BBC Radio 4 – Thought for the day 21-3-17

Lord Indarjit Singh

Last week’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that employers have a right to set dress codes (that can exclude religious symbols and dress), came as a shock to turban wearing Sikhs, Muslim women who wear a headscarf, and many Christians and Jews.

Despite assurances from the government, legal experts and the European Court of Human Rights stating that faith communities in the UK would continue to be free to both practice and manifest their religious belief, postings on internet discussion groups, suggest some people still feel the ruling might be used to their disadvantage.

Some European politicians, playing to growing populism, welcomed the ruling. For me it was all déjà vu. In the early 80s, I spent a day and a half in court as an expert witness for the then Commission for Racial Equality, in a case against a school that said its uniform rules did not allow a Sikh boy the right to wear a turban in school.

The case, that went all the way to the House of Lords, finally established the right of Sikhs to wear the symbols of their faith. During my cross-examination, I was asked: Would you be equally offended if you were told you could not enter a church or a school? I replied: ‘No, because for a Sikh it is not necessary to go to a church. But it is necessary to be educated.

A Sikh child would be placed at a severe disadvantage, especially when, to add to the hurt, he is told, “we are doing this in the interest of racial harmony”. I honestly thought that we had now finally moved on from earlier insensitivity, to ‘those not like us’, but populism, which can open the door to racism, seems to be gaining ground in much of the world, with its unstated message that those ‘not like us’, are responsible for all our problems.

Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the Sikh Gurus, directly challenged such prejudiced thinking. He taught:

Though some see only difference,

We are all of one race in all the world.

We all have the same form, compounded of the same elements

The one Lord made us all.

I believe the Gurus words are a timely warning against the growing allure of populism, now all too evident in much of the world.

Posted to Sikh News Discussion by:
Hardeep Singh <bbinfo108@yahoo.co.uk>

Dawn – Bill for extension of military courts presented in National Assembly

Muhammad Bilal

Islamabad, 21 March 2016. The constitution amendment bill for the extension of military courts was presented in the National Assembly on Monday with lawmakers debating on the subject and criticising the government.

The bill was presented by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid and the final vote on the amendment is expected to take place on Tuesday.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Awami Muslim League (AML) leader Shaikh Rasheed criticised the federal government over, what they said, was its failure to curb terrorism in the country without seeking the military’s assistance.

“Has the country reaped any benefits from the establishment of the military courts in the last two years?” Achakzai asked.

“You cannot govern a country in this manner,” he added.

Rasheed said if justice is not served then people will be forced to take matters in their own hands.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Naveed Qamar, also the former defence minister of Pakistan, lamented the state of affairs in the country, saying he does not believe things will improve in the next two years even if the military courts are revived.

“The need to re-establish military courts in the country is evidence of how the federal government has failed,” said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi during the NA session.

“Was the government not aware that the mandate over military courts will expire after two years?” the PTI leader asked. However, he said that there is consensus that military courts will not be made a permanent part of the Constitution.

Military courts were disbanded on 7 January after a sunset clause included in the legal provisions under which the tribunals were established expired.

The government and the opposition had struggled to reach a consensus on reviving the courts despite frequent discussions.

The primary concern of critics was the mystery surrounding military court trials: no one knows who the convicts are, what charges have been brought against them, or what the accused’s defence is against the allegations levelled.

Proponents say the courts act as an “effective deterrent” for those considering violent acts.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1321735/bill-for-extension-of-military-courts-presented-in-national-assembly

Business Standard – Freedom of religion under threat as EU allows employers to ban headscarves

The ruling opens up a Pandora’s box and could disproportionately affect Muslim women

Sara Silvestri, The Conversation

London, 17 March 2017. Employers across Europe have been given the green light to ban staff from wearing religious and political symbols after a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ).

The ruling opens up a Pandora’s box and could disproportionately affect Muslim women facing requests to remove headscarves in some places of work across Europe.

But it is also likely to affect other people that display their religious affiliations through their dress, such as Sikh men, Orthodox Jewish women, nuns working in hospitals or schools, or those who overtly display their political affiliations or sympathies.

The ECJ ruling related to two cases brought by national courts in France and Belgium, regarding Muslim women who had sued their employers.

