Poland rejects international criticism over LGBT rights

Polish leaders have rejected suggestions that LGBT people are deprived of any of their rights in the country.

The rejection follows an open letter from 50 ambassadors and international representatives citing a need to work for “non-discrimination, tolerance and mutual acceptance”.

The ambassadors’ appeal comes as an increasingly visible LGBT community in Poland has faced a backlash from the right-wing government, many local communities and the Catholic church.

“Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBTI persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment,” the letter said, using the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he agreed that every person deserves respect but that he completely disagreed with the ambassadors’ claim that LGBT people were being deprived of that.

Mr Morawiecki said at a news conference: “To the dear ambassadors, I can only say that tolerance belongs to Polish DNA. Nobody needs to teach us tolerance, because we are a nation that has learned such tolerance for centuries and we have given many testimonies to the history of such tolerance.”

Some of Poland’s leaders, including the president and MPs from the ruling party, have cast the movement for civil rights for LGBT people as a threat to traditional families. President Andrzej Duda won a second term this summer after calling LGBT rights an “ideology” more dangerous than communism.

Meanwhile, dozens of towns in conservative parts of eastern and southern Poland have passed mostly symbolic resolutions declaring themselves to be free from “LGBT ideology”. Many of the declarations express the view that young people will be demoralised if confronted by the issue.

“Human Rights are not an ideology – they are universal,” US ambassador Georgette Mosbacher tweeted. “50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree.”

Joachim Brudzinski, deputy head of the ruling Law and Justice party who is now a European Parliament member, shot back at Ms Mosbacher on Monday, saying “we in Poland also agree”.

“Therefore, we are waiting with hope for the next letter, this time in defence of murdered Christians, imprisoned #ProLife activists, people dismissed from work and persecuted for quoting the Bible, people subjected to euthanasia against their will,” he wrote on Twitter, along with some other examples of alleged abuse of Christians.

It was not exactly clear what Mr Brudzinski was referring to. Poland is a predominantly Catholic nation where Christians do not face persecution and where abortion is illegal in most cases and euthanasia is outlawed. In one case, however, an IKEA employee in Poland was fired for citing Biblical passages to suggest gay people should be killed. The current government has spoken in the employee’s defence and a state prosecutor is suing the IKEA manager who fired him.

READ: The Changing Face of Hate in Poland: From Antisemitism to Anti-Muslim Racism

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Categories: Christians, human rights, International criticism, News, Polish Prime Minister

First direct commercial flight from Israel lands in Bahrain

The first known direct commercial flight between Israel and Bahrain has landed in the island kingdom, just a week after it signed a deal alongside the United Arab Emirates to normalise relations.

Flight data showed an Israir Airlines Airbus A320 landed at Bahrain International Airport after a nearly three-hour flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Hours later, Bahrain acknowledged the flight carried a delegation of Israeli officials.

“A working team from the state of Israel visited Manama today to discuss areas of co-operation between the two countries,” Bahrain said in a brief statement.

“These talks come after the signing of the Declaration of Peace.”

Bahrain did not identify the officials taking part, nor say who they spoke to while in Manama.

There was no immediate acknowledgement of the flight from the Israeli government, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday spoke by telephone to Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Bahrain’s state-run media did not acknowledge the flight.

Officials on the island off the coast of Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The US Embassy in Manama similarly did not respond to a request for comment.

The flight was made without ceremony, in sharp contrast to the first El Al flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates at the end of August.

That plane carried US and Israeli officials, including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as media.

In Bahrain, civil society groups have criticised the move to normalise relations with Israel, saying that recognition should come only after Palestinians obtain their own independent state.

Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and a British naval base, has a predominantly Shi’ite population ruled by a Sunni royal family.

Arab Spring protests there in 2011 ended with authorities cracking down with the help of Saudi and Emirati forces.

Bahrain and the UAE signed normalisation agreements on September 15 with Israel at the White House, part of a US diplomatic push as Donald Trump seeks re-election.

The UAE and Israel have moved quickly to explore commercial ties after their normalisation deal.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa previously had been quoted as saying he believed Arab countries should drop their boycott of Israel.

It is likely Saudi Arabia, a major benefactor for his nation, gave its assent to the normalisation deal.

Wednesday’s Israir flight flew over the kingdom, which has opened its airspace to Israeli flights to both Bahrain and the UAE.

