News in Brief: China Needs New Policies After Xinjiang
- China Needs New Policies After Xinjiang
GUANGZHOU, China — Following the deadly unrest in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, a senior Chinese official called Thursday, July 30, for changing policies towards ethnic minorities in the country.
"The policies themselves will definitely need adjustments," said Wang Yang, the powerful Communist Party boss in the southern province of Guangdong, reported Reuters.
"We have to adjust to the actual situation."
Wang's statements mark a rare admission by any Chinese official about where policies on ethnic minorities went wrong.
Officials often deflect questions about whether policies need changing, or deny there were any problems, blaming exiled groups for stirring up the violence.
"China is a multi-ethnic society... If adjustments are not made promptly, there will be some problems," added Wang, who has close ties to President Hu Jintao.
Xinjiang was plunged into turmoil after thousands of Uighur Muslims went to the streets to protest discrimination and religious and cultural controls in their region.
Chinese security forces launched a deadly crackdown on the protestors, leaving more than 190 people dead and 1,700 wounded..
Xinjiang and its Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking minority of more than eight million, continue to be the subject of massive security crackdowns.
Muslims accuses the government of settling millions of ethnic Han in their territory with the ultimate goal of obliterating its identity and culture.
Beijing views the vast region as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.
In a new shift, China also unveiled plans to train officials to handle protests and riots.
"(Training would) help grass-roots cadres better handle emergencies and avoid lax and worsening management," Zhu Lijia, a professor from the Communist Party administrative school, was quoted as saying by the Southern Metropolitan Daily.
The school would host a one-week course to train officials on how to handle protests and ethnic violence.
Chinese security services registered 80,000 "mass incidents", China's term for protests involving more than five people, in 2007.
Corruption, polluting factories and illegal land seizures have stoked violence for years, and the global financial crisis has raised tensions over employment.
The Chinese government is nervous about any kind of protests or challenge to its authority.
In an unusually harsh commentary earlier this week, the official Xinhua agency blamed incompetent officials for incidents of mass unrest like a steel plant protest last week in which an executive was beaten to death.
UN: Sharp rise in Afghan deaths
The civilian death toll in Afghanistan has risen by 24 per cent this year, the United Nations has said.
In a new report released on Friday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) blamed bombings by the Taliban and air raids by international forces for the majority of the killings.
The report said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of their country's armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007.
Commenting on the report, Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.
"All parties involved in this conflict should take all measures to protect civilians, and to ensure the independent investigation of all civilian casualties, as well as justice and remedies for the victims," Pillay said.
James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan, said: "This new report will be deeply controversial here. For many Afghans, this is a key political issue.
"The line that's coming from the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and the US and their new commander here, General [Stanley] McChrystal, is that the success of their mission is not about killing Taliban, it's about the number of Afghans who feel they are being protected."
Erica Gaston, from the Open Society Institute in Afghanistan, agreed and told Al Jazeera that "civilian casualty losses colour Afghan impressions of international forces and the Afghan government".
"Afghan people want protection and they want stability and if the international forces and Afghan government can't deliver that, then they will turn to other political leaders," she said.
Malaysia protest march broken up
Malaysian police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of people gathering to demonstrate against a security law allowing detention without trial.
Hundreds of police officers were awaiting the protesters as they arrived at three rallying points in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, for the banned demonstration on Saturday.
"There was no violent confrontation coming from the protesters but they were tear-gassed and dispersed," Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Kuala Lumpur, said.
"They tried to meet again near a department store and were tear-gassed again there and water cannon were fired.
"They have been swiftly and pretty heavily dealt with."
Witnesses said police charged at the protesters with batons.
The protesters had planned to march towards the national palace, but scores of people were reportedly detained even before they had reached the rally.
Before the march started, Muhammad Sabtu Osman, the Kuala Lumpur police chief, said that 150 people - identified as protesters because they were wearing opposition t-shirts and headbands - had been detained to prevent them from taking part.
Iran puts protesters on trial
About 100 Iranian protesters accused of rioting during recent post-election violence have gone on trial in the capital, Tehran.
The suspects, including several prominent political figures, began to appear before the revolutionary court on Saturday to face allegations that they attacked security forces and destroyed property, among other charges.
They were among hundreds of protesters, activists and journalists detained in a government crackdown following mass protests over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election as president in a disputed June 12 vote, that the opposition said was rigged.
"We hear that about 100 people were present in the court," Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi, reporting from Tehran, said.
"It hasn't been an open court, either to the public or to the media."
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Mourners met with force as they flock to Neda's grave
Iran's opposition leaders barred from ceremony marking 40 days since protester's death
Forty days after the death of Neda Soltan, the young Iranian woman whose harrowing last moments during a post-election protest were filmed and seen around the world, Tehran was the scene of extraordinary clashes yesterday as police used force to crush an opposition-backed memorial service for the student and other victims of violence.
