Friday, May 8, 2015

Video - US commemorates 70th anniversary of VE Day

Ethiopian migrants risk exploitation in Middle East

Video - Inside Story - Conservatives secure stunning victory in UK election

Video - Chinese President Xi pursues hopes of New Silk Road in Kazakhstan?

Video - First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden Host their Mother's Day Tea to Honor Military-Connected Mothers

Video - President Obama Speaks to the Lake Area Tech Class of 2015

Video - Russians look forward to President Xi’s visit

Victory Day parade on Red Square 2015

Video - CrossTalk: 2ND World War - Remembering Victory

Video Report - What about Stalin?

Flogged Saudi Blogger's Wife Pleads To King For Husband's Release

One year after Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail, his wife has issued an impassioned plea to the Saudi authorities for his release.
"A year ago you sentenced my husband to 10 years in jail and 1000 lashes. Four months ago you flogged him in public as if he was a nasty criminal. Expressing one's opinion is not a crime, I urge King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to release my husband immediately and end his suffering," said Ensaf Haidar Thursday.
In the statement, she expressed gratitude for the international support for Badawi's case, which she believes has helped save him from further lashings.
Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals by Jeddah's criminal court on 7 May 2014 for setting up an online forum for public debate.
On 9 January 2015, Raif Badawi received 50 lashes after Friday prayers in a public square in Jeddah, prompting an international outcry. For two subsequent weeks his flogging was called off based on medical advice. He has not been flogged since, and the authorities have not disclosed the reasons why. He remains at risk.
A global campaign has been initiated to call for his release, gathering the support of tens of thousands of people worldwide.
Thursday, Amnesty International joined Ensaf Haidar to renew appeals for Badawi's immediate and unconditional release.

More than 1,400 people killed in six weeks in Yemen: UN official

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that more than 1,400 people have been killed in six weeks in Yemen.

"300,000 [people] have fled their homes in nearly two months of fighting in the war-torn Gulf nation," said Johannes van der Klaauw, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the UN official underscored that emergency relief and medical teams are struggling to fly in to scale-up the humanitarian operation to address the needs of increasingly vulnerable Yemenis.

Mr. van der Klaauw has voiced grave concern over reports that "scores" of civilians have been killed and injured amid ongoing fighting in the city of Aden.

"Civilians were reportedly targeted while they were trying to flee to safer areas, having been trapped in Aden with limited or no access to water, food and health care for weeks."

He said that people in Aden have endured extreme hardship as a result of conflict over the last six weeks and must be able to move to safer areas to seek medical and other assistance.

"Violence towards civilians and aid workers, and attacks on hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, must stop immediately."

According to the statement, insecurity and lack of fuel have limited access to and delivery of services. Partners report difficulty providing medical services as result of the current security situation and continued airstrikes targeting Haradh, Sa'ada and Sana'a. Food relief partners have reported they have had to suspend assistance in several districts due to lack of fuel.

The top UN relief official for Yemen strongly urged all parties to the conflict to provide safe passage for civilians from areas of conflict and "to observe their duty to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law."

"I call on all parties to the conflict to provide rapid, safe and predictable access to all people in need in Yemen," he added. "As an immediate measure, I repeat my call for a humanitarian pause, to be observed by all parties, to allow civilians to escape conflict areas and access basic services, and to enable humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance.''