The women argued that they had been discriminated against at work for being asked to remove their veils – one by the employer and the other by a customer and subsequently by her employer – and were sacked when they refused to do so.

Within the EU, national laws about equality and non-discrimination in the workplace are governed by an overarching EU directive from 2000, and the French and Belgian courts wanted clarification from the ECJ around how to interpret the law in these cases.

The ruling will not allow employers to systematically ban the hijab and other religious and political symbols in all workplaces, but it does provide ammunition for those who want to ask their staff not to display religious symbols.

The ECJ decided that if an employer’s goal is to provide services to customers in a neutral way, it is entitled to request its employees to remove visible religious or political symbols.

But this logic around respecting the neutrality of the employer’s goals remains fuzzy, and seems to go against a previous ruling from the European Court of Human Rights, which has upheld the rights of employees to display religious symbols at work as part of their religious freedom.

The ECJ judgement also specifies that requests from customers asking employees not to wear religious or political symbols will not constitute a legitimate ground for employers to ban such clothing.

In fact, the ECJ said this reasoning would amount to religious discrimination. However, in an age where many employers take a customer-centred approach to their organisational goals, this could be a fine line.

Unprecedented in scope

The two plaintiffs in this ECJ case were from Belgium and France, countries in which vehement “laïcité” or state secularism already underpins laws regarding religious dress and has led to burqa bans.

But as the ruling will affect the whole of Europe, not just France and Belgium, it is unclear how much the ECJ judges considered the implications of their ruling for other countries which do not share the French and Belgian policy of laïcité.

Thankfully, the ECJ’s jurisdiction does not pertain to religious freedom in general, and so the scope of this ruling is relatively narrow and limited to non-discrimination in the workplace.

But its ruling is frustrating and contradictory, particularly as the EU was a pioneer in establishing the principles of equality and non-discrimination on religious grounds in a person’s occupation with the directive in 2000.

The EU even set up an independent EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2007 to share good practices and research and to monitor EU countries in this area.

At a time when Europe is short of big ideals and existing conflicts and demographic transformations indicate we need to pay more, not less, attention to freedom of religion and of expression, it does not help that such a prominent international court is unwilling to be bolder in dealing with these fundamental freedoms and the idea of tolerance.

This is new territory for the ECJ and the scope of its ruling is unprecedented. So far, controversies about religious symbols in Europe have been considered by the European Court of Human Rights, an institution outside of the EU, because they dealt with issues of human rights and freedom of religion.

The ECJ, an EU institution based in Luxembourg, had previously ruled on employment matters associated with non-discrimination and equality, but until now no such case had been brought there specifically on the grounds of “religious” discrimination.

Concerns have already been raised about how the ruling will affect Muslim women across Europe, whether they wear the hijab or not, at least on an emotional level.

Yet, unless employers and national courts in different EU member states come across court disputes similar to those presented in this ruling, then this judgement will sit in a drawer without directly affecting people.

Still, the ruling is likely to provide ammunition and political legitimacy to all those across Europe who are promoting anti-Muslim, anti-religious or anti-migrant feelings.

Britain looking more attractive

A serious implication is that EU states will now no longer need to create an anti-veil law for anti-veil views and behaviour to be established and legitimised in everyday life, they are now implicitly sanctioned by this ruling.

The outcome could easily be prejudice, erosion of societal relations, intolerance, racist incidents, and fear among Muslim and other religious communities.

In the wake of Brexit, the ruling will have only a temporary effect in the UK, unless the British government decides to permanently incorporate this particular bit of EU law into its own body of law once the UK leaves.

To date, the government has a firm position on hijab and burqa bans that it looks unlikely to change, viewing them as unnecessary and even counter-productive.

It’s therefore possible that after Brexit, the UK might become the only place in Europe where Muslims and other religious communities can take up jobs without being too worried that they will have to remove religious clothing, although this is not to dismiss the existence of anti-Muslim feelings in the UK.

In an unintended consequence of the ruling, the UK might actually become more attractive to Muslims for professional reasons than the rest of the EU.

