Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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Raif Badawi: Wife of Saudi blogger launches campaign to free African writer on death row for criticising prophet Mohamed

The wife of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger sentenced to ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, has launched a campaign to free an African writer who is on death row in Mauritania for criticising the prophet Mohamed.

In an article for The Independent, Ensaf Haider said that while “millions of people around the world” had campaigned for her husband’s release, the case of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir risked being forgotten by the international community.

The 30-year-old journalist was arrested in January last year after publishing an article on the website of the newspaper Aqlame. In it, he criticised the Mauritanian caste system and said that certain social groups were being marginalised because of their religion.

Mr Mkhaitir later “repented” during a pre-trial hearing at a military police station and again during his trial in December last year, telling a court in the city of Nouadhibou he had not meant to insult Islam but intended to denounce those who used religion to belittle others.

Despite Mauritanian law stating that leniency must be shown if a defendant repents, the judge convicted him of having “lack of respect for the prophet” and handed down a death sentence – the first imposed in Mauritania for apostasy since the country gained independence in 1960.
Ms Haider, who has led the international campaign for her husband’s release, said Mr Mkhaitir “could be executed at any time” if pressure was not placed on the Mauritanian government to reconsider his sentence.
“Millions of people around the world rallied to the support of Raif Badawi; who will care for a poor young man in Mauritania?” she wrote. “He will be executed for blasphemy – by those who insist that Isis does not represent Islam.”
Dozens of human rights organisations signed a joint statement in March calling for Mr Mkhaitir to be freed, describing him as “a prisoner of conscience who has not committed any crime but was merely peacefully exercising his right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion”.
However, there have since been no updates on his case. His lawyer told Mauritanian television earlier this year that his condition in prison was “miserable” and that he had been tortured and placed in solitary confinement, Ms Haider said.
Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa researcher, said: “The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in cases like that of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir where a dubious law is being used to stifle free speech.
“Mohamed Cheikh’s trial was blatantly flawed and his repentance – which should have entitled him to leniency – was twice ignored by the authorities. We continue to call for his immediate and unconditional release.”
The writer’s case has numerous parallels with that of Mr Badawi, who was arrested in June 2012 over material published on his Saudi Arabian Liberals website. While he has been in prison, the 31-year-old activist has received a number of awards for promoting freedom of expression and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr Badawi has so far only received one round of 50 lashes, which are supposed to be carried out weekly. Earlier this month his family learned that the kingdom’s Supreme Court is reviewing his case, raising the possibility that his draconian sentence may be reduced – but Ms Haider says “the flogging could still happen at any time”.



The Saudi authorities arrested 27 Christians in the Eastern Province for holding prayers for Virgin Mary. They could face religious persecution and deportation. Non-Wahhabis are generally not allowed to practice their faith in the Saudi kingdom. On Tuesday 18th August The United Arab Emirates arrested a prominent Emirati economist who has previously supported calls for democratic reform in the oil-rich Gulf state. State security arrested Nasser bin Ghaith at his work in Abu Dhabi and took him to Dubai where security service agents searched his home for over four and a half hours. He was then taken to an unknown location. Ghaith is an Emirati economist who has lectured at the Abu Dhabi campus of the Paris-based Sorbonne University. He also works as an economic and legal consultant to the UAE army.
In the week 10-16th August at least 29 native Bahrainis were arrested by the Alkhalifa regime, mostly for taking part in peaceful protests. Yesterday, Tuesday 18th August, a leading AlWefaq figure, Sheikh HassanIsa was arrested at the airport and is likely to be charged with opposing the hereditary dictatorship. On 17th August Mahmood Hassan Al Hamar, 20, was arrested in a raid on his home at Dair Town. He had previously been detained and tortured and is in bad physical health. On 17th August, Salman Ali Salman,from Dair Town, was also detained. On 13th August, Ayman Salam was detained at the airport and taken to one of the torture houses operated by the regime outside official prisons. On 11th August, Mohammad Yousuf was detained while trying to cross the causeway to Saudi Arabia.
Basket Ball player, Hussain Taqi, has been detained for his alleged role in a recent bombing at Sitra. But he was at his work when the incident happened. On 13th August Ali Mohsin Baddaw, a grandfather from Duraz, was arrested and taken to the torture chambers for unspecified reasons. All his children are in detention. With his arrest only his wife and a disabled child are left behind. Sayed Adnan AlKhabbaz has been sentenced to five years jail. This means he won’t be able to continue his secondary education. Denial of the right to education has become a tool against the native Baharna citizens. Abbas MalAllah who has been in prison for some time has been on hunger strike for two weeks in protest against ill-treatment and regular beating. For the seventh time, Taiba Dawish has been remanded in custody for two more weeks. Repeated detention without trial amounts to harassment and human rights violation.
This year the Independence Day has been marked by Bahrainis with great enthusiasm inside the country and outside. While the people organised large protests and attempted to reach the Pearl Roundabout to mark 14th August, there have been several activities outside. In London, a Press Conference was held by Lord Avebury on Wednesday 12th August. On Thursday, 13 August, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and Human Rights Watch held a roundtable discussion regarding concerns regarding human rights in Bahrain and UK policy towards the country. Chaired by Nicholas McGeehan, Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), the discussion also included speakers Shane Enright, Global Trade Union Adviser at Amnesty UK, Kevin Laue, Legal officer at Redress and Isa Al-Aali, a Bahraini torture survivor recently granted asylum by UK court. The discussion was attended by representatives from a number of organisations including Amnesty International, Index on Censorship, Reprieve, NASUWT, English Pen and Chatham House amongst others. On 7th August, Nine-year-old boy, Mohammed Mahmood Ali Habib, was shot in the eye. While he was walking from his grandfather’s house to his house in the Bani Jamra area Mohammed was shot in his left eye by the occupants of an armoured vehicle operated by regime’s Death Squads. He was wounded with one pellet in the left eye. A number of cars parked in the same area were also damaged. There were no reports of any protests in the area.
Under the title “When Bahrain Says You’re Not Bahraini Anymore” Natasha Bowler wrote an article yesterday on Foreign Policy website. She said: “The Bahraini government began revoking citizenship shortly after the Arab Spring engulfed large sections of the Middle East, Bahrain included, in 2011. On Feb. 14 of that year, both Shiite and Sunni Bahrainis took to the streets to demand the same rights and political freedoms for the majority Shiite population as for their Sunni compatriots. The regime of the ruling Al-Khalifa family, who are Sunnis, sent in troops to put down the movement. But four years later, demonstrators still protest every night on the streets of the country’s Shiite villages. “The regime is running out of options. It has tortured people, starved thousands to death, openly killed hundreds of people in the street, and yet Bahrainis are still adamant on achieving change,” says doctor and activist Saeed Al-Shehabi, who was made stateless in 2012. “Revoking citizenship is just yet another tool to scarepeople and deter them from asking for their rights.”

