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CONTEMPORARY SPACE ATHENS/ EUROPEAN CENTRE

 


he Contemporary Space Athens is an exhibition space established in Greece by the Chicago Athenaeum, Museum for Architecture and Design in collaboration with the European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies.

 

Primarily, the space hosts exhibitions on the awarded products presented in the Good Design, International Architecture, American Architecture, Green Good Design and 40under40 programs curated and organized by the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre.

 

Contemporary space also gives room to the artistic community worldwide, presenting emerging artists while being an active observer of the new age of art and design. Its annual activity includes the organization of cultural seminars and workshops. It is committed to raise awareness on the artwork of major renowned artists, trends and new media and to set out firm collaborations with other cultural organizations and institutions that promote fine art.

Set in an area of 270 sqm, holding an exhibition space on the ground floor (170sqm) and on the loft (100 sq.m), the Contemporary Space is located on 74 Mitropoleos Str. in the historical center of Athens, right beneath the Acropolis.


74 Mitropoleos str, Plaka - 10563,

Athens, Greece

 

Tel: +30 210 3428511

Fax: +30 210 3428512

 

 

How to get there with Metro

Monastiraki Station

Blue Line

 

Informations

For all your applications or questions please contact with:

konstadina@europeanarch.eu


https://www.contemporaryspaceathens.com/about-us

Saudi women's activist Loujain al-Hathloul released and tweeting

 


Loujain al-Hathloul, the prominent Saudi activist and campaigner who had been detained since 2018 for demanding an end to the male guardianship system and to the ban on women's driving, was released last week and posted her first tweet since on Wednesday.

Loujain, who was abducted from the United Arab Emirates in May 2018, tortured, denied access to family, and kept in solitary confinement for periods of her incarceration, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison on December 28, 2020, by the kingdom’s notorious terrorism court. The six-year term, nearly half of which was suspended by the verdict, is down from the maximum jail term of up to 20 years which the public prosecutor demanded on December 17.

Local press citing the court's ruling said that the 31-year-old Loujain was found guilty of “committing acts criminalized under Article 43 of the Law on Combating Terrorism Crimes“, including engaging with foreign, hostile entities, and using the internet to serve and support an external agenda inside the kingdom, with the aim of harming public order.

Based on the ruling, Loujain's family predicted her release in March, as she had served the majority of her sentence in pre-trial detention.

Her release on February 10 was a development welcomed by politicians and sympathizers worldwide, with her family noting that Loujain remains restrained by a travel ban and limits on public appearances.

The celebrated release of Loujain is one of several positive legal developments concerning activists and political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, with some being released and others having their sentences commuted.

This shift is attributed to the changes in the White House. The departure of Donald Trump's administration, which overlooked human rights violations in the region, encouraging authoritarian regimes, and its replacement with an administration perceived to be keen on pressing allies to respect human rights, could have accelerated overdue trials and reduce sentences.

The prominent activist's release also encouraged calls for the freeing of other detained prisoners of conscience who are still languishing in Saudi prisons.

globalvoices.org

Capturing the mood on both sides of the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donbas

 


On Valentine’s Day 2021, three Ukrainian soldiers died from an exploding landmine in the Donbas, the region of eastern Ukraine split by fighting between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebel forces. The youngest was born in 1994, three years after Ukraine became an independent state following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The year he was born, Ukraine agreed to get rid of all the nuclear weapons on its soil. When he was three, Russia and Ukraine signed a Friendship Treaty, affirming respect for each other’s territorial integrity. Indeed, he grew up in a state whose territory was not plagued by armed disputes over unresolved legacies from Soviet and pre-Soviet times. Moldova and Georgia were not so lucky. Ukraine was a relative success story.

This changed in early 2014 when protesters forced the resignation and flight of President Viktor Yanukovych, a former Donbas political boss and pro-Russian politician. The Kremlin saw the so-called Euromaidan protests—what participants in Ukraine called a “Revolution of Dignity”—as a cynical western plot against its influence in Ukraine. Russia's leadership responded by fomenting revolts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and then intervening militarily to annex Crimea to Russia and support two breakaway territories in the Donbas, the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR/LNR).

