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14 March 2013

The World News Headlines Young Mayor posts threats of violence on Twitter

This Week Bodies found in Syria river

Twelve more bodies have been recovered from the Queiq River in Syria’s Aleppo city a day after 22 corpses were pulled out. Corpses have been appearing on the river shores since late January when at least 80 bodies were found, many with bullet wounds to the head. The opposition says government forces are responsible for dumping the bodies in what has become known as the River of Martyrs.


he newly-elected Young Mayor of Tower Hamlets posted a threat of violence on Twitter last week, just days after being unveiled in his new role. Mahdi Alam, who campaigned on a pledge to tackle youth crime and violence, took to the social networking site on Friday to launch an unexplained tirade, visible to all of his followers. The tweets - which were later deleted - said: “Even if you beet me up, I’ll still be young mayor. So what do you achieve.. [sic] “To be frank. You’ll always be the looser [sic]. As my boys will pretty much kill you. Pahahaa.” Mahdi, who attends Stepney Green School, was unveiled as the winner of the young mayoral election at a Town Hall ceremony on January 31. The 16-year-old, who is due to be inaugurated later in February and should serve a two year term, later took to Twitter to apologise for the threats. “Last week I posted in frustration about my feelings on certain matters. “I realise that this was an inappropriate way to comment about my feelings and apologise if I offended anyone. “I am new to this role and now fully understand my responsibilities…” A council spokeswoman said officers were to review the situation before deciding on what action to take. “The role is a high profile one and all candidates are reminded that high standards of personal conduct are required of them during their election campaign and when they are in office”, she added.

Two Sudans reach oil deal

Anti-government protesters stand off against police in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on March 11, 2013.

Riots continue in Dhaka and across Bangladesh


everal bombs exploded in Bangladesh’s capital and police clashed with protesters Tuesday as opposition leaders enforced a daylong, nationwide general strike over what they say is police intimidation. Witnesses and news reports said several homemade bombs exploded during the beginning of the shutdown. RTV and Bangla Vision stations reported explosions in different areas of Dhaka. It was not clear if there were any injuries. Small-scale clashes were reported inside and outside Dhaka, and thousands of security officials were deployed in the capital to maintain order. Nearly 400 members of paramilitary Bangladesh Border Guard were deployed to aid police in Dhaka, said Maj. Gen. Aziz Ahmed, the force’s director general. Schools and most businesses in Dhaka were closed

Tuesday. Traffic was thin on the usually clogged streets. An 18-party opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or BNP, was enforcing the strike to protest alleged police intimidation during a rally on Monday. The party and its allies are demanding restoration of a caretaker government system to oversee upcoming elections. Its ally Jamaat-e-Islami also wants a halt to trials of several opposition politicians accused of crimes stemming from the country’s 1971 independence war. After Monday’s rally, police arrested some senior leaders and more than 100 activists of the BNP, headed by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, during a raid on its party headquarters in Dhaka. Police said they recovered at least 10 homemade bombs from the headquarters. But the party accused police of put-

ting the bombs inside the headquarters to create a drama. BNP’s acting secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, a former mayor of Dhaka City Corp. and a former home minister were among those detained. On Tuesday afternoon, authorities released three leaders including Alamgir after they had been held for nearly 18 hours. A Dhaka court jailed about 100 others pending more hearings on their bail petitions, government prosecutor Abdullah Abu said. They were taken to court Tuesday after an overnight stay in a police station. The next bail hearing has been set for March 20. Zia, in a meeting with senior party leaders, criticized the government for the arrests and later announced a similar nationwide shutdown for March 18 and 19 if the detained senior leaders are not freed immediately. Alamgir went straight to the

party headquarters from police custody and said they would go ahead with the plan for more shutdowns if all the leaders and activists are not freed by Thursday. Also on Tuesday, police filed two cases accusing more than 150 opposition activists of Monday’s explosions and alleging they had obstructed police, said police official Golam Sarwar. Zia’s party and Jamaat-eIslami have denounced the trials of several opposition politicians accused of mass killings and atrocities during Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war against Pakistan, saying they are politically motivated. The administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina initiated the trials in 2010 and three verdicts have been handed down. Ten of the defendants convicted or on trial are from Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamic party, while two others belong to the BNP.