Human Rights Watch urges Bahrain to release opposition leader

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described the trial of Bahrain’s prominent opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman as unfair and politically motivated, urging the ruling Al Khalifa regime to release him immediately.
The high-profile rights body said Tuesday that a review of documents in Salman’s most recent court shows that he was convicted on charges that violate the right to freedom of expression.
“The authorities should vacate Sheikh Ali Salman’s conviction on charges that violate the right to freedom of expression and release him without delay,” said a statement on the HRW’s website.
Sheikh Ali Salman is the leader of Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq Islamic Society. He was arrested last year and sentenced to four years in jail in July for what the regime calls inciting hatred. Prosecutors in Bahrain say Salman’s detention is related to a series of speeches and sermons in which the senior cleric offended the regime.
The HRW noted, however, that the presiding judge in Salman’s case refused to let his lawyers present crucial evidence to prove his innocence.
“The court’s refusal to consider crucial defense evidence confirms the political nature of Sheikh Ali Salman’s prosecution,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director of the HRW, adding, “The manifest unfairness of the trial means the authorities should release Salman immediately.”
The HRW also criticized the court for relying on testimony from Bahrain’s Interior Minister Khalid al-Sa’idi instead of reviewing actual content of Salman’s speeches. The statement said that Sa’idi’s written description of Salman’s speeches may have “misrepresented” their content.
The Bahraini court has already acquitted Salman of one of his major charges, namely advocating the overthrow of the regime.
However, the revered cleric was sentenced to four years in prison over three speech-related charges on June 16.
The HRW said the court has based its ruling on “wrong” testimony by Sa’idi, which had claimed that during a sermon on October 10, 2014, Salman said, “The people have bigger and bigger force in them. All that you need to do is call forth this force. I’m talking now about military force.”
The rights body said a recording of the actual speech, which can be easily found on the Internet, shows that Salman actually said “I am not talking about military force.”
Bahrain has scheduled Salman’s appeal for September 16. His four-year ruling is based on three two-year convictions, two of which will be implemented concurrently. Salman was also sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the Bahraini Interior Ministry, a maximum penalty for such cases in the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Opposition figures and rights activists have criticized Manama for handing down such harsh sentences, saying the rulings run counter to the Bahraini government’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which stipulates that “states parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”
“The behavior of the court in Sheikh Ali Salman’s case shows again that Bahrain’s justice system has been incapable of delivering justice,” Whitson stated.

Fascist Saudis committing war crimes in Yemen

Press TV has conducted an interview with Fatik al-Rodaini, a journalist and human rights activist in Sana’a, to discuss the ongoing Saudi military aggression against Yemen.