Sara Silvestri, Senior Lecturer, Department of International Politics, City, University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/international/freedom-of-religion-under-threat-as-eu-allows-employers-to-ban-headscarves-117031700193_1.html

The Tribune – RSS to spread Guru’s teachings in South

Ravi S Singh, Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 15 March 2017. Following RSS’ call to its cadre to spread the message and teachings of Guru Gobind Singh across the country, its affiliate Rashtriya Sikh Sangat has planned events to perpetuate his memory in Southern states as part of the ongoing celebrations of his 350th birth anniversary.

Sangat’s national general secretary Avinash Jaiswal said events, such as “Guru kirtan”, had been lined up in Kerala.

Mata Amritanandamayi (known as “Amma”), a Hindu spiritual leader, would hold an event at her Amritapuri Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram in May. “Sangat is in touch with leaders of other socio-religious groups to organise events in the memory of the 10th Sikh Guru,” he added.

The RSS has made it known that it considers the Guru as one of the country’s greatest heroes who has inspired every one by his nationalism, supreme sacrifice, universal brotherhood, humanism, self-respect and courage.

Speaking at a function celebrating the Guru’s birth anniversary in Surat (Gujarat) on March 5, RSS’ key national functionary Suresh Josh said, “His mere name infuses energy and courage.”

Sangat’s another national functionary Avtar Singh Shastri said events had also been lined up in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa and Tamil Nadu.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/rss-to-spread-guru-s-teachings-in-south/377670.html

The ten Guru’s all had the same message, they were not nationalists, they were spritual leaders who spoke out against oppression, and indeed did believe in universal brotherhood.
Man in Blue

Human Rights Without Frontiers – European court rules employers can ban women from wearing Islamic headscarves and religious symbols

Judges find workplace rules governing all political and religious clothing is not discriminatory

Lizzie Dearden

The Independent, 14 March 2017. The European Court of Justice has ruled that companies can ban employees from wearing the Islamic headscarf, but only as part of prohibitions including other religious and political symbols.

It is the first case of its kind amid a series of legal disputes over the right for Muslim women to wear the hijab at work.

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said in a statement.

“However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination.”

The Luxembourg-based court found that a headscarf ban may also constitute “indirect discrimination” if people adhering to a particular religion or belief, such as Muslims, are put at a particular disadvantage.

But indirect discrimination is permissible if it is “objectively justified by a legitimate aim”, such as a company’s policy of neutrality, provided that the means of achieving it are appropriate and necessary.

François Fillon, the conservative candidate in the French presidential election, hailed the ruling as “an immense relief” that would contribute to “social peace”.

But a campaign group backing the women said it could shut many Muslim women out of the workforce and European rabbis said the court had worsened rising hate crime by sending a message that “faith communities are no longer welcome”.

The president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, said: “This decision sends a signal to all religious groups in Europe.”

The United Sikhs advocacy group said the “disturbing” ruling allowed employers to override fundamental human rights.

Mejindarpal Kaur, the group’s international legal director, said that although the ECJ only allowed for rules with “legitimate aims”, “we fear that employers will treat it as a licence to discriminate at the point of hire”.

Amnesty International welcomed the ruling on the French case that “employers are not at liberty to pander to the prejudices of their clients” but said bans on religious symbols opened “a backdoor to precisely such prejudice”.

Two employees in Belgium and France had brought the case to the ECJ after being dismissed for refusing to remove their headscarves, which did not cover the face.

The Belgian woman had been working as a receptionist for G4S Secure Solutions, which has a general ban on wearing visible religious or political symbols, while the French claimant is an IT consultant who was told to remove her headscarf after a client complained.

The G4S dispute, which started in 2006, was originally based on an “unwritten rule” banning employees wearing signs of their political, philosophical or religious beliefs, and the company’s workplace regulations were not updated until a day after the woman started wearing a hijab.

Although they apply to all beliefs, the ECJ said it was “not inconceivable” that such rules could be deemed indirect discrimination for targeting Islam over other religions and referred the issue back to the Belgian Court of Cassation.

The French claimant, a design engineer for Micropole, was asked to stop wearing her headscarf to maintain neutrality after a client’s complaint but refused and was dismissed.

The ECJ referred the case back to the French Court of Cassation to establish whether the move was a “genuine and determining occupational requirement” and whether there were any formal rules in place that meet non-discrimination requirements.

The court’s advocate general recommended that companies should be allowed to prohibit headscarves as long as a general ban on other symbols was in place, theoretically applying to Sikh turbans, Jewish kippas and Christian crucifixes.

