Bamiyan Panorama

Bamiyan Panorama

Friday, October 13, 2017

Maida Khal - who will speak for her?

Who will speak for the voiceless?

Who will help the helpless?

Will you?  Will I?  Will the government?

Is Maida Khal still in prison?

Should she be in prison?

What is her crime?

Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle Rescued

Parents of freed US hostage furious with son-in-law for Afghanistan trip

Caitlan Coleman’s father calls Joshua Boyle’s decision to take his pregnant wife to Afghanistan on a backpacking trip ‘unconscionable’

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto and Haroon Janjua in Islamabad
Friday 13 October 2017 14.02 EDT Last modified on Friday 13 October 2017 14.35 EDT

The parents of an American woman who was rescued with her Canadian husband and three children after five years in captivity have said they were elated that the family is safe – but incensed with their son-in-law for taking their daughter to Afghanistan.

“Taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place, to me, and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable,” Caitlan Coleman’s father, Jim, told ABC News.

Coleman, Joshua Boyle and their children – all of whom were born in captivity – landed in London on Friday afternoon, en route to Canada. Earlier in the day, Boyle spoke to his parents by telephone, telling them that he and his family were safe after the dramatic rescue.

Speaking to a Canadian reporter on Thursday, Boyle reflected on the toll the past five years had taken. “My family is obviously psychologically and physically shattered by the betrayals and the criminality of what has happened over the past five years,” Boyle told the Toronto Star.

“But we’re looking forward to a new lease on life – to use an overused idiom – and restarting and being able to build a sanctuary for our children and our family in North America.” With a laugh, he added: “I have discovered there is little that cannot be overcome by enough Sufi patience, Irish irreverence and Canadian sanctimony.”

The couple – who met as teenagers online and bonded over their love of Star Wars fan sites – were abducted in 2012 during a backpacking trip that began in Russia and took them through Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan before arriving in northern Afghanistan.

Coleman was pregnant with their first child at the time. The couple were believed to be held by the Haqqani network, a group deemed a terrorist organisation by the US.

Boyle, now 34, had long been fascinated with terrorism and national security, telling a reporter in 2009: “Anything related to terrorism on Wikipedia, I wrote, pretty much.” Years earlier he had become a spokesman for Omar Khadr, the Canadian held for 10 years at Guantánamo Bay after being captured as a teenager during a firefight at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan, leading to a brief marriage with Zaynab Khadr, Omar’s sister.

The family’s ordeal ended with a dramatic rescue on Wednesday. Pakistani troops, operating on intelligence provided by the United States, had zeroed in on the family, locating them in a fast-moving vehicle near the town of Kohat, some 40 miles from the country’s north-western border with Afghanistan.

At the time, the family was locked in the trunk of a car, Boyle told his family. The last words he heard were “kill the hostages” before a shootout erupted, leaving him with a shrapnel wound.

Pakistani troops fired at the vehicle, bursting its tyres. While they managed to free the hostages, the couple’s captors, however, eluded them, managing to escape on foot.

Soon after the rescue, arrangements were made to bring the family back to North America, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, told reporters on Thursday. “Medical treatment along the way. A lot of this, of course, would be psychological treatment,” he said. “They’ve been essentially living in a hole for five years.”

In Smiths Falls, Ontario, a small town of 9,000 people near Ottawa, Boyle’s parents rejoiced at the news that the family was safe, telling reporters that the family intended to come to Canada.

As they prepared for the family’s return – heading to purchase car seats as they waited to hear when the family would be landing in Canada – they also expressed misgivings for the future.

“I think they’re going to have some, obviously, really tough times,” said Boyle’s mother, Linda. “I don’t think they’re aware because they kept themselves strong for so long, for each other and for the kids. But I think that it’s going to catch up with them and they’re probably going to have some real crashes, I expect. But we’re here for them.”

The past five years had been punctuated by letters and videos from the couple, each offering a glimpse into the horrors the couple were living.

A video sent last December showed the couple pleading for their governments to negotiate with their captors. “My children have seen their mother defiled,” Coleman told the camera flatly. She described their years-long ordeal as “the Kafkaesque nightmare in which we find ourselves”.

A letter sent to Boyle’s parents and shared with the Toronto Star last year detailed the lengths the couple had gone to in order to deliver their second child; hiding the pregnancy from captors until Boyle delivered the child in darkness, guided only by a flashlight clenched between his teeth.

“The astonished captors were good and brought all our post-partum needs, so he is now fat and healthy, praise God,” Boyle wrote in the letter to his parents. “We are trying to keep spirits high for the children and play Beautiful Life,” he added, believed to be a reference to Life is Beautiful, the Italian film in which a father shields his son from the realities of a Nazi concentration camp by pretending they are in a game.

In Pennsylvania, the Colemans described their joy at hearing their daughter’s voice over the phone for the first time in years. But her father Jim added that he was angry with Boyle for taking his daughter to Afghanistan.

He also expressed dismay at reports that Boyle had refused to allow the family to leave Pakistan on a US military plane on Thursday. “I don’t know what five years in captivity would do to somebody, but if it were me, and I saw a US aircraft, US soldiers, I would be running for it.”

Boyle’s father said on Thursday that his son did not want to board the plane because it was headed to the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan rather than North America. He dismissed remarks by a US official that Boyle was concerned that he might face scrutiny by the Americans over his links to Khadr.

News of the rescue was heralded on Thursday by Donald Trump, who described it as a “positive moment” in the country’s fraught relationship with Pakistan.