Following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: First of all, apart from just the civilian deaths that are taking place, there are many who point out that Saudi Arabia is ensuring that even aid does not get to the civilian population of Yemen.  What do you make of that?
Rodaini: I think Saudi Arabia has committed lots of war crimes in Ta’izz every day. We are hearing every day about war crimes committed everywhere not only in Ta’izz but also in many places all over Yemen.
I was shocked because I heard yesterday that Saudi airstrikes killed 54 people, most of them children and women. It is not that it only happened for the first time. It happens every day, every single day. It happens in Hudaydah, in Mocha, and also in Sa’ada, where many people were killed and wounded because Saudi Arabia wanted that.
Also there is another point. I am talking about the humanitarian aid. I think nothing has arrived yet, or people in Yemen cannot have a lot of things, because the KSA targeted the Hudaydah sea port. 
Press TV: Tell us a bit more about the position of those forces who are loyal to the fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi?
Rodaini: The fighting in Ta’izz … maybe there is some resistance, but there are also radical groups who are fighting with the resistance. We have seen the picture published in social media about people who were fighting with the Yemeni army, most of them slaughtered, first arrested and then they were slaughtered. I am sure there is a little bit resistance in Ta’izz but not all of them are resistance. I think radical groups like AQAP and ISIS are fighting also together with the resistance in Ta’izz.



At least 398 children have been killed and more than 605 maimed since the “brutal armed conflict” in Yemen escalated on March 26, reported the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF on Wednesday.

That means that on average, nearly three children are being killed daily, and another five injured—“more than four times the number killed in 2014 and three times the number injured,” noted the report, tilted Yemen: Childhood Under Threat, adding that “the actual number of children killed or maimed could be higher.”
Among the casualties are a growing number of children who are being recruited by armed forces and other groups.
At least 377 children “have been recruited and used by parties to the conflict up to the end of July —more than double the total of 156 children in 2014,” UNICEF confirmed in the report, which was released Wednesday.
“All warring sides in Yemen are increasingly using teenage boys — who see fighting as a way to support their families financially — to swell their ranks,” indicated UNICEF, according to Reuters.
A Sunni Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been targeting Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen with airstrikes and ground operations since late March in an effort to restore exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh and has been recognized by the international community as Yemen’s legitimate leader.
More than 4,300 people have been killed in the war, most of them civilians. Disease and hunger continues to spread across the country.
“Yemen is one of the most terrifying places in the world to be a child. Children are bearing the brunt of a brutal armed conflict that escalated in March this year and shows no sign of a resolution. Scores of children are dying every month, while those who survive live in constant fear of being killed,” reports UNICEF.
“Since the escalation of fighting basic services that children depend on have been decimated. Food, medicine and water are all in short supply,” it adds. “Nearly 10 million children – 80 per cent of the country’s under-18 population — need urgent humanitarian assistance. More than 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes.”
Although many children are fatally falling victim to bullets and bombs, “Countless more” are at risk of death from otherwise preventable diseases and lack of proper nutrition, the U.N. report pointed out.
“As the conflict escalates, malnutrition — long endemic in Yemen – is posing an even more insidious threat to Yemen’s children,” proclaimed the U.N. agency. “Overall, around 1.8 million children are likely to suffer from some form of malnutrition in Yemen in this year alone — a total increase of almost one million children from 2014.”
“A projected 537,000 of these children will be at risk of severe acute malnutrition in 2015, which is over three times the 160,000 reported in 2014,” it continued.
The health system in Yemen is falling apart due to shortages of medicines and medical supplies, a situation that is fueling the rapid spread of communicable diseases such as malaria and dengue.
“An already fragile health system is crumbling in Yemen, leaving over 15 million people in need of basic health care. Shortages of medicines and medical supplies are severely constraining the functioning of health facilities that remain open,” reported UNICEF.
A quarter of Yemen’s 3,652 medical facilities (about 900) are no longer administering much needed routine vaccinations.
Moreover, nearly 2 million children in Yemen have no access to education.
“At least 3,600 schools have closed over the past two months, leaving 1.8 million children deprived of education,” reports UNICEF.
“This conflict is a particular tragedy for Yemeni children,” said UNICEF Representative in Yemen, Julien Harneis, adding,“Children are being killed by bombs or bullets and those that survive face the growing threat of disease and malnutrition. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

