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Taliban Increase Efforts To Target Enemies as Airport Evacuations Continue

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Conditions in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate days after the Taliban effectively gained control over most of the country, with a U.N. assessment from Friday warning that the Taliban are targeting what they call “collaborators” in major cities.


Amnesty for Some

Conditions in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate days after the Taliban effectively gained control over most of the country, with an assessment from the United Nations warning on Friday that the Taliban are targeting what the Taliban call “collaborators” in major cities.

The Norwegian Center for Global Analysis, a U.N.-linked intelligence support center, said Taliban fighters are going door-to-door in major cities looking to arrest or kill their alleged enemies and/or their family members. There are also reports of checkpoints that have been set up throughout the country in an effort to stop and identify potential enemies of the Taliban, although it’s unclear at this time just how many have been affected by the practices. The move comes just two days after the Taliban promised a general amnesty.

One of the most prominent people targeted despite the amnesty pledge was Haji Mullah Achakzai, the police chief for Baghdis province near Herat. Achakzai’s execution was captured on camera and shared online, drawing concerns that the Taliban’s claims to not engage in acts of vengeance or reprisals against former enemies may not be true.

Doubts Over Media Commitments

Adding to this fear are reports of Taliban efforts to target journalists. Like other groups, the Taliban promised to respect journalists and promote a free press in Afghanistan so long as they follow Islamic rules. However, German outlet DW reported that several of its journalists, translators, and their families have all been hunted down by the Taliban.

In one instance, the Taliban went door-to-door looking for a DW journalist who has already left the country and is working in Germany. Regardless, his family was targeted, with at least one member being killed and another seriously injured. Peter Limboiurg, DW‘s Director-General issued a statement about the slaying, condemning the attack and calling on the German government to take action.

“The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,” Limbourg said. “It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organized searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!”

DW has had at least three journalists targeted in total. Nematullah Hemat of the private television station Ghargasht TV is believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban, and Toofan Omar, who ran Paktia Ghag Radio, was shot dead by Taliban fighters. Additionally, a translator for Die Zeit was shot dead by two Taliban members this week.

Panjshir Valley and the National Resistance Front

While the Taliban continue to try and consolidate their rule, there are still some efforts to push back against the group. Hundreds attended protests throughout major cities in the country on Wednesday and Thursday saw to defend the Afghan National Flag, which the Taliban have largely replaced with their own. These protests were most often met with brutal reprisals, including beatings and shootings.

Beyond that, Amrullah Saleh, the former Vice President of the now-defunct Afghan National Government, continues to fight the Taliban from the Panjshir Valley. The region is infamous for having never been conquered during the Soviet invasion of the country in the ’80s, and for being home to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. The latter was a group that allied with the United States to bring down the Taliban in 2001, although it remained largely autonomous from the control of the National Afghan Government.

Panjshir Valley now hosts some of the most senior members of the ousted Afghan government, with Saleh declaring himself caretaker president after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country with over $160 million.

“I will never, ever and under no circumstances bow to the Taliban terrorists,” Saleh wrote on Twitter. “I will never betray the soul and legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Mas[s]oud, the commander, the legend, and the guide.”

Massoud was a commander of the Northern Alliance and remains a venerated figure for many Afghans. His son, alongside Saleh, is hoping that a second alliance can topple the Taliban.

In an op-ed he wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Ahmad Massoud said the regions have prepared for a Taliban takeover for twenty years, adding that “we also have the weapons carried by the Afghans who, over the past 72 hours, have responded to my appeal to join the resistance in Panjshir.”

“But that is not enough. If Taliban warlords launch an assault, they will of course face staunch resistance from us,” he said, adding, “The flag of the National Resistance Front will fly over every position that they attempt to take, as the National United Front flag flew 20 years ago.”

He ended with a plea for the U.S. to remain “a ‘great arsenal of democracy,'” and arm the so-called National Resistance Front.