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Categories: Bahrain, Direct Commercial flights, Israel, News, Normalise relations, United Arab Emirates

What are the new coronavirus rules in the UK?

Measures are being tightened in the face of rising coronavirus infections, with Boris Johnson warning the UK has reached a “perilous turning point” in its fight against the disease.

Tougher restrictions are being brought in across all four nations, but vary – here, we take a look at the new rules in each country.

– England

Working from home is once again being encouraged, with anyone who can being asked to do so.

People who cannot, such as those working in construction or retail, are being advised they should continue to go to their workplaces.

From Thursday pubs, bars and restaurants must offer table service only and hospitality, leisure, entertainment and tourism businesses all have to close between 10pm and 5am.

People working in retail, travelling in taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except while seated at a table to eat or drink, must wear face coverings.

From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, but the limit remains at 30 for funerals.

The rule of six, introduced last weekend, that any social gatherings of more than six people are against the law, is being extended to all adult indoor team sports.

Large sporting events, business conferences and exhibitions will not reopen as had been planned from October 1.

The penalties for disobeying the rules are also greater – failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six sees fines doubling to £200 for a first offence.

Businesses which break the rules could be fined up to £10,000 and closed.

Fines of up to £10,000 for people who fail to self-isolate have already been announced.

Downing Street said military support was an option to free up police so they can focus on enforcing the tougher rules.

For people in the shielding category, Mr Johnson said the guidance remains that shielding is not currently needed, unless they are in a local lockdown area.

In a televised address on Tuesday evening, he said he was “spiritually reluctant” to impinge on people’s freedoms, but warned: “Unless we take action the risk is that we will have to go for tougher measures later.”

– Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate across the UK and Ireland, and fresh Covid-19 restrictions were extended from some specific postcodes to the whole country from 6pm on Tuesday.

Households will no longer be allowed to mix indoors, except for single-person bubbles and certain other exemptions.

No more than six people from two households can meet in a garden.

But pubs which do not serve food, known as wet pubs, were able to open once again on Wednesday, despite the latest restrictions.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said whether to introduce an early closing time for pubs is something ministers would consider, describing replicating the 10pm curfew being introduced in England as “fair enough”.

First Minister Arlene Foster said a two-week period of lockdown to try to halt the spread of the virus, a so-called circuit breaker, could not be ruled out.

Discussing the latest measures, she said: “We need to act, but I do want to reassure you that despite all of the headlines this is not a second lockdown.

“This is a wake-up call, a reminder that we are not out of the woods.”

– Scotland

Household mixing indoors will no longer be allowed, with exemptions for those living alone, couples not living together, childcare and tradespeople.

Regulations come into force on Friday but people are being asked to comply from Wednesday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said children under 12 will be exempt from the current limit of six people from two households when meeting outside, and those between 12 and 18 will be able to meet a limit of six others from six households outdoors.

From Friday pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and further resources will be given to environmental health officials to step up enforcement and inspections, to check that social distancing and other hygiene guidance is being adhered to.

People in Scotland are also being advised against car-sharing, with Ms Sturgeon saying that according to Test and Protect data there is a “significant risk of transmission” in such settings.

She said no decision has been taken yet on a so-called circuit-break in October, and the Scottish Government is “keeping it under review”.

She asked people not to book any overseas travel for the half-term break unless it is essential, and to use it as an opportunity to “further limit social interaction”.

She said people who were shielding earlier in the year are not at this stage being asked to do so again, but that they should follow the steps outlined for the general population.

In an address to the nation, the First Minister acknowledged the measures might feel like “a step backwards”, but added: “We know what we need to do to protect ourselves and others – and all of us have a part to play.”

– Wales

Pubs, cafes, restaurants and casinos in Wales must operate as table service only and close from 10pm on Thursday.

Off-licences including supermarkets will also be stopped from selling alcohol at the same time each day as part of the measures.

Only six people are able to meet indoors and must be part of a single extended household.

Face coverings must be worn on public transport, in shops and in enclosed public spaces across Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said in a televised address: ““Families have lost loved ones. People have lost jobs and livelihoods. This is a highly infectious virus.

“We cannot let it take a hold of our lives again. We have come too far to let that happen.”

Additional measures across much of South Wales are due to come into force from 6pm on Tuesday.