4,500 killed in Yemen in 150 Days of Fascist Saudi-led bombing

Approximately 4,500 people, many civilians, have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing 150 days ago, according to the UN. 23,000 more have been wounded.
An average of 30 people have been killed in Yemen every single day since the beginning of the war on March 26, which pits a US-backed coalition of Middle Eastern nations and forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against Iran-backed Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
UNICEF estimates nearly 400 children have been killed and over 600 injured in the past four months in the country, the poorest in the Middle East.
13 Yemeni teaching staff and four children were killed by a Saudi air strike on August 20. Two days before, coalition bombing in the Amran province took the lives of 17 civilians, injuring 20 more. UNICEF condemned what it called the “senseless bloodshed.”
A Red Cross spokeswoman said the violence in Ta’iz, in southern Yemen, in just one day on August 21 left 80 people dead.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda continues to grow and take more territory as the US-backed, Saudi-led bombing destroys infrastructure and plunges millions of Yemenis, most of whom already lived in abject poverty before the war began, into further desperation.
As early as April, US politicians including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that the “disorder” in Yemen, greatly inflamed by the bombing supported by their own country, was strengthening al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). I wrote about this at the time: “US-Backed Saudi Bombing Kills 38 Yemeni Civilians a Day, Creating Humanitarian Disaster & Feeding Extremism.”
The Houthis and al-Qaeda are sworn enemies. Al-Qaeda seeks to capitalize on the chaos in which the country is embroiled. In the midst of the bedlam, however, ISIS has also attempted to extend its influence influence in the region. Further adding to the messy entanglement of alliances, ISIS has fought not just the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition, but also al-Qaeda.
Yemenis in the rubble of homes destroyed by coalition airstrikes in the capital city of Sana'a CREDIT: Hani Mohammed / AP
Yemenis in the rubble of homes destroyed by coalition air strikes in the capital city of Sana’a
CREDIT: Hani Mohammed / AP
Almost half a year into the conflict, violence appears to be escalating, not diminishing.
In July, I reported that, according to UN figures, 3,000 people had been killed in Yemen in the first 100 days of Saudi-led bombing, half of whom were civilians.
Just 20 days later, that figure had risen to at least 3,600 dead, with over 17,300 wounded.
July 24 was the bloodiest day of the conflict yet. On that day alone, coalition air strikes killed over 120 civilians and wounded 150 more in Ta’iz.
Leading human rights organizations maintain the US and other Western allies of Saudi Arabia can be held accountable for war crimes being committed by the coalition.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, a Yemeni man insisted that the US was complicit in the coalition’s killing of children.

I detailed the accusations of war crimes and the enormous hardship which millions of Yemenis must endure in July:
Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Before the war broke out, over half of the population lived on less than $2 USD a day and had no access to clean water, according to the World Food Program. 41% of the population was food-insecure, and child malnutrition rates were among the highest in the world. Unemployment rates exceeded 40%, over 60% among the youth.
90% of Yemen’s food is imported, yet Saudi Arabia’s stringent air, water, and land blockade, in the name of preventing weapons from entering the war-torn country, has prevented not just food, but also fuel, medicine, and urgently needed aid from getting to the millions in need.
Even journalists have been denied entry by Saudi forces. The Nation foreign correspondent Matthieu Aikins explained he had to smuggle his crew in by boat from neighboring Djibouti.
In the meantime, extremist groups, namely al-Qaeda, have flourished in these dire conditions.
The coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, consists of monarchies Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, and Morocco, along with Egypt and Sudan.
The US and other Western nations have provided Saudi Arabia with weapons, in spite of knowledge that the arms are being used to commit what human rights organizations and the UN have classified as potential war crimes.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the Saudi-led coalition has engaged in unlawful targeting of civilian areas. Coalition air strikes have rained down on hospitals, schools, neighborhoods, and more.
Amnesty International has accused the coalition of knowingly violating international humanitarian law in its bombing campaign. And there “is no indication that the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition has done anything to prevent and redress such violations,” remarked Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor Donatella Rovera.
Just a few days into its assault, the Saudi-led coalition bombed a refugee camp, killing roughly 40 people, injuring around 200 more.
Weeks later, the coalition purposefully destroyed an Oxfam humanitarian aid warehouse, in what HRW classified as “an apparent violation of the laws of war.” Oxfam “vehemently condemned” the attack.
In its attacks, the coalition has also used banned cluster munitions, weapons that are prohibited by a 2008 treaty that was adopted by 116 countries (Saudi Arabia and the US refused to sign the accord).
The US is complicit in these potential war crimes, HRW maintains. The UN and human rights organizations have called on Western nations to cease their support for the military assault, which has pushed Yemen to the edge of catastrophe.
- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/08/killed-saudi-bombing#sthash.f733nhlr.dpuf

Erasing Middle East’s long history amounts to a ‘new war crime’