Bangladesh hold Sri Lanka to a draw in first Test in Galle


he first Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh has ended in a draw after the tourists resisted the temptation to chase down an improbable target during the final session in Galle. Centuries from Tillakaratne

Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara helped Sri Lanka reach 335 for four in their second innings before the captain Angelo Mathews declared, setting Bangladesh a total of 268 to win with just 35 overs remaining on the final day.

That decision could have posed an intriguing dilemma for Bangladesh on a flat pitch which has yielded many runs, but they were more than happy to settle for their first draw against Sri Lanka. Monday marked a special

day for the tourists, with captain Mushfiqur Rahim becoming the first Bangladesh player to make a double century and the Tigers posting their highest ever total of 638, for a first-innings lead of 68 which was soon wiped out by their opponents.

Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to resume the flow of southern oil exports through pipelines in Sudan within two weeks, more than a year after Juba shut down its entire output. An African Union mediator announced the deal on Tuesday, which resumes trade between the two countries after South Sudan shut down its 350,000 barrel-per-day output in January last year in a dispute with Khartoum over fees.

Falklands vote row heats up British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged Argentina to respect the wishes of the Falkland Islanders after they voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to remain a British territory. Before the result, Buenos Aires had dismissed the vote as meaningless in international law, saying it would not affect its claims on the South Atlantic archipelago.

Laden son-in-law in court

The presence of Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law in a New York courtroom has reignited the debate in the US over where to try terrorism suspects: a courtroom or a military tribunal. His name is Sulaiman Abu Ghaith and he is charged with conspiring to kill US nationals. He was taken into US custody by the FBI in Jordan.

Warning on antibiotics

Britian’s top health official says that the reliance on antibiotics could have a catastrophic effect on human health. Sally Davies, the chief medical officer in the UK, says that the growing resistance to the drugs is making it more difficult to treat people with bacterial infections, prompting her to call for restricted usage.


14 March 2013

News This Week Tunisian sets fire to himself

A 27-year-old man protesting unemployment set himself on fire in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, authorities said Tuesday. The man suffered third-degree burns, Tunisia’s national civil protection and civil defense authorities said. He was taken to the same hospital where Mohamed Bouazizi was taken in December 2010. Bouazizi, who died after setting himself on fire, was widely credited for spurring Arab Spring uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.

Pistorius asks for leniency

South African track star Oscar Pistorius, charged with murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has applied for more lenient bail restrictions, including permission to travel overseas, a family spokesman said Monday. Pistorius also is trying to sell some assets to settle legal bills, spokesman Johan van Wyk told CNN. His Pretoria home and his racehorses are among the items Pistorius is trying to sell, according to his family.

Afghans kill US servicemen

Two Americans – one a Green Beret – were killed Monday when an assailant wearing an Afghan National Security Forces uniform opened fire on the group, US and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force officials said. The shootout in eastern Afghanistan didn’t last long, as coalition forces “returned fire and killed the attacker,” a US official told CNN. Two Afghan army personnel also were killed, said Gen. Zahir Azimi, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman. A US military official told CNN that at least 10 Americans were wounded as well.

Nadal continues comeback

He may be in need of match practice on hard courts, but Rafael Nadal had the good fortune of reaching the last 16 of the Masters Series 1000 tournament in Indian Wells without hitting a ball in anger Monday. His third-round opponent Leonardo Mayer of Argentina withdrew before the start of their match on the Stadium Court, citing a back problem.

Tower Hamlets community men sign up to Jagonari campaign


igh profile Tower Hamlets men publicly signed a pledge today to support the Jagonari campaign Domestic abuse: We can end it at Idea Store Whitechapel. The event took place as part of a weeklong celebration of International Women’s Day. Among the men who joined were Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman; Metropolitan Police borough commander, David Stringer; Reverend Alan Green, Chair of Tower Hamlets of Interfaith Forum; Rajib Ahmed, Speaker of the Tower Hamlets Council; Dilowar Hussain, Director of

the East London Mosque and the London Muslim Centre; Dr Abdul Bari, Chairman of the East London Mosque, Dr Ian Basnett, Public Health Director for Barts and the London; Graham Fisher, Chief Executive of Toynbee Hall; Daniel DeHanas of Christ Church Spitalfields; Stephen Crampton-Hayward Managing Director of the

Whitechapel Art Gallery; and Shafiur Rahman, Interim Director of Osmani Trust. Launching the ‘pledge wall’, these local leaders signed up to show support and raise awareness for the campaign. “These men are leaders politically, socially and economically, and are fathers, brothers and partners,” said Nurjahan Khatun, Director of the Jag-

‘These men are leaders politically, socially and economically, and are farmers, brothers and partners’

onari Women’s Centre. “We are delighted that they are using their positive influence to act as campaign champions, and are change-makers in the fight against domestic violence.” Jagonari hopes that all men in Tower Hamlets will follow suit and pledge their support for the campaign over the coming month. The campaign aims to shift attitudes and make men more aware of the range of behaviour that can be abusive. Additionally, the campaign changes the focus from domestic abuse being a women-only issue to a community responsibility.