Their advice in the French case was that a rule banning employees from wearing religious symbols when in contact with customers was discrimination, particularly when it only applied to Islamic headscarves.

Jonathan Chamberlain, an employment lawyer at Gowling WLG, said the decision brings the EU into line with what has been the UK’s approach for several years.

“For example, it’s fine for employers to have a dress code but it needs to be applied with some sensitivity and flexibility to take account of religious beliefs,” he added.

“What is almost certainly never OK is for an employer to tell an employee to stop wearing a religious symbol because a particular customer has asked for it.”

The Open Society Justice Initiative, a group backed by the philanthropist George Soros which had supported the women, said it was disappointed by the ruling.

A spokesperson said it “weakens the guarantee of equality that is at the heart of the EU’s anti-discrimination directive”.

Maryam Hamadoun, the initiative’s policy officer, said: “In many member states, national laws will still recognise that banning religious headscarves at work is discrimination.

“But in places where national law is weak, this ruling will exclude many Muslim women from the workplace.”

The Open Society Justice Initiative said all future cases on religious discrimination in workplaces inside the EU will be government by the ruling, which it feared would strengthen wider attempts at headscarf bans.

“When an employer singles out religious clothing this is direct discrimination, and such an aim is not neutral,” a statement said.

“The supposed ‘neutrality’ is really discrimination, making the false claim that employers who allow staff to wear the headscarf are in some way not neutral.”

The ruling, which sets an EU-wide precedent, came a day before the Netherlands’ parliamentary elections, which have been dominated by issues of integration and identity.

Dutch MPs voted in support of a partial ban on full-face Islamic veils last year, but no law has yet been implemented, while prohibitions have been implemented in countries including France, Belgium and Bulgaria, and are being considered in Germany.

Attempts by local authorities in the French Riviera to ban so-called “burkinis” worn by Muslim women and impose fines generated fresh debate last year and have since been repealed by courts.

View this newsletter:

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/EU2017.pdf

The Star – Oppose Hadi’s Bill, consultative council urges MPs

Petaling Jaya-Selangor-Malaysia, 4 March 2017. The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) has reiterated its call for MPs to oppose PAS’ Private Member’s Bill.

“As the Bill will have far-reaching consequences to the people and nation, (we) feel duty-bound to challenge our elected representatives in Parliament to do their duty as required by their solemn oath to preserve and protect the Federal Constitution, which embodies the secular status of our country,” the council said in a statement yesterday.

The Private Member’s Bill seeks to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 to give the Syariah Courts the power to mete out harsher punishments for syariah offences.

On November 24, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang read out a motion to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act by inserting punishment caps of 30 years’ jail, RM 100,000 fine, and 100 lashes.

Currently, the penalties based on the last amendment in 1984 allows for a jail term of not more than three years, or fine of not less than RM 5,000, or not more than six lashes.

The council also called on Malaysians to oppose the Bill at the next parliamentary meeting this month.

“We have consistently maintained that there is no necessity of implementing hudud in a multiracial and multi-religious society like Malaysia,” it said.

MCCBCHST said should there be an attempt to amend the Constitution, it would be a violation of an agreement reached between members of the Alliance Party in 1957, and with Sabah and Sarawak in 1963.

It also said that Article 4 of the Federal Constitution states that the Constitution is the supreme law of the nation, and any law after Merdeka which is inconsistent with it would be void.

“Even when Sabah and Sarawak, together with Singapore came together to form Malaysia (1963), there was no stated intention to introduce religious laws,” it said.

The council said a multi-racial country like Malaysia could not afford to alter the secular character of the Constitution to allow for the implementation of religious law.

“Even the first three prime ministers were on record to have stated that Malaysia was conceived to be a secular country,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Christian Federation of Malaysia said any proposed amendments to Act 355 should only be initiated by the Government after a thorough study of its impact and gravity on all Malaysians.

Its executive committee and chairman Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng said any intended increase of the punishments should be in accordance with sound principles of the law and the Constitution.

“The Christian Federation of Malaysia calls upon Members of Parliament not to approve proposed amendments to Act 355,” it said in a statement.

It also called on all Malaysians to contact their MPs to ensure they attend the sitting of the Dewan Rakyat and not to vote in favour of the amendments.

