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Egyptian prosecutors release transgender woman accused of terrorism1 minute read

Malak al-Kashef, 19, was arrested on accusations of joining a “terrorist” group and using social media to disrupt public order

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Egyptian prosecutors release transgender woman accused of terrorism
(File photo)

Egyptian prosecutors have released a transgender woman arrested in March on a string of charges including joining a “terrorist” group, her lawyer and a rights group said Monday.

Malak al-Kashef, 19, was arrested on accusations of joining a “terrorist” group and using social media with the aim of disrupting public order.

“The state security prosecution ordered the release of Malak al-Kashef,” lawyer Amr Mohamed said in a Facebook post Monday.

READ: Botswana’s government will appeal ruling decriminalising homosexuality

Her release was also confirmed by a rights group, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Kashef has been held in solitary confinement, according to Mohamed.

Her arrest prompted Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to warn of the risks of possible “sexual violence” against her while in custody.

The transgender activist has drawn attention since February 2017 when she spoke out about the transition process on a popular Egyptian talk show.

READ: Botswana’s High Court legalises homosexuality, repeals colonial penal code

In online posts, she also chronicled cases of harassment by family members and in public after having transitioned from male to female.

In conservative Egypt, homosexuality is not explicitly banned but authorities regularly crackdown on suspected LGBT+ people under a “debauchery” law, drawing condemnation from rights groups.

In January, an Egyptian court sentenced a television host to one year in prison for interviewing a gay man last year.

Egypt’s top media body issued a decision “banning the appearance of homosexuals or promotion of their slogans” after the rainbow flag symbolic of the LGBT+ community was raised at a Cairo concert in 2017. 

The previous year, a court rejected a transgender’s request to change name and gender on the ID card.

READ: Kenyan High Court due to pass rule on homosexuality

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What’s in it for Africa at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Spain?

The highpoint of the COP25 for Africa is the “Africa Day”, which is slated for December 10

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What's in it for Africa at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Spain?
Participants pose for a family photo within the 2019 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), held in Madrid, Spain on December 02, 2019. Burak Akbulut / AFP

African delegates will seek to push for changes at the 2019 annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, which officially kicked off on Monday, December 3, in Madrid, Spain.

About 29,000 visitors are expected at the conference that holds from 2 to 13 December 2019, including 50 heads of state. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the meeting’s urgency, saying that the climate crisis could soon reach the “point of no return.”

READ: Ugandan children boycott school to march for climate change action

At COP25, delegates from 197 countries are expected to nail down some details left open by the 2015 Paris climate accord, including how carbon-trading systems and compensation for poor countries with rising sea levels will work.

Being signatories to the Paris Agreement, nearly all African countries have shown commitments to enhance climate actions by putting practical measures and building resilience in order to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

READ: How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy

Like the previous COP summits, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is present in Madrid to support regional member countries through its support to the African group of negotiators and through advocacy to make Africa’s voice heard in the global stage.

The highpoint of the COP25 for Africa is the “Africa Day”, which is slated for December 10, and will focus on concerted global action on climate change to attain a new Africa.

The conference was originally scheduled to be held in Brazil and then Chile, but the election of President Jair Bolsonaro and the protests in Santiago changed those plans. Spain agreed to host last month.

READ: Uganda’s teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action

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Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya

Years of political and economic turmoil since the 2011 Arab Spring have worsened hardship in Egypt

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Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya
Egyptian Hanem al-Zanati, 75, stands at the door of her home in the village of al-Nehaya, one of the country's poorest, in the province of Assiut in central Egypt, on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

The name of the remote Egyptian village, Al-Nehaya, sounds much like the Arabic word for “the end”, which is sadly fitting, given the grinding poverty endured by most of its people.

Years of political and economic turmoil since the 2011 Arab Spring have worsened hardship in a country where one in three people live below the poverty line.

One of them is 75-year-old Hanem al-Zanati, who, sitting under the straw roof of her bare-brick home, talked about life in the destitute settlement of 10,000 people in the remote Upper Nile region.

“All I want is a fridge and a small bed,” she says, as if these objects were fantastic luxuries. Zanati has a broken wrist but said she can’t afford to see a doctor because her husband’s pension comes to just 700 Egyptian pounds ($43) a month.

