threat, route of the mourning procession of Chehlum anniversary should be changed. But, he forgets that for the first time in the history, organizers of Masjid-e-Zarrar that sponsored an organized attack on Ashura procession has announced holding a conference on Chehlum. Rule of law requires the government of Pakistan to ensure the security of the route that has been endangered again by the Yazidi nasbi Deobandi fanatics whose malafide intention is proved by proposed conference on Chehlum. That means they have again planned to attack the mourning procession like they did on Ashura. Hamid Mir had contributed an exclusive interview of Osama Bin Laden in which he claimed to posses nukes. That interview was also a disservice to Muslim Ummah because Bin Laden was an agent of the U.S. and that stance made the global public opinion believe that Osama was planning nuclear attacks from inside Af-Pak region. Relatives of Colonel Imam and Mr. Khwaja have said that Hamid Mir got them assassinated through Taliban terrorists. Both were kidnapped and killed in the captivity. So, some quarters dubbed him as double agent. However, Shiites of Pakistan rejected his proposal saying that suicide bombers attacked Shia namazis inside mosques and mourners inside Imam Bargah and murdered Shia doctors in their clinic and other professional in their offices and on roads. They went on to plant bombs in their cars. Should these attacks be deemed justifiable for demands that Shiites should not go to their mosques, imam bargahs and offices? So security threat exists everywhere and no saner person will propose to such persons to live their lives inside their homes and never dare coming out. It is logical and justifiable to demand that the terrorists and fanatics should be eliminated and crushed to remove the security threat. Army personnel, police cops continue to wear uniforms and perform duties despite several attacks on them, would Hamid Mir like to propose to them not to perform their duties and not to wear uniforms to avoid attacks of the terrorists. Should they change their deployment in view of security threat or should they establish their writ by eliminating terrorists.
Pakistan Cricket Board has raised concerns over the growing anti-Pakistan sentiments in Bangladesh and says it will wait until January to take any decision.The Pakistani cricket authorities might be maintaining a diplomatic stance on their national team's participation in the forthcoming Asia Cup and World T20 events in Bangladesh, to be held early next year, but chances of a pullout are looming large. A source told PTI that there are concerns in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) about the situation in Bangladesh and the growing anti-Pakistan sentiments. "We are monitoring the situation but we are waiting to see what the International Cricket Council decides in January whether to hold the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in March-April or shift it somewhere else," he said. "If the ICC shifts the World T20 from Bangladesh then the Asia Cup (in Feb-March) will also be called off in Bangladesh and postponed for the next few months until a feasible window and host is found for the tournament," he said.
http://www.thehindu.com/As nationwide protests in Bangladesh continued against Pakistan’s criticism of the hanging of Jamaat leader Quader Mollah, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has joined the outcry, denouncing Islamabad for “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs. The Pakistan National Assembly resolution and a senior Pakistani Minister’s assertion that Mollah’s execution was “judicial murder,” has incensed public opinion in the country. The Prime Minister said: “Pakistan has proved that it never accepted the victory of Bangladesh in the Liberation War in 1971, and it still has allies in Bangladesh.” People of all ages and political faiths have held rallies, organised processions and burnt the Pakistani flag in all major city centres including Dhaka, and even in villages.
Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has spoken publicly for the first time since he was put under house arrest earlier this year. In interviews given to two television channels on Thursday night, he defended his actions during his nine-year rule. The former president faces charges of murder and restricting the judiciary. He has been granted bail in all cases, but has been summoned to a court hearing next week to face another charge of high treason. Mr Musharraf has remained confined to his residence in Islamabad because of security concerns. He is on a list of individuals not allowed to travel abroad. The treason accusation relates to his decision in 2007 to impose emergency rule shortly before the Supreme Court was due to decide on the legality of his re-election as president while still being head of the army. "I will inshallah (God willing) get out of this pressure because I am pretty sure I did not commit any wrong thing. Whatever I did was for the betterment and welfare of Pakistan and its people," he told Pakistan's private ARY television channel. "I will face all cases... I will not run away," Resurgent judiciary Gen Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999, and remained president until 2008 when a democratically-elected government forced him to resign. He went into exile soon afterwards, apparently to avoid possible imprisonment by a resurgent judiciary whose judges he had sacked during his rule. He also faced threats from Pakistani militants who blamed him for ordering the storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque in 2007 in which more than 100 people, many of them militants, were killed. He returned to the country in March to stand in elections, but was barred from contesting by the courts. Soon afterwards he was put under house arrest on a slew of charges, including the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the killing of a tribal Baloch politician, placing judges under house arrest and ordering the Red Mosque operation. In his first television appearance in months, Mr Musharraf defended himself against those charges and the treason allegations. Correspondents say that so far the cases against him have proceeded slowly, veering from adjournment to adjournment with little clear progress apart from the granting of bail. In November the government ordered the 70-year-old to appear before a special court on 24 December to face the treason charges. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that it will be the first time in Pakistan's history that a former military ruler will face trial for treason. But Mr Musharraf said on Thursday that he was ready to face the trial. "These are all [fraudulent] cases which lack any substantial evidence," he said. "Whatever I did, I did for the people of Pakistan keeping the state's best interests in mind," he said. The former president also spoke about the Taliban threat, saying unless terrorism was controlled Pakistan would neither see investment nor a sound economy. "The Taliban are our people so we should speak to them, but we shouldn't beg them," he said.
The Express TribuneAn improvised explosive device (IED) blast took place near a girls’ college in Chaman on Friday. No loss of life was reported in the blast. “Bomb was planted in a motorbike which was parked on the main road near the college and the railway station,” said District Police Officer (DPO) Atif Ikram. Police and security forces reached the site of the blast and cordoned off the area. The DPO added that “the blast took place right after vehicles of security forces passed by the college.” “It is possible that target of the blast was the security forces,” the police officer further stated. According to Bomb Disposal Squad, two kilogrammes of explosive materials were used in the blast.
Leader of the opposition Syed Khurshid Shah Friday said that the Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan must take back his word ‘Tamasha’ uttered in the parliament, which the opposition parties consider it to be contemptuous remark against the opposition. Talking to Geo News here, Syed Khurshid Shah said that he would be seen standing with the government in every difficult time, but insisted for taking back the word ‘Tamasha’ uttered by Chaudhry Nisar in the parliament. He said that Chudhry Nisar was in the habit of heating up the environment of the assembly through his speeches. Referring to the dollar weakening against rupee, he said it augurs well and added he would not make the government target of criticism. As regards local bodies elections, he said that the success of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in Karachi hinged on the voters’ leanings. Leader of the opposition, Khurshed Shah said that the government would have to take a decision on the Taliban issue soon or the situation would deteriorate.