UN officials unhappy with Saudi Arabia’s plans for Yemen aid

The United Nations and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are locked in a bitter dispute over Riyadh’s insistence that humanitarian aid for Yemen be coordinated through Saudi authorities.
Senior diplomats in Geneva say that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was taken aback when Saudi King Salman scheduled a May 17 conference in Riyadh to discuss aid to Yemen. Ban had planned to hold such a conference in Geneva on Monday, at which he hoped to restart the failed U.N. peace process.
The scheduled Saudi conference and a proposal that the Saudi capital be the coordinating point for aid also violate the U.N.’s principle that aid delivered to a war zone should not be controlled by one of the belligerents in the conflict.
“The active engagement of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is appreciated,” Johannes Van Der Klaauw, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said Friday. “However, in all crises, the emergency relief coordinator is mandated to lead the coordination of international relief activities and emergency response.”
He said U.N. regulations require that “all actors engaged in relief and aid operations” must work “through the neutral and impartial leadership of a humanitarian coordinator – in this case me – based in the country.”
Diplomats in Geneva from several countries, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, agreed with Van Der Klaauw that Saudi Arabia should drop its plans to coordinate relief work. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir outlined the Saudi plans on Thursday after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry.
A senior Middle East diplomat, from one of the countries in Saudi Arabia’s Yemen coalition country, said, “The king pledged a lot of money for Yemen relief and wants it done (in Saudi Arabia), but that does not mean it’s a good idea.”
Saudi Arabia has pledged to finance the total $274 million the U.N. has said it needs to fund humanitarian assistance in Yemen.
Van Der Kleeuw called the Saudi plans “very difficult in view of the continuous war operations.”
Kerry said the U.S. supported both the May 17 conference and a five-day cease-fire that Saudi Arabia has proposed to allow humanitarian aid shipments. That proposal has not been accepted by the Houthi rebels who are battling the Saudi-backed government of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
After heavy airstrikes Friday in Yemen’s northern Saada province, the Saudi coalition said the cease-fire would begin Tuesday, if the Houthis agreed.
Meanwhile, Kerry also has been acting as a go-between for Ban and the Saudi king, diplomats said, in an effort to resolve the aid disagreement.
According to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 737 civilians have been killed since Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March. The U.N. estimates that more than 300,000 people have fled their homes as a result of the airstrikes and the violence between forces loyal to Hadi, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, and those affiliated with the Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran.
U.N. officials are particularly critical of a Saudi-led blockade of Yemeni ports, ostensibly to prevent weapons from reaching the Houthis in conformance with a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month.
But the search of ships attempting to deliver food and fuel to Yemen has created delays and serious shortages in Yemen, the officials charge.
“We urgently need a resumption of commercial imports of critical goods, such as fuel, medical supplies and food,” Van Der Klaauw said. “Without resumption of commercial imports, all basic services and markets will close down shortly.”
“A blockade is always wrong,” said Jan Egeland, a former U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs who now heads the Norwegian Refugee Council. “It’s a collective punishment on the civilian population.”

Read more here:

Saudi warplanes target school in Yemen's Sa’ada

Saudi warplanes have targeted a school in the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa’ada in the 44th day of the kingdom’s aggression against the Yemeni people. 

According to local sources on Friday, the Saudi airstrikes pounded a school in al-Jamimah region of Sa’ada. No report has yet been released on the casualties of the attack. 

Reports said Sa'ada Province has been targeted with over 22 airstrikes since early Friday. 

The Saudi aerial assaults on Sa'ada have claimed the lives of three civilians, including a woman, the reports added. 

Nine members of a family also lost their lives following Saudi airstrikes on the western province of Hajjah. 

Late Thursday, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, a spokesman for the Saudi military, vowed to intensify strikes on the kingdom’s impoverished neighbor after the popular committees in Yemen, loyal to Houthi Ansarullah fighters, carried out retaliatory rocket attacks on Saudi border areas. 

The new Saudi strikes came a day after Riyadh announced plans for a five-day ceasefire in its brutal war against Yemen. 

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the decision at a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Riyadh. The Saudi official, however, did not comment on the exact date of the start of the so-called “humanitarian pause.” 

Saudi Arabia started its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 - without a UN mandate - in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh. 