Nehaya lacks its own health care centre as well as a middle or secondary school, a reliable water or electricity supply or a sewage system. Most people survive on hardscrabble agriculture, growing mostly maize and wheat, here in Assiut province, Egypt’s poorest, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Cairo.

With typical day wages around 80 pounds, or $4, many have abandoned the village in search of better lives in urban centres such as Alexandria and the mega-city of Cairo.

‘Beyond Bad’

Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya
Egyptian Hanem al-Zanati, 75, gestures as she speaks at her home in the village of al-Nehaya, one of the country’s poorest, in the province of Assiut in central Egypt, on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

Many tourists and investors have shunned Egypt since the upheaval that overthrew long-time president Hosni Mubarak. Since 2014, former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ruled.

A sharp fall in the pound has driven up costs of everyday goods, the pain made worse by austerity measures in line with demands from the International Monetary Fund. There may be simmering discontent but few open expressions of anger in a country with a massive, feared security apparatus and overcrowded prisons.

The poverty rate among Egypt’s 100 million people jumped to 32.5 per cent last year, up from 27.8 per cent in 2015, says official statistics agency CAPMAS. The government has launched family income support programmes such as the 2014 “Solidarity and Dignity” initiative, which targeted more than nine million people. 

In July, Sisi launched another plan for those in most need called “Decent Life”. The residents of Nehaya say state officials from the project came to visit the village, promising to build a new school and to restore old houses. But so far, little has been done and conditions have remained the same, they say.

“Conditions here are beyond bad,” says a 20-year-old public servant in Nehaya’s only elementary school pupils use “dilapidated seats” and there are not enough teachers, she said. 

‘No Progress’

Post-Arab Spring hardship weighs on Egyptian village of Al-Nehaya
Egyptian men pose for a picture in an alley at the village of al-Nehaya, one of the poorest in the country, in the province of Assiut in central Egypt, on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP)

Near the rickety elementary school building, mayor Gamal Thabet is sitting on a simple wooden bench. “Officials from the ‘Decent Life’ initiative visited, inspected homes and reviewed the demands,” he says. “But nothing has changed so far.”

In the village “there is only one elementary school, and the bakery’s products do not cover the needs” of the population, he said.

Unable to afford transport to schools outside the village, families have long called for the allocation of land to build their own middle or secondary school, he added.

Khaled Abdel Nasser, head of the presidential initiative in Assiut, blamed the delayed aid on red tape. But he insisted the project is on track in Nehaya, saying that “all those in need have been identified… and a plot has been allocated for the school building”.

Elsewhere in the village, 31-year-old Mohamed Mustafa appeared troubled as he stood outside his small grocery shop, where goods lay on dusty shelves.

“My family and I live in a run-down house,” said the father of five, leaning against a window to ease his back pain. “All I need is two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. I get a 400 pound (about $25) in (social) allowances but it is not even enough for my back treatment.”

Behind the village school stands two unfinished buildings, one of them a mosque. A sign asking for donations reads: “with God’s blessing the mosque of Sayyidina al-Hussein is under construction in Nehaya village”.

“There has been no progress in construction for four months,” said one villager. “Nobody has the money.”

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Relief International says gunmen attacked office in north of South Sudan

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Gunmen attacked our office in north of South Sudan -Relief International
People gathered at Relief International premises in Sudan (Photo credit : https://www.ri.org/countries/sudan/)

An international aid organisation, Relief International, on Monday said that a group of armed men stormed its premises in northeastern South Sudan, assaulting and injuring five staff members.

Relief International said the attack took place on Sunday in a field office in Upper Nile State.

“Multiple gunmen, armed with assault rifles, pistols and knives, invaded a staff compound. During this assault, five of our staff were assaulted and sustained injuries,” the agency said in a statement.

“We have relocated our team to safety, and they are receiving all necessary care,” said Nancy Wilson, Relief International Chief Executive Officer
“They endured a senseless act of violence in the course of their assignment providing life-saving care to the refugee community in Upper Nile State, South Sudan.”

Read: Fighting between South Sudanese government and NAS rebels near Juba

Humanitarian workers have been repeatedly targeted with at least 115 killed since the country was plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

The unrest has left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced millions.
A peace deal was signed in September last year and a ceasefire has largely held but efforts to form a power-sharing government have been repeatedly delayed.

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