G7 TO ERADICATE FORCED LABOUR AMID TREATMENT OF UYGHURS

Trade ministers from the Group of Seven industrialised nations agreed to eliminate forced labour and shared their concern over such state-sponsored practice on minorities, in a veiled criticism of China’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in the far-western Xinjiang region. “We affirm that there is no place for forced labour in the rules-based multilateral trading system,” the ministers said in a joint statement following their virtual meeting hosted by Britain, expressing their concern over “state-sponsored forced labour of vulnerable groups and minorities.” The ministers referred to the state-sponsored forced labour of vulnerable groups and minorities in the agricultural, solar and garment sectors but did not single out China. China, however, denies it is systematically mistreating Uyghurs and has accused the United States of meddling in its internal affairs.

ISRAEL’S LATEST MOVE TO SILENCE PALESTINIANS CONDEMNED

There has been worldwide condemnation including in Australia of Israeli designation of six Palestinian human rights organisations and unions as “terrorist” organisations “designed to criminalise, persecute, and silence Palestinian civil society and human rights defenders for their commitment to the struggle against Israeli occupation, entrenched settler-colonialism, and apartheid.” The organisations targeted include: Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Al Haq – Law in the Service of Man; Bisan Centre for Research and Development; Defence for Children International – Palestine; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. This move allows the Israeli Government to arrest human rights defenders, and confiscate property of the organisations in an effort to silence Palestinians in their efforts to resist the occupation.

SAUDI ARABIA EXPELS ENVOY OVER YEMEN WAR CRITICISM

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Lebanon for consultations and asked the Lebanese ambassador to leave the kingdom within 48 hours. Saudi Arabia also banned all imports from Lebanon until further notice after Lebanese Information Minister George Kurdahi criticised the Saudi-led war in Yemen against the fighters of Ansarallah  [Houthi] movement. Bahrain followed Saudi Arabia and asked the Lebanese ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours. Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said Lebanese Ambassador Milad Hanna Nemmour was asked to leave because of the unacceptable and negative attitudes and statements by a Lebanese official. Kurdahi had made a statement against Riyadh in a televised interview said to be recorded before he took the position in the new Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

MUSLIM GROUPS OPPOSE RENAMING JAKARTA STREET AFTER ATATURK

The government’s plan to rename a street in Menteng, Central Jakarta, after the founding father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to reciprocate a similar gesture made by the Turkish government, has drawn criticism from Indonesian ulema and an Islam-based opposition party. The move was proposed to deepen Indonesia and Turkey’s relationship, Indonesian Ambassador to Turkey Lalu Muhammad Iqbal said, adding that the Turkish government had already approved the Indonesian government’s proposal to rename a street in front of the Indonesian embassy in Ankara after Indonesian founding father Sukarno. “In line with diplomatic etiquette, we will name a street in Jakarta after the Turkish founding father,” Lalu said.

IRAN SPACE LAUNCH FAILS TO PUT PAYLOADS INTO ORBIT

Iran’s space launch on December 30 failed to put its three payloads into orbit after the rocket was unable to reach the required speed, a defence ministry spokesman said in remarks carried on state television on December 31. The attempted launch, which came as indirect US-Iran talks take place in Austria to try to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal, drew criticism from the United States, Germany and France. “For a payload to enter orbit, it needs to reach speeds above 7,600 (metres per second). We reached 7,350,” the spokesman, Ahmad Hosseini, said in a documentary about the launch vehicle broadcast on state TV and posted online. Hosseini did not clarify whether the devices had reached orbit, but suggested the launch was a test ahead of coming attempts to put satellites into orbit.

TRANSGENDER WOMAN FLEES TO MALAYSIA AFTER PRISON THREAT

Ms. Nur Sajat, a transgender entrepreneur and social media personality, announced that she had fled to Australia to escape the threat of prison in her home state, Selangor, Malaysia.  “When I received refuge in Australia, I felt protected to be my true self, to be free,” Ms. Nur Sajat said in an interview with The New York Times. “I felt trapped in my own country, where I was born, because of the laws there that criminalise me and consider me a man.” The authorities want to imprison her for wearing female clothing at a religious event and threatened to put her in a rehabilitation camp where she could “return to the right path.” Three years earlier, on her birthday, she put on a demure hijab and attended a Muslim prayer session at a new building she was inaugurating near the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

AIMA CONDUCTS LIFESAVERS PROGRAMME NATIONWIDE

Australian Islamic Medical Association (AIMA) conducted Lifesavers programmes at Mosques and Islamic centres across different Australian states and territories, both physical where possible and virtual in states with COVID-19 lockdown. Lifesaving skills such as hands-on experience with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), management of choking, recovery position and use of Automated Electrical Defibrillator (AED) were taught. Between 15 to 40 community members, including men, women, and children, attended this programme at each site. The lifesavers programme was started in the UK by British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) in 2014 as the ‘BLS Mosque Project’, teaching life-saving skills in three Mosques in London. The project has expanded each consecutive year through the immense efforts of the team, in 2019, over 840 volunteers came together to teach BLS to over 4000 members of the public in 114 Mosques nationwide.

IRAQ ARRESTS SECURITY OFFICERS OVER DEATH OF 20 CIVILIANS

Iraqi forces detained several security officers in connection with the death of 20 civilians in central Iraq. The civilians were killed during a security operation to arrest two suspected militants in the village of Al-Rashayed in Babel province on December 30. The killings have triggered outrage across Iraq, forcing the government to launch an investigation into the incident. The security official reportedly said several security personnel, including officers, were arrested in connection with the fatal operation. He, however, did not give an exact number.

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