Mirhossein Mousavi, the defeated presidential candidate and de facto opposition leader, was prevented by a phalanx of police from paying his respects at the grave of Ms Soltan, where large crowds had defiantly gathered for a ceremony to mark the 40th day since her death, a key moment of mourning in Shia Muslim tradition.
"Neda is alive! Ahmadinejad is dead!" many chanted as the tussle played out.
The other defeated candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, had to flee the cemetery after trying to deliver a speech near the grave while two leading Iranian film directors, one of whom was Jafar Panahi, nominated for an Oscar for one of his films, were arrested when they attempted to put flowers on the student's grave.
The demonstrations later spread to other parts of the Iranian capital with protesters chanting "Death to the dictatorship!", but police used batons and tear gas to charge the crowds and disperse them. Thousands had also assembled at the Grand Mosalla mosque, a key prayer venue, and other coordinated locations in the centre of the city, but police and security forces were posted in intimidating numbers at all the main intersections.
The heavy-handed response of the Islamic regime reflected a fierce determination to prevent mourning ceremonies for victims of post-election violence from turning into a vehicle for an unstoppable cycle of anti-regime protest.
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Gaza children shatter world record
It was an unlikely place to shatter a world record, but the beaches of the Gaza Strip were the venue for thousands of Palestinian children who flew the largest number of kites simultaneously from the same place.
The record that once stood at 713 has been broken, thanks to the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and about 6,000 kite-flying children.
The event is part of the Summer Games programme run by UNRWA - an activities and curricular programme set up for students during their break from the academic school year.
More than half of Gaza's 1.5 million people are under the age of 18 - so there is no shortage of potential record-breakers.
US Judge Orders Young Gitmo Detainee Free
CAIRO — After years of horrors and abuses in the notorious detention camp, a US judge has ordered the release of a young Afghan detainee from the Guantanamo Bay back home, The New York Times reported Friday, July 31.
"Enough has been imposed on this young man to date," US District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said.
Huvelle ordered the Obama administration to release Mohammed Jawad and send him back to his family in Afghanistan by August 24.
"After this horrible, long, tortured history, I hope the government will succeed in getting him back home," Huvelle said.
Jawad was arrested by US troops in Afghanistan in 2002, on charges of throwing a grenade on American troops in Kabul when he was 12 years old.
His case has drawn worldwide attention over allegations that he was tortured by Afghan officials and abused in American custody.
Huvelle ordered the government to "provide necessary papers" to Congress by August 6 and to report back to her by August 24, blasting the administration's dragging feet to release the young Afghan detainee.
"The government had an untenable position," she said.
"At every term, they've requested a delay."
The US judge said that the administration's case for continuing his detention was "riddled with holes".
"The statement of material facts lacked," the judge said, enumerating the different stages of the case, including that most of the evidence had been tossed out by a military judge last year because it was obtained under torture.
If Jawad is sent to Afghanistan, he would be the first detainee to be transferred from Guantanamo since Congress placed new restrictions on the Obama administration to ensure it receives advance notice of any plans to send prisoners to the US for trial or to another country.
Since Obama took office in January, 11 detainees have been transferred, including four to their home countries, and another was flown to New York, where he faces criminal charges in US federal court.
Iraq Detainees' Endless Ordeal
With the first beam of the sun, Ghaliyah al-Yassir, 41, heads to a Baghdad prison hoping to hear a word about the fate of her husband.
"My husband is a good man and until now he didn't have the chance to stand before a judge," the mother of three told IslamOnline.net.
"He is held there like an animal."
Her husband, Jamal, was arrested while gardening a house in Baghdad.
"One of the neighbours told us he was arrested by the militaries," she recalls.
"And after two weeks, a released prisoner brought me a letter from him. Since then I have been desperately trying to see him."
Ghaliyah's ordeal does not end here.
"I don't work and during all marriage years, I always took care of our home and kids while he worked to provide for the family," she says.
"Now, I don't have money and my family is too poor to us. I need him to keep this family alive," she added, with tears rolling down her checks.
Ghaliyah is one of thousands of Iraqi wives desperate for any information about their beloved husbands.
There are no official estimates of detainees in Iraqi custody, but human rights advocates asserted that most of them have not been given the right to have their day in court.
"The government is working hard to speed up all investigations and interrogations," Col. Abdul-Kareem Rafel, a senior Interior Ministry official, told IOL.
"People taken for interrogations are being released after that and if something is found, they are sent to court," he said.
"Families are receiving information but in some cases, they insist that a relative is in our custody though there isn't information about them in our files."