Negotiators from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France eventually hammered out a series of protocols in Minsk designed to end the fighting, delimit a frontline between combatants, and transition the breakaway regions back to eventual Ukrainian government control. That was six years ago. The fighting has stabilized along a line of control but none of the Minsk II protocols have been implemented. However, stabilization is a relative term. Soldiers continue to die from sporadic incidents along what is now one of the most heavily mined military front lines in the world.

To gauge opinions on both sides of the line of control, we conducted simultaneous computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) in September and October 2020. These surveys with similar texts were fielded by two highly reputable companies: the Levada Center Moscow for the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR and the Kyiv Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in the government-controlled Donbas. While conditions in the DNR/LNR prohibit safe and reliable face-to-face survey research at this time, we contend that it remains important to try to capture the views of those directly affected by the war.

Every aspect of daily life in and near a war zone is affected by the war. According to a 2020 Crisis Group report, war has “plunged an economically troubled region into ruin (…) On both sides of the front line, residents have settled into a new normal that drifts between dreary and dire.” Still, the daily routines endure despite the shadow of war. It is in everyday life—people’s ability to put food on the table, to hold a steady job, to see their children grow up safely, to obtain pensions—that trust in a state and its institutions is built or lost. These comparative trust levels on both sides of the line of contact might well decide the future of this divided region.

In this article, our results compare the trust in the national government in the Kyiv-controlled Donbas, on the one hand, and trust in the local authorities in the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR, on the other. In the government-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, some local authorities have not been able to carry out their civic responsibilities, while others have been replaced with a temporary civil-military administration. Local elections in Donbas have been severely curtailed since the start of the conflict, with the latest round in October 2020 cancelled in many areas along the frontline, disenfranchising over 450,000 citizens. The survey results confirm how distant the Kyiv government appears to the residents in this part of the Donbas. As seen in the first graphic (Figure 1), fewer than 10 per cent of the respondents trust the national government to take care of their needs as citizens, while about 45 per cent recorded their distrust.

In the DNR/LNR, trust appears to be higher with 26 per cent of the respondents expressing trust in the local authorities (18 per cent distrust). But with nearly half neither trusting nor distrusting the local authorities, political support for the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR authorities appears lukewarm. Indeed, the results suggest that the local population, just like residents in the Kyiv-controlled Donbas, know that they have to manage their lives as best they can without holding out much hope for help from the authorities.

Trust in the very institutions that should be responsive to citizen needs is low in the Donbas as a whole. But the relative gap in trust between the two parts of the Donbas is indicative of how residents in government-controlled regions believe Kyiv has left them behind. The Ukrainian state has significant work to do in those areas of the Donbas it governs.

Another stark indication of this gap across the line of contact are the answers to the question: “Do you think the region [country] is heading in the right or wrong direction?” (Figure 2). A majority of respondents (59 per cent) in the government-controlled Donbas think that things are heading in the wrong direction. In contrast, in the DNR/LNR, a plurality of respondents (44 per cent) think that things are heading in the right direction (23 per cent in the wrong direction), though about a third remain uncertain.

One of the characteristics of the Donbas conflict, in contrast to the conflicts in Moldova and Georgia, is that it erupted more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. While there was some tension over the fate of the Donbas after Ukrainian independence, it was not a burning issue for most residents. In fact, self-determination for the region was a cause that motivated only a minority. The ouster of the pro-Russian Yanukovych government in Kyiv in early 2014 nurtured and fed that sentiment. It is worth probing just how strongly people feel loyalty to the state and flag (DNR/LNR or Ukrainian) under which they currently live.

In our survey, we asked a question designed to measure what academics term a pure “public goods” vision of the state. It asks respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement: “It does not matter what country I live in; all I want is a good job and a good pension.”

