Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

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Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests that have erupted in Iran. (AFP)
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Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests that have erupted in Iran. (AFP)
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Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests that have erupted in Iran. (AFP)
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Updated 30 September 2022

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

KABUL:  Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests in Iran over the death of a woman in the custody of morality police.
Deadly protests have erupted in neighboring Iran for the past two weeks, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while detained by the Islamic republic’s morality police.
Chanting the same “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran, about 25 Afghan women protested in front of Kabul’s Iranian embassy before being dispersed by Taliban forces firing in the air, an AFP correspondent reported.
Women protesters carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn!” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!“
Taliban forces swiftly snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters.
Defiant Afghan women’s rights activists have staged sporadic protests in Kabul and some other cities since the Taliban stormed back to power last August.
The protests, banned by the Taliban, contravene a slew of harsh restrictions imposed by the hard-line extremists on Afghan women.
The Taliban have forcefully dispersed women’s rallies in the past, warned journalists against covering them and detained activists helming organization efforts.
An organizer of Thursday’s protest, speaking anonymously, told AFP it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban have banned secondary school education for girls and barred women from many government jobs.
Women have also been ordered to fully cover themselves in public, preferably with the all-encompassing burqa.
So far the Taliban have dismissed international calls to remove the curbs on women, especially the ban on secondary school education.
On Tuesday, a United Nations report denounced the “severe restrictions” and called for them to be reversed.
The international community has insisted that lifting controls on women’s rights is a key condition for recognizing the Taliban government, which no country has so far done.


Daesh group announces death of chief, names replacement

Updated 20 min 36 sec ago

Daesh group announces death of chief, names replacement

  • Says leader Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi has been killed in battle
  • Announces a replacement to head up its remaining sleeper cells

The Daesh militant group said Wednesday that its leader Abu Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi has been killed in battle and announced a replacement to head up its remaining sleeper cells.

A spokesman for Daesh said Hashimi, an Iraqi, was killed "in combat with enemies of God", without elaborating on the date or circumstances of his death.

The US military's Central Command (CENTCOM) said Hashimi had been killed in an operation carried out by rebels of the Free Syrian Army in Daraa province in southern Syria in mid-October.

Daraa province is mostly controlled by Syrian government forces and rebels who have reached understandings with the regime. In mid-October, Damascus said it had launched a joint operation against Daesh with former rebels in the south of the province.

Using an alternative acronym for Daesh, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: "We welcome the announcement that another leader from Daesh is no longer walking in the face of the Earth."

Speaking in an audio message, the Daesh spokesman said Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi had been named as the group's new leader.

After a meteoric rise in Iraq and Syria in 2014 that saw it conquer vast swathes of territory, Daesh saw its self-proclaimed "caliphate" collapse under a wave of offensives.

The extremist group's austere and terror-ridden rule was marked by beheadings and shootings. 

It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells still carry out attacks in both countries.

The group or its branches have also claimed attacks elsewhere this year, including in Afghanistan, Iran and Israel.

The spokesman did not provide details on the new leader, but said he was a "veteran" jihadist and called on all groups loyal to Daesh to pledge their allegiance to its fourth leader.

Daesh's previous chief, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, was killed in February this year in a US raid in Idlib province in northern Syria.

His predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed, also in Idlib, in October 2019.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not comment on any US involvement in the operation that led to Hashimi's death.

"We are pleased to see the removal of Daesh leaders in such quick succession," she told reporters "The United States remains committed to countering the global threat from Daesh and stands ready to work with international partners."

The Daesh leadership have suffered repeated blows from various quarters this year.

In October, US forces killed a "senior" Daesh member in a pre-dawn raid in northeastern Syria, CENTCOM said at the time.

The US leads a military coalition battling Daesh in Syria. 

The raid targeted "Rakkan Wahid al-Shammari, an Daesh official known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and fighters", CENTCOM said.

It said a later air strike had killed two other senior Daesh members.

In July, the Pentagon said it had killed Syria's top Daesh jihadist in a drone strike in the north of the country.

US Central Command said he had been "one of the top five" Daesh leaders.

Turkey said in September security forces had arrested a "senior executive" of Daesh known as Abu Zeyd, whose real name was Bashar Khattab Ghazal al-Sumaidai.

Turkish media said there were some indications Sumaidai might have been the Daesh leader.

Thousands of suspected militants and their relatives are still detained in camps in Syria and prisons in Iraq.

In January, Daesh launched a major attack on a prison housing fellow jihadists in northeastern Syria, in a jailbreak attempt that triggered a week of deadly clashes.

Hundreds of Daesh prisoners, including senior leaders, were thought to have escaped, with some crossing to neighbouring Turkey or Turkish-held territory in northern Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Pentagon warned Tuesday that a threatened Turkish ground operation against Kurdish targets in Syria would "severely jeopardise" gains made in the war against Daesh.