“Today they are free,” the US president said in a statement. He later praised Pakistan for its willingness to “do more to provide security in the region”, adding that the rescue suggested other “countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again”.

The Bombing of Aleppo

Aleppo used to be a thriving city with history, beauty, and charm. 

Now it is a broken city.  Rivers of blood and piles of children's body parts mixed in with the rubble.  I've chosen to show pictures of architecture here, not the mangled bodies of children.  Thanks to you, Free Syria Regime AND Pro Assad Regime.  Thanks to you.  Your children are broken and dead.  Will Aleppo ever rebuild?  My heart hurts for you, Aleppo. 

The Citadel of Aleppo in 1993.

The Citadel of Aleppo in 2008

Inside the Citadel in 2011.

Some damage

The city of Aleppo with the Old Citadel in the background
The Old City of Aleppo in 2006, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

 The Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, built between the 8th and 13th centuries

market stalls in the walled ancient part of the city

How the inside of the impressive Shahba Mall used to look Damaged beyond repair: Aleppo's largest commercial shopping centre, Shahba Mall was hit by air-strikes in October 2014Shahba Mall - before and after

Aleppo River & Tawhid Mosque
Image result for aleppo river mosque damage

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Otto Warmbier 'systematically tortured' by N Korea say parents

Otto Warmbier 'systematically tortured' by N Korea say parents

Otto Warmbier is escorted by N Korean guards (image released March 2016)
Image copyrightREUTERS
The parents of Otto Warmbier have shared horrific details of his condition when he arrived home from North Korea.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier told Fox and Friends that the North Koreans were "terrorists" who had "systematically tortured" their son.
The US student was jailed in Pyongyang in 2016 for stealing a hotel sign.
He was released on medical grounds in June this year but arrived home seriously ill and died days later.
North Korea has always denied mistreating Mr Warmbier. They say he contracted botulism while in prison but US doctors found no trace of this.

'This was no accident'

In their first interview since his death, they told Fox news that they "felt it was time to tell the truth about the condition that Otto was in".
US doctors had previously described him as being in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness", but the Warmbiers said calling this a coma was "unfair".
Mr Warmbier said when they saw his son he was "moving around, and jerking violently, making these howling and inhuman sounds".
His head was shaved, he was blind and deaf, his arms and legs were "totally deformed" and he had a huge scar on his foot, he said. It "looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth".
"Otto was systematically tortured and intentionally injured by Kim and his regime. This was no accident," said Mr Warmbier.
He also said his son had been abandoned by his family, his country and the world and that the government had given them no information about his death.
Mrs Warmbier said North Korea sent him home because "they didn't want him to die on their soil".
The family refused a post-mortem examination because they thought he had suffered enough and "I wasn't going to let him out of my sight," she said.
She also pleaded with people not to go to North Korea, saying it was "playing into" Pyongyang's propaganda. US citizens are now banned from travelling to North Korea.

'A great interview'

However, a local newspaper in the US has disputed the allegations made by the Warmbiers.
The Cincinnati Enquirer said it had obtained a copy of a coroner's report on Otto Warmbier, based on an external examination, which revealed several small scars but nothing which indicated torture.
The paper quoted the Hamilton County coroner as saying Mr Warmbier's teeth were "natural and in good repair" and that he appeared to have died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.
US President Donald Trump, who is known to watch Fox and Friends, tweeted that it had been "a great interview", and that "Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea".
His comment is likely to stoke the escalating tensions between North Korea and the US, which have exchanged allegations and threats at an unprecedented rate in recent weeks.
The leaders of both countries have directly threatened the other with nuclear annihilation. The international community is appealing for all incendiary rhetoric to be toned down.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saudi Arabia driving ban on women to be lifted - FINALLY!

Saudi Arabia driving ban on women to be lifted!!!

Saudi womenImage copyrightREUTERS
Saudi Arabia's King Salman has issued a decree allowing women to drive for the first time, state media say.
Government ministries are to prepare reports within 30 days and the order will be implemented by June 2018, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to forbid women from driving.
Rights groups have campaigned for years to allow women in Saudi Arabia to drive, and some women have been imprisoned for defying the rule.
"The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licences for men and women alike," the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
The move was welcomed by the US state department, which called it "a great step in the right direction".
Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who was detained for 73 days in 2014 for flouting the ban, tweeted "thank God" following the announcement.
Manal al-Sharif, an organiser of the Women2Drive campaign who has also been imprisoned for driving, said on Twitter that Saudi Arabia would "never be the same again".
Activist Sahar Nassif in Jeddah told the BBC she was "very, very excited - jumping up and down and laughing".
"I'm going to buy my dream car, a convertible Mustang, and it's going to be black and yellow," she said.
Only men are allowed driving licences in Saudi Arabia and women who drive in public risk being arrested and fined.
Because of the law, many families have had to employ private drivers to help transport female relatives.
Saudi website Al Arabiya said about 800,000 men, mostly from South Asia, work as drivers to Saudi women.
Saudi law enforces a strict form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism and is known for its gender segregation rules.
Women have to adhere to strict dress codes, must not associate with unrelated men, and if they want to travel, work or access healthcare they must be accompanied by - or receive written permission from - a male guardian.
The Islamic kingdom recently faced a backlash from conservatives on social media after allowing women to participate in Saturday's National Day celebrations for the first time.
The festivities included fireworks, light shows and a concert in King Fahd International Stadium in the capital, Riyadh.
Saudi women sit in a stadium to attend an event in the capital Riyadh on 23 September 2017 commemorating the anniversary of the founding of the kingdom