This graph (Figure 3) might surprise readers, showing that majorities on both sides of the line of contact agree with the statement. Economic and material security thus trumps separatism and nationalism. Importantly, the numbers who disagree (just over one-third of the population) are also nearly identical on both sides of the Donbas dividing line. While this is a minority sentiment among ordinary people, those affirming the greater importance of “country” express the dominant and often the only acceptable view of those in positions of power. Whose flag flies where is the overriding concern.

Examination of the answers to these three questions by age and nationality reveals an important asymmetry. In the government-controlled area, older people and self-identified Russians are less trusting of the authorities and agree more strongly with the statement about material needs being more important than the flag under which they live. In the self-proclaimed DNR/LNR, it is younger people and self-identified Ukrainians who express these sentiments more strongly.

The degree of trust in local authorities on both sides of the territorial divide in the Donbas is a crucial factor shaping the future of the region. In certain fundamental ways, the aspirations of the majority of people on both sides are the same. However, this conflict was never about the Donbas alone: it is also about broader geopolitical struggles. As long as these endure, the conflict in the Donbas is likely to persist and lines on the ground and in residents’ minds are likely to become more entrenched.

(globalvoices.org)

In Tanzania, full-throttle COVID-19 denial leaves citizens without access to public health information

 


The novel coronavirus was first reported in Tanzania in mid-March 2020, but, after recording up to 509 cases and 21 deaths in late April, the nation announced its status as “coronavirus-free” in June.

That same month, Kassim Majaliwa, the country’s prime minister, told parliament there are only 66 active coronavirus cases in the country, but did not provide further details.

Since then, government has been silent on the coronavirus with a strong politic of denial and no data released to the public on infections or deaths.

Today, most activities continue business-as-usual, including Tanzania's tourism industry, attracting thousands of visitors to its airports with few public health protocols in place.

The airport in Zanzibar received the lowest 2-star rating on COVID-19 health and safety measures by Skytrax COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating, the world’s only assessment and certification of airport health and safety measures during the pandemic. According to their report, “new cases of the South African virus variant were confirmed in two travelers flying into Denmark on January 19, from Tanzania.”

The highly anticipated annual African music festival, Sauti za Busara, will take place in mid-February in Zanzibar, with support from the European Union in Tanzania and several European embassies, despite the risk of highly contagious new coronavirus variants circulating in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

On January 24, the Catholic Archdiocese of Arusha issued a letter warning congregants of the existence of COVID-19 in Tanzania, and urged members to follow all necessary public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus in churches.

While Tanzania’s recorded cases are moderate compared to other countries, the government’s silence about COVID-19 data raised grave concerns among public health experts and human rights activists, who are forbidden from speaking or talking about COVID-19 in digital spaces.

The country updated its 2018 Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations in July, prohibiting any “content with information with regard to the outbreak of a deadly or contagious disease in the country or elsewhere without the approval of the respective authorities.”

Despite initial restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, schools, colleges, offices and other social activities are back to normal, even as the virus continues to spread in the region.

President John Magufuli had cast doubt on the credibility of laboratory equipment and technicians after secret tests allegedly performed on papaya and a goat gave positive test results. The president said releasing this data was causing unnecessary panic and soon after, fired Nyambura Moremi, director of the national health laboratory, for allegedly botching the testing results. The ministerial COVID-19 information team was dissolved.

In June, Magufuli thanked God for eradicating the virus from Tanzania, following three days of national prayer. He made this announcement publicly during a Sunday service, amidst a praising congregation, making claims that God had answered their prayers. He also praised congregants for not wearing face masks, despite calls from the World Health Organization to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” for his tough anti-corruption stance, was reelected for a second time in October 2020 during an election that was highly criticized for stifling dissent and opposition.

Just before the elections, Tanzanians experienced an internet shutdown with access denied to all the major social media platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter. To date, many Tanzanians cannot access Twitter without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Over the last five years, the Magufuli administration has narrowed democratic and civic spaces and has cracked down hard on freedom of expression and access to information in digital spaces.