USAID Unable to Fund Islamic Projects
While funneling aid to Christian charities, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is hamstrung by legal barriers and stereotype fears to fund Islamic charities to promote Islamic teachings.
"Our legal position is too conservative," Clifford H. Brown, who worked with USAID in Kyrgyzstan three years ago, told the Washington Post on Thursday, July 30.
Three years ago, Brown unveiled an initiative to fund a project by the University of Montana to translate Islamic writings from Persian and Arabic into the Uzbek and Kyrgyz languages.
"Islam has a large body of moderate literature saying, for example, that suicide is a sin against Allah," he wrote in a paper describing his initiative.
"Not a bad idea, I thought at the time."
But Brown's initiative hit a dead end as USAID lawyers argued that US laws ban federal funding to religious charities.
"The lawyers are concerned about excessive entanglement with religion. Well, we're already entangled," Brown fumes.
But the USAID does provide funds for faith-based organizations, according to figures obtained by the Boston Globe newspaper in 2006 through a Freedom of Information Act.
The figures showed that from 2001 to 2005, more than 98 percent of USAID funds for faith-based organizations went to Christian groups.
The USAID inspector general's office also raised concerns last week about spending more than $325,000 to repair four mosques in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
USAID said most of the money went to repair facilities that provided jobs, social services, food and other basics for the needy.
Founded in 1961, USAID is the US government agency in charge of sending humanitarian aid in disaster situations around the world.
Since 2001, little USAID funding went to Muslim charities.
Karin von Hippel, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes US officials steer clear of Islamic charities.
She linked this to fears their careers could be harmed if the funding went to an entity that later turns out to be linked to militants.
Since the 9/11 attacks, authorities have placed Muslim charities under the microscope on claims of channeling funds to terrorists.
The intense pressures have forced many charities to stop transferring needed aid to orphanages in Muslim countries in order to keep operating at home.
In 2005, a coalition of Muslim-American leaders asked federal officials to issue a "white list" of clean charities Muslim-Americans could donate to without fear of prosecution or investigation.
Treasury officials refused.
US analysts maintain that restrictions on USAID and other civilian agencies undercut America's ability to win hearts and minds in regions where Islam plays a central role in public and private life.
"We can't just sit on our hands, which is what we have been doing for the past eight years," said von Hippel.
She said US civilian agencies need to have flexibility in funding Islamic causes, similar to military commanders who have much more freedom in funding rehabilitation of mosques and assistance for religious schools.
Brown, the former USAID official, agrees.
He maintains that US efforts to promote democracy and build schools, roads and clinics in the Muslim world will not succeed unless American officials help foster the spread of moderate Islam and its a message of peace.
Taliban Urges Afghan Poll Boycott
KANDAHAR – The emboldened Taliban on Thursday, July 30, asked Afghans to boycott next month's provisional and presidential elections and join the fighting against the US-led foreign troops instead.
"All Afghans, in line with their Afghan and Islamic principles, must boycott this deceiving American process," Taliban said in a statement cited by Agence France Presse (AFP).
"How could Afghans consider this an Afghan process when, contrary to all their national traditions, it is planned by the Americans and financed by the Americans?"
Afghanistan's 17 million eligible voters will cast their ballots on August 20 in some 7,000 voting centers or 28,500 smaller voting stations in 34 provinces and 356 districts.
Forty-one candidates, including incumbent President Hamid Karzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, are contesting the presidential polls.
In its Pashtu-language, Taliban claimed anyone voting in the elections would be seen as an ally of the "occupying forces".
It ordered its fighters to block all roads to stop voters from going to polling stations.
"They must prevent people from attending the elections and one day before the elections all roads and highways must be totally closed to government and civilian vehicles, and they must inform people."
Taliban did not, however, directly order strikes on voting centers.
Top UN official in Afghanistan Kai Eide had earlier this week urged Taliban not to disrupt the elections.
The presidential poll, the second since the 2001 US invasion, is seen as part of a Western strategy to move Afghanistan towards democracy after decades of war.
Taliban has disclaimed a pre-election ceasefire reached between local fighters and elders in a troubled district of northwestern Badghis province.
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Deaths in Iraq raid on Iranian camp
A raid by Iraqi troops on a camp housing members of an exiled Iranian opposition group has left four people dead and more than 400 wounded.
The Iraqi army had stormed Camp Ashraf to the north of Baghdad on Tuesday, but were forced to call in riot police to quell the violence when residents tried to resist.
Iraq's defence ministry said the offensive against the People's Mujahedeen base was justified under a security agreement signed by Baghdad and Washington in November.
"It's our territory and it's our right to enter, to impose Iraqi law on everybody," General Mohammed Askari, the defence ministry spokesman told Al-Arabiya television.