The Saudi military campaign has reportedly claimed the lives of over 1,200 people so far and injured thousands of others. Hundreds of women and children are among the victims, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Saudi protesters demand Shia cleric release

Large numbers of demonstrators in Saudi Arabia have staged a fresh massive rally, demanding the immediate release of prominent Shia scholar, Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

On Friday, people in the city of Awamiyah in the oil-rich Eastern Province once poured out onto the streets again to call on Saudi authorities to immediately release the highly-revered Shia cleric, who has been in prison for over three years.
The angry protesters also denounced the ongoing imprisonment of Sheikh al-Nimr and other political prisoners.
The protesters also carried placards of al-Nimr and chanted slogans against the rule of Al Saud dynasty. 
The cleric was attacked and arrested in Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with disturbing the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners.
Sheikh al-Nimr had often publicly spoken against rampant corruption and discrimination commonly practiced by Saudi authorities.
A Saudi court had earlier sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death, triggering international outrage, particularly among Shia communities.
There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province since 2011, with the protesters calling for political reform and an end to widespread discrimination. A number of people have been killed and many have been injured or arrested during the demonstrations.
The monarchy has intensified the repression not only against Shia Muslims, but also on Sunnis and other dissident voices. 
International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

Video Report - Pro-Russian rebels hold WWII memorial in eastern Ukraine

Why a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016 could expand the power of the presidency