Lifeline at the Kabul Airport

While many Afghans continue to lay low in their homes or flee into Panjshir Valley in preparation to fight the Taliban, evacuations from the Kabul Airport have continued to be a tense affair. Throughout the week, flights were required to intermittently pause as the situation on the ground worsened, leading to chaos over boarding the flights.

Outside of the airport, the scenes are chaos. Crowds of thousands have waited outside in attempts to enter the airport. The Taliban claimed they had no interest in anyone seeking to leave the country but have since set up checkpoints at the two entrances to the airport.

In footage from Thursday, Taliban fighters can be seen beating crowds of would-be refugees back, or according to some reports, even firing at the crowd.

Thousands of American troops continue to guard the airport and direct evacuation flights; however, Britain and France also maintain troops at airport facilities and have sent ore over the last week. Unlike the American mission, which is limited to the airport at this point in time, French and British forces have conducted raids throughout Kabul in an effort to extract their citizens. According to The Telegraph, at least 200 British Nationals have been successfully extracted so far.

As evacuations continue, the U.S. and U.N. are asking more and more nations to accept Afghan Refugees as common destinations, such as Qatar, are reaching their capacity to successfully take care of them.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (DW) (Military Times)

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Israel Relaxes Abortion Restrictions in Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

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The reforms follow similar moves by France and Germany as leaders across the political spectrum denounce the court’s decision.


Health Minister Makes Announcement

Israel is easing access to abortion in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, Nitzan Horowitz, the country’s health minister and head of the small left-wing Meretz party, announced Monday.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s move to deny a woman the right to abortion is a dark move,” he said in the announcement, “oppressing women and returning the leader of the free and liberal world a hundred years backward.”

The new rules, approved by a majority in the parliamentary committee, grant women access to abortion pills through the universal health system. Women will be able to obtain the pills at local health centers rather than only hospitals and surgical clinics.

The new policy also removes the decades-old requirement for women to physically appear before a special committee that must grant approval to terminate a pregnancy.

While women will still need to get approval, the process will become digitized, the application form will be simplified, and the requirement to meet a social worker will become optional.

The committee will only conduct hearings in the rare case it initially denies the abortion procedure.

Israel’s 1977 abortion law stipulates four criteria for termination of pregnancy: If the woman is under 18 or over 40, if the fetus is in danger, if the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or an “illicit union,” including extramarital affairs, and if the woman’s mental or physical health is at risk.

All of the changes will take effect over the next three months.

The World Reacts

Politicians across the political spectrum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision since it was announced Friday.

On Saturday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed support for a bill proposed by parliament that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the country’s constitution.

“For all women, for human rights, we must set this gain in stone,” she wrote on Twitter. “Parliament must be able to unite overwhelmingly over this text.”

Germany scrapped a Nazi-era law prohibiting the promotion of abortion Friday, just hours before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In Israel, abortion is a far less controversial issue than it is for Americans. Around 98% of people who apply for an abortion get one, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Part of the reason for Israel’s relatively easy access to abortion is that many residents interpret Jewish law to condone, or at least not prohibit, the procedure.

In the United States, several Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee, Hillel International, and the Women’s Rabbinic Network have expressed opposition to the court ruling, and some Jews have protested it as a violation of their religious freedom.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (The Guardian)

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Flight Deporting Refugees From U.K. to Rwanda Canceled at Last Hour

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the U.K.’s asylum policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.


Saved By The Bell

The inaugural flight in the U.K. government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda was canceled about an hour and a half before it was supposed to take off Tuesday evening.

A last-minute legal intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) halted the flight. Tuesday’s flight originally included 37 people, but after a string of legal challenges that number dwindled to just seven.

In its ruling for one of the seven passengers, a 54-year-old Iraqi man, the court said he cannot be deported until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.

Another asylum seeker, a 26-year-old Albanian man, told The Guardian he was in a “very bad mental state” and did not want to go to Rwanda, a country he knows nothing about.