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/03/04/oppose-hadis-bill-consultative-council-urges-mps-religious-groups-call-on-representatives-to-preserv/

Sikh Federation – International community must recognise and respond to increasing threat and challenge of extreme Hindu nationalism in India

From: Sikh Federation (UK) sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk
To: sikh_news_discussion@yahoogroups.com

Right wing Indian politicians, cricketers and Bollywood stars join in abuse and fail to distance themselves from rape and death threats against dead army man’s daughter, 21-year old Gurmehar Kaur for her stance on peace and free speech

London, 1 March 2017. The Sikh Federation (UK) following the abuse and threats targeting 21-year old Gurmehar Kaur has written to the five permanent members of the United Nations and appealed to the international community to recognise the increasing threat and challenge of Hindutva.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:

“The international community and governments across the globe need to come together and recognise and stand up to the rising threat of extreme Hindu nationalism being openly promoted by the ruling establishment in India.”

“Indian politicians and officials appear to be able to intimidate and silence many individual governments with its threats, often linked to trade with India. Only countries like the United States and China are strong enough and prepared to openly criticise those running India, but it requires a collective effort to tackle the rising threat.”

“If the international community does not respond and extreme Hindu nationalists are allowed to literally get away with murdering minorities and those that stand up to them while they simply watch, this will become an international problem that could easily get out of control.”

“The BJP ruling party has now been allowed in the last three years to get away with supporting extreme actions by right wing Hindu groups.

Today a 21-year old Sikh student is not only being intimidated and ridiculed, but openly threatened with rape and murder. Those hounding her are being protected and encouraged by those with power and influence. She is standing up for peace and free speech while governments are choosing to coward away and be silent.”

Gurmehar Kaur, an English literature student and an ambassador for Postcards for Peace, a charitable organisation that helps eliminate any form of discrimination has reportedly left Delhi, after receiving threats of rape and murder.

She lost her father, Captain Mandeep Singh in an attack in 1999 when she was just two years old.

On Friday, she mounted a rather simple protest against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s (ABVP) violence at Ramjas College last week. ABVP is the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swamayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

She posted a picture of herself on a social media site holding up a placard that read: “I am a student of Delhi University. I am not afraid of the ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me.” Her post incited extreme reactions from the ruling establishment.

Rape and death threats have been made against her, but shockingly she has been ridiculed and trolled by celebrities like cricketer Virender Sehwag and mocked by Bollywood actor Randeep Hooda. One of the RSS’s top intellectuals, Rakesh Sinha, ludicrously said that Gurmehar Kaur was “trolling” her dead father.

The Union government rather than engaging with the serious issue being raised has resorted to bullying Gurmehar Kaur, with Minister Kiren Rijuju asking, “Who’s polluting this young girl’s mind?” BJP MP Pratap Simha outrageously compared Gurmehar Kaur to India’s most-wanted terrorist, Dawood Ibrahim.

The rise of Hindutva that started in the 1980s is not restricted to the ruling party and unleashed powerful forces.
Today, even cricketers, wrestlers, actors and social media users propagate its basic ideas. Foreign governments will be forced to respond as the Modi government in a more significant and worrying move has reached out to persons of Indian origin in foreign lands, making them a part of his political rhetoric.

Every time Modi holds a gala in New York or London with foreign politicians sucking up to him and gets American or British Hindus to support him. This overseas support is seen as approval for his Hindutva policies.

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Human Right Without Frontiers International – Iraq: Sunni women tell of ISIS detention, torture

Human Rights Watch, 20 February 2017. Fighters from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) are arbitrarily detaining, ill-treating, torturing, and forcibly marrying Sunni Arab women and girls in areas under their control in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.

Although accounts of gender-based violence have emerged from areas under ISIS control, these are the first cases against Sunni Arab women in Iraq that Human Rights Watch has been able to document.

Researchers interviewed six women in Kirkuk, to which they had escaped from the town of Hawija, 125 kilometers south of Mosul and still under ISIS control. Human Rights Watch and others have extensively documented similar abuses by ISIS fighters against Yezidi women.

“Little is known about sexual abuse against Sunni Arab women living under ISIS rule,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “We hope that the international community and local authorities will do all they can to give this group of victims the support they need.”