There is a point at which we become almost inured to the latest excesses of Islamic State (IS). After civilian massacres, beheadings, rapes and enslavements of women, the throwing of gay men off buildings . . . we are again shocked and pained by the next atrocity, but the bloody brand has been established. It can’t get any worse. And so the latest barbarity, the torture and beheading of Palmyra’s brave 83-year-old head of antiquities Khalid al-Asaad last week, and the weekend dynamiting of the Temple of Baalshamin, one of Palmyra’s and of the world’s best-preserved first-century temples, is really just more of the same, another variation that serves primarily as a PR stunt to capture headlines across the world by a media savvy organisation.
But although it is perhaps difficult to perceive the archaeological vandalism as akin to mass murder, UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural body, has rightly described IS’s rampage through Syria and Iraq’s priceless antiquities, an irreplaceable loss of world heritage and obliteration of untold future scholarship, as a “new war crime”.
Syria, one of history’s most important crossroads – Palmyra was an oasis on the Silk Road – contains some 10,000 sites of archaeological interest. After sweeping through much of northern Iraq last year, Isis set its sights on the ruins near its stronghold of Mosul, ransacking museums, the ruins of once-mighty cities like Nimrud and Hatra, and desecrating historic Christian and Shia shrines. In the more populated, western half of Syria, combat and deliberate vandalism have severely damaged some of the world’s most renowned antiquities like the Crusader-era castle Krak des Chevaliers and the medieval citadel of Aleppo. IS took Palmyra in May but had until recent days left its priceless heritage alone.
The destruction of antiquities is an important statement by the organisation about what IS is – it has pledged to destroy only what it deems idolatrous, although it has also been cynically selling stolen antiquities internationally in large quantities to raise funds. Like the Malian Islamists who ransacked Timbuktu’s library and destroyed its mausoleums, and the Taliban in Afghanistan who looted and bombed the Kabul national museum or destroyed unique statues, IS is expressing a particularly extreme, sectarian form of their Sunni faith, one that demands the violent eclipse of all others. Like the brutal Khmer Rouge who reset the clocks to Year Zero, IS is rewriting history by obliterating all other narratives.
But people’s history and culture is precious. The remarkable stories of al-Asaad’s resistance to torture, of the bravery of many museum workers, historians and archivists in the city, as in Timbuktu and Kabul, in rescuing and hiding much of their vulnerable heritage, in the face of certain death if discovered, is testimony to an irradicable spirit that IS will not destroy.

Video - War Crime - Terrorist ISIL shows images of Palmyra temple destruction

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Putin to discuss with Egypt’s president fighting international terrorism

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will discuss on Wednesday with Egypt’s President Abdul Fattakh as-Sisi issues of fighting international terrorism.
The Egyptian leader is paying a working visit to Russia.
"Russia supports Egypt’s vigorous efforts in this direction and is ready to render all-round assistance to strengthening Egypt’s armed forces and law enforcement," the Kremlin press service said.
The Middle East settlement and the situation in Northern African, including Syria and Libya, will also be part of the agenda, the Kremlin press service stressed.
Egypt is one of Russia’s major Middle East partners. Trade and economic ties form an important aspect of Russian-Egyptian bilateral ties, the Kremlin press service said. The year 2014 saw an 86% increase in reciprocal trade since 2013 that reached 5.5 billion U.S. dollars. The reciprocal trade dwindled by 16% in monetary terms in the first half of 2015 due to falling prices in global product markets and foreign exchange rate fluctuations. However, the trade structure remained unchanged. At the same time, Egypt’s agricultural exports into Russia are showing stable growth. The quantum of trade over the designated period exceeded 500,000 tonnes.
"The Joint Russian-Egyptian Commission for Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technological Cooperation is a vital mechanism to promote the Russian-Egyptian interaction. Its next meeting is to take place late this year," the Kremlin press service said.
Energy, including the oil and gas sector, is one of the leading areas of cooperation. Russia’s oil company LUKOIL implements a number of projects near the Egyptian city of Hurghada where it extracts about 0.5 million tonnes of oil annually.
Russia’s Rosneft and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation agreed on annual deliveries to Egypt of petroleum products and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Rosneft will also train personnel for the Egyptian oil and gas industry.
Russia’s Gazprom and the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company struck a deal to supply several LNG shipments to Egypt before 2019.
In a bid to create modern atomic energy in Egypt, the two countries signed an agreement for developing a project for the construction of nuclear power stations in Egypt during President Putin’s visit to Cairo in February last year. The sides are studying the project’s technical and financial parameters, the Kremlin press service said.
The two countries strengthen humanitarian contacts. Russia helps Egypt to train qualified experts for the Egyptian economy. Over years of cooperation, about 10,000 Egyptian experts in various field of knowledge have graduated first from Soviet and then Russian institutions of high learning. About 200 Egyptian nationals are studying in Russia now. The Egyptian-Russian University founded in 2009 has 4,000 students. Russian and Egyptian scientific and educational establishments develop direct ties. An archaeological mission of the Russian Academy of Sciences functions in Egypt. The two countries develop cooperation in high technologies.
Tourism is another vital and dynamic area of reciprocal cooperation. A record number of Russian tourists - over 2.5 million people - visited Egyptian sea resorts in 2014. More than half a million Russians spent their vacation in Egypt in the first half of 2015.
Russia and Egypt develop a confidential political dialogue, including at the summit level. The Egyptian president visited Russia on August 12, 2014. He met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea town of Sochi. The Egyptian leader took part in the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) in Moscow on May 9.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Cairo on February 9-10 this year. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Egypt on August 6 to attend the unveiling ceremony of the major extension of the Suez Canal. He also met President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
Other Russian officials who visited Egypt in 2015 include Nikolay Patrushev, the head of the Russian Security Council, a number of ministers and the heads of major Russian companies.