The measures, which are already in force across Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly county borough, will apply in Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Blaenau Gwent.

Under the new rules people must not enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse and are only able to meet with other households outdoors, including members of their extended household.

All licensed premises such as pubs have to close at 11pm.

– How long will these new measures last?

Mr Johnson said that “unless we palpably make progress”, we should assume the restrictions he announced on Tuesday will remain in place for “perhaps six months”.

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon said she hoped the measures in Scotland would not have to be in place for that long, saying that while the absence of a game-changer vaccine means the virus will impact people’s lives “that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the new restrictions I am announcing today will be in place for six months”.

On Monday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty suggested that science would eventually “ride to our rescue”, but “in this period of the next six months, I think we have to realise that we have to take this, collectively, very seriously”.

What time will people have to leave pubs under the new rules?

In Wales, Mr Drakeford said pubs and restaurants would finish serving alcohol at 10pm, but people would be allowed to “drink up, to eat up, to bring their evening to an orderly close and then make their way home” beyond that point.

In England, officials said they had decided on a simple 10pm deadline which would be easier to enforce, meaning that venues would have to be closed to the public by that time.

Will cafes and fast-food restaurants have to give table service?

Not in England. While all restaurants and pubs will have to become table service-only, cafes and chains such as McDonald’s will continue to take orders at the counter.

Downing Street said the law will only apply to licensed premises, so those selling alcohol.

There will also be a “small number of exemptions” to the rule such as cinemas which serve alcohol, meaning table service would not be necessary in those circumstances either.

Does the “rule of six” apply to christenings?

Typically baptisms are carried out during Sunday services, which are exempted from the rule.

But “standalone life events” including christenings outside normal services will, from Monday, be subject to the six-person limit.

The Church of England has sought clarity from the Government, but it is understood the limit would include the baby.

How about “fledgling romances” during the pandemic?

During the early days of the lockdown, couples were told to move in together or stay apart.

But Government guidance has been updated to say that those in “an established relationship” do not need to socially distance from each other.

What exactly an established relationship means has not been clarified, but the guidance has sparked concerns that casual sex remains against the rules.

The post What are the new coronavirus rules in the UK? appeared first on Faith Matters.

Categories: Bars and restaurants, Corona Virus, Corona Virus Rules, News, pubs, Table Service

Plaque to remember rail guard who helped end racist recruitment policy

A plaque is being unveiled on Thursday to honour a railway worker who overturned a racist recruitment policy in the 1960s.

A ceremony will be held at Chatham station in Kent in memory of Asquith Xavier, who played a key role in ending the last vestiges of racist colour bars.

On August 15 1966, the colour bar at Euston station was defeated when Mr Xavier was allowed to start work after initially being refused a job.

British Railways had announced, after negotiations with local leaders of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), that no grade would in future be closed on racial grounds anywhere in the London division.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “Today we remember the brave actions of Asquith Xavier and those NUR officials such as Jimmy Prendergast who supported him in a campaign which eventually defeated the colour bar at Euston station.

“We owe so much to those who challenged racism on the railway in an era when it was all pervasive.

“The union remains eternally vigilant in the fight against racism and it is important we remember Asquith Xavier ‎and those trade unionists who blazed a trail for us over five decades ago.”

Mr Xavier‘s daughter Maria, who will speak at the unveiling in Chatham, where he lived, said: “This plaque has helped shed light on his achievements within British race relations and employment law.

“It recognises how my grandfather overcame adversity and prejudice in the campaign for racial equality in Britain in the 1960s and acknowledges his legacy as part of modern-day history.”

Mr Xavier, who died in 1980, was part of the Windrush generation, moving to England from Dominica after the Second World War.

He had started work for British Railways in 1956 as a porter, working his way up to rail guard at Marylebone station in London.

Following the closure of the Marylebone main line as part of the Beeching rail cuts, guards were no longer required and were being transferred to stations such as Euston.

Mr Xavier, an experienced guard, received a letter from management telling him that he had been rejected for a job at Euston.

Sid Greene, the general secretary of the NUR – now the RMT, contacted the British Rail Board about racist policies being practised in their name which he said had been a longstanding problem.

Union officials said colour bars were in place in several London stations, but the NUR campaigned to have them all lifted.

