Progress: Personal freedoms increase in UAE, and more

1. United States

A record number of Native American women are joining the House of Representatives after at least 18 ran for congressional office. Historically underrepresented in politics, only two Native American women ran for office in the 2016 elections. Three won this month: Laguna Pueblo member Deb Haaland, D-N.M., and Ho-Chunk Nation member Sharice Davids, D-Kan., both elected to second terms; and Cherokee Nation citizen Yvette Herrell, R-N.M.

Democratic National Convention/AP

New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member, speaks during the fourth night of the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, 2020.

Although there has still never been a Native American woman elected to the Senate, the 117th Congress will have more members of Indigenous heritage than any previous cohort, as the women will join Oklahoma Republican Reps. Tom Cole, who is Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, who is Cherokee; and Democratic Rep.-elect Kai Kahele, who is Native Hawaiian. (The 19th News, The Associated Press)

2. United States

The launch of a satellite marks a major step forward for monitoring the effects of rising sea levels. Around the world, sea levels are expected to rise by up to 4 feet by 2100, or 30% in some parts of the American coastline. This could result in trillions of dollars in damage to personal property and critical infrastructure. But experts see a path to solutions: NASA’s new Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, which has the ability to measure sea level changes with unparalleled accuracy, launched on Nov. 10.

Waves at high tide crash onto the road in Oceanside, California, on Nov. 27, 2019. Rising sea levels could mean more flooding.

This U.S.-European partnership will offer crucial insight on how climate change is affecting global sea levels. Over its 5 1/2-year mission, the satellite will also collect more precise data on humidity and atmospheric temperature, improving weather forecasts and long-term climate models. (The Hill, NASA)

3. Mexico

Mexico’s Senate unanimously approved legislation banning “revenge porn,” or the sharing of sexual photos or videos without consent, joining a growing number of countries trying to curb online violence against women. Under the new measure, called Olimpia’s law, perpetrators would face up to six years in jail and fines. It is named after Olimpia Coral Melo, who became an advocate after discovering explicit videos of herself online when she was 18. Similar measures have been adopted by several states in Mexico, and the Nov. 5 vote is the first move toward a federal ban. Olimpia’s law has drawn some criticism for its emphasis on criminal punishment, but victims and activists say the Senate support is a major victory. “This was one of the debts that we had with all women, girls, and teenagers,” said Sen. Martha Lucia Micher, from the government’s Gender Equality Commission. The bill moves to the lower chamber of Congress as women continue to protest high rates of femicide and gender-based violence in the country. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

4. United Arab Emirates

A series of legal reforms now allows greater personal freedom in the United Arab Emirates, including the right for foreign residents to follow their home country’s rules on divorce and inheritance, and an ability for unmarried couples to cohabitate. In a country that runs on migrants – who make up nearly 90% of the population – and markets itself as a hub of international business, the amendments remove some legal ambiguity for many seeking to live and work there. Also under the new laws, Emirati judges are no longer allowed to give lenient sentences for so-called honor killings. “I could not be happier for these new laws that are progressive and proactive,” Abdallah Al Kaabi, an Emirati filmmaker, told The Associated Press. “2020 has been a tough and transformative year for the UAE.” Dubai is preparing to host millions of visitors at its World Expo next year. (The Guardian)

5. Bangladesh

An Islamic charity has opened Bangladesh’s first school for hijras, a transgender community that faces widespread poverty and discrimination. Human rights groups say there could be as many as 1.5 million hijras in Bangladesh, and although the government has recognized hijras as a third gender since 2013, the population remains largely ostracized. At the Islamic Third Gender School in Dhaka, students of any age will receive lessons on the basic principles of Islam, as well as Bengali, English, math, and some vocational training. “We have a plan to open schools for them across the country so that no one is deprived of education,” said a cleric who helped establish the school. “I’m so thrilled. This school is a beacon of hope,” said student Sona Solani. “I want to show the society that we can stand as equals and prove that we’re not limited to begging, that our lives are much bigger than that.” (Reuters)


A UNESCO report shows that the global school enrollment rate for girls increased from 73% to 89% since 1995, as more countries achieve gender parity in education. Today, there are 180 million more girls enrolled in primary and secondary schools than there were a generation ago, and those girls are performing better in reading and mathematics. In postsecondary education, the progress is even more striking: Women’s enrollment in colleges, universities, and trade schools has tripled to 116 million since 1995. Morocco, which had one of the worst higher education ratios in the early 1990s with 30 women enrolled for every 100 men, achieved gender parity in 2017.

