Saturday, August 29, 2015
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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) says acts of sexual violence committed against women in Iraq and Syria by foreign-backed militants constitute war crimes.
In a statement issued on Friday evening, the UNSC members said that rape and other forms of serious sexual violence in armed conflicts are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
They urged the international community to remain united in holding accountable those responsible for such crimes and said all parties to the armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria should take all feasible steps to protect civilians from such “abhorrent” acts.
The UNSC released the statement after being briefed by Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura.
Takfiri Daesh militants have been accused of committing gross human rights violations in Syria and Iraq, including rape, summary executions, mass kidnappings, and massacres. Thousands of women and girls have been subjected to sexual violence by the Daesh terrorists in the two Arab countries.
Daesh also runs sex slave markets in areas under its control.
Earlier this month, the UN verified the authenticity of a price list the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group uses to trade the people it has captured as sex slaves.
“The girls get peddled like barrels of petrol,” Bangura said in an interview with Bloomberg, adding, “One girl can be sold and bought by five or six different men. Sometimes these fighters sell the girls back to their families for thousands of dollars of ransom.”
By Valerie Hamilton
Rotana Tarabzouni has a voice, and she's not afraid to use it. "In a religious sense, there are always going to be people that are extremely offended with what I'm doing, there are always going to be people that think that what I'm doing is just blasphemy," she says.
Tarabzouni grew up in Dhahran, on the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia. By Saudi standards, her family was pretty liberal. Unlike most Saudi girls and women, she didn't cover her face when she left the house. Her family spoke English, and listened to Western music.
"My dad was a huge Led Zeppelin fan, he loved the Beatles," she says.
At school, she studied a traditional religious Saudi curriculum. But at home, she was listening to Top 40 stars like Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion. She always loved to sing. "It sounds so cliché, like in a film, but I really truly just sang in my room with a hairbrush."
Concerts in her room were about as far as it could go. A music career was out of the question, for one really basic reason. "The country doesn't allow me to step out of my home and get on a stage uncovered and sing."
In Saudi Arabia, music carries a major social stigma. There's a tiny underground music scene, but for women, especially, it's not like you can audition at clubs or play open mic nights. Instead, Tarabzouni finished school and worked in public relations for a Saudi oil company.
Here's the part of the story, though, where fate intervenes. On vacation in Boston, on a whim, she went to a casting call. She blew them away. And then she went back to Saudi Arabia and started thinking. There was a way to become a pop star in Saudi Arabia, she realized. She just had to become a pop star in the US first.
She says, "Everyone in Saudi Arabia listens to Katy Perry. Everyone in Saudi Arabia listens to Lana del Rey. Everyone in Saudi Arabia will hopefully someday listen to me too, but it has to be through this channel."
Now she lives in a small apartment in an artsy part of LA where she can meet producers, take voice lessons, and perform live onstage. She's building a professional singing life she could never have back home.
"The biggest limitation that Saudi Arabia puts on us is just they limit the sense of the possible."
Back home, other women were pushing that sense of the possible too. When Saudis protested the ban on women driving in 2013, Tarabzouni joined in, via YouTube. This is her cover of the Lorde song "Team," with lyrics in support of Saudi women's rights.
The video got more than 300,000 hits. Tarabzouni’s first taste of fame. Then came the attacks.
She says, "It's really horrible what people say. Like people will say like, I hope you die, I hope you burn in hell, you're a slut, this that and the other ... I have just two extremes: people absolutely hate me, and then people who are like, oh my God, this is so incredible, you are so inspiring."
Those are the people she's singing for; the thousands of Saudi fans following her on Instagram and Snapchat. She says living her dream inspires them to live theirs. "So many people from Saudi just send me messages saying, 'look what I just painted,' or 'listen to the song I wrote.' Little girls that are just really really really excited and believe that it's possible."
Tarabzouni hopes to release her first EP this year. The music business is as tough for her as anybody else, and for now, she's just trying to break in. And she hopes that one day she'll get the chance to perform back home.
China's invitation to the Pakistani military and perceptions of an anti-Japanese sentiment may have led to India rejecting a Chinese request to send troops for a high-profile military parade on September 3.
China's invitation to the Pakistani military and perceptions of an anti-Japanese sentiment may have led to India rejecting a Chinese request to send troops for a high-profile military parade on September 3. The Beijing parade next week will see as many as 1,000 foreign troops from 17 countries march in China for the first time alongside the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which will hold a rare public display of some of its most advanced battle-tanks, bombers and missiles.
China had earlier this year requested India, as well as Pakistan and several other countries, to send high-level representation as well as a contingent of 75 troops for the parade, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Chinese officials had sought the attendance of President Pranab Mukherjee, who attended Russia's parade marking the event in May when Indian troops also participated along with those from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and Serbia.
New Delhi, however, has rejected China's request. No Indian troops will participate, while Minister of State for External Affairs General (retd.) VK Singh will be the only top representative from Delhi - representation far lower than Beijing had asked for. Singh will hold talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi a day after the parade.
For India, participation would have meant the unusual occurrence of Indian troops marching side-by-side with troops from Pakistan. China had invited Pakistan around the same time that it had reached out to New Delhi. Pakistan has sent a contingent of 75 troops - whose rehearsals have been praised and covered widely in the Chinese media and on social media - while President Mamnoon Hussain will likely attend.
Among the other heads of state present in Beijing next week are Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korea's Park Geun-hye, South Africa's Jacob Zuma, Myanmar President Thein Sein and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Troops from Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Serbia, Tajikistan and Russia will participate.
The view in Beijing is that only "true friends" of China were sending troops for the parade, according to leading Chinese strategic expert Jin Canrong of Renmin University. "One of the diplomatic aims behind the military parade is to make clear who will be China's true friends," he told the South China Morning Post.
Both the United States and Japan have also declined participation. In recent weeks, Beijing and Tokyo have accused the other of politicising the event. While Japan has suggested that China was using the event to highlight Second World War atrocities committed by invading Japanese forces to pressure Tokyo amid on-going maritime disputes, Chinese officials have hit out at the West and Japan for politicising the commemoration, pointing out that other countries have held similar events.