In January 2017, Human Rights Watch interviewed four women who said they had been detained by ISIS in 2016, for periods between three days and a month. Another woman said an ISIS fighter, her cousin, forced her to marry him and then raped her.

A sixth woman said that ISIS fighters destroyed her home as punishment after her husband escaped ISIS and tried to forcibly marry her. Five of the six women said that ISIS fighters beat them.

One woman said that in April 2016, she tried to escape Hawija with her three children and a large group of other families.

ISIS fighters captured the group and held 50 of the women from the group in an abandoned house. The woman said that over the next month, one fighter raped her daily in front of her children. She suspected that many of the other women held with her were also being raped.

Experts from four international organizations, including two medical organizations, working with survivors of sexual assault in northern Iraq told Human Rights Watch it is difficult to assess the prevalence of ISIS’ gender-based violence against women who have fled territory under their control.

They said that victims and their families remain silent to avoid stigmatization and harm to the woman or girl’s reputation.

One foreign aid worker said she had seen cases mostly of forced marriage and rape, but she believed that very few of the victims in the displaced communities she works with have come forward.

She said some women try to hide the incident from their own families out of fear they will be stigmatized or punished by their relatives or community.

Babies born of rape or forced marriage may also face stigma, she said. Their long-term psychosocial support and medical treatment are particular concerns, she said.

Another aid provider for an international organization providing services at three camps for people displaced from ISIS-controlled territory said their staff had documented 50 cases of women and girls who suffered psychological and physical violence at the hands of ISIS and to whom the organization was providing support.

Several local and international organizations are providing support to victims of gender-based violence.

However, not enough is being done to tackle the stigma around sexual violence, and there is a lack of awareness about appropriate services and psychosocial or mental health support, medical professionals and service providers in Kirkuk said. Available services continue to be outstripped by needs, they said.

A psychiatrist at an international organization providing psychosocial support in one of the larger displaced people’s camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq said that too little has been done to inform men about how to support female victims of gender-based violence.

She said that very often, male relatives will forbid women from getting counseling and vocational training, even if the women want the services.

The women interviewed are all patients at the Kirkuk Center, where a staff of 12 provides psychological and behavioral counseling to women and children. Dr Abd al-Karim Kalyfa, who runs the center, said in January that the center was at that time treating 30 patients, 15 of them children, suffering from trauma related to their experiences living under ISIS.

In 2016, he said, his center treated about 400 patients who had come from ISIS-held territory. ISIS fighters had raped at least two of his current patients, he said.

He knew of one other organization in the Kirkuk area providing services to victims of sexual assault but said there was far too little support available to provide needed mental health care to displaced people who had lived under ISIS.

Another medical professional in Kirkuk who is providing social support to women and children who have been traumatized by their experience under ISIS said that services provided by the federal government focus on pharmacological treatment, not on psychosocial therapy and counseling.

A program manager at an international organization providing services in one of the larger displaced people’s camps in northern Iraq said that the group has been able to create effective safe spaces and start vocational projects for women.

But it has not yet been able to provide more long-term psychosocial support and other services for survivors of gender-based violence, because it is struggling to find female staff with the needed language skills, experience, and professional qualifications.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), together with United Nations agencies and other international humanitarian groups, have struggled to provide the survivors of violence against Yezidi women who escaped ISIS with post-rape care and psychosocial support.

Providing adequate mental health care and psychosocial support is a complex and long-term challenge. The KRG government, Iraqi central government, UN agencies, and others involved need to put in place a coordinated response, based on an assessment of the needs and the most pressing priorities.

The groups should identify key barriers to making care and services accessible, available, and voluntary, and determine the potential cost. Such coordination efforts should include the World Health Organization (WHO) and representatives of the survivors.

WHO has said that mental health services and psychosocial support are essential components of comprehensive care for survivors of sexual violence.

It has also stated that people with mental health conditions and their communities should help develop these services and that those responsible for providing services should strengthen existing resources and make them available in a nondiscriminatory fashion to all.

“ISIS victims of gender-based violence suffer the consequences of their abuse long after they have managed to escape.” Fakih said.

“Their care and rehabilitation requires a multifaceted response, with authorities providing the needed medical and psychosocial support and working to stamp out stigma around sexual violence within the wider community.”