By Max Ehrenfreund
Speaking in Las Vegas this week, Hillary Rodham Clinton promised to expand President Obama's proposed executive immigration actions by granting a reprieve from deportation to an even larger group of undocumented immigrants. The former secretary of state's bold speech was a pleasant surprise for activists who support reform, and it stunned her Republican rivals, who have been wary of saying anything that might alienate Hispanic voters.
Yet between the legal restrictions on the president's authority independent of Congress, and likely continued opposition from Republicans lawmakers, there will only be so much that Clinton can accomplish if she wins -- on immigration as on other issues. Obama's executive actions have already put in place much of the Democratic agenda that can fit comfortably within the conventional limits of presidential power without action from Congress. As president, Clinton would be a bulwark protecting the Democratic policies Obama put in place, such as stricter environmental rules and the Affordable Care Act. It's far from clear just where she could achieve more, since Congress will remain at least partially in Republican hands.
Maybe something like: As a result, Clinton might face a choice between simply defending Obama's agenda and defining one of her own by further exploring and possibly expanding the limits of presidential power.
To define and advance her own goals, Clinton will have to further explore and possibly expand the limits of presidential power.
Immigration and families
Her proposal on immigration, for example, is one that Obama's lawyers rejected last year as an illegal overreach.
In her speech, Clinton first reiterated her support for allowing those undocumented immigrants to become citizens, saying she was motivated by concern for the strength of  families. "When families are strong, America is strong," she said.
Supporters of citizenship for undocumented immigrants say that deporting parents unfairly punishes the kids who stay behind. Sociologists have foundthat just the possibility of deportation causes anxiety and fear among children who, even at a very young age, are all too aware that their families could be broken up.
Lawyers in Obama's Justice Department followed the same line of argument in their defense of the president's authority to defer deportation for a group of about 4 million undocumented immigrants, including about 200,000 adults who arrived as undocumented immigrants as children, and 3.5 million undocumented parents of children who are American citizens. 
Congress had specifically given the president the authority to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the country for humanitarian reasons, an authority past presidents had used as well, the lawyers wrote. Keeping families together, they argued, was an important humanitarian goal.
So far, Clinton's reasoning followed theirs, but then she went further. She suggested that the parents of undocumented children--the 1.2 million so-called Dreamers whom Obama had already offered a reprieve from deportation--should be allowed to stay, too.
Obama's lawyers had rejected this argument. The simple goal of keeping these families together, they wrote, can't justify allowing them to stay. When both parents and children are in the United States illegally, families can be sent to their native countries without separating loved ones.
Darrell West, a political scientist and an expert on immigration policy at the Brookings Institution, warned that Clinton was making policies on which she might not be able to deliver. Any actions she might take as president would have to pass muster with the courts, which have temporarily held up Obama's more limited plans.
"She's playing in the political arena," West said. "She's trying to use the immigration issue to mobilize her base. There are no penalties to going overboard in that arena."
The speech had clear political advantages for Clinton. Her position could restore enthusiasm to a Hispanic electorate hopeful more can be done on immigration, while exploiting Republicans' vulnerability on the issue. Leading GOP contenders Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would not even comment on Clinton's speech. The two men have historically favored a comprehensive immigration overhaul that their party overall has rejected. (Rubio has since distanced himself from reform legislation he helped write.)
"Republicans' intransigence has created an obvious opportunity for Hillary to rip off our arms and beat us with the bloody ends," a former party chairman in New Hampshire told The Washington Post. "She’s expertly exploiting our party’s internal problems."
That is not to say that Clinton's proposal was solely motivated by politics.
"Clinton continues to call for Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform," campaign spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement. "But she has made clear that, absent congressional action, she will do all she can to fight for DREAMers and to make our dysfunctional system a little more functional."
She might feel that Obama's Justice Department came to the wrong conclusion. The precise legal boundaries of executive authority are nearly impossible to define. And in practice, presidents have been less concerned with legal niceties than they've been about maintaining the allegiance of voters, cultivating goodwill among lawmakers, and respecting Washington's unspoken rules about just who has the power to do what.
Constraints on the presidency
Those rules of power have been smashed in several places in recent years. Filibusters, once a rarity, have become routine in the Senate, as lawmakers on the losing side of legislation have assumed a new power to block it. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has moved beyond the traditional authority of the chamber's majority leader by writing letters to officials around the country urging them to ignore new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on power plants, which represent Obama's assertive use of executive authority after Congress refused to take any action on climate change.
Since the elections of 2010, Republican dominance in Congress and their unyielding opposition to the president's agenda has forced him to find new ways to achieve his aims. Clinton would likely have to do the same if she succeeds Obama. Republicans will almost certainly retain their majority in the House, and they'll still be able to mount filibusters even if Democrats manage to regain control of the Senate.
Yet finding major new areas of executive action could prove challenging. Clinton's advisers have said that as the candidate talks about families on the campaign trail, one major plank in her platform will be a right to paid parental leave for all workers. It's an idea that has support from the majority of Americans, polling suggests.
If Clinton wins, though, it isn't clear what more she would be able to accomplish for new working parents. Obama recently granted paid leave to federal workers with newborn children through executive action. The president can't make a law requiring paid leave in the private sector without a vote in the House.
Another possible field for executive action under a Clinton administration would be in criminal justice reform. The first major speech of her campaigncould be interpreted as suggesting that Clinton would go further than Obama has in encouraging police departments around the country to adopt more equitable practices.
Using the authority that the president has over federal funding in local police departments would be another expansion of executive power beyond its conventional boundaries. Sheriffs and police chiefs have traditionally enjoyed wide latitude in how they run their departments' affairs and in how they use federal grants of money and equipment.
Obama acknowledged that political reality in his remarks on the riots in Baltimore last month. "I can't federalize every police department in the country and force them to retrain," the president said.
If Clinton wins, she might also be able to make legislative progress in areas where she and Republicans agree, such as tax reform, entitlement spending and free trade, but these are not the issues that will inspire liberal audiences on the campaign trail.
Democrats, of course, still have powerful reasons to want to see their candidate in the White House after the election. It's just that when it comes to domestic policy, a Hillary Clinton administration might be defined by what her victory at the polls would prevent a Republican rival from doing.
Republicans have proposed budgets that would eliminate trillions of dollars in assistance for the poor and in grants and loans for students. As president, Clinton would try to force Republicans in Congress to make compromises on budgetary questions.
A Republican president, by contrast, could undo many of Obama's executive actions, which have been crucial to a wide range of his policies.
"Anything a Republican president can’t get out of Congress, that individual will try to accomplish through executive action," West said. "Obama has set the precedent, and others are going to do the same thing."
Obama's education policy rests almost entirely on his executive authority, and a Republican president would be free to take a different course. Likewise, a future president could partially suspend Obama's health reform law, even if Democrats in Congress continue to stand in the way of repeal.
These maneuvers would be out of Republicans' reach with Clinton in the White House, but if she hopes to go do more, she would have to find new ways of using the power of the office.