Putin attends opening ceremony of MAKS air show

'China’s V-Day parade aims at containing Japan' is nonsense

By Zhang Yuan 

The grand parade held by China on Sept. 3  is intended to commemorate historycherishthe memory of fallen revolutionary heroesuphold peace and usher in the futurewith nospecific countries targetedsaid Qu Ruideputy director of the Office of the ParadeLeading Team and deputy chief of the Operations Department of the General StaffHeadquarters.

Howeverseveral Japanese media have a wrong understanding of the aim of the parade,saying that the parade aimed to show the muscle of the Chinese army and contain Japan.Such statements are narrow-minded and a distortion of factsChina doesnt need toconduct a grand parade just to cope with the problems of Sino-Japanese relationsBesides,China never shows off its military strengthand it always keeps a low profile.
Its unnecessary for Japanese media to “over-interpret” the aim of the paradeIn facttheaim is very clearto commemorate historycherish the memory of fallen revolutionaryheroesuphold peace and usher in the future.
Commemorating history means one should never forget the harms caused by Fascist andJapanese militarismand one should never forget the disaster to Chinese peopleJapanesepeopleand people of other countries brought by the war waged by JapanBy the end ofWorld War IImore than 35 million Chinese were killed or woundedand its propertylosses and war consumption amounted to more than 100 billion US dollars during theJapanese aggressionJapan and other Asian countries also suffered huge economic losses.
The parade also aims to cherish the memory of fallen revolutionary heroesAccording tothe Chinese archivesallied forces killed and wounded about 1.95 million Japanesesoldiers in that eight yearsAbout 70 percent of these casualties took place on thebattlefields in China.

China Will Never Accept Dala Lama’s “Middle Way”

The Chinese central government will never accept the “Middle Way” proposed by the DalaLama groupChinas United Front said in its official website in an article pen namedKelsang.
The article was posted after the Chinese Central Government ended its sixth workingconference on Tibet Tuesday in Beijing.
The Central Government did not in the pastnor is now and will not in the future acceptthe Middle Way solution to the Tibet issue,” reads the article.
The essential intent of the ‘Middle Way’ is to split China, “ adds the commentary , sayingthat the Dalai group refuses to accept Chinas sovereignty in Tibet and wants to seize thereins of power and set up a semi-independent political regime.”
In particularChina is against the Dalai Lamas proposal for a “high degree of autonomyin Tibetsaying “the essence of ‘a high degree of autonomy’ is to setup ‘a state within astate’ free of any control from the central government.
The article recalls that the central government has attached great importance to Tibet,holding six Tibet working conferences since 1980, with the second one in 1984, the thirdone in 1994 , the fifth one in 2010 and the sixth conference ended just on Tuesday.
Each Tibet working conference worked out specific measures to push forward Tibetseconomic development and secure social stability.
On Tibetan Buddhismthe article promotes “political unity and respecting religious belief” saying the government is against intervening and limiting Tibetans religious freedom

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Clinton wins endorsement of first Obama Cabinet member

Hillary Rodham Clinton collected her first endorsement from a member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet on Tuesday when Agriculture SecretaryTom Vilsack cited her leadership and loyalty in announcing his decision to fall in line behind the "battle-tested" and embattled Democratic presidential contender.
Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, also endorsed Clinton during the 2008 contest, which she lost to Obama.
He planned to join Clinton for campaign appearances Wednesday in Iowa.
"Hillary Clinton has the right policies to strengthen and expand the middle class, is battle tested, and has the experience and relationships to lead and govern well," the Obama secretary wrote in an opinion piece posted on the website of The Gazette newspaper of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Clinton's campaign also circulated the piece.
Along with her policies and experience, Vilsack also cited Clinton's loyalty and their friendship of more than two decades as reasons for supporting her over her Democratic rivals: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.
The endorsement comes as Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is mired in controversy over her use of a private email account and server while she served Obama as secretary of state during his first term. Vilsack also announced his support amid rampant speculation that Vice President Joe Biden will jump into the race to help soothe the nerves of some Democrats who are growing increasingly skittish about Clinton's viability.