The pledge wall will be available for the public to sign across four Idea Stores in Tower Hamlets – Whitechapel, Bow, Chrisp Street Market and Canary Wharf – featuring a display about domestic abuse and the problem it represents in the borough and nationally. In the meantime, the Jagonari Centre will continue to support women in the community, engage an estimated 300 men in the campaign through domestic abuse awareness workshops, and seek further support to continue their work in ending violence against women and girls.

Baroness Warsi visits Rohingya refugees at Cox’s Bazaar


aroness Warsi, Senior Minister at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has visited the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar to assess the humanitarian situation of the Rohingya refugees. Her visit followed discussions about the plight of the Rohingya people with Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on Tuesday. The Minister said: “I witnessed for myself the seriousness of the humanitarian situation and the resilience of the affected communities. The UK along with the rest of the international community has been pressing the Burmese Government to find a long-term solution. It is important though that humanitar-

ian aid continues to be allowed to reach the Rohingya people.” Talking to reporters at a closing press conference the Minister shared experiences of her visit: “As I have said throughout my visit, Bangladesh matters to the UK. We have strong people to people links, with over half a million Bangladeshis living in the UK. The UK government is committed to Bangladesh’s development and ambition of achieving middle income status within the next decade. We remain the largest bilateral grant donor in Bangladesh, with an aid programme which will directly help millions of the poorest people in Bangladesh.” “And Britain is very much

Baroness Warsi open for business. We are committed to ensuring that highly skilled Bangladeshi workers, business people, students and visitors view the UK as one of the best places to invest and

do business, study and visit. “That is why I have been looking forward to returning here since becoming Minister responsible for Bangladesh. It is great to see the progress Bangladesh has made against its Millennium Development Goals and I hope that it will be able to resolve some of the underlying issues that will improve the impact of development work, including ensuring the right climate for commercial investment. It was also great to have been able to visit Sylhet again, where family and business links between the UK and Bangladesh are so widespread.” When asked about the forthcoming elections in Bangladesh,

the Minister acknowledged that there had been a lot of public and business focus on this: “The elections are an opportunity for Bangladesh to advance and cement its reputation as a stable and responsible democracy. As a friend, international partner and fellow Commonwealth member, I hope all political parties will engage in constructive dialogue. Dialogue is in the interests of the Bangladeshi people, of businessmen and potential investors. I hope that all political parties, the Election Commission and civil society can work together towards credible elections that are inclusive and transparent. How this is done is for Bangladesh to decide.”


14 March 2013

News Migrant and Refugee women awarded on Women’s Day


amira Ahmed hosted The Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year Awards and the inaugural Speaking Together Media Awards on International Women’s Day 8 March 2013 at the Royal Festival Hall. Set up by a group of passionate activists and organisations that work with migrants, refugees and women, the awards in 2013 honour inspirational women – unsung heroines – who left their homes and loved ones, fleeing war and persecution, and managed not only to build a new life for themselves and their families, but also to support and inspire people and communities across the UK. “The political tension around migration is so high now and even sympathetic coverage of migrant women, especially, from refugee backgrounds tends to be about them only really as victims. So I was intrigued by awards that would celebrate the positive contributions such women have made to British society, as individuals, and challenge some of our sweeping assumptions about them.” said Samira Ahmed. This year the awards were presented to five women from across the UK who have made an outstanding contribution to women’s em-

Snow causes travel problems

Heavy snow is causing travel problems for a second day after hundreds of drivers were stranded in their cars overnight in southern England. Cross-Channel Eurostar train services are disrupted with severe delays due to bad weather in northern France.

Pound falls against dollar

The pound has fallen against the dollar and the euro after official figures showed UK manufacturing output fell by 1.5% in January from the month before. The drop came after a 0.9% rise in output in December, and has added to fears of a third recession since 2008.