“I was exploited by traffickers in Albania for six months,” he said. “They trafficked me to France. I did not know which country I was being taken to.”

A final domestic effort to block the flight in the Court of Appeals failed on Monday. The High Court will make a ruling on the asylum policy next month.

Britains Divided by Controversial Policy

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to lawmakers after the flight was canceled, defending the asylum policy and saying preparations for the next flight will begin immediately.

“We cannot keep on spending nearly £5 million a day on accommodation including that of hotels,” she said. “We cannot accept this intolerable pressure on public services and local communities.”

“It makes us less safe as a nation because those who come here illegally do not have the regularized checks or even the regularized status, and because evil people-smuggling gangs use the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains to fund other appalling crimes that undermine the security of our country,” she continued.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Filippo Grandi, told CBC the policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.

“We believe that this is all wrong,” he said. “This is all wrong. I mean, saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the right, is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don’t think so. I think it’s… I don’t know what it is.”

An Iranian asylum seeker in a British detention center who was told to prepare for deportation before being granted a late reprieve was asked by ABC whether he ever thought the U.K. would send him to Africa.

“I thought in the U.K. there were human rights,” he said. “But so far I haven’t seen any evidence.”

The Conservative government’s plan was announced in April, when it said it would resettle some asylum seekers 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where they can seek permanent refugee status, apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a safe third country.

The scheme was meant to deter migrants from illegally smuggling themselves into the country by boat or truck.

Migrants have long made the dangerous journey from Northern France across the English Channel, with over 28,000 entering the U.K. in boats last year, up from around 8,500 the year prior. Dozens of people have died making the trek, including 27 who drowned last November when a single boat capsized.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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Ryanair Draws Outrage, Accusations of Racism After Making South Africans Take Test in Afrikaans

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Afrikaans, which is only spoken as a first language by around 13% of South Africa, has not been the country’s national language since apartheid came to an end in 1994.


Airline Won’t Explain Discrimination

Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has received widespread criticism and accusations of racism after it began requiring South African nationals to complete a test in Afrikaans to prove their passport isn’t fraudulent.

The airline told BBC the new policy was implemented because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the U.K.”

Among other questions, the test asks passengers to name South Africa’s president, its capital city, and one national public holiday.

Ryanair has not said why it chose Afrikaans, the Dutch colonial language that many associate with white minority rule, for the test.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa, and Afrikaans ranks third for usage below Zulu and IsiXhosa. Only around 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language.

“They’re using this in a manner that is utterly absurd,” Conrad Steenkamp, CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council, told reporters. “Afrikaans, you have roughly 20% of the population of South Africa understand Afrikaans. But the rest don’t, so you’re sitting with roughly 50 million people who do not understand Afrikaans.”

“Ryanair should be careful,” he continued. “Language is a sensitive issue. They may well end up in front of the Human Rights Commission with this.”

Ryanair’s policy only applies to South African passengers flying to the United Kingdom from within Europe, since it does not fly out of South Africa.

The British government has said in a statement that it does not require the test.

Anyone who cannot complete the test will be blocked from traveling and given a refund.

Memories of Apartheid Resurface

“The question requiring a person to name a public holiday is particularly on the nose given that SA has a whole public holiday NEXT WEEK commemorating an historic protest that started in response to language-based discrimination,” one person tweeted.

South African citizen Dinesh Joseph told the BBC that he was “seething” with anger when asked to take the test.

“It was the language of apartheid,” he said, adding that it was a trigger for him.

Officials in the country were also surprised by Ryanair’s decision.

We are taken aback by the decision of this airline because the Department regularly communicates with all airlines to update them on how to validate South African passports, including the look and feel,” South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

Any airline found to have flown a passenger with a fake passport to the U.K. faces a fine of £2,000 from authorities there. Ryanair has also not said whether it requires similar tests for any other nationalities.

Many people expressed outrage at Ryanair’s policy and some told stories of being declined service because they did not pass the test.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Al Jazeera)

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