'Long way to go' on justice for Afghan women - UN
Publisher: BBC News
Story date: 10/12/2012
Language: English

Afghan women victims of violence are still being failed by the justice system, according to a new UN report.

Although there had been some progress in implementing a 2009 anti-violence law, overall use of the law "remained low", the report says.

Cultural pressures and inconsistent police practices are hampering implementation of the law, it added.

The report comes after a spate of high-profile cases of violence against Afghan women.

Last month, two men were arrested in Kunduz province for allegedly beheading a girl after her father rejected a marriage proposal for her.

However, details of the killing remain unclear and there are conflicting reports about exactly what happened.

'Tip of the iceberg'

Also last month, four Afghan policemen were jailed for 16 years for raping a young woman in northern Kunduz province this year.

The case drew attention after Lal Bibi, 18, reported the attack. Afghan victims of sexual abuse rarely speak out.

Violence against women remains under-reported because of "cultural restraints, social norms and taboos... and at times, threat to life," the report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says.

"Those incidents that reach law enforcement... or receive public attention through the media due to their egregious nature represent the tip of the iceberg," it adds.

The number of incidents of violence against women reported had gone up, the report said.

However, this may reflect "increased public awareness" about such crimes and their harmful consequences, rather than a rise in the number of actual incidents.

Police reluctance

There had been some progress in "registration and application of the EVAW law," the report said, referring to the 2009 law on Elimination of Violence Against Women.

However, the proportion of cases resolved using the law was still very low.

Cases were often referred to tribal councils called jirgas, or similar bodies, which undermined the application of the EVAW law, the report found.

Police were also reluctant to arrest alleged perpetrators with links to armed groups or other forms of influence, the authors said.

In addition, women and girls were still being wrongly prosecuted "for running away from home, often to escape violence", they said.

Sanctions on Iran hit Afghan refugees
Publisher: The Financial Times
Author: By Monavar Khalaj
Story date: 10/12/2012
Language: English

When Nasser, an Afghan labourer, illegally crossed the border to Iran to work last summer, he hoped to support his family and pay off his debts.

But Nasser quickly realised that he had miscalculated, as Iran's economy had changed a lot compared with a year ago when he returned to his home village near Mazar-e Sharif, northern Afghanistan, to get married.

Iran's national currency, the rial, has fallen more than 35 per cent this year because of international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme. The consequent rise in consumer prices – which is officially put at about 25 per cent but is believed to be far higher – has made Iran's job market far less profitable for Afghans.

"I owe [relatives] 80m rials (about $6,400) for my marriage costs and must also pay 10m rials to smugglers who brought me here," says Nasser, a 27-year-old slim man who is not registered as a refugee. "But now I do not know how I can pay my debts and I cannot go back to Afghanistan because I owe people money and will have no job there."

For the past three decades, an influx of Afghani refugees crossed the border to Iran, fleeing wars and poverty and in search for jobs. Iran is the world's second biggest host to a refugee population after Pakistan with more than 2m Afghan refugees, only 860,000 of whom are registered. The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Tehran, Bernard Doyle, forecasts no significant reduction in the Afghan population even though high inflation and the fall of rial have made their lives more difficult.

Voluntary repatriation, which Iran pushed for after the fall of the Taliban, only led to 18,600 Afghans leaving Iran last year and about 14,143 up to the end of October, Mr Doyle adds.

Some politicians and officials say the return of Afghan immigrants to their home country will help Iran's jobless youth but employers, especially in the services and building sectors, do not agree.

Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, interior minister, says "about 3m Afghans are living and working in Iran . . . which is not a problem'' but is concerned that there are no jobs for Iranian youth.

Employers prefer Afghan labourers to their Iranian peers because they are cheaper and employment does not carry compulsory local insurance.

But Mr Doyle says the central government in Tehran has not changed its policy toward Afghans, which is to provide asylum to refugees and a legal framework for Afghan migrant labour.

Nasser is unaware that sanctions against Iran have been the main reason behind his lower income. Working in a restaurant in a hiking area in northern Tehran since his return in August, he is paid 270,000 rials a day.

He says 10m rials was equivalent to 25,000 afghanis ($480), his country's national currency, when he resumed his job but now earns him about 13,000 afghanis.

Nasser has no plans to leave Iran, despite his shrinking income. His employer is keen that he stays.

He has not left the restaurant for a month to avoid transport costs and stay safe. "The owner has good connections and can help prevent my arrest and deportation to Afghanistan.''

Pledge on stateless will correct a terrible injustice
Publisher: Malaysiakini
Story date: 10/12/2012
Language: English

VOXPOP 'Now we see the compassionate side of Anwar – which we do not see in Umno – to the plight of these poor stateless people.'