Hillary Clinton Holds Strong Lead in New Iowa Poll

By Alan Rappeport

Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a strong lead against her Democratic rivals in Iowa despite lingering concerns about her honesty, according to a new poll.
A survey from Suffolk University found that Mrs. Clinton has the support of 54 percent of likely Iowa caucus participants, with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in second place at 20 percent. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has not said if he is running, comes in third place with 11 percent.
The poll questioned 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers, and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It reveals strong loyalty to Mrs. Clinton among Democrats amid concerns about the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server as secretary of state. While most people said that the email problem did not bother them personally, 52 percent said they thought it would damage Mrs. Clinton in a general election.
“There is huge loyalty to her and they are sticking with her,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.
Although Mrs. Clinton appears to be the most popular Democrat in Iowa, Mr. Sanders is considered to be the most honest and trustworthy of the party’s candidates and their most likely second choice, edging out Mr. Biden.
Mr. Paleologos said that the support for Mr. Sanders, who has also shown polling strength in New Hampshire, indicates the challenge facing Mr. Biden as he moves closer to deciding about his White House bid. However, he said that the fact that he was not facing ethical questions might make him a more dangerous general election candidate than Mrs. Clinton for Democrats.
“He’s got to find a path to victory in the primary,” Mr. Paleologos said of Mr. Biden. “He would be a better general election candidate because he doesn’t have this email controversy swirling around him.”

Music - Salma Agha - Zindagi Yoon thi kay Jeenay ka Bahana Tu tha - Poet Ahmed Faraz

Pakistan Must Convince the World of its Intentions

By - Alyssa Ayres 

Over the weekend, Pakistan’s national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, called off planned talks with India’s national security advisor after a series of public disagreements escalated to the pointof no return. Islamabad and New Delhi failed to agree on the scope of the agenda, despite a clear joint statement issued by Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi during their meeting last month in Ufa, Russia, which had set the parameters for India-Pakistan dialogue in coming months. Most press accounts indicate that Pakistan sought to expand the NSAs’ agenda from the single subject of “terrorism” agreed upon at Ufa to include discussion of Kashmir. Compounding things, India reiterated its redline, developed by the Modi government last summer, against Pakistani officials meeting with separatists from Jammu and Kashmir on the margins of Indo-Pak talks. The Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi invited Kashmiri separatists to a reception, so between the redline and the soiree invite grew an impasse.

The Pakistani external affairs ministry statement issued August 22, canceling the NSA meeting, stated that talks “would not serve any purpose, if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down” [by India]. Pakistan’s position is that India and Pakistan have many issues to discuss, and terrorism has always been part of a larger composite dialogue. Islamabad believes talks have little value if not covering the full range of matters in dispute, of which no doubt the two neighbors have many. New Delhi has maintained that “talks and terror” cannot go together, reiterated by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in her August 22 press conference about the talks, and that tackling terrorism should be the first step toward a sequenced resumption of a fuller dialogue. Let’s put aside quibbles over a meeting agenda and whether and how Pakistani officials should or should not meet with Kashmiri separatists. Here’s the larger context for the aborted India-Pakistan NSA talks: About a month ago, on July 27, terrorists attacked across the international border, in Gurdaspur, in Indian Punjab. On August 5, another attack took place in Udhampur, in the Jammu region of Jammu & Kashmir. One of the attackers was caught, said his name was Naveed Yakub from Faisalabad (in Pakistan), and that he had been trained by the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Each of these incidents generated speculation that India would call off the NSA meet, but New Delhi did not let the attacks undo the promise made by Modi and Sharif at Ufa.
That India and Pakistan were unable to agree on the agenda and the appropriate way to handle questions of Kashmir is certainly unfortunate. But make no mistake: given the history of terrorist attacks on India emanating from Pakistani territory over the past two decades, the onus now rests with Pakistan to step forward and ensure a terror-free atmosphere for discussion of difficult political matters. Yes, Pakistanis too are victims of terror, and that is not in dispute. But the state has international obligations in countering terror, not least in upholding the sanctions regime put in place by United Nations Security Council resolutions. Aziz did not address the issue of Pakistan-based terror, instead launching into Soviet-style whataboutism, brandishing a dossier about alleged Indian involvement in Baluchistan and complaining that India offers insufficient evidence to support its allegations of terror groups in Pakistan.
What has Pakistan done to tackle terror groups operating from its soil? Pakistan selectively mounts counterterrorism campaigns in one part of the country, while permitting a UNand U.S.-designated terrorist organization, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and its leader Hafiz Saeed to openly hold public rallies and continue “humanitarian” work and alms collection in its largest cities like Lahore and Karachi. The perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks have not been brought to justice either, with a trial submerged by delays ad infinitum, and with one of the conspirators released on bail this year. The Haqqani network, another organization under UN and U.S. terrorism designations, appears untouched by Pakistan’s selective counterterrorism effort, and following Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s death, a Haqqani has now ascended to the leadership ranks of the Taliban. In belated recognition of this problem, the Obama administration has apparently withheld certification that Pakistan’s counterterrorism campaign has damaged the Haqqani network. These are only the barest outlines of the problem; suffice it to say that none of this looks like a state fighting comprehensively to rid the country of the scourge of terrorism. No one disputes that India and Pakistan have a terrible relationship, and could draw up a laundry list of an agenda even longer than the eight points of their current dialogue structure. Frankly, they probably should. But Pakistan needs to stop shifting the blame from the terrorism problem that is chewing up its own society and causing enmity with its neighbors. (Pakistan’s problems are not just with India: Two weeks ago a frustrated President Ashraf Ghani called upon Pakistan to rein in the terrorists who attack Afghanistan.) But instead of expressions of remorse about the lost opportunity for the NSAs to meet, on August 24 the Pakistani paper Dawn quoted Aziz saying, “Modi’s India acts as if they are a regional superpower, we are a nuclear-armed country and we know how to defend ourselves.” Does this sound like a country serious about negotiations and taking steps to resolve decades-long disputes?
It’s Pakistan’s job to restore India’s, and the world’s, confidence in its intentions, and that will not happen with continued terrorist attacks across the border in India, and with blustery rhetoric about using nuclear weapons. Tackling terror, all terror, should be job number one for Islamabad.