The Kirkuk-based National Institute for Human Rights helped Human Rights Watch by identifying the interviewees and setting up and hosting the interviews. All interviews were conducted with full and informed consent, in Arabic without translation.

We took measures to respect the privacy of survivors and conducted interviews in as private a setting as possible. In all cases, Human Rights Watch took steps to minimize re-traumatization of survivors, stopping interviews if they caused distress. In order to protect victims and witnesses, individual names and other identifying information have been modified or withheld.

To see the full article and read the interviews click on the link below :

http://hrwf.eu/iraq-sunni-women-tell-of-isis-detention-torture/

The Times of India – Hopes rise for early extradition of Vijay Mallya after India-UK talks

Sikhs in the UK be on the alert, Theresa might want to extradite opponents of the Modi regime in exchange for Indian trade deals !
Man in Blue

New Delhi, 21 February 2017. The extradition of Vijay Mallya may happen sooner than expected. After a meeting between officials from UK and India on extradition and mutual legal assistance, Indian sources said they received a “positive” response from UK.

While the government is unwilling to comment directly on the Mallya case, the official spokesperson said, “Both sides held detailed and fruitful deliberations on the legal processes and procedures in either country and reviewed the requests for extradition and mutual legal assistance pending on either side. Both sides reiterated their determination to strengthen legal cooperation and expedite the pending requests”

A two-day long meeting between British and Indian officials related to pending cases of deportation and extradition of “wanted” suspects from either country.

The Indian side was led by a senior MEA official in charge of passports and visas, accompanied by senior officials from home ministry, and CBI, Enforcement Directorate and other investigating agencies, including state-level officials.

The British side was led by the head of the UK Central Authority for Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance, the UK Home Office, representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service and the UK High Commission in New Delhi.

While the meeting was spurred by a decision between British PM Theresa May and Narendra Modi last November to familiarize officials on both sides with legal and law enforcement procedures, it also happened in the immediate aftermath of India making a formal extradition request to the UK for Vijay Mallya, the disgraced UB baron.

At the end of the meeting, Indian officials are more optimistic of being able to get Mallya back.

Indian officials answered questions about death penalty, prison conditions etc, which would help when the legal process goes through the UK system.

An official statement said the meeting was about sharing “best practices, and identify the causes of delays and expedite pending requests so that fugitives and criminals should not be allowed to escape the law.”

It was agreed that the Central Authorities of both the countries would review further progress in these cases every six month through video conference.

During the May visit, Indian officials had asked the UK to extradite nearly 60 people, including Lalit Modi and Mallya. In return, UK also wants 17 people from India to be tried for crimes in the UK, against whom Letters Rogatory had been issued.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/hopes-rise-for-early-extradition-of-vijay-mallya-after-india-uk-talks/articleshow/57275613.cms

Pakistan Today – Sikhs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) continue to live without basic amenities

Peshawar, 21 February 2017. Approximately 10,000 members of the Sikh community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are deprived of fundamental necessities such as education and health.

Brimming with gurdwaras from before partition, the Peshawar’s Sikh community can currently use only two worship places.

“Plazas have been constructed in place of some gurdwaras. The ones not sold have been taken over by the land grabbing mafia,” alleged Pakistan Sikh community Chairman Radesh Singh Tony.

“The community does not have a shamshan ghat (cremation ground) to perform the last rites of the dead,” he added. Instead, the community has to make cremation arrangements in Attock in case of a death, which costs around Rs 65,000 per person.

Members of the Sikh community had to move to Peshawar’s Muhalla Jogan Shah and Saddar Bazaar localities after the law and order situation posed threats to their security. Children were pulled out of schools due to safety concerns.

“We are renting property to create makeshift schools. It is difficult to bear the expenses. We request the government to provide us with a building and funds for education,” said school headmaster Baba Jugerpaal Singh.

Despite the tough living conditions, the Sikh community remains fairly positive that its issues will be resolved by the government. “The prime minister is taking a lot of interest in resolving minority issues. Recently Pakistan has passed a bill against forced conversion,” MNA Asfan Yar Bhandara said during his visit to a gurdwara.

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/02/21/sikhs-in-kp-continue-to-live-without-basic-amenities/