British Museum top draw powerment and integration. The joint winners of the Woman of the Year category are Remzije Sherifi one of the first female radio journalists in Kosova who was evacuated on medical grounds from a refugee camp in Macedonia and who now lives in Glasgow and Constance Nzeneu a lawyer from Cameroon who fled to the UK in 2005 from the threat of a forced marriage and who now lives in Cardiff. Remzije runs Maryhill Integration Network where three staff and 60 volunteers operate a diverse programme of weekly activities in health, learning and creativity to support and improve the lives of people from overseas as well as local Scottish people.

And Constance leads the 40 strong Women Seeking Sanctuary Advocacy Group Wales in Cardiff, which she set up to support other women to cope with exile and to raise awareness within Wales about why women seek sanctuary. The Young Women of the Year Award went to Cynthia Masiyiwa who at only 21 and working with Citizens UK, supported 60 young people in her neighbourhood to get jobs at the Olympics and who has spoken up about her experiences of the immigration system with the then Immigration Minister, Damien Green. She came to London aged 15 from Zimbabwe to escape political violence. Honorary awards were

also made to Tina Gharavi and Emina Hadziosmanovic. The ceremony also included the launch of the Speaking Together media award for outstanding media coverage of women and migration. Gillian Slovo, novelist and playwright, Chair of the Speaking Together media award panel said: “In a world where so many people are in the move it is important not only for them but also for us that the voices of those who are forced to make their journeys be heard. That’s why I am delighted to be part of this award to elaborate excellent reporting of women and migration. And what a pleasure it has been to discover that despite all the prejudice and stereotypes that

exist, there is so much well written, well researched media coverage to celebrate.” Media award winners: Print Zoe Williams, The Guardian, ‘Evicting asylum seekers? We just follow orders’, 14 December 2012 Broadcast Jackie Long at Channel 4 News asks ‘Is the UK Border Agency fit for purpose? A damning report by the chief inspector of borders and immigration has raised serious questions over the UK Border Agency’s competence’ Online Len Grant, Life Without Papers: stories of undocumented migrant families and young people

Muslim Aid marks World Books Day MP derides bedroom tax


uslim Aid expressed solidarity with development organisations and educational institutions that support children in developing countries by providing access to books and educational resources on World Books Day. In many developing countries, especially rural areas, children just do not have access to books, libraries, e-technology or educational resources, depriving them of exploring the pleasures of books and reading. Expensive shipping costs prevent importation of even second hand books in sufficient quantity to meet the demand. A spokesman for Muslim

This Week

Aid said: “Books and educational resources are vital tools for development both in the UK and internationally. Promoting an understanding and awareness of this amongst future generations will ensure that a world free of poverty in the near future is a real possibility. “Muslim Aid runs several programmes throughout the

world in Europe, Africa and Asia which facilitate children with books and educational resources. In Bosnia Muslim Aid implemented Molly the Mobile Library, which visits different schools in order to provide books to pupils and children in remote areas. “Muslim Aid’s Rainbow Family Child Support Programme ensures that children, whose families cannot afford books, have access to books and educational resources. Our donors, who support children through Rainbow Family Programme, are also able to send story books through our headquarters.”


ushanara Ali MP said National Housing Federation figures show 2,121 people will be hit by the Toryled Government’s changes to the shared accommodation rate, losing on average £728 per year. The ‘Bedroom Tax’ will hit 660,000 households across the UK, two thirds of them home to someone with a disability, at exactly the same time as the Government gives a £100,000 tax cut to 13,000 millionaires. Rushanara said: “Labour supports sensible welfare reform but the Bedroom Tax is far from that – it is unfair and won’t work. David Cameron’s Bedroom Tax will hammer

families who are struggling to make ends meet, and could actually risk costing local tax-payers a fortune in higher private rents and covering the cost of driving people out of their homes. “Two thirds of the households hit are home to someone with a disability, and the families of soldiers and foster parents will also be hit. Yet at the same time millionaires are getting a massive tax cut. This is a deeply unfair policy. “We in the Labour Party will continue to hold this out of touch Government to account until Ministers see sense, admit this policy is totally unfair and think again.”

The British Museum was the UK’s most popular visitor attraction in 2012 - the sixth year running it has been so. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) said the London venue attracted 5.6 million visitors.