With the government’s strong denial stance, Tanzanians are not allowed to release any COVID-19 data that the government has not verified, which means that ordinary citizens as well as journalists and medical professionals are barred from commenting on COVID-19 in digital spaces, or accessing information.

Access to COVID-19 information has become an “elite privilege,” according to one doctor from the national hospital who spoke to Global Voices on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.

Unlike other countries with established COVID-19 information response teams who give daily updates on COVID-19, Tanzania simply offers a website with limited and outdated COVID-19 information.

The denial has been so convincing that it’s now widely accepted by Tanzanians, including medical experts, who disregard basic safety measures like wearing face masks and social distancing.

Global Voices visited major hospitals such Muhimbili, the government referral hospital in Dar es Salaam, the cultural capital, as well as Benjamin Mkapa Hospital in Dodoma, the political capital, and witnessed very few measures taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease.

People are allowed to enter hospital premises without wearing masks, there are few working hygiene and washing facilities and those that do exist lack water or are broken, which was witnessed, for example, in the pregnant mothers’ clinic at Muhimbili.

While the Magufuli administration has shown little concern about the impact of the virus on everyday citizens, many government ministries and departments acknowledge that COVID-19 still exists.

For example, when Magufuli was sworn in for the second time last year, authorities did practice COVID-19 prevention measures, requiring all attendees to have their temperatures taken and wash their hands at hygiene stations with hand sanitizer provided.

On January 25, Tanzania's Minister of Finance Dr. Philip Mpango urged his staff to take precautions against COVID-19 while at the same denying its existence in Tanzania, during a meeting in Dodoma, the capital.

Most in-country experts are afraid to speak up, fearing retaliation.

Global Voices spoke with one medical expert who believed Tanzania may be experiencing a second wave of the outbreak but that this information was kept secret from the public. The expert did not want to be named, fearing reprisal.

Another medical expert told Global Voices under the conditions of anonymity that people must know their COVID-19 status so that they can take measures to prevent its spread in their communities. He said that leaving people uninformed makes their job very difficult and hopes that all Tanzanians will try to protect themselves by taking all precautions advised by WHO. He told Global Voices:


Politicians have taken over the whole COVID[-19] issue and they are playing a dangerous game, but when people will start dying they will start sacking medical staff.

Another doctor who spoke to Global Voices anonymously said that although there is some hope in getting a vaccine, Tanzania’s denial may slow down access to it, as the government has not taken any steps to acquire it on the global market, opting instead to invest in herbal remedies.

In December 2020, Minister of Health of Health spokesman Gerald Chamii cast doubt on global vaccines, telling the East African:


It takes not less than six months to find a vaccine or cure for a certain disease. We have fared on our own since the pandemic spread, I am not sure if it is wise to have a vaccine imported and distributed to the citizens without undertaking clinical testing to approve if it is safe for our people.

Access to information is essential to democracy and development. Tanzania’s cyber laws have been abused to target dissenting voices and those who have spoken out against Tanzania’s handling of COVID-19.

Freedom of expression, including the right to access, receive and impart information, is enshrined in international law. In Tanzania, the right to be informed, and to access and disseminate information, is recognized in Articles 18(1) and 18(2) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Nevertheless, these rights are more cosmetic than based in reality.

With full-throttled COVID-19 denial and laws in place to prevent the open exchange of information and opinions on the disease on- and offline, Tanzanians are left with severely limited access to information and many are afraid to speak out.

West tells Russia to free Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, Moscow pushes back

 


MOSCOW : Western nations told Russia to immediately free detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Monday, a day after he was detained at a Moscow airport after flying home for the first time since he was poisoned last summer.

Russia quickly rejected calls to release him, telling the West to mind its own business as police continued to hold Navalny in a Moscow police station.

“Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.

Navalny’s case could trigger new sanctions against Russia, especially against an $11.6 billion project to build a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, with some EU countries saying they want the bloc to swiftly impose such measures.


Four masked police officers detained the opposition politician at passport control on Sunday evening, the first time he had returned home after being poisoned by what German military tests showed was a Novichok nerve agent, a version of events the Kremlin rejects.