China Voice: Rememberance of WWII suffering should not be clouded by politics

Some Western leaders may justify their absence from Russia's VictoryDay celebrations by using the Crimea situationbut to do so is disrespectful to the memoryof those that fell.
In a similar way that sports have been mixed up with international politicssuch as theboycott of the Sochi Olympicswe now see the legacy of World War II diluted for politicalends.
At Red Square more than 70 years ago soldiers of the former Soviet Union prepared tomarch to the front-line to face Nazi forces.
While playing a vital role in defeating the Third Reich and liberating large swathes ofEuropeRussia also lost tens of millions of soldiers and civilians.
This is why Victory Day is of paramount importance in RussiaIt is steeped in RussianprideSuch an honor and a sacrifice deserves commemoration by alland should not beforgotten.
By using this occasion to further exert pressure on Putinsome Western leaders havewandered far from what the Allied forces fought against in the warLet us not forget this isan occasion honoring unity and peace
SimilarlyChina also sustained heavy losses in WWII and the Chinese people know betterthan many what peace means.
Thereforethe presence of Chinese servicemen in Russia's military parade is symbolic thatthe contributions of peace-loving nations should not be forgotten or undervalued.
Recently a video went viral on Chinese social networking sites in which a Russian girlmurmured "I wanna cryafter Chinese servicemen marched past the crowd singing"Katyusha", a Russian folk song about a girl whose love has left her to fight in the war.
The spirit of victory should not be linked to geopolitical rivalry.
Commemorating the the defeat of Fascism is the best way to better secure world peace,prevent history from repeating itself and urge aggressors to reflect on the atrocities theyhad committed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkelchose to honor the millions of Russians that died as aresult of Germany's aggressionalthough she will not attend the May 9 military parade.
Chinese President Xi Jinpingwill attend the victory celebrationsnot just because Russia isa strategic partner and close friendbut also because China is honoring its promise to be aresponsible powerits willingness to cooperate with other countries to secure world peaceand stabilityand to join efforts to build a community of common destiny.
The West has so many chances to isolate Russiabut perhaps this one was ill thought out.

Putin Uses Chinese President's Visit to Lure Cash to Russia

Sergei Karpukhin / ReutersRussia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and China's President Xi Jinping attend a documents signing ceremony during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 8, 2015.
Russia and China signed a $25 billion deal to boost Chinese lending to Russian firms and a host of other accords deepening economic cooperation on Friday as Moscow's ties with the West fray over the Ukraine crisis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping hailed their countries' improving relationship after Kremlin talks and a signing ceremony on the eve of a military parade marking the end of World War Two in Europe.
Xi is among about 30 foreign dignitaries attending the anniversary events in Moscow but the Red Square parade is being shunned by Western leaders in a show of displeasure over Moscow's role in the conflict in Ukraine.
In a further sign of Moscow's eastward shift, China and Russia are due to hold joint naval exercises next week in the eastern Mediterranean and Chinese soldiers will take part in Saturday's military parade.
"Today China is our strategic and key partner," Putin said after he and Xi presided over a signing ceremony in front of rows of Chinese and Russian officials in the Kremlin.
Xi, who like Putin looked relaxed, invited the Russian leader to attend war commemorations in China on Sept. 3. Putin accepted, saying their countries had suffered most in the war.
The Chinese president said the talks had shown Beijing and Moscow shared the same views on many global problems.
Both leaders said it was necessary to guard against a resurgence of fascism and attempts to rewrite history, echoing previous comments by Putin criticizing the West and Ukraine for, in his view, underestimating the Soviet role in ending the war.