UN launches record $51.5bn emergency funding appeal

Updated 45 min 2 sec ago

UN launches record $51.5bn emergency funding appeal

  • United Nations: 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year
  • UN aid chief Martin Griffiths: ‘next year is going to be the biggest humanitarian program’ the world has ever seen

GENEVA: The UN appealed for record funds for aid next year, as the Ukraine war and other conflicts, climate emergencies and the still-simmering pandemic push more people into crisis, and some toward famine.
The United Nations’ annual Global Humanitarian Overview estimated that 339 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year — a staggering 65 million more people than the estimate a year ago.
“It’s a phenomenal number and it’s a depressing number,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva, adding that it meant “next year is going to be the biggest humanitarian program” the world has ever seen.
If all the people in need of emergency assistance were in one country, it would be the third-largest nation in the world, after China and India, he said.
And the new estimate means that one in 23 people will need help in 2023, compared to one in 95 back in 2015.
As the extreme events seen in 2022 spill into 2023, Griffiths described the humanitarian needs as “shockingly high.”
“Lethal droughts and floods are wreaking havoc in communities from Pakistan to the Horn of Africa,” he said, also pointing to the war in Ukraine, which “has turned a part of Europe into a battlefield.”
The annual appeal by UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations said that providing aid to the 230 million most vulnerable people across 68 countries would require a record $51.5 billion.
That was up from the $41 billion requested for 2022, although the sum has been revised up to around $50 billion during the year — with less than half of that sought-for amount funded.
“For people on the brink, this appeal is a lifeline,” Griffiths said.
The report presented a depressing picture of soaring needs brought on by a range of conflicts, worsening instability and a deepening climate crisis.
“There is no doubt that 2023 is going to perpetuate these on-steroids trends,” Griffiths warned.
The overlapping crises have already left the world dealing with the “largest global food crisis in modern history,” the UN warned.
It pointed out that at least 222 million people across 53 countries were expected to face acute food insecurity by the end of this year, with 45 million of them facing the risk of starvation.
“Five countries already are experiencing what we call famine-like conditions, in which we can confidently, unhappily, say that people are dying as a result,” Griffiths said.
Those countries — Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia and South Sudan — have seen portions of their populations face “catastrophic hunger” this year, but have not yet seen country-wide famines declared.
Forced displacement is meanwhile surging, with the number of people living as refugees, asylum seekers or displaced inside their own country passing 100 million — over one percent of the global population — for the first time this year.
“And all of this on top of the devastation left by the pandemic among the world’s poorest,” Griffiths said, also pointing to outbreaks of mpox, previously known as monkeypox, Ebola, cholera and other diseases.
Conflicts have taken a dire toll on a range of countries, not least on Ukraine, where Russia’s full-scale invasion in February has left millions in dire need.
The global humanitarian plan will aim to provide $1.7 billion in cash assistance to 6.3 million people inside the war-torn country, and also $5.7 billion to help the millions of Ukrainians and their host communities in surrounding countries.
More than 28 million people are meanwhile considered to be in need in drought-hit Afghanistan, which last year saw the Taliban sweep back into power, while another eight million Afghans and their hosts in the region also need assistance.
More than $5 billion has been requested to address that combined crisis, while further billions were requested to help the many millions of people impacted by the years-long conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The appeal also highlighted the dire situation in Ethiopia, where worsening drought and a two-year-conflict in Tigray have left nearly 29 million people in desperate need of assistance.
Faced with such towering needs, Griffiths said he hoped 2023 would be a year of “solidarity, just as 2022 has been a year of suffering.”

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Pakistan Test commences on schedule today after England stomach bug scare

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan Test commences on schedule today after England stomach bug scare

  • England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug
  • Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board said the first Test against England in Rawalpindi would go on as per schedule today, Thursday, after England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug.

There were fears on Wednesday the virus outbreak could force England to change the team for the Test which had been announced on Tuesday.

England are on their first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years, following their Twenty20 side playing seven matches in the country two months ago, taking the series 4-3.

“The ECB has informed the PCB that they are in a position to field an XI, and, as such, the first #PAKvENG Test will commence as per schedule today (Thursday, 1 December) at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium,” PCB said on Twitter.

Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef, Omar Meziane, who also worked with the England men's football team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and at Euro 2020.

England and Pakistan will contest a three-Test series with the second in Multan beginning December 9 and the third in Karachi from December 17-21.


Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

  • Federal Shariat Court gave a five-year deadline to the government to Islamize the country’s financial system
  • Religious scholars call for practical steps to transform Pakistan’s banking system under the court’s verdict

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday a dedicated wing would soon be established at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to ensure the country’s transformation into an interest-free economy to comply with a ruling of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) earlier this year.

The FSC directed the government in April to eliminate riba, or interest, within five years while pointing out its prohibition was absolute in all forms and manifestations in Islam.

The finance minister said his government was committed to transforming Pakistan’s banking system by December 2027, adding it would up the special wing at the SBP to expedite the process.

“A wing would be formed at the SBP and I will notify the formation of wing within a week,” Dar said while addressing at a seminar on the prohibition of riba in Karachi.

“We can’t establish a ministry [to oversee the economic transformation] which is also not needed,” he continued while emphasizing that the role of the central bank was “pivotal” in Islamizing the banking system of the country.

