FRENCH RESOLUTION DENOUNCES CHINA’S UYGHUR GENOCIDE

France’s National Assembly has adopted a resolution that denounces genocide by China against its Uyghur population, a minority Muslim group in the northeastern Xinjiang region. The text of the resolution reads that the Assembly “officially recognises the violence perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against the Uyghurs as constituting crimes against humanity and genocide.” It calls on the French government to do the same, and undertake “the necessary measures within the international community and in its foreign policy” to stop China’s actions towards the Uyghurs. The non-binding resolution, which was proposed by the opposition Socialists, but backed by President Emmanuel Macron’s LaRem party, was adopted almost unanimously – 169 votes for, one against, five abstentions – two weeks before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

FRANCE BANS WEARING OF HIJAB AT SPORTING EVENTS

French lawmakers have voted in favour of an amendment prohibiting the wearing of the hijab at sporting events, resulting in the exclusion of Muslim female athletes from competitive field sports. During a discussion on the sports bill in the Senate, the upper house of parliament, lawmakers adopted an amendment that aims to prohibit the wearing of the hijab in competitions organised by the country’s sporting federations in order to maintain “neutrality” on a sports field. Some 160 lawmakers voted in favour and 143 against, amending the bill concerning democratising sport and securing the conditions of those exercising professional sport to include the following text: the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols is prohibited for participation in sports events and sports competitions organised by sports federations and affiliated associations.

FESTIVAL BOYCOTT JUSTIFIED DESPITE ISRAEL LOBBY PROTEST

Protests against the Sydney Festival accepting financial sponsorship from the state of Israel have highlighted atrocities committed against Palestinians. The protesters have also shown the unexceptional nature of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinians’ freedoms, and have challenged the Trumpian notion that lies constantly repeated can become truths.  Rights Watch report, A Threshold Crossed, condemned Israel for committing crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution of Palestinians. Widespread support of the boycott of the Sydney Festival has so threatened supporters of Israeli oppression, that they want laws passed to outlaw such activities. Prominent among the advocates of anti-BDS legislation is a Labour rat in the ranks, the NSW shadow minister for the arts Walt Secord. Earlier this month, Secord called on the Arts Minister Ben Franklin to consider American-style anti-BDS legislation.

TURKEY CLOSE TO SIGNING $1B CURRENCY SWAP DEAL WITH AZERBAIJAN

Turkey’s central bank is close to signing a 1 billion euro ($1.14B) currency swap deal with Azerbaijani counterpart in the coming weeks. Turkey has made several swap agreements recently to bolster its hard currency reserves with the latest sealed on with United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) inked a swap agreement with a nominal size of 18 billion UAE dirhams and TL 64 billion ($4.7 billion) with its Emirati counterpart. The central bank has swap deals with China, Qatar and South Korea worth about $23 billion (TL 260.66 billion). They encourage trade in local currencies and boost the central bank’s gross reserves. Turkey had also previously sought deals with central banks in the United States, Britain, Russia and Malaysia. In an attempt to slow the crash in the national currency, the central bank last year announced five direct market interventions that bankers say totalled $10 billion before unveiling a lira protection scheme.

MALAYSIAN STATE ALLOCATES BUDGET FOR NON-MUSLIM BODIES

The Sabah government has agreed to allocate RM47 million for non-Muslim religious bodies as well as vernacular, mission and independent schools in the state this year. It is the largest allocation of its kind so far, according to chief minister Hajiji Noor. “The amount is the biggest ever approved by the Sabah government and this reflects our sincerity to ensure the welfare of all races and religions in the state will be taken care of,” he said. This amount is part of the RM164.12 million allocated by the government for the implementation of educational and religious development programmes under this year’s state budget. Meanwhile, the Sabah government also allocated RM1 million for lion dance heads that will be distributed to the various associations and lion dance troupes in conjunction with Chinese New Year throughout the state.

UN ALARMS OVER HATE CRIMES IN BOSNIA, SERBIA

The UN said it is “deeply concerned” by recent incidents in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia that saw individuals glorifying war crimes and convicted war criminals, triggering anxiety and tensions in communities. Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at a UN news conference that the incidents target specific communities with hate speech and, in some cases, directly incite violence coming in a year both countries have elections scheduled. The acts took place in several locations in the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Bijeljina, Prijedor, Foca, Gacko, Visegrad, as well as in the Brcko District, and Priboj and Novi Pazar in Serbia. The UN rights official said some of the incidents were in locations that saw largescale atrocity crimes during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as Prijedor and Foca.

NORWAY SAYS TALIBAN TEAM EXPECTED IN OSLO FOR AID TALKS

A Taliban delegation is expected to hold talks with Norwegian officials and Afghan civil society representatives in Oslo, the Norwegian foreign ministry said. They will meet representatives of the Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries, for talks on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and human rights, the ministry said. The ministry did not specify which allies would attend, but Norwegian newspaper VG said they would include Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States. “We are extremely concerned about the grave situation in Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing a full-blown humanitarian disaster,” said Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt. “In order to be able to help the civilian population in Afghanistan, it is essential that both the international community and Afghans from various parts of society engage in dialogue with the Taliban,” Huitfeldt added.

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