Better Ties

Despite both being Communist-run in Soviet times, Beijing and Moscow almost went to war in the 1960s over a border dispute but relations have improved steadily since the end of the Cold War, especially since the West imposed economic sanctions on Russia last year over its seizure of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Last May they agreed a $400-billion deal for Russia to supply China with 38 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually from 2018 for 30 years.
Building on that deal, natural gas producer Gazprom signed a deal on Friday with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) on the main terms of providing supplies via what is know as the Western route.
An agreement was also signed to boost Chinese lending to Russian firms, some of which have been hit badly by an economic crisis aggravated by the sanctions and weaker global oil prices.
Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said Russian companies could receive up to $25 billion over the next three years.
The sides agreed to launch a $2 billion investment fund targeting agricultural projects and signed a deal for Russia's Sberbank to open a 6 billion yuan ($966 million) credit line with China Development Bank.
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said the countries would invest 1 trillion rubles ($20 billion) in a rail link between Moscow and the Russian city of Kazan to be completed by 2020. Putin said the level of Chinese investment would be around 300 billion rubles.
Although relations are improving, it has not proved as easy as some Russian officials had hoped to secure funds from China, with some suspicion lingering in the relationship.
Russia is wary of becoming the junior partner and little more than a provider of natural resources for China's booming economy, the world's second biggest after the United States.

​Putin: Russia & China worst affected by WW2, reject rehabilitation of Nazism & militarism

Russia and China suffered the worst casualties during World War II and thus have the greatest reasons to oppose attempts to rehabilitate Nazism and militarism, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after meeting China’s President Xi Jinping.
Xi arrived in Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart with an array of economic deals to sign. The Chinese leader will also take part in the V-Day celebration in Moscow on Saturday. A military parade demonstrating brand new Russian weapons is part of the festivities to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.
“Tomorrow with other world leaders we will take part in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the [Soviet] victory in World War II, and in September in Beijing we will mark the end of the World War II. We will commemorate those who stood side by side against the militaristic Japan,” Putin said.
He added that China and Russia paid the greatest price in loss of life from the war and that “now together we stand against any attempts to rehabilitate Nazism and militarism, attempts to falsify history.”
Xi, who personally invited the Russian president to attend the September 3 commemoration in China, said the event is meant “to honor the memory of the lost heroes” and “not allow the tragic history of that war repeat again, to create world peace together.
Ceremonial unit soldiers at the final rehearsal of the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the World War II (RIA Novosti/Konstantin Chalabov)
Ceremonial unit soldiers at the final rehearsal of the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the World War II (RIA Novosti/Konstantin Chalabov)

“The hard lessons of the World War II say that coexistence of humanity is not ruled by the law of the jungle. The politics of peace is the exact opposite of the aggressive hegemonic politics of force. The path of human development does not lay in the principle ‘the winner takes it all,’ not in zero-sum games,” he added.
China and Russia are strengthening cooperation amid a Washington-led effort to isolate Moscow over its position in the Ukrainian crisis. Russia sees China as a major importer of energy in decades to come. The two countries also want to develop ties in defense production, military training, fighting against extremism and international crime, cultural and scientific collaboration.

Chinese president arrives in Russia, meets with Putin

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Video - WW2 planes fly over National Mall for VE Day

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We are all Farkhunda: how one woman’s murder could change Afghanistan

By Kristin Cordell

 In March this year, a young woman was beaten to death in a Kabul street and set on fire by a frenzied mob. The mostly young men were reacting to a false accusation that Farkhunda – in reality, a deeply religious woman – had burned pages of the Qur’an. This week, the attorney general of Afghanistan announced that 49 people, including 19 police officers, have been charged in relation to the crime.