Facundo Arrizabalaga/Reuters/File

Students in Asni, Morocco, watch as Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, visit their secondary school on Feb. 24, 2019.

The report, titled “A New Generation: 25 Years of Efforts for Gender Equality in Education,” warns that the pandemic will likely exacerbate remaining gender gaps and governments must remain vigilant. “This [research] shows that the fulfillment of women’s rights is intrinsically linked to their education opportunities,” said David Moinina Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s education minister and chair of the advisory board for the report. (UNESCO)

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UAE announces loosening of Islamic laws for personal freedoms

The United Arab Emirates has announced a major overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and criminalising so-called “honour killings”.

The broadening of personal freedoms reflects the changing profile of a country that has sought to bill itself as a skyscraper-studded destination for Western tourists, fortune-seekers and businesses despite its legal system based on a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law.

The changes also reflect the efforts of the Emirates’ rulers to keep pace with a rapidly changing society at home.

The announcement also follows a historic US-brokered deal to normalise relations between the UAE and Israel, which is expected to bring an influx of Israeli tourists and investment.

Changes include scrapping penalties for alcohol consumption, sales and possession for those 21 and over.

The legal reforms were announced on state-run WAM news agency and detailed in state-linked newspaper The National.

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Israel signs agreements with UAE, Bahrain at White House.

Previously, individuals needed a liquor license to purchase, transport or have alcohol in their homes.

The new rule would apparently allow Muslims who have been barred from obtaining licenses to drink alcoholic beverages freely.

Another amendment allows for “cohabitation of unmarried couples”, which has long been a crime in the UAE.

Authorities, especially in the more free-wheeling financial hub of Dubai, tend to look the other way when it comes to foreigners, but the threat of punishment still lingered for such behaviour.

The Government also decided to get rid of laws protecting “honour crimes” a widely criticised tribal custom in which a male relative may evade prosecution for assaulting a woman seen as “dishonouring” a family.

The punishment for a crime committed to eradicate a woman’s “shame” for promiscuity or disobeying religious and cultural strictures will now be the same for any other kind of assault.

In a country where expatriates outnumber citizens nearly nine to one, the amendments will permit foreigners to avoid Islamic sharia courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance.

The reforms come as the UAE gets ready to host the high-stakes World Expo.

The event is planned to bring a flurry of commercial activity and some 25 million visitors to the country, after it was pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.


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Israel set to permit US warplanes sale to UAE

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 11:22 AM PT – Saturday, October 24, 2020

An F-35 fighter plane flies over the White House. (ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

President Trump’s normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has continued to produce results.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not oppose the sale of “certain weapons systems” to the UAE. This is likely referring to the F-35 fighter planes Abu Dhabi has been seeking for several years.

US President Donald Trump speaks with F-35 fighter plane pilot Lt Col Jason Curtis as he tours Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona where he is for a “Make America Great” rally on October 19, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

The announcement came shortly after Defense Minister Benny Gantz and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed an agreement allowing Israel to acquire advanced weapons and upgrade its military.

However, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committees do have the right to review and block such sales.

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Carbine deal a benchmark to invest in India, says UAE arms firm Caracal

UAE’s state-owned arms manufacturer firm keen to set up facilities.

The deal for 93,895 Close Quarter Carbines (CQBs) for the Indian Army, for which United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s government-owned small arms manufacturer Caracal was shortlisted, is like a “benchmark” for UAE industry and they are watching closely on further investments in the Indian market, said Hamad Salem Alameri, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Caracal in an interview to The Hindu.

“Once this first contract moves, lot of sister companies within the group will see this as a success story and people will have the confidence to come and invest in India,” Mr. Alameri said. He said this was the most important message that everyone is looking at and people are willing to come and invest in India and create jobs with the blessings of the two governments.

However, while Caracal was shortlisted two years back, the final deal has been delayed and recently an in-principle decision was taken in the Defence Ministry to cancel the deal and take the domestic route for procurement. But no formal announcement has been made so far.