Russia’s prison service said he had been taken into custody due to alleged violations of a suspended prison sentence that Navalny, 44, says was trumped up.

It said he would be held in custody until a court hearing expected on Jan. 29 that will rule whether to convert that suspended sentence into a real 3.5 jail term.

The foreign ministers of Germany, Britain, France and Italy called for Navalny’s release. Lithuania said on Sunday it would ask the EU to swiftly impose new sanctions on Russia. Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said he wanted the bloc to discuss possible sanctions.

Jake Sullivan, one of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s top aides, told Moscow to free Navalny, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was deeply troubled by Moscow’s decision to arrest Navalny.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Western consternation over the Navalny case, casting it as an attempt to distract from the West’s own problems.


“You can feel the joy with which these comments (On Navalny’s arrest) are coming out,” said Lavrov.

“Judging by everything, it allows Western politicians to think that by doing this they can divert attention away from the deep crisis that the liberal model of development finds itself in,” he said.

(Reuters.com)

COVID-19 and shrinking freedom limits in Jordan

 


In Jordan, measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 came hand-in-hand with increased intimidation of journalists and restrictions on citizens’ rights to speech.

In mid-March 2020, Jordan's government enacted Defense Law 13 (of 1992) to contain the pandemic, giving the government broad powers to limit basic rights. The then-Prime Minister Omar Razzaz reassured that the law “would be applied in the narrowest limits,” stressing the need to differentiate between the right to “express an opinion” and the “spread of rumors and false news which would spread panic” saying the latter will be “firmly” dealt with.

Soon after, the government imposed a three-day total lockdown followed by a strict daily curfew. Up until late April, one required a special permit to drive a car. Consecutively, economic activity was brought to a standstill.

Deploying laws

In mid-April 2020, the government issued Defense Order No. 8 which criminalized the publishing or circulation of news on any platform, including social media, about the pandemic that could create panic among people. Offenders could be liable to a 3,000 Jordanian dinars ($4,231 United States dollars) fine and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

This governmental grip on citizens’ rights to speech is enabled by Article 15.4 of the kingdom's constitution, which authorizes the government, upon declaring martial law or a state of emergency, to impose “limited censorship” on the press in matters relating to broadly-phrased “public safety” and “national defense.”

Arrests started in early April. Following the publication of a report citing day laborers’ financial hardships under lockdown, Faris Al-Sayegh, director-general of Ro’ya TV, and journalist Muhammad Al-Khalidi, were arrested and then released on bail.

Others documenting the plight of marginalized communities under COVID-19 met worse fates. Salim Akash, a Bangladeshi journalist and reporter for the Jago News website, was arrested mid-April and charged by Jordan with violating the telecommunications and anti-terrorism laws after circulating news on Facebook highlighting the challenges of Bangladeshi migrant workers under lockdown. Jordan's Ministry of Interior issued an order to deport Akash, who is, to this day, imprisoned in Jordan.

Shrinking horizons

Arrests soon went beyond the scope of COVID-19. On May 17, 2020, animal rights activist Ali Sarsour was detained over several Facebook posts. In one, Sarsour praised the queen of Jordan, who he claimed shared his surname  a link deemed offensive to Queen Rania  as his surname translates to “cockroach” in Arabic. In another post, Sarsour announced that he named his dog after the then-health minister. He was charged with lèse-majesté (i.e. defaming or insulting a member of the royal family)and insulting an official body and was detained for more than 60 days before being released on bail.

In June, an opinion piece that marked Jordan's Independence Day but criticized Jordan’s dependency on Western and Israeli influences landed its author, Saeed Thyab, Jordanian Democratic Popular Unity Party's secretary-general, in jail for 7 days. Founded in the 1990s, the Jordanian Democratic Popular Unity Party is a socialist political party that stands for Palestinian nationalism.