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Categories: Asquith Xavier, Chatham Station, Colour bar at Euston station, Kent, News, Racist recruitment policy

Prison officer tells jurors how he fought off convicted terrorist Brusthom Ziamani

A prison officer has described how he fended off repeated stabbing blows to the head after being floored in an alleged terror attack.

Neil Trundle was left covered in blood from multiple cuts after convicted terrorist Brusthom Ziamani, 25, and fellow inmate Baz Hockton, 26, allegedly assaulted him with makeshift weapons at Whitemoor jail in Cambridgeshire.

Jurors at the Old Bailey have heard two female members of staff were also injured by Ziamani when they tried to intervene in the onslaught on Mr Trundle on the morning of January 9.

Ziamani, who has a previous conviction for plotting an attack on a soldier, and Hockton are on trial accused of attempted murder.

The prosecution has alleged the defendants launched the attack for a terrorist purpose.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Mr Trundle said he had never had any problems with Ziamani before.

He said: “There had been no confrontation or cross words, no indication that there was going to be any issues between us.”

When Ziamani asked him if he could replace a broken spoon, Mr Trundle went to unlock a store cupboard, followed by the defendants.

Mr Trundle said: “I could see one in my peripheral view to the side as I unlocked the door.

“Before I knew it I was on the floor on my back. I wasn’t sure how I ended up on the floor. I did not know what position I was in but I was on the floor and I was being attacked.”

Mr Trundle, who has been a prison officer for more than 14 years, said he raised his arms to protect his face and called for help.

“I felt pressure on my body as if people were lying on my body. I could feel stabs, especially to my head at this precise moment. I could still feel little bits of stinging.

“I did not know who was on me or how many was on me but I did notice when that person or persons left. I noticed when they came back again and attacked me a second time.

“I did not see any weapons. I could feel blows coming down on me.

“During the attack I was laying on my back and I was trying to kick out. The kicking out made it more difficult for them.”

He added: “I did not realise how bad the damage was to myself until I went to the hospital and looked in the mirror.”

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of the incident, which was briefly interrupted when two female staff members attempted to intervene and were assaulted by Ziamani.

Prison officer Georgina Ibbotson told jurors she feared for her life when “hyped up” Ziamani came at her.

Ms Ibbotson said she never had any trouble with him before, adding that he spent a lot of time with Hockton “one to one”.

Earlier on January 9, Ms Ibbotson said Ziamani had also asked her to fetch a spoon from the store cupboard which gave her a “gut feeling”.

She said: “It just made me feel uncomfortable – it made me feel like it was something I did not want to do.”

Later when she heard the alarm, she said: “I saw two men standing in front of me – Mr Ziamani and Mr Hockton both holding weapons.

“I could just see they had something in their hands and were holding it with clenched fists.

“They were really hyped up and full of adrenalin, quite intimidating.

“I put my hands out and just said ‘whoa’. Mr Ziamani tried to step forward so I put my hands to my belt.

“Mr Ziamani punched me in the face. It was as hard as he could. It was really like a big shock, mostly. I fell to my knees.”

When she got up, she noticed nurse Jayne Cowles on the floor “looking shocked”.

Ms Ibbotson said she then headed towards the store cupboard, planning to lock herself in.

She said: “I could feel the blood dripping down my face. I did not know how bad my injuries were. I feared for my life.”

Ziamani and Hockton have denied the attempted murder of Mr Trundle.

They are also accused of an alternative charge of wounding with intent, which Hockton has admitted.

Ziamani has admitted assaulting Ms Ibbotson and Ms Cowles.

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Categories: Baz Hockton, Brusthom Ziamani, Ms Ibbotson, News, Prison Officer, terrorist, Whitemoor Prison

Saudi Arabia unveils health measures that will allow pilgrims to visit Mecca

Saudi Arabia has released new details on how it plans to gradually allow Muslims back to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca to perform the smaller, year-round pilgrimage, which has been suspended for the past seven months due to the coronavirus.

Hajj Minister Muhammad Benten said the kingdom will launch an online application that allows citizens, residents of Saudi Arabia and visitors to apply and reserve a specific time and date in which they can perform the pilgrimage, known as “umrah”, to avoid crowding and maintain social-distancing guidelines.

The minister, who spoke during a virtual seminar, did not say when the pilgrimage would be permitted to resume nor how many people would be allowed to perform it at the same time.