Abused and abandoned: Pakistani rights group confirms massive child sexual abuse

Pakistan's independent human rights commission, HRCP, says it has received "credible testimonies" confirming a massive child abuse scandal in Punjab, which the government had earlier played down as a land dispute.
"It is clear that a heinous crime has been committed against children," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a seven-page report based on the investigations of its fact-finding mission. The HRCP said the authorities refused cooperate with its team.
Earlier this month, shocking revelations about a huge child pornography scandal jolted the Islamic nation, which generally denies such things happen in the country. According to Pakistani media, at least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused by a pedophile gang of 25 men in a village near the eastern city of Kasur. The city is close to Lahore, a political stronghold of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the Punjab province.
The child sexual abuse started in 2006 and continued until last year, according to local residents and rights activists. The victims, mostly boys below 14 years of age, were forced to have sex, and their videos were then sold in the markets. The gang involved in the alleged abuse blackmailed the minors' parents by threatening to leak the videos.
Shock, anger and denial
The scandal shocked and angered the country, with child rights activists demanding a proper investigation into the case and severe punishments for the people involved in the crime. However, the government soon played down the seriousness of the scandal. Punjab's law minister, Rana Sanaullah, denied the cases of abuse, saying the reports surfaced because villagers were fighting over land. The police also disputed media reports that the number of victims ran into the hundreds.
"The references made to a land dispute in the village are irrelevant and nothing can justify avoidance of impartial investigation and prosecution," HRCP said on Wednesday, August 19, in its report. "The fact-finding team agrees that the crime remained concealed largely because the victims' families paid extortion money and they were also intimidated."
The commission, known for its largely independent advocacy, also said that it was not possible that the police could be unaware of "the video clippings freely circulating in the area."
Rana Asif Habib, a child rights activist and lawyer, told DW the numbers were simply "the tip of the iceberg." The actual number of victims could be much higher, considering that Kasur is very close to Lahore, where slum children attract abusers in large numbers.
"Pakistan is not a signatory to the UN Child Rights Convention," Habib said, adding that children could not complain to any authority in the event that they were sexually exploited.
A victim's father told DW's Urdu service on condition of anonymity that his life had been shattered due to the abuse of his two sons. "I am in deep pain. I can't sleep. I feel lost," he said, adding that the gang drugged his sons before making them abuse other kids and filming them.
"I wish I had the money to buy justice," he said.
Politicization of the scandal
The HRCP said its team heard complaints from the villagers that they were being pressurized by the police and politicians to downplay the intensity of the issue.
"The behavior of the police and public statements made by some of the PML-N (PM Sharif's party) leaders cast a doubt on their commitment to ensure that justice is done to the victims and that serious measures are taken to prevent further harm to them and their families," the report said.
The HRCP team also criticized the Pakistani media for its coverage of the scandal and said it was highly insensitive to the psychological and emotional impact of the issue on the children.
The rights group, however, warned that the scandal should not be used for political scoring against the ruling party. "The potential for opportunistic use of the incident for political purposes does exist."
Need for rehabilitation and monitoring
What the HRCP laments most in its report is the "total disregard for the physical and psychological impact of the abuse on the victims."
The rights body also blamed the families of the victims for this. "None of those, including the parents, raised any concerns in this regard with the team. Suggestions by team members that the children should receive proper medical attention and psychological counseling were given no serious attention by the families of these children, nor those who were leading their pursuit for justice against the accused."
The fact-finding mission said it would monitor the progress of the investigation, and that it would re-visit the village to "ascertain the situation with regard to the intimidation of victims and their level of satisfaction with the progress of the investigation."