A month later, the closure of the teachers’ union sparked month-long protests across the kingdom. A government-imposed gag order stifled all news related to the protests throughout August. Some network throttling was also observed during protests. Once a rarity, media blackouts have recently become commonplace to silence journalists, and to limit investigations, and public debate. Subsequently, Basil Okour, the editor-in-chief of jo24.net, was arrested for allegedly violating the gag order for reporting on people's reaction to the union's shutdown.

A more popular case was that of Jordanian caricaturist, Emad Hajjaj. Hajjaj was arrested on August 26, 2020, after publishing a cartoon criticizing the UAE-Israeli peace agreement that portrayed the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Charged with “disturbing [Jordan’s] relations with a foreign state,” he was transferred to State Security Court, a court reserved for extreme cases such as drug trafficking and terrorism. Although he was released five days later on bail, his arrest is seen as a deterioration: it was Emad‘s first incarceration despite previous controversial cartoons, including ones portraying other heads of state.

On September 20, 2020, Badi al-Rafaiah, a senior member of the Islamic Action Front—Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, was arrested on charges of “insulting the head of a foreign state” and lèse-majesté. His detention, which came against the background of months-old Facebook posts and retweets, coincided with Jordanians gearing up for parliamentary elections in which the brotherhood was a key contesting party, raising suspicion that the arrest was politically driven.

Not only was Badi's Facebook post nearly six months old, but it was also not an original one  his post endorsed someone else’s prayers that Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had contracted COVID-19 from a senior Egyptian military official who died of the virus. Rafaiah was released on bail a few days later.

More recently, the prosecutor for the State Security Court ordered the arrest of Jamal Haddad for publishing a news article questioning whether government officials had received the COVID-19 vaccine before the general public. The government charged Haddad under the Anti-Terrorism Law. He was released on bail on December 29, 2020, following increased protests led by local journalists.

On December 28, 2020, lawyer Mohamad Almajali was charged with lèse-majesté, insulting an official body, and influencing the electoral process for putting forward his legal opinion regarding a signature on the royal decree approving the 2020 general elections. His case is in development.

Reacting to Almajali's case, human rights defender and lawyer Hala Deeb sarcastically tweeted “the sky's the limit indeed,” referring to prime minister Bisher al-Khasawneh's recent statement that “the sky's the limit when it comes to freedom of expression in Jordan.”

These detentions, as plenty as they are, have attracted public attention due to the prominence of those involved. There may be others whose arrests have gone unnoticed.

Prior to COVID-19, Jordan’s red lines of speech were largely discernible, delimited by a labyrinth of legal codes including the Cybercrime Law, Penal Code, Press & Publications Law, Anti-Terrorism Law, and the Telecommunications Law.

Over the years, journalists and activists have established a general sense of what could get them into trouble, and mostly conformed. According to a 2018 study, over 92 percent of journalists practiced self-censorship. Yet, the 2020 detentions – spurred by a climate of COVID-19 alarm – threw them off course, and indicated that Jordan is following in the grim footsteps of oppressive neighboring countries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who detain journalists and human rights defenders on vague, unfounded, often terrorism charges.

source:GlobalVoices


Uyghurs in China

 


Mehbube Abla, a 38-year-old Uyghur from Ghulja, a city in western Xinjiang. In 2004, she left China to study abroad and has never returned. All the members of her family who stayed in Xinjiang have been imprisoned.

There are 11 million Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkich nation, living in the western province of Xinjiang in China. Widely portrayed as “motherland separatists” or simply “terrorists” in Chinese mainstream media, this group has been targeted more systematically since Xi Jinping became president of China in 2012.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Uyghurs have been deprived of basic human rights, including freedom of religion, of movement, and also of using their native language. And according to various testimonies and sources, over 1 million Uyghurs – as well as other Muslim minorities  are in internment camps. Some camp detainees are also sent to Xinjiang’s vast prison system.

Given the secrecy surrounding these internment camps, which China describes as “vocational training centers“, the exact number of people currently detained is difficult to ascertain, but hundreds are believed to have died in internment. More detailed information is available in the Xinjiang Victims Database.

Abla is active on social media, where she advocates for Uyghurs’ human rights. 