The kingdom held a dramatically downsized, symbolic hajj pilgrimage in July due to concerns that it could easily have become a global “superspreader” event for the virus.

Pilgrims were selected after applying through an online portal and all were residents or citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Rather than the more than two million pilgrims the kingdom hosts for the annual event, as few as 1,000 took part after being tested for the virus and quarantined.

Saudi Arabia on Monday began easing some restrictions on international flights for the first time in six months.

The kingdom allowed Gulf Arab nationals and foreign residents of Saudi Arabia abroad to enter the country, provided they are not infected with coronavirus.

The kingdom also allowed for some residents of Saudi Arabia, such as Saudi students with scholarships abroad and foreign embassy staff, to exit and enter the kingdom.

Despite taking early and sweeping measures to contain the virus, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 330,000 cases, including more than 4,500 deaths.

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Categories: Hajj, Mecca, News, Pilgrimage to Mecca, Residents of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia

John Lennon’s killer apologises to Yoko Ono for his ‘despicable act’

John Lennon’s killer has apologised to the singer’s widow, Yoko Ono, saying he thinks about the “despicable act” all the time and accepts he may spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Mark David Chapman, 65, was denied parole for an 11th time following a hearing last month. He has been locked up since murdering the beloved former Beatle in Manhattan in December 1980.

He shot Lennon four times outside the Dakota apartment building in the Upper West Side, as Ono looked on.

A transcript of the parole hearing obtained by the PA news agency under freedom of information laws reveals the board rejected his release on the grounds it “would be incompatible with the welfare of society”.

During the hearing, Chapman said he killed Lennon, 40, for “glory” and admitted he deserves the death penalty.

“I just want to reiterate that I’m sorry for my crime,” he said. “I have no excuse. This was for self-glory. I think it’s the worst crime that there could be to do something to someone that’s innocent.”

Chapman added: “He (Lennon) was extremely famous. I didn’t kill him because of his character or the kind of man he was. He was a family man. He was an icon. He was someone that spoke of things that now we can speak of and it’s great.”

The hearing was held on August 19 at Wende Correctional Facility in New York, where Chapman has been locked up for eight years.

The killer apologised to Lennon’s family, revealing he thinks about the murder “all the time”.

He said: “I assassinated him, to use your word earlier, because he was very, very, very famous and that’s the only reason and I was very, very, very, very much seeking self-glory, very selfish.

“I want to add that and emphasise that greatly. It was an extremely selfish act. I’m sorry for the pain that I caused to her (Ono). I think about it all of the time.”

Chapman, who was 25 when he murdered Lennon, said now he is older, he can see it was a “despicable act” and “pretty creepy”.

Chapman is married and his wife, 69, lives near the prison. In his meeting with the parole board, he described being deeply religious and a “devoted Christian”.

He has not had an infraction behind bars since 1994, the board was told. Chapman is a clerk and a porter in a restricted block of the prison, where he was placed for his own safety, and wakes each day at 6.30am.

He discussed his fascination with the book The Catcher In The Rye at the time of the murder and said he identified with the main character’s “isolation, loneliness”.

Asked if justice had been served, Chapman said “I deserve zero, nothing,” adding he should have been given the death penalty following the killing.

He said: “When you knowingly plot someone’s murder and know it’s wrong and you do it for yourself, that’s a death penalty right there in my opinion.

“Some people disagree with me, but everybody gets a second chance now.”

He added: “The view on the death penalty for me is a little up and down at times but for me I deserve that. I know I’m speaking for myself. I know what I did. I know who was in those shoes at that time. I know my thoughts. They were not thinking of him at all, his wife, his child, the fans, nobody. I was just thinking of me. That deserves a death penalty.

“He was a human being and I knew I was going to kill him. That alone says you deserve nothing and if the law and you choose to leave me in here for the rest of my life, I have no complaint whatsoever.”

In its decision, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision board said it found Chapman’s statement that “infamy brings you glory” disturbing.

It commended his “personal growth and productive use of time” but said his “selfish actions stole the chance for future fans to experience the words of inspiration that this artist provide for millions of people. Your violent act caused devastation to not only family and former band members, but the world”.

Chapman is next eligible for parole in two years.