“Nothing came to us officially on the cancellation or on the intent of cancellation,” Mr. Alameri said.

He said in the last two years Caracal had developed lot of suppliers and technology partners and the starting point of indigenisation will be 60%. Stating that Caracal has already identified four locations to set up the facility and also identified local partners to be able to commence production immediately, Mr. Alameri said India is already part of their global supply chain and over 20% of the components fitted on the CAR 816 are already made in India.

The deals for 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines were approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in January 2018 to be processed through the Fast Track Procurement (FTP) route. While the deal for assault rifles was concluded with Sig Saur and SIG-716 assault rifles delivered to the Army, the CQB deal in which Caracal was selected has been held up. The total number CQBs required is much larger given the Army’s requirement.

Caracal was among two of five contenders who qualified in the trials, from which it was declared the lowest bidder as its bid was $26 mn less than the competitor, Mr. Alameri said. As part of the evaluation, an Army team conducted trials at the vendors’ facilities and later the carbines were tested in India with local ammunition to check compatibility.

Caracal which is looking to expand its presence in the Indian market, is now bidding for the Sniper rifles tender of the Army and also looking to supply sub-machine guns to the Home Ministry, Mr. Alameri added.

The CAR-816 carbines meant to replace the Army’s 9mm Sterling carbines in service and have higher bullet velocity and reduced weight compared to the Sterling carbines. Caracal has already said it is positioned to complete the order within 12 months.

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49 Indian workers stranded in UAE repatriated: Report

A total of 49 Indians, who were stranded in the UAE for several months after they lost their jobs, have been repatriated.

For the last six months, the expats were abandoned and left unpaid after two Dubai-based carpentry firms owned by Indians were shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, the Gulf News reported, according to news agency PTI. The firms had shut down without informing their staff.

The expats have now been repatriated after the Indian mission in Dubai helped them secure their passports and security deposits from two companies

The expats had earlier reached out to the Indian Consulate in Dubai in July and sought help to return home.

“The workers had been in dire straits after the companies were shut and the Indian employer went unreachable. They had not been paid for about six months and they reached out to the consulate for help to return home,” Neeraj Agrawal, Consul for Press, Information and Culture, was quoted as saying in the report.

He said the mission has provided food supplies to the workers since July.

“However, the workers’ passports were still under the custody of the companies. Though the owner was not reachable, the consulate somehow contacted the PROs of the firms and the workers’ passports and security deposits [3,000 dirhams each] were taken with the support of Dubai Police and Al Adheed Centre of Dubai Courts which provides services related to labour disputes,” Agrawal said.

Following the intervention by the Consulate, the expats were able to return home safe.

“Consulate is #HappyToAssist more than 45 Indian labourers who were abandoned by their employers. CGI provided them with rations for more than 3 months & helped to retrieve their passports from their employer. The labourers returned in batches to India with the support of the Consulate,” the mission said in a tweet.

Agrawal said the final group left for Lucknow on October 10.

(With inputs from PTI)

ALSO READ | 114 stranded Indians brought back from UAE in Air India flight

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Trump Hosts Israel, U.A.E. and Bahrain at White House Signing Ceremony

WASHINGTON — Proclaiming that “there’s going to be peace in the Middle East,” President Trump hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ofIsrael and the foreign ministers of United Arab Emirates and Bahrain a t the White House on Tuesday for the formal signing of new diplomatic accords between them.

The ceremony took place on the White House’s South Lawn marking an agreement that has become a focal point of the president’s foreign policy message in the closing weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Although the details remain unknown, the agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, will normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and U.A.E. and Bahrain, including the establishment of the first embassies in one another’s countries. Israel and the U.A.E. recently announced the start of the first commercial flights between them. Until now, Israel had normal relations with only two other Arab states, Jordan and Egypt.

The staging of the event seemed designed to invoke the scene 25 years ago in the same location, when President Bill Clinton brokered an agreement — and iconic handshake — between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

But many analysts of the region, while affording Mr. Trump credit for helping to broker the agreement — work spearheaded by his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner — called the talk of peace overblown. They note that Israel has long been moving into a de facto alliance with the Persian Gulf’s Sunni Arab states, largely in common cause against Shiite Iran.