PPI claims create jobs

At least 20,000 jobs have been created to deal with claims over mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI), employment group Manpower has said. These were jobs created by big banks, it said, and did not take into account those created by companies that act as middlemen for claimants.

Funds halt schools building

The government’s scheme to rebuild England’s most crumbling schools is being held up by delays in finding private cash to fund it. This means scores of projects at some of the nation’s most dilapidated schools are yet to get off the ground.

Huhne case ‘like stocks’

A friend of the jailed former cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce has said their experience was like “being in the stocks”. They spent their first night in prison after being jailed for eight months for perverting the course of justice.

Police ‘ignored’ Savile rape

Police forces mishandled complaints and missed opportunities to apprehend Jimmy Savile, a critical report says. The Inspectorate of Constabulary said forces did not understand the depth of the late DJ’s sexual offending.


14 March 2013

Features Muslim Aid calls for UN humanitarian summit


uslim Aid, a British international aid and development agency has called for a Global Humanitarian Summit to reach a new compact on international humanitarian principles and values and make the current humanitarian system more inclusive, more open and more participatory. The call was made by the CEO of Muslim Aid, at the Charity’s Annual Mosque Appreciation Event in London on Saturday, 9 March 2013 which was organised by the Charity to give feedback on Muslim Aid’s relief work in the UK and overseas for emergency response and economic development. The CEO of Muslim Aid said that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other faith-based humanitarian agencies such as Muslim Aid were providing emergency relief and development assistance to thousands of people in disaster and conflict countries. Yet the UN humanitarian coordination system, as well as the international IASC mechanism did not admit them to their councils as permanent members and participants. The present international humanitarian structures are dominated by post-world war humanitarian institutions. The new humanitarian players have the resources, capacity and commitment to contribute fully to the coordination and implementation of the global humanitarian system. A Global Humanitarian Summit, convened by the UN Secretary-General during his term of office, would result in the adoption of a new global compact on the core values and principles of humanitarianism, especially impartiality, neutrality and independence and signing of fresh Protocols on access and security. By formally admitting ‘the new kids on the block’ in the humanitarian system and recognising their invaluable contribution to alleviating world poverty, it will become more transparent, more democratic and more inclusive. At the event, Muslim Aid gave a presentation on their relief and development projects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Syria, Burma, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan.

Muhammad Yunus first became involved with fighting poverty in 1974, and has since won many plaudits and awards for his work. His microfinance concept is gaining in popularity

Fighting against poverty Dr Muhammad Yunus has become one of the world’s most famous activists fighting against poverty. His pioneering ideas are being adopted around the world. Now, the US has decided to honour him with its most prestigious award

His first loan consisted of US$27 from his own pocket, which he lent to women in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University who made bamboo furniture


he United States Senate has unanimously approved a bill to award Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus a Congressional Gold Medal. The bill, introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin and Senator Robert Bennett, recognizes Dr. Yunus as a leading figure in the effort to fight poverty and promote economic and social opportunity. Through his Grameen Bank, Dr. Yunus has pioneered the microcredit movement and helped hundreds of millions of people around the world break out of poverty. Dr. Muhammad Yunus believes overcoming poverty is not just a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right - the right to dignity and a decent life, said Durbin. He is truly deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal and I am honored to call him a friend. Durbin first met Dr. Yunus in Bangladesh and has worked with him for more than ten years to advance microcredit and economic development in the worlds poorest nations. One of Dr. Yunus greatest successes in recent years has been microcredit programs targeted toward poor women. Most of these programs have repayment rates greater than 95 percent and have helped women around the world change their lives and the lives of their families. It is for these efforts that Dr. Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Yunus has given hope to millions through his Grameen Bank. Over the last thirty years, his theory of microenterprise has become a phenomenon touching the lives of more than 100 million people around the world. It is hard to think of any single idea in our lifetime which has lifted so many people out of the deepest depths of poverty, Durbin said. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award which can be bestowed by the U.S. Congress. The decoration is awarded to individuals who perform an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. The Congressional Gold Medal is considered the Congressional equivalent to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Legislation bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal to a recipient must be co-sponsored by two thirds of the membership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before their respective committees will consider it. The Congressional Gold Medal is created by the United States Mint to commemorate the person and achievement for which the medal is awarded. Former recipients of the award include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Elie Wiesel, Pope John Paul II, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