Pemerhati: If on becoming prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim keeps his word and makes the hundreds of thousands of stateless Indians and native East Malaysians citizens of the country, it will not only correct a terrible injustice inflicted on these people by the Umno racists, it will also be good news for all Malaysians.

This is because all these people will be either able to work or go to school and thus become productive citizens and help in the development of the country.

Previously due to their stateless status they were unable to work or get an education and hence to survive, all they could do was turn to crime, and that explains why a disproportionately large number of Indians are criminals in Malaysia.

If Pakatan Rakyat comes to power and keeps its word, then eventually we should also see a dramatic drop in the crime rate which would be a welcome development for all Malaysians.

This development will also enhance the country's reputation and make it a desirable location for foreign investment.

3rdEye: BN has not been able to solve this issue for the past 55 years but can give quickie citizenship to illegal immigrants.

Pakatan however dares to promise it would solve this issue within one month. This shows that BN is hopeless, useless, good for nothing, incompetent, worthless and a burden to the rakyat.

Mahashitla: Now we see the compassionate side of Anwar – which we do not see in Umno – to the plight of these poor stateless people, mostly Indians, who were born here and have been staying here all their lives.

RA 1: About the claimed 300,000 stateless Indians in Malaysia – there are 1,743,922 Tamils in Malaysia. That is 17 percent. It means one in five Tamils you meet is stateless. This can easily be disproved by a simple survey.

Rightan: We have seen old and frail men and women receiving their MyKad at last after long years of waiting, and our newspapers highlighted the handing-over ceremony with our proud minister/MCA officials grinning from ear to ear, purportedly showing off their achievements.

Onyourtoes: Fellow Malaysians, I have deliberately refrained from commenting in this thread simply because Hindraf is the most important institution today in the country. No one can ever give credit to anybody, except Hindraf.

Without Hindraf, Malaysians are blind and nincompoops. Without Hindraf, Malaysians will continue be exploited.

Without Hindraf, Malaysian politicians and political parties are useless even though many of these politicians have gone in and out of prison before some of these half-baked Hindraf supporters were born. So all of us, we better shut up. Only Hindraf and Hindraf only, got it?

Longyan Ren: The next May 13, if ever it should play out, will not be a racial clash but a BN-Umno crackdown on the people, much like the Bersih 2.0 and 3.0 crackdown on the rally participants – magnified a hundred times.

Ourvotesdecide!: We should document evidence from now on to build up a case of possible crime against humanity in the International Criminal Court against the Umno leaders concerned and whoever were or will be responsible or involved or accessory to any consequences of such instigated violent, for example, the recent inflammatory speeches of its leaders during Umno's recent general assembly.

Umno may think they can arrogantly bully their fellow Malaysians in Malaysia but they can still be made accountable for their beastly acts in or by international tribunals like what was done to the notorious Bosnian Serb leaders who killed their Muslim countrymen or the African leaders who committed genocide against their opponents. Malaysians, please work on this urgently.

OCL123: The way I look at it, the 13th general election will be Malays against Malays. As far as non-Malays are concerned, they are well prepared for any eventuality.

We hope for a smooth transition of power if Pakatan was to take over Putrajaya but from the way BN has been threatening another May 13 riot, I am afraid BN will play dirty. Anyway, we have already decided who to vote for regardless of any threat.

Sarajun Hoda: Very true. Malays are good people who are actually no less industrious than any other race. Unfortunately, they have been kept weak, vulnerable and poor so that they can be exploited wholesale by corrupt Umno leaders.

If the playing field is level and the Malays are trained to perform, they might excel better than others. In other countries, they performed equally well but in Malaysia, they are kept like bird in the cage and given crumbs to shut them up.

If a two-party system comes into place, the majority Malays will gain most. The billions of ringgit stolen and expropriated by unscrupulous Umno people will go back to them. Prices of houses, cars, tolls, medical expenses, university costs, etc, will immediately be halved and development doubled.

Apapunboleh: It's not the fear of losing that BN is worried about. Their greatest fear is being put behind bars for their corrupt acts.

Pakistani smugglers heed message - EXCLUSIVE -
Publisher: The Australian
Story date: 10/12/2012
Language: English

PEOPLE-SMUGGLERS and asylum-seekers in Pakistan are being discouraged by the prospect of offshore processing and mass drownings, according to smuggling agents in the gateway city of Karachi.

While the number of asylum-seekers from Pakistan has dropped off in recent months, there is scant evidence of a similar deterrent effect in Afghanistan, where the head of the UN's refugee agency says Australia's policy shift caused a ``huge mess''. Hundreds of aspiring refugees have been queuing futilely outside the headquarters hoping to take advantage of the simultaneous increase in Afghan refugee acceptances.