Referring to the deadline set by the court, the finance minister said the conversion of the banking system was doable within five years.

“This is not the work that can’t be done in five years,” he said while asking the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) along with the central bank to diligently work on the project.

“A base has already been established as the share of Islamic banking in terms of the overall assets and deposits has surged by 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the overall banking sector,” he added.

The finance minister noted that significant progress had been made in relation to the Islamization of Pakistan’s banking system during his government’s previous tenure, adding that things came to a halt due to political instability in the country.

“Today the financial share of the Islamic banks would have been 40 percent instead of 20 percent,” he said.

Earlier, the SBP governor, Jameel Ahmad, noted the demand for Islamic banking services was far greater than the conventional ones. He added the central bank was therefore taking more “measures to meet the growing demand.”

“We have already commenced work on a transformation plan to shift to Islamic banking,” Ahmed said.

He informed a high-level working group of officials from the SBP, SECP and finance ministry had been formed and activated which was responsible for developing Sukuk structures.

Ahmed said that Pakistan currently had five full-fledged Islamic banks offering a wide range of products and their annual growth rate over the last five years in terms of their assets and deposits had been 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

This, he noted, was far higher than most conventional banks.

Speaking at the seminar, Mufti Taqi Usmani, a prominent Islamic scholar, appreciated the government’s decision to withdraw appeals against the FSC decision which had earlier been filed in the Supreme Court.

Usmani asked the finance ministry to take practical steps to move toward an interest-free system in the country while pointing out that some private banks had yet not withdrawn their petitions against the FSC ruling.

Political and religious leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and Siraj-ul-Haq, emir of Jamaat-e-Islami party, also participated in the seminar.


Green Falcons depart the World Cup with bittersweet memories of Lusail Stadium

Updated 01 December 2022

Green Falcons depart the World Cup with bittersweet memories of Lusail Stadium

  • Despite exiting Qatar 2022 at the site of their historic victory over Argentina, the Saudi players and supporters showed why they will be badly missed at the tournament

DOHA: Saudi Arabia will leave this World Cup having developed a love-hate relationship with Lusail Stadium. This striking architectural masterpiece is where their World Cup sprang to life in sensational fashion with that stunning win over Argentina in their opening game, which will be remembered for generations.

Sadly, after losing to Poland in game two, they could not follow up the triumph over Argentina with victory against Mexico in game three, and so it was that at Lusail Stadium on Wednesday their campaign came to a somewhat anticlimactic end.

But both before and after the game the Saudi fans showed why they will be so badly missed during the remainder of the tournament. Despite the defeat, they were in joyous spirits after the game, spilling out onto Lusail Boulevard to celebrate what was their modern footballing coming of age.

Walking — or should that be running — to Lusail Stadium before the game in a mad dash after witnessing Australia make history at Al-Janoub Stadium, one could be forgiven for thinking there were as many fans outside as inside.

Lusail Boulevard was looking resplendent as ever, with the flags of the competing nations flying overhead as tens of thousands of fans mingled and the match got underway.

As I arrived shortly after kick-off, the screams and cheers could be heard some distance from the stadium, leaving one to wonder what exactly was happening and which set of fans were making all the noise. As numerous and vocal as the Saudi fans were, the Mexican fans matched anything they had to offer.

There was so much green inside Lusail that it was hard to know which team had the greatest support because, once again, the atmosphere generated by both sets of fans was incredible.

Despite their win over Argentina and an impressive showing against Poland in defeat, the Green Falcons were under the pump for most of the first half against a Mexican side that clearly meant business. Mexico knew they needed goals to have any hope of advancing and they came out with only one intent.

Missing a host of first-team regulars, victory was always going to be a tall order for Herve Renard’s side and that is exactly how the first half played out. The Green Falcons managed few advances into the forward third of the pitch, at least few that threatened, and so the biggest cheers were reserved for lunging tackles and desperate saves.

Still, at the break the Saudis were still alive. While the score remained 0-0 they stood a chance, and with Salem Al-Dawsari there is always reason to be optimistic.

Lusail Stadium has instantly become an iconic World Cup Stadium. From its stunning, shimmering gold facade to the steep banks of seats in the grandstands that have the near-90,000 fans sitting right on top of the action, it will provide an incredible setting for the final in a little over two weeks.

But tonight, Mexico did to Saudi Arabia what the Saudis did to Argentina on matchday one, scoring two goals in a four-minute spell inside of the opening 10 minutes of the second half that ended the contest and silenced the normally vociferous Saudi fans.

But while those wearing Saudi green had lost their voice, those in Mexican green had found theirs. Beating drums, screaming chants, waving flags; the Mexican fans brought Lusail Stadium to life and the party did not end with the full-time whistle.

The great shame for the rest of the tournament is that both teams were eliminated, because the World Cup has lost two of its most passionate sets of fans.

But as the party continued on Lusail Boulevard long after full time we were reminded that the World Cup is not only about success on the pitch — it is also about the experience, the atmosphere and uniting the world.

As I looked around at the Saudi fans in Mexican hats, and fans from all over the world mingling and sharing the experience, I’m reminded that tonight there truly were no losers.