About Dr Muhammad Yunus Yunus studied at his village school in the early years. When his family moved to Chittagong, he enrolled in the Lamabazar Primary School. Later, he studied at Chittagong Collegiate School and passed the matriculation examination, in which he secured the 16th position among 39,000 students in East Pakistan During his school years, he was active in the Boy Scouts, and travelled to West Pakistan and India in 1952. In 1955, he attended the World Scouts Jamboree in Canada as part of the Pakistan contingent. On the way back, he travelled through Europe and Asia by road. Next, Yunus enrolled into Chittagong College where he was active in cultural activies and got awards for acting in dramas. In 1957, he enrolled in the department of economics at Dhaka University and completed his BA in 1960 and MA in 1961. Following his graduation, Yunus joined in the Bureau of Economics. There he worked as research assistant to the economical researchs of Professor Nurul Islam and Rehman Sobhan. Later he was appointed as a lecturer in economics in Chittagong College and joined there in 1961. He obtained his Ph.D in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States in 1969 after getting a Fulbright scholarship. From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University before moving back to Bangladesh, where he joined Chittagong University as an economics professor. Yunus first got involved in fighting poverty during a 1974 famine in Bangladesh. He discovered that very small loans could make a disproportionate difference to a poor person. His first loan consisted of US$27 from his own pocket, which he lent to women in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University who made bamboo furniture. They had to take out usurious loans in order to buy bamboo. They then sold these items to the moneylenders to repay them. With a net profit of 5 Bangladeshi taka (.02 USD), the women were unable to support their families. However, traditional banks were not interested in making tiny loans at more reasonable interest rates to poor people, who were considered repayment risks. During this time, he established a rural economic programme as a research project. In 1974, he developed a Tebhaga Khamar (three share farm) which the government adopted as the Packaged Input Programme. In order to make the project more effective, Yunus and his associates proposed another project called ‘Gram Sarkar’ (the village government). The government adopted it in 1980, but the succeeding regime later lifted it away.

This Week Gang rape case: five in court

Mayor fires off angry letter over Banglatown


ayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman has published a letter clamming planned changes to the borough’s electoral wards following the conclusion of a public consultation. In the strongly-worded letter, Mr Rahman called on the Local Government Boundary Commission to scrap its plans to re-name wards after the tumultuous consultation period came to an end on Monday. Mr Rahman’s detailed his response to the plans, writing that he objected in the “strongest possible terms” to the pro-

posals to scrap ‘Banglatown’, the removal of ‘St Dunstan’s’ from the Stepney Wards, and the re-naming of East India and Lansbury as Poplar North. Referring to the move to drop the name ‘Banglatown’ from the Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, he wrote: “I struggle to comprehend why any individual or political entity would regard dispensing with this name as desirable, aside from as a very cynical blast on the proverbial dog whistle, aimed at attracting support from people who resent the Bangladeshi com-

‘Renaming the (Banglatown) ward as merely ‘Spitalfields’ would be a hugely reactionary, retrograde and provocative step’

Mayor Lutfur Rahman munity’s presence in t he area. “Accordingly, renaming the ward as merely ‘Spitalfields’ would be a hugely reactionary, retro-

grade and provocative step”. The Commission is due to publish its final recommendations in Spring this year. Its draft proposals had also attracted criticism for removing the names of former Labour Party leader George Lansbury and former Bishop of London St Dunstan from

ward names in the borough. Mr Rahman concluded: “I hope that you will consider my submission, as well as the views of hundreds of local residents expressed in related petitions, extremely carefully when arriving at a final decision.”

Five sentenced to death for murder in Dhaka of Saudi diplomat


special tribunal sentenced to death five Bangladeshi men for killing a Saudi diplomat in an apparent street crime earlier this year. Initial speculation about the shooting had focused on Iran, which denied the accusations. The suspects told investigators they were trying to rob the diplomat and shot him accidentally. Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali, a 45-year-old official in the Saudi Embassy’s consu-

lar section, was killed near his home in Dhaka in March. Tribunal Judge Mohammad Motahar Hossain handed down the verdict Sunday, chief prosecutor Rafiqul Islam said. One of the men was tried in his absence, Islam said. He said the men can appeal the verdict. Iran has been accused of other international attacks or attempted attacks against diplomats, including Saudis. Days after the shooting, Saudi Arabia sent investigators to assist

Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali was killed near his home in Dhaka Bangladeshi detectives. The defendants pleaded not guilty at the trial. After their arrest in July, the four men told investigators they tried to rob the

diplomat as he was going for a walk on the deserted street and shot him accidentally during a scuffle. Police said the men were ar-

rested after a revolver and a car used in the killing were found in their possession. Muslim-majority Bangladesh enjoys good relations with Saudi Arabia, which is a top destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers. Relations between the countries were tested in October last year, when Saudi Arabia beheaded eight Bangladeshi workers who were found guilty of robbing and killing an Egyptian.