“It’s not conflict resolution and it’s not peace — this is a business deal,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group sharply critical of Mr. Netanyahu. “It’s very, very clear that there are aligned interests between Israel and these countries — military, security, diplomatic, economic — and those interests have been there for two decades.”

“This formalizes that, but it shouldn’t be overplayed as resolving a core conflict for Israel with its neighbors,” he added. Israel’s decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, he said, “remains unaddressed with this agreement.”

Meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump presented Mr. Netanyahu with a large golden key embedded in a wooden box that he described as “a key to the White House, a key to our country.”

“You have the key to the hearts of the people of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu replied.

“This is peace in the Middle East without blood all over the sand,” Mr. Trump added.

Speaking on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump boasted that Tuesday’s event was just the beginning of grander things to come.

“We have many others going to be coming in over a short period of time,” Mr. Trump said, “And the Palestinians will ultimately come in too. You’re going to have peace in the Middle East.”

But during Tuesday’s ceremony the Palestinians seemed an afterthought, going unmentioned in the official remarks of Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.

Palestinian leaders, however, show no sign of reconsidering their adamant refusal to negotiate with Israel in the framework of a peace plan the Trump White House released in January.

Mr. Trump also said on Fox that he would “have absolutely no problem” selling the F-35 fighter jet to the United Arab Emirates, a step the Trump administration is considering despite objections in Israel over the sale of advanced military hardware to an Arab state.

Trump officials deny that such a sale was a condition for the Emirates to strike its agreement with Israel.

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Israel and UAE in historic direct flight following peace deal

media captionJared Kushner: “A new script for a new Middle East”

The first commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates has landed, a major step in normalising relations after the announcement of a peace deal.

The El Al airliner made the three-hour trip, carrying a delegation of Israeli and US officials.

The flight was allowed to cross Saudi Arabian airspace, normally blocked to Israeli air traffic.

The UAE has become only the third Arab country in the Middle East to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948.

On Saturday, the UAE repealed a law boycotting Israel which had been in place since 1972, and earlier this month the two countries opened direct telephone services for the first time.

The agreement to normalise relations – brokered by the US – was made public in a surprise announcement on 13 August.

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Flight LY971 – numbered to represent the UAE’s international dialling code – carried delegates including Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

image copyrightEPA

image captionThe El Al plane was decorated with the word for “peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew

Mr Kushner led secret talks which resulted in the agreement between Israel and the UAE, a federation of seven Arab monarchies in the Gulf, including Dubai.

Speaking to the media after landing in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, Mr Kushner described the deal between the countries as a “historic breakthrough” and said it was a “tremendous honour” to have joined the flight.

“What happened here was three great leaders came together and they started writing a new script for the Middle East. They said the future doesn’t have to be predetermined by the past,” he said

The joint teams will meet Emirati representatives to develop areas of co-operation between Israel and the UAE. The return flight will be numbered LY972, after Israel’s international dialling code.

Monday’s three-hour flight has taken more than 70 years to make, and it marks a new turning point in relations between Israel and the Arab world.

There are big prizes for all three players: Israel’s historic need to boost regional recognition of the Jewish state (could Saudi Arabia one day do so too?); the Emiratis’ glittering finance hubs can benefit from open links with the region’s security and cyber superpower; while a US president under pressure at home gets to tout his role as peacemaker in the Middle East.

These are truly significant achievements and further shift the dynamics in a deeply polarised region. But the deal is striking for another reason – it leaves the Palestinians feeling as sidelined as ever.

They believe it breaks years of Arab solidarity – and leverage – against Israel’s occupation of land they want for a future state; while ordinary Palestinians feel more and more hemmed in as Israeli settler numbers grow.

They see not only betrayal, but a blind eye being turned by the Emiratis to their reality on the ground.

In a tweet in Hebrew, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the advent of the flight as an example of “peace for peace” – alluding to his long-held disbelief in the notion that only trading occupied land will bring peace between Israel and Arab countries.

While it was welcomed by much of the international community, the UAE’s recognition of Israel without the precondition of the creation of a Palestinian state was denounced by the Palestinians as a betrayal of their cause.

In return for official relations with the UAE, Mr Netanyahu agreed to suspend controversial plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank – land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state of their own.

media captionIsrael annexation: What is the West Bank?