The offensive followed a declaration by the People's Mujahedeen that it was ready to return to Iran if the authorities there would guarantee its members would not be abused.
A police official said that at least 300 people, including 25 women, had been injured.
About 110 members of the Iraqi security forces were also wounded in the violence, he said, and more than 50 camp residents were detained.
Some 3,500 People's Mujahedeen supporters and their families live in Camp Ashraf.
Is Turkey preparing for peace?
There is much speculation about the government's 'Kurdish initiative' and if it will be enough to end the long-running conflict
Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be about to deliver the biggest blow yet to the fraying ultra-nationalist legacy of Turkey's founding father and first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But ironically given recent controversies, the prime minister's anticipated demarche is not about advancing his supposed Islamist agenda. Instead it concerns the rights of Turkey's 12 million-strong ethnic Kurd minority, which Ataturk did more than most to suppress.
Robert Fisk: Gulf War legacy flares as 'stingy' Kuwait puts the squeeze on Iraq
Almost 19 years to the day after Saddam Hussein's legions invaded Kuwait – and less than 18 years since the US coalition liberated it – the Croesus-rich emirate is still demanding reparations from Baghdad as if the dictator of Iraq was still alive.. Only this week, the Kuwaitis were accusing the Iraqis of encroaching on their unmarked border while insisting at the United Nations that Iraq must continue to pay 5 per cent of its oil revenues to Kuwait as invasion reparations.
Hamid al-Bayati, Baghdad's UN ambassador, has pleaded at the UN for an immediate reduction now that Saddam's regime has been gone for more than six years. Up until April of 2009, Iraq had paid $27.1bn of the total compensation but still owes Kuwait alone another $24bn, "a heavy burden on Iraq," as Mr Bayati put it, "which needs the money for services, reconstruction and development."
Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, has now told the UN that reparations can surely be reduced since modern-day Iraq no longer poses a threat to anyone.
Taliban issues code of conduct
The Taliban in Afghanistan has issued a book laying down a code of conduct for its fighters.
Al Jazeera has obtained a copy of the book, which further indicates that Mullah Omar, the movement's leader, wants to centralise its operations.
The book, with 13 chapters and 67 articles, lays out what one of the most secretive organisations in the world today, can and cannot do.
It talks of limiting suicide attacks, avoiding civilian casualties and winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the local civilian population.
Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said every fighter is being issued the pocket book entitled "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Rules for Mujahideen".
The book sheds considerable light on the structure, organisation and aims of the group, he said.
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Malalai Joya: The woman who will not be silenced
Enraged by Taliban oppression Malalai Joya became a women’s rights activist, and after the US-led invasion, took on the new regime as an MP. But speaking out has come at a cost. She tells Johann Hari why death threats won’t stop her exposing ugly truths about Afghanistan.
I am not sure how many more days I will be alive," Malalai Joya says quietly.
The warlords who make up the new "democratic" government in Afghanistan have been sending bullets and bombs to kill this tiny 30-year-old from the refugee camps for years – and they seem to be getting closer with every attempt. Her enemies call her a "dead woman walking". "But I don't fear death, I fear remaining silent in the face of injustice," she says plainly. "I am young and I want to live. But I say to those who would eliminate my voice: 'I am ready, wherever and whenever you might strike. You can cut down the flower, but nothing can stop the coming of the spring.'"
The story of Malalai Joya turns everything we have been told about Afghanistan inside out. In the official rhetoric, she is what we have been fighting for.. Here is a young Afghan woman who set up a secret underground school for girls under the Taliban and – when they were toppled – cast off the burka, ran for parliament, and took on the religious fundamentalists.
Growing old in an alien setting
By 2050, increasingly lengthy life spans and slumping birth rates will mean that Europe's workforce will decrease by 38 million, while those aged 65 and over will rise by 40 million.
As part of Al Jazeera's special series on Europe's ageing population, Shamim Chowdhury looks at South Asians in the UK.
Abjol Miah is a busy man. As well as holding down a full-time job and fulfilling his duties towards his wife and four children, he also keeps a constant eye on his elderly parents.
This latter commitment is made all the more difficult because, in a move away from the traditional Bangladeshi culture his family belongs to, Abjol has chosen to live outside his parental home.
His decision is one example of a growing social phenomenon in Britain, where sons of South Asian immigrants are moving out of the family home when they marry, opting instead for a nuclear family arrangement more in line with mainstream British society.
Abjol says the break-up of his extended family is an inevitable consequence of living in the West, but insists his relationship with his parents will not be damaged.
"What matters is the love we have for each other as a family," he says.
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Out of the Stone Age: Empowering a West Bank village
As the Americans embark on a new peace mission, Donald Macintyre reports from a West Bank village trapped by its history but now lit up with help from across the divide