Five men accused of raping and murdering an Indian student were read the charges in a nearempty courtroom on Monday after the judge cleared out lawyers for bickering over whether the men deserved a defence. The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died two weeks after being gang-raped and beaten on a moving bus in New Delhi, then thrown bleeding onto the street. Protests followed, along with a fierce public debate over police failure to stem rampant violence against women. With popular anger simmering against the five men and a teenager accused in the case, most lawyers in the district where the trial will be held refuse to represent them.

British soldier shot dead

A British soldier serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan has been shot dead by a man in an Afghan army uniform, according to the US-led military coalition. In a statement released on Tuesday, ISAF said that the incident, which took place in southern Afghanistan on Monday, was “under investigation”. “The British soldier was killed when a suspected Afghan soldier opened fire first at Afghan troops and then at British soldiers,” said Major Martyn Crighton, an ISAF spokesman. “In the subsequent engagement, the attacker was killed by British troops.”

Many killed in drone attack

At least eight people have been killed in two suspected US drone attacks in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas, security officials say.Both attacks took place in the Mir Ali area of the North Waziristan tribal district in the early hours of Tuesday. In Khiderkhel, eight missiles were fired at a compound, killing at least four people, security sources told Al Jazeera. In Essakhel, meanwhile, two missiles were fired, killing at least three people.

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Messi named world’s best

Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi has been named world footballer of the year for the fourth time in a row, marking another unprecedented achievement. He pipped Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo to the title. No other male footballer has been named the best on the planet in four separate years, let alone four in succession.

Unholy war A flawed tribunal opens old wounds and threatens Bangladesh’s future, says The Economist


T WAS supposed to help Bangladesh come to terms with the horrors that accompanied its birth as a nation in 1971. But the “International Crimes Tribunal” has provoked the worst political violence the country has endured in the 42 years since. Actually a domestic court, the tribunal is trying men accused of atrocities in the war that won independence from Pakistan. According to Odhikar, a Bangladeshi human-rights watchdog, more than 100 people died between February 5th and March 7th in what it called a “killing spree” by law-enforcement agencies on the pretext of controlling the violence. At least 67 people were killed after the court delivered its third sentence on February 28th. That was death by hanging for Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, one of the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s biggest Islamic party, for the murder, abduction, rape, torture and persecution of his countrymen. The sentence had been expected. But members of Shibir, Jamaat’s student wing, reacted furiously. Mr Sayeedi is a fiery Islamic orator who draws bigger crowds than any other preacher in Bangladesh. Within a day of the verdict police and paramilitary forces had shot dead at least 23 protesters. On March 3rd the government deployed troops in Bogra district, north-west of the capital, Dhaka, after over 10,000 Jamaat supporters armed with sticks and home-made bombs attacked police stations and government offices. Jamaat has been behaving more like an insurgency than a political party. Thugs have used children as human shields, attacked Hindu homes and temples and hacked policemen to death. In Jhenidah, in the south-west, they gouged out the eyes of a policeman they had murdered. Near Chittagong in the east they failed in an attempt to burn 19 policemen alive, but killed one with a pick through the neck. The violence saps hope that a public act of vengeance against Jamaat, delivered through a broken justice system, might inspire