And the unprecedented surge of asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka – more than 3500 in the past three months – has prompted Foreign Minister Bob Carr to lead a high-level delegation to Colombo next week to plot joint action to stop the boats.

But, in Karachi, several agents have told The Australian that asylum-seeker traffic to Australia has declined through the Karachi International Airport terminal since August, when the federal government announced a crackdown on boat arrivals, including the reintroduction of the Pacific Solution.

Small groups of agitated travellers, easily spotted by their minimal luggage and the central Asian features that have made Hazara Shias prey for Sunni Muslim extremists, are still visible almost nightly on the flights to Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. But business has slowed since news broke that the Nauru and Manus Island processing centres were reopening.

``Until recently there would be 20 to 25 people on the Thai Airways flight,'' Karachi-based Hazara travel agent Hussain (not his real name) said. ``Now just one or two people will go (on each flight) and they're the ones who don't listen to anyone.''

Across the border, Afghan asylum-seekers are said to be still leaving by the dozens each day.

UNHCR Kabul chief Peter Nicolaus said it was Australia's intention to increase its refugee quota that most piqued the interest of Australia's Afghan community, which quickly relayed that to relatives back home, many of whom feared the December 2014 withdrawal of Western troops.

Within weeks the UNHCR's Kabul office was inundated with Afghans who erroneously believed the asylum-seekers' loss would be their gain.

``Where we had a problem – and it was a mess – was the information did not come over well,'' Dr Nicolaus said. ``People were informed, mainly by Chinese whispers via relatives in Australia, that Australia had increased its quotas and you should now apply.''

Australia did increase its annual refugee intake quota from 13,750 to 20,000, and will give priority to Afghans awaiting resettlement in Pakistan, Iran and Indonesia. But only those who have crossed international borders to flee persecution can be recognised by the UNHCR as refugees, not Afghans still in Afghanistan.

``That got completely lost in the message,'' Dr Nicolaus said.

The outgoing chief welcomed Australia's decision to boost its intake of registered Afghan refugees, notwithstanding his misgivings over a January 2011 three-way agreement between Australia, Afghanistan and the UNHCR to allow for the return from Australia of rejected asylum-seekers.

``In two years nobody has been sent back based on this agreement so the Australians must be somewhat disappointed,'' he said.

(The Federal Court recently granted a stay of deportation to two Afghan Hazaras).

``Now it is reacting again by saying `look we are resorting to some measures which have a deterrent effect','' he added.

That's not to say the switch to offshore processing of asylum-seekers has killed the trade.

Syed Zahir Shah Zaidi, a Karachi-based Hazara man who identified himself with a smirk as a ``social worker'', said that, on the day we met, a group of six people was due to leave that night on a Kuala Lumpur-bound flight.

There were many thousands more still waiting in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Indonesia to complete their journey, he added.

Mr Zaidi said he went to Indonesia last December on behalf of Pakistan's Hazara community in Quetta to identify the bodies of those recovered from a heavily overloaded boat that sank off the Javanese coast as it attempted to ferry 260 passengers to Australia.

Armed with a 10-page manifest of asylum-seeker names, photographs, identifying marks and features – as well as phone numbers for anxious relatives – the trip was traumatic and futile.

At one Surabaya hospital he saw hospital staff walking over dozens of dead bodies ``like they were rice. There were more than 100 Pakistanis on the boat but we only found seven,'' he said.

Subsequent mass drownings, in June, August and November have devastated besieged Shia Muslim communities in Quetta and Parachinar, a Shi'ite region in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area encircled and frequently attacked by hostile Sunni militants.

Hazaras have for more than a century sought refuge in Quetta from successive genocides and pogroms in Afghanistan.

But many thousands of Hazaras have fled the now-murderous capital of Balochistan Province in recent years because of frequent target killings by Sunni militants.

``No government can stop this,'' said Mr Zaidi of the Hazara flight to safety. ``It is better Australia make a legal way for Hazaras whose lives are in the red zone by setting up skills centres in Quetta to help people migrate legally.

``If they say `we want 100 plumbers, 100 drivers, 50 shoemakers' we could make them skilled and send them to Australia.''

Quetta has technical training centres but they were in parts of the city that are ``no-go zones'' for Hazaras, he said. Those who remained were almost entirely confined to two suburbs on the east and west of the city.

``When a person goes from here illegally they pay about $18,000 – $10,000 to the agent and then the rest to bribe this and bribe that,'' he said.

``We are ready to pay that $10,000 to the Australian government for education, for visas.''

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