Mr Kushner on Monday said his message to Palestinians was “one of hope”.

“We’ve put an offer to their leadership on the table that will enable them to have a state and self-determination and an economic plan that could revitalise their economy, but we can’t want peace more than they want peace and so when they are ready the whole region is very excited to help lift them up and move them forward but they can’t be stuck in the past,” he said.

“Peace will be ready for them and opportunity will be ready for them as soon as they’re ready to embrace it.”

Palestinian officials have condemned the deal, saying it undermines their struggle for an independent state.

“Peace is not an empty word used to normalise crimes and oppression,” Saeb Erekat, a leading figure in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said on Monday.

“Peace is the outcome of justice. Peace is not made by denying Palestine’s right to exist,” he added.

A US peace proposal unveiled in January holds out the prospect of a Palestinian state, as well as a $50bn (£37.5bn) investment plan for the Palestinians, though the Palestinians have rejected the proposal as heavily biased towards Israel.

Before the UAE, Egypt and Jordan were the only other Arab countries in the Middle East to officially recognise Israel, after signing peace treaties in 1978 and 1994 respectively.

Mauritania, a member of the Arab League in north-west Africa, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999 but severed ties in 2010.

Related Topics

  • United Arab Emirates

  • Israel
  • Air travel

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UAE ends boycott of Israel in US-brokered deal

The President of the United Arab Emirates issued a decree on Saturday formally ending the country”s boycott of Israel amid a US-brokered deal to normalise relations between the two countries.

The announcement now allows trade and commerce between the UAE, home to oil-rich Abu Dhabi and skyscraper-studded Dubai, and Israel, home to a thriving diamond trade, pharmaceutical companies and tech start-ups.

The announcement further cements the Aug 13 deal opening up relations between the two nations, which required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians.

But Palestinians have criticised the accord, saying it undercuts one of its few bargaining chips with Israelis in moribund peace negotiations.

Dunai’s state-run WAM news agency said the decree came on the orders of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Emir of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a US-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

But there are concerns within the Israeli government over selling the F-35 warplanes to the UAE.

On Monday, the first direct commercial flight by Israel’s flagship carrier El Al is expected in Abu Dhabi, carrying US and Israeli officials including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Telephone calls already can be made between the nations.

The decree formally eliminates a 1972 law on the UAE’s books since just after the country’s formation. That law mirrored the widely held stance by Arab nations at that time that recognition of Israel would only come after the Palestinians had an independent state of their own.

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It’s official: Spain’s missing former king, Juan Carlos I, is in the UAE

Juan Carlos, Spain”s former monarch, has been in the United Arab Emirates since he left his country amid a growing financial scandal two weeks ago, the Spanish royal household has said, ending two weeks of speculation about his whereabouts

At 82, the former king is the target of official investigations in Spain and Switzerland into possible financial wrongdoing.

The Spanish government and Royal House officials have been tight-lipped about Juan Carlos’ location since August 3, when he published a letter to his son, King Felipe VI, that said he was moving outside Spain due to the “public repercussions of certain episodes of my past private life.”

Spanish newspaper ABC had published a photo of Juan Carlos stepping out of a plane at an airport in Abu Dhabi. But without any official confirmation, Spanish media had placed him in places as far afield as the Dominican Republic, Portugal, Switzerland or New Zealand.

Ending the swirl of speculation, a Royal House spokesman said on Monday that Juan Carlos had asked to convey that he had travelled to UAE on August 3.

“That’s where he currently remains,” the official, who wasn’t authorized to be quoted in media reports, told news agency AP, though he declined to say whether the UAE would be his permanent residence. UAE authorities have not responded to such question either.

Despite relocating, the former king has pledged via his lawyer to make himself available to prosecutors in Spain

The investigation, which is in early stages, is looking into whether he received millions of dollars in kickbacks from Saudi Arabia during the construction of a high-speed railway by a Spanish consortium. A separate Swiss judicial probe is looking into millions of euros that were allegedly given to Juan Carlos by Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah.

Juan Carlos I reigned for nearly four decades, replacing former dictator Francisco Franco as the country’s head of state in 1975, and abdicating in 2014, with the throne going to his son Felipe VI.

Felipe has not publicly spoken about his father’s departure. Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has praised the Royal House’s decision to take distance from the former king.

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