some sort of catharsis for the country. Rumours spread on Facebook of a sighting of Mr Sayeedi’s face on the moon. Some saw this as a sign of his innocence and it mobilised pious supporters very different from the thuggish core of Shibir. Seven more verdicts are due. Most are expected in a matter of months. Next on the list is Ghulam Azam, the head of Jamaat in 1971, accused of overseeing the setting up of pro-Pakistani death squads manned by the party’s student wing. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for Mr Azam, whom it likened, in its closing arguments this week, to Adolf Hitler. Observers say a verdict may come by March 26th, the day the 1971 war broke out, now celebrated as Independence Day. If, as is widely expected, the defendants are found guilty, then the entire leadership of Jamaat could be sent to the gallows this year. So too could two members of Bangladesh’s leading mainstream opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which governed in coalition with Jamaat until late 2006. Mr Sayeedi’s conviction had been expected by mid-December. It was delayed when the presiding judge, Nizamul Huq, resigned as chairman of the tribunal on December 11th. Transcripts of Skype conversations published in Bangladesh showed collusion between judges, prosecutors and a Brussels-based lawyer with no official standing with the court. The reconstituted court responded to the apparent judicial misconduct by banning public discussion of the matter. It rejected applications for retrials for Mr Sayeedi and other defendants. Of the three judges sentencing Mr Sayeedi, one had heard only some of the prosecution’s evidence, another had heard none of it. The third had heard no evidence whatsoever. This seems within the judges’ rights under the tribunal’s rules. But it heightens the impression of a rush to complete the proceedings before an election due at the end of the year. Politically, the most significant effect of Jamaat’s violent fight for survival has been the BNP’s decision to tie its fate to that of its Islamist ally. It is now clear that if in power, the BNP would scrap the trials. Its leader, Khaleda Zia, called the killing of Jamaat supporters “genocide”, a term usually reserved in Bangladesh for the killings by Pakistani troops which Mrs Zia’s allies are accused of having abetted. So the secularism that is well embedded in this moderate, majority-Muslim country may be under threat if the BNP returns to power. India will hope it does not. It was antagonised when Mrs Zia, apparently to respect a protest strike, cancelled a meeting with Pranab Mukherjee, its president, on a visit to Dhaka from March 3rd-5th. What began as a peaceful protest by hundreds of thousands of people around an intersection at Shahbag, in central Dhaka, demanding the death penalty for the indicted war criminals, has turned into a political battle that is splitting the country down the middle. The protesters’ initial narrow focus on accountability for war crimes soon gave way to calls for the banning of Jamaat, along with its influential banks, businesses and social institutions. With that shift, the public support the protesters enjoyed from across the political spectrum evaporated. The struggle is now framed by the BNP and its ally as a battle between anti-Islamist forces and the pious. Foreign diplomats in Dhaka have issued polite appeals for due process at the tribunal and restraint on the streets. But they treat the trials as a domestic affair. America is further constrained because in 1971 it leant to Pakistan’s side during the war. Saudi Arabia is silent, despite the imminent hangings of standard-bearers of its strand of Islam. India supports Bangladesh’s approach. China is not bothered. In January 2007 much of the outside world gave implicit backing to what amounted to a coup, and two years of unelected armybacked “technocratic” government. Foreigners now fret that the tribunal’s flaws mean that justice has not been seen to be done. But any attempt to intervene in Bangladesh’s judicial process would probably be met with contempt.

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14 March 2013


10 January 2013

The World News Headlines

Walmart, the world’s largest retail company, has been found to have had ties to a garment factory in Bangladesh where 112 workers were trapped and killed in a fire in late November 2012. The company, which buys $1 billion in garments from Bangladesh each year, initially tried to deny any connection

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Tower Hamlets schools best in UK


avid Laws, the government’s minister for schools, wrote to Mulberry School for Girls, Bethnal Green Technology College, Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat Church of England School, and St Paul’s Way Trust School after Department for Education (DfE) figures revealed them as the UK’s highest performers at GCSE level. “Your results show that you are among the 100 top performing schools in terms of the progress that your pupils on free school meals make between Key Stage 2 results, and their GCSEs in English and Maths”, he wrote. The minister also commended the schools for being ‘exceptional’ in “ensuring that all pupils, whatever their background are successful”. Figures released by the DfE last month also show that 61.8 per cent of those entered to sit GCSEs in Tower Hamlets achieved five A*-C grades in 2012- compared to 59.4 per cent of pupils nationally. Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said: ‘‘As Mayor providing first class education for our young people is a key priority for my administration. Our investment in schools, support of our young people with the Mayor’s Education Achievement Award and Mayor’s Aim Higher Programme, plus excellent partnership working between the council, schools and parents has resulted in recognition from Ofsted and the government that we are proud of.’’ Cllr. Oliur Rahman, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Families said: ‘‘I am pleased that the hard work of our young people, schools and council staff has received recognition from the government. Tower Hamlets is leading the way in the provision of education and opportunities for all our young people.’’


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