Russian military lashes out at UN over aid to Aleppo


The Russian military is criticizing the United Nations for dragging its feet on delivering humanitarian aid to the areas of Aleppo, which have been recently seized by Syrian government forces.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the Russian military has been the only source of food, medicine and other supplies for 90,000 residents of Aleppo's neighborhoods seized by the Syrian army this week.

In Friday's statement, Konashenkov called on Jan Egeland, a senior U.N. aid official for Syria, to move faster to provide aid to the area.

Russian-backed Syrian government troops have made significant gains in the rebel-held eastern part of the city since the weekend.

Afghan official says Taliban militants kill 23 civilians


An Afghan police official says that Taliban militants have killed 23 civilians in Kandahar Province in the last 48 hours.

Gen. Abdul Raziq Kandahar said Friday that the killings took place in different areas of the Nash district. He did not provide further details.

Raziq said that around 29 Taliban fighters and six members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in ongoing battles in the district in recent days.

2 Filipino militants who left bomb near US Embassy captured


Philippine police say they have captured two local sympathizers of the Islamic State group who they alleged tried to detonate a bomb near the U.S. Embassy and prompted authorities to raise a terror alert.

National police chief Ronald de la Rosa says the militants, who were arrested Wednesday, left the homemade bomb made from an 81mm mortar round in a trash can near the embassy after failing to detonate it at the nearby Rizal Park, their initial target. The bomb also failed to explode near the embassy.

Dela Rosa said Thursday that Rashid Kilala and Jiaher Guinar, who belong to a small Muslim armed group called Ansar Al-khilafa Philippines, wanted to impress the Islamic State group and divert the military's focus from an offensive against fellow militants in the south.

Syrian government presses on in Aleppo, thousands displaced


Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Aleppo as pro-government Syrian forces press on with their campaign to reclaim the divided city.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Wednesday more than 50,000 out of an estimated quarter-million inhabitants have been displaced by attacks on rebel-held eastern Aleppo over the past 4 days. Many of them fled to safer ground in areas under government or Kurdish control.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says around 20,000 people have fled.

The Lebanese Al-Manar TV channel reported from the Aleppo countryside that pro-government forces were advancing in the southern portion of the city's rebel enclave.

The government has seized much of the northern half of the enclave in a swift advance that began Saturday.

7 injured by turbulence as China airliner approaches Sydney


Officials say seven people were injured when a Chinese airliner hit turbulence at it approached Sydney airport.

China Eastern Airlines general manager Kathy Zhang said five passengers and two crew members were taken to a hospital after Flight 777 from Kunming in China landed Tuesday. She said all are in stable condition.

The Ambulance Service said in a statement that three complained of neck pain and the others suffered back pain, a minor head injury, a jaw laceration and a wrist injury.

Lufthansa pilots on strike again, 816 flights canceled


Pilots at German airline Lufthansa are on strike again after a two-day break in their campaign of walkouts.

The company has canceled 816 short-haul flights scheduled for Tuesday. The walkout by the Cockpit union is to be followed Wednesday by a strike hitting both short-haul and long-haul services.

Lufthansa has canceled 890 flights scheduled Wednesday.

The strikes follow four consecutive days of walkouts last week. Lufthansa and Cockpit are far apart in a pay dispute that has dragged on for more than two years.

Lufthansa on Monday failed to persuade a Munich court to issue an injunction blocking the latest strike. The company says that around 82,000 passengers will be affected by Tuesday's walkout and 98,000 by Wednesday's.

Spain: Police arrest 4 suspected of IS armed group links


Spain's Interior Ministry says police have arrested four people suspected of having links to an illegal migration network believed to have been used by the Islamic State group to move militants to Europe, including those involved in last year's Paris attacks.

A ministry statement said the four had links with the so-called "Syrian refugee route" that the Islamic group is thought to have used to get the Paris attackers to Europe via the Greek island of Leros in October 2015.

Police believe the four arrested Monday had contacts with two extremists arrested in Salzburg, Austria, shortly after the November 2015 attacks.