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Categories: John Lennon, Killer, Mark David Chapman, News, Parole, Yoko Ono

Head of probe into discrimination in Tory Party seeks further evidence

The head of an investigation into the Conservative Party’s handling of complaints of discrimination and prejudice, including Islamophobia, has issued a call for further evidence.

Professor Swaran Singh, a former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the investigation is nearing the end of its first phase of work.

It has examined all existing documentary evidence relating to formal complaints of unlawful discrimination made to the Tory Party complaints team.

But the investigation is now seeking further evidence relating to allegations which may have been raised in the past but not considered by the party’s complaints team.

Prof Singh said: “The independent investigation is reaching the end of its initial examination of the Conservative Party’s handling of past complaints of discrimination.

“We are now calling for further evidence that we may not already have seen to ensure that we are aware, as far as realistically possible, of all evidence relating to alleged discrimination within the party.

“We need to determine whether all important evidence of discrimination has been considered in the framework of the party’s existing complaints process.”

The deadline for submissions is 4pm on October 17.

The Tories announced in December that Prof Singh would head the party’s review into its handling of complaints of discrimination and prejudice, including Islamophobia.

Boris Johnson originally promised an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party when he was campaigning to be Tory leader last summer.

The commitment was later widened to cover all forms of discrimination and prejudice.

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Categories: Equality and Human Rights Commissioner, News, Professor Swaran Singh, Tory Party

Man spat at Muslim woman in niqab in Tooting

A man spat at a Muslim woman who wears the niqab as he bent down to collect his lighter, the saliva landed on her thigh and the sleeve of her abaya, causing her great shock.

The assault occurred on the morning of August 17 in Tooting, south London.

Wishing to maintain her anonymity, the woman consented to have her story told to raise awareness.

She described how upon leaving a Superdrug store, a grey-haired male, aged in his mid-to-late fifties and slim build, had approached her before dropping his lighter, adding that he had a flushed appearance.

The man remained silent, even after the Muslim woman said ‘you just spat at me,’ and soon walked away.

She soon removed the abaya and was thankful for wearing layers, as a member of the offered to help her wash the garment at a nearby shop, assisting her further with hand washing.

Speaking of her restraint, she wanted to set a good example and refrained from responding with profanities and felt blessed that the saliva had not hit her face. Reflecting on past experiences of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic abuse, she described how two men had referred to her as ‘Batman’.

Tell MAMA continues to document the disproportionate targeting of Muslim women who wear the face veil.

In 2018, six per cent of Muslim women reporting to Tell MAMA wore the niqab or the face veil in combination with the abaya.

You can get advice from our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.



The post Man spat at Muslim woman in niqab in Tooting appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: assault, London, News, Niqab

Afghan Translators Who Fought With Us Have Been Let Down

We within Faith Matters have spent the last 3 years, consistently highlighting the case of Mohammed Nabi Wardak. In 2018, our Founder campaigned for this Afghan translator, leading to over 135,000 people signing a petition for him to be let into the United Kingdom.


Nabi was found living on the streets of Athens in 2016. He had worked with British forces for 3 years in places like Helmand and had seen action under fire, translating key commands on the battlefield to move Afghan soldiers in partnership with British forces against Taliban extremists. Faith Matters staff saw the list of commendations and certificates that Nabi had received for bravery in the field and signed by serving British officers. We were also instrumental in getting journalists from the Sun newspaper, to highlight and back Nabi’s case for settlement into the United Kingdom. All of this activity has fallen on deaf ears in the Government.

Mohammed’s story reflects the manner in which our Government has failed the vast majority of Afghan translators who stood with us in the battle to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban. Nabi was threatened twice by the Taliban whilst serving with British forces, leading to a kidnap attempt in broad daylight by a Taliban unit that he managed to free himself from. This was followed up by further threats against him and the targeting of his family, that led to him to  flee from Afghanistan in 2014 and cross into Iran and finally into Turkey. Bedraggled, broke and broken, he ended up in Turkey, only to be forced into hard labour as a shepherd to survive. It was in 2016, that he made the fateful decision to cross from Turkey into Europe, through the routes that Syrian refugees were taking to seek asylum in Europe. This after a year of hard-labour in the heat of Turkey, just to survive as a refugee.

Taking his life into his hands, he crossed the Aegean sea in a rubber boat, only to be arrested and thrown into jail in Greece. This was the start of his ordeal that saw him released after 30 days with only the clothes on his back. Wandering the streets of Athens, he was homeless and penniless. Unable to speak the language, he begged for food.