But no justice can bring Farkhunda back to her family and so activists gathered in Kabul streets to tell her story. They say that she did not burn the Qur’an. That she was a kind friend and daughter.
Informally and formally, this can be seen as a sort of reconciliation and truth-telling process that has proven effective in other post-conflict contexts. According to research by the International Center for Transitional Justice, truth-telling can be especially powerful where gender-based violence has played a role.
Truth-telling is one means for this horrendous event to become a catalyst for thoughtful, empathetic discussions. No longer can men or women look the other way at the cruel and disrespectful ways men often treat Afghan women in public, especially in the capital, within walking distance of the president’s palace.
The outrage Afghan women feel is palpable. Many are telling their own story, thinking it could easily have been them in Farkhunda’s shoes. Afghan women working at the US embassy often tell of a harrowing commute. Warlords’ weapons have been replaced by the minefield of mob violence, threats and verbal harassment. According to Amnesty International, even more so for those who defend women’s rights.
In Kabul, the discussion over this horrific incident among Afghan women often ends with the international community asking itself: what can we do? How can we help? It’s as if some small tweak in our development assistance could have prevented this act – even if we know that to be empirically false.
The truth is that no amount of funding programmes to prevent gender-based violence will speed up the basic change in norms that a society must go through to reduce the potential for such violent acts. In some cases, new attention brings new tension and violence. Those who seek to hold on to power feel threatened. Fear of change incites violence.
There’s a new normal in Afghanistan, which is unsettling for many Afghan men. Since 2002, Afghan women have fought and won many battles to overcome the societal customs confining them. Change has come slowly, but now three million girls are in school. (None attended prior to 2001 during the Taliban regime.) Thousands of women are studying in universities, with demand increasing each year. A growing body of female politicians, teachers, doctors, midwives and entrepreneurs has joined the workforce.
This has been difficult for men who have been taught to shelter and protect women but who, at the same time, feel threatened by women’s advancements. Shifts in practice and perception do not happen at the speed many, especially international donors, desire.
We know that in many areas wives are still confined to their homes. Businesswomen are denied loans. Mothers give birth without professional care and their babies die. Daughters are forbidden to attend high schools and universities. Girls are forced to forgo education for early marriage. Women like Farkhunda are senselessly murdered or beaten. A 2013 UN report said women registered 1,669 cases of violence against them with the ministry of women’s affairs. Only 7% were processed under the formal justice system.
Many see Farkhunda’s murder as a tipping point. Almost anyone in Afghanistan could feel the shift when they saw thousands demonstrating in Kabul. No one can ignore the impact conveyed by the rare sight of 30 angry, defiant young Afghan women shouldering Farkhunda’s casket. Or the tears on their faces as they acted out the last moments of her life.
Maa hama Farkhunda yem,” the women chanted at her grave. “We are all Farkhunda.”
It is clear that women in Afghanistan are changing. But will they be the innovators or early adaptors pushing social change? Are there enough of them? Can the country’s smart, educated, involved women and men move Afghan society into a prosperous and equal future where men and women sit side by side in decision-making positions? Time will tell.
In relating the story of Farkhunda as well as their own new narrative, Afghan women must work together to educate and engage their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. They must try to understand the men’s fears. They must reach back to the days when a strong Afghan culture insisted its men honoured all women and ensured they felt safe in the home, in society and on the street.


Saudi Arab-backed wahhabi and takfiri clerics on Friday taken out Difa-e-Haramain Rally ( Defense Of Saudia ) from Nagan Chowrangi to the old Numaish to appease Saudi King Salman.
The rally was organized by the banned terrorist takfiri group, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba. The rally was attended and addressed by Notorious proscirbed ASWJ chief Mullah Ahmad Ludhianvi, Aurangzeb Farouqi, ring-leader of outlawed Harkatul-Ansar Fazal-ur-Rahman Khalili and many other takfiri clerics.
They said that they had to give unconditional support to Saudi Arabia to save the honour of Saudi kingdom. They denounced the neutral role of Pakistan in Yemen crisis, and said that Pakistani forces were just killing Mujahideen (Jehadi's ) on the name of Zarb-e-Azb. The role of Pak Army is quite negative in term of not sending troops to help Saudis.
It is said that Imam-e-Ka’aba, during his visit to Pakistan, met with the leaders of banned terrorist outfits to gain their support on the issue of Yemen. According to reports, millions of dollars and Riyals have been invested in Pakistan for creating public opinion in favour of Saudi Arabia and its unjustified aggression on Yemeni people. It is pertinent to mention here that ASWJ chief Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi has decried the resolution passed by the parliament on Yemen as "against the will of the people" and "a waste of time".

Its pertaining to mention here that the Saudi officials have provided millions of Saudi-Riyals to Pakistani Mullahs and proscribed outfits to hold rallies and seminaries in support of Saudi kingdom. After the consecutive visits Of Saudi officials and providing the Riyals the outfits , seminaries of Deobandi's and Wahabis took out rallies against Pakistani Parliament and Army in main cities of Pakistan but failed to get support of Pakistani nation .