Two were arrested in towns in northwestern Spain and two others in the southeastern city of Almeria.

No details on their identities were released.

Israel bombs suspected Islamic State militant hideout in Syria


The Israeli military says it has carried out an air strike in Syria on a building used by Islamic State militants to attack Israeli forces.

The overnight air strike Monday targeted an abandoned United Nations building that Israel says was used as a base by the militants. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

In Sunday's clash militants affiliated with the IS group opened fire at an Israeli patrol on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. Israeli aircraft quickly responded, killing four militants in an air strike on a machine gun-mounted vehicle.

No Israeli troops were hurt, but it was a rare attempt by IS-affiliated militants to ambush Israeli forces.

Syrian troops capture major Aleppo neighborhood


Syrian state media is reporting that government forces have captured the eastern Aleppo neighborhood of Sakhour, putting much of the northern part of Aleppo's besieged rebel-held areas under state control.

State news agency SANA says government forces captured the Sakhour neighborhood early Monday in the latest blow to rebels in Syria's largest city.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Syrian government forces have captured some 10 neighborhoods over the past few days, putting nearly 30 percent of Aleppo's formerly rebel-held neighborhoods under government control.

Government forces captured the Hanano district on Saturday, the first time they had pushed this far into eastern Aleppo since 2012.

Thousands of east Aleppo residents have fled to safety in government and Kurdish-controlled areas of the city.

Turkish president threatens to reopen borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the European Union that if it continues threatening his country he will open the border gates and allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to flood into EU countries.

Erdogan, in a speech Friday, reacted furiously to a non-binding resolution approved the previous day by the European Parliament demanding that the bloc freeze membership negotiations with Turkey over the government's heavy-handed crackdown following a failed coup in July.

"We are the ones who feed 3-3.5 million refugees in this country. You have betrayed your promises," Erdogan told the EU. "If you go any further those border gates will be opened."

The EU struck a deal earlier this year to return migrants to Turkey in return for a package including aid for the refugees and accelerated membership talks.

Death toll in Iraq car bombing claimed by ISIS rises to 73


BAGHDAD – Iraqi hospital and police officials say the death toll from a car bombing south of Baghdad claimed by the Islamic State group has risen to 73, including about 40 Iranian pilgrims.

The officials said Friday that 65 people were wounded in the attack. Earlier, they had put the death toll from the Thursday night bombing at 56.

The attack took place at a gas station on a major highway near the city of Hilla. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

IS claimed the attack in a statement, saying it was a suicide truck bomb.

The bombing appears to have targeted a bus with Iranian pilgrims heading home after a major Shiite religious observance in the holy city of Karbala.

Cold weather kills 20 in north Afghanistan; 2 die in attacks


Afghan officials say cold weather and freezing temperatures have killed 20 people, mostly children in a remote northern Afghan province bordering Turkmenistan.

Provincial police chief Rahmatullah Turkistani says the deaths occurred this week in Jawzjan province's district of Darzab, which has seen heavy snowfall, with half a meter, or almost two feet of snow on the ground.

The area has no electricity or medical facilities and the road has been cut off by the Taliban. Authorities are waiting for the weather to clear up before delivering aid by air.

Elsewhere, a roadside bombing on Friday in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar killed a policeman while a mortar shell struck a weeding party the previous night in Laghman province, killing a child.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for those attacks.

Israel battles fires for third day; 4 Palestinians arrested


Israeli police have arrested four Palestinians in connection with one of several large fires that damaged homes and prompted the evacuation of thousands of people over the past few days.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Thursday that police are investigating all possible causes, including arson. Windy and hot weather have helped fan the flames.

He says the blazes started three days ago at the Neve Shalom community near Jerusalem where Israelis and Arabs live together.

Later, fires erupted in the northern Israeli area of Zichron Yaakov and elsewhere near Jerusalem. In all, hundreds of homes have been damaged and thousands of people have been evacuated. About a dozen were treated for smoke inhalation.

Cyprus, Russia, Italy and other countries are assisting the Israeli firefighters with equipment as the fires continue.