Mohammed survived in Athens only by chance. Without drinking water and food, he begged and drunk water from discarded bottles, or was luckily sustained when charities could feed and hydrate him. It was whilst sleeping on the streets of Athens, that the charity – ‘Forge for Humanity’ – led by a British woman called Jess Webster, came across him and highlighted his case in the Independent newspaper. This was in 2018.

What We Know

We know that Nabi spent about 3 years in the field with British forces in major combat zones like Helmand. We also know through documented evidence, that he was good at his job, reliable and praised by British army commanders.

We also know that he left behind his family and his children in Afghanistan, so as to reduce the risk to them by the Taliban, though they have been and continue to be at risk of harm as the Taliban seeks a place in the Government. Additionally, the Taliban have always regarded those who worked with ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)  and British forces, as traitors and liable to summary execution. They have also threatened to target their families on numerous occasions.

What we are also aware of, is how the British Government, left behind some 6,500 Afghan civilians who had worked with British forces through a tiny textual caveat in the ‘Afghan Relocation Offer‘. Within this scheme, the Government cites that locally employed (Afghan) staff must have been,

  • employed directly by the UK government at the time of their redundancy in a role which took them regularly ‘outside the wire’ on the frontline in Helmand,
  • made redundant on or after 1 May 2006,
  • directly employed by the UK government on the frontline for a minimum of 12 months continuously.

Repeated threats against Nabi and his family meant that he left the employment of the Ministry of Defence in 2014. Whilst he fits two out of the three criteria listed above, one simple phrase – that of ‘redundancy’, has severely impacted his life. He was not made redundant. He left because of legitimate fears around the lives of his family and to his life.

3,000 Afghan Civilian Translators Left behind

Lucy Fisher, the Defence Correspondent of the Times, recently highlighted the ‘hollow promises’ made by the U.K. Government to Afghan translators. In her July 2020 article she stated that British forces employed some 7,000 Afghan civilians of which around 3,500 were translators on active duty at the front-line with British forces. She also listed the fact that 20 Afghan translators were killed on active duty and that 445 have been relocated into the U.K with their families, meaning that some 3,000 are still at risk of harm from an emboldened Taliban, now negotiating peace talks with the Afghan Government.

Left Behind

We have waited 3 years to try and get an outcome on Nabi’s case and in that time he has applied for asylum in Greece. He has not seen his children for 4 years and the stress and trauma of seeing combat and his best friend killed by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) whilst on active service, have impacted on his mental health; so has being a refugee in Greece, not knowing whether his family would be targeted by the Taliban.

Nabi should not have been put in a position to seek asylum in a foreign country when he served for many years with our forces. Indeed, the very reason he was targeted was because he believed that we could bring positive change to Afghanistan. The Afghan Interpreter Relocation Scheme was fundamentally meant to accept people like him into the U.K. on the basis that they had served us in the hour of our need in a brutal and hostile terrain. 

Haphazard Response from the U.K. Government

Faith Matters has written to the British Consular section in Greece, the Ministry of Defence and to the Home Office. The Consular section did not reply, nor did the Home Office. The Ministry of Defence responded to our queries through Tom Tugendhat MP, suggesting that Nabi has applied for asylum in Greece. The letter also unhelpfully stipulated that he should pursue his asylum claim in Greece.

We have therefore been left with no choice but to publicly highlight his case, to demonstrate the injustice that has been done to Afghan civilian interpreters. They should all have been given the chance to settle into the U.K with their families, having chosen to support our forces at our time of need.

Which is why we are requesting the following; that the Home Secretary take over the asylum application from the authorities in Athens and that Nabi be allowed into the U.K. whilst his asylum application is processed. Failing which, the ‘Relocation Scheme’ be widened to include all those 3,000 interpreters who served with our forces, instead of locking them out through the caveat that they should have been made redundant when British forces left.

Finally, as the Taliban seek a place in the Afghan government in the next few years, surely we cannot leave the fate of 3,000 civilian translators to the wind and to the mercy of the Taliban. For if this is the path the U.K. Government choose to take next time there is a conflict we are involved in, few will heed our calls for action; of this we can be sure.

The post Afghan Translators Who Fought With Us Have Been Let Down appeared first on Faith Matters.

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